Ah, combat. It's the thrilling core of Dungeons & Dragons. Without it, we'd just be sitting around tables gossiping and snacking on fantasy Cheetos. But with combat comes danger – vicious monsters, cruel bandits, and powerful villains all trying their best to end you. Thankfully, we adventurers have a handy defensive trick to avoid all that nastiness – the Dodge action!
On the surface, the Dodge action seems simple enough. You focus on avoiding attacks for a round, giving enemies disadvantage to hit you and boosting your own Dexterity saves. But proper dodging takes true skill. When do you use it versus attacking or casting? How do you position yourself to really frustrate foes? What other tactics complement dodging? This article will make you a master of Dodge, untouchable in even the deadliest battles.
The Need for Speed: Understanding Dodge
Let's start with the basics. The Dodge action gives you two key benefits: enemies have disadvantage on attack rolls against you if you can see them, and you have advantage on Dexterity saving throws. This lasts from the moment you Dodge until the start of your next turn.
So Dodge doesn't make you impossible to hit, but it does make it a lot harder. Having both disadvantage on enemy rolls and advantage on your saves really stacks the odds in your favor. And because it affects all attacks against you for a full round, Dodge shines when being targeted by multiple enemies at once.
Unlike similar effects that require concentration like Blur or Mirror Image, the Dodge action has no real limitations other than requiring your action. It works against anything targeting you directly, from greataxe swings to dragon breath. Area effects like Fireball that don't attack you specifically won't be affected, however.
Dodging does limit you to only taking the Dodge action that turn – no swinging your sword, casting healing spells, or chugging potions while you limbo under axe swings. A small price to pay for potentially avoiding a lethal barrage of attacks, but it does reduce your offensive and support options.
There are a few other key points. Dodge only works if you can see the attacker, so invisible stalkers ignore it completely. It ends immediately if you are incapacitated or your speed becomes 0. And unlike general AC improvements, it stacks with other effects that impose disadvantage on attackers.
When to Do the Dodge and Weave
Now that we understand what Dodge does, let's look at optimal times to use it in combat. The most obvious case is when being targeted by multiple attacks in a single round. Many monsters can multiattack, striking two or even three times. Dodge makes all of those rolls less likely to hit.
For example, a group of angry orcs surrounds your fighter. Their chieftain alone gets three attacks per round. Dodging gives him the best chance to avoid taking a dozen stabbing spears and hacking axes to the face. Even with his plate armor and defense fighting style, that many attacks are likely to slip through without Dodge.
The other prime Dodge scenario is when you need to move through hostile creature's spaces without getting smashed by opportunity attacks. Normally if you try to scoot past an enemy, they get a free reaction attack. But combining Dodge with movement lets you laugh in their faces as you somersault between their legs unharmed.
Dodge is also great when you just don't have anything better to do that turn. Maybe you're out of spell slots, used up all your best abilities already, or are just in a bad tactical position. Dodge is a perfectly valid use of your action in those cases to protect yourself, especially if enemies are nearby. Think of it as the “default defense mode” when in doubt.
Moments when you know a particularly deadly single blow is coming your way also warrant quick Dodging. See a dragon rear back to unleash its fiery breath? A beholder's central eye beam powering up? Dodge is your best chance of avoiding being roasted alive. The disadvantage against that attack combined with improved Dexterity save is clutch.
When to Dodge Less and do More
The Dodge action seems universally useful, but there are certainly times when alternative options are better. If only one enemy is attacking you each round, the benefits of Dodge are less significant. In those cases, you're often better off just attacking or casting spells.
Situations where enemies already have advantage on their attacks also diminish Dodge's usefulness. If you're prone or restrained, for example, foes already have a leg up to hit you. Dodge just brings things back to normal rolls without its usual stacking benefits. Remedying those conditions may be a better use of your action.
As mentioned earlier, Dodge doesn't affect area attacks like fireballs or a dragon's breath at all. Those spells call for Dexterity saves to halve damage, which Dodge does help slightly with, but doesn't make you harder to actually hit in the first place. So against pure spellcasters, attack spells or control options may pay off more.
And while it seems blasphemous, occasionally just attacking or casting an important spell is better than Dodging. If the cleric needs to cast Heal to bring the fighter up from 0 HP or the ranger has a clear killing shot on the evil necromancer, dealing damage or supporting allies should take priority over self-preservation.
Shake and Dodge: Advanced Techniques
Now that we know when Dodging shines, let's look at some advanced tactics to really leverage its power in combat. One popular technique is to combine Dodging with strategic positioning to control enemies' movements.
By intentionally blocking a narrow passageway, you can force enemies to attack you if they want to slip by into the backline. Doing so while Dodging though makes you nearly untouchable, and eats up their actions. Your squishy companions are now free to blast away without fear!
You can also use Dodging to safely draw enemy focus while maneuvering allies into flanking positions for sneak attack damage. Dodge reduces the risks of playing “taunt and distract” since you know the blows are less likely to land. Pulling aggro is a noble sacrifice too!
For spellcasters, wait until you already have beneficial effects or spells active before Dodging to maximize your odds. Cast Bless first to boost everyone's rolls, for example, or us Bardic Inspiration to really make that Dexterity save nearly impossible to fail. Dodge builds on your other boons.
The Ready action is another excellent combo with Dodge, allowing you to trigger it with perfect timing. “I Dodge when the beholder's central eye starts glowing!” This uses your reaction instead of full action, leaving you open at other times but also able to Dodge against specific scary attacks.
And don't forget mobility! While Dodging in place is fine, you can move both before and after while retaining its benefits. Retreat out of enemy reach as you Dodge so they can't even attempt opportunity attacks in the first place. You're slick as an eel wriggling away into safety.
When Not to Dodge but Duck and Weave Instead
While the Dodge action is extremely versatile, it's not the only defensive option. Let's look at a few other choice maneuvers and when they might be better than Dodging.
- The Disengage action is great for avoiding opportunity attacks when you need to flee pursuing enemies. Disengage lets you move freely, while Dodge just makes those attacks less likely to hit if attempted. If you need to escape and have the movement speed, Disengage ensures a clean getaway.
- Similarly, the Dash action creates distance rapidly by doubling your movement speed. Outrunning enemies is an age-old survival tactic. Dash also repositions you favorably for ranged attacks. Dawdling in place with Dodge won't get you out of fireballs' area of effect!
- Readying actions allows you to prepare movements and attacks for precise triggering, tied to your reaction. “I duck behind the pillars when the ranger attacks,” for example. This can simulate Dodging only at key moments you anticipate, rather than committing your full action every round to it.
- Even the humble Help action shines in some situations. Aiding an ally's attack roll by distracting enemies or helping their Check to disarm traps boosts the party's overall offensive chances instead of just hunkering down defensively. A good offense is the best defense, or so I've heard!
In Summary: Unleash Your Inner Ninja!
Phew, this turned into quite the Dodge action opus! Here are the key takeaways:
- Dodge is a versatile and powerful defensive maneuver that costs your action but offers significant benefits. Use it wisely!
- Multiple attacks per round against you make Dodge extremely effective. Don't be a sitting duck!
- Dodge while moving past enemies to become untouchable. They can't hit what they can't catch!
- Layer Dodge with other boons like Bless and Bardic Inspiration to achieve ultimate defense.
- Alternatives like Disengage, Dash and Help all have their strategic uses as well, so consider your options.
- Master both the basics of Dodge and advanced techniques like Readied actions to ascend to combative sainthood!
The lessons contained herein, if properly applied, will make you a supremely skilled combatant. Enemies will curse your slippery name as their surest blows somehow miss and the party rogue drops them from behind thanks to your flawless aggro management.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and show those kobolds and dragons the true meaning of a dexterous defense! Become the uncatchable wind, slip between the raindrops, and generally make a mockery of anyone bold enough to face you. Or in other words, dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge! Your roguish awesomeness awaits…