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Prone is a condition to which a creature may be subject.

Conditions alter a creature's capabilities in a variety of ways ... Most conditions ... are impairments, but a few ... can be advantageous.

A creature subjected to the prone condition gets a defense bonus against ranged attacks:

An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

at the cost of its own

disadvantage on Attack rolls.

and half of it's speed.


Now, you can elect to fall prone at any time during your turn, for free.

You can drop prone without using any of your speed.

And while

Combatants ... lying on the ground ... are prone.

The rules never specify that lying on the ground is a necessary condition. On the contrary, the designers have clarified that

You can almost always be knocked prone. About the only time it's physically impossible for you to be knocked prone is when you're affixed to something that keeps you upright.

and

If you're knocked prone underwater, you're subjected to the effects of the prone condition as normal. One way to visualize it is that you're floundering.

And even, specifically with regard to hovering

Q: If a creature is swimming, hovering or is otherwise unable to fall (e.g. chained to a wall), does knocking them prone actually inflict the prone condition?

A: If it's physically impossible for you to be prone, you're not subject to the prone condition.

Certainly, the ground couldn't be a necessary condition, as that would imply that you would be immune to the prone condition so long as you lie on a table or bed--or ad absurdum, a bedroll. It seems like we must conclude that the Prone condition is not literally an orientation to the ground, but rather is a mechanical game condition that takes on different flavors in different media.

Furthermore, it appears that, both RAW and RAI, you can be subject to the prone condition, regardless of the medium, be it suspended in a hammock, on top of a table, lying underground, floundering in water, hovering in the air, or the drifting through the void of space. And you can elect do this voluntarily--at no cost to your movement.


Specifically, with respect to flying, the rules address scenarios where a flying creature may be subject to the prone condition.

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.

Allowing for a flying creature to remain magically aloft or hover while prone.

XGTE further specifies that a creature,

by spending half its flying speed

may

counter the prone condition (as if it were standing up in midair). (XGtE)

So, it seems to me that I can elect to go prone while flying (at least, so long as I am held magically aloft or can hover) AND gain a defense bonus from ranged attacks.


It seems generally accepted that this sort of strategy is acceptable on the ground, so, is this interpretation correct?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, I haven't yet dug into the specific edits here but I'd like to jump in with some general notes. 1. just a general reminder to remain calm and Nice, and if you're getting agitated stepping away and taking a breather. 2. users are only pingable if they've edited or commented on a post, if you want mod eyes on something, raise a flag, that way we'll actually see it. 3. when editing an answered question we want some care that it doesn't invalidate existing answers, that's not fair on them. And in general a rollback is saying an edit shouldn't be made, not censorship. I'll look at specifics now \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 26, 2022 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ While this edit gives it a style I'm not personally fond of, I don't think the question is really changed nor problematic. 'Am I understanding/interpreting these rules correctly?' is a valid question. I think the question might be catching some flak/downvotes because it comes off as wanting to argue rules at their DM which we sometimes see and is generally disliked. It may help dispel some of that if you clarify for what context you're asking this, which IIRC from elsewhere is mostly hypothetical? (that wouldn't mean practical solutions are invalid, but contexts it better) \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 26, 2022 at 0:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The line between clarifying what the querent already knows and resolving the issue can be blurry. It's possible a self-answer would end up reading better, but this is already gone to a level of rules quarreling I'm not high on and there's little indication querent is interested in doing so (or maybe they didn't know?). It doesn't necessitate changes, so I say leave it as is. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 26, 2022 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Why does it make sense for this question, but not for this question? It's not a clarification of the question, because it's also used in one of the querent's answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Sep 26, 2022 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Sorry! Forgot to link it. This answer \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Sep 26, 2022 at 17:12

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Yes, and there is nothing wrong with it, unlike what others seem to think

My archery characters spend most of their time in combat as far away as possible prone, they stand, shoot and drop again on their turns. This works because prone makes them harder to hit.

But why does it make them harder to hit? There are 2 types of answer. 1: that is what the rules say. 2: because being prone presents a smaller target and is therefore harder to aim at.

Either of these arguments works perfectly well in flight. You move position so you present a minimal cross section to those trying to shoot at you. Not only is it supported by the rules you outlined, but it makes perfect sense to try and fly like that, it is essentially using your movement to fly defensively rather than dodging, which is how real life works too.

If you were directly above someone I would likely rule otherwise because you are then technically giving them more to aim at when you lie flat, but as long as you are at a reasonable angle to say that prone does reduce your cross section I can't see a rules or logic reason to disallow this at all.

Nor do I think this is an edge case, this is simply tactical play which some tables really enjoy playing with. Both sides simply standing around throwing attacks at each other is unrealistic, doing whatever you can to minimise chances of being shot with an arrow is clever.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don’t see where any of the other answers have said there is anything “wrong” with it. Mine said the reading was correct, but gave advice for approaching it a different way, Dan’s said it was correct, but that some DMs might house rule it, and Kirt said it was correct, and gave some additional things to consider when doing it. So I don’t understand your first sentence at all. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2022 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri, I agree with most of what you've said, and there is an additional consideration that it may be best to interpret prone as a flavor rather than an orientation to the ground. So, 'prone' doesn't necessarily mean, 'orthogonal to the derivative of earth's curve directly below the PC'. In either case, your reasoning works fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Sep 25, 2022 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov SeriousBri did not say the other answers said that there was something wrong with it. I suspect they are rather referencing the comments, which have called the question “look I found an edge case”, a "rules-lawyer-y edge case", a worse fit than the Dodge action, and "the prone trick". If not outright saying there is something wrong with the strategy, there is certainly some negative judgement there as to its employment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 25, 2022 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Kurt, yes this was in reference to the downvotes on the question and the comment (likely true) that they were people thinking this was a "look I found an edge case" question. I don't like edgecase questions much either, but this isn't really one, and even it is is we should vote and answer in good faith. Edge case only really means something to the well informed, most people are just legitimately looking for a rule they think they have missed, or some clarification. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 25, 2022 at 17:15
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I had a player try this once. We decided that hover-prone did not impose disadvantage on attacks against.

From the looks of your question, you seem to be asking for a rules resolution on an edge case you’ve found. Some times a rules analysis is a good solution to a problem. I don’t think that’s a great solution for this problem. When my players come up with edge cases like this, or we encounter one organically at the table, my players and I work this out together with a little thought exercise. Now, this exercise is something we discuss at session 0, so this is something they generally know to expect with these sorts of things.

Anyway, the sorcerer was under the effects of a potion of flying, giving her a flying speed and hover. They were laying siege to a bandit fortress with high walls and archers stationed on the walls. She had the very same idea you ask about in the question:

Wait a minute, the potion gives me hover, which means if I go prone, I won’t fall. Can I go prone and give the archers disadvantage?

And that’s when I initiated the “ruling by discussion” exercise I mentioned earlier:

Maybe; can you explain to me how in-universe that would work?

She thought for a only a few seconds before saying “no, not really”. I asked the other two players if they had any ideas, but we all agreed that giving the archers disadvantage didn’t really make sense in this situation, even if a strict reading of the rules would give them disadvantage (yes, you’ve read the rules correctly, they would have disadvantage from a strict rules-as-written perspective).

As a final note, don’t forget, this is the rules as written too:

The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

And maybe you’re okay with allowing it at your table, that’s fine too. The important thing, at least for me, is that we communicate about these edge cases, either before, during, or after the game. When I think I’ve found an edge case or weird ruling that I might have come up during the game, I try to ask my DM before it comes up. This way we can talk about it and come to an agreement without taking up game time trying to sort it out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Sep 26, 2022 at 18:36
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At the very least, a penalty to your movement

You say "But, at no cost to other abilities or Effects..."

You appear to be neglecting the fact that the prone condition imposes:

A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.

and that:

Each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain) when you’re climbing, swimming, or crawling.

Thus, staying prone while flying for the increased defensive capability (disadvantage to be hit by ranged attacks) will at the very least halve your movement since you will necessarily also be 'crawling while flying'. While this does not "prevent" you from doing so, it is a cost that you appear to have neglected.

And maybe, you can't do it

You correctly cite the rules for being knocked prone while flying, but cut short the rule for dropping prone, which says (emphases mine):

Combatants often find themselves lying on the ground, either because they are knocked down or because they throw themselves down. In the game, they are prone. You can drop prone without using any of your speed.

In cases of flying, swimming, and riding various passages in the text make it clear that you can be knocked prone. However, the only place where voluntarily going prone is mentioned, the rules specifically say that this is done by throwing oneself 'down', ending with one 'lying on the ground'. Thus it may be that while one can be knocked prone in any situation, one can only go prone when using walking speed on the ground. If true (or if your DM ruled this way, since RAW are unclear), that would mean that you could not voluntarily go prone while flying, which then matches your request for "anything [in the rules] that prevents this".

Unfortunately, as is often the case in areas of the rules that are less well-developed1, things get murky fast and clever players develop work-arounds that are even more counter-intuitive. Any DM who rules that you can't voluntarily go prone while flying has to expect players who will then want to be knocked prone by allies while flying.

For my own take on what it means to be prone while flying, if such is even possible voluntarily, see here.

1 I am deliberately not calling this an edge case. By Tier Two it would be uncommon to not have at least one party member who can fly, and using the prone condition to protect the softer party members is a pretty standard strategy. 'Prone while flying' is a logical intersection that the rules specifically address, but only when it occurs involuntarily. It should be kept in mind that the game rewards players for assuming whatever Conditions are strategically advantageous to them, while the DM is oftentimes the guardian of verisimilitude, as well-described by the process outlined in Thomas Markov's answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ indeed. Valid point. by "e.g" I only meant things like forcing saving throws. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Sep 25, 2022 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course, this would work as a without flying as well. I could imagine a cool, guerilla combat in the Chultan Jungles using this technique along the ground. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Sep 25, 2022 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to see this answer on this question rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/196071/… \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Sep 25, 2022 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @John It's already there, and I cited it above. You just have to scroll past all the positively scoring answers...;) OTOH, that question assumes the flying creature does not have hover, unlike this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 25, 2022 at 17:45
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This rules text:

Combatants often find themselves lying on the ground, either because they are knocked down or because they throw themselves down. In the game, they are prone.

appears to define "prone" to mean "lying on the ground".

But later we get the rules text OP quoted above:

If a flying creature is knocked prone [...], the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as by the fly spell.

which seems to suggest that it's possible to be prone in midair.

This is a rules ambiguity -- is it possible to be prone in midair, or isn't it?

Personally the ruling I find most appealing is: "of course it's not possible to be prone in midair, so what that second rule meant to say was that, if you are affected by something that would make you prone while flying, then, unless you are hovering, you fall."

Jeremy Crawford, one of the designers, has tweeted: "You can almost always be knocked prone." which seems to suggest that it is possible to be prone in midair.

But, when there is a rules ambiguity, it's your DM's job to decide what happens. You'll have to ask your DM.

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RAW, yes.

The rules about dropping prone do say 'the ground', but that is under the general assumption you are standing on the ground at most times. The flying rules mentioning being knocked prone definitely indicates that becoming prone is a thing that can happen in the air.

Narratively, yes.

You're slowing yourself down considerably (eats half your movement to 'stand up' and then move) to give enemies disadvantage to shoot you by minimizing your profile. This is a very basic facet of any kind of ranged combat, minimizing the ability of enemies to shoot you, and is represented in D&D by cover, going prone, and taking the dodge action.

This can be seen as similar to a real-world situation where someone in a helicopter is firing down at people on the ground. In that scenario, lying down in ground cover is unlikely to be helpful. Soldiers should typically find overhead cover or simply remain standing, minimizing their target profile to the bullets (if they aren't running for their lives, which is generally the more common reaction to a helicopter shooting at you).

In this scenario, instead of superman flying and being a lengthxbreadth target, they'd probably be trying to move while 'standing up' relative to the shooter, and being a widthxbreadth target, which is something like going from 2m squared to 20cm squared, an immense difference and a far more difficult target to hit.

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Based on your sources, yes, but not if you hover

Q: If a creature is swimming, hovering or is otherwise unable to fall (e.g. chained to a wall), does knocking them prone actually inflict the prone condition?

A: If it's physically impossible for you to be prone, you're not subject to the prone condition.

I interpret this to mean that a hovering creature is not subject to the prone condition (cannot be prone).

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.

This does not specifically set out that a hovering creature can be prone. It means that a hovering creature can be immobilized (and in that case does not fall). Prone is one sort of immobilization, and hovering creatures have certain resistances against the effects of immobilization, but that does not make them subject to the prone condition.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just as constructive criticism, how would it be impossible for a hovering creature to be prone? It seems to me that the only case in the quotes listed that would qualify (by your reasoning) is being chained to a wall. Something else to consider: the twitter excerpts you quoted are not rules, only RAI. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Sep 27, 2022 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Contextually, the examples the tweet was responding to can probably be interpreted as "physically impossible to be prone", though we know that swimming does allow a prone condition, so fair play there. As for interpretation, I would say that a prone creature is a creature in a compromised position that doesn't allow it to move normally - laying down, floundering in the water, tumbling through the air, etc. If you are floating through the air, not using your body to propel yourself, I don't think that condition applies. So perhaps a hummingbird can be prone in air, but a genie probably can't \$\endgroup\$
    – user22917
    Sep 27, 2022 at 21:43

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