Does casting a ranged spell (Scorching Ray for example) into an enemy creature currently engaged in melee with an ally grant me disadvantage?

That was poorly worded, I'm sure. So for example; If Player 1 is fighting Orc A. They are both within each other's melee distance of 5 feet. Player 2 who is 30 feet away with no creatures around casts Fire Bolt at Orc A. Fire Bolt requires a ranged spell attack roll, would Player 2 have disadvantage?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Could you quote the place in the PHB that makes you think there should be disadvantage? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question may be hailing from earlier editions; I know that AD&D 2e, for instance, had you make a check to see which character in a melee you were actually targeting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passage
    Feb 9, 2017 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


There wouldn't be disadvantage on the attack roll.

If the target is behind the other player, however, the target will benefit from cover. See page 196 of the Player's Handbook for those rules. Likely, the target would gain the +2 AC bonus for half cover.


Disadvantage no, Penalty maybe

The caster doesn't suffer disadvantage from their ally being in melee, only when they are (PHB p.195):

When you make a ranged attack with a weapon, a spell, or some other means, you have disadvantage on the attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature who can see you and who isn’t incapacitated.

However, if your ally is standing between you and the enemy, he will give the enemy half-cover (PHB p.196):

A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. A target has half cover if an obstacle blocks at least half of its body. The obstacle might be a low wall, a large piece of furniture, a narrow tree trunk, or a creature, whether that creature is an enemy or a friend.



There is no rule specifying that a target simply being in combat, melee or not, applies disadvantage to any attackers.

There would need to be other conditions, such as the target taking the dodge action, or being prone, to apply disadvantage to ranged attack rolls.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick The title states that the question is about a target engaged in combat. This is what I addressed. The original question stated very clearly that there was no enemy near Player 2, the ranged attacker, so explaining the effect of an enemy adjacent to the ranged attacker did not seem necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – NaturalOne
    Feb 9, 2017 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since your edit, I've removed my original comment. I still think your first paragraph could be more clearly expressed, perhaps by focussing on the attacker's perspective. Your second paragraph is helpful. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 10, 2017 at 14:51

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