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Can creatures, such as player characters, attack while in the air without a flying speed? For example, could a PC jump straight up in order to attack a monster, which would otherwise be out of their reach, at the apex of their jump?

What about multiattack? Would a creature be allowed to make more than one attack in mid-air? For example, a PC with four attacks for a single Attack action seems a little silly to be able to pull off mid-jump.

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Moving and Jumping

PHB, Movement and Position:

In combat, characters and monsters are in constant motion, often using movement and position to gain the upper hand...

Your movement can include jumping, climbing, and swimming. These different modes of movement can be combined with walking, or they can constitute your entire move. However you're moving, you deduct the distance of each part of your move from your speed until it is used up or until you are done moving.

From this we know that your jumping movement is just one component of your total movement, and can be used like any other part of your movement on your turn.

PHB, Breaking Up Your Move:

You can break up your movement on your turn, using some of your speed before and after your action. For example, if you have a speed of 30 feet, you can move 10 feet, take your action, and then move 20 feet.

So, you can move forward (move), jump up (move), potentially attack at the apex of your jump (action), and then fall back down (falling / forced movement). I say potentially attack, because it is not clear whether or not you can attack before you fall. The PHB has rules for how much damage you take if you do fall, but does not say when you fall (at what point your fall starts) or how fast you fall. Xanathar's Guide to Everything adds some optional rules for falling that say:

When you fall from a great height, you instantly descend up to 500 feet. If you’re still falling on your next turn, you descend up to 500 feet at the end of that turn.

Note that while XGtE tells us how fast you fall (instantly, at least for the first 500 feet), they don't say when you start falling either1.

Attacking in midair is up to the DM's interpretation of falling

Since it is not defined by the rules, whether or not you can attack in mid-air is thus up to the DM's discretion, but there are basically two schools of thought. Some might say that if falling happens at the end of your turn, then when you reach the highest part of your jump you can take any action you want, just as the rules for breaking up your movement allow. Of course, you cannot immediately continue your movement after your action since you cannot use your walking speed while aloft, but you would be permitted to take the attack action, potentially including all of your attacks if you had multiattack or Extra Attack, before you fell. This school of thought would similarly allow you to cast a 1 action spell mid-jump.

The other line of reasoning is that you fall immediately, as soon as you are no longer applying jumping movement. In this school, you would not have 'time' to attack because as soon as your jumping move ended you would immediately fall your whole falling distance without having had the chance to take the attack action. D&D players being what they are, there is an elegant workaround under this ruling, however. Before you jump, you spend your action to Ready the Attack action, with the trigger being when you are next to the target but just before you fall. Then you jump; your readied action will trigger before you start to fall. It being your turn, you will even have access to all your attacks, at the cost of having used your reaction.

Personally as a DM, where the rules are unclear, my decision often leans on narrative verisimilitude. I would permit a single attack at the apex of a jump as reasonable, but not an entire four multiattack sequence.

Adjusting for the circumstances

Normally when you attack, you have your feet firmly on the ground. Your martial training likely has practiced things like moving your weight from one foot to the other as you attack for maximal delivery of force. Your DM is certainly free to rule that a jumping attack is so unusual that in order to do it, you would need to check against 'a difficult situation while jumping'. Failing at this check would mean you were not permitted to make the attack at all.

PHB, Using Each Ability (emphases mine):

Strength Checks
A Strength check can model any attempt to lift, push, pull, or break something, to force your body through a space, or to otherwise apply brute force to a situation. The Athletics skill reflects aptitude in certain kinds of Strength checks.

Athletics
Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping, or swimming. Examples include the following activities:

You attempt to climb a sheer or slippery cliff, avoid hazards while scaling a wall, or cling to a surface while something is trying to knock you off. You try to jump an unusually long distance or pull off a stunt midjump.

On the other hand, your DM could also rule that no check is required to make a mid-air attack - you can attempt it automatically, but it would be more difficult to hit than a normal attack, since your window of opportunity is narrower in time and it is easier to protect against. The standard rule for making a task more difficult due to circumstances is applying disadvantage, in this case to your attack roll.

PHB, Advantage and Disadvantage:

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.

The DM determines the results of your actions

Since both calling for checks and applying disadvantage fall under the DM's purview of "the DM determines the results of your actions", they could simply ignore both ability checks and disadvantage and allow you to make jumping attacks with no modifications at all to your rolls. Or they could combine the two approaches, and allow an unhindered attack on a successful Athletics check and a disadvantaged attack on a failed Athletics check. In the case of multiple attacks, they might impose increasingly higher DC's to a check for each additional attack, etc.

A recent example from my own game

In a recent game I DM'ed, the demilich boss monster was flying just out of reach of the party's paladin and his smite. The paladin's player asked whether he could jump high enough to attack with his sword. I said that he could not, but that if he wished to run at and then spring off a fellow PC (currently true-polymorphed into a marilith), he could attain enough height to make a single attack. I said that would allow him to make a DC15 Athletics check - but if he failed the check, he would not get the attack, would need to make instead a Shove attack to knock his fellow PC prone, and would himself automatically fall prone. The other PC, upon hearing this, asked whether she could, seeing her companion approaching, assist him in the jump. I said that if she used her reaction to turn to face the paladin more squarely, and dropped two of her swords so as to use her hands to make a stirrup, the paladin would have advantage on his Athletics check. None of these mechanics decisions were rules, but they are examples of a DM using rulings to adjust to the circumstances of the narrative.


1On your second turn of falling, your falling happens at the end of your turn. But XGtE does not say specifically when falling happens on your first turn of falling, or what initiates the fall.

We do know (from PHB 191) that if a flying creature is knocked prone it begins falling at the point it is forced prone, but nowhere are we told what happens to a jumping creature, when it starts falling, or what actions it may take at the apogee of the jump before it begins to fall.

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Yes

Movement and Position:

Your movement can include jumping, climbing, and swimming. These different modes of movement can be combined with walking, or they can constitute your entire move. However you're moving, you deduct the distance of each part of your move from your speed until it is used up or until you are done moving.

Breaking Up Your Move:

You can break up your movement on your turn, using some of your speed before and after your action. For example, if you have a speed of 30 feet, you can move 10 feet, take your action, and then move 20 feet.

QED.

As for pulling off unbelievable Matrix-like mid-air manoeuvres; these guys are heroes, right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I love your short and concise answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 12, 2023 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai I love my concise answers too but then, I’m a narcissist \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Apr 12, 2023 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perfect answer. One more time, DnD is not a reality simulator. It is a game. Someone say "unrealistic", I answer with the "you have no power here" meme gif. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2023 at 12:49

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