Combat in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition comes with many options for both player characters and monsters. As many a Game Master knows, players tend to be risk-averse, meaning they’ll avoid risks whenever possible. Part of that mindset involves staying away from enemies whenever possible, so you should know how the disengage action works in 5e.
How does the disengage action work in 5e? Who can take it? And, what other special rules are there for it?
This guide covers everything you need to know about how disengage works in D&D 5e.
Let’s start with going over what the rules explicitly say about disengaging.
How Does Disengage Work in 5e?
Disengage is an action creatures may take during combat in D&D 5e. It represents a creature deliberately focusing on moving away from a hostile creature or creatures safely.
Essentially, the disengage action is a method for moving away from a hostile creature safely. Mechanically, it prevents any creature from making an opportunity attack a disengaging creature until the end of the latter’s turn.
Let’s look at the explicit rules for the disengage action from page 192 of the Player’s Handbook:
Honestly, that’s all it does. When a creature takes the disengage action, other creatures can’t make opportunity attacks against them for the rest of the acting creature’s turn.
Seems fairly simple, right? Well, as with many elements in D&D 5e, disengaging comes with minor complications that may confuse new players.
What Type of Action is Disengage?
By default, disengage is a regular action.
Disengage is a type of regular action any creature can take. As such, normally, a creature can’t take it as a bonus action or reaction.
Of course, there are exceptions. Primarily, the Rogue and Monk classes which break this rule and may disengage as a bonus action. We’ll go into detail on that a bit later.
First off, let’s go into what creatures can disengage in combat.
Who Can Use Disengage in 5e?
Any creature can take the disengage action on their turn in 5e. There are not class restrictions.
There are no restrictions on who can disengage in 5e. It’s a common action any creature can take on their turn.
That said, there are some special considerations for the action that certain player classes do get that makes disengaging a bit more effective.
Who Can Use Disengage as a Bonus Action in 5e?
Only Rogues and Monks can use disengage as a bonus action in 5e.
Ordinarily, a creature needs to use their regular action to disengage. With regards to player characters, only Rogues and Monks have the exception that they may take it as a bonus action instead.
Starting at 2nd level, Rogues get the Cunning Action feature. This lets them take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action as a bonus action on their turn.
Likewise, Monks get their Ki feature starting at 2nd level. This gives them a few options for using ki points including Step of the Wind which lets them take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action.
Unfortunately, the Monk’s version is pretty much objectively worse than the Rogues. Rogues simply can disengage as a bonus action without limits. Monks, on the other hand, have a limited pool of ki points, meaning they can only disengage as a bonus action a certain number of times.
Now, outside of classes, Goblin player characters also get the Nimble Escape trait which allows them to disengage as a bonus action among other things.
Other Special Class Considerations for the Disengage Action
While Monks and Rogues are the primary classes with exceptions for the disengage action, there are other special circumstances to consider like the Fighter’s Action Surge feature.
There are actually a number of features which grant a player character the ability to take the disengage action in addition to other actions or grant similar effects. It all depends on what class you’re playing and the specific wording. Some effects are essentially weaker versions of the disengage action (like the Swashbuckler’s Fancy Footwork), but accomplish a similar goal.
- Fighter: Action Surge
- The Fighter’s Action Surge lets a character take an additional regular action on their turn. So, a character could disengage, use Action Surge, then take another action all on the same turn.
- Sorcerer: Quickened Spell Metamagic
- With the Sorcerer’s Quickened Spell Metamagic, a player character could turn a spell which normally takes a regular action and cast it as a bonus action. This leaves their normal action open to disengage or vice versa; disengage as an action to get away from hostile creatures then cast a spell as a bonus action.
- Monk (Way of the Drunken Master): Drunken Technique
- The Drunken Master’s Drunken Technique grants them the benefits of the disengage action whenever they use Flurry of Blows. It also gives them a small bonus to their movement speed.
- Rogue (Scout Archetype): Skirmisher
- Scout Rogues get the Skirmisher feature which lets them move away from a hostile creature as a reaction. While this doesn’t specifically grant the same effects as the disengage action, moving away with this feature doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. So, it’s effectively the same.
- Shifter (Swiftstride): Shifting Feature
- The Swiftstride’s Shifting Feature allows a character to move as a reaction when a hostile creature ends its turn adjacent to them. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, so, again, it’s not exactly like taking the disengage action, but it’s close.
- Mobile Feat
- Among other things, if your character has the Mobile feat, when they make an attack against a creature, that creature can’t make opportunity attacks against you until the end of your turn. However, other creatures you don’t make an attack against may still get the chance to make opportunity attacks against you if you give them the option.
- Rogue (Swashbuckler Archetype: Fancy Footwork
- A Swashbuckler Rogue’s Fancy Footwork feature is like a weaker version of the disengage action. Basically, when you make an attack against a creature, that creature can’t make opportunity attacks against you for the rest of your turn. Again, other creatures you don’t make an attack against can still make opportunity attacks if triggered.
Disengage & the Sentinel Feat
The Sentinel feat is the only way to ignore the disengage action. This feat explicitly allows a creature with it to make an opportunity attack against a creature what takes the disengage action.
A creature with the Sentinel feat gets a handful of benefits. One of those benefits specifically states; "Creatures provoke opportunity attacks from you even if they take the Disengage action before leaving your reach." So, it deliberately overrides the disengage action.
This is about the only way to make an opportunity attack against a disengaging creature.
That said, you technically could hold an attack action with a trigger of "when an enemy moves within my reach." This technically isn’t an opportunity attack but an attack action held for a reaction. However, doing this usually means taking an action which often could be put to better use, so I wouldn’t advise it except for very specific circumstances like waiting out an effect to end.
When Player Characters (& NPCs) Should Use the Disengage Action
Creatures will primarily use the disengage action to get away from a dangerous and hostile enemy. However, it might also be used to get away from one creature to then engage a different one elsewhere on the battlefield.
Honestly, there are 2 main reasons to use the disengage action during a combat encounter in 5e.
First and foremost, a creature should disengage to safely move away and through a group of enemies. Usually, player characters will want to disengage when they don’t want to run the risk of taking an opportunity attack from an adjacent enemy. What’s more, there may be many enemies around and the disengage action negates most (remember Sentinel) opportunity attacks allowing a creature to freely move about the battlefield.
The second reason to disengage in 5e is to get away from an enemy to then engage with another. Technically, this is a sub-reason to the first; a creature doesn’t want to risk taking opportunity attacks from most enemies to get close to a specific target. This may be to better prioritize which enemies to eliminate first (like mages or healers) or to try and rescue a struggling ally.
Remember that the disengage action does 1 thing; prevent opportunity attacks. It has little use outside of that. That said, its singular use gives both players and GMs more tactical decisions during combat encounters.
Alternative Options to Disengage
The disengage option is great for creatures on their own or without other abilities. However, players and Game Masters have other options at their disposal.
Disengaging isn’t your only option for avoiding opportunity attacks. There are spells, class features, and other abilities for getting away from hostile creatures. I already mentioned some class features and other abilities which accomplish something similar to the disengage action without actually taking it above, so you can reference back to those if you like.
There are quite a few spells for getting away from an enemy without disengaging them. Most of them involve teleporting in some way as page 195 of the Player’s Handbook states:
So, any spell which states you teleport elsewhere doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. That said, here’s a list of spells which allow you to teleport while avoiding opportunity attacks:
- Misty Step
- Vortex Warp
- Thunder Step
- Dimension Door
- Far Step
- Steel Wind Strike
- Arcane Gate
- Word of Recall
- Plane Shift
On the other hand, you can likewise prevent opportunity attacks on other creatures by either them or the enemies harassing them. Part of this is also thanks to the previously mentioned rulings on opportunity attacks: "…You also don’t provoke opportunity attacks…when someone or something moves you without using your movement, action, or reaction." Essentially, if something or someone else moves you, you don’t provoke opportunity attacks. So, here are some of those spells:
- Lightning Lure
- Thorn Whip
- Tenser’s Floating Disk
- Dust Devil
- Gust of Wind
- Pulse Wave
- Grasping Vine
- Arcane Hand
- Bones of the Earth
- Investiture of Wind
- Reverse Gravity
Remember: many of these spells also deal damage. So, yes, you can use them on your allies to move them away from an enemy without provoking an opportunity attack, but you might also do more damage to them in the process. Always read your spell descriptions.
Also, any spell which stuns, paralyzes, petrifies, or otherwise renders incapacitated a hostile creature like power word: stun, hold person, flesh to stone, or sleep are all viable methods for getting away. What’s more, some spells that make you invisible like insibility or greater invisibility work because a caveat for opportunity attacks specifically is they can only be made against creatures you can see. Even better, the shocking grasp spell removes a creature’s ability to take reactions, which opportunity attacks are, so you can render an enemy completely incapable of attacking you if you hit with a simple cantrip.
Finally, there’s also the kinetic jaunt spell from Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos which gives a creature a boost to their movement while preventing opportunity attacks.
With the spells out of the way, let’s look at some class features as substitutes for the disengage action.
- Artificer: Artillerist – Eldritch Cannon (Force Ballista)
- The Force Ballista pushes creatures away when it hits with its attack. This can mean shoving an enemy away from either yourself or an ally, freeing them up from the threat of an opportunity attack.
- Artificer – Artificer Infusions (Repulsion Shield)
- This Infusion only kind of helps in preventing opportunity attacks. It requires a creature wielding an infused shield to first get hit with an attack, then they can use a reaction to push the attacker away. In theory, this could be used to prevent a future opportunity attack, but it’s a bit fiddly on timing.
- Barbarian: Path of the Totem Warrior – Totem Spirit (Eagle)
- Now, this option doesn’t prevent opportunity attacks, but it does impose disadvantage on them.
- Bard: College of Glamour – Mantle of Inspiration
- The Glamour Bard’s Mantle of Inspiration feature allows a creature to move without provoking opportunity attacks among many other things.
- Bard: College of Swords – Blade Flourish (Mobile Flourish)
- Blade Flourish – Mobile Flourish lets a Bard push a target away with an attack, freeing up the character to move without fear of an opportunity attack.
- Cleric: Order Domain – Channel Divinity: Balm of Peace
- The Order Cleric’s Channel Divinity option allows them to move without triggering opportunity attacks and heal others during this movement.
- Cleric: Tempest Domain – Thunderous Strike
- When you hit a creature with lightning damage as a Tempest Cleric, the Thunderous Strike feature also lets you push them away a certain number of feet meaning you can push an enemy away to avoid taking an opportunity attack.
- Fighter: Battlemaster Archetype – Pushing Attack, Bait and Switch, & Maneuvering Attack Maneuvers
- With the Pushing Attack maneuver, you can push a hostile creature away on a hit, freeing up an ally to move further away on their turn. On the other hand, the Bait and Switch maneuver lets you trade places with an ally which specifically doesn’t trigger opportunity attacks. Finally, the Maneuvering Attack maneuver lets a friendly creature move away from an enemy you target with an attack without provoking an opportunity attack.
- Fighter: Psi Warrior Archetype – Psionic Power (Telekinetic Movement)
- The Telekinetic Movement sub-option for the Psi Warrior’s Psionic Power lets them move a creature without using that creature’s movement.
- Monk: Way of the Open Hand – Open Hand Technique
- The Open Hand Technique feature gives you effects you can instill on creatures you hit with attacks made using Flurry of Blows. One such option is a hit creature can’t take reactions which, by extension, means they can’t make opportunity attacks.
- Paladin: Oath of Vengeance – Relentless Avenger
- The Relentless Avenger feature lets a Paladin move away from a creature they make an opportunity attack against without provoking opportunity attacks made against them.
- Ranger: Hunter Conclave – Defensive Tactics (Escape the Horde)
- The Escape the Horde sub-option of Defensive Tactics forces opportunity attacks to be made at disadvantage against a Hunter Ranger.
- Sorcerer: Storm Origin – Tempestuous Magic
- Whenever you cast a spell as a Storm Sorcerer, the Tempestuous Magic feature lets you move. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, but comes with some caveats.
- Warlock – Rebuke of the Talisman & Repelling Blast Invocations
- Warlocks have 2 Eldritch Invocation options for getting away from enemies, thus preventing opportunity attacks; Rebuke of the Talisman and Repelling Blast. The first is only available to characters who choose the Pact of the Talisman and only maybe helps avoid taking opportunity attacks. It requires getting hit then using a reaction to push the attacker away, so the timing gets funky. On the other hand, Repelling Blast basically just modifies eldritch blast by adding a pushing effect on a hit.
Finally, here are some other alternatives not specifically tied to spells or class abilities. These are either general things almost any creature can do or feats which let a creature do something to avoid or prevent opportunity attacks.
- The Shove Action: Simply push an enemy away or an ally away from a hostile creature
- The Charger Feat: An option for using the Charger feat lets you push a creature
- The Telekinetic Feat: This feat gives you the ability to push creatures by succeeding on a contested check
I’m sure there are other edge cases where you could, in theory, move a creature away. But, those would require GM approval. That said, these lists should give you a pretty good bank of ideas for getting around opportunity attacks if the disengage action isn’t an option.
A Game Master’s Experience with the Disengage Action
Honestly, I find that players often forget about disengaging. I frequently have to remind my players they have the option if they want to get out of melee combat.
On the other hand, when a player character has a specific ability which improves or opens up more options, the player has been all about disengaging and moving more freely about the battle field. Just as an example, I have a player who plays a Scout Rogue and he’s on top of using the Skirmisher feature whenever possible.
What’s more, on the other side of the coin and as a player, I played a Drunken Master Monk and loved the Drunken Technique feature for taking a few cracks at an enemy then gleefully skipping away without consequence.
My biggest advice for Game Masters would be to remind your players they have the disengage action as an option during combat for getting out of sticky situations. For players, remember you have that option. Additionally, look into your options for if you want to do more on your turn other than disengage. You have plenty as previously mentioned.
Disengage in 5e FAQ
Can You Disengage Then Attack in 5e?
If you have the ability to attack using a bonus action or through another feature (like Action Surge); yes, you can disengage then attack in 5e. However, since disengaging uses a creature’s normal action by default, you usually won’t be able to attack after doing so.
Ordinarily, most creatures won’t be able to disengage then attack since both take a regular action. That said, if you can take the disengage action as a bonus action (like Monks and Rogues can), you can then take the attack action. Likewise, if you can take multiple actions on your turn (like with the Fighter’s Action Surge feature), you can disengage then attack.
Does Disengage Give You Extra Movement?
By default, no; the disengage action does not give you extra movement in D&D 5e.
The regular version of the disengage action doesn’t grant any bonus to movement speed. About the only explicit exception is the Drunken Master’s Drunken Technique feature. That said, Swiftstride shifters and Scout Rogues, while not taking the disengage action specifically, do get a small movement speed bonus as well for their special features.
Can you Disengage From Multiple Enemies?
Yes, you can disengage from multiple enemies in 5e. The disengage action states how movement does not provoke opportunity attacks for the rest of your turn and does not limit it to a single or specific number of creatures.
Basically, the disengage action means a creature is specifically focused on dodging opportunity attacks. This means they’re moving in such a way that any creature they move past or away from doesn’t have the ability to make an opportunity attack against them. So, taking the disengage action means negating the very option of opportunity attacks from any and all hostile creatures for the duration of the disengaging creature’s turn.
Does Disengage Work on Polearm Master?
Yes, the disengage action works against creatures with the Polearm Master feat.
The Polearm Master feat gives a creature the ability to make an opportunity attack against creatures that enter the range of their reach. The disengage action works for opportunity attacks period, including the special trigger granted in the Polearm Master feat. This means taking the disengage action would allow a creature to enter the reach of a creature with Polearm Master without threat of taking an opportunity attack.
Can You Disengage & Dash or Hide on the Same Turn?
If you have the ability to take Disengage, Dash, or Hide as a bonus action; yes, you can disengage and dash or hide on the same turn. The caveat is you would only be able to take 1 as your regular action and the other as a bonus action.
Basically, so long as you have the ability to take multiple actions or can change disengage, dash, or hide into a bonus action, you can take any combination of them on the same turn.
Can You Disengage While Blind in 5e?
Yes, you can disengage while under the effects of the blinded condition in 5e. Nothing in either ruleset claims you can’t.
There is no restriction on the actions you can take while blinded in 5e. So, a creature can still take the disengage action even while blind.
Summary of the Disengage Action in D&D 5e
That covers everything you should need to know (and then some) about how the disengage action works in D&D 5e.
Disengage is a general action any creature can take on their turn during combat. It prevents hostile creatures from making opportunity attacks against the disengaging creature until the end of that creature’s turn. Rogues and Monks get the ability to take the disengage as a bonus action instead of a regular action and many other classes and spells give players alternatives to disengaging.
As either Game Master or player; how often do you remember to use disengage to get out of tough situations? Leave a comment below!
Be sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more rules breakdowns, guides, and inspiration for your game!