A Guide to Prone in 5e, Knight pushing himself up from prone

Your Easy, Complete Guide to the Prone Condition in D&D 5e

Falling Prone in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is either a great benefit or horrendous drawback depending on the situation. It provides benefits for both an aggressor and defender when used strategically during combat.
 
But, what is the Prone condition in 5e? How does it work? And, how can you knock someone Prone?
 
This guide goes over everything you need to know about the Prone condition in 5e both as a player and Game Master.

Let’s start by looking at the full description of the Prone condition and how it works during combat in 5e.

What is Prone in 5e?

Prone 5e, Knight pinning their opponent on the ground with their sword

Prone is a condition in D&D 5e. It basically means a creature falls onto their stomach or back which imposes restrictions on movement and attacking and makes melee attacks more likely to hit.

At its most basic, the Prone condition in 5e means a creature falls to their stomach (or back as there’s no distinction between prone and supine). While this restricts movement and a creature’s ability to attack, it may help in thwarting ranged attackers.

Page 292 of the Player’s Handbook features the full description of the Prone condition.

  • A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
  • The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
  • An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Appendix A: Conditions

Now, these are the most basic elements of the Prone condition in 5e. Chapter 9 has more rules concerning dropping to prone, how movement works, and the cost to stand up.

Combatants often find themselves lying on the ground, either because they are knocked down or because they throw themselves down. In the game, they are prone. 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. For example, if your speed is 30 feet, you must spend 15 feet of movement to stand up. You can’t stand up if you don’t have enough movement left or if your speed is 0.
To move while prone, you must crawl or use magic such as teleportation. Every foot of movement while crawling costs 1 extra foot. Crawling 1 foot in difficult terrain, therefore, costs 3 feet of movement.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

So, the Prone condition in 5e:

  • Only allows a creature to crawl as their movement which costs 1 foot more for ever foot moved or use magic
  • Imposes disadvantage on all attack rolls made by a creature
  • Grants advantage on melee attack rolls made against a creature if the attacker is within 5 feet
  • Imposes disadvantage on attacks originating from further than 5 feet away made against a creature
  • Can be ended by using half of a creature’s movement speed

Each of these come with their own specific rules so we’ll pick them apart to give you a better understanding of how Prone works in 5e.

How to Get Up from Prone

One knight on their back, one knight kneeling

Usually, a creature may stand up from Prone by using half their total movement speed. If a creature doesn’t have half their movement speed available or their movement speed is 0 for whatever reason, they can not stand up from Prone.

The only stipulations for standing up from Prone in 5e are:

  • You use half of your movement speed, so you need at least that much
  • Your speed can’t be 0

The second caveat is pretty easy to understand as it works with the first.

Basically, when you stand up from Prone in 5e, you use half of your base movement speed, not half of your remaining movement speed. So, if you don’t have at least half of your movement speed remaining, you can’t get up from Prone.

For example, a creature with 30 movement speed needs to spend 15 feet to stand up from Prone. If that creature moves 20 feet and then falls Prone, they can’t stand up that turn because they only have 10 feet of movement left. Of course, this resets on their next turn, so they could stand up using 15 feet of movement and still have 15 feet remaining.

So, if a creature has 0 movement due to a spell or some other condition, they can’t get up from Prone. This makes sense considering a creature needs half their movement speed, but it gets specifically called out since have 0 movement speed is usually the result of an external effect. Additionally, a creature with 0 movement speed as the result of an effect or ability could argue they still have at least half their movement speed left, but not in that specific situation.

Does Getting Out of Prone Take an Action?

No. Getting up from Prone in 5e does not take an Action. It simply uses half your total movement speed.

Honestly, it’s as simple as that.

Standing up from Prone in 5e doesn’t take an action. All you need is at least half your movement speed that isn’t reduced to 0 due to an external effect and declare you’re standing up out of Prone.

Does Standing Up from Prone Trigger Opportunity Attacks?

No. Standing up from Prone in 5e does not trigger Opportunity Attacks. A creature getting up from Prone doesn’t leave an attacking creatures range, thus not provoking an Opportunity Attack.

Page 195 of the Player’s Handbook describes when Opportunity Attacks get triggered:

You can make an opportunity attack when a hostile creature that you can see moves out of your reach.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

Standing up from Prone doesn’t trigger an Opportunity Attack in 5e because the standing creature doesn’t leave an opponent’s reach. The act of getting up from Prone keeps a creature in the same space and doesn’t even technically count as moving.

In a more specific example, standing up from Prone also doesn’t trigger the Polearm Master feat’s bonuses to Opportunity Attacks. A creature getting up from Prone is neither entering nor exiting a creature’s reach, so Polearm Master doesn’t activate.

So, standing up from Prone in 5e doesn’t grant an Opportunity Attack to an enemy.

Attacking While Prone in 5e

Warrior prone on the ground while another walks by them

A Prone creature in 5e may still make attacks. However, all attacks while Prone are made at disadvantage.

Being Prone in 5e doesn’t prevent a creature from making attacks of any kind. The only limitation is the fact that all attack rolls are made with disadvantage. This includes melee, ranged, weapon, and spell attacks.

So, you can still make an attack even while Prone, just remember to do so at disadvantage.

Can Prone Creatures Take Opportunity Attacks?

Yes, a Prone creature can still take Opportunity Attacks when they normally would. There’s nothing in the Prone condition’s description which restricts Opportunity Attacks aside form making them at disadvantage.

Simply put, 5e’s Prone condition doesn’t prevent a creature from making an Opportunity Attack so long as the other requirements to trigger one get met. So, if your character is Prone and an enemy creature leaves your reach, you can still make an Opportunity Attack.

Just remember; Opportunity Attacks made while Prone still have disadvantage per the condition’s normal rules.

Grappling & the Prone Condition

Grappling a Prone creature effectively prevents an affected creature from standing up. The Grappled condition reduces an affected creature’s speed to 0, meaning they won’t have half their movement speed which is required for standing up from Prone.

Let’s look at how grappling works as both the aggressor and defender as a Prone creature.

Grappling While Prone in 5e

First off, you can still attempt to grapple a creature while Prone. Nothing in the Prone condition’s description restricts your ability to grapple another creature.

Now, there’s some debate on whether grappling while Prone should impose disadvantage on your Strength (Athletics) check.

Technically, grappling counts as a melee attack. As mentioned earlier, the Prone condition imposes disadvantage on all attacks made by an affected creature. What’s more, one of 5e’s Lead Designers stated that grapple checks have advantage against a Prone creature (more on that later). So, it stands to reason that grapple checks made by a Prone creature should have disadvantage.

That said, while grappling counts as a special melee attack, you don’t actually make an attack roll in the strictest definition of the term.

A grapple check is technically made up of contested Ability Checks between the aggressor’s Strength (Athletics) and their target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics). Now, since each creature rolls an Ability Check, not an attack roll, this would mean neither get advantage or disadvantage if they’re Prone. The condition doesn’t impose any penalties on Ability Checks, after all.

Also, the rules for grappling explicitly state:

Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check instead of an attack roll

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

If you have an older version of the Player’s Handbook (like me), the bolded section isn’t included. So, the new rules specifically clarify that a grapple check is not an attack roll. Which would mean attempting to grapple a creature while Prone doesn’t have disadvantage.

It’s important to note; the opposing rolls against grapple checks aren’t altered due to being Prone. A Prone creature which gets targeted by a grapple isn’t making an attack roll. They’re simply making an opposing Ability Check which isn’t affected by the Prone condition.

Grappling a Prone Creature

Next; does grappling a Prone creature have advantage?

From the other side of the argument, grappling a Prone creature either has advantage because it counts as a melee attack or it doesn’t because you don’t actually make an attack roll instead entering an Ability Check contest.

Mike Mearls, one of D&D 5e’s Lead Designers, confirmed on his Twitter that grapple checks made against a Prone creature have advantage.

…yes, grappling is a melee attack and IIRC those have advantage vs. prone targets

Source: Sage Advice

So, it seems grapple checks may follow the benefits and drawbacks that come with attacks due to the Prone condition according to one Designer of the game. Grappling a Prone creature grants advantage on the check and grappling while Prone has disadvantage.

This all said, the new rules for grappling explicitly call out how you make a grapple check instead of an attack roll. Which would mean no attack is made despite grappling being a special melee attack, and no advantage or disadvantage conferred as a result due to being Prone.

At the end of the day and for better or worse; ruling if a grapple check has advantage against a Prone target is up to the Game Master. Some may rule it as an attack and benefit from the established mechanics. Others may decide it doesn’t count as an ordinary attack and is more in-line with an Ability Check contest, thus not imposing or granting disadvantage or advantage.

The benefit of grappling a Prone creature is you effectively prevent them from moving anywhere or from standing up.

From the Grappled condition’s description; "A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed." Remember; the Prone condition explicitly states an affected creature’s only option for movement is to crawl and they can’t stand up if they have less than their speed left or if their speed is 0. Since becoming Grappled reduces a creature’s movement speed to 0, a Prone creature can’t move nor stand up.

Grappling a Prone creature is a fantastic strategy for pinning a creature down, granting advantage to all melee attacks made against the target creature. If you’re playing a martial character and deal reduced or no damage to a hostile creature (like a werewolf or other lycanthrope), Shoving a creature to Prone then Grappling them to keep them in place is a great tactic to use in combat.

"Ranged" Attacks Against a Prone Creature

Prone warriors in a massive battle

Any attacks made against a Prone creature have disadvantage if the attacker is further than 5 feet away from their target. This usually applies to ranged attacks but also means attacks made using weapons with the Reach property or

Now, there’s a bit of semantics involved here.

Technically, the Prone condition doesn’t impose disadvantage on just ranged attacks. Instead, it applies to all attacks made by an attacker further than 5 feet away.

This applies to:

  • Ranged attacks (both unarmed, weapon, & spell)
  • Attacks made with weapons with the Reach property
  • Attacks made using traits like the Bugbear’s Long-Limbed
  • Spells cast at a range but use a melee spell attack like spiritual weapon

Every one of these has disadvantage on their attack rolls against a Prone target IF the attacker is further than 5 feet away.

That last part is the important bit; if the attacker is further than 5 feet away.

For example, a character wielding a Glaive, a weapon with the Reach property, wouldn’t have disadvantage on an attack roll if they’re within 5 feet of their target. But, if they’re more than 10 feet away (1 square between them and their target), then their attack would have disadvantage.

Honestly, just keep in mind; if you’re within 5 feet of a Prone target, you have advantage on attacks. If you’re further than 5 feet away, you have disadvantage regardless of the attack type.

Casting Spells While Prone

Medieval warrior lying on their back

A Prone creature may still cast spells. However, if those spells require an attack roll as part of their casting, those rolls are made at disadvantage.

Nothing in the condition’s description restricts a creature from casting spells while Prone. So, you don’t lose the ability to cast while under the effects of this condition.

That said, if a spell requires an attack roll as part of its casting, that roll is made at disadvantage per the usual rules for being Prone in 5e. This includes any spell which needs a melee or ranged spell attack even though you technically take the Cast a Spell action and not the Attack action.

Now, if a spell doesn’t require a spell attack roll, then being Prone doesn’t affect that spell. This means spells which force saving throws like fireball, command, or any others of the huge variety of spells available in 5e aren’t hindered by the Prone condition.

How to Knock Your Enemies Prone in 5e

Knight pointing a sword down at a prone enemy

D&D 5e has a variety of ways of knocking creatures Prone. Some class features, spells, and feats have aspects of their descriptions which knock a creature Prone or there is the Shove action which specifically does it.

Knowing how to knock a creature Prone in 5e is great for adding a non-damage tactic to your repertoire. It benefits you through limiting an affected creature’s movement on their next turn and can grant combat advantages to your character or their allies.

But, how do you knock a creature Prone?

There are a few ways to go about it. Each one has a list of options available to player characters and NPCs if your Game Master wants to tweak their stat blocks and actions.

  • Class Features
  • Spells
  • Feats
  • Shove Action

Let’s go over each of these so you have a list of options for knocking a creature Prone in 5e.

Class Features

Some classes get access to features which grant the ability to knock a creature Prone either specifically or as part of their use.

Now, there aren’t that many class features which allow you to knock a creature Prone. Generally speaking, the Prone condition is a strong combat tactic, so it’s not that common to just give to a player character through their class.

The following class features let you knock a creature Prone:

  • Barbarian (Path of the Totem Warrior): 14th-Level – Totemic Attunement (Wolf) (PHB)
  • Fighter (Battle Master Archetype): 3rd-Level – Maneuvers (Trip Attack) (PHB)
  • Monk (Way of the Open Hand): 3rd-Level – Open Hand Technique (PHB)
  • Monk (Way of the Four Elements): 3rd-Level – Elemental Disciplines (Fist of Unbroken Air, Water Whip) (PHB)
  • Barbarian (Path of the Storm Herald): 14th-Level – Raging Storm (Sea) (XGtE)
  • Fighter (Psi Warrior Archetype): 7th-Level – Telekinetic Adept (Telekinetic Thrust) (TCoE)

Many of them do other things as well like deal damage. But, having the ability to knock a creature Prone with a feature is a huge benefit for your character.

Spells

5e has a few spells which allow casters to knock creatures Prone.

Luckily, you may have access to spells which work to knock a creature Prone across pretty much all of the Tiers of Play. Of course, you need to play a class which has access to any of these spells to use them. So, keep that in mind when making your character.

The following spells allow you to knock creature Prone:

  • Sapping Sting: Cantrip (EGtW)
  • Command: 1st-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Earth Tremor: 1st-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Grease: 1st-Level (Basic Rules)
  • (Tasha’s) Hideous Laughter: 1st-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Thunderous Smite: 1st-Level (PHB)
  • Sleet Storm: 3rd-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Tidal Wave: 3rd-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Watery Sphere: 4th-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Control Winds: 5th-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Destructive Wave: 5th-Level (PHB)
  • Investiture of Stone: 5th-Level (Basic Rules)
  • Earthquake: 8th-Level (Basic Rules)

Feats

You may improve your character’s martial prowess by taking a feat with the ability to knock a creature Prone.

There are only 3 feats in 5e which grant you the ability to knock a creature down. The upside is they’re available to any character since they aren’t restricted by class. That said, they all work best with a martial or high Strength character.

Here are the feats which let you knock a creature Prone in 5e:

  • Charger
  • Martial Adept
  • Shield Master

The Shove Action

The Shove action is a special action a creature may take with the express purpose of knocking a creature Prone or pushing them away.

If you don’t want to play a specific class and subclass, take specific spells, or use up your Ability Score Increase on a feat, you still have an option for knocking a creature Prone; shoving.

Basically, shoving is a special melee attack which allows you to either push a creature away or down into Prone.

The mechanics for using the Shove action read as follows:

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 must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Instead of making an attack roll, you make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

So, instead of making a regular attack roll, you may instead use the Attack action to Shove a creature Prone (or 5 feet away). The target of your shove can’t be bigger than one size category larger than your character. And, you and your target enter an Ability Check contest between your character’s Strength (Athletics) and the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics). If the target fails, they fall Prone.

Of course, taking this special attack benefits from having a high Strength score. So, it still works best as a Barbarian, Strength-based Fighter, or other such characters. But remember; a non-player character or monster may still take this special action, too.

Even better, if your character has Extra Attack, try grappling a creature with on attack and shoving them prone with the second. Or, do it in reverse if your GM counts grappling as an attack roll for maximum effectiveness.

This way, you effectively pin your enemy in place for a turn, allowing your allies to enter melee and benefit from advantage on all their attacks.

D&D 5e Prone Condition FAQ

Medieval warrior on their back holding a sword

How Do Dexterity Saves Work When Prone?

Yes, Dexterity saving throws still work when Prone. Nothing in the Prone condition’s description restricts how Dexterity saves work.

The Prone condition’s description doesn’t mention affecting saving throws in any way. So, Dexterity saving throws still work even when Prone.

Do You Fall Prone When Paralyzed?

No. A creature does not fall Prone when Paralyzed. Nothing in the latter’s description states a creature falls Prone as the result of the condition.

The Paralyzed condition doesn’t make any mention of a creature falling Prone once affected. So, despite a creature becoming unable to move, they don’t fall Prone as a result of becoming Paralyzed.

Can You Parry While Prone?

Yes, you may still use the Parry Maneuver while Prone. Neither the Maneuver’s or condition’s description restricts its usage due to falling Prone.

Neither the Parry Maneuver from the Battle Master Fighter Archetype nor the description of the Prone condition restrict the former’s usage. So, a creature may still Parry while Prone in 5e.

Can You Fire a Longbow / Shortbow While Prone?

Yes, you can fire a longbow, shortbow, or other ranged weapon while Prone but these attacks are made at disadvantage.

The Prone condition doesn’t restrict the types of attacks a creature may make while affected by it. So, a creature may still fire a longbow or other ranged weapon while Prone. Just remember; these attacks are still made at disadvantage per the other rules of the Prone condition.

Are You Incapacitated While Prone?

No. A creature is not Incapacitated while Prone in 5e. Nothing in the latter’s description states an affected creature becomes Incapacitated.

Simply put; the rules for 5e’s Prone condition don’t explicitly state a creature becomes Incapacitated simply as a result of succumbing to the former. So, a creature is not Incapacitated while Prone.

Does Standing Up From Prone Count as Movement?

No. Standing up from Prone does not count as movement in 5e. While Prone, your only option to move is by crawling, but the description outlines how standing up ends the condition. Since crawling is a Prone creature’s only option for moving, standing up is not counted as movement.

This quickly becomes a semantics issue.

The Prone condition in 5e explicitly spells out how a creature’s "only movement option is to crawl" (or use magic, but that’s technically an action, not movement). It then states; "unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition."

This wording creates a distinction between movement and standing up.

Basically, if a creature’s only movement option is to crawl, then standing up is outside the scope of "movement". If standing up counted as movement, then a Prone creature wouldn’t be able to stand up because crawling is their only (mundane) option.

It’s very pedantic. But, rules as written, standing up from Prone does not count as movement in 5e.

How Does Spiritual Weapon Work Against a Prone Target?

An attack made using the spell spiritual weapon would have disadvantage on a Prone target if the caster is further than 5 feet away. The wording on the Prone condition states; "An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage." In this instance, the caster is the attacker, so if they’re further than 5 feet away, spiritual weapon attacks are made at disadvantage.

There is some contention in rulings when it comes to using spiritual weapon to attack a Prone target.

Here are the 2 arguments. First, spiritual weapon makes a melee attack against a creature within 5 feet of it. By the Prone condition; "An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature." It’s easy to claim the attacker is the spiritual weapon, so proponents for this ruling say the attacks have advantage.

The second argument states that the caster is the attacker. So, if they’re further than 5 feet away, spiritual weapon has disadvantage on its attack despite making a melee attack.

This all said and by the rules, the second argument is correct. The caster is the attacker and spiritual weapon is simply that; their weapon. When using this spell, you’re basically making a melee attack at a range.

Jeremy Crawford, one of D&D 5e’s Lead Designers, confirmed the caster is the attacker on his Twitter in 2016.

 

Summary of the Prone Condition in 5e

That about covers everything you need to know about 5e’s Prone condition.

Essentially, the Prone condition means a creature has fallen onto their stomach or back. It makes making most melee attacks against a creature easier as they have a harder time defending while Prone, but it also makes it harder to hit a creature from a distance. Finally, there are a variety of ways to knock a creature Prone in 5e including class features, spells, and using your Attack action to shove.

Have you used the grapple / shove tactic during a combat encounter? As a GM, how often do you use monsters to knock players Prone? Leave a comment below to help other players and GMs out!

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