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So, what I'm asking is based on the (potential) ability to move out of the way of an attack, for example by moving through the target's legs. This example does require the target to be at least one size larger than the one carrying this out. So:

  1. The (medium-sized) creature carries out their action(s) - attacks, spells, bonus actions etc.
  2. They then prepare to move behind the (large) opponent on that opponent's turn as they attack.
  3. The large creature attacks, at which point the creature moves, e.g. between their legs, never leaving their square, just placing them behind the large creature.

The idea then is this action would/should/could give the large opponent disadvantage to hit? I know there were systems in earlier versions, but I don't know if it was removed for the newer ones.

So can I use my movement as a reaction to avoid/reduce damage?

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5 Answers 5

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The Dodge action.

What you describe seems to be exactly the Dodge action:

When you take the Dodge action, you focus entirely on avoiding attacks. Until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker, and you make Dexterity saving throws with advantage. You lose this benefit if you are incapacitated or if your speed drops to 0.

It requires you to use your action (though some features change this requirement). There is no way to do what you describe in 5e without using the Dodge action.

It should also be noted that steps 1 and 2 in your question don’t work. Using the Ready action to move on a later turn consumes your action, so you cannot do that if you’ve already used your action for something else this turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that very few things let you Dodge without spending your primary action because that's pretty powerful; e.g. the extra action from Haste can be attack(one only)/dash/disengage/hide/use object, but not dodge. Of course you could dodge and use your hasted action to make one attack, but not spell, and not using Extra Attack. Rogue lvl2's Cunning Action is disengage/dash/hide, but not dodge. Monk Patient Defense lets you spend a Ki point to dodge as a bonus action, but no others come to mind. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with the answer, OP asks about "preparing movement" (in a slightly convoluted manner which I find hard to interpret - Ben mentions "never leaving their square" - is it movement or not?). Dodge does not move at all though. Just keep that in mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 15:13
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There is no "behind" in 5e

As per the default rules, there is no facing in 5e. Even if you manage to move through another creature's space to the other side, they will not have any disadvantage to hit you because of this. All their neighboring spaces are equal for the purpose of attack. (Facing instead is an optional rule, on DMG p. 252).

In addition, to move outside your turn you need to use your action to Ready an action as a Reaction. The Ready action says (PHB, p. 193; emphasis mine):

Sometimes you want to get the jump on a foe or wait for a particular circumstance before you act. To do so, you can take the Ready action on your turn so that you can act later in the round using your reaction.

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it.

That means readying to move during your opponents turn consumes your action, so that you cannot use your action in your turn to attack the opponent, or conversely, if you attacked, you cannot move outside your turn.

If your main goal just is to impose disadvantage on attacks, you can use the Dodge action instead as your action, and that likewise means you will not be able to attack or move outside your turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is also worth noting that readying an action to "move up to your speed" in response to being attacked 1. does not impose disadvantage on said attack, and 2. might allow the attacker to perform an additional attack of opportunity upon you leaving their melee range. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 13:48
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No

There are no secret rules and there is no rule that allows you to attack, move on an another creature’s turn, and impose disadvantage on their attack.

A normal creature can do one of these. They can take the Attack action to attack, the Ready action to move on the other creature’s turn, or the Dodge action to impose disadvantage on attacks targeting them.

They might be able to do one of these things with a bonus action if they have a feature that gives them that. They might also have more than one action on a turn. Finally, they might have a feature that allows them to do one of these things as a Reaction. In extremus, there might be a build/magic item combo that will let you pull off all three but nothing comes to mind.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Haste will let you attack and ready a movement. If you're a hasted monk, you can also Patient Defense (dodge as a bonus action), for a ki point. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:29
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They hit you before you move.

You ready an action to move when the monster attacks. The rule says:

"When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round."

So the monster attacks you then you move. Even if you readied to move backwards out of the monster's attack range, it makes no difference. They hit you before you move.

One workaround is to ready an action when the monster moves into a space adjacent to you. They move. You react by moving (maybe provoking an Opportunity Attack) out of their reach to safety. Of course if they have movement left they can follow you and maybe attack anyway.

Of course the above doesn't work in your case where you end your turn adjacent to the monster.

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"Improvising an Action"

You can improvise any action, your DM tells you if it is possible at all, and if it is, what roll to make. (Player handbook around Page 192)

Specifically what you describe, would probably require a very high roll, because it would normally require 2 Turns.

If I was the DM, I would for example offer to give you disadvantage on your own attack, and make you roll an Acrobatics check DC:15 to be able to take the Dodge action. Or straight up Acrobatics DC of 30, if you fail you don't get to attack. Or Acrobatics DC 25, if you fail don't get to attack and are prone.

Problems with Improvised Actions you should be aware of:

Improvised actions are annoying for the DM (and a bit for the players). So I am not sure I can recommend them. The problem is, the DM has to make sure they are not just better than the standard actions. But if they are worse, player's would feel bad for doing flavorful moves.

Even in the example above, I would probably adjust the DC based on my players Acrobatics skill. I know that is kind of bullshit, but if I didn't, it could be gamed. In my opinion a flaw in the rules. Because I have to set the DC based on their ability, to balance it.

One way to play it, is to only allow mathematically effective improvised actions, when they use specific environmental situations. Then they can't always use the action instead of the basics.

Or just be upfront with your players, and tell them you won't allow too many improvised actions,and they can't repeat them.

Or you have to adjust the encounter strength budget, if your player's regularly use mathematically stronger Actions.

And definitely tell them, you reserve the right to adjudicate every Improvised Action on an individual basis, with no precedent. And a reservation for personal bias.

Theoretically in a perfect world, Improvised Actions could offer actions that are balanced with the rest, but offer different options. Just like Dodge is situational.

(This is from my own experience, trying to use Improvised Actions in a fun and balanced way as a DM)

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