Important 5e Rules

Proficiency replaces most bonus stacking

Fifth edition discourages min/maxing. You now have a flat +2 on anything you are proficient at. The bonus gradually increases as you level. For example, skills don’t have ranks anymore. You are either proficient and get the +2 bonus, or you don’t. Proficiencies work the same way with weapons and saving throws.

The Advantages mechanic replaces many numeric bonuses

If you have advantage, on a D20 roll, you roll twice and take the higher number. Likewise, if you are disadvantaged, roll twice and take the lower number. This mechanic replaces many numeric bonuses such as flatfooted, stunned, dazed, flanked, and so on. This makes the combat much faster.

Roleplaying is encouraged by the Inspiration mechanic

Every char must now have a background with pros and cons. If you roleplay them well, the DM can grant you Inspiration. This is a single-use reward that grants you Advantage on any roll you want. You can only have one at a time, and it expires at end of day. You can also give your Inspiration to another player if they are RPing well (DM discretion).

Initiative is different

  • Monsters of the same type all go at the same time.
  • Order is fixed for the whole battle, there is no way to alter your place.
  • There is no delay action. There is a triggering system of a sort, but it doesn’t change ordering.

Hit point recovery is slower

A long rest is still 8hrs, and heals all your HP and 1/2 your hit dice. Hit dice are related to max hit points (a 3rd level fighter has three d10s of hit dice), but can also be used for mid-day healing during a short rest.
A short rest is now 1hr, and lacks free healing. Instead, during a short rest you must spend (roll) hit dice to get back HP. Unlike surges in 4e, hit dice healing in 5e has some randomness. Like 4e, however, healing classes can greatly boost the effect when allies spend hit dice.
Since you only get back 1/2 of your hit dice per day, you can “wear down” after a few days of heavy combat!

Combat actions are simpler

There are 4 actions type, and each type can only be used once per turn.

  1. “normal” action (attacks, skill checks)
  2. reaction (Opportunity Attacks)
  3. bonus action (usually granted by class ability)
  4. interaction (with inanimate items, such as draw weapon, pull lever, use potion)

Note that there’s no movement action on this list.


Movement is NOT an action. You have a speed, in feet per turn, and can mix it between actions as you want. This is so nice. If your speed is 30ft, you can move 10 feet, attack, move 5 feet, pull a lever, and finally move 15 feet.
Difficult terrain costs 2 ft per foot moved. Standing up from prone costs half your speed.

Normal actions

Every action in 5e is a normal action unless noted otherwise. Important normal actions include:

  • Attack – Melee / Ranged / Spell / Grapple / Shove
  • Dash – Gain extra movement equal to your speed. Effectively, a double-move.
  • Disengage – Your movement doesn’t provokes OAs this turn. Replaces the shift mechanic.
  • Dodge – Extra defense: all attacks against you are Disadvantaged.
  • Help – Assist an ally: grants Advantage to their next roll. You must be able to perform the task you are assisting. Can include attacks.
  • Hide – See stealth comments below.
  • Ready – Convert an action into a Reaction, triggered later in the round. You must specify the trigger and action to take. Wasted if the trigger doesn’t happen before your next turn. Doesn’t change your turn position.
  • Search – Find traps or hidden things.
  • Use Object – If you need to interact with objects twice in one turn, you have to use this action.

Opportunity Attacks are stickier

Shift is gone, so can’t safely move away from an enemy and attack in the same turn. A ranged character without an escort is going to have a bad time. However…

Ranged attacks no longer trigger OAs

OAs are only triggered by movement. Instead, a ranged attack made within 5’ of an enemy is Disadvantaged. This makes ranged attacks in battle safer, but much less effective.

Feats are rare and powerful

Feats aren’t even available until 4th level, and cost you two ability points. For example, a fighter is going to give up two points of Strength to acquire a feat. Feats have been strengthened to match the higher cost.

Critical hits are simpler

On a critical hit, roll twice as many damage dice. No confirming, no multiplication. All flat damage bonuses are unchanged. If you would normally hit for 2d6+3, it becomes 4d6+3. Note: powers that grant extra dice, such as Sneak Attack, ARE doubled.

Resistance/Vulnerability is simpler

Just double or halve the amount of damage taken. The complex damage reduction rules are gone.

Dying is different

You can’t go negative HP anymore. You stop at zero. When down, you make a save every turn until you get three successes (stabilized) or three failures (dead). Every time you take damage, that’s an automatic failure. Any healing puts you back into the fight.

Saving throws are now ability based

There is a saving throw for STR, DEX, CON, INT, CHA and WIS. Each class grants proficiencies in 2 saving throws.

Stealth is different

Once you are hidden, it is an opposed Perception vs. Stealth contest every turn. But becoming hidden can be tricky. It requires an action (Hide) that anyone can make, but there’s a catch. Hide can’t be attempted if the enemy can see you. So you need to be OBSCURED first. How do you become obscured? Some examples:

  • become invisible
  • be in a different room
  • summon heavy fog or darkness

Once obscured, you just become hidden, no roll needed. To remain hidden requires the opposed checks mentioned above. If attacking from stealth, you get Advantage.
You can only also hide where it would make sense. You can’t hide in a bright, bare room. Nor do you fool an enemy if you jump into a small broom closet. He knows where you are.

Tools are a special category of item

The PHB says that “tools allow you to do something not otherwise possible.” If there’s a tool for a task, you need the tool to try it. You can’t pick locks without Thieves tools, heal someone without a herbalist kit, and so on. In many cases, you ALSO need proficiency to use the tools. DM’s discretion. If you lack proficiency, or have proficiency but lack tools, you can try to improvise. If the DM allows it, the roll will certainly be Disadvantaged.

Magic items are rare and limited

5e wants to put the focus on character powers, rather than gear. Magic items are rare. They are harder to buy, and harder to craft. The better ones must be attuned. A character can only attune to 3 items at a time (no matter their level), and attunement takes time.

Important 5e Rules

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