The Polearm Master feat says "...creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon."

The "Reach" property of a polearm says it adds 5' to a weapons reach which makes a polearms reach 10'.

If a creature appears next to a polearm master (say from moving out of a wall next to them) would the polearm master get an opportunity attack?

My interpretation was "no" as the feat says the OA is triggered when a creature enters "the reach you have with THAT weapon" and historically the weakness with polearms was getting within their reach (which maybe the designers considered as they were very specific with their wording).


We can try to parse words here, but in general things should be taken to mean what they probably are.

My opinion is that if you are five feet from a secret door and someone pops out from it, they have "entered your reach." Why? Because next to a wall you have 5 ft of reach and now they have entered it.

I really struggle when we try to over-define words into a meaning to drive rules like this. The intention isn't a complete set of definitions to account for every circumstance - they are just there to facilitate play. In this case, you could legitimately rule this either way, but at my table, wall-thing is getting hit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, this over analysis of wording and rules sometimes really grinds me down. I couldn't stand DM'ing if I had to field arguments like this question all the time from players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve
    Aug 4 '21 at 2:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ "things should be taken to mean what they probably are" -- that requires parsing. Questions like this arise when "what the words are" could mean more than one obvious thing. To reach for the most expedient explanation is simply expedience, not understanding. Seeking understanding and consistency in the rules is not a bad thing. I've DM'ed several different groups and the nature of the game means that players read things differently from each other and myself. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 4 '21 at 7:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is more of a complaint than an answer. You provide an opinion and what you would do, but not justification, and then state that you do not want to justify your answer. Making this a weak post on a Q&A site. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 4 '21 at 7:27

It’s been a while since I played an earlier edition, but 5e makes reach much simpler and purely additive. I don’t have my DMG handy, but the text in the SRD is “This weapon adds 5 feet to your reach when you Attack with it, as well as when determining your reach for Opportunity Attacks with it” (emphasis mine).

5e does not have a mechanic for getting within the reach of a polearm weapon as you describe – if you’re within reach, you are a valid target for Attack actions or Opportunity Attack reactions (barring status effects or other external factors). Polearm weapons increase your reach to 10’, but there is no language stating that this creates a bubble of 5’ within that reach where you cannot make Opportunity Attacks.

“While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, quarterstaff, or spear, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon.”

This language creates an interesting situation that @Schroeder has pointed out. On one hand, the creature was within 10’ while within the wall, which does put them within reach range of your Polearm Master’s weapon. If we look at this strictly from the viewpoint of linear distance, when they exit the wall they are moving within your reach and do not trigger an Opportunity Attack. On the other hand, that interpretation implies your reach can include the walls around you as space you can affect.

I think this is a poor approach to take, for a couple of reasons.

  1. Most importantly to me, you are explicitly taking away a PC’s feat here. Polearm Masters hit things as they approach. That’s the thing they do best. Explicitly taking away an option they spent an ability point increase on does not seem like a good approach to ensure your players are having a good time.
  2. As mentioned, this approach assumes Reach can include spaces you can’t enter or affect. If your reach extends into the wall, can you attack the creature while they are in the wall? If so, they get their Polearm Master OA when the creature moves into the section of wall within their reach.

Attacking a target in a wall doesn’t seem reasonable to me, barring some sort of siege weapon. To my mind, a reasonable (and player empowering) interpretation is to view reach as something that goes out up to ten feet, for polearm masters, and walls constrain or interrupt that. When the target exits the wall, they are entering the players reach.

In the case of your wall-travelling creature, they have exited the wall and into a space the player can target within their reach. RAW, this makes them a valid target for Opportunity Attack. As the player has the Polearm Master feat, this also means they are able to make an Opportunity Attack in that moment.

If this doesn’t jive with your sense of how a polearm works (the pointy bit is very far away in that moment), remember that polearm fighting historically was not all about the pointy end. You can club people with the side, jab them with the butt end, etc. Many longer polearms had counterweights on the butt to both make wielding them easier, as well as for hitting people with in these more up close situations. This is called out in the Polearm Master feat, which adds a bonus attack action with the weapon’s opposite end:

“When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, or spear, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. This attack uses the same ability modifier as the primary attack. The weapon's damage die for this attack is a d4, and it deals bludgeoning damage.”

The core rationale for me making this argument is that ultimately, we are talking about a single attack. From the DM perspective, it’s one attack, it’s not a big deal. From the player perspective, it is one of the only things they will do in a round. A Polearm Master has also sunk significant player resources (a feat) into getting better at OAs. Let them roll their attack to bonk the baddie as it bursts out of the wall, they’ll feel great.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ But simply being within reach is not enough for an opportunity attack. Imagine an orc with dagger; a knight can run circles around it without triggering opportunity attacks. As long as the knight is in melee range (5'). The opportunity attack is about the change in distance. Imagine again a swarm of bats that can occupy the orc's space. Moving from space 0' to 5' does not provoke OA. So, for a creature already in range, OA does not get provoked. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 4 '21 at 13:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @schroeder The question mentions Polearm Master, which provokes OA on entry to a space within your reach (while wielding a valid weapon). I was using that in my assumptions when answering. I don't make this clear though, so I will edit. As to moving within reach, that's a valid point if 'inside the wall' is considered within your reach. Seems like a DM discretion situation. In this case, I'd argue in the wall is not in reach, as it is not a space your weapon can affect. In this example it exits the wall and enters a space you can see and affect with your reach, meaning it has entered reach. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pottermost
    Aug 4 '21 at 13:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ PAM allows an attack when the target enters reach. Can they attack the target as it enters the closest bit of wall then? Allowing that 10' distance to include a space that's inside a wall seems unnecessarily punishing to the player. Picking a feat is an expensive, deliberate choice by the player. Denying the player the OA attack they built their character to be able to do due to a strict interpretation of linear distance into a space they can't perceive or affect feels excessively punishing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pottermost
    Aug 4 '21 at 14:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That's just expectation management and reading the rules. It's not punishing at all. And we're talking about a highly, highly specific scenario. Teleport and Blink and forced movement doesn't trigger OA, either. If I go invisible and appear next to the PAM, that doesn't provoke OA. It's a great feat, but it is not all-powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 4 '21 at 14:19
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I can no longer edit the comment, so I'd like to call out my use of the phrase "pedantic wet blanket". That was a personal attack and uncalled for, and I'd like to apologize to @Schroeder for it and thank them for (rightly!) calling me out for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pottermost
    Aug 4 '21 at 14:49

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