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In 4e, proning was a Defender's best friend. Easy to get with Flail Expertise or Polearm Momentum, and it provided a great reward: no shift+charge for the enemy. It improved your stickiness greatly.

In 5e proning only halves the target's speed, and in combat you usually hardly move once you engaged the enemy. So most of the time you care only about the Advantage/Disadvantage it provides.

So if you have an archer or warlock in your group you are actually better off without proning. You can not benefit from it yourself, as the target stands up before your next turn.

Am I missing something?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pair it with 5e's grappling rules and you become a nightmare for a lot of monsters at the expense of some damage. If you're trying to be a Defender, this isn't that bad and you can shut down some problem monsters for your archer or spellcaster. \$\endgroup\$ – GoodSirTheSir Feb 19 '16 at 14:25
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Prone isn't as strong as it was in 4e, but it can still be a solid tactical choice. You just have to weigh if it's something your party can take advantage of.

The biggest and best advantages of proning are as follows:

  • reduction in movement speed (halved)
  • Advantage on close (5' range) attacks (includes ranged, so it negates the disadv imposed there)
  • Impose disadvantage on the target's attacks

Is prone worth burning your whole action on? Probably not. Is prone worth it if you can add it onto an attack you're already making? Possibly.

This is really a question of party composition. If your party favors ranged attackers (as yours seems to), prone is a bad play pretty consistently. You'll inflict disadvantage on your buddies and that means they'll miss, a lot. However, if you've got a melee rogue or other melee combatants in your party, they'll probably kiss you if you can prone someone consistently. The rogue gets a huge damage bonus with advantage (like several DPR) even if they can already get their sneak attack off, and other melee combatants also get a big boost.

Advantage on their attack rolls plus disadvantage on attacks against them is great. Granted, it's easy to get out of this condition, but if you can do it right after your opponent's turn then you'll get a full round of benefits.

(I think it's worth mentioning here that Advantage/Disadvantage are much stronger benefits than CA was in 4e. Which means that the relatively limited movement restrictions don't matter quite as much)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would also like to add this. A Battlemaster Fighter loves knocking people prone. Trip Attack is one of my very favorite maneuvers. I attack and use Trip Attack on a hit, down they go. Now the rest of my Multi-attacks are made with Advantage. Then I pop Action Surge and run through a pile of Multi-attacks again, all made with Advantage. At max level, this would equal a potential total of 15 dice rolls to hit that enemy (1 normal, 7 at Advantage). For extra OP fun, pair that with a Vorpal Sword. You statistically now have a 75% chance of insta-decapitation in one round. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 27 '17 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another situation that should bear mentioning is knocking a flying creature prone will cause it to immediately fall 500 ft. according to Xanathar's Guide. In this situation the falling damage could potentially be very 'worth it'. \$\endgroup\$ – Destruktor Jan 13 '18 at 16:45
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Yes knocking an opponent Prone is a solid tactical choice if the attacker is part of a larger group attacking an opponent who is the focus of the group's attacks. Once an attacker has knocked the opponent prone, the remaining attackers will have advantage on their melee attacks.

However unless you have a bonus action or some way of generating additional attacks then it not as useful for one on one fight due to the fact that the prone opponent can get up as part of the movement portion of his turn.

Example

In the Phandelver module a horde of zombie attacked the party at Old Owl Well. The way the situation developed resulted in two of the party members surrounded by multiple zombies. The first zombie shoved a target PC. If he succeeded then that meant all the other zombie attacks were at an advantage. I did this until between a third and a half of the zombies (I randomly rolled) took their action and the rest attacked regardless whether there was successful shove or not.

It proved hugely effective and for this encounter highly evocative of the feel of a zombie attack.

I plan on using this tactic for organized military forces as well. As we now know that wrestling and body contact were part of historical sword fighting.

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Whether it is worth it or not depends on what you must give up to accomplish knocking the target prone as well as how many others in your party will be able to take advantage of the prone target vs how many others will be at disadvantage.

No, not worth it: If you are playing a 4th level Barbarian or a Rogue or any other character with only one attack, it likely isn't worth losing an attack to knock an enemy prone. It also depends on how many melee characters are around to take advantage of the prone target vs how many ranged characters who will be at a disadvantage. And also how many targets there are giving the ranged characters other targets to choose from.

The initiative order also matters as the target can usually stand right back up on its turn.

Monsters that are bigger than large size will not be affected by this.

Yes, very much worth it: In some situations, it can be a fantastic option. This strategy is ideal for a character with multiple attacks who has the Shield Master feat. There aren't a lot of competing uses for a fighters bonus action (second wind once per rest). Every single turn the character takes the attack action he/she gets a "free" bonus action that allows a chance to knock the target prone with his/her shield. The beauty of this is the character, especially fighters who don't generally have a lot of use for their bonus actions, does not sacrifice a normal attack or spend superiority dice or burn up a spell slot or use any other limited resource. The character has the option of doing this every single turn! If you use your bonus action first and succeed in knocking the target prone, you can use all your remaining attacks to hit the prone target with advantage. And once the target is prone, all your melee buddies can beat on the target with advantage with all their attacks until it stands up again. The target burns half its maximum movement to stand up so its options to run away are limited. If other characters can reduce the target's movement further, to below half its movement, it won't be able to stand up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure whether this was supposed to be a direct answer or a comment; I think you could edit it to make it answer the original question more directly, though, which you should do. Answers on RPG Stack Exchange aren't like forum replies. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jan 26 '17 at 4:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Better? Thanks for the feedback. \$\endgroup\$ – James Wood Jan 27 '17 at 12:26
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At higher levels barbarians can have the option to use a bonus action to knock an enemy they hit prone. With two attacks that means if they hit with the first they can knock 'em down and then wail on them a second time with advantage. So even if the monster goes next they still would get at least one good blow and then would have to try and creep away before they get the smack down on the next.

I would look at prone as something you can capitalize on as the opportunity presents itself.

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There are ways to turn that lost movement into a lost turn with the right combination. Standing up doesn't cost half your current movement, it costs half your MAXIMUM movement. In other words, if you can reduce a target's movement low enough, they won't be able to stand up at all.

For example, say an enemy has 30' of movement, and is knocked prone. Now in the next turn, two casters attack that enemy with Ray of Frost. The enemy now only has 10' of movement left, but needs 15' to stand up. They've fallen, and they can't get up! Unless they have ranged attacks, they're now a much less significant threat. Even if one of the rays misses, they'll still only have 5' of movement left, so any threatened characters can probably just move out of the way.

Against melee-only enemies, Eldritch Blast + Repelling Blast can also work, by pushing an enemy so far back that they can't reach any party members on their next turn. The Monk's Open-Hand style works as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a reference on "half your maximum"? Page 191 just says speed, and RoF reduces speed instead of costing speed. \$\endgroup\$ – Hassassin Sep 27 '14 at 7:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Page 191 explains that it consumes half of your speed for the turn, rather than half of your current speed, and that you can't get up if you have less of your speed for the turn remaining. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Sep 27 '14 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ But Ray of Frost doesn't consume movement, it drops your speed by 10 for a round. So you still have your full movement remaining, it's just smaller. \$\endgroup\$ – Hassassin Sep 27 '14 at 9:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget, those casters are attacking at disadvantage since the Ray of Frost is a ranged attack, and the enemy is now prone. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Aug 21 '15 at 21:53

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