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I have a player who loves to just grab other PCs or NPCs to get them out of danger in the middle of combat. He's got the highest DEX mod in the party so he's usually at the top of the initiative ahead of everyone else.

For example, there is a damsel in distress who acts later in the initiative and the party is being attacked by thugs. They're on the second floor, so he ties off a rope in the first round, then stands between her and the thugs to prevent them from attacking her (it's a small room), then on the next turn, he grabs her around the waist and jumps out the window with rope in hand.

I'm fine with the idea, but every time it happens a part of me cringes because it feels like it's circumventing the initiative order. In the scenario above, if the damsel is the target of the thugs, and the thugs would have acted before her, it removes the opportunity for further conflict to occur because his first instinct is to grab her and run.

To be clear, the above is simply one example. I'm not concerned with that scenario specifically, so a good answer should address the following concern:

How can a PC move a willing ally without violating movement rules (by granting another PC or NPC "extra" movement) or allowing out-of-initiative movement?

How can I handle this in a way that doesn't affect his agency as a player but also doesn't "cheat" the system by essentially allowing free out-of-turn movement? Am I worrying about nothing? I want to encourage creative actions such as this as it's far more interesting than a slugfest to protect the girl, but I also want to adjudicate the rules and not give an unfair advantage to the players.

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Three steps to deal with this, although step zero is probably “yes, don't worry about it so much.”

  1. Make sure the action is actually possible first. A character only gets one free simple interaction with an object, such as closing or opening a door, or drawing or sheathing a weapon, or jumping up on a table. Pulling out a rope (interaction #1), tying it around a post (#2), grabbing someone (action), and jumping out the window (interaction #3 maybe? + movement) is more than can be accomplished in one turn. And carrying a fellow adult — even a cooperative one — is non-trivial, so make sure that's not happening for free either: pull in the encumbrance rules and penalties on movement speed to see if they can actually jump out that window this turn, or if they maybe end their turn perched precariously on the windowsill, just in time for the thugs to get their turn.

    Also note that if the hero is physically blocking the thugs over two turns in order to fit all the interactions in, the thugs will naturally be adjacent to him and will get opportunity attacks on the hero (but not the damsel) when he moves out of their reach by jumping out the window. He also sometimes won't effectively block them if he's busy mucking about with a rope unless it's a very narrow space, because you need two hands for tying rope; thugs can just move past an unarmed hero without provoking opportunity attacks.

    If he grabs her arm and “leads her away”, then that's not going to work at all — she can't follow his lead without using her own movement, so all he's doing is Readying an action to walk with her when it's finally her turn. (He would have to grab her arm and drag her away, not using her own movement, to make it happen on his turn. And I'm sure the damsel will have words with him after — or during — such a maneuver…)

    But however it works out, let it work out how it should by judicious leverage and application of the rules rather than trying to decide that it shouldn't happen at all.

  2. Notice that forced movement is a thing in the game and doesn't break any rules. Initiative is just who gets to act first; it doesn't prevent others later in the initiative count from benefiting from those actions.

    Is this an interesting way to make one character end up farther away than they could on their own? Yes, but it's at the expense of another character spending their turn in a rather sub-optimal way. (Although, sometimes the real goal is better served by doing something “sub-optimal”, so the definition of that is arguable.) Pushing and pulling others around is something you can do with your action, so there's no reason to be alarmed about it being used to improve an ally's position.

  3. This doesn't end the conflict. Just because he's moved an ally out of imminent danger doesn't mean the danger packs up and goes home. He jumps out the window with her? Well… quite apart from the risk of dropping someone because you're jumping out a window and trying to hold up the weight of two people with bare hands and no climbing harness (which you might want to talk about, and maybe call for checks regarding), you still have a conflict — just not a combat.

    There's nothing stopping the thugs from peering out the window, shouting “Follow them!” and clambering down the rope too; or dropping rocks, chairs, cannonballs, and priceless bric-a-brac out the window on our intrepid heroes' heads; or hustling down to ground level to kick off a breathless chase conflict.

So yes, don't worry about this. Roll with it, take any necessary few moments to consider how to apply the rules to adjudicate the attempt, find out if it works, and then make the enemy react realistically and interestingly to the unexpected tactic.

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There are two broad scenarios presented in your question and comments:

  1. Forcibly moving someone outside of turn order (grabbing the princess).

  2. Prompting another character to move outside of their turn (giving the princess a shove and saying "come with me if you want to live").

Grabbing People

This is the simple case, and there's not really a problem here as long as you give the rules their full consideration.

You're modifying the grapple rules on page 195 a bit. It takes an action to "grab" your target, and then movement is at half speed.

There are a lot of little benefits to this. The princess gets extra movement. The princess gets to move sooner. There are ways to game opportunity attacks, since forced movement doesn't trigger them.

Keep in mind that the player is giving up his action and a large chunk of his movement to create this tactical situation. There is a lot that a player character can accomplish with an action and movement.

Is a bit of extra princess movement "worth" the fight taking a round longer? Probably not from an optimization stand point, but it certainly sounds exciting :)

There does exist the potential for abuse here, in that it's a system that probably wasn't playtested thoroughly and players are clever. But I wouldn't worry about it in advance.

Nudging People

The trickier case is when you don't bodily grab your target, but instead give them a nudge in the right direction.

The first thing of note here, is that this shouldn't give the princess extra movement, or movement out of turn. The princess reacts when the princess reacts, and saying "go that way" doesn't make her react any sooner.

The big issue here is that D&D doesn't have a very good system for modeling "two people moving hand-in-hand." You have a few options, but they all have drawbacks:

  • Just have your hero move on his turn, and then the princess move on hers. This breaks down if a bad guy comes between the hero and the princess between their turns.

  • Have the hero use his action to Ready an Action to move with the princess. This works, but feels very mechanical. And the hero probably wanted to use his action for sword fighting.

  • Have the princess ready her action to move with the hero (on his next turn). Same as above; feels very mechanical. Means the princess can't use her action to help defend herself.

  • House rule the "delay" action back in (i.e. allow the hero to drop his initiative to be the same as the princess). Simultaneous turns aren't well supported in the rules. Lots of potential for abuse here, as a lot of durations are "until your next turn." On the other hand, such abuse is obvious, and easy to root out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that if the damsel is willing (e.g. she doesn't want anything to do with these thugs and is perfectly happy to be carried away from that mess), she can intentionally fail her opposed roll on the grapple check, and then the usual movement rules as outlined here apply. \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J Oct 10 '17 at 18:05
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Just because he has the highest Initiative order doesn't mean he gets to decide what other characters will do.

If you deem the NPCs are willing and the action doesn't have any other impact on what his character can do (limit movement speed, other actions, etc.) then I don't think there's a real issue. However, if the other characters have motives that aren't in-line, that should be played out.

Example: In the case of the Damsel in Distress, if she DOESN'T want to be picked up, there has to be a grapple test. There's the Action for that character. And even if she was willing, his speed will be affected depending on how much he is now carrying. If it is more than the total carrying capacity, speed is now just 5' (PHB pp176)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Speed will be halved (unless she's a very small princess) because of the rules on moving a grappled creature (phb, 195) \$\endgroup\$ – yinzanat Dec 2 '16 at 19:50
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Queue the action as a readied action and fulfills on the targets turn.

I had been playing in a game (5E) where players became accustomed to doing this. In fact, it was to the point where it was breaking physics (players using their actions to pull other characters, resulting in an poisoned old man going 120ft per turn down a street to race him to the apothecary.) Our DM spoke to us about it and we settled on a readied action system to ensure initiative order still played a role in the happenings of each participant..

The combat went as follows:

Beginning of round 1

  • Player A wishes to move NPC X out of a pool of acid. Player A readied their action until the start of NPC Xs turn.

  • Beginning of NPC Xs turn so the readied action triggered, resulting in the NPC being moved. The "take damage at the start of your turn" from the pool of acid was waived because of the result of Player As readied action. The rest of the turn for the NPC carried out normally.

This turned out to not be ideal in 100% of the occasions, however it worked for the lions share of instances. Unique occasions were of course paused and discussed for a resolution.

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Definitely require some kind of check to move the human-sized thing (which is, you know, fairly heavy). Don't allow the movement just on the say-so of the player.

Others have suggested a grapple check if the target is unwilling. Even if the target is willing (e.g., imperiled princess), I'd say that a Strength check is in order, possibly with a bonus for the willing rider. This will mean that there's some tension, and the tactic will work around half the time.

It also has the benefit that now it becomes an interesting choice on whether the party tank is a better choice for this move (lower in initiative order, but easier to pass the Strength check and hoist someone over their shoulder).

I know that many of us as DM's are a bit soft on a ruling like this, esp. to allow dragging a fallen PC out of a fight at will; but those kinds of rulings open things up for abuse like this later on.

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I can think of two basic things. 1 any ally can move another ally/willing character within their movement. For example A is ally 1 B is ally 2 and c is enemy. A and C are in combat. B moves before A and C. B can move A out of engagement without provoking an opportunity to attack as long as A doesn't resist, AND as long as B takes the placement. IE stands where A was already.

IF B tries to move A without consent it is a grapple check, IF B doesn't replace A's position it is a opportunity to attack.

Its like "walking through" the person as you move them out of the way.

Another thing that could happen is, the window could have been locked, or a security window so not easily broken or their didn't have to be a window. Also, the person could weigh more than they can easily lift without taking a disadvantage or becoming encumbered. Or the person could be chained. OR there could be artificial reasons. they could get injured or twist an ankle if the person is reckless.

If this is a constant thing, you could also mechanically make the enemy NPCs "learn this" about this player and make traps designed so that his valor will result in an ambush or trap. because they become aware of his reputation. ALSO you can lower the reward from constantly performing the same behavior. or provide Larger reward for those who perform within character in new and exciting ways either new EXP or giving inspiration for creativity or Make it so encounters have rewards they are missing out of when they bypass the encounter.

Like have a room with a obvious looking trap, like a damsel but also have a trunk that looks like it has something important. Or on the captives turn they say "you idiot I was trying to investigate those thugs for the local authorities" or "i was trying to capture them" or even "you forgot my trunk with my family heirloom" and the captive attempt to recover the item.

Speaking of that trunk Point it out to make them want to stay to see what is in it. and if the scenario goes the way you planned have something extra special in the trunk. IF not say the enemies steal the trunk which is what they were really after and the captive was just in the way. Now the party has to rescue the trunk in distress.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello there, and welcome to the site. Please take the tour and visit the help center page. Bear in mind that we are not a discussion board, and expect questions and answers to be laser focused. Your answer currently looks more like an attempt to start a discussion, which doesn't work very well in our "best answer to the question" voting system, but you're off to a good start. Please consider making an edit to your answer to bring it more in line with site guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 2 '16 at 22:51
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The actions you describe would not normally be allowed during a single turn. Tying the rope off would be an action and grabbing the girl would also be an action (a grapple check which she chooses not to resist). Perhaps a thief could tie off the rope with Fast Hands, and if that is the case, I would say "fine, he has invested the necessary resources while forgoing others to make this his character's shtick."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Dan, thank you for the input but this doesn't address my concerns in the least. My concern is the player grabbing and moving NPCs or other PCs and moving them, circumventing initiative order and movement rules. Please try to address that in your response. The action regarding the rope is immaterial and served only to better illustrate my example. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 2 '16 at 20:19
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Prepare a 'hidden trap' so that when the subject is moved out of the way, the PC is inadvertently putting them into graver danger. Do that once or twice, make them think about that action in the future. . .

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello there, and welcome to the site. Please take the tour and visit the help center page. On RPG.SE we expect answers to directly address the question, and I'm not sure how this addresses my concerns as presented. Bear in mind that we are not a discussion board, and expect questions and answers to be laser focused. I don't know what object you are referring to, nor do I feel that it would be fair to suddenly introduce a trap to punish the player for what I feel is actually a pretty smart idea -- I just want to know how to avoid letting it be abused. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 2 '16 at 20:27

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