Why are we always hitting things - Other action options
In the heat of battle, most players want to attack the creature that is currently their sworn enemy. Either through melee attacks or casting a spell, players are constantly focused on hitting the monsters over and over again until it dies.
But why are we so limited in our thinking? There are so many other things we as players can do other than just swinging our swords or casting fireball. Players are so obsessed with standing toe to toe with a monster that many times they die in the process. So today, we are going to take look at other actions in combat that players can do. Some are actions we use all the time, some we forget about until its too late, and I’ve included new actions that you might have thought of, but were too afraid to ask to do.
I use these all the time.
Dash - When you take the Dash action, you gain extra movement for the current turn. The increase equals your speed, after applying any modifiers. With a speed of 30 feet, for example, you can move up to 60 feet on your turn if you dash. (pg. 192 PHB).
Disengage - If you take the Disengage action, your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks for the rest of the turn. (pg. 192 PHB).
Those these are two of the most common actions used outside of attacking. They usually have opposite roles in combat, as dash is used to catching up to something so that you can hit it, while disengage is used when you realized you made a grave error in judgement and should run way.
I’ve heard of them.
Hide - When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules in chapter 7 for hiding. If you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the “Unseen Attackers and Targets” section later in this chapter.
”Only Rogues should hide” is what a few people have told me. That’s bullshit. No one wants to seem like a coward and say they are going to hide, however, hiding doesn’t mean you’re running away. Hiding can give you and your party a tactical advantage. Don’t think of it as running away, but as using strategy to kill all those little murder hobo kobolds.
Dodge - When you take the Dodge action, you focus entirely on avoiding attacks. Until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker, and you make Dexterity saving throws with advantage. You lose this benefit if you are incapacitated (as explained in appendix A) or if your speed drops to 0.
I’ve never seen dodge used. I understand why. If you are worried about getting hit, why not just disengage as your action and move away. Well, there are a couple simple reasons I can think of. If the creature has a ranged attack, moving away may not help you from getting attacked, which doesn’t help when your at low HP. When you know your friends are coming to assist you (hopefully), the dodge action may be your best choice
Help - You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn. Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.
Here we get into actions that people usually forget about until after their turn and the player next to you says “Dude, you didn’t do anything. You should have used the help action with me!” Help seems to be primarily used when you are trying to make some sort of check, such as investigation. But in battle, it’s all about trying to kill the BBEG. So if you can’t reach the monster, but are within 5 feet of your foe, help helps.
Wait, I though only monsters could do that.
Grapple - The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check, a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition (see appendix A). The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required). (pg. 195 PHB)
In my opinion, the most under utilized action in combat. Sure, it’s not as good as being able to restrain someone, but being able to stop the creature from running away is a pretty powerful thing to do. The creature can still attack, but if your front line party members are just wailing away on the poor xorn, it probably wants to run away to fight another day. Best part is, when your turn comes around, you can hit the creature while still grappling it. Grappling can be the difference between killing the monster or letting it get away. And if it gets away, you don’t get that precious exp.
Shoving - Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them. The target of your shove must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you. (pg. 195 PHB)
While I was writing the above, all I could think about was the 90’s song “Somebody to Shove” by Soul Asylum. Of course that has nothing to do with the shove action in 5e, but I wanted to share that tidbit.
I didn’t really understand the purpose of wanting to push someone back 5 feet versus knocking them prone. Talking with Stephen, I have a better understanding of why you may want to do so. His first statement was “If you’re on a volcano, push them into the lava.”
I was hooked. Shoving someone back is more of a niche ability, but it can be useful. Push someone off a cliff. Push them back and then, if you have a second attack, shoot them with your ranged weapon without being at disadvantage. The synergy between shoving and using a polearm works well. Long story short, shoving someone back 5 feet can be useful.
Knocking some prone by shoving them can be very useful given the circumstances. They lose half their movement getting up. When you’re within 5 feet, you get advantage on your attack. If the creature doesn’t get up, it’s attacks are at disadvantage. Sure, ranged attacks are at disadvantage, but the positives way outnumber the negatives.
Oooo…I’d like to try that!
These are some homebrew actions that I wanted to try out. They aren’t a finished product, and I’m hoping Stephen will work with me on them so I can try them out during our campaign. Of course, he’s got to be sick of me doing crap like this, so I can’t blame him if he laughs in my face.
Tackle - Sometimes you just want to knock someone down or land on top of them. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If you win the contest, both you and the target are both knocked prone and the monster is grappled.
Trip - This is more of a reaction, but I wanted to include it here. The mechanics can be improved by a good DM (looking at you Stephen), but here’s the gist of it. As the target moves past you (must be within 5 feet) you can make a Strength (Athletics) check versus the targets Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If you win the contest, the target will stumble and immediately lose all additional movement, stopping directly in front of you.
Taunt - Need to get that Barbarian away from your little gnome wizard with only 5 hit points left? Piss him off by making fun of his mother! You make a general Charisma check against the target’s Charisma check. If you win the contest, the target will disengage and move directly toward you on its next turn. Must speak the creature’s native language to use the taunt action. Of course, this is up to DMs discretion as it can effectively wastes the monster’s turn and some monster’s just don’t care if you insult your mother.
Slam - Ever been in the moshpit at a concert? This action is like that. Immediately after using your dash action and moving a minimum of 20 feet, you can use your bonus action to slam your shoulder into a creature. You make an unarmed attack on the target, on a hit, you deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1+ your strength modifier and knock the target back 5 ft.
Hitting things is nice. We all love to do it and if you don’t hit them, how can you kill them and get all that precious experience. But there are a number of reasons to use actions other than attacking. Sometimes its harder than you think to kill that BBEG, so thinking outside the box can give you that little advantage you need to defeat your foe. Maybe you shouldn’t kill the creature outright, but subduing it to get some information out of them. I know we as players act like crazed murder hobos a great deal of the time, but talking can sometimes get you the directions to the pile of gold, which can be better than the experience, since being rich is better than getting a measly 200 exp.