My players want to hit multiple enemies with two handed weapons, like cleave, but I can't find anything in the rules. The most I've given them so far is on a critical roll; They can hit the enemies if they are close enough to each other i.e. shoulder to shoulder. This seems fair on smaller targets like kobolds. I figured maybe Unearthed Arcana guidance might be out there, but couldn't find any. I'm guessing this was to simplify rules or maybe they will expand it officially later... Any ideas?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if there is a way or how to make a way? The former is much relevant to the Stack while the latter may be better served discussing on a forum. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 18 '17 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm looking for more of an official answer. This way I can prevent any arguing between players and myself. As they felt they could just 'realistically' cleave through multiple enemies that are 'hugging' for instance. \$\endgroup\$ – wieljer Jul 18 '17 at 21:12

The DMG provides an optional rule called "Cleaving through Creatures":

When a melee attack reduces an undamaged creature to 0 hit points, any excess damage from that attack might carry over to another creature nearby. (DMG 272)

Its use is recommended when the PC-s face many low-level enemies to speed up fights. Using it all the time with heavy or two-handed weapons will give those weapons a clear advantage. I would advise to make it a feat (also see below) or to impose some kind of penalty on the attack or damage rolls if you want to make it a basic property of big weapons.

Also, the Great Weapon Master feat (PHB 167) lets you make an additional attack as a bonus action if you finish an enemy. It is similar in mechanics to the above mentioned rule and could be "fluffed" as a cleave.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. I've never played 5e, but read some stuff. Isn't there a feat called Great Weapon Master that does something similar? \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Jul 18 '17 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gaynorvader At first the similarity was not obvious to me, but yes, they are alike. I will add that. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 18 '17 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see, this certainly does directly relate to the troubles I am facing. Especially since they are starting to lean towards wanting two-handed weapons specifically to do this. \$\endgroup\$ – wieljer Jul 18 '17 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, Thank you. When dndbeyond.com gets these guides out, it will make my DMing life so much easier to search for this. \$\endgroup\$ – wieljer Jul 18 '17 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Well I certainly Appreciate it, It's a tough call so I'm going to try it out with them and get their thoughts. I think its best for my PCs since they have this strong desire for just the two handed weapons. Carrying over any left over damage is okay with me, on smaller enemies that can group-up closer together. \$\endgroup\$ – wieljer Jul 19 '17 at 12:24

Eventually, martial-type characters (including some Bards, Warlocks, and Wizards)1 get the ability to attack twice in one Attack Action - Fighters get even more. There are also ways to get a single attack as a Bonus Action, and a few very specific ways to hit multiple targets (the Ranger has a few).

This is a deliberate design aspect, part of the game's action economy. Allowing a martial character to hit multiple enemies with a single attack as a general rule would disrupt this balance, making them more powerful than intended.

"Cleaving Through Creatures" (DMG p272) is an optional rule that effectively lets you spread excess damage from a killed creature to another adjacent creature. As an optional rule, using it will affect the aforementioned balance. Whether or not this is desirable is a subjective question each group must answer.

1Valor, Pact of the Blade, and Bladesingers respectively.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can the second 'graph be verified with designer commentary or is that your feel for the game? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 18 '17 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I Can Chan What exactly do you think requires "designer commentary"? The (lack of) rule is clearly deliberate - "cleaving" is in the rules elsewhere, for martial and non-martial characters. It is clearly part of the action economy. And it clearly would make martial characters more powerful - and since the first indication of designer intent is the rulebook itself - more powerful than intended. What is the sticking point that needs further clarification from the designers? \$\endgroup\$ – pokep Jul 18 '17 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pokep …And all of those are fine points to make regarding having a feel for the game. However, when a phrase like deliberate design aspect is used and not substantiated with designer commentary that says Yeah, we meant to do that then it is up to the user to substantiate in the answer that it is a deliberate design aspect with his expertise and knowledge of the game. Which T.J.L. has now done. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 18 '17 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great, thank you. This also helps me out. My players are new to DND so I have to point to rules and justify them. When I make a ruling on something, they want to do it all the time. So I have to be careful on what I allow. \$\endgroup\$ – wieljer Jul 18 '17 at 21:21

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