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D&D 5E – House Rule – Pop-up Archer
September 12, 2015Posted by on
As a DM, have you ever ran into this situation? I had a player that wanted to stay down below a low wall during combat and just stand up and fire his arrow on his turn and then duck back down. His reasoning went like this; He starts the round with total cover so he can’t be targeted. On his turn he uses some of his movement to stand up. At that time he would have half cover (he might argue that he had 3/4 cover) and with half cover he got +2 to his armor class and dexterity saving throws. However that would only come into play if an opponent had readied an action to fire at him if he stood up. Otherwise he fires his weapon and then uses the rest of his move to duck back down, perhaps even moving to another location along the wall first. Then he would have total cover again until his turn on the next round when he would repeat the same tactic. This would also work behind rocks or trees or barrels. If there was nothing to provide cover, he could simply lie down. If prone, missile attacks against him (if the attacker is more than 5 feet away) are made with disadvantage. Then on his turn, he uses half his move to get up from prone (if he remained prone his attacks would be made with disadvantage), fires his arrow and then falls back down prone until his turn on the next round.
This tactic appears to be allowed with the rules as written. But I don’t like it. It doesn’t make for cinematic, or heroic combat. At its extreme, it is just plain silly. Can you imagine everybody doing this on both sides? When combat starts everybody lays down. On their turn they pop-up, fire and fall back down. But, in extreme circumstances, this may be the only reasonable tactic. Think of a cowboy on the prairie surrounded by Indians. He has no cover except for sage brush. He must do what he can to keep from being killed. And bad guys hiding behind a low wall should get some benefit from staying down except to fire.
Here is my thinking on this dilemma.
1) Even though each character takes his action during his turn which is based on his position in the initiative order. The entire round only represents 6 seconds of game time. Everyone is acting at the same time and breaking it up into individual turns is a concession we make in order to make it a playable game. So even if you start and end your turn totally concealed, when you pop-up to fire you are visible to your opponents.
2) If you start your turn behind cover (or prone) you can’t easily see your target. So when you pop-up to fire you must first site your target before aiming and firing. You have a better chance of hitting it if you have the target in your sights at the start of your turn.
My house rules:
If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make by moving out from behind that cover will be made with disadvantage.
If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn. These attacks will be made with disadvantage.
With these rules in place, you can still use the pop-up archer tactic, but you have disadvantage on your to-hit rolls and your opponents have a chance to shoot you, but they also have disadvantage.
If you are prone at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make after standing will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.
If you are prone at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn and will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.
So you can stand up from prone, fire and then drop to prone on your turn, but you have a penalty on your attack rolls and you are more likely to be hit than if you had remained prone.