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Given a three-foot square wall produced by a conjuration wizard's minor conjuration feature, what PC races, including those in SCAG, EE, and Volo's, can duck behind it and gain total cover?

Furthermore:

  • How short can a character be? Are there strict height minimums on races, or are there merely guidelines? Clearly in real life some humans are unusually tall or short.
  • How low can a character crouch, and what movement or action would be required to do so?
  • Is there a difference between crouching and taking the Hide action? In comparison, walking behind a building would provide cover without the Hide action.
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I will open by saying this: There are no rules for Crouching in the core ruleset. There is Standing and Prone, with nothing in between. Thus, any rulings on crouching are entirely up to your DM.

So, the ultimate answer is this: Ask your DM. It's their call.

However, I will offer some advice based on what I've done in the past, simply rooted in what makes logical sense in allowing Crouching as a rule for D&D 5E.

What's the difference?

It makes logical sense to say that there is a difference between Crouching and Hiding, for the same reason that there's a difference between Dropping Prone and Hiding. One is a change in your character's stance, the other is an attempt to get opposing creatures to lose track of where you are.

Who Fits?

To start with, we need to determine what you mean by crouching. We'll look at two possible examples.

  1. Dropping to one knee. This is a posture from which you could still meaningfully engage in combat...whether that's firing a bow, gesticulating for spells, or striking with a melee weapon.
  2. Sitting on your heels. This is what most people think of as 'Squatting' and is where you fold your legs up and put your butt down by your ankles. In this position, I imagine you would be significantly hindered from doing anything combat-like because your legs are now in front of your Torso.

For the sake of keeping things simple, I'm going to assume that races generally have a similar body length proportion to humans. This is not strictly true (see: Dwarves) but is a necessary concession to making any sense of this question.

In Case 1, by 'taking a knee' you are reducing your height by an amount equal to the length of your lower leg and foot. On an average person, this is roughly equivalent to 25% of your total height.

In Case 2, by squatting all the way down, you are reducing your height by an amount equal to the length of your entire leg. On an average person, this is roughly equivalent to about 50% of your total height. You could get to about this same height by taking a knee, then hunkering your torso down as low as you can get it.

Source

So, by this we know that you have two options for getting behind a 3' wall. One of them leaves you fairly combat ready and reduces your height by 25%, the other should impair your ability to fight (Disadvantage, most likely), but reduces your height by 50% (And kneeling and hunkering would block you from doing much of anything unless you straightened up first).

In general, a person's shoulders are not going to be equivalent to 50% of their height...so assuming a 3' square block, the height of a character is the limiting factor.

To determine the heights of typical characters, there are tables in both the PHB and in Volo's Guide. Pages 121 and 120 respectively. These are NOT strictly binding, they are there to give you an idea of what is normal for these races. If you want to ask your DM if you can be a Goliath with dwarfism who is only 3' tall...go ahead and ask.

Assuming Minimum Height from those tables (you rolled a 1 on any rolled dice), we can draw the following conclusions.

Total Cover without Crouching

Halfling and Kobold

Total Cover on One Knee

Gnome (too tall to stand by 1 inch), Dwarf, and Goblin

Total Cover while Squatting

Everyone Else except a Bugbear, Firbolg, or Goliath.

Again, this is assuming that everyone from these races is as short as possible according to the tables. Simple rule is: If you're more than 6' tall, you don't fit behind the Minor Conjuration without going Prone.

What do you need to do

For this, I can only offer a guideline and recommendation based on what I would do.. You can drop Prone for Free, then stand up by using half your Movement. Based off that, it makes sense that dropping to a crouch would be equally free.

From there, my personal ruling would be that rising from Kneeling consumes 5' of movement, rising from a squat consumes one quarter of your Movement. But again, this is only my personal recommendation on how to handle it.

I use this in my games, and it has worked out fairly well. Had a Wizard who was short enough to squat behind the wall, and would just stand up to cast, then crouch down again. It only backfired when his 'cover' took a hit for him. It's an Action to use Minor Conjuration, and it disappears if the conjuration takes any damage...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that cover gradations are 50/75/100, and that 3' out of 3'1" is 97.3% coverage, you should really just give it to the gnome for free, even if you don't let 'em slouch or whatever for a <3% height change. Otherwise good answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2017 at 6:26
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As a rule of thumb, a bipedal creature can fold themselves into one third height minus a head, then add the head back, so if you were 7 heads tall, subtract 1 head and fold the legs at the knees and waist, then add one head, making you

7 heads -1 = 6 base, folded into thirds = 2 base, + original head = 3 heads. Assuming 70 inches or 5'10 human, that's 10" per head, so 30" tall, yields a human sized character with cover in a 3x3 wall sitting down with folded knees.

You can fold your head between your knees but that shuts down your spot and search options and line of sight spell targeting.

A dwarf is typically 4 or 5 heads tall, so they can't really get significantly shorter. a 4 head dwarf would result in this:

4 heads - 1 = 3 base, folded into thirds, = 1 base, +original head = 2 heads. a dwarf who is 4 ft tall would have 10-12" per head and thus be 20-24" tall when sitting the same way as the human example, and also gain cover in a 36"x36" wall.

5e Elves are also depicted as about 6-7.5 heads tall, so following the human rule you still end up with about a 25-30" sitting elf successfully hiding behind a 3x3 wall.

5e Halfings are depicted as having giant heads on tiny thin bodies (5e PHB p.26) and measure to approximately 4.5 heads tall. So ducking like the above, they would follow the dwarf table, which approximately reduces their 4 heads to two heads, but a halfling is only about 3 feet tall to begin with. That puts them at 18" sitting folded. Gnomes are slightly taller at 39-40", and on page 35 are illustrated with similar proportions to the halflings, if somewhat slightly taller, so 4-4.5 heads, which again, would have them ducking down to something like 18-20"

The more heads tall a creature is, the shorter it can usually get by folding itself down unless the legs or torso are considerably stretched.

Players Handbook - all of the races can hide behind a 3x3 square for total cover if crouching/sitting down, but a tailed creature may have to take extra precautions.

Elemental Evil - The 8ft goliath (based on 7 heads), is about 13.7" per head, and at 3 heads height is 41" tall and cannot hide behind a 3x3 foot square. If you have the absolute shortest Goliath, they could scrunch into a ball and just barely fit, taking no actions. So pretty much no Goliath can hide behind this box. - a few earth and air genasi may approach 7ft tall and come into question, but those that don't, won't. - gnomes are short, even deep gnomes - aarakocra are short, at 5ft tall, but their wings would have to be folded and face the same disadvantage to try to take cover that a creature with a tail might. This rule would also apply to winged Tieflings and Aasimar.

Volo's Guide to Monsters - the table for height on page 120 of the guide indicates most races are far below 7 ft tall and the pictures indicate they have 6+ heads each. The Bugbear, Firbolg, and repeat of the Goliath all fit into the category of too big to hide behind a 3x3 ft wall. - Lizard folk, Tabaxi, Yuanti, and variant winged aasimar, are all examples of creatures that would have to take extra precautions for their additional long limbs, which may be easily targeted otherwise without them knowing - and that could be especially bad if the effect were something like a Touch attack spell.

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The rules let you become prone for no movement and stand again for half your movement. If you become prone, you would gain total cover against any enemy that was not standing directly over you.

The rules for any medium size creature say that you occupy a five foot wide square. The rules also allow for you to squeeze into a space half that size, so presumably that would allow for you to be less than three feet wide while prone.

Any race of medium size could achieve this

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In order to gain cover from something, you need to be somewhat or partially obscured by an object from the perspective of the attacker.

Cover comes in a few degrees, 1/2, 3/4, and Full. You need to be (unsurprisingly) 50%, 75%, and 100% obscured from your attacker to qualify for these. So, for our elf, he'll be 60% obscured standing immediately behind the conjured block, giving him half cover and a +2 to his AC. Remember the attacker must be directly on the opposite side of the barrier for the full effect. You'll need to come up with a way you want to arbitrate things to the left or right of directly opposite (see below).

The following is a house rule, not rules as written.

If the elf decides to crouch down, I upgrade the cover by one 'step', so 1/2 becomes 3/4, and 3/4 becomes full. Generally, if we're in a situation like above, I will 'round up' and grant better cover if the player mentions he's trying to be defensive, or was shot at earlier in the turn.

For not directly opposite, two squares (10') to the left or right of dead center reduces the cover bonus by -1, until its gone. Use your best judgement on this, and if a player argues just let it go and roll with what they have. Be sure to make monsters respond to players taking cover intelligently, and cover can become an exciting and dynamic part of your encounters!

Crouching and Hide are two different things. Crouching is more or less an RP action. Treat it as though the character is squeezing, letting it count as half size. If a character uses the Hide action, they are actively trying to use the Stealth skill, so use those rules as appropriate.

There's no minimum heights or weights for characters but use your best judgement as a DM

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guildsbounty and Tristian have capably discussed the heights of various races and what they might have to do to fit behind the wall. I will limit myself here to attempting to clarify a few rules interactions.

A few words about that wall

The object produced by the minor conjuration class feature can be up three feet on a side, so it should have no problem producing the wall mentioned by the querent. However, note in the description that it has a maximum weight of ten pounds, which is awfully light to serve as cover. At its maximum size of 27 cubic feet, it would be a cube of a mere 0.059 g / cc, or only slightly more dense than Styrofoam. This 'wall' could easily be knocked aside by any incoming attack, and most projectiles would bury themselves deep within it and start to break it apart. A wall still three feet long and high, but less deep, could be more dense, but could then be more easily knocked over or penetrated by a small diameter but high-energy attack.

Crouching is not Hiding1

At best, crouching behind the curiously light wall will make your elf Unseen and perhaps Heavily Obscured. However, neither of these is Hidden. Hidden is more than just Unseen (although you generally have to be Unseen to make an attempt to Hide). When you hide, you also attempt to remain unheard, unsmelled, undetected by any sense. Note that even invisible creatures are not (automatically) Hidden. Thus, you could be crouching behind the wall, Unseen, but other creatures still know that you are there - they can detect your presence by the noises you make (your breathing, the clinking of your armor, etc.)

Prone doesn't have to mean prostrate

guildsbounty opens their answer by stating "There are no rules for Crouching in the core ruleset. There is Standing and Prone, with nothing in between."

This is quite right, but since no other answers have yet pointed it out, it bears mentioning that not every prone PC is flat on the ground. It is true that the definition of prone states that it is "lying on the ground". However, prone is also a condition that can be imposed on, or perhaps even assumed by, creatures that are not on or even near the ground - for example, creatures that are underwater or in the air. Jeremy Crawford has said that

You can almost always be knocked prone. About the only time it's physically impossible for you to be knocked prone is when you're affixed to something that keeps you upright.

Thus the elf in question could be standing behind the wall, or it could be flat on the ground (prone in the strict sense) behind the wall, and RAW covers both cases. If the elf is in some other position though, such as crouching, squatting, sitting, kneeling, etc., then it falls on the DM to decide how to treat it. The effects of being prone are:

A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl...
The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

A prone creature thus moves slower, has a more difficult time attacking, and is easier to attack when close, but harder to attack from a distance. All of these effects seem qualitatively true for someone who is crouching, squatting, sitting, kneeling, etc. Thus, the simplest thing to do is just to say - 'yes, you are crouching behind the wall and have total cover, but we will treat you as prone until you stand up.' If you can be prone in the air or underwater, then prone doesn't have to mean flat on the ground, and if prone doesn't have to mean prostrate we can apply the condition to other postures.

This is the approach that I use in my games, and it works fine. I have one player, in particular, whose characters drop prone at the first sign of missile fire, and on their turn stand, move (half), shoot, and drop prone again. Within the narrative they are not face down on the dungeon floor - rather they are crouching, kneeling behind low obstacles, hugging the wall, etc. I lump all of these defensive postures under the mechanic of being prone and the game plays fine.

In between standing and lying down

A DM who wants a more granular approach certainly wouldn't have to apply all the effects of being prone to someone who was in between standing and lying flat. They could apply some but not others, or apply them but to a lesser extent. Now we are in house rules territory. This stack discourages idea-generating questions and untried suggestions for answers. I will mention a few possibilities below, but they should be understood more as examples of how a DM might apply house rules to this situation rather than actual suggestions themselves. So long as the effects applied are somewhere from those of RAW standing, to RAW prone (inclusive) there are unlikely to be balance issues, so we have a nicely defined idea-space.

Crawling on all fours, or knee-walking (shikko), are faster than a belly-crawl but slower than walking - probably not fast enough to merit an increase in speed above crawling, but having it cost a half foot extra of movement for each foot traveled rather than a full extra foot would be a plausible intermediary.

Some missile weapons, such as shortbows and light crossbows, could reasonably be employed while kneeling without imposing disadvantage on attacks, while longbows could not. Piercing weapons like spears can be used effectively while kneeling, especially as part of a defensive formation. Even two-handed slashing weapons can be used effectively while kneeling - provided the wielder has trained specifically and extensively in the form. A DM house-ruling this could easily get into the weeds with which particular weapons and styles still incur full disadvantage, which might have half-disadvantage, and which are allowed at full effect. A simple compromise is to adapt an already-existing rule: The weapon properties tell us that "Creatures that are Small or Tiny have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon's size and bulk make it too large for a Small or Tiny creature to use effectively." We could simply say that Heavy weapons are used at disadvantage in any position other than standing, while weapons that are not Heavy can be used without penalty while kneeling.

Being prone when being attacked by ranged weapons presumably represents the difficulty in hitting a smaller profile. But then again, size does not directly affect AC. A kneeling human PC might be harder to hit then when they were standing, but then again they might still be taller than a standing gnome for whom there are not penalties. Thus a kneeling character attacked from beyond 5 feet could reasonably be awarded disadvantage (as if prone), half-disadvantage (as an intermediary), or no protection (as if standing). To the point of the original question, lowering your profile does seem like it would more effectively use cover, and the existing rules on cover (total, three-quarters, half) already require the DM's assessment of how much of the body is covered and how much revealed, so this decision will need to be made anyway.

While it is possible to defend oneself against melee attacks while kneeling, even the most dedicated practitioner of hanmi handachi has more limited mobility and reach than a standing defender. Giving the attacker at least half advantage if not the full advantage against a prone opponent seems reasonable.


1In fact, they made a whole movie about it. Spoiler: The tiger was crouching, while the dragon was hidden.

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