A recent conversation over at Nerdarchy the Discord along with a thread I saw on Twitter today coalesced into this very post you’re reading right now. In both cases players of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons lamented the lack of exciting combat action options represented in the rules of the game. In one case the conversation stemmed from player perspective and the other from a Dungeon Master. I’m here with great news for both these 5E D&D fans — the answers they seek are inside the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Punch up 5E D&D with combat action
Nestled deep inside the pages of the DMG, chapter 9: Dungeon Master’s Workshop offers solutions for players looking to add pizzazz to their combat. Incidentally there’s solutions to a great many things players find issue with back in this chapter but for the moment we’re looking closely at Action Options.
Climb onto a bigger creature
Players looking to recreate the circumstances of Shadow of the Colossus, Merry and Pippin’s assault on the cave troll in the mines of Moria and similar situations can satisfy their need for crunchy bits to represent the mechanics of doing so right here. You can check it out to see how it all works but basically you get a free ride and advantage on attack rolls against the creature you climb upon.
You don’t need to be a Battle Master fighter, engaged in melee combat or dependent on a ruling on the fly. Instead, you can use your action to cause a creature to drop whatever item they’re holding. There’s even consideration for targets holding an item with more than one hand as well as size differences. You’re welcome, multiverse.
So many enemies around and only one opportunity attack when they move away. Until now, that is! (Or more accurately since 2014 when the 5E D&D DMG was printed.) Put your melee Mark on an opponent and squeeze an extra opportunity attack out when they and one other nearby creature move away between your turns in combat.
Tactical positioning be damned. Next time a line of mooks stands between melee fighters and the squishy spellcaster just bowl right through them with this combat action option. It’s worth noting the text say a character can use their action or bonus action to do this, which pairs nicely with the following option.
While you’re pushing past those meat shields with your bonus action overrun, and you realize you’ll still come up short in the movement department to reach your intended target, throw this combat action option into the mix and shove a creature clear out of its space.
I know, I know. You miss earlier editions and all the skill points you can dump into this skill of the same name, enabling you to weave your way across a battlefield and between the attacks of opponents. Would you feel better if I told you tumbling around like this takes only an opposed Dexterity (Acrobatics) check with your action or bonus action?
Technically this isn’t part and parcel with the combat action options above but it comes right after it in the DMG so I’m including it here too. When those wily opponents use cover to their advantage, maybe just destroy the cover completely and leave them exposed. Making attacks against and damaging objects isn’t too unusual of an action to take but this option goes a step further. If the attack would have hit the creature without the benefit of cover, this option means your attack hits the cover instead and damages it. You might wind up destroying the cover simply as a result of not hitting the target directly anyway.
Cleaving through creatures
Where’s the bag of rats when you need one? Like hitting cover this one isn’t a combat action option per se but close enough to include. Perfect for parties who regularly square off against large groups of mooks, the extra damage from an attack that drops a foe gets carried over to a nearby hostile creature. Characters who dish out tremendous amounts of damage with a single attack will love this part too: it’s not limited to a single secondary creature. Drop them and the overflowing damage continues to the next one, and the next one and the one after that until there’s no more damage or creatures left to take it.