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Taken from the Player's Handbook (p. 74)

Manoeuvring Attack. When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to manoeuvre one of your comrades into a more advantageous position. You add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll, and you choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can use its reaction to move up to half its speed without provoking opportunity attacks from the target of your attack.

My query pertains to the interpretation of how you can use this ability. For example, when I first used this ability, I told a friendly to move back from a creature, after he was already 30 ft away, moving him a further 15 ft away again. The reason for this was so that he would be out of range of the creature's breath attack.

So how exactly should this ability be used? Should it be merely to reposition a character (perhaps move a rogue around behind an enemy to get a backstab?), move a friendly into/out of the fight, or can I tell anyone to move 1/2 speed in any direction (not against their will, clearly, so I can't tell them to go jump of a cliff)?

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The ability gives no indication that they have to move in any particular direction, therefore they can move wherever they want.

And no, you don't tell them where to move. I mean you can (effectively make a suggestion) but they move of their own free will, meaning they can choose not to move, and there's also nothing stating they have to follow your directions except maybe a strict reading of:

manoeuvre [...] into a more advantageous position.

So telling your friend to move 15ft away from the creature to get out of the range of its breath attack could very much be considered moving them into a more advantageous position.

It also lets your ally move without provoking opportunity attacks from your target. So one of its primary uses could be to let an ally get away from the enemy without provoking an opportunity attack. (Thanks Miniman for pointing that out)

Anything other than that regarding "how" to use this ability is likely to be primarily opinion-based.

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