Consider the following scenario: On its turn, a monster uses some movement and ends its turn without taking an obvious action. Secretly, it has taken the Dodge action. On the player's turn, the player attacks the monster. The DM instructs the player to roll with disadvantage, as the monster is dodging. The player might not have chosen to attack that monster if s/he had known it was dodging. (Of course, an observant player might deduce that the monster is dodging, as it took no obvious action.)

Should a creature be able to detect that a target is dodging before deciding to attack?


4 Answers 4


1. Yes

Of course it is; we are playing a tabletop role-playing game and the players can only make intelligent choices if the meta-constructs of the mechanics have some perceptible in-world difference from one another.

To think otherwise makes the game impossible to play.

2. No

Of course it isn't; we are playing a tabletop role-playing game and the players can only perceive what their characters can perceive. When you Dodge you "focus entirely on avoiding attacks", which is a purely internal situation and is not differentiable from other actions that don't require you to do anything until the world impinges on you, such as Disengage or Ready.

To think otherwise makes the game impossible to play.

Both answers are right

... and they sit at the ends of a continuum of equally right answers between concealment and revelation.

Whatever is the agreed-upon situation at your table is 100% correct. It would be nice if this was agreed up front, but when you have players with mismatched expectations, they generally don't know they are mismatched until something like this happens. When it does happen, deal with it and move on.

Just be consistent - what works for the monsters works for the players.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Very much agree with 2. And yet: in combat, it is rare for someone to storm into open terrain, exposing themselves to enemy fire, only to stand absolutely still, and make themselves as easy to hit as possible. So when they seem to be doing something like that, the characters can (according to their passive perception, perhaps) have a reasonable idea that something other than just enjoying the sunshine is going on. \$\endgroup\$
    – rasmus91
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 10:24
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't the definition of 'action' preclude the second bullet? Obviously if your table agrees with the second bullet that is their mileage variance but posturing alone would seem perceptible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Just be consistent - what works for the monsters works for the players." - This is the most important part. If a player chooses to take the Dodge action, they must announce it to make the DM aware of it, while a monster doesn't. Since you, as the DM, move the monsters, you should not metagame and have an enemy not attack a Dodging PC because you (DM) know they are Dodging. Be consistent. If a character can't discern whether an enemy is Dodging, the same must be true for the enemy. \$\endgroup\$
    – StackLloyd
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Sort of my point... they are doing something... and that is where perception and description are important. Stances are an indication of what your opponent is attempting. It is not impossible to discern intent through body-language and in the heat of battle it is not an easy thing to effectively and correctly feint an action. Heck even animals can tell intent based on posture. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user3801839: I think Insight would be more suitable than Perception for deducing a creature's state of mind. The creature might not be moving because it's concentrating on a spell, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 13:46

Sometimes. Narrate it.

I disagree with some other answers saying that focusing on avoiding attacks is not perceptibly different than, say, readying an action to hit someone with a hammer. Those actions are likely to look very different. How the Dodge action looks depends on the characteristics of the NPC and the situation:

  • The orc lowers into an athletic stance, shifting weight back and forth and keeping his eyes on his opponents, but takes no other action.

  • The kobold looks tense, rapidly shifting his eyes between you and the door. He seems to be afraid, but for now is standing his ground.

  • The grandmaster stands calmly with his hands behind his back.

All three of these NPCs have decided to spend their turn focusing on avoiding the attacks of their enemies. Someone who attacks the orc should not be surprised when the orc is prepared for it. Someone who attacks the grandmaster may be very surprised when he deftly moves out of the way.

If an NPC is trying to intentionally conceal the fact that their current tactic is focused entirely on defense, you may want to use a Deception check. Note that highly experienced combatants would probably be very good at intuiting what their opponents are trying to do, unless their opponents are equally experienced at hiding it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Carl, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour for the usual badge and check the help center for site-specific info. It seems like you are suggesting different mechanics based on the situation/npc, is this how you play it at your table? If you have experience its good to provide examples of how it worked out to back up your answer. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 5:36

There is no Dodge action in the game world

When a character "focuses entirely on avoiding attacks", we simulate this via the Dodge action. Actions and turns are the part of the mechanics, they are subject of players' discretion. The Dodge action is not a spell, that magically hinders enemies when they are trying to attack you. Its is a part of the game mechanics, that we use to model a particular kind of behavior (trying not to be harmed). Is someone's behavior perceptible to other creatures? Of course. Is the Dodge action perceptible to other creatures? I'd say no.

Should the DM explicitly say "this creature takes the Dodge action"? It entirely depends on the table.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like this answer would be more suitable for a question like "Should the DM announce the enemies' action ?", not "Should a creature be able to detect that a target is dodging before deciding to attack ?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ How could you not perceive that someone is not even trying to attack? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 8:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András this is exactly what I'm saying: "Is someone's behavior perceptible to other creatures? Of course." \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András perceiving that they are not trying to attack does not mean they are Dodging. They could be Readying an action (to run away, or to counterattack), they could be frozen with fear or fidgety with panic. Knowing what they are NOT doing does not tell you what they might do in response to what you do. At most, you might perceive they are waiting to see what you do first. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 4:50

The DM has effectively already told the player that the monster is preparing to dodge.

The player's character and the player both know the monster could attack, and is choosing not to. It isn't casting a spell. It's not become less aggressive towards the PCs. Therefore it's almost certainly preparing to dodge attacks instead.

This translates rather well into the real world, and the difference between aggressive and defensive fighting. In the real world, this may be down to the defensive fighter letting the other person wear themselves out, or waiting for them to make a mistake which can be exploited, or simply down to fighting style. The defensive fighter may adopt a defensive guard, but as much of it may be simply down to focus.

If the player chooses not to notice this, that's the player's problem. The DM does not have to explicitly spell this out, unless the player is new and is unaware of the possibility of dodging,

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    \$\begingroup\$ The monster could have also used the Ready action, or the Dash action, and still all they perceptively did was move, so this assumption is pretty speculative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zeus Dash is out because the monster hasn't moved that far. Agreed on Ready - but the player still knows the monster is planning something which isn't just straight attacking. Essentially the monster has readied itself for dodging, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Graham, taking the dash action doesn't force you to use all your movement. The players also have no idea what the speed of the creature it. It could only have 10ft movement speed. They could be readying a spell to attack if someone approaches or a number of other things. Simply not using their action is not a good indicator that they have taken the dodge action. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 5:32

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