Unearthed Arcana leaps into 2020 with four new subclasses for you to try out: the Path of the Beast for the barbarian, the Way of Mercy for the monk, the Oath of the Watchers for the paladin, and the Noble Genie for...
Sage Advice is a monthly column that gives official clarifications of D&D rules. It also sometimes provides reference documents to help your D&D game run smoothly. What’s the first rule of Sage Advice? The Dungeon Master—not this column or the rulebooks—is the game’s adjudicator.
If you have questions for a future installment of Sage Advice, please send them to email@example.com, or reach me on Twitter (@JeremyECrawford), where I answer questions between installments of this column.
Do the lightfoot halfling and wood elf hiding racial traits allow them to hide while observed? The lightfoot halfling and wood elf traits—Naturally Stealthy and Mask of the Wild—do allow members of those subraces to try to hide in their special circumstances even when observers are nearby. Normally, you can’t hide from someone if you’re in full view. A lightfoot halfling, though, can try to vanish behind a creature that is at least one size larger, and a wood elf can try to hide simply by being in heavy rain, mist, falling snow, foliage, or similar natural phenomena. It’s as if nature itself cloaks a wood elf from prying eyes—even eyes staring right at the elf! Both subraces are capable of hiding in situations unavailable to most other creatures, but neither subrace’s hiding attempt is assured of success; a Dexterity (Stealth) check is required as normal, and an observant foe might later spot a hidden halfling or elf: “I see you behind that guard, you tricksy halfling!”
Do warlock spells granted by the Expanded Spell List feature count against the number of spells known? The spells granted by that feature aren’t automatically known by a warlock. Those spells are added to the warlock spell list for the character, who can choose them when learning a new warlock spell of the appropriate level. Once learned, such a spell does count against the number of spells the warlock knows.
Does Quickened Spell allow a sorcerer to cast two spells a round of 1st level or higher? No, the sorcerer must follow the normal rule for casting a bonus action spell and a second spell; the second spell must be a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.
When you use Extra Attack, do you have to use the same weapon for all the attacks? Extra Attack imposes no limitation on what you use for the attacks. You can use regular weapons, improvised weapons, unarmed strikes, or a combination of these options for the attacks.
Can you have more than one background? You can have only one background. It represents key aspects of your life before you embarked on a life of adventure. If none of the backgrounds available matches your character concept, talk with your DM and use the guidelines on page 125 of the Player’s Handbook to customize your own background.
If you attack with a shield—most likely as an improvised weapon—do you keep the +2 bonus to AC? Attacking with a shield doesn’t deprive you of the bonus to AC.
Can a rogue/monk use Sneak Attack with unarmed strikes? The Sneak Attack feature works with a weapon that has the finesse or ranged property. An unarmed strike isn’t a weapon, so it doesn’t qualify. In contrast, a rogue/monk can use Sneak Attack with a monk weapon, such as a shortsword or a dagger, that has one of the required properties.
Does the Savage Attacker feat work with unarmed strikes? Yes, it does. Savage Attacker benefits melee weapon attacks, and an unarmed strike is a melee weapon attack. [Earlier this year, the Player's Handbook errata clarified that an unarmed strike is a nonweapon that can make melee weapon attacks. This means an unarmed strike qualifies for anything, such as Stunning Strike, that requires a melee weapon attack, but not for something, such as Sneak Attack or magic weapon, that requires a weapon. At the heart of this rule is the distinction between an attack and a weapon; the former is something you do, whereas the latter is an object.]
Does surprise happen outside the initiative order as a special surprise round? No, here’s how surprise works.
The first step of any combat is this: the DM determines whether anyone in the combat is surprised (reread “Combat Step by Step” on page 189 of the Player’s Handbook). This determination happens only once during a fight and only at the beginning. In other words, once a fight starts, you can’t be surprised again, although a hidden foe can still gain the normal benefits from being unseen (see “Unseen Attackers and Targets” on page 194 of the Player’s Handbook).
To be surprised, you must be caught off guard, usually because you failed to notice foes being stealthy or you were startled by an enemy with a special ability, such as the gelatinous cube’s Transparent trait, that makes it exceptionally surprising. You can be surprised even if your companions aren’t, and you aren’t surprised if even one of your foes fails to catch you unawares.
If anyone is surprised, no actions are taken yet. First, initiative is rolled as normal. Then, the first round of combat starts, and the unsurprised combatants act in initiative order. A surprised creature can’t move or take an action or a reaction until its first first turn ends (remember that being unable to take an action also means you can’t take a bonus action). In effect, a surprised creature skips its first turn in a fight. Once that turn ends, the creature is no longer surprised.
In short, activity in a combat is always ordered by initiative, whether or not someone is surprised, and after the first found of combat has passed, surprise is no longer a factor. You can still try to hide from your foes and gain the benefits conferred by being hidden, but you don’t deprive your foes of their turns when you do so.
Is the intent that only melee weapon attacks can knock foes unconscious, or can melee spell attacks as well? If you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, you can knock the creature out (PH, 198). That melee attack isn’t restricted to weapons. Even a melee spell attack can be used to knock a creature out.
If you have a feature like Cunning Action or Step of the Wind, can you take the Dash action more than once on your turn? If a bonus action lets you take the Dash action, nothing in the rules prevents you from taking the Dash action with your regular action too. The same principle holds when you use a feature like Action Surge; you could use both of your actions to take the Dash action.
Does planar binding summon the creature to be bound, or is that done separately? Planar binding doesn’t summon a creature. It attempts to bind a creature that is within the spell’s range.
For the spell hail of thorns, does it last for the initial attack or as long as you maintain concentration? Hail of thorns lasts until you hit a creature with a ranged weapon attack or your concentration ends, whichever comes first.
Sage Advice Compendium
This month’s questions and answers are now part of the Sage Advice Compendium (version 1.04).
Here are other D&D reference documents we have posted on this website.
Player’s Handbook Errata (version 1.1)
D&D Spell List (version 1.01)
Monsters by Challenge Rating (version 1.0)
D&D Monsters by Type (version 1.0)
Magic Items by Rarity (version 1.0)
Conversions to 5th Edition D&D (version 1.0)
Visit the Character Sheets webpage for blank characters sheets, as well as pregenerated characters.
About the Author
Jeremy Crawford is the co-lead designer of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. He was the lead designer of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook and one of the leads on the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He has worked on many other D&D books since coming to Wizards of the Coast in 2007. You can reach him on Twitter (@JeremyECrawford).