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The kobold racial trait Grovel, Cower, and Beg is described as follows (VGtM, p. 119):

As an action on your turn, you can cower pathetically to distract nearby foes. Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10 feet of you that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

When does Grovel, Cower, and Beg take effect? That is, when is the 10-foot range checked for determining whether allies have advantage against an enemy?

Suppose a kobold starts 5 feet away from an enemy and uses an action to Grovel, Cower, and Beg, then spends all of his movement to run away. He finishes his turn 35 feet from the enemy. The kobold's ally is next in the turn order.

I can interpret the ability's effect in two ways:

  1. The kobold's ally gains advantage when attacking the enemy because the kobold was within 10 feet of the enemy at the time the ability was used.
  2. The kobold's ally does not gain advantage when attacking the enemy because the kobold is more than 10 feet away from the enemy at the time of the attack.

On a side note, I found plenty of other questions about kobolds and their abilities (e.g. Pack Tactics), but I haven't been able to find a single question about this ability on RPG.SE.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this question then, "does the kobold's ally have advantage on their attack?" \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 24 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. The wording of the racial trait in the quote doesn't quite match what it says in the book (VGtM, p. 119), though the relevant sentence is unchanged (besides the abbreviation of "feet"). I've edited the correct quote into your question now. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 24 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Ah, I mistakenly copied an abbreviated description of the trait from D&D Beyond. Thanks for the correction. \$\endgroup\$ – Endemic Apr 26 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Endemic: Ah, yeah, I'm guessing you copied the snippet shown in the character sheet instead of the full feature description. Makes sense :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 26 at 4:29
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The Ability is Continuous

Grovel, Cower, and Beg takes an Action to activate. The effect is checked every time an ally makes an attack.

If the foe is a) within 10' of the kobold and b) can see the kobold (not blocked by cover, darkness, blindness, invisibility, etc.) and c) the duration for GCB hasn't expired then the attack has Advantage.

If your scenario, the ally would not get Advantage because the target of the attack is 35' away from the kobold.

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I think you have to step back and look at the rules for this ability in terms of the narrative action they are attempting to setup: a kobold genuflecting and uttering a non stop stream of obeisances so profusely that she becomes an obnoxious distraction.

If the kobold moves off after starting this, that distraction is removed from the creatures in the area where it started.

What is effectively being created here is an aura, much like what paladins get (one might call it an "aura of distraction"). The main difference is that, unlike a paladin aura which is always "on," this one has a specific start and stop time.

Generally speaking, if an aura-like effect is only meant to be evaluated for possible targets at the time of activation, it will include language to that effect. For example, Path of the Storm Herald Barbarian's Storm Aura:

Your aura has an effect that activates when you enter your rage, and you can activate the effect again on each of your turns as a bonus action.

Because the Kobold's racial feature does not include this kind of wording, we therefore must conclude that the affected creatures are reevaluated on an ongoing basis, rather than a single point in time at activation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the narrative angle factored into my confusion. If a kobold is surrounded by friends it can provide advantage to, there's no reason to beg for its life. If it's been separated from its friends, groveling provides no benefit to anyone. It could grovel as friends rush in, but that's similarly weird. \$\endgroup\$ – Endemic Apr 24 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @end I can think of several reasons a kobold would cower even/especially with friends nearby. Maybe it doesn't realize how close its allies are or maybe it does and it's selfishly attempting to make it seem like less of a threat so that the enemies decide to attack its allies instead. Or maybe the kobold knows it has allies nearby and is simply attempting to confuse and distract nearby foes for them. In other words, the groveling is insincere. Also remember that the ability grants advantage to all attacks: both melee and ranged. The allies don't have to be nearby to benefit. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Apr 24 at 20:09
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The effect is centered on the kobold and is in effect until the end of the kobold's next turn.

tl;dr In this case, the ally does not get advantage, because the enemy is not in the area of effect when the attack occurs.

The target having previously been in the area of effect does not provide the benefit

The language of the ability is in the present tense. It affects a foe that is presently within 10 feet of the kobold. It could have included a statement to indicate that proximity at any point causes the effect such as:

  • "enemies that have been within 10 feet .." "
  • "enemies that have passed within 10' during the groveling.."

Examples of moving into an area and lingering effects

An example of a effect that moves and affects those moving into it's area at any point in their turn is cloudkill.

Sickening radiance from Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 164) causes a lasting effect (exhaustion and giving off light) if a creature moves into the area of effect. Those lasts until the spell ends regardless if the creature remains in the area of effect.

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