D&D is a roleplaying game, it’s a game of wonder, and exploration… and pretending to kill things. Now this blog is going to get into the combat rules of 5th edition.The combat chapter is organized along the order of combat from surprise,to initiative, to your turn and covers plenty of ground for the basic game. I’ll cover all the combat in the order and attention it get sin the combat chapter.
Surprise hinges on DM decision of who may be surprised. If specific situation don’t lead to an immediate decision the DM compares Stealth and Perception of each creature and those on each side that don’t notice a threat are surprised and unable to take an action until the turn ends.
Initiative determines the order of each PC and group of similar monsters turns in a combat round. Everyone makes a dexterity check (well guys sloppy language use there it’s actually a roll because nothing is actually be checked against) and the highest check goes first with the DM resolving ties. Initiative is rolled but once per combat.
Now on Your Turn you get to make actions in combat such as making and attack, moving, dodging or readying an action or taking a bonus action. Some opponents actions may spark a reaction, you may only take one reaction per round.
In combat PCs and monsters may be in constant action using movement and position to gain the upper hand. On your turn you can move up to your speed in distance and possible special movement (jumping, climbing, etc…). In Basic D&D everyone can break up the move, you are allowed to move some, attack, and move some more. Difficult terrain is is moved over at ½ speed. You can drop prone at no speed cost, standing up costs you half your speed for the round. You can interact with one object a round at no cost to actions (you can draw a weapon at no cost, opening a door and walking through) unless there is something interfering with that interaction as decided by the DM, interacting with a second object counts as a used action for the round. It is possible to move through a friendly creature’s space in combat or sneak about really big creatures as long as you don’t end your move in their space but attempting to leave a hostile creatures reach can provoke an attack of opportunity.
Spaces are explained as is the option of playing on a grid, they game does not depend on a grid or miniatures being used. You can squeeze into a tight space but that counts as difficult terrain and anything you attempt is likely to be at a disadvantage.
Actions in combat include making an attack, casting a spell, dashing (moving quick), disengaging, dodging, helping, hiding, readying, searching, and using and object. Disengaging allows one to move out of a foes reach without being threatened by an attack of opportunity. Dodging causes any attacks made against you to be made at a disadvantage and all your dexterity saves will be at an. Helping let’s you offer healing or such to anyone or improve an adjacent allies actions in combat so they attack at advantage. Readying sets up an action as a response to opponent’s actions.
Making an attack uses the good old d20 after you have picked a target. Roll 1d20 and add the appropriate ability modifier (normally Strength for melee of Dexterity for ranged combat but there are exceptions based on equipment and special abilities), add in your proficiency bonus and if the roll equals or exceeds the AC of the target you have hit. (For those not in the know AC starts at 10 and goes up). A hit roll of 20 is always a hit and is a critical hit. A hit roll of 1 always misses regardless of modifiers and targets AC. If a foe should be obscured or invisible you attack at a disadvantage. m/aking a ranges attack with a foe within 5 feet causes the attack to be disadvantaged.
Opportunity Attacks are allowed if a hostile attmepts to move out of reach. Making an opportunity attack costs you your reaction for the round. If an opponent is knocked away bey an explosion or som other situation foes do not get opportunity attacks against them. AoO still here but not as invasive as they were in 3.X.
Grappling is pretty simple as written you grab a foe no more than one size category larger and a contest ensues between athletic ability or athletics and acrobatics (STR vs STR, or STR vs DEX). Unfortunately the rules don’t make it clear if that grab is a melee attack or just the ability contest. You can wriggle free from a grapple or break free. If you have successfully grappled a foe you can drag them around at ½ your speed.
You can choose to shove a creature to knock it prone or knock it away, the target can be no more than one size class larger and the results are resolved by an ability contest.
Damage and healing is covered next and the damage roll and critical hit is explained; on an attack roll of 20 (or other rolls for some special abilities) an attack is a critical hit which allows the attacker to roll twice as many dice before adding modifiers to determine damage (so if you have a 1d8 damage weapon and a +2 strength bonus on a critical hit you would roll 2d8 and add your bonus of 2 points). Danage types are covered some foes aren’t harmed by some attack forms. If a creature or object has resistance to an attack form only half damage is inflicted on it by that attack form. If a creature or object has vulnerability to an attack form damage of that type is doubled. Only one type of vulnerability or resistance counts in. There’s a whole lot of easy and readily recieved healing in 5th editon with rest easily restoring HP. Dead creatures can’t regain HP until they are revived.
Dropping to 0 Hit points causes a target to fall unconscious if it doesn’t kill them. Massive damage kills a target instantly if there is remaining damage equal to your normal hitpoint maximum. Example: a target normally has 5 hit points and was wounded earlier so they only have 2 hp currently and they suffer a blow of 8 hp causing them to be instantly killed as there are 6 hp remaining in the attack and this is greater then (or equal to) the normal max HP of 5 that the target had. Even with all the easy healing combat will be pretty lethal to low level characters.
Death Saving Throws: at the start of any turn with 0 hit points a character must make a death saving throw. This save is a simple d20 roll with no ability modifiers. You do not die until your third failure or stabilize until your third success. If you roll a 20 on the death save you actually recover a hp. If you roll a 1 it counts as two failures. Any damage inflicted on you before you are stabilized counts a as a death save failure (a critical is two failures). Anyone can attempt to stabilize a creature by using their action to administer first-aid, stable creatures don’t have to make death saves unless hit again. Stable creatures regain a hit points in a couple hours. You can attack to knock a creature out and in such an attack rather than dealing a killing blow when you knock it to 0 hp you have simply knocked the creature out and they are unconscious but stable.
Mounted combat and underwater combat get a some limited attention. No clear advantage to mounted combat is given beyond the speed of but adequate rules cover some combat situations. Underwater combat is treated very briefly mostly limiting ranged combat and reducing attacks to disadvantaged attacks to those with no swim speed. Both of these areas of combat are under-explored in the basic rules in my opinion.
So that’s it for combat. No mention of attacking from behind or higher ground, no problem shooting into a melee. The difference between subduing damage and normal damage has been easily cleared up by an attacker simply not attacking to kill. The AoO horror from 3.x has been pretty much dropped and back to the good old days rules where you get a free attack against a foe trying to leave combat. Characters are much more mobile in this version of D&D compared to any other I’m familiar with as everyone will be able to move about fairly freely in combat. Dying after being reduced to 0 hp isn’t instant but is also simple to deal with than in some other versions of the game with little book-keeping. Death by HP loss looks like a threat round to round but not an enduring issue over the course of a game day. Combat is goign to be familiar round per round but over the course of an adventure it's going to have a different feel compared to older editions of the game.