Taking Cover 5e: Everything You Need to Know
In the world of 5e Dungeons and Dragons, combat encounters can be incredibly challenging and deadly. One of the most important tactics characters can use to gain an advantage in combat is taking cover.
By strategically positioning themselves behind obstacles and barriers, characters can protect themselves from enemy attacks and gain tactical advantages. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of cover available in 5e Dungeons and Dragons, how cover can be used to your advantage, and how to create interesting cover for your combat encounters.
What is Cover 5e?
In 5e Dungeons and Dragons, cover is a measure of how well a character is protected from enemy attacks. There are four types of cover: no cover, half cover, and three-quarters cover and total cover.
|Type of Cover||AC Bonus||Dexterity Saving Throw Bonus||Attack Roll Penalty|
|Full Cover||Cannot be targeted||Cannot be targeted||N/A|
No cover refers to a situation in which a character is completely exposed and has no physical barriers or obstacles to protect them from enemy attacks. This means that the character does not receive any bonuses to their Armor Class (AC) or Dexterity saving throws due to cover.
In a combat encounter where there is no cover available, characters may need to rely on other tactics, such as dodging attacks, using spells and abilities, or retreating to a safer location, to avoid taking damage. No cover situations can be particularly challenging, as characters must be able to effectively avoid or absorb enemy attacks without the benefit of physical protection.
Half cover is a type of cover that provides partial protection from attacks and spells. A character behind half cover is partially concealed from the attacker and gains some protection from attacks, but is not completely protected.
Examples of half cover include low walls, small trees, or other objects that partially block the line of sight between the attacker and the target. When a character is behind half cover, they gain a +2 bonus to their Armor Class (AC) and Dexterity saving throws against attacks and spells that originate from the opposite side of the cover.
However, attacks or spells that originate from the same side of the cover as the character do not provide any protection from half cover. It’s also worth noting that some spells or abilities can bypass half cover, depending on their area of effect and the nature of the cover itself.
According to the rules of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, a target with three-quarters cover receives a +5 bonus to their Armor Class (AC) and Dexterity saving throws against attacks and spells.
A target has three-quarters cover when about three-quarters of their body is obscured by an obstacle, such as a portcullis, an arrow slit, or a thick tree trunk. The obstacle must be substantial enough to provide meaningful protection, but not so large as to completely block the target’s visibility or movement.
Characters behind three-quarters cover are partially concealed from attackers, but not completely hidden like those behind full cover. This means that enemies can still target characters with ranged attacks or spells, but the characters are harder to hit due to the partial protection provided by the obstacle.
Full cover is a type of cover that provides complete protection from attacks and spells. A character behind full cover is completely concealed from the attacker and cannot be targeted directly.
Full cover is usually provided by solid objects such as walls, buildings, or large rocks that completely block the line of sight between the attacker and the target.
The amount of cover a character has can affect their Armor Class (AC), making it more difficult for enemies to hit them with attacks. Additionally, some spells and abilities may have different effects based on the amount of cover a character has.
Using Cover to Your Advantage
Taking cover can be a powerful tactic for characters in combat encounters. By positioning themselves behind obstacles and barriers, characters can gain a number of tactical advantages, such as:
- Protection from enemy attacks: As mentioned earlier, cover can increase a character’s AC, making it harder for enemies to hit them with attacks.
- Concealment: Cover can also provide characters with concealment, making it more difficult for enemies to see and target them with attacks.
- Line of sight: Cover can be used to block enemies’ line of sight, making it more difficult for them to target characters with ranged attacks and spells.
- Tactical positioning: Cover can be used to position characters in strategic locations, such as flanking enemies or taking advantage of high ground.
Different classes and character builds can benefit from using cover in different ways. For example, ranged characters such as archers and spellcasters may rely heavily on cover to protect themselves from enemy attacks while still being able to deal damage from a distance.
Melee characters such as fighters and barbarians may use cover to gain strategic positioning and protect themselves from ranged attacks while closing in on enemies.
Cover and Ranged Attacks
In Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, cover affects ranged attacks by providing bonuses or penalties to the attacker’s ability to hit their target. The amount of cover a target has determines the size of the bonus or penalty.
When a target has cover, the attacker must aim carefully to hit the target. The size of the bonus or penalty depends on the degree of cover the target has. Here’s a breakdown of how different types of cover can affect ranged attacks:
- No Cover: When there is no cover between the attacker and the target, there is no bonus or penalty to hit. The attacker simply makes their attack roll against the target’s Armor Class.
- Half Cover: When the target is behind half cover, they gain a +2 bonus to their Armor Class and Dexterity saving throws against attacks and spells that originate from the opposite side of the cover. The attacker takes a -2 penalty to their attack roll.
- Three-Quarters Cover: When the target is behind three-quarters cover, they gain a +5 bonus to their Armor Class and Dexterity saving throws against attacks and spells that originate from the opposite side of the cover. The attacker takes a -5 penalty to their attack roll.
- Full Cover: When the target is behind full cover, they cannot be targeted by attacks or spells that originate from the opposite side of the cover. The attacker must move to a position where they have line of sight to the target, or use an area-of-effect attack that affects the target indirectly.
Examples of how different types of cover can impact ranged attacks include:
- No Cover: An archer shooting at a target in an open field has no cover to worry about. They simply make their attack roll against the target’s Armor Class.
- Half Cover: An archer shooting at a target behind a low wall or a tree trunk gains a -2 penalty to their attack roll due to the target’s partial protection.
- Three-Quarters Cover: An archer shooting at a target behind a thick portcullis or a narrow arrow slit takes a -5 penalty to their attack roll due to the target’s substantial protection.
- Full Cover: An archer cannot target a target that is completely hidden behind a solid wall, a thick hedge, or a magic barrier that blocks line of sight. The archer must move to a position where they have line of sight to the target, or use an area-of-effect attack that affects the target indirectly.
Cover and Melee Attacks
Melee attacks, such as sword strikes and punches, can also be affected by the amount and type of cover a character has. If a character is engaged in melee combat with an enemy, and an obstacle is between them and the enemy, the obstacle provides cover for both
characters. This means that both the character and the enemy gain the benefits of cover, depending on the type and amount of cover provided.
For example, if a character is fighting an enemy across a low wall, they both have half cover. This means that attacks made by either character against the other have a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws.
It’s also important to note that some spells and abilities may ignore cover, depending on their mechanics. For example, the Fireball spell creates a massive explosion that affects all creatures within a certain area, regardless of cover.
Cover and Spells 5e
In 5e Dungeons and Dragons, cover can also impact spellcasting. A spellcaster attempting to cast a spell at a target behind cover may need to overcome the cover’s protection to affect the target. The type of cover and its thickness can impact the difficulty of casting spells.
If the spell requires line of sight, cover can prevent the caster from being able to target a creature. For example, if a caster tries to cast Fireball on a target behind a wall, they may not be able to see the target to aim the spell correctly.
If the spell requires line of effect, cover can prevent the spell’s effect from reaching the target. For example, if a caster tries to cast Charm Person on a target behind a tree, the tree may block the spell’s effect from reaching the target.
If the spell has an area of effect, the caster may need to position themselves to target the area of effect behind cover. For example, a caster may need to position themselves to target a group of enemies behind a wall with a Thunderwave spell.
In some cases, a caster may need to destroy or move the cover to affect the target with a spell. For example, a caster may need to use a Disintegrate spell to destroy a wall to hit the target behind it with a Fireball spell.
Overall, the type of cover and its thickness can impact spellcasting in combat encounters. Dungeon masters should keep in mind the importance of cover in spellcasting and consider the impact of cover on spells when designing encounters.
Creating Interesting Cover 5e
As a Dungeon Master, you have the ability to create interesting and dynamic combat encounters for your players. One way to make combat encounters more challenging and engaging is to create interesting cover for your players to use.
Here are some ideas for creating interesting cover in your combat encounters:
Use natural terrain features, such as rocks, trees, and bodies of water, to create interesting cover for your players.
Place objects such as furniture, barricades, and walls to create cover for your players. These objects can be damaged or destroyed during combat, adding another layer of strategy to the encounter.
Use illusions or other magical effects to create temporary or illusory cover for your players. For example, an illusionary wall could provide temporary cover that disappears after a few rounds of combat.
By creating interesting and dynamic cover for your players, you can make combat encounters more challenging and engaging, and give your players more opportunities to use their skills and abilities to overcome obstacles.
Environmental Cover 5e
Environmental features such as trees, buildings, and terrain can provide cover in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. Cover can affect both ranged attacks and spellcasting, as we discussed earlier. Here, we’ll explore how different types of environmental cover can impact combat encounters.
Trees can provide partial cover for creatures that hide behind them. This can be especially effective in outdoor encounters, such as in forests or parks. Creatures can take advantage of the trees to hide behind and gain cover, forcing their opponents to maneuver to get a clear shot.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting a group of bandits in a forest. The bandits can use the trees to their advantage, ducking behind them to avoid arrows or spells, while the adventurers must navigate around the trees to get a clear shot.
Buildings can provide various degrees of cover depending on their construction. Walls and doors can provide full cover, while windows and other openings might provide partial cover.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting their way through a castle. The enemies might be hiding behind walls or shooting arrows from arrow slits, forcing the adventurers to take cover or find a way to breach the defenses.
Terrain features, such as hills, cliffs, and boulders, can provide cover and concealment. Creatures can use the terrain to their advantage, hiding behind rocks or ducking into crevices to avoid attacks.
For example, a group of adventurers might be ambushed by goblins in a hilly area. The goblins might be hiding behind rocks or popping up from behind hills to attack the adventurers. The adventurers must use the terrain to their advantage, taking cover behind rocks or finding higher ground to gain an advantage.
Water can provide partial cover, especially in aquatic encounters. Creatures can use the water to hide behind or duck underwater to avoid attacks.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting a group of sahuagin in an underwater cave. The sahuagin might use the water to their advantage, swimming behind rocks or ducking underwater to avoid the adventurers’ attacks.
In each of these examples, environmental cover provides an added layer of strategy to the combat encounter. Creatures must take cover behind environmental features, and their opponents must navigate the terrain to get a clear shot. The use of environmental cover can make combat encounters more dynamic and challenging.
Improvised Cover 5e
In addition to natural and built-in environmental features, characters in 5e Dungeons and Dragons can use improvised objects as cover during combat encounters. These objects might include furniture, barrels, crates, or even corpses. Here, we’ll explore how characters can use improvised objects as cover and provide examples of how this might play out in a combat encounter.
Characters can use tables, chairs, and other furniture as cover in indoor combat encounters. They might flip over a table or crouch behind a couch to avoid attacks.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting off a group of assassins in a tavern. The adventurers might flip over a table and crouch behind it to avoid the assassins’ arrows or spells.
Barrels and Crates
Characters can use barrels, crates, and other objects as cover in both indoor and outdoor combat encounters. They might hide behind a stack of crates or duck behind a barrel to avoid attacks.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting off a group of bandits in a warehouse. The adventurers might hide behind stacks of crates or duck behind barrels to avoid the bandits’ arrows or spells.
In particularly gruesome encounters, characters might use corpses as cover. They might crouch behind a dead body to avoid attacks or use it as a shield.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting off a group of zombies in a graveyard. The adventurers might use the gravestones or coffins as cover, or they might use the zombies’ corpses as shields.
Characters might also use objects in their environment as cover. For example, they might use a fallen tree as cover in an outdoor combat encounter or crouch behind a statue in a temple.
For example, a group of adventurers might be fighting off a group of cultists in a temple. The adventurers might crouch behind a statue of a deity to avoid the cultists’ attacks.
In each of these examples, characters use improvised objects as cover to avoid attacks and gain an advantage over their opponents. The use of improvised objects as cover adds an element of creativity to combat encounters and can make for exciting and unpredictable battles.
Cover 5e and Stealth
In addition to providing protection in combat, cover can also be used for stealth in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. When a character is hidden behind cover, they are less likely to be detected by enemies, making it easier for them to remain undetected and move silently through the environment. Here, we’ll explore how characters can use cover for stealth and provide examples of how this might play out in a game.
Hiding Behind Objects
Characters can hide behind objects such as walls, boulders, or trees to avoid detection by enemies. They can then move from cover to cover, remaining hidden as they go.
For example, a rogue might be trying to infiltrate an enemy stronghold. They might use the walls and buildings around them as cover, staying out of sight of guards as they move towards their target.
Concealing Themselves Behind Objects
Characters can also conceal themselves behind objects to remain hidden. This might involve crouching behind a low wall or lying flat behind a boulder.
For example, a ranger might be stalking a group of orcs through a forest. They might crouch behind a low bush, remaining still and out of sight as the orcs pass by.
Using Cover to Approach Enemies
Characters can also use cover to approach enemies undetected. They might use a wall or boulder to move closer to their target without being seen.
For example, a fighter might be trying to ambush a group of goblins. They might use a boulder as cover, moving closer to the goblins without being seen. Once they are close enough, they can jump out and attack.
Creating Distractions with Cover
Characters can also use cover to create distractions that draw enemies away from their position. For example, they might throw a rock to create a noise behind an enemy, causing them to investigate and move away from their current location.
For example, a bard might be trying to sneak past a group of guards. They might throw a rock behind the guards, causing them to investigate and move away from their current position. The bard can then move past them undetected.
In each of these examples, characters use cover to remain hidden and avoid detection by enemies. The use of cover for stealth adds an element of strategy to the game and can make for exciting and tense encounters.
Cover 5e and Movement
Cover can affect a character’s movement in 5e Dungeons and Dragons by providing them with protection from enemy attacks and allowing them to move more safely.
Let’s explore how cover can affect a character’s movement and I’ll provide some examples of how characters can use cover to move more safely.
Moving from cover to cover
Characters can move more safely by using cover to protect themselves from enemy attacks. This might involve moving from one piece of cover to another, such as moving from behind a tree to behind a boulder.
For example, a group of adventurers might be crossing an open field to reach a castle. They can use the trees and bushes around them as cover, moving from one piece of cover to another to avoid detection and stay safe.
Using cover 5e to avoid attacks
Characters can also use cover to avoid attacks from enemies. This might involve hiding behind a wall or ducking behind a boulder to avoid being hit by enemy arrows or spells.
For example, a fighter might be charging towards an enemy mage. They might use a boulder as cover, ducking behind it to avoid the mage’s spells while they close in for the attack.
Using cover to flank enemies
Characters can also use cover to flank enemies and gain an advantage in combat. This might involve using cover to move around the enemy’s position and attack them from an unexpected angle.
For example, a rogue might be trying to flank a group of goblins. They might use the trees and bushes around them as cover, moving around the goblins’ position to attack them from behind.
Using cover to retreat
Characters can also use cover to retreat from combat if things are not going well. This might involve running behind a wall or boulder to avoid enemy attacks while they move away.
For example, a wizard might be caught in the open with enemies closing in on them. They might use a wall as cover, casting a spell to create a distraction before running away behind the wall.
Cover and Traps
Traps and cover can be used in conjunction to create challenging encounters in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. Traps can be used to discourage players from simply charging into a combat encounter, while cover can be used to provide players with a way to protect themselves from traps and enemy attacks. Here are some examples of how traps and cover can be used together:
The spike pit trap
In this scenario, the players are in a room with a pit covered in spikes. The only way across is by walking across a narrow bridge. However, enemy archers are waiting on the other side of the room to attack the players. The players can use the bridge as cover while they cross, but they need to be careful not to fall into the pit.
The swinging blade trap
In this scenario, the players are moving down a narrow hallway. Swinging blades are coming down from the ceiling, making it difficult for the players to advance. However, the players notice that there are alcoves in the walls that they can use as cover. They can hide in the alcoves to avoid the blades and plan their next move.
The arrow trap
In this scenario, the players are in a room with multiple doorways. When they enter one of the doorways, arrows shoot out from the walls, making it difficult for the players to move forward. However, they notice that there are pillars in the room that they can use as cover. They can move from pillar to pillar, using them as cover to avoid the arrows.
The pressure plate trap
In this scenario, the players are in a room with a pressure plate on the ground. If they step on the pressure plate, a trap will be triggered, causing spikes to shoot up from the floor. However, there is a stone statue in the room that they can use as cover. They can hide behind the statue while they try to figure out a way to disarm the trap.
In each of these scenarios, the players must use cover to avoid traps and enemy attacks. The combination of traps and cover creates a challenging encounter that requires players to use strategy and creative thinking to succeed. It is important for the Dungeon Master to balance the difficulty of these encounters so that they are challenging but not impossible for the players.
Cover 5e and Monsters
Monsters in 5e Dungeons and Dragons can use cover to gain a tactical advantage in combat encounters just like player characters can. The type of cover that a monster uses will depend on its natural abilities and the environment it is in.
Some monsters, like goblins and kobolds, are known for using cover to their advantage. They might use trees, rocks, or buildings to hide behind and take shots at the player characters. In some cases, they might even use traps in conjunction with cover to create more challenging encounters.
Other monsters, like dragons and giants, might use their size as cover. They might hide behind boulders or other large objects to avoid attacks from smaller creatures. Some monsters, like trolls and hydras, might use their regeneration abilities to duck behind cover and heal up while avoiding attacks.
Flying monsters, like harpies and wyverns, can use the sky as cover. They might fly behind clouds or other objects to avoid ranged attacks, then swoop down to attack the player characters from above.
Finally, some monsters, like displacer beasts and phase spiders, have special abilities that allow them to teleport or phase in and out of reality. These monsters can use their abilities to pop in and out of cover, making it difficult for the player characters to predict their movements and attack them effectively.
Overall, monsters can use cover to gain a tactical advantage in combat encounters, just like player characters.
The type of cover they use will depend on their natural abilities and the environment they are in, but it’s important for DMs to consider how monsters might use cover to make encounters more challenging and interesting for their players.
Cover is an important aspect of combat encounters in 5e Dungeons and Dragons.
It can provide tactical advantages for both player characters and monsters, and can add complexity and depth to combat encounters.
Understanding the different types of cover, how they affect attacks and spells, and how to use them for stealth and movement can make for more dynamic and engaging battles.
As a writer, I encourage readers to experiment with using cover in their games. Try different types of cover, combine cover with traps or environmental hazards, and think about how monsters might use cover to gain advantages.
With a little creativity and strategic thinking, cover can make combat encounters more interesting and challenging for everyone involved.
Can cover be destroyed or damaged?
Yes, cover can be destroyed or damaged by attacks and spells. The Dungeon Master can determine the AC and hit points of the cover object.
Can cover be used to hide from enemies?
No, cover does not provide the benefits of hiding. To hide from enemies, characters must use the Hide action and make a Dexterity (Stealth) check.
Can cover be used to flank enemies?
No, cover cannot be used to flank enemies. Flanking requires two characters to be positioned on opposite sides of an enemy.
What types of cover provide the most protection?
Full cover provides the most protection, as it completely blocks attacks and spells from hitting the target.
Can characters move through cover?
It depends on the type of cover. Characters can move through some types of cover, such as foliage or shallow water, but not through solid objects like walls or boulders.
Can spells be cast through cover?
It depends on the type of cover. Spells that require line of sight, such as Fireball or Lightning Bolt, cannot be cast through cover that blocks line of sight. Spells that do not require line of sight, such as Misty Step or Dimension Door, can be cast through cover.
How does cover affect surprise attacks?
If a target has cover from an attacker, they cannot be surprised by that attacker. However, if the attacker has an ability or feature that allows them to ignore cover, the target can still be surprised.
How can dungeon masters make cover feel more dynamic in combat encounters?
Dungeon Masters can make cover feel more dynamic by using a variety of cover types, including environmental and improvised cover. They can also use cover to set up traps or ambushes, and use cover to create complex battlefield situations that require strategic thinking and planning. Additionally, they can encourage players to use cover creatively and reward them for doing so.
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