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Was wondering how reasonable this ruling is RAW (RAI this was almost certainly not the intention but hey martials take what they can get). Ruling assume you're using Falling onto a Creature Rules alongside the assumption written in Xanathar's that falls are meant to be resolved immediately after ascending any amount of feet.

Wavejumping

Wavejumping is essentially a shorthop onto an opponent that exploits the different triggers for when creatures become prone during a jump, as described in the following rules.

Falling, Player's Handbook

At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6. The creature lands prone, unless it avoids taking damage from the fall.

Falling onto a Creature, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (p. 170):

If a creature falls into the space of a second creature and neither of them is Tiny, the second creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be impacted by the falling creature, and any damage resulting from the fall is divided evenly between them. The impacted creature is also knocked prone, unless it is two or more sizes larger than the falling creature.

While you land prone only if you do take damage, enemies you fall on go prone just from you impacting them on a failed save, and because falling onto a creature rules has no set height for what triggers the DC 15 dexterity save, you can jump or fly over a medium sized creature 5 ft (or 6 if you think you would just land on top of the creature by jumping 5 ft), and immediately fall into their space, giving you a chance as part of your movement to prone someone, rather than taking a action to do so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack, take the tour when you have a moment. We prefer to keep question posts focused on a single problem, and your concluding paragraph has several, some of which are off topic here (“would you use this” and “what homebrew rules would you use” are opinion polls). I voted to close this question for now, I would recommend focusing this question on the first question on your list, “does this work RAW?”. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 8:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ And side note, there is no rule for oversized weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 8:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this not the same question as your previous one: Falling onto a Creature vs Moving Around Other Creatures Rules I'm not sure there is a substantial difference in the answers that can be given, as it seems to be about the same nature of rules interactions. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Nov 22, 2023 at 11:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the prone aspects, this tech/exploit also looks like it could be abused to circumvent the restriction against moving through an enemy's space. Instead of moving into the enemy's space, jump and fall into the enemy's space, and then use your movement to leave the enemy's space on the opposite side. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "While you land prone only if you do not take damage". I think you mean 'While you land prone only if you take damage' or 'While you land prone only if you do not avoid taking damage.' \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 22, 2023 at 14:20

3 Answers 3

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Expect exploits to be patched by the DM.

This is a really interesting interaction, and I can see where you’re coming from in the strictest rules-as-written sense. However, this is an exploit, a bug, a loophole in the rules. What do I mean by this? Anything that lets you do for free what normally has a cost is an exploit. Notably, shoving another creature requires use of the attack action:

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

Attempting to knock an enemy prone normally costs your action and one of your available attacks as part of that attack action. This apparent loophole in the rules says that anyone can attempt to knock an enemy prone at least a few times per turn, without expending their action and attacks to do so. This is a textbook example of an unintentional exploit, and you can expect it to be “patched out” by the DM when you try it. I’d recommend just asking the DM before ever trying this, instead of putting them in a position to make a ruling on this in the middle of combat. And to be clear, the DM doesn’t need to come up with a rules-based rebuttal to this idea. “No, you can’t do that” is good enough.

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    \$\begingroup\$ After looking over the answers I believe this one to be the most reasonable take. Will say after testing some one shots the mechanic is much more fun than Shoving, a typically underwhelming ability that players have available to them. Really opens up what a martial is able to do in a turn, and if the mechanics of a theoretical game were made to allow players to utilize their movement more it could lead to a cooler martial experience without adding a bunch of random spell-like techniques/maneuver to their class abilities. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23, 2023 at 22:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FriendlyNeighborhoodChicken: Did your playtesting run into enemies that used this technique on players? With 18 Str, anyone can jump 7 feet off the ground with a running start, apparently, high enough to fall a foot or so onto a Medium PC's head / shoulders. So large strong monsters should be able to attempt knockdowns on PCs, at least as they close the distance. And flying monsters can exploit it the way you're talking about. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24, 2023 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have playtested several sessions with this mechanic as both a player and a dm, and I have to say: it makes martials such a fun time lmao. Another comment suggested that you can rule a flying creature has to become prone to freefall, which I think is a fair ruling given flying is otherwise objectively better than jumping if you don't go by the ruling that vertical height from jumps don't cost movement. Monsters become a lot cooler in what they can do as well since the bigger ones can fall on multiple creatures at once, though that's a question for another time. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24, 2023 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just being a mechanic on its own is fine, but it gets players to think more about vertically in terms of their problem solving, making use of falling object mechanics and dropping objects being a "no action", or climbing up walls to get a higher vantage point for bigger damage falls, or getting the spellcaster to Hold Person/Monster to make them auto fail the dex saves against stuff that falls on them, etc etc. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24, 2023 at 19:41
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So, five potential problems here:

  1. The rules for falling fail to define a fall. That said, the rules for Falling from the PHB begin:

    A fall from a great height is one of the most common hazards facing an adventurer.

    And the plain English definition involves a meaningful drop. Many DMs don't count any fall of less than 10' as a fall in the first place, so you wouldn't truly be landing on someone, you'd just be trying to enter their space.

  2. In order to actually fall on someone from a non-trivial height (even if you don't treat 10' as the minimum, there is some logical minimum before it counts as falling, hopping off a curb is not falling by any stretch of the imagination), you have to fall far enough to count as "a fall" before hitting them, but your total distance fallen does not subtract their height from it (arguably if you hit them, definitely if they make their save), so, for whatever you consider the minimum distance to constitute a fall, if that distance plus their height is 10' or more, you will have falling damage to split, and barring means of reducing it, you'll fall prone with them.

  3. For the specific case of abusing flying movement for this purpose, the strict RAW only specify three ways for a flying creature to fall:

    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 by the fly spell.

    If you're trying to argue this ability into existence by questionable RAW claims, RAW, you can't choose to fly and then fall without one of those three things happening, and the only one you have full control over is dropping prone, which would undo the extra benefits of flying for your edge case; you could always stand up after falling, but it would consume half your movement to do so, so no making 20 attempts at this no matter what. If you're getting really technical, it's possible you can't even do that, because the rule only says you fall when knocked prone, and choosing to fall prone is not the same thing.

  4. The wording "is also knocked prone" has an unclear antecedent for "also". It could be referring to the damage being split, or it could be referring to being knocked prone just like the falling character. Either way, arguably, if there is no damage to be split, or the falling character would not be knocked prone, nobody would get knocked prone.

  5. Is a jump with no net change in height a fall? If not (and it's reasonable to say it isn't, because otherwise people take damage from amped up jumps), then jumping won't work to trigger this.

In practice, my personal ruling would be:

  1. This can't be done with flying movement, per #3 above (which closes off the biggest exploit)
  2. If you can't get at least 10' above the victim, it's not a fall, and it resolves as an attempt at a shove. Without meaningful falling speed, you can't fall on someone, they just shove you back out of their square as part of their control of the square.
  3. If you can get at least 10' above the victim, you resolve the damage per Tasha's rules, and (unless you're a monk with Slow Fall or can otherwise reduce the damage dealt to you to zero), you'll end up prone at the end of it, and they might end up prone if they fail their save. If you have at least half your movement left afterwards, you can always stand up and derive some benefit from this, as they'll be prone and within 5' of you, granting you advantage on your attack(s). You'll need to be careful about how you do this, as repeated attempts, or attempts that traverse a square (cube?) within 5' of the target and subsequently leave it will allow the target at attack of opportunity.

The main remaining exploit I can see here is for monks, where they could repeatedly either spend Ki to boost their jump height if you decide a high enough jump counts as a fall even if no net change in elevation occurs by the end of it, or (at 9th level) wall-run high enough to produce a fall that would achieve the desired effect. If a DM considers this abusive, they could still rule that Slow Fall protects both faller and fallee (managing to roll with a fall while still hammering the person you fall on feels rather weird), and that a fall that deals no damage does not knock the victim prone, and that would be a reasonable reading of the rules. Or they could let you do it, because, without flying shenanigans involved, and with the likely attacks of opportunity you'll be triggering if you try to do this multiple times, it's falling within the bounds of reasonable (monks can use all the help they can get as is).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about the flying rules, +1. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'mma go through each of the 5 as I see it 1. That's a descriptor not a rule as I see it. The reason I didn't post that bit of it is it had no bearing on how the game itself works. 2. Falls by diction are just "to drop or come down freely under the influence of gravity." If a insect can descend 3 inches and still fall, this is just a matter of perspective, which still has no bearing on rules. 3. With 'Being Prone' rules allowing you to initiate being prone as part of movement I agree to the extent this stops abuse. Thank you for finding this. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 10:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ 4. Also doesn't mean "and if you do". Grammatically speaking if the impact can happen without dealing damage, and it can prone targets you impact, then you can prone without dealing damage. 5. To fall 10 ft, you have to fall in increments of 5 ft, or even 1 ft at a time. Flying groundward isn't falling even if you don't stop, so by that logic the entire movement has to be falling to accumulate movement towards the mechanic that deals damage to you. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 10:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This feels a bit like you’re applying a double standard: “fall” is understood in a colloquial sense in #1, but is treated extraordinarily strictly in #3. Moreover, even in the strictest sense, the quotation in #3 only provides three things that cause a creature to fall—it does not state or imply in any way that this list is exhaustive, so your analysis is guilty of affirming the consequent there. If nothing else, I see no reason a creature couldn’t fly to a given height, and then elect to simply no longer be flying, and thus immediately fall. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 22, 2023 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: I wasn't making a single unified argument here (that's why it's five potential problems, not five unambiguous rules). The rules around all of this are ambiguous, and many interpretations of them are bad (e.g. any interpretation that allows an Aarakocra to make several attempts to render an opponent prone with no personal cost other than expending movement). I was making arguments for how, within the ambiguity of the RAW, you could avoid allowing abuse in various ways without resorting to Rule 0 alone. You don't like one of them, feel free to pick others. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 15:43
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This could work for falling, but check with your DM

Jumping is not falling

First, jumping is a form of active movement in the game, as explained under the movement rules (p. 190 PHB)

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.

Falling is passive, it does not deduct its distance from your speed, so it is separate from jumping. So jumping onto a creature is not falling onto the creature, and the rules for falling, including the optional rules for falling in Tasha's do not apply to a jumping creature.

You could potentially do this with a flying creature like an Aaracokra, by flying up, then stopping to fly and falling. However, as this answer explains in detail, technically you cannot just choose to fall as a flying creature. So a DM may well counter your tactic of a technical reading of this rule with an equally technical reading of the flying rules.

Vertical space

Vertical space is not well represented in the rules. There is no height given for the space a creature occupies. But from common logic, you can only impact a creature by falling into their space, when you fall onto them in some way, and that means that you need to be at least above the creature before you start falling.

Moreover, you cannot enter the space of a hostile creature with your movement, so you would need to fly high enough to be over them when you start falling. Depending on how tall the creature is, this may mean you need to be at a height of at least 5 feet when you start falling. As falling itself deals no damage, the benefit of repeated falling onto the same creature would be very limited. As you need to fly up at least 5 feet, and move at least 5 feet to a new space, if you have a fly speed of 50, you could at best drop 5 creatures with this tactic in one turn if they all stand next to each other and are not too tall (possibly attracting opportunity attacks made at disadvantage as you leave their reach).

Does the creature you drop on fall prone if it takes no damage?

The optional rule says:

any damage resulting from the fall is divided evenly between them. The impacted creature is also knocked prone, unless it is two or more sizes larger than the falling creature.

I think looking at the paragraph in isolation, it is most accurate to read the paragraph as you suggest: the creature you drop on has to make a saving throw, and if it fails only takes damage if there is damage from the fall to be divided. Then, new sentence, wether it took damage or not, it also falls prone, the also referring to the failed saving throw and its consequences, which do not need to involve damage.

It however also is possible to read this in a larger context: damage from the fall is shared between the creatures, and then the impacted creature is also knocked prone. That is, the also refers to not just failing on the saving throw, but it refers to failing the the saving throw and taking damage. The context here is that you yourself only fall prone from falling if you take damage, that is, there is the general idea in the game that a fall has to be substantial enough to cause damage to make someone drop prone.

I think that is a less technical reading, but one that is more in line with how the game overall handles falling, and I can easily see a DM ruling this is how they run it, so before banking on using this tactic, clear with them if they are OK with it. Also remember this is an optional rule. A DM who feels you are explointing the wording may be incentivized to shut down the rule to begin with.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that there was a Sage Advice bit about jumping high and taking falling damage on the landing, but I don't have it to hand at the moment. That may have an impact on your answer. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast If there was one it has been retracted -- the latest version of SAC (v 2.7 from 2021) has no such entry. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2023 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast An impact, you say? \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Nov 22, 2023 at 17:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @order yes, you caught me punning there. 😁 \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24, 2023 at 20:11

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