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I'm not sure how to rule the following situation, and would like some help on the rules. Here is the situation:

Player A is prone and being pulled by a rope (attached to him) towards a pit. Player B wants to try to stop him from being pulled in. On Player B's turn, she uses her full movement, but don't quite get within 5' to grab/grapple Player A. Player B still has an "action" left. What can Player B do?

  • Can Player B us their action to move up to the Player A and a free action to grab/hold onto them?
  • Can Player B run up and throw themselves on top of Player B?
  • Can Player B move in front of Player A and just stand there to try to stop them from being pulled by?
  • Can Player B run ahead and grab the rope as a free action?

Would any of these constitute a help action or a grapple? Basically, can Player B move and do something else that would help or prevent Player A from being dragged into the pit with only an single action remaining? The difficulty is that Player B didn't have enough movement to get close enough to use an action to simply grapple player A, and so they want to move further AND do something.

Thanks. If anyone has a better way to phrase this question, I'm open to edits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like the question here is "Can you move further than your speed and help someone?" Is that correct? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 16 '17 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately the question is "how can B help A with just one action (and no magic)?" The rules are clear that you can't use the "help" or "grapple" action and move with a single action. \$\endgroup\$ – Imaginary Oct 17 '17 at 18:42
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Here's how I would handle it:

Player B would be required to use their Movement to get as close as they could, using their Action to Dash (assuming they can't Dash as a Bonus Action) to close the distance, and their Reaction* to grab Player A or cut the rope, which would either require a Strength(Athletics) roll or an Attack roll against the rope depending on their choice.

The fact that Player B has to roll something to make this happen give tension to the scene and, if they succeed gives a moment of triumph as they save the life of Player A's character. On the flip side, if they fail, it still creates a memorable scene and the players can at least feel satisfied that they got to try to save their friend.


*Can you use a Reaction like that?

The use of a Reaction to grab their ally is a little unorthodox, as there is no specific provision for it, but consider the following:

Player B Saving Player A

According to your example, Player B is able to get within 5' of Player A as they are being pulled toward the cliff using their Movement (as depicted by the first arrow). By using their action to Dash, they can get ahead of their ally (as depicted by the second arrow) but by itself, that is not very useful. As a DM who likes to be able to tell my players "yes" when it makes sense to do so, I feel that since the character and the rope will be moving through a square that you now "threaten" you can make an "Opportunity Attack" to grab them or cut the rope. If, after giving this option to the player they thought up some creative way to improve upon it, I would let them try it as long as it made sense that they could make the attempt.

Even if you are not 100% sure of what ruling to make in such a circumstance, as DM you have the right to make up something that makes sense to you, and remember that when you do that, your main goal is to make the game fun. I have found that the best way to do this is to avoid both extremes of 1) Making it too easy, and 2) Denying your players the opportunity to try their plans. The best solution, I have found, is to present a situation that allows the players to make a roll, as long as it makes sense that they should be able to do so, and determine the success or failure based on the result. This way, it feels to the player like the result is due to their character's actions and not the DM's ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your explanation of the use of the Reaction ability poses another question in my mind: Do I provoke an attack of opportunity from an ally? where presumably, when it occurs, there is usually no action taken. Good answer, and especially if it turns out to be legitimate without DM-fiat. \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Oct 17 '17 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is pushing the RAW for sure. Especially since a) the PHB says enemies provoke OAs and b) it also says that when something moves without using its movement it does not provoke OAs. So saying that an enemy moving one of our allies provokes OAs sort of flips both conditions, which I am creatively claiming makes it valid again. \$\endgroup\$ – user39671 Oct 17 '17 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you consider what an OA is, it certainly makes sense for it to provoke one, as the creature moving is almost definitely not maintaining a defensive position against you or anyone else. \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Oct 17 '17 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lifted from a different question: "PHB p. 195 states that involuntary movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks: You also don't provoke an opportunity attack when you teleport or when someone or something moves you without using your movement, action, or reaction." So this answer requires DM fiat, but a merciful DM could allow it as a special circumstance. \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Oct 17 '17 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @royalmurder is 100% right, but I believe that since the character being moved in this case likely wants you to get a chance to use your reaction I doubt that many players would protest the ruling and I also don't think it would set an undue precedent, since the situation is so specific. \$\endgroup\$ – user39671 Oct 17 '17 at 17:47
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You still have your free object interaction when you Dash

RAW, Player B can grab the rope as a free object interaction:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example. you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, ar you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.
(PHB page 190)

This includes such actions as

Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action:

  • pick up a dropped axe
  • pull a torch from a sconce
  • take a book from a shelf you can reach

So you can move, then make a Dash action to get into the reach, then grab the rope. It is reasonably to assume you can grab your ally instead of the rope, but it's up to the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think grabbing your ally is not the same as an unattended object, regardless of his willingness to be grabbed. But the rope: definitely. \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Oct 17 '17 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @royalmulder, I think "unattended" is mostly used to signify things that don't have someone nearby who are actively preventing you from doing an action (or interaction). Your ally likely wants you to grab them (in this situation), so I don't see why not. \$\endgroup\$ – Octopus Oct 17 '17 at 20:45
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If your question is, "Can Player B use the Help action or the Grapple action on someone outside of their reach?" the answer is, "no, generally." Both the Help Action and Grappling require an action on their own, and you can't move as part of an action (barring actions that are movement such as Dash, of course) unless you have an ability that specifically says otherwise. There are exceptions, such as those classes that can either Dash or Help as a bonus action, but a random generic character won't pull it off.

If your question is instead "How can Player B help Player A from out of range?" you have considerably more options. Spells, ranged attack rolls on the rope, hurling something for Player A to grab onto, and moving into the path of Player A so that A can attempt a grab on their turn are all viable options and well within the rules. Options requiring arbitration include leaping bodily onto Player A, standing on the rope, or trying for some kind of diving grab in cinematic fashion- but in a situation like this, DM fiat covers a wide variety of options, thanks to the hand wave of "desperate circumstances."

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Your speed value represents

short bursts of energetic movement in the midst of a life-threatening situation

so it fits as a reasonable limit for "can I move up and save my friend?" Without a spell or another ability, the only way to move faster than your speed is to take the Dash action — which consumes your action.

The rules say

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move.

and later

The DM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle. For instance, the DM could reasonably expect you to use an action to open a stuck door or turn a crank to lower a drawbridge.

This strongly indicates that grabbing your friend or throwing yourself atop them is too much, since it's significantly more than a "flourish".

"Just stand there" doesn't take an action, although a pedantic reading might be that you would need to ready to block your friend from going by — and Ready takes an action. Likewise, "I dash forward and then throw myself in front of my friend" seems reasonable, but "I dash forward, and then find some way to brace myself so I don't get pulled too" might be too much.

"Grab the rope" is possibly in bounds (after all, if the rope were just sitting there on the floor, you could pick it up without an action), but the "DM call when it requires special care" rule may come into play.

You could do something like throw another rope, but unless you had a lasso at the ready and are somehow skilled at that (Cowpoke background, anyone?), it seems not likely to do much immediately. Without magical aid, the next step here seems like it's probably to find out what's in that pit.

(All quotes from the Movement section of the Combat chapter in the PHB.)

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Rules as written, you can Dash to reach the guy and grab him as an incidental, but making a skill check to actually do anything about the situation is too much. Potentially, you might give him advantage on a future check to, say, cling to the edge and prevent a fall.

But as a GM, I'm not that interested in exact distances and action economy in a case like this. The most narratively interesting thing is for you to reach your friend, grab his hand, and try to haul him back -- and either succeed or fail. So that's what I'd allow.

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Would any of these constitute a help action or a grapple?

The simple answer is no. To help someone, you have to put some effort in it, and this will cost you a standard action, and all of your scenarios leave you without one.

Also grapple is no help hier, since it needs your standard action, too.

Note also that the grappled condition states:

PHB p. 290: The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.

Therefor the pull on the robe will simply end the grappling.

Now lets have a look on your suggestions

Can Player B us their action to move up to the Player A and a free action to grab/hold onto them?

RAW: no, since hold and grab are standard actions

Note that some characters (for example rogue/monk lvl 2) can use a bonus action to do a dash, therefor they could do a move, dash and help on the same turn. There are some spells which could help, too.

Can Player B run up and throw themselves on top of Player B?

I don't know any rule not allowing this. I would allow a player to drop to the ground for free as part of her/his movement, since it is less effort than jump and land on your feet.

Lying on top of Player A could help you by increasing the wight the rope has to pull on. But I would rule, that Player A has disadvantage on strange saving throws on withstand the pull, since she/he is hampered in his movements by a body lying on top of her/him.

Can Player B move in front of Player A and just stand there to try to stop them from being pulled by?

No, a creature pulled by don't allow you to use your reaction. Neither you get an opportunity attack (neither Player A is hostile nor Player A uses a move action or reaction, and both are required) nor it would help you anyways (since a grapple wouldn't stop the pull as RAW states).

Can Player B run ahead and grab the rope as a free action?

You can get your hands on the robe as a free action as the 'Interact with Objects Around You' Table on PHB p. 190 suggests. But to get a firm grip on the robe and pull it with force is much more than simply pick up an light object. In my opinion it therefor would have the cost of a help action.

But as a GM I would allow it, if Player A would die otherwise.

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