Just under a year ago, I posted a Q&A based on questions players at Gen Con asked about the Dungeon & Dragons Next rules. With Next now available as the official fifth-edition rules, some of the answers change. This post re-answers the top 4 questions players asked about the D&D fifth-edition rules, and then adds a bonus answer.
1. Are there opportunity attacks?
Yes, but you only provoke opportunity attacks when you leave a creature’s melee reach. This means you can circle an enemy without provoking so long as you stay within the enemy’s reach. If a creature’s reach exceeds 5 feet, then you can even move 5 feet away without provoking.
If you want to leave a enemy’s reach without provoking, use the disengage action. The disengage action does not include any movement, so it does nothing by itself, but after you disengage, you can move without provoking opportunity attacks for the rest of your turn. Because disengaging takes your action, you cannot disengage and also attack or cast a spell.
You only get one reaction per round, so you only get one opportunity attack per round. Due to this limit, and because disengage allows you to move past multiple enemies without provoking, 5E makes fleeing combat less murderous than earlier editions. I love this change. If players find themselves overmatched by a fight, they can run without a gantlet of attacks. Monsters can also run, so monsters can rout and the game can move on without a ritual of endless opportunity attacks.
You can freely cast spells and use ranged weapons without provoking. However, if you make a ranged attack with a weapon or spell while a hostile creature stands next to you, you suffer disadvantage on the attack roll. If you cast a spell that does not include an attack roll—even one that forces saving throws—you can cast without any handicap.
2. Is there flanking?
No, but rogues can Sneak Attack when an ally stands next to their target. A rogue using Sneak Attack this way does not gain advantage, just the extra damage on a hit.
D&D tzar Mike Mearls explained that some players find flanking difficult to grasp—not so much with figures that occupy a single square, but with large figures where flanking positions aren’t completely obvious. We may see flanking, and possibly facing, in tactical combat rules.
3. What spells can I cast?
In the basic rules, wizards and clerics share similar rules for preparing and casting spells. Eventually, other classes may follow different procedures.
Both wizards and clerics know a certain number of 0-level spells, also known as cantrips. They can cast their cantrips at-will, as often as they like.
Level 1 and higher spells require preparation. Wizards and clerics prepare a certain number of spells for their day. The number of spells you can prepare equals your spellcasting ability modifier plus your level.
Within this limit, you choose the number of spells you prepare at each level. For example, your high-level caster could opt not to prepare any level 2 spells. Wizards prepare spells from their spellbook; clerics may prepare any spell from their cleric spell list.
Wizards and clerics both get a certain number of spell slots at each level. You can expend a spell slot to cast any prepared spell of the same level or lower.
When you use a higher-level spell slot for a lower-level spell, the spell typically gains power. For example, Magic Missile shoots 3 darts when cast using a level-1 slot, and 4 darts when cast using a level-2 slot. Unlike in earlier editions, spells do not gain power just because a higher-level character casts them.
Unlike the classic, Vancian system, you can cast a prepared spell more than once as long as you can spend another casting of the proper level or higher. This system grants casters an extra measure of flexibility, while avoiding the risk of preparing a roster of spells that proves useless, resulting in a bad day in the dungeon. There should be no bad days in the dungeon.
4. Does a diagonal move cost one square or one and a half?
When played on a grid, D&D’s basic rules opts for the simple method of counting 1 square for a diagonal move. “The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides guidance on using a more realistic approach.”
5. Can I disrupt a spellcaster?
The rules offer no way to foil spells by interrupting spellcasters as they cast.
However, if a spell requires concentration, you can stop the spell’s effects by breaking the caster’s concentration. “Some spells require you to maintain concentration to keep their magic active. If you lose concentration, such a spell ends.” The concentration system limits casters to maintaining a single spell with concentration at once. When casters maintaining concentration take damage, they must make a Constitution saving throw to keep their spell going. The DC equals 10 or half the damage suffered, whichever is higher.