Dodge Action 5e: 8 Great Times to Use It (2 Not To)

Last Updated on October 6, 2023

What is the Dodge Action in DnD 5e? 

Dodge is one of the actions your character can take on their turn in combat. When you take the dodge action, your character forgoes attacking, dashing any other combat action in favor of avoiding enemy attacks. 

When you dodge, you impose disadvantage on any attack roll made against you by an enemy you can see, including attacks of opportunity.

You also gain advantage on Dexterity saving throws. If you are incapacitated or your speed is reduced to zero, you lose the benefits of this action. 

Anyone can dodge on their turn in combat. Much like attacking, disengaging, hiding, etc. Dodging is an option that’s available to all creatures. Because dodging takes an action, you can’t attack and dodge on the same turn without a special ability or spell (like Haste), but you can still use a bonus action if you have one available. 

The Dodge action ends if you are incapacitated or your speed is reduced to zero. This isn’t the same as not moving or using up all your movement allowance in a turn. The following conditions can render you incapacitated and/or reduce your speed to zero:

  • Grappled
  • Incapacitated
  • Paralyzed
  • Petrified
  • Restrained
  • Stunned
  • Unconscious

Dodge also doesn’t prevent enemies from grappling or shoving you, as these actions require your opponent to roll a check, rather than make an attack roll.

This also means if an enemy is using dodge to avoid your attacks, the check made to grapple them will not be made at disadvantage. If successful, the grapple check will also reduce their speed to zero, negating the effects of dodging for any subsequent attacks. 

How to use the Dodge Action in DnD 5e

The Dodge action comes into play whenever your character desperately needs not to get hit during the next turn. 

You might want to Dodge when…

  • Your health is so low that one more hit could send you into Death Saving Throws. 
  • You’re concentrating on a spell affecting yourself or someone else and any damage will force a concentration saving throw. 
  • Your opponent has a huge attack bonus that means they have a better than 70% chance to beat your AC.
  • You have high AC, so forcing your opponent to roll twice nets you maximum chance of a missed attack.  
  • You are fighting multiple opponents who are focusing on you. 
  • You need to block a doorway or narrow passage against multiple enemies and want to survive as long as possible. 
  • Enemies have ranged weapons and you don’t. 
  • You lose your armor, shield, mage armor, or other defensive buffs/useful equipment. 

Dodge is also a great way to increase the likelihood that you will be able to halve the damage from incoming area of effect (AoE) spells and effects.

Because most AoE damage spells (not to mention other effects like burning oil hurled from castle walls or poisoned darts flying from a dungeon trap) force a dexterity saving throw, giving yourself advantage using the dodge action can mean taking half damage, or avoiding harm altogether. 

When Not to Use the Dodge Action

Dodge isn’t always the right move. In fact, if you’re in combat, it’s almost always the right decision to inflict damage on an enemy rather than try to avoid their attacks.

The sooner you can take them out of the fight, the better. If you just want to buy time—holding off an overwhelming opponent to give your allies the precious seconds they need to foil a ritual or escape—then dodge can be a useful tool in your arsenal.

However, there are plenty of situations where either attacking your enemies, or using one of the other combat actions, will be the smarter move. 

You shouldn’t dodge…

  • If your enemies are attacking from the darkness, from behind heavy cover, or are invisible, dodge will be ineffectual, so you’re better off retreating or getting into cover. 
  • If you are already in close combat with your enemy and don’t want to be anymore, try the disengage action to get free. If you need to move through a large group of enemies, it’s also better to disengage, as you won’t provoke attacks of opportunity. 

In most cases, it’s always better to find ways of increasing your character’s armor class (AC) than relying on dodging, especially against lower CR monsters.

If your character doesn’t have heavy armor proficiency, then the best way to recreate the effects of Dodge without dodging is to make sure you are always in at least half-cover. Half-cover grants +2 AC, three-quarters cover grants +5, and if you break line of sight and get your character inside full cover, you can’t be targeted at all. 

Mechanics that Interact with the Dodge Action

There are a few mechanics belonging to D&D 5e’s more evasive classes that interact with the dodge mechanic. 

  • The Monk’s Patient defense allows the class to spend 1 Ki point to dodge as a bonus action, which is very valuable if you find yourself suddenly surrounded, since Monks traditionally lack high AC. 
  • The Dwarven Fortitude racial trait released in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything allows a dwarf to spend a hit die to regain hit points whenever they take the dodge action. 

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