Her village was turned into a battlefield, but a lone Fighter survived. Now, the enemy is closing in. A torn banner lies at her feet, stained with blood.
The Fighter grits her teeth and sends a prayer to Ilmater, begging for the strength to do what must be done. As the enemy moves in, she marks her target. May Ilmater’s wrath guide her spear.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides several optional rules for the game. One such option allows players to Mark a creature, making it easier to land attacks of opportunity against it.
This rule is perfect for players and DMs looking for more strategic combat encounters.
What Is the Mark Action?
The rules for using the Mark action can be found in Chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This chapter contains several optional rules and rule variants that DMs are encouraged to explore.
Chapter 9 also contains rules for actions that aren’t available in the Player’s Handbook. Several additional actions are available, including Disarm, Tumble, and Mark.
This option makes it easier for melee combatants to harry each other with opportunity attacks.
When a creature makes a melee attack, it can also mark its target. Until the end of the attacker’s next turn, any opportunity attack it makes against the marked target has advantage.
The opportunity attack doesn’t expend the attacker’s reaction, but the attack can’t make the attack if anything, such as the incapacitated condition or the shocking grasp spell, is preventing it from taking reactions.
The attacker is limited to one opportunity attack per turn.
Source: Dungeon Master’s Guide (p 271)
How to Use the Mark Action
To Mark a creature, characters must first make a melee attack against it. Once the creature has been marked, the attacker will have advantage on any opportunity attacks made against it. What’s more, these attacks won’t expend the attacker’s reaction.
In this way, marked creatures are discouraged from fleeing combat.
On its own, this optional rule will create more opportunities for melee combat and make it difficult to escape close-quarters fighting. This can be a good thing for melee characters, allowing them more chances to land critical damage. Imagine two Fighters who’ve marked each other. Each has incentive to stick around and fight it out to the finish..
Ranged characters, however, will find it harder to escape enemies that break the front lines. Once marked, ranged characters will be forced to use abilities like Disengage to escape melee combat, using a bonus action in the process.
Allowing characters to take the Mark Action will force players to carefully consider their character’s movement on the battlefield. DMs and players alike will enjoy the benefits of marking foes. And both will face the challenge of being marked.
The optional Mark action is perfect for players who enjoy detailed and difficult strategic combat scenarios. Groups ready for a difficult challenge will find that marking creatures can stimulate creative gameplay, forcing both players and DMs to hone their strategies.
Melee-based characters will get more out of marking their enemies than others. Once marked, characters will be forced to choose between a deadly face-off or a dicey escape.
If a Fighter can engage multiple foes and mark a target, not only will they have an increased opportunity to deal damage, but they can exercise some control over their enemy’s actions.
What Characters Should Use the Mark Action?
Any character is free to Mark a creature after making a melee attack. While there are cases where this will be useful no matter what class you’re playing, in general, characters that rely on swords, daggers, and spears will get more from this rule than anyone else.
After all, Wizards and other spellcasters usually do everything they can to avoid getting near the pointy end of a sword.
In order to fully take advantage of the Mark action, it’s necessary to combine this optional rule with character Feats and abilities. Characters that take the Sentinel Feat are trained to pounce at the very moment enemies drop their guard.
When characters learn Sentinel, even creatures that Disengage will provoke attacks of opportunity. If this creature was also marked, these opportunity attacks will gain advantage.
Another way to enhance the benefits of the Mark Action is to take the Polearm Master feat. Characters with Polearm Master can make attacks of opportunity against creatures that enter their reach, and use their bonus action to make additional melee strikes.
Combining Polearm Master with the Mark actions can be a deadly tactic, especially against multiple enemies wielding melee weapons.
Dungeon Masters may decide to introduce the Mark action to the game for a number of reasons. DnD has a lot to offer and not everyone plays the game in the same way. For example, some players prefer roleplaying, while others are in it strictly for the fights.
And while some groups love to hack-and-slash their way to the end of the adventure, others prefer the game to be more strategic. In these games, even one slip-up can cost you dearly.
The optional rules provided by the Dungeon Master’s Guide give DMs a chance to influence the way the game plays. With the Mark action, melee-based characters like Fighters and Paladins gain a greater presence in battle.
Players will be forced to work together to avoid enemy combatants. Spells and abilities that hinder opponents, such as the entangle spell, will take on a greater significance.
DMs who Mark players will be giving the party a run for its money. Monsters will be free to surround party members and Mark them, limiting their options in combat. While players will be free to Mark the enemy in return, this might not be ideal, especially for characters lacking armor or other defenses.
Players tend to use their reactions more than monsters. Because making an attack of opportunity against a marked creature doesn’t use a reaction, players will probably find more use for this rule.
Taking the Mark Action will bring an extra layer of strategy to melee combat in 5e. Because both players and monsters are free to use the Mark action, using this optional rule will influence both sides of the game.
DnD wasn’t designed for any one particular playing style. Players are free to experiment and tailor the game to their own needs. Those looking for deep strategy, and more consequential combat, will enjoy playing with Mark.