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A combat encounter began with both sides noticing each other from a very long distance. The players planned readied actions or reactions for the approach of the enemy.

Player 1, a heavily-armored fighter/cleric, stood in front to give cover to the back rank but readied a 5 ft move diagonally to the back and left in reaction to the creature entering any space in a 10 ft radius to his front. This would prevent him from giving cover to the enemy.

Player 2, a fighter with Polearm Master and Sentinel feats, performed a Dodge action since he expected to perform an attack of opportunity when the enemies approached. His attack would include a trip, which could make the enemy prone and impose disadvantage on any ranged attacks.

Player 3, a fighter/rogue striker, prepared to throw a dagger at the closest enemy within 20 feet when Player 1 moved. He would use Lucky to gain advantage and thus get sneak attack.

The sequence of reactions was:

  1. A creature entered Player 1's trigger area, making him pull back and give the others a clear shot.
  2. Player 1's movement triggered Player 3's attack, making him attack the creature with advantage and sneak attack.
  3. The creature continued to advance, triggering an attack of opportunity from Player 2 which tripped the enemy and knocked them prone.

The order of these reactions is very convenient for the players. If Player 2 had attacked before Player 3, the enemy would have been prone and not suffered sneak attack damage.

What are the rules that help you adjudicate the order of actions/movement/reactions in this kind of combat sequence?

I think the issue is rooted on setting ready action triggers on a given position along a creature's movement, instead of a starting or finishing point, since that creates a sort of "bullet time" effect. Suddenly everyone is taking reactions and the creature is effectively time-stopped in the middle of what's supposed to be a constant, simultaneous movement flow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome to the forums! Could you describe the disposition a little more clearly? There are three players. What is the initiative order? Who is the polearm master and who is the battlemaster? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 14 '17 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I find it really hard to understand the situation and what you are actually asking for. Do you mind explain it more and use formatting? \$\endgroup\$ – Thyzer May 14 '17 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ sorry, you are right is a mess of a question and english is not my native language. There are 3 players in this escenario and one enemy. its the enemy's turn and moves toward the 3 players. player one is in front and grants cover to his allies behind him but also to the enemy. his readied action is meant to solve this as their strategy revolves around the fighter battlemaster use of polearm master/sentinel feat combo and trip attack maneuver and the rogue swashbuckler sneak attacks, all meant to happen out of turn, so in their turn they finish the guy off. \$\endgroup\$ – Piero May 14 '17 at 22:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PieroManavella you actually can edit your own question and clarify it. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 14 '17 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, all three players forwent their actions in this turn, and the NPC's initiative is the lowest, correct? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 14 '17 at 22:26
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If I understand this right:

  1. Enemy moves to within 10 feet of the front character.

  2. Front character can choose to react by moving somewhere (presumably backwards).

  3. Dagger-thrower can choose to react to front character's move by throwing a dagger (once only - extra attack does not apply). This happens after step 2, because reactions are not interrupts.

  4. Enemy continues moving.

  5. If the enemy moves within 10 feet of the polearm mastery battlemaster then they can choose to react by making an attack of opportunity (one attack only - extra attack does not apply). If the attack hits then they can choose to use a superiority die (trip does not specify "on your turn").

  6. Enemy continues moving (either standing up from prone or crawling).

Overall, I have to ask "why"? Readied actions are generally not as good as attack actions, because a lot of features do not apply (for example, extra attack).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ haha fair question, 1) on their turn enemy was out of reach 2) the attacker is charging and its a powerful charger my players already knew 3) player's builds. front liner is a lv 1 fighter lv 4 cleric of life with heavy armor master feat and protection fighting style who usually puts himself in front to give cover to back rank players, usually takes doge action and attacks with bonus spiritual weapons. polearm master is a battlemaster with sentinel feat as well, so triping with attacks of opportunity really hurts. 4) if all goes well, then its their turn, everyone acts before the prone enemy. \$\endgroup\$ – Piero May 15 '17 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ you got it almost 100% right, sorry about the mess question, so you say front liner gets out of the way (step 2) and dagger thrower can attack without frontliner giving cover to enemy (step 3). Now enemy moves (step 4) and provokes attack of opportunity and trip maneuver (step 5), your step 6 doesnt happen because of sentinel feat, enemy is prone with 0 speed left. Players turn... now they take full actions, action surge, sneak, advantage, you name it. \$\endgroup\$ – Piero May 15 '17 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aha, didn't pick up on Sentinel (it's not listed in the question). As you say, if the polearm master also has sentinel then the enemy is now stuck, prone, since they have no movement left. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker May 15 '17 at 2:21
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What you have here is good tactics and a team that works well together. There is no problem! You should feel blessed that you have players who are paying enough attention to each other to take advantage of their allies' strengths.

If you're looking for ways to be smart about it, you can use some of the same tactics yourself. In this scenario, if the charger is stopped short by the Sentinel feat and rendered Prone, he still has options:

  • Cast A Spell wouldn't be affected by Prone, as long as you pick a spell without an attack roll.
  • Dodge would effectively negate the advantage future attackers get from the character being Prone.
  • Readying an attack when somebody moves in would still suffer disadvantage, but it's better than nothing.
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First of all, please clean up your question with paragraphs and short summaries of each character, it's pretty difficult to parse! But here is my attempt:

Starting positions look like this is the lineup:

 1 <- sword/board guy, readies to move down/left
 2 <- polearm mastery/sentinel guy, dodging, waiting for AoO
 3 <- rogue - is he standing behind #2 or off to the side? unclear.

Monster is marked by X below, procs reaction for #1 and #3 simultaneously. Perhaps player 3 is slightly off to the side? (btw not sure why player 1 would provide partial cover but player 2 doesn't, but we'll not think about that for now) I found a 3.5e question about simultaneous reactions that probably isn't relevant, but we could tweak player #3s reaction to be "when player #1 moves out of the way, attack the nearest monster" or something as a work around if needed.

 X

 1 <= 10 ft radius, move back/left
 2
 3 <= 20 ft range, attack X

Player 1 moves, at the same time player 3 throws a dagger:

 X


12
 3

Then assuming the monster keeps running in a straight line, player 2 can take a swing. If he hits, the monster speed is 0 (optional: use trip attack superiority die), and the players can whoop it up next turn. Has the monster actually used its action yet? Can't it ready an attack for next turn for a fun surprise? (Maybe it could even ready an attack for that juicey rogue if it's intelligent)

 X

12 <= #2 gets a polearm mastery swing.
 3

Let's say the polearm guy misses, and the monster gets to keep going. Good thing player 2 is dodging already so monster has disadvantage:

 X
12
 3

The monster could even run by and smash the little rogue, or whatever it wants if it still has movement. Everyone used up their reactions anyway. (btw, player 1 cannot provide disadvantage on attacks against player #3 via Protection trait because #1 already used up his reaction on moving out of the way.)

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