D&D 5E RULES CLARIFICATIONS

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Three different perspectives to interpret rules:

  • RAW: Rules as Written.
  • RAI: Rules as Intended (by the designers)
  • RAF: Rules as Fun.

This document aims to clarify the RAW based on official rulings. Rules don't account for every situation and your DM remains the final referee and master of rules (aka "Rule 0").

Ability checks (p. 180)

Are not saving throws, and vice versa. A spell or ability that affects one do not affect the others. Rolling mechanic is similar (roll d20 + applicable modifiers), but proficiency bonuses can differ.

Initiative is a Dexterity check. As such, it is affected by spells or features that grant a bonus to ability checks. But on the downside, anything that affects a Dexterity check negatively (e.g. a level of exhaustion) also affects initiative.

AC Calculation (p.7, p.164)

Some spells and class features give you a different way to calculate your Armor Class [i.e. 10 + modifier]. If you have multiple features that give you different ways to calculate your AC, you choose which one to use.

Sage Advice: "For example, if you’re a sorcerer/monk, you can use either Unarmored Defense or Draconic Resilience, not both. Similarly, a druid/barbarian who transforms into a beast form that has natural armor can use either the beast’s natural armor or Unarmored Defense (you aren’t considered to be wearing armor with natural armor).

The spell mage armor also gives you a way to calculate your AC (13 + your Dexterity modifier) and is therefore incompatible with Unarmored Defense or any other feature that provides an AC calculation.

A shield doesn't count as armor even if listed in the armor section of the equipment chapter. You can use one to increase your AC. However, some AC calculations (such as a monk’s Unarmored Defense), specifically prohibit the use of a shield.

The barkskin spell isn't an AC calculation. For the spell duration, a target's AC "can't be less than 16". If the target's AC is already 16 or higher, the spell doesn't add or remove anything.

"Attack","Creature","Target","Point"

In 5E, some words have specific meaning in the context of the game. Be attentive to the words used for class features and spells. Some effects or spells target friendly creatures as well as hostile ones.

  • Usually, an attack requires an attack roll. "If there's ever any question whether something you're doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you're making an attack roll, you're making an attack" (PHB p.194). Jeremy Crawford added via tweet something is also an attack "if the rules expressly calls it an attack" (e.g. grapple, shove). Conse-quently, some offensive spells or features may not count as attacks for game mechanic purposes (such as magic missile).
  • A creature is any player character or DM-controlled monsters and NPCs including (but not limited to) constructs, monstrous plants, and undead. If a spell or feature says it affects a creature, then it does not affect objects unless it specifically says so.
  • An enemy is a hostile creature engaged in combat against a player character or the entire party.
  • A target is that thing or creature you picked when casting a spell or using a feature, or any creature that is affected by a game effect even if the word "target" isn't used. See target.
  • A point is a point in space, not a creature or an object (e.g. silence spell).

Bonus action (p. 189)

Actions and bonus actions aren't interchangeable. A bonus action is a specific type of action, and you can only take one per round on your turn. You can take it before or after you take your action, unless the description of the bonus action says otherwise.

"If a feature says you must do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you do X. E.g. if taking the Attack action is the condition for something else to happen, you must take that action before the other thing can happen." (JC Sage Advice revised ruling, May 11th, 2018).

The fighter feature Action Surge doesn't grant a second bonus action (only refers to the fact that you might have a bonus action).

Note: Unless specifically stated otherwise, any effect triggered on an "action" will also be triggered with a bonus action. Also, anything that deprives you of you ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.

Charm Immunity / Fey Ancestry

Creatures immune to the charmed condition are immune to spells that specifically say they apply the charmed condition or spells that specify that creatures immune to charm are immune to that spell.

The advantage on saving throws against being charmed (e.g. Fey Ancestry feature) applies only to saves against spells or effects that explicitly give the Charmed condition, not all enchantment spells.

Charmed condition spells (PHB): animal friendship, charm person, crown of madness, dominate beast, dominate person, geas, modify memory, dominate monster.

Charmed immunity spells (PHB): sleep, enthrall, suggestion, compulsion, mass suggestion, otto's irresistible dance.

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The following "charm" spells are unaffected by both charm immunity and fey ancestry: friends, vicious mockery, bane, bless, command, compelled duel, dissonant whispers, heroism, hex, tasha's hideous laughter, animal messenger, calm emotions, hold person, zone of truth, confusion, hold monster, antipathy/sympathy, feeblemind, power word stun, power word kill.

Philter of love: no saving throw, so Fey Ancestry doesn't apply.

Critical Hits (p. 196)

Do not multiply damage. Roll the damage dice twice and add any relevant modifiers after the rolls.

Dispel Magic, (p. 234)

Sage Advice: "Dispel magic has a particular purpose: to break other spells. It has no effect on a vampire’s Charm ability or any other magical effect that isn’t a spell. It also does nothing to the properties of a magic item. It can, however, end a spell cast from a magic item or from another source. Spells—they’re what dispel magic is about." (...)

"Whenever you wonder whether a spell’s effects can be dispelled or suspended, you need to answer one question: is the spell’s duration instantaneous? If the answer is yes, there is nothing to dispel or suspend. Here’s why: the effects of an instantaneous spell are brought into being by magic, but the effects aren’t sustained by magic (see PH, 203). The magic flares for a split second and then vanishes."

Evasion

The 7th level rogue feature Evasion applies to all Dexterity saving throws that allow you to take half damage, not only "area" effects.

Extra Attack vs. Multiattack

Extra Attack requires you to take the Attack action on your turn. A grapple "attack" or shove "attack" replaces one attack (p.195).

Jeremy Crawford: "Extra Attack requires the Attack action, not any action, such as Whirlwind Attack, that includes an attack (the proper nouns are key)".

"Extra Attack imposes no limitation on what you use for the attacks. You can use regular weapons, improvised weapons, unarmed strikes, or a combination of these options for the attacks."

A creature's Multiattack feature is a separate action (i.e. not the Attack action) and does not meet the prerequisites of any class that gives Extra Attack.

Example: a multiclass druid/fighter that shapeshifts into a bear cannot benefit from the fighter's Extra Attack feature when taking the bear's Multiattack action.

Familiar

  • A familiar can't attack but can take non-attack actions, including Help and helping with ability checks-- see PHB p. 175 for details. (A warlock with pack of the chain can forgo one of its own attacks to allow its familiar to make one attack of its own.)
  • A familiar is considered an allied creature.
  • No range limit on dismissal.
  • Can communicate simple concepts.
  • "It's up to the DM whether a familiar can activate a magic item, but nothing in the rules prevents it".
  • During combat, searching for something requires the Search action, so you cannot take the Search action and use your familiar's eyes/ears on the same turn (which requires an action in itself), unless you have an extra action from a feature like Action Surge.

Flanking

You don't get any advantage from flanking a target, unless the DM wishes to use the variant rule found in the DMG p.251.

The flanking rule has been largely replaced by feats and features that grant advantage--or another benefit-- while an ally is standing within 5 feet of a target (e.g.: pack tactics).

Grapple (p.195, p.290)

The grappled condition limits movement, not attacks, spellcasting, and the like. That said, many grappling abilities, such as a roper’s tendril attack, also deliver effects like the restrained condition.

A grappled creature doesn't have disadvantage on attack rolls, nor does creatures have advantage on attack rolls against it (unless it is prone or the DM rules otherwise depending on the situation).

The grappler can drag or carry the grappled creature with him, but his speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more size smaller than him. Your Strength score determines who much weight you can drag or carry (p. 176).

Condition ends if the Grappler is incapacitated or if an effect removes the grappled creature from the Grappler's reach.

"If you can make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them". (Example: If you have two hands free and two attacks, you could make two grapple attempts on two adjacent targets on your turn).

Hiding (p.177, p.183, p.192-195)

Hiding and stealth ("sneaking around") basically follow the same rules. If you're hidden, it means you're unseen and you're unheard.

You're still making a little bit of noise unless you're magically silenced. The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.

When can I attempt to hide?

You can attempt to hide whenever the creature or creatures you are attempting to hide from can’t see you clearly.

  • You could be invisible (being hidden is different from the "Invisible condition" in that you can be invisible and still not be "hidden" if your opponent can tell where you are by hearing you or by some other means); an invisible creature can always try to hide.
  • You could be in a heavily obscured area (such as darkness if your foe doesn’t have darkvision);
  • You could be on the opposite side of anything that provides cover;
  • Your foe(s) could be distracted;

With the Skulker feat, you could also attempt to hide if you are in a lightly obscured area (such as dim light).

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With the wood elf’s Mask of the Wild ability you can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. You can’t use this ability to attempt to hide in dim lighting-- although your DM might allow it-- but you can in the area of effect of an insect plague.

With the lightfoot halfling’s Naturally Stealthy ability you can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you. You would have to first move to a position that placed that creature between you and the creature you are hiding from.

The Rogue’s Cunning Action that allows him to take a Hide action as a bonus action each round, does not release him from the need to meet at least one of the above requirements before attempting to hide.

How do I hide?

As a Hide action in combat, or any time you attempt to hide, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check and you or the DM writes down that result. If your check exceeds a creature's Passive Wisdom (Perception) score, your hide (or stealth attempt) is a success. (1) You keep the initial Stealth result until you're no longer hidden. The number basically determines how well you're succeeding at staying quiet and out of sight.
(1) Rule designer Jeremy Crawford once tweeted the Stealth check result needed to "meet or exceed" a creature's Passive Perception score (in effect treating PP like a DC). Some official hardcover modules use that approach. But during a Dragon Talk podcast (Sage Advice segment about Stealth), he said the stealth check and the PP score should normally be treated as a contest, i.e. the check has to exceed the PP score, or the other way around to spot the hidden creature (see PHB p. 174 for contest rules).

"Design intent (RAI): Passive Wisdom (Perception) is the norm. Only have someone roll an active Perception check if they initiate a search."

"When you make a Perception check, you're really rolling to see if you can get a higher number (than your Passive Perception score). If you fail, your Passive Perception is still active. It's in effect creating a minimum".

"Perception goes beyond sight and sound: it is a holistic expression of your character's perceptiveness" - J. Crawford


How do I spot a hidden creature?

If you are actively trying to locate a hidden creature, make a Wisdom (Perception) check and compare the number to the creature's Stealth result. Your Perception check must exceed the creature's Stealth check. (See Contests PHB p. 174).

In combat, you must use the Search action to accomplish this task.


Detecting a Hidden Creature
Environment Passive Perception Perception check (Search)
Heavily obscured: thick fog, heavy foliage, invisibility; a searching creature is effectively blinded (+) (hearing, smell only)
(*)
(hearing, smell only)
(*)
--> Darkness, night; a creature without darkvision or other special sense is effectively blinded (+) (hearing, smell only)
(*)
(hearing, smell only)
(*)
----> Darkness with darkvision (darkness seen as dim light within specified range) -5 disadvantage
Lightly obscured: patchy fog, moderate foliage -5 disadvantage
--> Dim light (includes twilight, dawn, bright full moon) (++) -5 disadvantage
----> Dim light with darkvision (dim light seen as bright light within specified range) normal normal
Bright light (+++)
normal normal

(+) A creature with the keen hearing or keen smell feature has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

(++) Skulker feat or other special feature required to hide in lightly obscured area without benefit of invisibility or a distraction.

(+++) Can't hide in bright light without benefit of cover, invisibility, or some kind of distraction.

(*) Circumstantial disadvantage (DM's call)

  • If the hidden creature is in an area that is lightly obscured (dim light, patchy fog, foliage), you have disadvantage on your Perception check (-5 on your Passive Perception score if you're not actively looking).
  • If you have darkvision, you also make your Perception check with disadvantage (-5 on your Passive Perception score) if the creature is hiding in darkness within your darkvision range (that area is considered dim light for you) (PHB p. 183).
  • If the hidden creature is invisible, or if you don't have darkvision and the hidden creature is an area that is heavily obscured (darkness, thick fog, heavy foliage), you are effectively blinded with regards to that creature. You must rely on senses other than sight to detect the creature's presence or location (e.g. hearing, smell). Some DM might impose disadvantage on your Perception check (-5 on your Passive Perception score) under those circumstances, unless you have keen smell, keen hearing, or other special sense.
  • A creature can't hide in bright light without the benefit of cover, invisibility, or some kind of distraction. See DMG p. 239 for details on circumstantial advantage or disadvantage.

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Invisibility in combat (RAI)

In the thick of fighting, you can usually determine the approximate location of an invisible creature that isn't hiding; you might not see it, but the creature's moving around, shuffling, clipping bushes, stirring up dust, bumping into furniture, swinging its weapon. The invisible creature still has the benefits of the invisible condition (PHB p.291).

However, the DM can decide that an invisible creature's location is unknown to combatants because of the environment or the combatants' attentiveness. They might be distracted or simply just not paying attention.

If the invisible creature wants to be unheard as well as unseen, it must take the Hide action.


What are the benefits of Hiding? (p.192)

If you are hidden before the combat starts you can surprise your opponents and attack them before they can react. (See "Surprise" later in this document).

If you are hidden you make the first attack with advantage. This grants a rogue a potential sneak attack. However, you will no longer be hidden whether the attack hits or misses (see next question).

While you remain hiding, creatures that wish to attack you must first identify where they think you are located (5-foot area). An enemy attack will automatically miss if you are not in that 5-foot area. If you are hiding in that area, the attack is made with disadvantage on the attack roll. (To keep the exact hiding location unclear, the DM could require a roll with disadvantage-- even if you are not in the targeted area-- and simply tell the attacker that the attack missed).

When am I no longer hidden?

You can come out of hiding at any time of your choosing.

As explained above, you are no longer hidden if you attack someone even if the attack misses. (There is an exception: if you have the Skulker feat, attacking with a ranged weapon and missing doesn’t reveal your position.)

If you move to a location where your opponent can see you, or if your opponent moves into a position where he can see you, or if you make noise, or if the object or creature that was providing you cover moves or is no longer providing cover for some reason, you are no longer hidden.

Once you are no longer hidden your opponents will know where you are so they no longer have to guess where to attack.

I am hiding behind cover. Can I stand out and attack with my ranged weapon with advantage and then return to hiding on my turn of combat?

If combat hasn’t started yet, you have a chance to surprise creatures as long as they aren’t looking in your direction. In that case you attack with advantage. Unless you're a 2nd level or higher rogue or you have a special feat (e.g. Skulker feat), class or racial feature, you will no longer be hidden as soon as you attack. You will need to make another Stealth check to attempt to hide again.

If you are a 2nd level or higher rogue, you can use a bonus action to attempt to Hide again on your turn. But remember, if they see you duck behind a tree, they have a pretty good guess at where you are trying to hide.

In combat, it is assumed that all creatures in the fight are alert and aware their surroundings, so they will usually spot you automatically when you move out (even partially) from behind partial or total cover. Depending on the narrative, the DM might decide that you need a different hiding place to attempt another Hide action. (You could still get the benefits of cover if you decide to stay in your original hiding location).

Initiative Order (p. 177, p. 189)

As soon as combat starts, characters and creatures roll initiative (which is a Dexterity ability check; some feats or features can modify the result). The "initiative order" is all these initiatives ranked from highest to lowest. The initiative count could start (for example) at 24 (20 roll +4 Dex) and proceed all the way down to 1. A creature's turn starts on its initiative count. A group of identical DM-controlled creatures usually share the same initiative.

"During a round, each participant in a battle takes a turn. The order of turns is determined at the beginning of a combat encounter, when everyone rolls initiative." (PHB)

Some features, such as a creature's Lair Action, can say : "On initiative count 20, this happens." Many spells specify that something happens at the start or the end of a turn.

(See also Round vs. Turn and Surprise in this document).

Investigation vs Perception (p.178)

Investigation (INT) : analyzing, examining, studying something already perceived; deducing, piecing together clues.
Perception (WIS) : finding things, looking around to see what is readily visible and/or noticable (e.g. a hidden creature).

The design intent (RAI) is that Passive Wisdom (Perception) is the norm. A Perception check should be called only if a creature initiates a search. (See also Hiding)

Multiple Magic Items (DMG)

Bonuses stack, unless a feature or item tells you otherwise. The only limit you have for stacking magic items is attunement slots available and "common sense". This means (for example) you could possible wear several magic rings with different benefits, or use +1 arrows with a +1 bow for a total bonus of +2.

DMG: "Use common sense to determine whether more than one of a given kind of magic item can be worn. A character can't normally wear more than one pair of footwear, one pair of gloves or gauntlets, one pair of bracers, one suit of Armor (Magic Items), one item of headwear, and one cloak.

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You [the DM] can make exceptions; a character might be able to wear a circlet under a helmet, for example, or be able to layer two cloaks."

Move (p. 190)

You can split your move before, between and after attacks (or between an action and a bonus action).

When an ability, feature, or spell description speaks of moving, it usually means a creature using some of its movement (as determined by a creature's speed). A creature that "can't move" has a speed of 0, but can otherwise speak or use gestures (unless it is somehow bound, silenced, or subjected to the paralyzed or petrified condition).

Multiclassing (pp. 163-164)

See pp. 163-164 of the Player's Handbook for multiclassing prerequisites, proficiencies, and spellcasting rules.

Natural Weapons

The words "natural weapon" refers to a natural weapon (e.g. horn, claws, bite). The words "unarmed strike" refer to an unarmed strike (punch, kick, head-butt, etc.) One has no relation to the other unless a rule makes an exception, as in the tabaxi (race). [JC Sage Advice tweet, May 16, 2018] See also unarmed strikes.

Opportunity Attack (p. 195)

In 5E, a creature only triggers an opportunity attack by leaving another creature's reach using its movement, action, or reaction. (If a creature is forcefully moved outside a creature's reach without using one of the above, it doesn't provoke an OA).

To avoid provoking an OA, take the Disengage action.

A creature that takes an opportunity attack uses its reaction. If you can’t see an enemy, you can’t make an opportunity attack against it.

Passive check (p. 175)

A passive check is 10 + usual modifiers.

  • It can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly.
  • Can be used when the DM wants to secretely determine whether a character succeeds at something (e.g. noticing a hidden monster)

    "If a DM decides (a) to use a passive check and (b) it's always active, a passive check can function as a skill check minimum. Entirely up to the DM." - J. Crawford

Prone (p. 190)

"You can drop prone without using any of your speed. Standing up takes more effort; doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed."


Ranged Attack Within 5 Feet

A ranged weapon attack or ranged spell attack while within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn't provoke an opportunity attack. There is, however, disadvantage on the ranged attack roll. The Crossbow Expert feat or the Close Quarters Shooter fighting style (Unearthed Arcana article "Light, Dark, Underdark!", not legal in D&D Organized Play events) lifts this penalty.

Spellcasters should still be weary of PCs or NPCs with the Mage Slayer feat, who can use their reaction to make a melee weapon attack when a spell is cast within 5 feet of them.

Reaction (p. 190)

A reaction needs an appropriate trigger. When you take one, you can't take another one until the start of your next turn.

It can happen on your turn or on someone else's turn.

Ready Action (p. 193)

The ready action lets you transform an action as a reaction, allowing you to act on someone else's turn when a specific trigger occurs.

If you use the Ready action to cast a spell, you actually cast the spell on your turn and hold its energy (using your concentration) until the selected trigger occurs. If you don't let the spell go when the trigger occurs, you lose both the spell and the spell slot.

If you use the Ready action to attack, you cannot use the Extra Attack feature because Extra Attack requires you to take the Attack action on your turn (not as a reaction on someone else's turn). Similarly, dual wielders cannot attack with a second weapon when readying the attack action because doing so requires a bonus action on their turn.

You can use the Ready action to move up to your speed when a trigger occurs. You can still use your normal movement on your turn prior to Readying this special move.

How about Readying a Dash? When you take the Dash action, you gain extra movement for the current turn. The increase equals your speed. If you Ready a Dash that triggers on someone else's turn, then your movement for that turn is 0 ft. (it's not your turn!) + your speed. Readying movement or the Dash action amounts to the same thing: you can move up to your speed. In effect, you are turning the extra movement usually gained by a Dash action into a reaction).

Resistance / Vulnerability (p. 197)

"Multiple instances of resistance or vulnerability that affect the same damage type count as only one instance" (i.e. do not stack).

Rolling a 1 or 20 (p. 194; p. 197)

20 on an ability check or saving throw isn't an automatic success (likewise for a 1 being an automatic failure). Automatic success or failure only applies to attack rolls, unless the DM houserules it. (A notable exception is the death saving throw: rolling a 1 counts as two failures, while rolling a 20 brings you back to 1 hit point).

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Resting (p. 186)

The rule on long rest was slightly modified in recent printings of the PHB. A long rest requires 8 hours, which must now include 6 hours of sleep. The remaining 2 hours can be spent doing light activity like reading or keeping watch.

A strenuous activity that lasts more than 1 hour interrupts a long rest and the characters must begin it again to gain benefits. Official ruling: a combat that lasts a few rounds or minutes doesn't interrupt a long rest. You'd need to be involved in a hour long combat, like fighting in the Battle of Helmsdeep (Lord of the Rings reference).

RAW, there is no consequence for sleeping in heavy armor.

"After a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points [and] spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them".

The DMG pp. 266-267 has variant rules for healing and rest. (Example: Slow Natural Healing; characters don't regain hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, they must spend Hit Dice to heal.)

Does the Trance trait allow an elf to finish a long rest in 4 hours? If an elf meditates during a long rest (as described in the Trance trait), the elf finishes the [long] rest after only 4 hours. A meditating elf otherwise follows all the rules for a long rest; only the duration is changed. [This answer has been altered (in the Sage Advice Compendium v.2.0) as a result of the tweak to the rules for a long rest, which appears in newer printings of the Player’s Handbook.]

Round vs. Turn (p. 189)

"A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. During a round, each participant in a battle takes a turn". In 5E, most spells, abilities, and features are defined in terms of turns, not rounds.

Do not confuse the two terms. On a given round, every turn happen pretty much simultaneously, with a slight time delay between creatures' actions based on initiative. Many features in the game, such as Extra Attack, specify that they work only on your turn.

On your turn, not much time for lengthy "in character" discussions or strategic talk (since the whole round lasts 6 seconds!) Only "brief utterances" (PHB p. 189) are allowed.

Sage Advice: "A round in D&D lasts for about 6 seconds. [But] none of the things that take place during a round—actions, movement, and the like—have official amounts of time assigned to them.

"The word “round” is like the word “month”; it can refer to a predefined period (June) or to a relative period (a month from now).In the rule on reactions [for example], the relevant round starts at the start of your turn."

See also Initiative order.

Sneak attack (Rogue feature)

  • You don't need to "flank" the target; you need advantage on your attack roll or have an ally standing within 5 feet of the creature.
  • Sneak attack doesn't automatically grant advantage. You need a specific circumstance that grants you the advantage (e.g. if a creature can't see you because of a succesful stealth check / Hide action-- p. 195). See "Hiding" in this document.
  • Undeads, constructs and other creatures are only immune to Sneak Attack if it says so in their stats block (which is not the case for most of them).
  • During the same round, you can sneak attack on your turn and on someone else's turn as a reaction (e.g. opportunity attack).

(See also unarmed strike)

Spells (pp. 202-205)

  • Pay close attention to the wording of the spell. Some spells take effect immediately (e.g. fireball); others take effect at the start of a creature's turn; others at the end of a creature's turn (e.g. flaming sphere). Others when you start your turn within an area or move into the area (e.g. cloudkill, moonbeam, spirit guardians, among others). See also "Turn vs. Round" below.
  • Casting two spells: On your turn, if you cast a spell that has a casting time of 1 bonus action, you can cast a cantrip that has a casting time of 1 action as a second spell. E.g. spiritual weapon as bonus action, and sacred flame (cantrip) as an action. Using Quickened Spell metamagic (sorcerer feature) follows the same rule.
  • On his turn, a fighter capable of casting spells (e.g. Eldritch Knight or multiclass fighter/spellcaster) can use his Action Surge feature to cast two spells with a casting time of 1 action (e.g. fireball with Cast a Spell action, then fireball again using Action Surge).
  • A spell with the casting time of "1 reaction" needs an appropriate trigger (e.g. counterspell, feather fall).
  • The effects of the same spell don't stack; use the most potent effect (PH, 205). If equal, use the most recent.
  • A counterspell (reaction) can counterspell a counterspell (reaction) that is counterspelling a fireball (for example). But remember: a character has only 1 reaction per round.
  • Do not confuse bestow curse and hex or guidance and bless. Hex only affects ability checks, not saving throws. Guidance affects ability checks, while bless affects attack rolls and saving throws. Bestow curse has multiple effects.
  • Conjure spells: the player chooses one of the available options for number of creatures and challenge rating, but the DM decides what creatures appear. (RAI)
  • Spiritual weapon: the spell does not require Concentration (errata on early printing GaleForce 9 spellbook card). Some early printing GaleForce 9 cards also omit to specify whether a spell requires Concentration or not. (They're missing the "C" symbol).

Obstruction

All spells require a clear path to your target (i.e. free of obstruction). This includes not only doors or walls, but windows and invisible walls. If you select a visible point in space while casting a spell and the spell effect meets an unexpected obstruction (such as a fireball hitting a clear window), the spell goes off the moment it hits that obstruction.

A spell's effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If an obstruction that provides total cover blocks one of these imaginary lines, then the location behind that cover isn't included in the spell's area. Exception to that rule, if any, is made clear in a spell description (e.g. sacred flame).

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Twinned Spell (metamagic)

If multiple creatures can potentially be affected by a spell at the current spell level, that spell is not elligible for twinned spell.

Surprise

There is no "surprise round", only surprised creatures along the initiative count. (See Initiative order above).

A surprised creature can't move or take an action before the end of its first turn unless it has an ability or class feature that says otherwise. Once its first turn has ended, the creature can use its reaction if there is an appropriate trigger (like an Opportunity Attack).

Sage Advice: "In effect, a surprised creature skips its first turn in a fight. Once that turn ends, the creature is no longer surprised."

You don't automatically gain advantage on attack rolls against a surprised target. You gain advantage on your first attack if you were succesfully hiding (see Hiding in this document). The fact that the surprised target can't move or take action on its first turn is its penalty.

Target

Target means, in game, what it means in english. ("If the rules do not specifically add or change the meaning in a significant way, the word means what it means in regular idiomatic English"). So target means: someone or something affected by an ability, spell, or feature.

Area spells, like fireball, may target not creatures or objects, but a point in space, and then expand to include affected creatures. You can hit (target) a creature with spells like this without intent.

You always need a clear path to target a creature with a spell (clear in the sense of free from obstruction). A creature behind total cover cannot be targeted. You don't necessarily need to be able to see the target(s), just that the travel path is "clear" (unless the spell specifies that you need to see the target). Cover need not be opaque. E.g. glass can provide total cover.

There are spells that create exceptions to the above: such as Sacred Flame, which specifies that target gains no benefit from cover. So in example, Sacred Flame can target someone through a clear window, but not through a thick fog because you need to see the target.

Invalid Target

The core rules are silent on this issue, but an optional rule appears in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Basically, if you cast a spell at an invalid target (e.g. you target an object with a spell that doesn't target objects, or you target a monstrosity or fiend with a spell that only targets humanoids), you waste your action, bonus action, or reaction used to cast the spell, and you also lose the spell slot. The DM doesn't have tell the player the reason the spell failed to affect the target, only that it did (there was no effect).

Tool proficiency (p.154)

You don't need proficiency with thieves' tools (or other tools, kits, and instruments) to try to use them, but if you are, you add your proficiency bonus to your roll.

The 10gp "generic" lock in the PHB p. 152 is an exception to this rule and requires proficiency. It's a very good lock!

As always, the DM might give advantage or impose disadvantage on the roll depending on circumstances (p.173).

Two-Weapon Fighting (p. 195)

In order to attack with a second light weapon you're holding in the other hand, you need to take the Attack action on your turn. For that reason, you can't benefit from two-weapon fighting when using your reaction (e.g.: opportunity attack or taking the Ready action).

There's no "main hand" or "off hand" in 5e. When you attack with one you get a bonus attack with a different one that you are already holding.

Unarmed Strikes

The errata for the PHB states that unarmed strikes do not count as weapons. For that reason, they are no longer listed on the weapon table in later printings. An unarmed strike does not work with features or spells that require an actual weapon such as two-weapon fighting, dueling style, great weapon fighting style, the Savage Attacker feat, or anything else that rely on the use of an actual weapon.

That being said, the rule clarifications found in the Sage Advice Compendium make an important distinction between a melee weapon attack and an attack with a weapon.

"A melee weapon attack can be made with a melee weapon, a fist, a claw, a tail, or something else. It is one of the four ways to make an attack (the others being ranged weapon attack, melee spell attack, and ranged spell attack)."


Thus, you can make a "melee weapon attack" with an unarmed strike as long as it isn't part of a feature or spell that specifies that an actual weapon is required (i.e. Divine Strike, Divine Smite) or mentions a change to the "weapon's damage" (i.e. booming blade, most smite spells).

Note that-- RAW-- an unarmed strike can't be used to make a Sneak Attack. The Sneak Attack feature works with a weapon that has the finesse or ranged property. An unarmed strike isn’t a weapon, so it doesn’t qualify. In contrast, a rogue/ monk can use Sneak Attack with a monk weapon, such as a shortsword or a dagger, that has one of the required properties.

Sage Advice tweet (11 Oct 18): "You're unlikely to break the game if you use unarmed strike with features designed for weapons, but some unintended consequences might arise, since we didn't design those features to be used with your body. And we like to avoid encroaching too much on the monk's domain." [e.g. monk's Flurry of Blows combined with a paladin's Divine Smite]

Natural Weapons

Th

e words "natural weapon" refers to a natural weapon (e.g. horn, claws, bite). The words "unarmed strike" refer to an unarmed strike. One has no relation to the other unless a rule makes an exception, as in the tabaxi (race). [JC Sage Advice tweet, May 16, 2018]

Jeremy Crawford has stated through a tweet (September 6, 2017) that Divine Smite (paladin feature) requires a physical weapon. At least, "that's the rule as intended". He added on May 15, 2018 "You break nothing in the game if you (the DM) let natural weapons go for the ride".

Using a Magic Item

Using a magic item doesn’t fall under Use an Object, as explained in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (p. 141) "so a feature such as the rogue's Fast Hands can't be used to activate the item."

Magic

Excerpt from the Sage Advice Compendium

Our game makes a distinction between two types of magic:

  • the background magic that is part of the D&D multiverse’s physics and the physiology of many D&D creatures
  • the concentrated magical energy that is contained in a magic item or channeled to create a spell or other focused magical effect

In D&D, the first type of magic is part of nature. It is no more dispellable than the wind. A monster like a dragon exists because of that magic-enhanced nature. The second type of magic is what the rules are concerned about. When a rule refers to something being magical, it’s referring to that second type. Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:

  • Is it a magic item?
  • Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?
  • Is it a spell attack?
  • Is it fueled by the use of spell slots?
  • Does its description say it’s magical?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, the feature is magical.


See also Dispel Magic in this document.

Credit

This document was compiled by B.A. Morrier using The Homebrewery.

Please check out my products on the Dungeon Masters Guild: http://www.dmsguild.com/browse.php?keywords=morrier&x=0&y=0&author=&artist=&pfrom=&pto=



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Sources

These rules clarifications are based on Jeremy Crawford rulings that have appeared on Twitter, in the monthly Sage Advice columns, or verbally on the Dungeon Talk podcast (Sage Advice segment).

Jeremy Crawfod is the lead rules designer for the 5th edition. In his words: "Sage Advice and any errata we publish are official. My Twitter feed is a test bed for things that become official."

Google "Sage Advice Compendium" to obtain the latest pdf document that compiles all official rules clarifications. You can also find the link to latest version of the Compendium at the top of Jeremy Crawford's Twitter account. Latest version of the Sage Advice Compendium is version 2.2.


"Hiding" section adapted from Ronny Hart, Dungeon Master Assistance article and the Sage Advice "Stealth" segment on the Dragon Talk podcast (04/27/2017):

https://olddungeonmaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/dd-5e-stealth-and-hiding/)

http://dnd.wizards.com/dragon-talk/podcast-hub

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