pathfinder 1e – What’s the deal with readying a swift action?

From Combat

  1. Readying an action is a Standard Action
  2. You can ready a Swift Action.
  3. Interrupting someone with your readied action places your initiative just ahead of that person for the next round.
  4. You cannot perform more than one Swift Action per turn.

What constitutes a turn ending, for the purposes of item 4? If I ready an action, is my turn considered finished once the next person in initiative begins to act, or is my turn considered “in progress” until I resolve my readied action?

Could I, for instance, perform a swift action, optionally perform a move action, and ready a swift action (which itself is a standard action) on my “turn”, with the trigger for the readied action being, “When the next person in initiative performs an action,” thus keeping my place in initiative once I perform the readied action?

dnd 5e – Holding, Delaying, or Readying an Action? – Rules As Written

Please point or link me to any official rules (rules as written) on when a character can delay, hold or ready an action for later in a round, instead of going on their initiative.

What does a character have to do to delay or hold an action during a round?

What actions are characters allowed to take when they delay?

dnd 4e – Readying an action before combat

My players ready actions outside of combat often, and I don’t think that it ever occurred to us that it would work any other way than what I have written below.

I think this is a straightforward RAW interpretation, and it has worked out quite well for us in the past. The players only ready actions when they honestly expect enemies, and most of the time the actions never get taken, although it’s pretty cool when it works out.

You have several questions there. I’ll go through each of those, and one I added.

First though, let’s review how readied actions work.

  • You take a Standard action to ready an action.

  • A the time you ready the action you choose the exact action and the exact trigger.

  • The action takes place as an immediate reaction to the trigger.

  • The action expires when your next turn starts.

Is it possible to be Surprised while you have a readied action?

No. At least, not normally.

The Rules Compendium says that

“If one side in a battle notices the other side without being noticed in return, it has the advantage of surprise,”

but the Dungeon Master Guide also says that

“The PCs can’t be surprised when they open a dungeon door prepared for a fight”.

What I draw from this is that if the PCs are expecting a fight – they’ve noticed an enemy or suspect one is nearby – then they can’t be surprised.

That being said, I could entertain the argument that even if they expect some enemies on the other side of the door, they could possibly be surprised by a dragon dropping from the sky. My response would be that although they are not so prepared that they have a readied action for the dragon (unless their trigger happens to include it), they are alert and prepared to defend themselves, and therefore not surprised.

When do the readied actions take place?

They take place immediately after the triggering condition, which would likely occur on an enemy’s turn.

If the PC’s turn comes up in the initiative order before the action’s trigger occurs, then they miss the chance to perform the readied action. The Rules Compendium says

If the trigger doesn’t occur or the creature chooses to ignore it, the creature can’t use the readied action and instead takes its next turn as normal.

Before or after initiative is rolled and gaining any Warlord initiative bonus such as shifting?

Since this is in response to a creature’s action, it is on the creature’s turn, which is after initiative is rolled.

During surprise round turns? If so at the PC’s initiative or at the mob’s initiative?

If there is a surprise round, the PC is not surprised, and the trigger occurs during the surprise round before the PC’s turn, then yes it will take place during the surprise round.

If the PC is surprised, then they cannot take any actions, including immediate reactions such as readied actions. I think this would satisfy the ‘creature chooses to ignore it’ clause in the above rule, and that the PC would then miss the opportunity to use their readied action.

So the PC would just take their turn on their initiative as if they had never readied an action.

Remember, readied actions don’t occur on an initiative. They occur in response to a trigger.

Or do they wait to trigger until the PC is no longer Surprised?

As pointed out above, they occur once the trigger occurs, unless they expire due to the PC’s turn beginning or the PC not taking the an action despite the trigger.

By the time the PC is no longer surprised an entire round has passed, and they’ve lost the readied action.

Also, what’s the PC’s initiative order after this? Can the PC wind up at a higher position than was rolled?

Immediately before the trigger of the readied action. Yes, they can.

The Rules Compendium says:

When the creature finishes the readied action, its place in the initiative order moves to directly before the creature or the event that triggered the readied action.

Usually, an action is readied in the previous turn of combat. If the action is taken, it is because the trigger occurred before their next turn, i.e. higher in the initiative order. Their new position becomes immediately before the person that just acted, meaning that they now do not get to act in this round.

So, if a character takes an action they readied before combat, they can indeed move up in the order, but they also don’t get a full turn during the first round.

For how long do the actions stay readied?

Once your next turn comes up, you lose any action you readied the previous turn. We don’t normally keep track of turns outside of combat, but a turn is only supposed to be a few seconds.

This means that you can’t ready an action when you wake up and keep it ready all day. You ready it, and if the trigger doesn’t occur within the next few seconds, then it’s over.

dnd 5e – Does readying class features require concentration?

The use of Path to the Grave uses the cleric’s Channel Divinity ability and does not require the additional rules around concentration that spells do.

Taking a Ready action to use their Channel Divinity does not require concentration because it is not a spell. This is simply an action that is awaiting a trigger that is no way different than readying an attack or a movement. They haven’t actually ‘done’ it yet, they are waiting on a trigger to do it. They can either get their trigger and use their action, or the trigger never comes, or they opt not to do it for some reason.

But there is no concentration involved, so moving forward I would recommend discussing what happened and what will happen in the future (no concentration checks).

dnd 5e – Can an enemy “surprise” a character with the Alert feat by readying the Attack action before initiative is rolled?

There are a couple of moving pieces at play in this question, I’ll try address each of them. But I’d like to start by pointing out that HellSaint’s conclusion is the most actionable advice you can receive – if something in game upsets you, talk to your DM. Now, let’s get to it.

Surprise makes people surprised

The way you described the scenario, it is clear that your DM did not play the surprise mechanic as it should have been played.

The correct steps are given in the rules as:

  1. Determine surprise.
  2. Establish positions.
  3. Roll initiative.
  4. Take turns.
  5. Begin the next round. Repeat step 4 until the fighting stops.

The reasoning given by the DM for not following these steps, appears to have been that the swarm was ready. Let’s look in to that.

You do not have to be in combat to perform an action

Actions only exist inside combat. Outside combat, you just do it, no action is needed. Since no actions are ever needed outside of combat, there aren’t any rules for them. It’s totally unnecessary.

To be clear the idea that you can perform “actions out of combat” isn’t completely true, you can perform the same effect as the action, without every taking the action.

For example if you want to chop down a tree, you don’t have to use the attack action. You tell the DM your intentions, and they tell you if you need to roll, and then narrate the results.

You can be ready for something outside of combat

There’s nothing special about the effects of the ready action that make it impossible to do outside of combat. “When the toast pops, I’ll butter it” – why would anyone need to be in combat to do that?!

A swarm of insects could certainly be ready to do something, and when combat starts they continue to be ready. However, what has this got to do with surprise?

I rule being ready using the ready action

While there are no rules for translating pre-combat activities into combat, using actions is a sane way to do it.

When someone is ready for something, I rule they have essentially taken the ready action since that seems to be closest to the spirit of what they requested. However, once in combat they must follow the combat rules:

  1. The swarm is hiding in the dark (stealth check), prepared to attack whoever enters reach.
  2. You fail to detect the swarm (passive perception), and unfortunately walk within 5ft of it.
  3. Determine surprise: The swam has surprised the party. However, the alert feat stops you from being surprised.
  4. Establish positions: You are next to the swarm, the party is somewhere behind.
  5. Roll initiative: Let’s imagine you roll a 20, the swarm rolls a 1.
  6. Take turns. First, it’s your turn.
  7. Since you the swarm has effectively readied an action and it has its reaction available, it gets to attack. At this stage you have your reaction available too, so you could cast Shield, use Protection fighting style, use Parry, Riposte, etc.
  8. Now that the readied action has been dealt with, you take your turn.

Because you were not surprised you should have your reaction ready at this stage. This could potentially influence the fight. If you won initiative, you should be able to act before the swarm gets its turn, allowing you to dispatch it.

Actions that initiate combat should happen during combat

There is always discussion about when combat should start. How would you rule the following situations:

  • If you unexpectedly throw a punch at someone during a conversation, does the attack land before or during combat?
  • If you shoot an arrow from 600ft away at someone who is looking away from you, does the attack happen before or during combat?

Some DMs would rule that the action takes place before the combat starts (as your DM did). But I think that’s the wrong way to rule. It doesn’t take into account the alert feat, reactions, initiative, or other mechanisms.

This point is always controversial. While stealth vs perception is listed as a guaranteed method of gaining surprise, who is and isn’t surprised is down to DM ruling at the end of the day. Even though you have not made a stealth check, and they have not made a perception check, I would rule the situations above using surprise. The attack would be rolled top of the round.

I have found this ruling to be realistic, and give players the opportunity to exercise their agency.

dnd 5e – Animal Companions hiding, searching, and readying an action

Can you command it otherwise? Yup.

We can see from your quote that if you command the beast (with some cajoling, perhaps; it does consume your action) to Attack/Dash/Disengage/Help, the animal will do so.

If you do not command the beast anything, it will Dodge.

What, then, if you command it other than Attack/Dash/Disengage/Help?

RAW: nothing special.

There’s no special rule saying what happens if you command the animal to Hide, so the usual rules are in play: the GM decides what happens.

What should the GM decide?

We can see, structurally, that the developers thought that commanding the animal to do “useful” things should take your action, so as to avoid wrecking the action economy. See many articles and guides and posts abounding on the internet regarding “summoners” in 3.Xe and 4e for many of the reasons why this was on their mind.

We also know, from many 5e player surveys and Unearthed Arcana attempts to revise Rangers, that the PHB ranger is… underwhelming.

All that’s to say: it’d be reasonable to say that you have to use your action to command the animal to take any of the standard (listed) combat actions. It’d be reasonable to say that you can freely command the other actions, as they’re not that impactful anyway. (Hiding one round to attack with advantage another round isn’t a huge difference, numerically, from just attacking twice. It may be different tactically, though….) It’d be reasonable to say “I don’t like how companions/summonees screw with spotlight time, so I’m going to ask you to kindly restrict yourself to the listed actions.”

dnd 5e – How does readying a spell interact with the Sorcerer’s Metamagic feature?

The Ready action states (emphasis mine):

(…) When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. (…)

Thus, when you ready a spell you cast it before you release it; for further evidence of this there are the following questions:

To quote a few sections of the Sorcerer’s Metamagic feature (emphasis mine):


Careful Spell

When you cast a spell that forces other creatures to make a saving throw, you can protect some of those creatures from the spell’s full force. To do so, you spend 1 sorcery point and choose a number of those creatures up to your Charisma modifier (minimum of one creature). A chosen creature automatically succeeds on its saving throw against the spell.


Heightened Spell

When you cast a spell that forces a creature to make a saving throw to resist its effects, you can spend 3 sorcery points to give one target of the spell disadvantage on its first saving throw made against the spell.


Twinned Spell

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self, you can spend a number of sorcery points equal to the spell’s level to target a second creature in range with the same spell (1 sorcery point if the spell is a cantrip). (…)

Thus, you do not wait until the spell forces a saving throw to use these features, instead you use them when you cast the spell; for further evidence of this there are the following questions:

This all leaves me with some related questions (if they should each be separate questions then I can certainly split them up):

What happens when you try to use Careful Spell on a readied spell? If you can do this, when do you choose the affected targets?

What happens when you try to use Heightened Spell on a readied spell? If you can do this, when do you choose the affected targets?

What happens when you try to use Twinned Spell on a readied spell? If you can do this, when do you choose the affected targets?

Note that the question about the web spell above is rather similar to Careful Spell and Heightened Spell, though there is a different gap in time between the spell being cast and the saving throw being made; I’m unsure if that changes anything

dnd 5e – Can I deny a counterspell by readying my spell behind full cover?

Counterspell depends on sight and a clear path to the target

Counterspell has a casting time of:

1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of
you casting a spell

That means that an opposing spellcaster must be able to see the intended counterspell target. Additionally, counterspell must follow the general rules that spells must also have a direct path to the target. Full cover should prevent either or both of these requirements from being met (depending on the type of cover used).

Readying a spell behind full cover and releasing it will prevent counterspell

Casting a spell while under full cover follows all of the appropriate rules.

You can cast a spell behind full cover even though you don’t have line of effect per Jeremy Crawford:

The intent is that your target must be within range when you take the readied action, not when you first ready it.

And your trigger “when I have line of sight to the enemy mage” is perceivable.

Then, when you release the spell, it cannot be Counterspelled. Again clarified by Jeremy Crawford:

Counterspell foils the casting of a spell, not the release of a spell that was cast previously using the Ready action.

So, there is no reason why this would not work.

The trick will be in getting an available and convenient source of full cover.

Opportunity cost1 and downsides

Since you are spending your reaction, that means that this strategy will prevent you from casting counterspell as well as any other reactions until the start of your next turn.

Also, you must concentrate on the readied spell which means that you will have to drop concentration on anything else you might have been concentrating on. Also it opens up the possibility that your concentration is lost due to opportunity attacks, enemy readied actions, etc.

Is it overpowered? No (Fool me once…)

At first glance this strategy might appear to be overpowered. However, like most strategies, it has counters. You might get away with using this once, but a smart enemy (especially one that has access to counterspell) will not fall for it for more than that. They can move to negate your cover, move behind cover themselves, prevent you from moving behind cover, and/or use readied action to enact any of the above and more. In the end, this strategy should only be overpowered if creatures aren’t responding intelligently to it.

There are other ways to prevent counterspell too

It is also worth noting that making yourself invisible (which is not incredibly difficult at higher levels) or blinding the opposing caster would also prevent any counterspelling without many of the disadvantages of the readied action technique.

Additionally, if the terrain and spell allows, you can cast outside the 60′ range of counterspell.

1 – Thanks @Slagmouth!