As discussed somewhat in Is knocking someone prone worth it? the advantages of knocking prone are rather situational, and in particular, depend a lot on where you and the enemy you want to knock prone fall relative to one another in the initiative order.

If I knock someone prone whose turn is right after mine in the initiative order, the only impact that has is using up half of their movement. Considering they're right next to me, they probably didn't want to move anyhow. They're going to get right back up and hit me, with really no ill effects.

On the other hand, if I knock someone prone whose turn is right before mine in the initiative order, they're down for almost the entire round, and my nearby companions may have the opportunity to take melee attacks against them with advantage.

I would like to somehow add a house rule that reduces the initiative-order dependence of the benefit of knocking prone, but I'm not sure what would work well.

I considered making getting up from prone provoke attacks of opportunity, as it did in 3.5e (and maybe other editions) but that's probably too much of a penalty in the context of 5e combat.

Does anyone have a playtested house rule that makes knocking someone prone more consistently worthwhile (at least if you have nearby allies)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You can't see the advantage in knocking them prone and then moving further away than half their movement? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Aug 21, 2015 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Usually the person knocking prone is a tanky player who isn't trying to get away. (Conversely, the players most likely to want to get away are likely to fail any attempt to knock prone.) But I'm not asking for ways to use knock prone -- that's covered in the linked question. I'm asking about making its benefits less initiative-order dependent. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2015 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Knocking people prone for the tank is pretty powerful, actually. Especially for a high level fighter with Shield Master. Getting 4 attacks, all with advantage, (at level 20) is very strong. \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Aug 21, 2015 at 23:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh your comment fits better as an answer to the linked question than to this one. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21, 2015 at 23:30

3 Answers 3


Why would you Shove without a follow-up?

Knocking someone down is not really a good strategy in any fight (real or imagined) if you don't have a follow-up. When was the last time you saw a UFC/MMA fighter push someone to the ground and then just let them get up? When somebody in a gang does a shove, they're doing so to let their friends jump on the fallen.

Once you knock someone down, your next step is really to Grapple them or attack them while they are on the ground. A Grappled creature's movement is reduced to zero, so you can effectively prevent them from getting up (like the gang above)

In fact, the Monk actually do this Shove and Attack starting at level one with their Martial Arts skill. So you knock somebody down (Attack Action), kick them in the head (Bonus Action) and even step away if you want (Move Action, their AoO at Disadvantage). If you move away, they typically can't attack you on the following round because they have to waste their movement standing up.

Note that at 5th level a Monk (or other PC with Extra Attack) could do both a Shove and Grapple as part of the Attack Action to effectively pin their opponent. Escaping the Grapple requires an action and standing requires half movement, so pulling this off pretty much wrecks the target's turn.

This is clearly a gang-up tactic, but that's expected.

Is Initiative the Problem?

Consider that the problem here may actually be the initiative order itself.

You point out the problem of effectively "metagaming" the timing of the action, but also the problem that it will basically never allows you to benefit.

DMG (P.270-1) presents an alternate initiative system titled Speed Factor.

Under this variant, the participants in a battle roll initiative each round. Before rolling each character must choose an action...

This is followed by some modifiers for speed and action type. The action order in each round is random (weighted). This means that knocking someone prone will always have at least a chance of being useful. And there's no "house-ruling" required as this is straight from the book.

If you're really worried about the metagaming aspect of Shoving/Grappling etc. this might help as well. I've used this "initiative per round" and it does kind of solves the problem of gaming the initiative order, both for things like Shoving and for things like Healing. However, it introduces other problems like wasted Actions. So it may be a little much just to solve the Shoving problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also remember that you can ready/delay. Wait until your opponent had his turn and shove him then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neuneck
    Sep 2, 2015 at 13:34

Here is what I personally use in my game that I am running currently. To stand up from prone you have two options.

First, you can just stand up and it costs your entire movement and then you can attack. The standing up provokes an attack of opportunity by anything and everything that is threatening the creature standing up.

Second, you can stand up at the cost of your entire turn. You/they don't get to move, attack, or anything else. But you/it are now standing and it essentially cost you a turn.

This allows for player choice between tanking the hit and returning fire, or safely standing back up for the next round. For the original attacker, this allows for a net positive: they get either a) two opportunities to attack on the next turn: full round + AoO, or b) a full round attack without the fear of retaliation.

This functions similarly to the Disengage action except you are unable to move any distance other than standing up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What were the results of this on your game? \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Aug 28, 2015 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ It works incredibly well. It balances it and allows for player choice. And we haven't run into any way to exploit it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2015 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see, you're basically making the Prone person do a Disengage Action before standing up, is that right? I'll try to use this on my games then I'll give you more feedback :) This is really useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Aug 29, 2015 at 2:56

In terms of usefulness regarding initiative, a possible solution could be houseruling in the possibility of intentionally delaying your initiative to move down in the turn order. This could potentially allow you to control where your turn falls in relation to the person you are knocking prone, but also offers the said person a chance to get away before hand. The moving initiative rule is useful for me since I keep track of initiative using cards, and my players use it as an additional resource, positioning their own initiatives after turn 1 in order to maximize effectiveness of not only prone effects, but also positioning for AoE spells and reaction ranges. However, this solution also lessens the overall importance of the initiative system post turn 1, and as such fails to recognize the benefits of increased initiative after the first attack. So far, I have not heard anyone expressing dissatisfaction with this rule, but testing has been limited in terms of use towards knocking prone.

An alternate option may be to Ready the action, with a trigger of "when he attempts to move, I will knock him prone." At the DM's discretion, you could have your trigger be timing related rather than action related. "When his turn is over, I will jump into initiatve and knock him down."

Finally, you could simply change the benefits or consequences of being knocked prone. Maybe it takes the entire turn for someone to regain their footing due to the force of the strike. A final easy fix might be ruling that you suffer the penalties for falling prone until the start of the attacker's (the one who is performing the action of knocking prone) turn.The knocked prone until end of the attackers turn rule tends to work well in smaller groups, where the penalty is offset by a lower number of players taking advantage of it, but the negative is that it effectively grants an uncontrollable modifier to the recipient until the end of the attacker's turn, and can be overly powerful in groups with more than 6 or so players in them. This may not fully carry over, since this was mostly play tested in 4th edition, which had a different approach to combat than 3.5 does. Additionally, my players tend to be less power gamer and more role player, so some exploitations of this may be unknown to me.

The only limiting factor on the rules is the DM. If you say it works a certain way, that is how it works.

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    \$\begingroup\$ the question asks for a playtested houserule; you've nicely pointed out how the existing Ready action might help, but your suggested houserules appear speculative. Have you tried/used any of these? Relating your experience would improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 21, 2015 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The first two paragraphs look pretty solid to me, your houserules in the 3rd is pushing it, I think. +0 \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Aug 22, 2015 at 1:19

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