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[New DM Question] What about Simultaneous Movement?

Travis Henry

Villager
Hi, I played D&D in some earlier editions, but have recently started DMing with the 5E Starter Set. We only have the Basic Rules — no PHB or DMG.

I have a question about the possibility of simulating "simultaneous movement" during a single round. I figure the lack of "simultaneity" has been question in most editions of D&D.

Here's the thing. One of my players (who is mostly new to D&D) has gotten kind of miffed for how he "can't" choose to run alongside another character during an encounter. We've only been playing for a few sessions, and it's come up twice.

SPOILER ALERT FOR STARTER SET / LOST MINE OF PHANDELVER

#1) Once, in the Goblin Ambush encounter, he said he wanted to run along behind the ox cart as another character drove it down the trail. He was intending to use the moving cart as partial cover from goblin arrows. Okay makes sense. But the driver (and thus, the oxen) had a higher initiative, and though he called out "follow me!", when the oxen took a Dash, the cart was like 80' down the road by the end of the driver's turn.

So then it's the Goblins' turn and the cart is nearly out of the scene. And the running PC (who hasn't even moved yet) is standing out like sitting duck. And they target him and pepper him with arrows.

So the player is like: "I said I was going to stay with the cart, to use it for cover!"

Well, so we had a bit of a rules debate. (Neither of us being very familiar with the rules yet.)

Then I remembered the "Ready" action, and we looked it up. I was like: "Okay, if you want to run along with the cart. Then the driver would need to Ready an action to wait for you." (Kind of like Delay in 3E.)

But then we realized...on a Readied reaction, you can only move up to your Speed (In this case, 40' for the ox). So you can't Dash. (I mean, the running character could Dash on his turn, but then he'd get ahead of the cart!)

Plus, the driver would no longer be able to Dodge on their turn, since they Readied instead of Dodged.

We were all like: "Why is there no way for two characters to Dash together?"

#2) The second instance was in an assault on Cragmaw Hideout. After having scouted out the cave earlier (with heavy setbacks due to wet surprises), their plan was to run together, make an all-out Dash from the entrance, past the bridge, all the way to the top of the slope, in order to reach the pond before the Goblins could respond. Okay, makes sense.

So I have the three PC lined up at the cave entrance, ready to sprint. Roll for initiative…ready, set, go! Then I have the character with the highest initiative move first. By then end of his turn, he has Dashed past the bridge.

Then it's the Goblin's turn, who turns and shoots at that character's back.

And the player is like: "Hey, we were all planning to run together! Why am I sticking out like this? If we were running together, he could've targeted any three of us."

So, I was like: "Well, you could've Readied an action to run when the slowest party member begins to run."

But then he made the point that: "But on a Readied reaction, you can only Move your speed. You can't Dash."

Okay. So basically, the Rules As Written don't provide a way for characters to intentionally Dash simultaneously (within a combat round)…which would seem to be possible in Real Life.

***
I have read the Sage Advice about why Delay was removed from the game, since it throws a wrench into the whole concept of Initiative, and is subject to abuse especially in regard to spell durations. And I grok that.

Yet, within an encounter, there ought to be a way to intentionally do something (at least Move or Dash) simultaneously.

I basically see two non-solutions and one solution:

1) Honor the RAW, and say you can only Move together, and even then, only by the higher initiative PC Readying an action (and thus losing both their Attack and Reaction). It's impossible to Dash together. Honors the rules, but doesn't seem very true to life. People sprint next to each other in track-and-field, etc.

2) Honor the RAW, but suggest that the PCs don't bother with Readying to Move together. Just explain to the player that actually it is all simultaneous, since all the turns take place within the same 6 second round. It's just that within the game, it appears to be happening sequentially. But in the actual story, the events unfolded nearly simultaneously. But still hard to explain why the PC in front (or the PC left behind) sticks out so much as a target. As a DM I could try to keep in mind their "supposed" togetherness (which is not apparent on the playing grid) when choosing which PC to target.

3) Maybe my campaign needs two houseruled special actions: Move Together and Dash Together:

Move Together: Two or more allies, who are able to communicate, can choose to Move Together. The higher initiative PC(s) take one Action on their turn, but then use their Reaction to Move when the slowest character Moves. (In other words, they don't lose their Action by having to Ready. They only lose their Reaction.)

Dash Together: On their turn, the higher initiative PC(s) take no action (except possibly a bonus action). On the turn of the slowest PC, and they all Dash Together. This uses up the Reaction of the higher initiative PCs, but not of the slowest PC. And then the regular initiative order resumes.

…Or is simultaneous movement covered in the PHB/DMG somewhere?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This probably won't come up enough to require a house rule, so I recommend just ruling what makes sense in the moment to you based on how much you value using the rules versus what you think is a reasonable thing to do given the fictional context. That's why we have DMs instead of computers - to decide on these things in the moment.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
You are in a very familiar situation that most of us have been in. And truthfully, the answer to your question is right in your #3... make a ruling that makes sense for your table.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that a PC can run alongside and behind a wagon, especially considering the actions are Dashes and thus not even combat per se. That's a perfect example of just waving away the "rules as written" and doing something that makes narrative sense.

Many parts of D&D try and establish rules for the game, but don't make sense for the story. But if your players want to make a narrative choice that makes sense, go ahead and let them. It will make them happy and it will enhance your sense of reality and visualization of the encounter.

Dealing with the Initiative conundrum is one that all of us go through. Another perfect example is everyone all together in like a Mexican standoff situation, and one character in the group decides to suddenly act and thus trigger combat. Same situation of course though... everyone rolls initiative, and somehow the guy who initiated combat ends up going LAST because of a bad roll. Now yes, the explanation will be that everyone "saw" the guy start to attack and thus everyone just jumped the gun and all ended up going first... but that's usually not satisfying either (especially considering all the actions involve running around the battlefield in addition to attacking, and the guy who started the attack just stands there with pudding in hand.)

In situations like that, I have absolutely no qualms about putting the guy who initiated combat at the top of the initiative round and then everyone else falls in behind him. Because rulings, not rules.

Do what makes most sense for your table, and hang what the book says if you don't like it. You don't get any awards for "playing Rules As Written", so don't feel you need to if another ruling outside of the book makes sense.
 

sim-h

Explorer
For the cart scenario, you could just have the guy hang on to the cart, so he moves when it moves. But yeah, you have to let common sense take over and allow them to move simultaneously one way or another, or it makes a mockery of the scene. So for the second example, I'd just let them all run together on one initiative count - doesn't matter which one.
 

Al2O3

Explorer
I agree with the others that making a ruling and let everyone move together on a turn makes sense in the scenarios you describe.

For your second example I would add one thing: surprise. I get the impression that the goblin didn't know the characters were there before the mad dash. Therefore it shouldn't have shot at whatever character was visible first. Rather, it would've been surprised and spent the first turn to stop being surprised. It then gets a shot off at the last target as they run around the corner, which probably is the character with the lowest initiative. In this case the narrative and the initiative could've made sense together.

Still, a ruling on moving together might make sense. If it only comes up when making a mad dash past enemies you could maybe even handle it outside initiative.

I imagine the characters using dash and only being targets for one round. Cover and such is constant for the whole dash. Just say that the characters dash past, taking one round of attacks. Roll all attacks at the same time. No need for initiative if the characters only dash and the enemies just attack.

The example above can be expanded with more attacks if characters are exposed longer.
 

Travis Henry

Villager
For your second example I would add one thing: surprise. I get the impression that the goblin didn't know the characters were there before the mad dash. Therefore it shouldn't have shot at whatever character was visible first. Rather, it would've been surprised and spent the first turn to stop being surprised. It then gets a shot off at the last target as they run around the corner, which probably is the character with the lowest initiative. In this case the narrative and the initiative could've made sense together.
That's a valid point, yet I had I purposely ruled that the Goblin wasn't surprised, since two of the three PCs had Light spells cast on their gear. (Plus the same Goblins had repulsed an assault the previous day.)

Still, glad for your feedback and example in regard to possibly not rolling Initiative for a mad dash, and also in regard to constant moving cover (the ox cart).
 
Last edited:

aco175

Explorer
I thought that the person driving the wagon would hold his initiative until the person running behind was ready. This way that would act at the same time. The driver could drive off on his turn but looked behind him to ask if the other PC was ready and is holding his action. It so happens that the goblins act while he is holding his action, but before the runner is ready. I would still give partial cover or 3/4 cover to the runner, but the driver may be toast.
 

Travis Henry

Villager
You are in a very familiar situation that most of us have been in. And truthfully, the answer to your question is right in your #3... make a ruling that makes sense for your table.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that a PC can run alongside and behind a wagon, especially considering the actions are Dashes and thus not even combat per se. That's a perfect example of just waving away the "rules as written" and doing something that makes narrative sense.

Many parts of D&D try and establish rules for the game, but don't make sense for the story. But if your players want to make a narrative choice that makes sense, go ahead and let them. It will make them happy and it will enhance your sense of reality and visualization of the encounter.

Dealing with the Initiative conundrum is one that all of us go through. Another perfect example is everyone all together in like a Mexican standoff situation, and one character in the group decides to suddenly act and thus trigger combat. Same situation of course though... everyone rolls initiative, and somehow the guy who initiated combat ends up going LAST because of a bad roll. Now yes, the explanation will be that everyone "saw" the guy start to attack and thus everyone just jumped the gun and all ended up going first... but that's usually not satisfying either (especially considering all the actions involve running around the battlefield in addition to attacking, and the guy who started the attack just stands there with pudding in hand.)

In situations like that, I have absolutely no qualms about putting the guy who initiated combat at the top of the initiative round and then everyone else falls in behind him. Because rulings, not rules.

Do what makes most sense for your table, and hang what the book says if you don't like it. You don't get any awards for "playing Rules As Written", so don't feel you need to if another ruling outside of the book makes sense.
Thanks for sharing your experience in regard to the similar situation of a Mexican standoff. Right: rulings, not rules.
 

Travis Henry

Villager
I thought that the person driving the wagon would hold his initiative until the person running behind was ready. This way that would act at the same time. The driver could drive off on his turn but looked behind him to ask if the other PC was ready and is holding his action. It so happens that the goblins act while he is holding his action, but before the runner is ready. I would still give partial cover or 3/4 cover to the runner, but the driver may be toast.
Right, that narrative would match the R.A.W. for the first round; but then the second round of movement, we're still in the same paradox. So in round two, the driver Dashes the oxen forward 60', and the guy running behind the cart is left behind again, exposed without cover. Even though he said he was jogging along behind the cart. Until it's his turn, and then he "catches up" to the cart again. Only to be exposed again, catch up again, and so forth.

Without houseruled "Move Together" and "Dash Together" special actions (or the good "hand-waved rulings" suggestions from previous posters), this disconnect between narrative and rules seems to be inevitable.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
But then we realized...on a Readied reaction, you can only move up to your Speed (In this case, 40' for the ox). So you can't Dash. (I mean, the running character could Dash on his turn, but then he'd get ahead of the cart!)
This interpretation seems incorrect to me.
The cart driver Readies the Dash Action, which triggers when the PC behind the cart says to "Go!" On his turn, the PC behind the cart says "Go" and they then Dash together.
The Dash Action allows both players to move twice their normal movement. There is no restriction against using the Dash Action in conjunction with Ready.
 

Travis Henry

Villager
This interpretation seems incorrect to me. (...) There is no restriction against using the Dash Action in conjunction with Ready.
Ready: "you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it."

My understanding is that the Readied reaction can either be one Action, or one Move. But a Dash is a Move + Move.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Right, so, the "problem" is trying to adjudicate kinda-non-combat things using the combat rules. Instead, consider what the stated goal is and work with that. In your first example, tge PCs want to run, not fight, so don't roll initiative, just adjudicate the move and have tge goblins shooting as a consequence or danger (like jumping over lava). The cart driver makes a land vehicle check to avoid getting shot, failure means two arrows attack him, and the runner makes an athletics/acrobatics to keep cover, failure means two arrows are shot at him (without cover).

The second can be similar, have the party make a group athletics check to sprint by the guards befire they can react (or a group initiative check). Success means they start the fight on the other side and together, failure means they don't.

The combat rules do not do simulanteous actions. This is a limitation of the game.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
Ready: "you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it."

My understanding is that the Readied reaction can either be one Action, or one Move. But a Dash is a Move + Move.
I completely see how you might interpret it that way, but Dash is not categorized as Movement in the rules. It is specifically in the Action section and, as an action, it allows you to double your movement (clear as mud, right?). Any Action can be readied. You are gimping Dash if you rule it can't be used with Ready.

[SECTION]Ready
Sometimes you want to get the jump on a foe or wait for a particular circumstance before you act. To do so, you can take the Ready action on your turn so that you can act later in the round using your reaction.

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include “If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I’ll pull the lever that opens it,” and “If the goblin steps next to me, I move away.”

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell’s magic requires concentration (explained in chapter 10). If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect. For example, if you are concentrating on the web spell and ready magic missile, your web spell ends, and if you take damage before you release magic missile with your reaction, your concentration might be broken.[/SECTION]
 

Satyrn

Villager
In both of your examples, my solution would be to not use the combat rules.

They both look more like chases, where the players are trying to avoid engaging in combat. Since you don't have the DMG you don't have a set of chase rules, though, so you would have to improvise. Here's how I might have improvised:

Example 1: After the player declares he's running alongside the cart as they roll away from the ambush site, I narrate that the whole party gets peppered with arrows, rolling an attack or two against everyone, giving the characters who deserve it the benefit of cover. And then I decide the goblins don't bother giving chase and the party gets away, perhaps a little hurt.

Example 2: Rather than call for Initiative, I'd have called fo a Strength (Athletics) check to determine if the player is fast enough to cover the distance without getting shot. Success means they outrun the goblins reaction time, their arrows clatter off harmlessly against the ealls, floors or whatever. Each player who failed the check gets shot at once, maybe twice if there are a lot of goblins.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I completely see how you might interpret it that way, but Dash is not categorized as Movement in the rules. It is specifically in the Action section and, as an action, it allows you to double your movement (clear as mud, right?). Any Action can be readied. You are gimping Dash if you rule it can't be used with Ready.
Dave, look at what you just said the Dash action does. It allows you to double your movement. It doesn’t actually allow you to move. So, yes, you can Ready a Dash. Then when the trigger happens you’ll have tons of movement and no way to use it, since it’s not your turn.

Granted, that’s kinda dumb, and I wouldn’t fault any DM for ruling that if you Ready a Dash you can also move in response to the trigger, but by a strict reading of RAW it doesn’t work that way.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
If you look in the DMG they establish running chase scenes as narrative versuins of simultaneous moves, not as you go i go.

Iirc they featured some endurance options and athletics checks.

But it establishes the idea iirc and methodology of resolving simultaneous movement instead of you go i go for two folks with one trying to move.

So i might require an athletics check on the part of the convered guy trying to match the dashing cart and if made allow his movement to go on the cart's turn but his action on his own turn.

If the roll failed, he stumbled a bit or the horse took a faster bounce and he acts on his own turn for move and action this time, to show he was exposed for a bit.

The DMG shows a variety of good ways to deal with edge cases.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
You are in a very familiar situation that most of us have been in. And truthfully, the answer to your question is right in your #3... make a ruling that makes sense for your table.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that a PC can run alongside and behind a wagon, especially considering the actions are Dashes and thus not even combat per se. That's a perfect example of just waving away the "rules as written" and doing something that makes narrative sense.

Many parts of D&D try and establish rules for the game, but don't make sense for the story. But if your players want to make a narrative choice that makes sense, go ahead and let them. It will make them happy and it will enhance your sense of reality and visualization of the encounter.

Dealing with the Initiative conundrum is one that all of us go through. Another perfect example is everyone all together in like a Mexican standoff situation, and one character in the group decides to suddenly act and thus trigger combat. Same situation of course though... everyone rolls initiative, and somehow the guy who initiated combat ends up going LAST because of a bad roll. Now yes, the explanation will be that everyone "saw" the guy start to attack and thus everyone just jumped the gun and all ended up going first... but that's usually not satisfying either (especially considering all the actions involve running around the battlefield in addition to attacking, and the guy who started the attack just stands there with pudding in hand.)

In situations like that, I have absolutely no qualms about putting the guy who initiated combat at the top of the initiative round and then everyone else falls in behind him. Because rulings, not rules.

Do what makes most sense for your table, and hang what the book says if you don't like it. You don't get any awards for "playing Rules As Written", so don't feel you need to if another ruling outside of the book makes sense.
I agree wholeheartedly. The rules are there to be a tool for the game. For combat rules, it's important to understand that the purpose of those rules is to make play flow evenly and comprehensibly. The initiative rules are there just so you can be sure that people only do things as fast as they should be able to. But that doesn't mean you don't want to ignore them when it makes sense. To paraphrase the old saying, "The Player's Handbook is not a suicide pact."

Moving with moving cover, jumping distances farther than your movement might allow (particularly with magic), shield-wielding spellcasters juggling melee weapons to cast a spell, etc. There are myriad areas where the rules of the game get super fiddley, and that fiddleyness doesn't add all that much to the game. The rules are useful for understanding what the intended limits of actions are, but they shouldn't be used blindly or so strictly that the game suffers for following the rules. You're at the table to play the game, not to execute the rules.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Dave, look at what you just said the Dash action does. It allows you to double your movement. It doesn’t actually allow you to move. So, yes, you can Ready a Dash. Then when the trigger happens you’ll have tons of movement and no way to use it, since it’s not your turn.

Granted, that’s kinda dumb, and I wouldn’t fault any DM for ruling that if you Ready a Dash you can also move in response to the trigger, but by a strict reading of RAW it doesn’t work that way.
Readying a Dash is a waste. But you can Ready movement. So at least there's that.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Readying a Dash is a waste. But you can Ready movement. So at least there's that.
Precisely, and hence the OP’s dilemma - if two PCs want to move simultaneously in combat, they are unable to move at twice their speed.

To the OP: If your issue is that you have difficulty aligning the mechanics with the fiction, consider that the two characters who plan to move simpultaneously need to spend some amount of time syncing up. Instead of each running as fast as they can and the one with faster reflexes getting ahead faster, they agree to run on the count of three or some other signal, so they move together, but cannot take full advantage of the 6-second period that a turn approximates as a result.

On the other hand, your game definitely won’t break if you allow players to Ready an action and movement with the Ready action instead of only one or the other.
 

KarinsDad

Villager
Another simple solution is to rule that the PC is doing simultaneous movement, but that he gets the 1/2 or 3/4ths cover. On his turn, he must dash his PC up to the cart.
 

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