• Justin Handlin

D&D 5e Combat Options

Listen to Episode 35 Combat Options

Crit Academy discusses the collection of combat options in the D&D Dungeon Master's Guide. These optional rules are designed to give players more options in combat. From allowing characters and monsters to flank, alternate initiative rules and even rules for climbing atop larger creatures and moving around their bodies to hide or take cover from their attacks.

Segment: Main Topic: DMG Combat Options!

Advantages of these options:

  • Gives more actions in combat

  • Offers additional ways to deal with certain mechanics


  • May slow down game speed

  • Not every table will use them, causing player confusion

Initiative Variants:

Initiative Score:

  • No rolling – speed up combat

  • Static 10+3 Dex Modifier

  • Can speed up gameplay

  • Becomes predictable

Side Initiative:

  • Each person and monster rolls a d20 no modifier

  • Whichever side it is, team may decide what order everyone’s actions go in

  • Encourages teamwork

  • First team to go, may wipe out other team.

Speed Factor:

  • Creates a much less predictable order of combat

  • Modifiers added to initiative based on size and action taken.

  • Table on pg 271

  • Simpler actions give bonus, more complex actions take penalty

  • Forces character take chosen action or lose action

Enemy Battle Grounds:

  • Climb onto Bigger Creatures:

  • Climbing onto a creature can allow for interesting and fun combat

  • Contested checks to move into place on a creature’s back or limb

  • Smaller creature gains advantage on attack rolls against it

  • Duck and hide in difficult places to avoid being attacked by monster


  • Creature can make attack roll vs contested check to force them to drop a weapon

  • No damage or other effects apply

  • Disadvantage if weapon is held by 2hands

  • In tandem: Kick the weapon away and grab it and run away with it.

Target Marking:

  • Creature can mark target when it makes a melee attack

  • Grants advantage on opportunity attacks for a turn

  • Opp attack doesn’t consume reaction, but can only do one

  • If you can’t take reaction, can’t take opp attack

  • Great for tank style combat


  • Creature can force their way through a hostile creature’s space

  • Uses bonus action to make contested strength check

  • Advantage if over runner is larger than defender

Shove Aside:

  • Using the shove allows you to force the target to any direction 5ft within reach

  • Attacker has disadvantage

  • I allow this anyway, makes shove more useful.


  • Allows a creature to try and duck and roll through a hostile creature’s space

  • Use contested acrobatics check

  • We’ve used it, always allowed them to succeed, roll determined if enemy got opp attack

  • Most rogues clear the DC no problem

Hitting Cover:

  • When a ranged attack misses you can optionally have it hit the cover it is hiding behind.

  • This rule gives you mechanics to represent that

  • Determine if the attack hits the protected target without cover, if not, the cover is hit.

  • If the cover is a creature the roll must be higher than the creatures AC.

Cleaving Through Creatures:

  • If you like running hordes of minion monsters against your players this allows for faster clearing

  • When an undamaged creature is one shot, excess damage can carry over to another creature

  • Original attack roll is compared to the additional creatures AC it hits

  • If that creature is undamaged and killed, rinse and repeat


  • This option allows damage to leave lingering effects

  • Special circumstances may trigger lingering effects

  • Critical Hit

  • When they drop to 0 hp

  • Failing a Death save

  • Chart on pg 272 dmg

  • Minor scar

  • Festering Wound

  • Dismemberment

  • You could allow the player to describe their own pain instead of using the table

  • Becomes an additional flaw for the player

  • Roleplay opportunities

Massive Damage:

  • Allows creatures to be easily fell by massive damage

  • Too much damage forces a DC 15 Con Save

  • Failure leads to suffering effects on the System Shock Chart on pg 273 dmg

  • This can really make a character feel powerful

  • Additionally, an effective way to indicate how powerful an enemy is


  • Helps a creature determine when to take action to flee

  • The creature is surprised

  • Creature is bloodied (1/2) max hp

  • Just outright can’t harm enemy

  • A group may flee for the following reasons

  • All creatures surprised

  • Leader is reduced to 0, taken prisoner, removed from battle

  • Half the group wiped out

  • Use a wisdom saving throw when the enemy is overwhelming

Unearthed Tips and Tricks: New and reusable D&D content for you to bring with you on your next adventure.

Character Concept:

Hideously Disfigured!

This character was just a town beggar who allowed himself to be experimented on with alchemic potions for copper.

After he become so disfigured he took to thieving and adventuring to do whatever he could to escape the constant stream of insults and looks of discuss.

He now hides his face behind cowl’s and masks.

Monster Variant:

Storm Hound

Origin: Hell Hound


  • Replace fire immunity with lightning immunity.

  • Replace fire breath with lightning breath: (Recharge 5-6). The storm hound exhales a line of lightning that is 20 feet long and 5 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC ?? Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

  • Teleport (Recharge 4-6). The storm hound turns into a bolt of lightning and magically teleports, along with any equipment it is wearing or carrying up to 40 feet to an unoccupied space it can see.

Upon arrival a thunderous force explodes from the storm hound. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from the storm hound must make a constitution saving throw. On a failed save, creatures takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from the storm hound. On a successful save, the creatures takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed.

  • In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the area of the effect are automatically pushed 10 feet away from the storm hound the this effect, and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet.


Rescue in the Wind!

  • Trapped children during wild winds and tornado.

  • Heavy winds caused thrown debris….or people.

  • Relocate entire buildings

  • Loss of cattle

Magic Item:

Oaken’s Spellbook of Capturing

  • In addition to providing all the features of a normal spellbook, this item has been imbued with the power to capture a beast creature of a CR 1 or less. Target a creature you can see, and shout the command word. The creature must succeed a DC 15 saving throw if it is above half its max hp, otherwise the DC is 10. On a failed save the creature is magically stored in a page of the book. The book can only old 1 creature at a time. You must first release the beast stored inside before capturing another.

  • You can use your action to summon forth the beast trapped within the books pages.

  • The summoned beast is friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the beast, which has its own turn. It obeys any verbal command that you issue to it(no action required by you). If you don’t issue any command to it, it defends itself from hostile creatures, but otherwise takes no actions.

  • DM has the monster statistics

Dungeon Master Tip:

Don't be a dick! Killing player's characters when they are away from the table is bad form. This will quickly lead to anger and fighting at the table. This is drama that can be avoided. If you feel the party can't continue without a player's character, then allow them to higher a NPC support. Or, if you insist on running their character, you should ensure that nothing is going to cause a party member to be killed.

Player Tip: Don’t be a dick!

Gabe Be quick and concise on your turn.

  • Roll dice together

  • You don’t want everyone waiting on you.

  • Plan your turn before you go.

  • Know what your character is going to do on their turn.

  • Long turns can dramatically slow down the game.

If you have any feedback, unearthed tips and tricks or topics you would like us to discuss, please send them to us. You can email them to us at critacademy@gmail.com or find us on twitter and facebook @critacademy.

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Keep your blades sharp and spells prepared heroes!

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