Miscellanous Rules

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These rules cover a variety of situations that might come up as characters delve into ancient tombs, sneak into merchants' mansions, walk the ruined streets of ancient cities, strive in battle against fearsome dragons, broker peace between warring cities, and all the other things adventurers do.

Incidental Tasks

The basic rules for the game allow a creature to move and take an action on its turn. An adventurer is likely to do many things that are not described in the rules as an action: picking up a gem, readying a bow, and the like. The game assumes that such incidental tasks are so simple that they don't require actions of their own.

Most often, incidental tasks occur in the process of doing something else, such as opening an unsecured door while moving or removing a piece of equipment from a pack in order to use it. For example, a fighter draws a sword and attacks an orc. Drawing a sword typically takes no action, since it takes only a moment to complete and is usually part of a more complex activity.

That said, imagine the same fighter trying to draw a sword while tied up. In this situation, the task is more complex and requires focus and effort. Drawing a sword would require an action in this case, and the fighter might need to make a check as well to see if he or she can wiggle out of the rope. That's why incidental tasks are under your control.

A task that meets one or more of the following criteria is probably not an action under most circumstances.

  • It doesn't require a die roll or any other rules.
  • It is effortless.
  • It is part of or enables an action or a move.

Here are examples of tasks that are usually too incidental to require an action.

  • Speaking
  • Drawing a weapon
  • Withdrawing a potion, a rope, or other piece of equipment from a pack
  • Pushing open an unsecured and unstuck door
  • Pulling a door closed while passing through it
  • Picking up a small item
  • Dropping an item
  • Tipping over a flimsy piece of furniture

Always Round Down

Whenever you divide a number in the game, round down if you end up with a fraction. Do so even if the fraction is 0.5 or more.

Creature Size

During a battle, creatures take up different amounts of space on the battlefield. A lone ogre can block off a 10-foot-wide bridge, while over a dozen goblins could surround a storm giant. A creature's size determines how much space it takes up, how far its attacks can reach, and how many enemies can gang up on it.

Size Space Surround Fills
Tiny 2.5 x 2.5 feet 8 1
Small 5 x 5 feet 8 1
Medium 5 x 5 feet 8 1
Large 10 x 10 feet 12 1.5
Huge 15 x 15 feet 16 2
Gargantuan 20 x 20 feet* 20 2.5

Space: This is the area in feet that a creature occupies. A creature's space is not an expression of its actual physical dimensions, but the area it effectively owns in the game. A human isn't 5 feet wide, but it does own a space that wide, particularly in combat. If a human stands in a 5-foot-wide doorway, other creatures can't get through the doorway unless the human lets them.

A creature can squeeze through a space large enough for a creature one size category smaller than itself. When squeezing through such a space, every 5 feet of movement costs 5 extra feet of movement. While squeezing, a creature has disadvantage on attacks and on Dexterity saving throws, and attacks against it have advantage.

Surround: This column represents the number of Medium creatures that can fit in a 5-foot radius around the creature.

Fills: When creatures of different size surround one opponent, a creature counts as this many Medium size creatures when determining how many can fit in the threatened area.

For example, eight Medium creatures can surround a fellow Medium creature. A pair of Gargantuan creatures (worth two and a halfMedium each) and two Large creatures (worth one and a half each) could also surround a Medium creature.


Characters face three broad categories of illumination in a typical D&D game.

Bright Light
Bright light is also called normal light. Even gloomy days provide bright light, as do torches, lanterns, fires, and other sources of illumination within a specific radius.
Effect: Most creatures can see normally in bright light.

Dim Light
Dim light is also called shadows. An area of dim light is usually a boundary between a source of bright light, such as a torch, and surrounding darkness. Dim light is also common at twilight and just before dawn. A particularly brilliant full moon may cover the land beneath in dim light.
Effect: Creatures can see in dim light, but creatures and objects are lightly obscured within it.

Darkness is common at night under an overcast sky or within the confines of an unlit dungeon or subterranean vault. Sometimes magic can create regions of darkness.
Effect: Normal creatures can't see anything in darkness and are effectively blinded. Someone in darkness is heavily obscured from creatures that don't have enhanced senses.

Holding Your Breath and Drowning

If a character is swimming underwater intentionally (not as a result of a failed check), the character can hold his or her breath for a number of minutes equal to his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 30 seconds).

A character who runs out of breath while underwater (usually as a hazard of a failed check) is drowning. While drowning, the character is restrained. As an action, a drowning character can make a Strength check to stop drowning. The DC to do so is at least 13, possibly higher if the water conditions warrant a more difficult check. The drowning character must breathe before a number of rounds pass equal to his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1) or fall unconscious. Once unconscious, the drowning character loses all his or her remaining hit points. The character is dying and cannot be stabilized or recover hit points until he or she can breathe (either by being brought to the surface or by gaining the magical ability to breathe underwater). Once the character can breathe, normal means of restoring lost hit points can revive the character.

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