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Here's the scenario.

Assume an endless empty plain.

A rogue with Polearm Master is armed with a reach weapon. A fighter is armed with a nonreach weapon. Both have speeds of 30 ft. The rogue moves 30 ft. toward the fighter, stops 5 ft. away, hits the fighter, and uses cunning action (bonus action) to dash to move 30 ft. away, staying 35 ft. from the fighter. If the fighter doesn't move towards the rogue, the rogue can continue doing this until the fighter dies, the rogue never getting into the fighter's reach.

The fighter can move 30 ft. and not reach the rogue. To get to the rogue, the fighter must move 35 ft., and the rogue gets an opportunity attack against the fighter for the fighter leaving the rogue's threatened area due to the rogue's reach weapon.

Still, the rogue can infinitely use his cunning action (bonus action) for disengaging and his action for dashing away at 35 ft., consistently denying the fighter his attacks while making opportunity attack against the fighter.

How does a basic melee fighter ever stand a chance against a rogue with a reach weapon? Other than ranged weapons, is there something that prevents this simple strategy?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This situation actually was brought up by our rogue player, and is applicable to any melee enemy creature. I'm asking this, as it seems rather silly to me, that any single melee enemy is going to be beaten up by our rogue while the rest of the party waits out the fighting. \$\endgroup\$ – Akku May 8 '18 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ we need much more information about the rogue and the fighter to answer this question. What are their levels? If they're above 3rd level, which archetypes did they select? What are their races? Which feats (if any) do they have? Do they have any magic items? \$\endgroup\$ – fiend May 8 '18 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has gone crazy so I've moved it to chat. Give me a moment and I'm going to reinstate the few that are actually asking for clarification. But if you just want to chime in on how ludicrous/awesome/strange something is, or have side-conversations with each other, please refrain from doing so in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 8 '18 at 16:44
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Assuming nothing about either combatant, this strategy doesn't work.

If the fighter readies an action to move up next to the rogue after being attacked, then the rogue will only have 30ft of movement left (after taking the Dash bonus action), and the fighter will be able to close and attack the rogue next turn (after giving the rogue an Opportunity Attack thanks to Polearm Master).

On the rogue's next turn he can attack and move 35ft away (giving the fighter an Opportunity Attack). The fighter can then either sit still and ready the same Readied Action again, or move in literally any direction that is not towards the rogue. Either the rogue repeats the previous round's actions (resulting in the rogue getting 3 attacks and the fighter 2), or he stays at a distance and nothing happens.

Assuming relatively equal stat distribution in both combatants, the fighter will win based on higher AC, HP, and better to-hit bonuses (since the rogue is attacking without proficiency).

At levels higher than 1 this strategy falls apart even faster, since the fighter will have access to action surge, possibly magic, etc. This ignores that fact that there is no reason for the fighter to be without a reach weapon or a ranged weapon to begin with. In any case the fighter could just pick up and throw rocks to kill the rogue (dealing 1d4 damage each turn with no OAs), assuming they are not in a truly featureless, flat world.

(If they are indeed in an infinite flat world with no features whatsoever except a 'ground' made of indestructible material that nonetheless provides friction, they're in a physics textbook and theoretical combats aren't the purpose of the exercise.)

Your understanding of Opportunity Attacks is wrong

In 5e you don't provoke an OA for every threatened square you leave, but rather for leaving the threatened area as a whole. Without Polearm Mastery the fighter would never provoke OA.

Polearm Master says in part:

While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach.

So if the fighter does close with the rogue from outside the rogue's reach, it would provoke an OP (from Polearm Master, not from the regular OA rules).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ fighter doesn't get AOO if the rogue disengages as a bonus action. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 8 '18 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, but if the rogue disengages then they can either take the dash action (and not get a hit in this turn) or attack (and get hit by the fighter next turn), but not both (the rogue only has 1 bonus action per turn). \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage May 8 '18 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the rogue and the fighter are 5 feet from each other and it's the rogues turn, he can disengage -> move + dash. That means the fighter has to dash (using his action) to get to the rogue, meaning he can't attack - but he'll still trigger an AOO because of the rogue's Polearm Master features. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 8 '18 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster The fighter doesn't chase the rogue, the fighter waits for the rogue to come to him. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage May 8 '18 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster The fighter can move on his turn, keeping 60ft of distance between the two of them. That means the rogue won't have enough movement to pull off this trick. If the rogue gets to within 30ft, the figher moves in and attacks. If the rogues goes to 30<x<60ft, the fighter backs away 60-x ft. If the rogue moves to >60ft away, the fighter doesn't care (but readies an action to close). \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage May 8 '18 at 19:04
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If we assume the very worst case, of a Fighter armed only with a non-reach Melee weapon fighting a Rogue applying this strategy on an open plain, the Fighter will still probably win.

All the Fighter needs to do is use their Action to throw their weapon at the Rogue as an improvised ranged attack, and they'll almost certainly come out ahead.

Between the Fighter's far higher AC/HP, the Rogue using a weapon they aren't proficient in, the Rogue using a non-optimal ability score, and the Rogue being unable to apply their Sneak Attack, the Fighter's 1d4 damage per hit is likely to whittle down the Rogue before the Fighter goes down.

The Rogue will be forced to back off after every attack (lest they be strangled by the Fighter, using only their bare hands) which leaves the Fighter free to pick up an rethrow their weapon.

The above is ignoring the Fighter just using their Action Surge to close the gap on the first turn and cleaving the Rogue in half and/or grappling them to stop them from moving, or the Fighter being clever enough to carry something that's actually designed to be thrown (using their Strength), which will make this fight even more one-sided.

The idea of striking with a Reach weapon and backing off sounds like an unbeatable idea, but the Rogue doesn't have the right features to pull it off succesfully in an actual game with all the limitations it has.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ what stops the rogue from simply picking up the fighter's weapon? That's a "free object interaction". \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 8 '18 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster what's he going to do with it? He can't attack while holding it. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 8 '18 at 18:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ no, but he can stash it on his next turn using another free object interaction (see also PHB, p. 190, box text "Interacting with Objects Around You"). Either way, it means the fighter doesn't have it. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 8 '18 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster sure, if we completely ignore all idea of story/sense and assume a Rogue can stash a greatsword in his belt while wielding a Glaive in the other while being run down by a Fighter... but I have an easier time believing in the infinite flat plain, to be honest ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 8 '18 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik to be fair. We are talking about a fighter 1v1-ing a rogue in an infinite flat plane with nothing that can be thrown whatsoever. This is pretty far on the "ignore all story and sense" end of RAW. And the fighter would probably still win with just his hands. Or combat maneuver or just by not fighting. \$\endgroup\$ – 3C273 May 9 '18 at 3:51
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With the limited info, the fighter could dash to close the distance and then action surge to get in an attack or two(using an off hand attack). Fighters typically have superior defenses than rogues.

If the fighter has sentinel then he can just use his actions to dash to keep in melee and force the rogue to choose between a slug fest or take attacks of opportunity until he goes down.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ With the sentinel feat, the rogue doesn't have much of a choice about the slugfest. A successful attack of op brings the speed to 0. Also, gets attacks of op despite disengage. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL May 8 '18 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ The fighter could just grapple the rogue with their action surge too, then the rogue is pretty much screwed. \$\endgroup\$ – fiend May 8 '18 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @fiend nah, you can escape a grapple with an Acrobatics check. That shouldn't be too difficult, especially if the rogue has Acrobatics expertise. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 8 '18 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pixelmaster which would be an Action and prevent the Rogue from either dashing or disengaging, which is at least a small benefit :D \$\endgroup\$ – Patta May 9 '18 at 7:09
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Other options to consider:

A wood elf fighter would move 35 to the rogues 30.

The fighter steps back 45 feet putting the rogue at 75 feet, then the rogue can't close on the fighter. Fighter can then close the distance grapple and knock prone. the rogue gets caught in the loop of attacking at disadvantage or eating his action to break the grapple.

Some fighters can cast spells too.

Since the rogue gets a feat (polearm master) lets give the fighter the charger feat. He can now bonus action attack after he uses his action to dash, and he gets an extra 5 damage on hit.

Or there is the mobile feat. now he can outrun the rogue.

That is just what I came up with off the top of my head.

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Why is the rogue using a polarm and not just a shortbow? He gets to add his dex to hit/damage, and it would be silly if a target survived 20 arrows shot at them. This scenerio is very suboptimal. Give the polarm to an eagle totem barbarian with +2 str :)

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