Action Surge Explained: A DnD 5e Guide for Players and DMs

Last Updated on November 16, 2022

Action Surge is a powerful game mechanic that allows DnD players to take an extra action on their turn. This can be used to significant effect in battle, enabling players to unleash a flurry of attacks that can overwhelm their opponents. However, there are limitations on what you can do with Action Surge and who can use it. 

Action Surge Stats

When you reach level 2, you can push yourself beyond your normal capabilities for a short time. You may take one additional action on your turn. After using Action Surge, you must finish a short or long rest before using it again. At the 17th level (or higher), you can use it two times before resting. However, you are still limited to using it once per turn.

How To Use Action Surge

Simply put, any fighter that is at least level 2 can use Action Surge to get another action on their turn. Action Surge gives you more options and flexibility in how you play the game. The extra action you gain can be used to make an attack, cast a spell, dodge, disengage, help, or hide. 

With more actions, players have a chance to show off their creativity and come up with some truly unique solutions to problems. It should be noted that an Action Surge can only be used once per short or long rest, so it is essential to use it wisely. Saving this extra action for a clutch moment could be the difference between a quick victory and a long, drawn-out battle.

Action Surge gives you a lot of options and can be used in a variety of ways. Here are just a few examples:

  • You can use it to make an extra attack to take down multiple opponents.
  • You can use it to cast a spell. This is useful for dealing damage, healing allies, or debuffing enemies.
  • You can use it to dodge being hit by a powerful attack.
  • You can use it to disengage and escape from a dangerous situation.
  • You can use it to hide from your opponents.
  • You can use it to help an ally in combat.

Using Action Surge for Extra Attacks and Actions

Players typically use Action Surge to make an extra attack on their turn. However, they are not limited to making weapon attacks with the extra action granted by Action Surge. They can perform other actions as well. 

Players who are multiclassing fighter/wizard or fighter/clerics can combine their actions in exciting ways to get the most out of both classes. A fighter/cleric may make an attack before healing a companion with an additional surge of energy, and a fighter/wizard may want to use Action Surge to cast two spells in a single turn.

Since you get two entirely separate actions, you can mix and match them however you want. 

Using Action Surge To Cast Multiple Spells

One of the most unique uses for Action Surge is to cast multiple spells in a single turn. Players often take full advantage of this strategy by multiclassing as wizards or other characters who rely heavily on magic, like sorcerers. 

Alternatively, 3rd-level fighters get to choose an archetype, and one of the options for a fighter character’s martial archetype is the eldritch knight. The eldritch knight archetype grants you the ability to learn and cast select cantrips and spells, so you can use your Action Surge to cast more than one spell in a turn as a fighter.

Casting two spells in a single round can be a game-changer, especially if those spells are strategically placed. For example, you could cast a firebolt to damage an opponent and then follow up with a healing spell to heal yourself or an ally.

In some cases, using the same spell twice is also very effective. You could use Action Surge to cast two Thunderwave spells in quick succession in a tough battle, like a boss fight, dealing double the damage to your targets. Remember, Action Surge counts as an additional action, not a bonus action, so it doesn’t have the same limitations as a bonus action when it comes to spellcasting.

Using Action Surge for Strategic Movement and Escape

Players can take Action Surge to Dash, which gives them extra movement for their turn. Use a Dash to close the distance between you and your enemies quickly or to get out of the way of danger.

Action Surge can also be used to Disengage, which means you can move away from an enemy without provoking an attack of opportunity. This can be useful for avoiding enemy attacks or getting to safety when you know you’re out of your league. 

Who Can Use Action Surge?

Action Surge is a feature of the fighter class and is only available to fighter characters. However, DnD 5e offers players the option to multiclass. You can still use Action Surge if you have levels in another class besides fighter.

To use Action Surge as a multiclass character, you’ll need to have at least two levels in the fighter class. It doesn’t matter what other classes you have levels in after that. As long as you have two fighter levels, you can use Action Surge. Multiclassing is, however, an advanced subject, and we recommend that only experienced players attempt it.

Two-Weapon Fighting and Action Surge

In DnD 5e, characters can take advantage of wielding two weapons at once using the Two-Weapon Fighting style. This allows characters to make an extra attack with their off-hand weapon using a bonus action. 

Fighting with two weapons and using Action Surge will allow you to deal some serious damage. When using this strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that your character can only use one bonus action on their turn. For instance, a character that was wielding a shortsword and a dagger could use Action Surge to attack with their shortsword twice and then use their bonus action to make an attack with the dagger. 

At level 5, fighters can make an Extra Attack. A 5th-level fighter wielding two light weapons could make up to five attacks by taking advantage of the Extra Attack ability. Now imagine scoring a critical hit on one of those attack rolls, and you can see the real potential of the fighter class. 

Action Surge: Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Action Surge, let’s answer some of the more commonly asked questions about this ability. 

Does Action Surge Give Players an Extra Bonus Action?

Action Surge does not give players an extra bonus action. It lets players take an extra action on their turn, which is different from a bonus action. Players who use Action Surge during combat can still take advantage of their bonus action if they have one available. For example, a player could use Action Surge to make two weapon attacks in a single turn and then use their bonus action to cast a spell.

How Often Can a Character Use Action Surge?

Characters can use Action Surge once per short or long rest. This means that characters will have to carefully consider when to use Action Surge because it won’t be available very often.

For example, if you’re trying to escape from a group of enemies, using Action Surge to Dash away may be your best bet. Or, if you’re in a boss fight and need to deal some extra damage, using Action Surge to cast two fireballs could turn the tide of battle. After level 17, characters may use Action Surge twice per short or long rest, but they cannot use it twice in one turn.

Can Action Surge Be Used With Extra Attack?

Yes, Action Surge can be paired with the Extra Attack feature to give a character more attacks in a turn. This can be especially effective for characters with high damage output or who are fighting multiple opponents. Starting at level 5, fighters can take an extra attack anytime they take the attack action. Since action surge gives fighters an extra attack action, a 5th-level fighter can use action surge to attack up to four times in a single round of combat!

Is Action Surge OP?

Action Surge is a powerful ability, but it’s not overpowered. Remember, most fighters can only use action surge once per short or long rest, so it’s not something that can be used every turn. 

In addition, using Action Surge gives players an extra action, but it doesn’t give them an extra bonus action. It’s not like Action Surge gives players two turns in a row. Is it strong? Of course. But this is an area where fighters excel, swinging their weapons as often as possible for significant damage. 

Advice for DMs

As a DM, you should keep in mind that Action Surge is meant to be an effective ability. When used strategically, players can use it to overcome challenging monsters. That said, Action Surge isn’t the be-all, end-all ability. There will be situations where using it won’t make sense or it’s not the best option. 

If you find that players are relying too heavily on Action Aurge, try to give them encounters that require more than just raw damage output. This will force them to think critically about when and how to use their actions, and it’ll make the game more fun. In short, Action Surge is great, but it won’t break the game unless you allow players to abuse it. Do this by limiting where and how often the players can take a rest and by choosing monsters that can’t be taken down by muscle alone.

Conclusion

Action Surge is a powerful fighter ability that can be used in creative and effective ways to help you and your party succeed in combat, escape from danger, or just give you the edge you need to win. When used wisely, fighters can take down multiple opponents and deal massive damage. Action Surge is a versatile ability, so experiment and find what works best for you.

And, as always, have fun!