Dm readying an action (Question)

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For a player a certain level of detail is required to be stated for the trigger of a readied action. (When X happens, Y happens.)


Well for DMs readying actions of monsters how much of that information is considered enough to give to a player.



I am under the impression that just telling them that a monster is readying an action would be sufficent. Leaving out the triggers as to prevent Meta-gaming, but I am not clear about it.



What is Kosher in this situation?



Thanks,

Putts 
Just tell them. Don't worry about metagaming.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Obviously the player characters have no way of knowing what the trigger or the action is, so I wouldn't give them that information explicitly. Then again, if their characters are in a position to observe said monster, they should be given the benefit of their perceptions. I don't use the term "readying an action"; I prefer to describe theatrically. "The orc notches a mean-looking arrow and raises his bow but doesn't fire yet. His gaze is swiveling back and forth across you all." In this case, I have decided that the orc has readied the firing of his bow at the first adventurer to cross some line. I don't tell my players what the trigger is, they can probably get a good guess, and they trust that I'm keeping the orc honest.
When players tell a DM what the trigger is when they Ready an Action, they are trusting the DM not to metagame or act out of the character of team monster.  I think it's only fair to assume the same of the player, and it builds trust to be trusted.
When players tell a DM what the trigger is when they Ready an Action, they are trusting the DM not to metagame or act out of the character of team monster.  I think it's only fair to assume the same of the player, and it builds trust to be trusted.

No, that makes too much sense

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That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

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When players tell a DM what the trigger is when they Ready an Action, they are trusting the DM not to metagame or act out of the character of team monster.  I think it's only fair to assume the same of the player, and it builds trust to be trusted.

I agree, though I don't see the concern with metagaming. If character readies an action to do something when the enemy does something else, it's not as if the DM is then required to trigger the character's action. Readying an action isn't about playing a trick, it's about not currently having the target for the desired action and preparing for when the target might later become available. If it is about playing a trick, it's not a very good one, since a readied action cannot effectively prevent enemy action on its own, coming as it does after the enemy action. If it's meant to prevent something, the trigger must be known.

If a player says "I ready an action to attack the first thing that comes through the door," is the DM required to send something through the door? If the players are going to attack it anyway, wouldn't they be just as happy if the enemy held back? Same situation in reverse.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I'm with 1stLevelSean on taking the narrative approach. It's boring to just say "The orc readies an action."
If it is about playing a trick, it's not a very good one, since a readied action cannot effectively prevent enemy action on its own, coming as it does after the enemy action.



In Next, a readied action can actually interrupt an enemy's turn. If your trigger is "I'm going to shoot the first creature that moves through that door," and an orc runs in to hit you with an axe, your bow shot occurs after part of the orc's move (the part that brings him through the door and into line of sight). If the orc survives, he continues his move and then makes his attack after your bow attack. 

When the trigger occurs, you can choose to take your reaction, and you do so right after the trigger finishes. If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

I don't know how this works for 3E or 4E. Is this a change for this edition?

I do understand not simply subverting or negating a player's choice. It's probably safe to assume that if they ready an action, they'd like it to be triggered. But if they mean it as a deterrent, or would be happy either way, then it's okay not to trigger it.

I don't know how this works for 3E or 4E. Is this a change for this edition?

That's how a readied action works in 4e, yes. But it doesn't prevent the orc from entering the room, particularly if the orc doesn't know about the readied attack. If the goal is to prevent the orc from attacking, surely the player would be just as happy if the orc held back entirely, so making the player of the target aware of the action really has no downside.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

If it is about playing a trick, it's not a very good one, since a readied action cannot effectively prevent enemy action on its own, coming as it does after the enemy action.



In Next, a readied action can actually interrupt an enemy's turn. If your trigger is "I'm going to shoot the first creature that moves through that door," and an orc runs in to hit you with an axe, your bow shot occurs after part of the orc's move (the part that brings him through the door and into line of sight). If the orc survives, he continues his move and then makes his attack after your bow attack. 

When the trigger occurs, you can choose to take your reaction, and you do so right after the trigger finishes. If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

I don't know how this works for 3E or 4E. Is this a change for this edition?


I can't speak to 3.x, as I never played it, but redied actions work the same way in 4e.  
I think we're getting switched around here. My example was to illustrate my understanding of Readying an Action in Next. If we're talking about telling players about a monster's readied action, we need to turn it around:

OK, these orcs have dealt with adventurers before and they have fortified their strong room. They're going to stand behind a barricade and target the party with arrows. The orcs also know that big armored tank adventurers like to charge in and lay waste. So they've got a short range ballista behind that barricade, solely for nailing anyone who runs around the barricade.

DM: As you break down the door, you see four orcs across the room. They're peering at you across a barricade of rubble. Three of the orcs start shooting arrows at you. The fourth jumps down out of sight.

Tank: I run around the barricade and--

DM: As you turn the corner, you see the fourth orc behind a ballista. It's pointed right at you and he snarls as he pulls the lever.

OR

DM: As you break down the door, you see four orcs across the room. They're peering at you across a barricade of rubble. Three of the orcs start shooting arrows at you. The fourth jumps down out and gets ready to fire a ballista at the first adventure to go around the barricade.

Does the Tank go ahead with his planned attack, knowing he's going to get nailed? Maybe he does because he thinks his character would do that, or maybe because he hopes to turn the ballista against the orcs and it will be awesome. But regardless, he's stepped back from roleplaying into metagaming a bit. If that's what your player wants, then go ahead and tell him all about the trigger. But if your player likes to roleplay in the moment, don't tell him stuff his character would have no knowledge of, and trust that when he faces that ballista, he'll come up with an awesome response anyway.
Whether you tell the players with narrative flourish or mechanical gamespeak, they should be told the trigger and what will happen if the trigger goes off in my view. This way the player can make meaningful, informed decisions and aren't made to feel a game of "gotcha" is going on. It's perfectly reasonable to assume that an adventurer is able to assess the situation and know exactly what the enemy is up to no matter how you present the information to the player.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I would add that metagaming is only really a problem when the metagame information the player is drawing upon is not true in the context of the game, leading to disappointment (e.g. the player figures the monsters in this dungeon are of a certain power level and, oops, they're actually more powerful than that). And so that's all the more reason to share information to clear up any possibility of this happening.

Policing metagaming is a big waste of time in my opinion. It's like being a cop on the beat for thought crimes. Just remember that there's only one reason why a given adventurer can't know something - because you say so. In the context of a fantasy world based on our collective imaginations, there's a functionally infinite number of reasons how they can know something. So figure out something plausible, share the info, and carry on.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Or share the stuff that makes their character seem knowledgeable and clever and don't share the stuff that the reaction to will make the character seem spontaneous and creative.
OK, these orcs have dealt with adventurers before and they have fortified their strong room. They're going to stand behind a barricade and target the party with arrows. The orcs also know that big armored tank adventurers like to charge in and lay waste. So they've got a short range ballista behind that barricade, solely for nailing anyone who runs around the barricade.

They should also know that ballista's can miss, or fail to kill a target, and probably wouldn't want to rely on the ballista solely as a "gotcha," but also partially as a deterrent.

DM: As you break down the door, you see four orcs across the room. They're peering at you across a barricade of rubble. Three of the orcs start shooting arrows at you. The fourth jumps down out of sight.

Tank: I run around the barricade and--

DM: As you turn the corner, you see the fourth orc behind a ballista. It's pointed right at you and he snarls as he pulls the lever.

OR

DM: As you break down the door, you see four orcs across the room. They're peering at you across a barricade of rubble. Three of the orcs start shooting arrows at you. The fourth jumps down out and gets ready to fire a ballista at the first adventure to go around the barricade.

Does the Tank go ahead with his planned attack, knowing he's going to get nailed? Maybe he does because he thinks his character would do that, or maybe because he hopes to turn the ballista against the orcs and it will be awesome. But regardless, he's stepped back from roleplaying into metagaming a bit.

How do you know that he has stepped "back" into metagaming? How do you know the character wouldn't be cautious and decide not to run back there when it saw the orc vanish from sight? How do you know that just describing the orc as vanishing from sight adequately conveys what a seasoned, trained fighter would surmise about the situation?

Is the only "roleplaying" answer for the fighter to deliberately fall for the trick (which in this case is a pretty pointless trick anyway)?

Would the player ever be required to fall for a trick he or she knows about?

If that's what your player wants, then go ahead and tell him all about the trigger. But if your player likes to roleplay in the moment, don't tell him stuff his character would have no knowledge of, and trust that when he faces that ballista, he'll come up with an awesome response anyway.

It's not necessarily clear what the character would have "no knowledge of," and often when a DM decides a player would have "no knowledge" of something, it's to play gotcha on the player. Players can decide for themselves what they want to have no knowledge of. If they're not sure what would be more interesting, they can ask for a Perception or Insight DC and let the dice decide, but often there's only one interesting outcome for the player, and the DM should let the player choose that outcome.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Whether you tell the players with narrative flourish or mechanical gamespeak, they should be told the trigger and what will happen if the trigger goes off in my view.

Enemies do not automatically know triggers unless it's from a power/effect on them (this applies to more than just readied actions). Besides, this would make readying for certain surprise events less fun (readying for a trap, ambush etc.).

The DM gets to know the player's triggers simply to adjudicate rules. As always, NPC's should not metagame based on knowledge they should not have.

I tell my players when a creature readies an action, but I don't mention the trigger (unless it's a common one that the PC's could easily figure out... like flanking with an ally, killing a hostage or waiting until an opponent comes into range).

Enemies do not automatically know triggers unless it's from a power/effect on them (this applies to more than just readied actions).



They do in our game.

Besides, this would make readying for certain surprise events less fun (readying for a trap, ambush etc.).



Only in some groups. Some players will actually want to spring the trap or stumble into the ambush because it's fun and cinematic. D&D just doesn't incentivize getting yourself into trouble like more modern games so you don't see many D&D players doing it. Mine do, however, because they know that every "failure" will be fun and interesting (to the players, if not the characters).

The DM gets to know the player's triggers simply to adjudicate rules. As always, NPC's should not metagame based on knowledge they should not have.



Like players, the DM can use metagame information to enhance the game rather than be afraid of using it because they erroneously believe it negatively impacts roleplaying their characters.

I tell my players when a creature readies an action, but I don't mention the trigger (unless it's a common one that the PC's could easily figure out... like flanking with an ally, killing a hostage or waiting until an opponent comes into range).



If you're telling them the "common" ones the PCs could easily figure out, then you can tell them all the triggers. If you want. All you have to do is imagine the characters are smart enough to see it coming - just like the "obvious" flank or hostage situation. You're arbitrarily deciding which ones are "common" enough to reveal. You can arbitrarily decide the other ones are obvious, too.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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If you're telling them the "common" ones the PCs could easily figure out, then you can tell them all the triggers. If you want.

Indeed I could provide them the details of the full adventure ahead of time (and have done so on rare occasions). However, the default premise of D&D is that players do not know this... and not knowing is part of the fun.

I understand that the differences might seem subtle. The transparency article covers the subject in a bit more detail. It provides an example of telling players about an obvious readied action, and several examples of telling the players the mechanics of a trigger after it occured.
Indeed I could provide them the details of the full adventure ahead of time (and have done so on rare occasions). However, the default premise of D&D is that players do not know this... and not knowing is part of the fun.



Right, because of course a policy of telling them the trigger of a readied action can only lead to revealing every other part of the adventure.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Indeed I could provide them the details of the full adventure ahead of time (and have done so on rare occasions). However, the default premise of D&D is that players do not know this... and not knowing is part of the fun.

Right, because of course a policy of telling them the trigger of a readied action can only lead to revealing every other part of the adventure.

I was not trying to indicate such. I believe you missed my intent (it certainly was not intended to be snarky... my apologies if it came across as such... your reply did).

The DM can be as transparent as he likes (and there are instances where any amount of transparency can benefit the game). But there are certain non-transparencies that are generally accepted as making the game more fun for players. Triggers (i.e. until they occur) fall into that category.
I was not trying to indicate such. I believe you missed my intent (it certainly was not intended to be snarky... my apologies if it came across as such... your reply did).



Apologies, then. I just don't put much stock in "surprises" of this type. We get plenty of surprises in other ways despite being highly transparent and "allowing" players and DM to use metagame information positively. I'd even go so far as to say more surprises than most tables I've seen because of the way the fiction interacts.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I just don't put much stock in "surprises" of this type.

Right. The DMG even advises giving players the cues they need to recognize 'gotcha' abilities (like threatening reach and damaging auras). However, since 'triggers' are not normally visible/known until they happen once, they often fall more into the 'supposed to be a surprise' category (as indicated in the Transparency article).

Still, the ubiquity of Monster lore gives DM's the perfect opportunity to be as free with power knowledge as they like.

They should also know that ballista's can miss, or fail to kill a target, and probably wouldn't want to rely on the ballista solely as a "gotcha," but also partially as a deterrent.


Sure, the orcs know that, but that's their plan.

How do you know that he has stepped "back" into metagaming?


If the player plans out his approach using metagame knowledge, then he has.

How do you know the character wouldn't be cautious and decide not to run back there when it saw the orc vanish from sight? How do you know that just describing the orc as vanishing from sight adequately conveys what a seasoned, trained fighter would surmise about the situation?


I don't know. Any of these choices are possible. I'm simply stating the experience of making that choice is different if metagame knowledge is used.

Is the only "roleplaying" answer for the fighter to deliberately fall for the trick (which in this case is a pretty pointless trick anyway)?
Would the player ever be required to fall for a trick he or she knows about?


Sure. If the fighter is informed of the trick, then his choice may be between roleplaying (doing what his fighter would have done without metagame knowlegde) and metaroleplaying (doing some variation that takes metagame knowledge into account.)
But really, this discussion isn't about what the player has to do or is prevented from doing. It's about how the DM affects the player's experience by virtue of sharing information hidden from that player's character.

...often there's only one interesting outcome for the player...


I categorically disagree with this. The fun for DMs and players is in making any outcome interesting. If a player is fixated on a singular outcome, they're likely to be dissapointed, and the DM and other players should help make whatever degree of victory/faiure/life/death interesting and fun.

Enemies do not automatically know triggers unless it's from a power/effect on them (this applies to more than just readied actions). Besides, this would make readying for certain surprise events less fun (readying for a trap, ambush etc.).

I don't see why. The mechanic for ambushes is the surprise round, which doesn't need to involve readied actions and in fact cannot, since there are no "standard actions" prior to the start of initiative order.

The DM gets to know the player's triggers simply to adjudicate rules. As always, NPC's should not metagame based on knowledge they should not have.

Isn't the definition of metagaming "basing actions on knowledge they should not have."

So, ok, the NPC doesn't walk into the PC's trap, but it's not because of metagaming. It's because a messenger has just run up to inform the NPC of something and the NPC looks down the road (past the PC's ambush), grumbles, then turns and rides back the way he came.

I tell my players when a creature readies an action, but I don't mention the trigger (unless it's a common one that the PC's could easily figure out... like flanking with an ally, killing a hostage or waiting until an opponent comes into range).

Why? Why doesn't the monster just take an action, instead of readying an action? Why risk the character not performing the trigger, which as you state is not a common one?* Why not let the player weigh the choices and take a risk based on how fun he think it will be rather than on how gullible he is? I'm really not clear how this makes the game more enjoyable.

They should also know that ballista's can miss, or fail to kill a target, and probably wouldn't want to rely on the ballista solely as a "gotcha," but also partially as a deterrent.


Sure, the orcs know that, but that's their plan.

To give the fighter zero incentive not to advance to where he's very much more effective? That's a bad plan.

How do you know that he has stepped "back" into metagaming?

If the player plans out his approach using metagame knowledge, then he has.

How do you know the player is planning out his approach using metagame knowledge?

How do you know the character wouldn't be cautious and decide not to run back there when it saw the orc vanish from sight? How do you know that just describing the orc as vanishing from sight adequately conveys what a seasoned, trained fighter would surmise about the situation?

I don't know. Any of these choices are possible. I'm simply stating the experience of making that choice is different if metagame knowledge is used.

Ok. What's the significance of that difference? Because there are other differences too, which I feel are likely to very much improve the game, for cost of a small difference in the choice, which makes no clear negative impact.

Is the only "roleplaying" answer for the fighter to deliberately fall for the trick (which in this case is a pretty pointless trick anyway)?
Would the player ever be required to fall for a trick he or she knows about?


Sure. If the fighter is informed of the trick, then his choice may be between roleplaying (doing what his fighter would have done without metagame knowlegde) and metaroleplaying (doing some variation that takes metagame knowledge into account.)

But sometimes what the fighter would do is the same in either case.

But really, this discussion isn't about what the player has to do or is prevented from doing. It's about how the DM affects the player's experience by virtue of sharing information hidden from that player's character.

An effect that people seem to want to avoid out of some vague fear that they're messing with something they don't fully understand.

...often there's only one interesting outcome for the player...

I categorically disagree with this. The fun for DMs and players is in making any outcome interesting. If a player is fixated on a singular outcome, they're likely to be dissapointed, and the DM and other players should help make whatever degree of victory/faiure/life/death interesting and fun.

No, the fun is not in making any outcome interesting. The fun is in making any outcome that actually occurs in play interesting. If there's no clear way to make something interesting, it just doesn't occur in play. Examples abound.

*Edit: or, if the readied action is meant to deter, why risk the player not knowing what the trigger is, not being deterred, and the readied action failing to have its effect?

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

this would make readying for certain surprise events less fun (readying for a trap, ambush etc.).

I don't see why.

Examples:
- Readying an action to grab hold of a ladder when the floor collapses
- Readying an action to jump into a hidden escape portal.
- Readying an action to attack the players after a secret trap or effect causes them to fall prone.

Enemies are occasionally supposed to have some tricks/surprises that are less fun if broadcast to the players

The mechanic for ambushes is the surprise round

I'm talking about surprise events, not the 'Surprise Round'. You can still have ambushes after combat has started.

Isn't the definition of metagaming "basing actions on knowledge they should not have."

I feel it's possible to metagame using non-secret knowledge (i.e. there is some meta-game knowledge that you're supposed to have), but point taken.

I tell my players when a creature readies an action, but I don't mention the trigger (unless it's a common one that the PC's could easily figure out... like flanking with an ally, killing a hostage or waiting until an opponent comes into range).

Why doesn't the monster just take an action, instead of readying an action?

Some examples (restated from above):
- flanking with an ally
- killing a hostage
- waiting until an opponent comes into range
- Readying an action to grab hold of a ladder when the floor collapses
- Readying an action to jump into a hidden escape portal.
- Readying an action to attack the players after a secret trap or effect causes them to fall prone.

A related anecdote from 3.5e:
Me: That Balor has some truly nasty spell abilities. I ready an arrow to disrupt his spell as soon as he tries to cast.
DM: The Balor melees this round instead of casting. Your readied action is lost
Me: Bummer. Ok, this next round I ready an action to attack when he does anything
DM: The Balor moves, then casts a spell this round. However, your attack goes off while he's moving, so the spell is not disrupted
Me: Double Bummer. Ok, round 3. I'm readying an action to attack when he takes any standard action. That should cover my bases.
DM: The Balor charges this round, which is a full round action that does not activate your trigger...

Disclaimer: the DM was not actually doing this on purpose or trying to use meta-game knowledge. It was just coincidence (he even relented and let me take my readied action during the Balor's charge).
Isn't the definition of metagaming "basing actions on knowledge they should not have."



Actually no. "Metagaming" or "the metagame" is simply basing in-game decisions on an awareness of the wider game at large and it's mechanical existence. There is no "should" or "shouldn't" component involved.

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100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

For a player a certain level of detail is required to be stated for the trigger of a readied action. (When X happens, Y happens.)

Well for DMs readying actions of monsters how much of that information is considered enough to give to a player.

I am under the impression that just telling them that a monster is readying an action would be sufficent. Leaving out the triggers as to prevent Meta-gaming, but I am not clear about it.

What is Kosher in this situation?
 



The correct action is the one that the majority of your group prefers.

However, from a rules POV (as other posters have mentioned) you can do well enough to say "the orc delays his turn" or "the orc readies an action".
I would guess that the extra bit of desciption mentioned before ("the orc notches an arrow but doesn't fire") is probably the most commonly used, since it tells the players what the reaction is (he shoots) but not the trigger (is he shooting the first person that comes near him, the first one that attacks bob, etc...).
 
But again, there is really nothing wrong with full transparancy.

TLDR:
Mix it up, try both versions. See which you prefer. Talk to your players. Take a vote. Majority rules.
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I'm glad this was not just a one reply topic. I can see how either way makes sense.


I am just going to have to play around with both and see what the group thinks.


Thanks everyone for the great discussion.

Putts 
I'm glad this was not just a one reply topic. I can see how either way makes sense.


I am just going to have to play around with both and see what the group thinks.


Thanks everyone for the great discussion.

Putts

Thanks for chiming back in. We're used to people posting a question and never coming back to it.

Yeah, I recommend playing around with it. Try a session, or part of a session, in which you are more transparent than usual, or worry less about metagaming, and see where it gets you. Talk to your players about it.

Examples:
- Readying an action to grab hold of a ladder when the floor collapses
- Readying an action to jump into a hidden escape portal.
- Readying an action to attack the players after a secret trap or effect causes them to fall prone.

These all seem oddly specific, but okay.

Why wouldn't you just jump for the ladder, instead of using a standard action to ready a move action? Why wait until the the floor collapses? And if the floor is a trap, there's already a method of avoiding traps, called "not being hit by the attack the trap makes." Readying an action doesn't help, because that comes after the attack.

Why wouldn't you just jump for the portal? Again, it's converting a standard into a move, instead of just moving. I assume the fact that you mention it's secret is the important part, but I'm having trouble imagining that scenario. If it were something that were only open on its turn, or something requiring timing, I could see it. Action: Move. Trigger: The portal opens.

In the final case, what's the trigger? Seems like it would be "Attack the first character that falls prone." A delay until after the trap would work just as well, unless the creature had to move on its turn for some reason.

What I'm not getting is why the DM couldn't tell the player, in each of those instances, or any other instance, what the trigger of the action was. I don't see why letting the player know matters in those or other cases.

Enemies are occasionally supposed to have some tricks/surprises that are less fun if broadcast to the players

Supposing that's true, there are plenty of ways to do that. I really don't think the readied action was meant as a method of springing things on characters. There's a mechanic for that, too: the feint.

The mechanic for ambushes is the surprise round

I'm talking about surprise events, not the 'Surprise Round'. You can still have ambushes after combat has started.

Wouldn't those involved in the ambush just be given a surprise round in which only they acted?

I tell my players when a creature readies an action, but I don't mention the trigger (unless it's a common one that the PC's could easily figure out... like flanking with an ally, killing a hostage or waiting until an opponent comes into range).

Why doesn't the monster just take an action, instead of readying an action?

Some examples (restated from above):
- flanking with an ally

What happens if the DM tells the player that monster A is readying an action to attack when monster B moves adjacent? The PC could move, I suppose, to spoil the flank, but it doesn't really strike me as metagaming for a character to move to avoid being flanked.

Don't forget that monster A can also delay to go right before monster B, so that there's no player turn between them.

- killing a hostage

You'd definitely tell the other side the trigger in that case.

- waiting until an opponent comes into range

The trigger would be obvious to the other side. That's not a surprise attack, that's the mechanics not forcing players to entirely give up the advantage of a high initiative. They will get to attack first, thanks to readied actions.

Bottom line, readied actions are not intended as traps. They're just a way to coordinate actions during combat.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

to the original poster, it depends on the situation, and how visible readying the action is. Generally though, if it isn't an obvious action (readying a spear against a charge, notching an arrow and aiming at the window) I just say that their turn is done with minimal description. If the player asks what the enemy was doing (or is up to) I allow either a spot or sense motive check.

simularly, if the PCs ready an action then I will decide how visible or obvious the readied action is and if the enemy would get a spot/sense motive roll, if appropriate 
Most of the time when I ready an action it is something that the players are not going to see until it happens.

Example, there was a huge fight in an ajoining room so the guards are waiting on the other side of the door crossbows ready to shoot whoever walks through the door.

The greatest use of a ready action I heard of was when a Halfling jumped on the back of an Orc Beastmaster's pet wolf. The Beastmaster whistled and readied an action. The Player stabbed the wolf on his turn. Then on the wolf's turn he ran towards his master who then swung straight into the Halfling taking him by surprise. Good times. 
Ant Farm
Most of the time when I ready an action it is something that the players are not going to see until it happens.

Example, there was a huge fight in an ajoining room so the guards are waiting on the other side of the door crossbows ready to shoot whoever walks through the door.

What would happen if the players knew about that readied action? What would happen if they didn't know, but never went through the door anyway, for whatever reason?

The greatest use of a ready action I heard of was when a Halfling jumped on the back of an Orc Beastmaster's pet wolf. The Beastmaster whistled and readied an action. The Player stabbed the wolf on his turn. Then on the wolf's turn he ran towards his master who then swung straight into the Halfling taking him by surprise. Good times. 

What if the player knew what the readied action was? If the player were to get off the wolf, that's to the beastmaster's advantage.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

What would happen if the players knew about that readied action? What would happen if they didn't know, but never went through the door anyway, for whatever reason?


First one, they would be wondering why I told them that two people they couldn't see have ready actions.

Second, the Guards would wait a short amount of time then investigate.

What if the player knew what the readied action was? If the player were to get off the wolf, that's to the beastmaster's advantage.


If the player knew what the readied action was, most likely he would have jumped off the wolf. However, it would steal away from the threat of the Enemies. Instances like this make me feel like NPCs are more than just a stat block.

For example, I tell the player that the Dragon Warrior has readied an action to hit anyone who attacks his healer minion, are they going to attack the healer minion? Depending on the situation, No. Because why attack just to get attacked back when you can make the enemy waste his action?

Second, it might be to the beastmaster's advantage, but is it as cool as having your wolf bring your enemy to you?
Ant Farm
I usually use the narrative form of dealing with a readied action for a monster, but see the value in being open as well. I use the narrative more with my Thursday group because they are all veterans and I expect them to pick up more on context clues and taking more responsibility for "filling in the blanks" where that is concerned. For my Wednesday Encounters group, I'm dealing with new players. I tend to be more detailed and forthcoming with them when it comes to the actions of monsters/villains.
Part of the challenge in combat is not just survival, but the tactics involved, foreseeing the enemy's actions and out manoeuvring them is part of that challenge. The readied action is also part of that challenge to the player. Noticing that an enemy hasn't made an action on his turn, or who's action may be setting the up for another action, is a Challenge.

Identifying what the enemy is up to, readying an action, and then predicting what they are readying to do and it's trigger is absolutely an important thing for the players to predict. Why didn't the Orc attack? Is he readying an action to interrupt the wizard? Is the drow who notched an arrow p to something? What is he aiming at? Is the barbarian readying a charge and bullrush in the event the cleric moves to heal? Many unknown possibilities, and predicting these are part of the player's fun and part of the challenge the DM has crafted for the player to overcome.
My character - grizzled fighter, forged in blood and fire, veteran of many wars - is much better at predicting what an enemy is readying to do than me, the player, whose war experience is limited to half-remembered episodes of Band of Brothers. I, the player, am also relying upon information being fed to me by the DM, who may similarly lack the insight and experience of my character sufficient to convey what the character might consider an easy read on the enemy's tactics.

Having information that my character would likely know ("likely" here meaning "plausible given the scene in the context of a fantasy world") does not negate the challenge. I still need to act on that information. And therein the challenge remains.

Basically, all this is arbitrary. You're just being arbitrary with what the character doesn't know (probably to affect some kind of desired outcome) when you could just say that the characters are reasoned and experienced enough to determine any potential readied action. I don't even think a roll need apply here (Insight or the like) unless failure means something other than "You don't know."

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I, the player, am also relying upon information being fed to me by the DM, who may similarly lack the insight and experience of my character sufficient to convey what the character might consider an easy read on the enemy's tactics.


Understanding the player's concept of his character and accurately conveying appropriate information to the player is a huge part of the DM's job. If the DM judges the character would automatically identify the readied action and trigger, then he should tell. If the DM thinks there's a chance, a perception roll should be made. If there's no chance at all, then there's no need to say anything. Sharing hidden information should never be arbitrary, either on the side of keeping things secret or sharing everything. 

I, the player, am also relying upon information being fed to me by the DM, who may similarly lack the insight and experience of my character sufficient to convey what the character might consider an easy read on the enemy's tactics.

Understanding the player's concept of his character and accurately conveying appropriate information to the player is a huge part of the DM's job.

No, it isn't.

If the DM judges the character would automatically identify the readied action and trigger, then he should tell. If the DM thinks there's a chance, a perception roll should be made. If there's no chance at all, then there's no need to say anything.

The player would almost always be a better judge of whether or not the character perceives something, and in what way.

Sharing hidden information should never be arbitrary, either on the side of keeping things secret or sharing everything.

The only reasons not to share everything is because not everything "exists" as a fact before it has reason to, and because even those facts that do exist would be too much to convey. I tell my players the monster defenses (along with describing them), but only in a range, so as not to give them a lot of numbers to remember. But I'd give them the exact numbers whenever they wanted them.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Centauri, I appreciate your perspective, but I'm not interesting in repeating the same debate with you. I did talk to my players about this Saturday night. I asked what they would think about moving towards a more collaborative game, and described how we could all design the adventure together, decide what kind of monsters and encounters would be fun, what specific challenges and rewards their characters would be looking for, and that my role as DM would be more of a mediator, guiding us all towards this collaborative goal, and running the NPCs and monsters. I honestly presented this as something I would be willing to try if it appealed to them. The universal response was this idea was "dumb" and "not fun". So while your style may work fabulously for your group, I'm satisfied that mine isn't interested. If you find a podcast or transcript that sheds some real light on your approach, please share with me, but otherwise I'm not interested.
Understanding the player's concept of his character and accurately conveying appropriate information to the player is a huge part of the DM's job.



It's not a job, and I disagree that there's any reliable way for a DM to determine what is "accurately conveying appropriate information" with regard to a readied action. It's all arbitrary. I posit that many DMs will prefer to be vague about it so as to get a "gotcha" in on the player.

If the DM judges the character would automatically identify the readied action and trigger, then he should tell.



Arbitrarily judges, you mean.

If the DM thinks there's a chance, a perception roll should be made.



Outside of (unfortunately in D&D) attack rolls, I don't think a die should ever be rolled if the result of failure is "nothing happens" or "you don't know." Failure should always mean something interesting (to the players, if not the characters). So what happens if the Perception roll is failed here?

If there's no chance at all, then there's no need to say anything. Sharing hidden information should never be arbitrary, either on the side of keeping things secret or sharing everything.



Here's where I think you're misreading me: I'm saying to share the metagame information with the player and let him decide what to do with it. "The orc is readying the ballista to fire at the first person to come through the door." The player can then decide whether his character would know that in context and how he would respond. If John has been playing Ragnar as wreckless, he can ignore that information and charge on in. If he's been playing him as cautious and calculating, he can approach the situation more carefully. The player knows his character best, no matter how much of the DM's "job" you think it is to "understand the player's concept of his character."

What I think is going on here with the reluctance of sharing this information freely (outside of wanting to occasionally play "gotcha") is that the player is somehow going to give himself an advantage. That's how a lot of DMs seem to treat the metagame. That's a pretty negative way of looking at it in my view. Have some faith that the player will at least use the information given to him to move the game forward. Justification of the metagame also creates a lot of fiction that adds to the tapestry of the game.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

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