My ranger uses light crossbow. A few sessions back, he flavored his movement and attack as "I move there, and crouch before attacking." In character, previously he taught the others that it is better shooting while crouching, because it does not leave as much open spot. Impressed, I agree, and grants disadvantage on attacks against crouched target.

Disadvantage on all ranged attacks against crouching character, but different from prone, they can stand up and continued to move without movement penalty.

Crouching character also spend extra 1 foot movement per foot moved.

Now after a few sessions now he is consistently telling me that he crouches before he attacks and before he end his turn. After a few sessions, I think having all my readied attack against him got disadvantage, and attacks on my next turn, too, is ridiculous.

How should I modify this crouching rule so that it grants some sort of mechanical advantage, but not big enough so players can abuse it?

I don’t want to just switch to using the Prone rules, because Prone gives disadvantage when attacking, which crouching shouldn't.

  • @Behacad See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! – SevenSidedDie Dec 7 at 19:27
  • @enkryptor See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! – SevenSidedDie Dec 7 at 19:28
  • Do you give gnomes and goblins the same benefit passively for being crouch height, if not why are you giving it to other races. – John Dec 9 at 22:00
up vote 56 down vote accepted

Crouching is a no-brainer

And no-brainers are bad design --- you've created a new action that has a very negligible downside. No wonder your players are spamming it!

Think about it --- the only downside is moving slower, but the character can stand up for free, so that downside hardly ever comes into play if the player uses the rule to its fullest.

I would honestly recommend dropping the rule, since it overlaps with the already existing actions Dodge and Drop prone, and by what you describe it's not really adding anything but new rotes to your game. Crouching, bending, swaying and such to avoid ranged attacks is also something abstracted in the characters' AC.

But if you really want to fix it...

Disadvantage is too much for crouching. It's like dropping prone without any of the downsides. Also, the action needs to have a cost or condition to not be spammed in every possible situation. A mere "tweak" won't fix this, so if you really want to keep crouching in your game I propose this instead:

On your turn, as a bonus action, you can crouch. When crouching, any adjacent source of half-cover instead counts as three-quarters cover.

Making it cost one's bonus action introduces a reason not to do it, and restricting its use to places where cover is available makes sense in two ways. First, it reduces the potential for spamming this action. You can also explain that one needs to have a source of cover for the "reduced size" to significantly outweigh the defensive effect of having harder time moving.

  • 1
    +1 on this. I understand the desire to make crouching a useful mechanic, but it would work better if it had some context to it, like if you were next to cover. If you crouch out in the open, you're only a slightly smaller target. – generalcrispy Dec 7 at 14:57
  • @generalcrispy I know realism has no place in DnD 5e, but for almost all weapons a crouching target allows for a heavier blow. I also agree that it works only with cover. – Mindwin Dec 7 at 15:32
  • 12
    Regarding this @generalcrispy, I assume things like crouching to be a part of what the characters are always doing. They're trying not to be hit, and that's why the Dexterity modifier increases one's AC. – kviiri Dec 7 at 16:05
  • 1
    @generalcrispy also a person with heavy armour wouldn't be able to crouch almost at all indicating the lack of dex and a person in medium armour can only crouch so far before toppling to the ground... even medium armour is very heavy. – rpgstar Dec 8 at 1:19
  • 2
    @rpgstar You vastly underestimate the abilities of someone proficient in heavy armor. The only thing you really suffer with is stealth. – generalcrispy Dec 10 at 13:57

The problem is that you're adding a new rule for this.

Basically, this doesn't need to be a separate mechanic. If it's something that every sensible person would do anyway - which mechanically is the case here given that you assign no cost to doing the action - assume it's already calculated into AC. Falling prone is what's there for the more drastic approach when you really need protection from ranged attacks without access to cover. Adding an extra rule for this would be like adding a rule that calculates AC differently if a player says their character will be alert to enemy actions during combat. This is simply redundant information.

My recommendation therefore would be to not attempt to tweak it, but rather drop it entirely and treat it as roleplaying fluff.

Disadvantage is too much for crouching

You could improve it by rewording it to be:

A creature may use half movement to enter a crouched position. While a creature is crouching they gain +2 AC against ranged attacks not stacking with cover or shields. they also have disadvantage on attack rolls until they use half movement speed to come out of crouch. A creature may not be both crouched and prone at the same time.

Crouching character also spend extra 1 foot movement per foot moved.

Making it a +2 to AC not stacking with shield or cover should balance it fairly well.

Note: I have not used this but it seems more reasonable and realistic than disadvantage.

  • Is there ever a reason not to crouch while stationary with this rule in place? – Erik Dec 7 at 7:59
  • 2
    At the least, crouching should give you a penalty against melee attacks and possibly Dex saving throws, in a similar way to being prone. Since you can't obviously defend or move very well in that position. – PJRZ Dec 7 at 8:07
  • @Erik i have added in the half movement speed to assume crouch in order to prevent people from just standing up moving full distance then crouching again. – rpgstar Dec 7 at 8:13
  • @PJRZ good point. i have added in the movement speed requirement to make it harder to enter crouch and added disadvantage on all attacks until they come out of crouch. considering disadvantage on dex and strength checks as well but not certain yet. – rpgstar Dec 7 at 8:14
  • Half cover for the win. Well played. – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 at 16:20

Your rule is too broad

The change you proposed affects all characters, while the problem that sparked it is much more limited. I propose that you should not add a new option to all characters, but solve the problem of the ranger with using the rules for being Prone and adding this rule:

Being prone does not impose Disadvantage on your attacks with a crossbow. However, you have to spend a bonus action for a light crossbow or an Action for a heavy crossbow to reload it while Prone.

  • I know it's homebrew, but how might this interact with Crossbow Expert? – Pilchard123 Dec 7 at 9:32
  • @Pilchard123 Even with the feat you have to physically reload the weapon, you just ignore the Reload property that limits the number of attacks. – Szega Dec 7 at 10:25

I'd like to answer just the question title, with a suggestion, based on the kinds of rule tweaking I often employ in D&D:

How should I modify this crouching rule so that it grants some sort of mechanical advantage, but not big enough so players can abuse it?

  • Going into a crouch, and coming out of a crouch, costs 5 feet of movement. Movement whilst crouching costs +1 foot per foot of distance. This is strictly better than dropping prone and getting back up on their turn.

  • A crouching character upgrades their cover by a single step against Ranged and Melee attacks (i.e. this does not improve dexterity saves against spells). If they upgrade from 3/4 to total cover, then they can no longer see their target either - e.g. think ducking or moving away when behind an arrow slit. This is usually a worse benefit than dropping prone, or could be equally achieved by moving around a corner etc.

  • Melee attacks from adjacent positions against crouching characters gain Advantage, same as against prone characters. Note this is somewhat countered by the additional cover that the character has gained, but as an attacker, I'd usually still opt for -2 with Advantage.

I have not played those exact rules above, but have ruled similarly in ad-hoc situations where there was certain types of cover that players wanted to take better advantage of - e.g. gravestones in a graveyard. It worked fine in those circumstances, and gave a feeling of using suitable tactics in a ranged battle.

Crouching only helps when you have cover

Crouching in the open doesn't really do anything significant. Sure, it makes you a shorter target and might be a -1 penalty to ranged attacks more than 20 feet away at best (but when you consider that halflings and dwarfs don't get a bonus to ranged AC just because they're short, even this would be silly). Crouching really doesn't do much for you unless you have something to crouch behind which covers all or most of your body.

Crouching has drawbacks

A crouching player is less mobile and would have a harder time dodging attacks, especially in close quarters. So while it might give disadvantage against ranged attacks while in cover, it would also give any melee attackers advantage (or perhaps only +2 so that it is sort of a half prone state) against you. This gives you a tool to punish crouching spam with ambushes and high-mobility melee monsters.

I agree with Cubic's answer that you are adding an unnecessary mechanic. Behaviors like this are assumed to be part of your character's actions without being explicitly called out in the rules.

However, if you feel the need to confer some advantage for crouching in your game, you need to balance it with non-trivial costs. The only cost you have is that the character's effective movement rate is halved while crouching, but there is no cost to enter or exit the crouch, so the character can stand up, move, and crouch again without incurring any costs.

Ideas to fix this:

  1. Make crouching and standing up cost something. Maybe it's 5-10ft of movement to do so, maybe its a bonus action. Paying a bonus action is more expensive than movement for some character classes, less for others, consider that when making your decisions.
  2. Give some alternative penalty for being crouched, like disadvantage on dex saving throws for the reduced mobility. This is similar to the advantage granted to melee attackers against prone targets.
  3. Make this a feat that modifies the Prone condition, eliminating the disadvantage for attacks made while prone (similar to the existing Crossbow Expert feat), maybe making standing up easier too (but not free!). All of the other mechanics of the Prone condition stay intact, with all of their associated costs.

Some combination of #1 and #2 would make crouching comparable to, but not exactly like, being prone. #3 makes this a special ability that few characters will have, and is roughly in line with the power level of feats.

You may want to consider that the size of creatures bears little relevance to how easy it is to hit them in 5e. A 7-foot-tall Dragonborn is no easier to hit with an arrow compared to a 4-foot-tall Hill Dwarf. This brings into question the entire premise that crouching makes it harder for other creatures to hit you.

Since you're asking how to change your mechanic rather than asking whether the mechanic is a good one, I appreciate that this answer does not help you very much. Nonetheless I think it's worth considering!

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.