Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Fighting on your feet in D&D 5e is hard enough, let alone on your back! The prone condition isn’t the most debilitating condition in the game, but it can offer some tactical advantage to you or the monsters you fight.
Let’s take a look at what the prone condition is, what it means, and how we can use it in combat.
What is the Prone Condition in D&D 5e?
The prone condition in D&D 5e represents a character that is done or on their back, rather than on their feet. It can be part of some other conditions, such as unconsciousness, but it’s most often a condition characters will see on their own. The condition hampers both movement and attacks.
Here’s how the prone condition is described in the Player’s Handbook:
- A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
- The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
- An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within five feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
In other words, the prone condition is a nasty thing to have if you are a character that relies on attack rolls or mobility.
Characters that use attack rolls will find that they can’t fight well while prone thanks to the disadvantage. When you’re forced to take a low attack roll with disadvantage, even low AC foes can suddenly pose a bigger threat.
Meanwhile, crawling cuts your walking speed in half. So, characters that rely on movement to get in and out of a fight, such as the Monk or Rogue, will find it harder to play their skirmishing role.
Finally, granting advantage on attacks in melee is rough. A dragon’s claws or a giant’s club already hit like a truck. Granting advantage to these bruisers means that, not only are they likely to hit you, they have a better chance to critically hit you for even more damage. Stand up against your foes when you can!
How Do You Get Up From Prone?
Thankfully, getting up from prone is easy. If you spend half of your movement speed, then you stand up from prone with no trouble with your movement.
Now, spending half your movement speed means you lose half your speed for the entire turn, including if you take the Dash action.
This means that it can take more movement for a Wood Elf Monk to stand up compared to a Gnome Wizard, so be aware of that difference.
Do You Get Opportunity Attacks on Prone Targets Trying to Get Up?
Unlike earlier editions of D&D, standing up from prone in D&D 5e doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. Even feats like Sentinel don’t work on these foes because the foe hasn’t moved out of your reach yet.
What Ways Are There to Knock Opponents Prone?
There are plenty of ways to knock foes prone in D&D 5e. It’s not a tactic that is limited to any one class or category of characters. If you build towards it, almost any character you create can take part in the fun.
The Athletics Skill
One use of the Athletics skill in combat is the Shove action. With this action, you can make an Athletics check against an adjacent creature. They respond with either an Athletics or Acrobatics check of their own, depending on what skill they want to use.
If the character initiating the Shove gets the higher result, the defender is either pushed back five feet or knocked prone.
The best part is that the Shove action can replace an attack. So, characters that have the Extra Attack feature can use their first attack to push an enemy prone and then use their next attack to make a melee attack.
That melee attack would now have advantage since the defender is prone!
A number of class abilities give characters the chance to knock enemies prone, too. Here are some of those features from the Player’s Handbook:
- Wolf Totem Barbarian – Totemic Attunement: High-level Totem Barbarians can knock Large or smaller foes prone as a bonus action when raging.
- Battlemaster Fighter – Trip Attack: This maneuver lets a Battlemaster Fighter force a creature to make a Strength saving throw, knocking the foe down if they fail their save.
- Open Hand Monk – Open Hand Technique: Early on, Open Hand Monks can force Dexterity saving throws against a foe they hit with Flurry of Blows or knock them prone.
- Four Elements Monk – Fist of the Unbroken Air: This action for Four Elements Monks forces a creature to take thunder damage and be knocked prone on a failed Strength saving throw.
- Four Elements Monk – Water Whip: Four Elements Monks can also force Dexterity saving throws as an action with this discipline to deal bludgeoning damage and knock a foe prone.
While not as numerous, there are some feats that have prone synergies in the Player’s Handbook. Here are what those feats are and what they do:
- Charger: With this feat, a creature can Shove a foe as a bonus action after taking the Dash action.
- Martial Adept: This feat lets you grab the Battlemaster’s Trip Attack maneuver and use it with a superiority die.
- Shield Master: With this feat, you can knock Shove a foe as a bonus action with your shield after taking the Attack action.
Spells do all sorts of fantastic things in D&D 5e, including knocking foes prone!
These spells are spread across the different class spell lists, letting most classes get in on the fun:
- Command: This divine spell can let you force a creature to kneel, rendering them prone for a turn.
- Destructive Wave: This pinnacle of Paladin spellcasting does massive thunder and radiant or necrotic damage in addition to the prone condition it inflicts.
- Earth Tremor: A short-range earthquake from this arcane spell forces nearby creatures to take some bludgeoning damage and fall prone.
- Grease: A small, slippery area made by this arcane spell forces creatures to make a Dexterity saving throw against the prone condition when the spell is cast or when a creature enters the area.
- Sapping Sting: This dunamancy cantrip forces a Constitution save against both necrotic damage and the prone condition.
- Sleet Storm: This Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard spell doesn’t deal damage, but it does knock foes prone, reduces visibility and mobility, and impairs concentration in a fairly large area.
- Tasha’s Hideous Laughter: A low-level arcane spell, Hideous Laughter knocks a creature prone on a failed Wisdom saving throw by forcing them to fall to the ground laughing.
- Thunderous Smite: This Paladin smite spell deals thunder damage in addition to knocking foes prone.
- Tidal Wave: This upgraded line spell deals bludgeoning damage and knocks foes prone in front of the caster.
- Watery Sphere: When this spell ends, the restrained creatures inside the spell are dumped onto the floor, rendering them prone.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.