Planning and preparation are useful for adventurers. Those who are ready to act at the right moment can prepare themselves to make the right action when it is needed. For this, we have readied actions. As is often the case, I'm going to focus on D&D 5e as the basic lens for this due to it's sheer popularity, but a lot of games have similar rules for this, so some of this content will be broadly applicable elsewhere.
Readied actions work by declaring an action and a trigger. For example, let's say you wanted to pull off a combo with one of your buddies. You have a flaming arrow, and your buddy has a flask of oil. Your friend has a higher initiative than you, so you wait. You declare your action: Fire the flaming arrow at the ogre. You also declare your trigger: When he throws the flask of oil. This way, you can catch the ogre on fire and deal additional damage from the burning.
The specific action and specific trigger conditions are required when specifying a readied action, but there are a few other important things to note as well. Activating a readied action against a trigger uses your reaction. In a game like 5e where action economy is very important, this is noteworthy. However, note that declaring a readied action does not obligate you to follow through with it. If you ready your action and then use your reaction for something else before the trigger comes up, you can't act at your readied cue. Likewis,e you can choose to ignore the trigger altogether and save that reaction for later if you think that's a good idea. Also note that the action taken in response to a trigger can be a movement or a proper action, but not both. You can ready a move such as "if the enemy comes towards me, I back up." or "If the enemy comes within range, I hit him." but not "If he comes in range, I hit him then back up. Even though a normal turn gets an action and a movement, you don't get both with a readied action. However, you are free to move before a readied action on your turn, before you declare the readied action. this could be something like moving up to a door and readying "Attack anyone who enters this door." This works because 'readying' is the action itself.
The other important note is in regards to spells. You can only ready a spell if it has a casting time of one action, and when readied it requires your concentration. If concentration fails, you lose the spell, and readying a spell in this way means you can't keep concentration on another spell. So spellcasters beware when readying something.
Now, the reasons why we might ready an action is fairly straightforward. Because initiative order exists, people act at different times. It's usually beneficial to have a high initiative so you can act quickly, but sometimes in the heat of battle, you want to wait for just the right moment. As such, if you can successfully predict that this moment will occur soon, then you might be able to utilize this. Readied actions exist for those moments when waiting pays off. Try to keep a close eye on the battlefield. It's usually, better to take an action on your turn rather than to ready an action, but keep it in mind as an option for those moments when this can be of benefit to you.
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- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.