Evasion Explained: a DnD 5e Guide for Players and DMs

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

As your character gains levels, you eventually gain ways to reduce the amount of damage you take. Barbarians, monks, and other martials need the ability to shrug off some damage in order to stay in the fight. No one can beat the rogue, though, when it comes to this. They get Uncanny Dodge and Evasion.

This post is all about Evasion (which monks also get) and how to use it well. For the rest of the rogue’s abilities, check out this post here.

What Is Evasion? 

At 7th level, monks and rogues gain the ability to take no damage when passing a Dexterity Saving throw that normally forces them to take half damage. This is called Evasion.

How Does Evasion Work?

Evasion represents your character’s instinctive reflexes. Rogues and monks are considered to be Dexterity-based, nimble combatants who can dodge and squirm out of the way even when it is seemingly impossible.

Whenever you are subjected to a Dexterity save that normally does half damage on a success, you instead take no damage at all.

That’s what it means mechanically. For flavor, you can say that your character hides behind another character, or hits the floor so fast the explosion misses them, or even manages to hide behind a shield, or simply spins so quickly that the flames curl around them harmlessly.

It really doesn’t matter. The point is that when an effect requires a Dexterity saving throw and still makes you take half damage on a success, you instead take no damage.

Movement and Evasion – for DMs

Some tables like to add a bit of realism to their DnD games.

That’s just fine. No problem.

If your table is one such table and a player has evasion, you may consider having the character fall prone in order to take no damage.

This could be a penalty, however, as prone does allow melee attacks against you to be at advantage. Allow the character to stand up with no movement penalty if they choose.

Alternatively, to grant the character a bonus, you could allow them to move to the edge of the area of effect instead of going prone if possible.

For example, if they are subjected to a dragon’s cone of fire and they save for zero damage, the player could move to one square outside of the cone as a reaction.

There is give and take with every method you choose, so leave as much as you can up to the player.

Move as reaction up to 20 feet, or go prone and stand up for free on your turn or during any reaction? Let the player decide, and there will be no hard feelings.

What Does Evasion Protect You From?

The ability description has the unfortunate wording of “certain area effects.” This tends to get players and DMs confused, wondering which area effects and if some spells that are not area effects still apply, such as reservation. To draw a very clear, rules-as-written line, the ability says that when a Successful Dexterity Save still imposes half damage, you instead take zero damage when you pass the save.

Therefore, if the spell or trap or special attack says you “take half damage on a successful Dexterity save,” then evasion will protect you. If it does not have those exact words, then evasion will not protect you. So, to find out if evasion works, there must be two criteria.

1. Is there a Dexterity save? If not, evasion does not help.

2. Does the ability say you “take half damage on a successful save”? If not, evasion does not help.

Spells like enervation, where you take 4d8 damage per round on a failed save and 2d8 damage on the first round from a successful save do not meet these criteria because there is much more to enervation than just a load of damage. Spells and effects like fireball and lightning bolt do meet this criteria because the spell requires a Dexterity save, and it says, word for word, that you “take half damage on a successful save.”

What Classes Get Evasion?

There are two classes that gain evasion: the rogue and the monk. I am glad the monk gets evasion as monks are traditionally hard-to-hit, defensive martials with nearly supernatural movement capabilities. That being said, monks do not get uncanny dodge, which rogues get at 5th level, meaning a rogue is actually more difficult to do damage to than a monk, which is weird for an old 3e player like myself.

The only option is to multiclass rogue and monk so that you can make a ninja. There is no other way to play Dungeons and Dragons 5e; sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Is Evasion Necessary?

That depends on how much damage you want to take and if you have other methods of reducing damage. Do you already have uncanny dodge, absorb elements, rage, or any type of damage resistance? You may not rely on evasion so much if you do, but evasion stacks with all of these things!

It is good to have multiple ways to reduce damage. So many of the ways you can die in Dungeons and Dragons are dependent on a Dexterity save, so if you are taking rogue or monk levels, get to at least 7th level before multiclassing.

You will be grateful.

Common Questions

We get loads of questions here at the Citadel asking about very specific information. Concerning Evasion, this what we found in the abyss of questions archives.

Does Evasion Only Work on Areas of Effect?

So, technically, it does not. Evasion works only when you must make a successful Dexterity save for half damage.

While this criterion pretty much only applies to areas of effect, it need not be specifically so. There could be a trap or a spell that targets a specific person with a Dexterity save for half damage that is not an area of effect, but this is fairly rare. Like I said above, to find out if evasion works, there must be two criteria.

  1. Is there a Dexterity save?

2. Does the ability say you “take half damage on a successful save”?

That’s it. Now scroll down to the question about enervation where I tell you to ignore that criteria.

Does Evasion Work on Disintegrate?

This is an unnecessary question because disintegrate does no damage on a successful save. As far as this spell is concerned, everyone has evasion!

Does Evasion Work on Enervation?

No. Enervation does not have the words “take half damage on a successful save.” The spell has a different effect entirely on a successful save.

The difference lies in how damage is calculated. If the caster rolls a handful of damage die and you take half of what they roll when you pass, then you get the benefit of evasion. If they roll a different number of damage dice when you pass, you do not get evasion because this is a different spell effect.

Yes, I know that 2d8 is technically half of 4d8 – but it actually isn’t half. When the caster rolls 4d8 damage, they will get a number that divides by half on a successful save. This is different from rolling a different number of dice on a successful save.

If your player insists on arguing, tell them that the evasion ability mentions “certain area effects” and that enervation is not an area effect. I know I said above that technically it doesn’t matter, but at this point, the player is being obstinate.

A Chart To Answer Your Spell-Specific Questions

Using the above questions as a guide, I have made a very handy chart where you can see if the particular spell you have in mind is affected by evasion.

All of these spells require a Dexterity save, though not all of them deal half damage on a successful save. This is the determining factor for evasion, and this is how I wrote the chart.

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