I play D&D 3.5 with a group of folks. One of the rules they use in combat allows Alice, on Alice's turn, to ask Bob to yield his space to Alice. Bob chooses a space to move to, Alice moves into Bob's space.

I've tried to find a source for this rule and I've been unable to. I've looked in the PHB, the DMG, the Rules Compendium, the SRD, and I'm not finding anything. I have a strong suspicion that this may be a houserule that they've played with so long that it's just part of the game for them. I've never heard of anything like this and would like some input on where this rule might have come from. Does anyone know of anything like this in a splat, is it from another game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Have the players codified this rule or do they handwave it, saying something like, "It must exist somewhere because we've used it for so long!" Can a creature yield space off-turn even if the creature on its turn took a 5-ft. step or a move action? Can a creature yield space even when the creature isn't asked to by a PC whose turn it is? Can NPCs likewise yield space? (Sorry for So! Many! Questions! It's just that such a rule would drive me to madness!) Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2019 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


It does not exist in the official rules. It’s impossible to prove a negative, but I am absolutely confident on this. The word “yield” is not used much at all in the core rules, and even then it’s used for three divinations to describe what information the spell yields, the discussion of a variant rule for summon monster spells, and for tracking, describing soft ground as one that “yields to pressure.” Furthermore, the core rules for acting in combat make no mention of an ability to vacate your space outside your turn.

The rules do specify that friendly creatures can pass through each other’s spaces, but they don’t generally allow you to stop on a square held by an ally. And that ally definitely cannot move into a different square as part of their ally’s movement.

Overall, though, I feel fairly positive about this house rule, at least at first glance. It enables defender types to interpose themselves between enemies and squishy allies, when normally it is extremely difficult to do that. Improving the effectiveness of that role would be good for 3.5e, I think. I have not really thought through all the ramifications, much less playtested it, though. As noted in Chris Morris’s comment and Ryan_L’s answer, care should be made to ensure that this process cannot be done infinitely, or else a character could move an infinite distance by yielding their space to each ally in an infinite line of allies. Ben Bardin’s comment that this could also allow two characters to yield back and forth to attack someone who otherwise could only be attacked by one due to a chokepoint is worth considering, too, though I’m not totally convinced that’s a bad thing per se.

  • \$\begingroup\$ might depend on what kind of action it requires. If it doesn't interfere with the full-round action on both sides, then it lets you fit more full attack chains into the same frontage (in constrained space) by constantly yielding space back and forth. If you line up your turns right, it even lets a squishy melee character step in, unload, and then yield the space back before they can be attacked. This isn't the sort of "breaks the game utterly at high levels" cheese that you see some places, but it could be pretty significant at low levels, or with an appropriately restricted set of classes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would at least consider requiring the displacing character (i.e. the character whose turn it is) to spend an additional 5 feet of movement to displace their companion and further require that companions can't be displaced to anything but an adjacent square. It's not clear how this works with difficult terrain from just what's presented here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2019 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden Perhaps, though I’m not sure it would be a bad thing. But yeah, I suppose I was imagining it requiring more than a 5-ft step to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is actually a case where proving a negative is not impossible. You have a finite search space, and thus could perform an exhaustive search. In other words, you could actually check every single official D&D 3.5 source book for this rule. More practically, you could get close to a proof by addressing the places where you would expect to find such a rule, and show it isn't there. Like, for example, the place(s) where it is established you can't stop on a friendly creature's square. Seems it would be important to give an exception if one exists. \$\endgroup\$
    – trlkly
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 2:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Its the movement version of the peasant Railgun. I'm therefore all for this house rule for the use of firing Dwarves at enemy fortifications at Mach 5. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 10:44

Your playgroup probably hasn't implemented the emergent rule that free actions can only be taken on one's turn

So, most playgroups play with this rule where free actions can only be done on your turn. That's not explicitly stated anywhere, but there are some general passages that seem to sort-of imply it and Wizards of the Coast, the publishing company, said in an old blog post I can no longer find but which is referenced here both that free actions should not be allowed off-turn and that the implication of the general introduction to actions that all actions, including free action, happen only during your turn was, in fact, intended.

However, many groups exist that are unaware of this weird once-posted-about-in-a-blog-but-never-errataed pseudo-rule and, especially if the game sticks pretty close to the core material, allowing free actions off-turn is rarely a problem.

One immediately visible consequence of allowing off-turn free actions is off-turn 5' steps. If a character does not otherwise move any actual distance and isn't in difficult terrain, they can take a 5-foot step without provoking an attack of opportunity, pretty much whenever. How this works out in gameplay is pretty much what you are descibing:

"Hey, Fighter Bob, can you move? I wanna cast burning hands"
"Sure, Wizard Joan" (takes 5' step to an open spot after Joan enters their space but before Joan counts as having 'stopped moving')

Note, however, that Joan couldn't subsequently yield their space to another character in the same round, having already moved, nor could Bob, having already taken a 5' step, without a particularly lenient GM.

Also off-turn free-actions can be a problem in that they can be used by certain builds to do crazy stuff that might be described as breaking the game. But 3.5 isn't exactly a perfectly balanced game anyways and if it's working for your group currently I wouldn't worry about it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity, do you know if any of the "crazy stuff" specifically involves off-turn 5' steps? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen It depends on how the timing of off-turn 5-ft. steps work and if the attacker can change his actions in light of the defender making an off-turn 5-ft. step. Never allowing an attacker that must make a 5-ft. step to reach a defender to make a full attack (because, in response, the defender 5-ft. steps away from the attacker) would be one crazy thing, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is simply wrong. Nothing says “you cannot take free actions outside your turn,” because they don’t need to: free actions are defined as things you can do during your turn to begin with, and the definition of free actions references a DM-imposed limit to the number of free actions “you can perform in a turn.” Indeed, the default rule established at the beginning of the Actions in Combat section is “When a character’s turn comes up in the initiative sequence, that character performs his entire round’s worth of actions.” Anything otherwise needs an exception, e.g. talking, immediate, AoO \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Just because an interpretation seems, upon thorough investigation with a background in reading this system's rules, to be incorrect doesn't mean that interpretation is not a natural or common one. I've encountered several pick-up groups in my area that play with this interpretation. I'm not arguing that it is the right interpretation, just that it's not explicitly mentioned and not an unusual ruling and, when done this way, commonly leads to the situation in the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen Not in my experience. These groups tend to let the character whose action in interrupted change what they are doing afterwards, which fixes most of the problems. There's an issue with creatures with multiple attacks where it seems like after the first attack is made 5' stepping away would render them unable to continue attacking unless they also have a 5' step but I haven't seen that come up except once (The GM just ruled the creature, having "extra" movement left over from its move action, could close the gap again, essentially granting the creature for free in this one case \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:47

There's a problem if you have a lot of characters adjacent in a line. It seems that, with careful attention paid to initiative, you could use this to get one character to move arbitrarily far in one turn.

Consider if you have 26 characters, adjacent and sorted by initiative such that the character at the leftmost end of the line goes last, but everyone to the right of him goes in order from left to right. Character B goes first, takes A's place. A decides to take B's old place. C takes one step left, takes A's place. A takes C's old place, repeat until you're out of characters. A has now moved 25 spaces for free, and still gets his turn.

To fix this, I would just add that any movement you do like this costs movement on your next turn, and you can't go below 0.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a legitimate concern about this houserule that I hadn’t considered. Note (as Chris Morris did on my answer) that there is an existing version of this kind of exploit known as the “peasant rail gun” since transferring an object from one creature to another is a free action. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Where do the rules describe how much time it takes for a creature to pass an object to another? And how much time it takes for a creature to accept such an object? And that acceptance can be done off-turn? (I thought this was a rules areas that stopped folks from using D&D 3.5 as a basketball simulator: You want to pass someone something? Drop it, and tell that someone to retrieve it!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ah, sorry, misremembered how it worked; the peasant railgun relies on readied actions. Which I guess could be used to execute this “yield” concept but doesn’t match how it is described. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:54

Not exactly, but you can take a 5-foot-step when it's not your turn.

"You can move 5 feet in any round when you don’t perform any other kind of movement." -- SRD

Since a 5-foot-step is a nonaction, just like Attacks of Opportunity are nonactions, you should be able to take a 5ft-step outside your turn. As quoted above, 5ft-steps and "other kind[s] of movement" are mutualy exclusive, and 5ft-steps are once per round. A round is composed of one turn each, in order of initiative. Logically, this means that taking a 5-foot-step on a higher initiative(1) than your own prohibits you from making "other […] movement". I suspect the designers of d&d never thought that far.

(I haven't looked in the rules compendium yet, so I don't know if it changes things)

tl; dr:

No, but you can take a 5-foot-step during any round that you don't otherwise move around.

(1): You might be able to take a 5ft-step during an initiative when there's no turn, or somesuch. Ask your resident RAW expert.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but no: the definition of 5-foot step specifies that it is something you can do “before, during, or after your other actions in the round.” While you could make an argument that something that occurs outside your turn is either before your actions on your next turn, or after your actions on the previous turn, this particular phrasing would make no sense in this context if that were the intended rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:43

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