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A player in our group that knows much more than me explained the Help action during game, but then after the game I read the PHB and not sure if he's using it correctly.

I thought I needed to be within 5 feet of the enemy. He said I need to be within 5 feet of the ally.

The Help action says:

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

Does the ally, the enemy, or both need to be within 5 feet of me when I take the Help action?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about helping with an attack specifically, or more generally? \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Apr 19 '18 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire attack specifically \$\endgroup\$ – RyanFromGDSE Apr 19 '18 at 15:54
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You must be within 5ft of the Enemy

As it states:

You feint, distract the target...

The action of helping is performed by affecting the enemy and not the ally. It could be ruled that either would work but the RAW state you should be within 5ft of the enemy.

It's much easier to distract the enemy you are near than you grab your ally's sword and swing it for them.

Also, this help action applies to ranged attacks as well. It makes little sense to be able to help and archer by standing near them, vs by standing near the target and hindering their ability to dodge.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wasn't sure if a character could tell the ally, "Aim for the X! I've dealt with these before and that's its weak spot!" and letting that count. As it does also say, "or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective." \$\endgroup\$ – RyanFromGDSE Apr 19 '18 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ For that reason, when it makes sense I would rule that something like that could be allowed. However, the RAW indicate you should be adjacent to the enemy and not the ally \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Cinnamon Apr 19 '18 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're holding a reach weapon, can you help from 10 ft? Because you can certainly feint with the weapon from there. \$\endgroup\$ – LastStar007 Apr 20 '18 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LastStar007 That’s a valid question, but since it’s not part of the question here it is not topical to make the answers answer it. It should be posted as a new question. You can link to this question to indicate context or inspiration. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 17 '18 at 17:11
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Helper must be within 5 ft of the enemy when using Help action

then they can move away (and thus may provoke opportunity attack)

As explained in Sage Compendium

If you use the Help action to distract a foe, do you have to stay within 5 feet of it for the action to work?
No, you can take the action and then move away. The action itself is what grants advantage to your ally, not your staying next to the foe.

Any ally attacking the creature then do so with advantage. They do not need to be within 5 ft to receive the advantage. You do not need to declare which ally you helped.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your last sentence confuses me. Are you saying the next Ally to take an attack gets the advantage or all allies taking an attack before my next turn get advantage? \$\endgroup\$ – RyanFromGDSE Apr 19 '18 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanFromGDSE yes. Only the first ally receives advantage. the first attack roll is made with advantage. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Apr 19 '18 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Only a specific ally gets the advantage, not the first ally to attack the enemy. In the PHB it says "If your ally attacks..." not "If one of your allies". You need to choose the ally when you take the help action, in addition to the enemy. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Apr 19 '18 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage is correct. The PHB states "Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. [...] If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage." Everything here is singular, not plural. It's one specific ally who receives advantage. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Apr 19 '18 at 16:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage is incorrect. It is true that one ally gets the advantage on one attack, but you don't need to specify the ally; it's simply the next ally to attack that creature. Crawford confirms this here: sageadvice.eu/2017/05/10/… \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 19 '18 at 19:02
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Only the enemy must be within 5ft of you

You can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you.

Who is within 5ft of you? A creature being attacked by your ally. This lets you help ranged attackers and spellcasters in addition to melee.

Note that the non-attack version of help also doesn't require your ally to be within 5ft of you, but your DM should apply reasonable restrictions.

You also need to choose a specific ally to help. Only the chosen ally gets advantage (on their first attack) against only the chosen enemy.

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It depends on the nature of the Help.

The Help action does two discrete things.

Ability Checks

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

This is the more variable of the two. If one character is helping another pick a lock (by holding a light source, providing tools like a TV nurse, etc), the helping character needs to be close to acting character. If one character is helping another climb a wall by hauling on a rope, they're connected by the rope but the distance could be far greater.

Attack Checks

The key word for considering these cases separately is "alternatively". They're two paragraphs, and the second leads with a dividing word, not a joining word.

Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally's attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

The victim of the helper (the second bold section) has to be within 5 feet ("you" is the helper). There is no matching location requirement for the character being helped (the first bold section).

Of course, there's nothing saying the helper has to stick around after taking the Help action. Sage Advice Compendium confirms it:

If you use the Help action to distract a foe, do you have to stay within 5 feet of it for the action to work?

No, you can take the action and then move away. The action itself is what grants advantage to your ally, not your staying next to the foe.

Some characters, like Mastermind Rogues don't even need to be that close - they can do it as a bonus action from 30 feet away from the victim.

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