Published on December 27, 2023, Last modified on January 5th, 2024
Fall with style in D&D 5e! Learn how the prone condition can be more than just an awkward moment in battle.
Wylie Beckert - Wizards of the Coast - Finishing Blow
Table of Contents
Prone in D&D
In D&D, finding yourself suddenly sprawled on the ground isn’t just a matter of a bruised ego—the prone condition imposes a real threat to those who become horizontally oriented against their will.
When a creature is prone, they’re not out for the count, but they’re definitely in a pickle. This condition affects everything from your attack rolls to how you can move, and it can lead to some dangerous situations, especially if you find yourself surrounded by goblins with pointy spears.
What is the Prone Condition?
According to the Basic Rules, when a creature is knocked prone, it experiences the following effects:
- A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
- The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
- An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
A creature becomes prone either by falling, being tripped or through certain spells and abilities.
When prone, a creature’s movement is limited to crawling unless it stands up, which costs half of its movement speed.
When crawling, movement costs 1 extra foot per foot moved, so it’s the same as trying to walk through difficult terrain. This can severely impact a prone creature’s ability to escape immediate threats.
Another aspect of this condition that impedes a prone creature’s ability to defend themselves is attacks against them within 5 feet have advantage, and all their attacks have disadvantage.
Recovering from Prone
Standing up from prone is simple but costs movement. This can affect a character’s ability to move around the battlefield, making it a strategic decision when to stand up.
Prone is an interesting condition because it’s easily applied and exploited by martial characters, allowing them to expand their tactical repertoire. It also has unique combinations with flying creatures, grappling, and other aspects of the game.
The Shove Action
Shoving a creature prone is something well within the means of any creature with a high Strength modifier and is even more viable if you have proficiency in Athletics.
By knocking a creature prone at the right time in the initiative, you’ll be able to give your allies advantage on their attacks against the prone target. If your class has the Extra Attack feature, you can even replace one of your attacks with a Shove attempt, potentially allowing you to follow up your attacks on the prone target with advantage.
Keep in mind that you can only Shove creatures one size larger than you.
Grappling Prone Creatures
Grappling a prone creature brings the grappled creature’s speed to 0, which means they can’t use their movement to stand up. This is an effective strategy to allow martial characters to lock down and debuff enemies, allowing their allies to follow up with attacks with advantage.
Knocking Flyers Prone
When a flying creature without the ability to hover is knocked prone, it immediately falls 500 feet, which will likely cause them to hit the ground and take fall damage. Shoving a flying creature prone might be difficult, but this is a potent strategy for Battle Masters with the Trip Attack maneuver and a bow.
Dropping Prone to Avoid Ranged Attacks
The prone condition is one of the few conditions that actually has an upside. If you’re being fired upon by enemies at range, you can drop prone to give your would-be assailants disadvantage on their attacks.
Effects That Impose the Prone Condition
The prone condition is one of the more mundane conditions, and therefore, there are plenty of ways to knock your enemies prone. Below are some of the most common ways to impose the prone condition:
Spells that Cause the Prone Condition
- Command: This 1st-level enchantment spell can force a creature to follow a one-word command. Using the command “grovel” can make the target fall prone if it fails a Wisdom saving throw.
- Grease: A 1st-level conjuration spell that creates a slippery surface, causing creatures to fall prone if they fail a Dexterity saving throw.
- Hideous Laughter: This 1st-level enchantment spell can incapacitate a creature with laughter. If the target fails a Wisdom saving throw, it falls prone, becoming incapacitated and unable to stand up.
- Earth Tremor: A 1st-level evocation spell that shakes the ground. Creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw or fall prone.
- Thunderous Smite: A paladin’s 1st-level evocation spell that adds a thunderous force to their next hit. If the attack lands, the target must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be flung 10 feet and knocked prone.
- Sleet Storm: This 3rd-level conjuration spell creates a storm of sleet, making the ground slick. Creatures in the area must maintain their balance or fall prone.
- Tidal Wave: A 3rd-level conjuration spell that summons a wave of water. Creatures caught in the wave must make a Dexterity saving throw or be knocked prone by the force of the water.
It is also worth noting that anything that causes an icy surface to form can cause a creature to slip and fall prone if they fail their DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check.
Class Features that Cause the Prone Condition
The most common and mundane way to knock a target prone is by using the Shove action to knock your enemy prone.
Many subclasses of martial classes, like barbarians, fighters, and monks, have ways to knock targets prone with their abilities. Examples of this would be the aforementioned Battle Master’s Trip Attack, but there’s also the Path of the Giant barbarian’s Mighty Impel of the Way of the Open Hand monk’s Open Hand Technique.
Prone 5e FAQs
Does Standing Up From Prone Provoke Opportunity Attacks?
You don't provoke an opportunity attack unless you leave a creature's reach, so standing up from prone shouldn't provoke an opportunity attack.
Does Standing Up From Prone Activate Booming Blade?
Booming blade only activates when a creature moves more than 5 feet. Even though it takes half your movement, standing up from prone doesn't count as "moving" and therefore doesn't activate booming blade's effect.
It’s Time to Stand Up
The prone condition in D&D 5e is a basic yet tactical aspect of combat. It affects attack rolls, movement, and can be used strategically in various situations. Understanding how and when to use this condition, or recover from it, can significantly influence the outcome of a battle!