5E How do you handle ranged attacks into melee?

Ellsworth

Villager
I’m not necessarily looking for an answer from the rules, rather how other DMs handle this; homebrew, RAW, RAI, etc.

I’ve been making contextual rulings on the fly, but due to some disagreements I’m inclined to start using the RAW for cover in the DMG:

“To determine whether a target has cover against an attack or other effect on a grid, choose a corner of the attacker’s space or the point of origin of an area of effect. Then trace imaginary lines from that corner to every corner of any one square the target occupies. If one or two of those lines are blocked by an obstacle (including another creature), the target has half cover. If three or four of those lines are blocked but the attack can still reach the target (such as when the target is behind an arrow slit), the target has three-quarters cover.” (DMG 251)

Thanks!
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I just say when a target has cover and what kind and the player says "Okay" and acts accordingly. I do my best to make that apparent well before the attack is declared by working it into my description of the environment. That way, there's no surprises.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
My quick thought is to have the attack be at disadvantage. If both attacks miss, then reroll a single attack against the covering creature and see if you hit it instead. I like to limit ranged attacks, and I think the disadvantage mechanic is easier to play with than just boosting the Target's AC.
 
As a practical matter of just keeping the game moving and fun, if an enemy is in range, and has no objects/terrain/whatever between you, don't worry about it - melee is supposed to be fluid, even if it seems like they're just standing toe to toe thwacking eachother on the head like Gauntlet sprites until one runs out of hps, so you can assume that the attacker waits a beat or two for the intended target to be open. It's convenient, one less thing to worry about.

If you want to take ranged attackers down a peg, you can start trying to think about how to handle cover, but it gets weird. If someone you could hurt with your attack is acting as cover for someone you want to hurt (are or more intent on hurting), how do you resolve that with D&D's simple binary d20 attack roll? There's the possibility you hit in spite of the cover, the possibility you shoot wide of both, the possibility you hit the cover in spite of trying not to...

You could just go old-school and determine the target randomly.

You could use some variation of advantage/disadvantage. Like choosing to attack with disadvantage as well as a cover penalty to avoid any chance of hitting an ally inadvertently providing cover to the enemy. Or, if you have advantage and miss due to the cover penalty, apply the lower roll (no penalty) to the creature that provided cover to see if it got hit, instead. Or, just, if you miss the target with cover, roll to hit the cover... Or, you could roll unmodified d20s when checking to see if you accidentally hit an unintended target. What about firing into a mass of foes not caring which one you hit, easier than hitting just one?


… "don't worry about it" isn't such a bad option. ;)
 

Jer

Adventurer
I like how 13th Age solved this problem, which was that if you're firing into melee and you roll a 1, you have to reroll the attack against your ally in the melee instead. If there are multiple allies, it's GM's choice (which I resolve as a random roll). There's a general feat you can take that negates this chance. This fits well with the more theater of the mind nature of 13th age ranges as well as the more "heroic" expectations of the PCs in the game where you should be able to fire into melee and not accidentally hit your allies.

For D&D I generally follow the same rule these days if we're playing theater of the mind. If we're using minis on a grid we look at line of sight to decide if there's a clear shot or if the roll is at disadvantage or if you're just going to hit your ally so maneuver for a better shot. The only way you can hit your ally by accident is if you ignore me telling you that "you're just going to hit your ally if you don't maneuver for a better shot", which doesn't happen with my players :)
 

Satyrn

Visitor
I use those cover rules you mention, plus the "Hitting Cover" bit from page 272 of the DMG except that I simplified that part a bit by striking out the last clause that reads: "If a creature is providing cover for the missed creature and the attack roll exceeds the AC of the covering creature, the covering creature is hit."

That is, if the party ranger is trying to shoot the leather-clad goblin behind the party's plate-wrapped fighter, a near miss will damage the fighter. (The fighter's AC is just not a factor here)

I did this to intentionally discourage the ranger from attacking the creature the fighter is engaged with . . . unless the ranger has some effect that lets him add to the attack roll after rolling the d20. It's working well.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I just do half or three quarters cover as necessary. In previous games, if you hit miss your target by 10 or more you had a chance to hit a different creature selected randomly along the line of fire. Roll again to see if you hit the new target.

I like the miss by 10 or more instead of rolling a 1 because the latter felt like it was penalizing PCs that rely on multiple attacks.

Edit: oops.
 
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Satyrn

Visitor
I just do half or three quarters cover as necessary. In previous games, if you hit your target by 10 or more you had a chance to hit a different creature selected randomly along the line of fire. Roll again to see if you hit the new target.

I like the miss by 10 or more instead of rolling a 1 because the latter felt like it was penalizing PCs that rely on multiple attacks.
Is one of the words I bolded a typo? (I'm guessing you meant miss instead of hit)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Is one of the words I bolded a typo? (I'm guessing you meant miss instead of hit)
No, it was just that if you hit someone with enough momentum left over the arrow may go straight through them. Yeah, that's it. :uhoh:

I fixed it. :blush:
 

Satyrn

Visitor
No, it was just that if you hit someone with enough momentum left over the arrow may go straight through them. Yeah, that's it. :uhoh:
I mean, that would be awesome!


I still haven't handed one out, but I've got a laser gun modeled on the Borderlands Presequel that targets every creature in a line out to the weapon's normal range. (I think I chickened out a little in the design and made that effect require expending a charge.)
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
When a character declares an attack that might have cover due to another creature, I inform the player and allow them to decide another action or target (or to move to a better spot, if able). It's normally half cover, but if 2 or more creatures are in the way, I grant 3/4 cover. My players know that I use the "Hitting Cover" variant, so they're cautious, but not too cautious.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
We use cover. If the enemy is the same size or smaller as an ally in melee, the enemy gets +5 AC (3/4 cover), if the enemy is one size larger than the ally, it gets +2 (1/2 cover). If the enemy is two sizes larger or greater, it gets no benefit from the cover your ally might provide. If the attacker rolls a 1, they reroll to hit their ally applying the same bonuses as in their attack.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
We give cover if a creature that is allied with the target is in the way, but not if the attacker's ally is in the way. We just assume you can yell "Frank, duck!" and then shoot.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I use the default half cover +2 for creatures unless we have something like the jello cube filling z corridor. Instead of comparing AC if the attacker tolls a 1 they hit the cover creature.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
We give cover if a creature that is allied with the target is in the way, but not if the attacker's ally is in the way. We just assume you can yell "Frank, duck!" and then shoot.
So, what, you Ready your attack until it is Frank's turn and he ducks, then use your reaction to make a single attack against your target? Sort of limits things if you have Extra attack...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, what, you Ready your attack until it is Frank's turn and he ducks, then use your reaction to make a single attack against your target? Sort of limits things if you have Extra attack...
What? No. If that were the case, I'd have said so.

We just assume that this happens within the rather large space a character takes up in combat, during the attacker's turn, and don't worry about it any further. In other words, you allies can provide you cover, but your enemies cannot.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
What? No. If that were the case, I'd have said so.

We just assume that this happens within the rather large space a character takes up in combat, during the attacker's turn, and don't worry about it any further. In other words, you allies can provide you cover, but your enemies cannot.
Yeah, this is how I run it as well. Your allies cooperate with you and stay out of your way. Enemies don't.

We don't play it as literally yelling "Duck!" typically. Rather, Frank is circling the enemy's right side in order to give you an open shot from the left (for example).
 

S'mon

Legend
I like how 13th Age solved this problem, which was that if you're firing into melee and you roll a 1, you have to reroll the attack against your ally in the melee instead.
I use RAW cover, plus if there is no clear path past an ally I'll warn that on a 1 the shot will be rerolled vs ally. Usually this can be avoided via positioning.
 

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