5E Actions in Combat - Comprehensive Guide - The Dungeon Rats (2023)

No matter how much roleplaying, exploration, or storytelling you do in your campaign, sooner or later you will end up in combat rounds. And as anyone who's ever played an RPG knows, combat rounds are the crunchiest and most rules-heavy part of the game.

Use legendary moves and hideouts to...

Use legendary moves and hideouts to improve your D&D encounters 🐲 🏰

But if you have dark visions, frantically leafing through books in the middle of the round, trying to make sense of what to do and when, fear not. Below is a guide to D&D 5E Battle Rounds, giving you everything you need to navigate your party's next battle without resorting to page turning (or at least not that much page turning).

The combat sequence in D&D is largely unchanged from the earliest editions:

  1. Determine surprise (if any)
  2. determine initiative
  3. Everyone does what they do
  4. Repeat until someone wins

Let's take a closer look at each of these steps:


If you're walking across an open field, you and an enemy will likely see each other before you're in combat range. But sneaking through a forest at night or sneaking through a maze of catacombs. . . In such situations, it is very likely that two parties will almost bump into each other before one knows the other is close. Not to mention those situations - like hidden bandits staking out the streets etc. - where one group will almost certainly see, hear or smell the other group first. In these cases, the first step is surprise.

5E Actions in Combat - Comprehensive Guide - The Dungeon Rats (1)
(Video) Actions in Combat Guide for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Sometimes mutual recognition is automatic - two groups of people approaching in heavy metal armor will spot youmuchof noise - but if there is a valid reason for the DM to think otherwise, they could call for passive tests of wisdom (perception) for all. Those who fail the exam aresurprised- cannot attack or perform actions in the first turn.


Once you know who, if anyone, is surprised, you can roll initiative to determine turn order. Each player rolls a d20 (with the DM rolling for monsters and usually for NPCs as well, although this may be delegated to the players for NPC allies). Highest total (Initiative roll + Dexterity modifier) ​​goes first, everyone follows in turn, lowest roll goes last.

Note that initiative order comes downin total, not necessarily the roll of the dice. Suppose you roll a 20 on initiative (you won't), but you only have a +1 Dexterity mod. Your overall initiative is 21. Someone else can roll a 19 but has a +3 Dexterity mod. Their initiative is 22, which means they go ahead of you.

In the event of a tie between creatures controlled by the DM, the DM decides the order. In the event of a tie between the players, the players regulate themselves, unless the DM has house rules for such an occasion.

The combat round begins

Once you've established the order of play, it's time to begin the round. In turn, each player (or the DM for non-players) declares their actions and rolls accordingly. And here we come to the meat of the combat round - actions. These come in a variety of flavors, so let's take a look at them all.

Default Actions

The action (also called "standard action") is the basic unit for "stuff you can do on your turn." From attacking to trying to solve a puzzle lock to shooting a fireball out of a wand, standard actions are the things that happen. Below is a list of typical D&D 5E actions in combat, showing just how varied your options can be:

Attack: Perhaps the simplest action, and certainly the most common, is the attack action, in which a player performs a melee or missile attack. In general, the attack action allows for only a single hit, although certain class features or other circumstances may allow more. There are also a few variations on the basic attack action, grapple and shove, that can prove very useful in the right circumstances.

Grapple: Sometimes stopping an enemy is more important than damaging them. In these cases, you may use your charge action to grapple any opponent within range that is no more than one size larger than you. A 5E grapple attempt is resolved with a Strength (Athletics) check against either the strength (athletics) or skill (acrobatic) of the opponent. If you are successful, that is the goalwrestled- meaning their speed becomes 0 and all speed-based benefits are lost - until you release them or they escape.

Push: You can also use your attack action to simply shove or shove your opponent, either knocking them down or moving them 5 feet away. The mechanics of pushing in 5E are the same as grabbing - your strength (athletics) vs. the opponent's strength (athletics) or skill (acrobatics).

Cast a Spell: Another common choice (for casters, of course) is to use their action to cast a spell. The actual time to cast a spell can vary, although most cost 1 standard action. Some may last a few minutes or longer while others areThe bonus campaignor even reactions (more on that later). If you have spells, make sure you know your casting times!

Dash: Simply put, the "Dash" action allows you to double your speed by spending your action - useful when you need to travel into (or away from) trouble.

Detach: With 5E's Attack of Opportunity rule (see below), you can't just step away once you're engaged with someone. so youmay– you only invite them to try to stab you if you do. With the Detach 5E action, you can avoid this by using your action to more carefully extricate yourself from combat before turning around . . . I mean retire wisely.

Dodge: Sometimes the best strategy is just not to get hit. You can use the dodge action to disadvantage attack rolls made against you (as long as you can see the attacker) and to gain an advantage on Dexterity rolls.

Aid: The Aid action in 5E allows you to aid another creature, either by giving it an advantage on its next skill test, or by giving it an advantage in its attack against an enemy that is within 5 feet of is in your possession as long as that ally's attack roll is made before your next turn.

(Video) Actions in Combat in D&D 5e - (DnD Rules School)

Hide: If the conditions are right - and as always the GM decides this - you can use your action to hide from those around you. Perform a Dexterity (Stealth) check, which is then used in contested checks against the Wisdom (Perception) of those trying to find you. Also,Nearby creatures can detect you if their Passive Perception exceeds your Hide check. A few obvious notes - you can't hide and call or otherwise make noise at the same time (the bard can't both hide and perform, etc.), and once you come out of hiding to attack, well, you're not hiding more ( although the DM can allow you to remain hidden if you approach for asurprise attack, depends on the situation).

Ready: Timing is everything, and the Ready action helps you get your timing just right. By performing a ready action, you delay an action until a set event that you specify (I'll throw the oil as soon as the door opens, etc.). You can also use the ready action with spells, as long as they only take 1 action to cast. Note that you must maintain focus until your moment comes, with the usual risks of broken focus.

Search: Spend your turn searching with either a Wisdom (perception) or Intelligence (inquiry) check (whichever the GM decides is more appropriate).

Stabilize: A fallen ally (one with 0 HP) can be stabilized by this action, meaning they are no longer subject to death rolls (as long as they take no further damage). They remain unconscious until they regain at least 1 hit point (they automatically fall back to 1 after 1d4 hours if they don't receive a healing in the meantime).

Use an object: This is something of a catch-all term. Everything you touch obviously doesn't rise to the level of an action. You can swing open a door or kick aside a bar stool as you move through an area, and it takes nothing to pull a well-oiled lever. But more complex interactions or interacting with a set of items require this action. Some simple examples are using a healing kit, starting a fire, pouring oil, or donning or doffing a shield. Note that the rogue's Quick Hands ability applies to the Use Object action.

Activate Item: Similar to Use Item, but specific to magic items. The key point is that, unlike Use an Object, this action isn't subject to the rogue's Fast Hands ability.

Abilities: Certain class abilities (like the Priest's Channel Divinity) and even some racial abilities (like the Dragonborn's Breath Weapon) cost an action to use.

Almost Everything Else: There's an almost limitless variety of things you can do on your turn

would represent a default action. You and the DM can improvise just about any special case action

and what types of buns would apply.

The bonus campaign

The next category of actions in D&D 5e are bonus actions. These are special moves you can perform in addition to what you do for your standard action. Unlike standard promotions, there is no universal list of bonus promotions for everyone to choose from. Rather, bonus actions are usually class-specific abilities or specific spells.

For example, entering or ending a rage is a bonus action for a barbarian. Likewise, bardic inspiration is a bonus action, as is the paladin's vow of enmity. At 2 o'clockndAt 1st level, rogues gain the Cunning Move ability, which allows them to use a Dash, Disengage, or Hide bonus action each turn.

A number of spells have a "bonus action" as their cast time, such as B. Hunter's Mark or Misty Step. And if you're thinking, "Does that mean I can cast two spells in the same turn?" . . . Yes and no. You can't cast 1stLevel or higher spells with your standard action on the same turn you cast a bonus action spell, but youmayCast a cantrip with a standard action (like Acid Splatter).

There is at least one bonus action available universally: Two-Weapon Combat. When wielding a light weapon in each hand, perform the off-hand smash as a bonus action.

(Video) D&D 5E Combat Explained in 5 Minutes

As with standard promotions, you may get one bonus promotion per spin. But while there are ways around this limit for standard actions (like the fighter's action wave), there's no such gap for bonus actions. Also note that a bonus action can only be used on thingsspecifiedB. as bonus actions, and usually things that are specified as bonus actions cannot be performed with your standard action.

Free promotions

The next category that can happen in a round is free action. These are little things that take little time and effort and don't interfere with your standard or bonus promotions.

Coming back to the Use Item action, there are many minor interactions with your environment that don't reach the level of a standard action. Some examples are drawing (or sheathing) a weapon, giving or throwing an object (though not as an attack), or opening a door while walking through it. In general, a single quick interaction with an object is free. A second interaction with the same object costs your action.

Another example of a free action is communicating with those around you. It costs you nothing action-wise to yell that the bad guy is behind that tree over there, or to quickly tell the healer to throw you a potion. Just be aware of the limits of how much you can say in a 6 second round - a full, prepared speech probably won't work.


The last category under actions arereactions, and they're unique for one important reason—they don't necessarily happen on your turn. Rather, because it is a reaction triggered by something happening around you, reactions can - and often do - occur while someone else's turn is taking place.

The best example of this is the most common type of reaction - an attack of opportunity. When an enemy moves out of being during the turnwithin your reachToout of your reachyou have the option to perform a free melee attack in response - essentially by hitting them when they turn to run. For obvious reasons, this can only happen when it is the opponent's turn.

Certain spells have "reaction" as the casting time for situations when you can't wait for your next turn. Take Shield (effect in response to an attack) or Featherfall (effect in response to you or another creature falling within range) for example. Also, any spell you hold with the Ready action for a specific triggering event is, by definition, a reaction.

Successfully leaping off a mount that has been knocked down or tripped is a reaction, as is the rogue's Uncanny Dodge ability at 5theven. And every regular action you hold over Ready is a reaction, just like with spells.

A character can only have one reaction per turn. When you perform an attack of opportunity, you cannot perform any more reactions until your next turn.


Something you can do that isn't technically an action is a move. Each turn, you can move up to your full range of motion, either all at once or broken into pieces around your actions (e.g. by taking their regular action - or any other combination they like). And if you can make multiple attacks with your attack action, you can split them upthisMove too - take your first punch, move, and then smash a new enemy with your second punch.

But what if you have two different movement speeds? For example, what if you could walk 30 feet but fly 40 feet? You can split your movement between the two modes, but it takes a little math — each time you switch to a new movement method, you subtract the distance you've already moved that lap from your speed. As long as you have more than 0 left, you can still move.

For example, consider our character above with 30ft walk / 40ft fly speeds. On his turn, he could walk 20 feet, perform his action, and then fly another 20 feet (complete his 40-foot airspeed). If he flew 20 feet, performed his action, and then walked, he could only walk 10 feet further since his walking speed is only 30 feet (although he could always fly the last 10 feet). And remember - if your basic move isn't enough, you always have the option to spend your action on Dash (or, if you're a rogue with the Cunning Action ability, you can use a bonus action to do so).

And again and again. . .

After everyone has had their turn in initiative order, the next round begins, again starting with the highest initiative and moving down. If you were surprised in the first round (i.e. did not act), you can now act when your initiative number comes up.

(Video) Tips For Running High Level Combat In Dungeons & Dragons 5e

This continues round after round, with players and enemies in turn taking their actions, resolving the effects, and then starting over, until one group or the other either retreats, surrenders, dies, or is otherwise eliminated from combat . At this point, combat rounds end until your next enemy encounter.

And that's the basic combat round. Now you do all these thingsAlsoAndefficient- Learning how to get the most out of your available actions, reactions and movements - can take some thought and some practice. But if you get a firm grip on the basics, you can eventually get there.

frequently asked Questions

How many actions can you perform in Battle 5e?

  • Each turn you can take 1 standard action, 1 bonus action (if applicable) and usually only 1 free action (but DMs may vary). You can also perform 1 reaction, which may or may not occur on your turn. Certain abilities can grant additional standard actions in a turn, such as B. the Action Boost ability.
  • What actions can you take in battle?

  • The most common standard actions are Attack and Cast Spell, but the list also includes Charge, Disengage, Dodge, Assist, Hide, Ready, Search, Stabilize, Activate a Magic Item, and Use an Object. Also, the Attack action can be used to either push or grab. A number of talents and class abilities can also cost a standard action, and players and DMs can agree on ad hoc actions to do things not covered by the standard rules. Bonus actions are more limited and usually consist of specific class abilities or spells. You can also run a reaction—i.e. H. an action triggered by something specific - which usually happens outside of your turn, e.g. B. an attack of opportunity. Minor interactions (drawing a weapon, etc.) and communicating are free actions and do not count as standard or bonus actions.
  • How do actions work in 5e?

    Just explain what you are doing. As long as you're within bounds (just a standard action, etc.) and doing something the DM allows, use your action to do that thing, whether it's attacking an enemy, helping an ally, or a to erect portcullis. If you are entitled to a bonus promotion, declare this as well. If you combine actions with movement, explain what happens when (“I move 10', do this, move another 20', etc.).

    How many actions are there in combat?

    Usually 1 standard action, 1 bonus action (if you can perform one), and 1 reaction per turn, plus one free action (although your DM might allow you to have more than one of these). However, some specific abilities may grant additional standard actions.


    1. D&D Combat Tactics! Keep combat INTERESTING!
    (Dungeon Masterpiece)
    2. Beast #73: Swarm of Rats (DnD 5E Monsters)
    (Chance's D&D Spellbook)
    3. Combat Basics in D&D 5E (Rules School Part 3)
    4. Dungeon Rats Solo Murderous Psychopath 100% Walkthrough PART1
    (Comrade Reptiloid)
    5. NEW Cinematic Mass Combat | How to Run Minions and Swarms in D&D 5e
    (The Dungeon Coach)
    6. Tips for Running Combat in D&D 5e - DM Advice
    (Dungeon Dudes)
    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

    Last Updated: 05/15/2023

    Views: 6068

    Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

    Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

    Birthday: 1997-03-23

    Address: 74183 Thomas Course, Port Micheal, OK 55446-1529

    Phone: +13408645881558

    Job: Global Representative

    Hobby: Sailing, Vehicle restoration, Rowing, Ghost hunting, Scrapbooking, Rugby, Board sports

    Introduction: My name is Geoffrey Lueilwitz, I am a zealous, encouraging, sparkling, enchanting, graceful, faithful, nice person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.