Combat can seem very complicated at a glance (and it certainly can be), but at its most basic level it’s all about taking turns in order.


Initiative determines the order of turns during combat. Each participant in a battle rolls a Dexterity check (1d20 + Dex mod) at the beginning to determine their place in the initiative order; higher numbers go first. Combat then proceeds in a round-robin format. Each individual receives a turn; when all turns have been completed, combat moves to the next round.

Your Turn

On your turn, you can do two things:

1. You can move a distance up to your speed (as determined by your race and maybe class)
2. You can take one action, such as attacking, casting a spell, or using an item

Some characters may also be able to take bonus actions according to their class, racial, and other abilities. You can perform up to one bonus action on your turn each round.

You can interact with one other object or feature of the environment for free on your turn. For example, you could open a door or draw your weapon.

Making an Attack

Attacks, whether melee, ranged, or magical, follow a similar structure.

First you choose a target within range: right next to you for melee weapons like swords or axes, or further away for ranged weapons like bows or spells.

Next you must make an attack roll, which determines whether the attack hits or misses. You’ll need to roll 1d20 + the relevant ability modifier + your proficiency bonus. Melee attacks use Strength, ranged attacks use Dexterity, and spells use the ability modifier as described in their spell description.

If the total of the roll plus modifiers equals or exceeds the target’s Armor Class (AC), the attack hits.

A natural 20 automatically hits and is a critical hit. You roll all of the attack’s damage dice twice and add then them together when determining your damage.

A natural 1 automatically misses and is a critical miss. The attack misses, even if it would have otherwise hit.

Hit Points

Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck. A creature’s hit points can vary from its maximum right down to 0, with hit points being subtracted whenever it takes damage.

A creature’s capabilities are not impacted until it drops to 0 hit points. If it takes massive damage, it could die outright. Otherwise, it falls unconscious and begins dying, but still has a chance to stabilise.

Unless it results in death, damage isn’t permanent (and even that can be reverted with powerful magic). Rest can restore a creature’s hit points, as can magical methods such as a cure light wounds spell or a potion of healing. A creature’s hit points can’t exceed its hit point maximum.


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