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My friends and I have all our characters set up & created for D&D 5e. We will be playing with the first scenario, The Lost Mine of Phandelver. We haven't purchased the Player's Handbook.

When there is an attack (by the Goblins), how do I know if we hit & then factor in a glancing blow vs damage as they have leather & shields etc?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you take a quick look at this question and see whether it clears up your questions? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, when you say "first scenario," are you talking about The Lost Mine of Phnadelver? If so, combat is described in chapter 2 of the accompanying rulebook--have you taken a look there? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 21:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also also, welcome to the site and to the hobby! There are many here who can and will help--we just want to be sure to do it in a way that (a) helps you and (b) makes the site an even-better repository of knowledge for future querents. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 21:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FrankHilary Do you have Lost Mine from the Starter Set, or did you get your hands on it in some other way? If from the Starter Set, there's a second "Beginner's Rulebook" in there where chapter 2 covers combat rules. (I have to give my kids dinner right now, but if nobody else's been by in an hour I'll grab my copy of the beginner's rulebook and quote you the relevant portions.) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ So @FrankHilary, we need clarification on if you have the rulebook from the starter set and have read it yet. (If not - read it first, then ask questions about what you're having trouble with). You don't need the PHB, the Starter Set has all the info you need (and since you've created characters somehow, you have access to the rules...). \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 0:56

2 Answers 2

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The fullest training is the rules booklet written for beginners, which comes with your Start Set, the one titled Starter Set Rulebook. It covers this in detail on pages 11 to 12, under the heading Making an Attack and the sub-headings under it (“Attack Rolls”, “Unseen Attackers and Targets”, “Ranged Attacks”, “Melee Attacks”, “Opportunity Attacks”, “Two-Weapon Fighting”).

That section explains how and what to roll to determine a hit or miss (basically, you roll a d20, add relevant bonuses, and if the total meets or beats their Armor Class, you have hit and you can roll damage). There are no such things as glancing blows in D&D 5e, as you either hit or miss.

For the case of the goblin ambush, you'll also want to carefully read the heading right after that section, Cover, on page 12, and the sub-heading “Surprise” on page 9.

Also, assuming you are the DM, carefully read the notes for the Goblin Ambush section (Lost Mines of Phandelver, page 6). These notes tell you exactly which rules you'll need to read to manage this first encounter and combat, and where to find them in the Starter Set Rulebook. Mostly it says the same thing as I have above, but the notes also highlight a few details, like where to find goblin stat blocks (especially what their Stealth modifier is), and what the goblins will do if the fight begins to go badly for them.

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How to Adjudicate a D&D Attack

So, your party has just gotten tangled up with a ball o' goblins -- for simplicity's sake, let us assume neither side has surprise on each other (i.e. "has the drop" on the other side), and everyone's rolled their initiative already. While the characters scramble about to get into a battle order with their weapons drawn and at the ready, let's run down how this works in D&D 5e from the player/DM perspective. (Page numbers in the headings are as follows: SS = Starter Set's rules, PBR = WotC Players' Basic Rules PDF, which you can read for more detail, PHB = Player's Handbook for cross-reference purposes.)

Hacking and Slashing (SS 11-12/PBR 73-74/PHB 193-195 for attacks, SS 12-13/PBR 74-76/PHB 196-197 for damage)

Someone had the gumption to swing their sword or loose an arrow at someone else during their turn. Now it is time to see if that attack connects. Once the character has chosen their target, and assuming that the target is not covered and neither side is at advantage or disadvantage because of some condition, a twenty-sided die is rolled, and two modifiers are applied: ability and proficiency. If the character is proficient with what they're wielding, their proficiency bonus becomes the proficiency modifier to the attack; also, either their Strength (for regular weapons) or Dexterity (for finessed and ranged weapons) modifier is added to the attack roll. This result is then compared against the Armor Class (AC) of the target, the latter representing the target's defenses.

If the roll is less than the target's AC, or the d20 came up a 1, the attack misses. Otherwise, it's a hit, and damage is rolled -- this involves rolling the damage die for the weapon, adding the ability modifier from the attack roll to the damage die's roll, and then subtracting that result from the target's current hit point value, which represents how hard they are to kill in a sense. If someone runs out of hit points during this process, they are officially out of the fight; otherwise, they fight on through their injuries.

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