Combat: Attack Basics

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Attack Basics

This section first gives general rules for attacks, and then describes the rules that apply to melee attacks and ranged attacks.

Attacks generally have the following structure.

  1. Choose a Target: Before you attack, pick a creature or an object within your attack's range to be the target of the attack.
  2. Determine Modifiers: The DM determines if the target has cover. Also, check to see ifyou have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties and bonuses to your attack roll.
  3. Resolve the Attack: After the DM has determined the situational modifiers that might apply, you make your attack roll as described below. If you hit, you roll damage, unless your attack specifies otherwise.

Attack Rolls

When you attack with a weapon or a spell, you must determine whether the attack hits or misses. You do so with an attack roll, a d20 roll with modifiers that represent your natural skill with a weapon or spells, as well as any special skill or training you possess.

The DM might decide that you have a better or worse chance to hit depending on factors beyond your control. For example, it is harder to hit an orc that is crouched behind a stone wall than one standing in the open.

An attack roll looks like this: d20 + ability modifier + weapon or magic training (if any) + situational modifiers. If the total of your roll equals or exceeds the target's Armor Class (AC), the attack hits.

Natural 1: If your d20 roll is a 1 before adding modifiers, your attack automatically misses.

Natural 20: If your d20 roll is a 20 before adding modifiers, your attack automatically hits. In addition, the attack is a critical hit (see the rules for critical hits in the "Damage Rolls" section below).


Cover represents solid objects that stand between you and your target. Walls, pillars, and trees are common examples of things that can providecover. A target behind cover that blocks at least half its body is harder to hit.

Half Cover: A target has half cover if an obstacle blocks at least half of it. The obstacle might be a low wall, a large piece of furniture, a narrow tree trunk, or a creature, whether an enemy or a friend.
A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws, but only against attacks and effects that originate on the opposite side of the cover.

Three-Quarters Cover: A target has three-quarters cover if about three-quarters of it is covered by an obstacle. The obstacle might be a portcullis, an arrow slit, or a massive tree trunk.
A target with three-quarters cover has a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws, but only against attacks and effects that originate on the opposite side of the cover.

Total Cover: A target has total cover if it is completely covered by an obstacle. Under normal circumstances, a target with total cover cannot be targeted by an attack or a spell.

Attacking an Unseen Target

Combatants often try to escape their foes' notice by hiding, casting invisibility, or lurking in darkness.

Disadvantage: When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. When you make such an attack, you must at least be aware of the target's location, either because of a noise it has made or because of some other sign.

Hidden Targets: If you want to attack a creature that is not only unseen to you but alsohidden from you, you must first locate the creature, typically by taking an action to search for it (see "Actions"). Until you pinpoint the creature, you cannot target it with attacks, although you can potentially affect it with an area effect, such as a fireball.

Melee Attacks

A melee attack allows you to attack a foe within your reach. Melee attacks typically use a sword, a warhammer, an axe, or some other weapon, including bare fists. Some spells also involve making a melee attack.

Reach: Most creature's have a 5-foot reach, and can thus attack targets within 5 feet of them. Certain creatures have greater reach, as noted in their descriptions.

Two Weapon Fighting: When you wield two melee weapons at the same time, you can attack with both of them, provided at least one of them is a light weapon. Make two separate attacks, one for each weapon, with disadvantage on each attack roll. You cannot have advantage on either attack, and you do not add the relevant ability modifier (usually Strength) to either attack's damage.

Ranged Attacks

When you make a ranged attack, you fire a bow or crossbow, hurl a throwing axe, or otherwise use a projectile weapon to strike a foe at a distance.

Range: You can make ranged attacks against targets within your weapon's range. You can't target something outside your attack's range.
A weapon lists two ranges. The first number indicates the weapon's normal range. The second number indicates long range. You have disadvantage when attacking targets beyondnormal range and out to long range.

Ranged Attacks in Melee: When you make a ranged attack with a weapon while you are within a hostile creature's reach, you have disadvantage on that attack roll. Maintaining your aim is difficult in the face of a foe's assault

Damage Rolls

Each weapon and spell indicates the damage it deals, such as 1d8 or 2d8. Roll the dice, add any modifiers (including the ability modifier you used to make the attack), and apply the damage to your target. Magic weapons, special abilities, and so forth can grant a bonus to your damage. In addition, some abilities give you extra damage represented by bonus dice.
If a spell or another effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time, roll the damage once for all the targets.
The effects of taking damage and of dropping to 0 hit points or fewer are described in the Damage & Dying section.

Critical Hit: If your attack is a critical hit, it deals maximum damage. Treat the damage dice you roll, including bonus dice from abilities such as Sneak Attack, as if you rolled their maximum results.
A character or a monster who has levels in a character class deals even more damage on a critical hit. At 1st level, you deal 2d6 extra damage on a critical hit, provided the attack deals damage (you roll this damage; it is not maximized). At each odd-numbered level after 1st, this extra damage increases by 1d6, to a maximum of 6d6.

Damage Type: All damage has a type. For example, a longsword deals slashing damage, an arrow deals piercing damage, and the fireball spell deals fire damage. Most of the time, the damage type isn't important, but some creatures have resistances and vulnerabilities to damage, which can decrease or increase the amount of damage dealt.

Resistance: If a target has resistance to a type of damage, that damage is halved against the target.

Vulnerability: If a target has vulnerability to a type of damage, that damage is doubled against the target.

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