Of Dungeons & Dragons’ many actions, the dodge action is an extremely beneficial option for helping to avoid damage. It basically makes it harder for a dodging creature to get hit by attacks and avoid damaging area effects. But, it may be a bit confusing for newer players and Game Masters.
What is the dodge action? How does it work? And, what are special considerations to keep in mind for using this action?
This guide outlines everything you should need to know about D&D 5e’s dodge action.
First off, let’s look at the rules explicitly outlines for dodging in 5e from the Player’s Handbook.
5e’s Dodge Action
Dodge is an action player characters and creatures may take on their turn in D&D 5e. It grants disadvantage on all attacks made against the dodging creature until the start of that creature’s next turn. A dodging creature also gains advantage on Dexterity saving throws for the same duration.
Essentially, the dodge action is for when a player character or creature doesn’t feel like they’re able to land a hit or they want to make it more difficult to hit them.
The rules for taking the dodge action can be found in the Basic Rules or in Chapter 9 of the Player’s Handbook.
So basically, the dodge action does x things:
- You must see an attacker to dodge their attacks
- Attacks made against a dodging creature are made with disadvantage
- A dodging creature has advantage on Dexterity saves
- The effect lasts until the start of the dodging creature’s next turn
- A creature loses the benefits of dodging if they become incapacitated or their speed drops to 0
That’s the basic rundown of how dodging works in 5e. Of course, there are more specific mechanics involved like interactions with special attacks.
Special Attacks & the Dodge Action
5e’s dodge action does not work against special attacks like shoving or grappling as these force contested ability checks and do not use attack rolls.
Basically, dodging only works when an attack roll is made or an ability forces a Dexterity saving throw. Anything else isn’t affected by the dodge action.
5e has certain special attacks which technically count as attacks but work in a different manor including shoving and grappling. Both of these trigger Ability Check contests between the attacker and defender using Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics). Since neither of these special attacks involve an actual attack roll or Dexterity saving throw, a dodging creature doesn’t get any benefit during these contests.
The dodge action doesn’t help a creature when it comes to special types of attacks in 5e.
Dodging vs Unseen Attackers
Taking the dodge action does not confer disadvantage on attacks made by unseen attacks as the rules for dodging explicitly outline how a creature needs to see the attacker. However, a dodging creature still gains advantage on Dexterity saving throws even if they can’t see who or what forces the save.
The rules for the dodge action explicitly state; "any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker". Italicized for emphasis since that last bit is what we’re looking at.
Basically, you need to see an attacking creature to get the benefit of the dodge action. So, invisible creatures or attackers who are hidden prior to their attack still make their attacks at advantage. Yes, not only does the dodge action do nothing to hinder an attacking creature, they’ll still gain the benefit of attacking out of hiding or invisibility.
Now, the dodge action doesn’t impose disadvantage on attacks made by unseen attackers, but it does still grant the dodging creature advantage on Dexerity saving throws even if the ability forcing the save is hidden.
The rules granting advantage on Dexterity saves while dodging come after the caveat of concerning unseen attackers. Not only that, but this part of the mechanic doesn’t include any extra caveats or restrictions. A dodging creature simply has advantage on Dexterity saving throws.
But remember; dodging only grants advantage on Dexterity saving throws only. No other saves are affected.
Let’s look at an example.
Say an enemy mage is hidden behind an illusory wall they can see through from the other side and succeeds at hiding from the player characters. If the mage casts firebolt as a dodging character, they won’t have disadvantage on the attack, but actually gain advantage, as fire bolt requires a ranged spell attack roll and the mage is hidden. Since the dodging character can’t see the mage, dodging doesn’t do anything. But, if the mage casts fireball instead, a dodging character has advantage on the save as this spell forces a Dexterity saving throw. Dodging grants advantage on Dexterity saves regardless if the ability comes from an unseen attacker.
That’s about it on dodging attacks and abilities from unseen attackers. Attack rolls
Monks & the Dodge Action
Once they reach 2nd-level, Monks get the Ki feature. This feature lets a Monk spend 1 ki point to use Patient Defense which lets the character take the dodge action as a bonus action instead.
Monks are the only base class with the ability to take the dodge action as a bonus action. Typically, dodging requires the use of a regular action. But, the Ki feature gives Monks the option to spend 1 ki point to dodge as a bonus action instead.
Honestly, that’s about it.
I’ve seen quite a few people think Rogues can dodge as a bonus action through their Cunning Action feature, but that isn’t the case. Cunning Action only lets Rogues take the dash, disengage, or hide actions as bonus actions, not dodge.
Uncanny Dodge vs the Dodge Action
The Uncanny Dodge feature is not the same as taking the dodge action in 5e. Uncanny Dodge uses a character’s reaction to halve incoming damage while the dodge action imposes disadvantage on attacks made against a creature.
Starting at 5th-level, Rogues get the Uncanny Dodge feature. Essentially, this takes a Rogue’s reaction to halve incoming damage.
Here’s the specific rules for Uncanny Dodge outlined in the Player’s Handbook:
Simple as that.
The point here is Uncanny Dodge is not the same thing as the dodge action. Uncanny Dodge is a feature and explicitly halves damage while the dodge action imposes disadvantage on attack rolls made against the dodging creature. Also, the former uses a reaction while the latter takes an action. What’s more, Uncanny Dodge is only available to Rogues while any creature or player character can take the dodge action.
It’s fairly easy to confuse the two. Just remember these explicit differences and you’ll be fine.
Dodge Action FAQ
Can Anyone Dodge in D&D 5e?
Yes; any player character or Game Master-controlled creature can take the dodge action in 5e.
The dodge action is a basic action any creature can take on their turn.
Can You Dodge as a Bonus Action in 5e?
Only characters with 2 levels in Monk can dodge as a bonus action. Everyone else must use their action.
The dodge action requires a creature use their action. The only exception is a player character with 2 levels in Monk to gain the Ki class feature which further lets them spend 1 kit point to use Patient Defense which then lets them dodge as a bonus action.
Can Dodge Be Used as a Reaction?
Technically, yes; dodge may be used as a reaction but only if a character uses the ready action to dodge. But, this is effectively no different than simply taking the dodge action itself.
While a creature can take the dodge action as a reaction through the use of the ready action, it doesn’t do anything to benefit a creature.
The dodge action takes effect and lasts until the start of the dodging creature’s next turn. So, all attack rolls from visible assailants are made at disadvantage against the dodging creature and that creature gains advantage on Dexterity saving throws until the start of their next turn.
The ready action lets a creature prepare a different action as a reaction with a specific trigger. So, a creature could ready the dodge action, but this effectively does the exact same thing. In fact, it could be argued that its a worse method to follow.
When a creature readies another action, they must state what triggers that as a reaction. For example, a creature may ready an melee attack action for when a hostile creature gets within range. But, if the trigger never happens, neither does the readied action.
Basically, if a creature readies the dodge action for when an enemy attacks them and they don’t get attacked, they don’t use their readied dodge action. This effectively means they wasted their action when they might’ve been able to do something more useful.
Bottom line, you can ready the dodge action as a reaction, but it doesn’t benefit a creature to do so.
Does the Dodge Action Give Advantage on Dex Saves?
Yes; taking the dodge action grants a character or creature advantage on Dexterity saves.
The rules for the dodge action explicitly state a dodging creature gains advantage on Dexterity saving throws until the start of their next turn.
Can You Dodge While Moving in 5e?
Yes; you can still move after taking the dodge action on your turn.
D&D 5e’s rules for moving including mechanics for breaking up a creature’s movement between actions. So, a creature may move a number of feet less than their maximum speed, take the dodge action, then finish their move. Alternatively, a creature may first take the dodge action then move to make opportunity attacks harder to hit.
Can You Dodge While Prone?
Yes; you can still take the dodge action while prone as this condition doesn’t reduce a creature’s movement speed to 0.
One of the caveats required to take the dodge action is a creature’s speed can’t be 0. While the prone condition makes movement more difficult in each foot moved counts as 2, it doesn’t reduce a creature’s speed at all. So, a creature can still take the dodge action while prone in 5e.
Can You Dodge While Grappled?
No; a creature can not take the dodge action while grappled as this condition reduces a their movement speed to 0.
Since a creature can’t take the dodge action if their speed is 0, being grappled means a creature can’t dodge. The grappled condition explicitly states; "A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed." So, a creature can’t take the dodge action while grappled in 5e.
Summary of the Dodge Action in 5e
That about covers everything you need to know about how the dodge action works in 5e.
Dodge is a basic action available to all creatures in D&D 5e. It imposes disadvantage on attack rolls made by visible assailants against the dodging creature until the start of the latter’s next turn. This action also give the dodging creature advantage on Dexterity saving throws for the same amount of time.
How often do you dodge as a player character? As a Game Master, do you have enemy creatures dodge? Leave a comment below with your own tips or thoughts!
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