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D&d: what the help action is (and how to use it).

There are more things DnD players can do with their actions than just attack, but one of the most useful is often overlooked and misunderstood.

  • The Help action in Dungeons & Dragons 5e allows players to assist their allies in completing tasks, providing advantage on attack rolls or skill checks.
  • The Help action can be used both in and out of combat, with different effects depending on the situation. It can be used to give advantage on skill checks or distract enemies to aid in combat.
  • There are various ways to use the Help action without sacrificing a turn, such as using the spell find familiar , or choosing specific character races or classes that have the ability to use Help as a bonus action.

Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition gives players the tools to do many things both in and out of combat; alongside actions such as Shove, Dash, and Disengage is the often overlooked Help action. However, there are some players and DMs who aren't really sure what they can and can't do with this action leading to some misunderstandings.

Attack is the most commonly used action in DnD ; however, not all players know that they aren't limited to just this option when in initiative. The Player's Handbook explains some of the other actions at a player's disposal however many players never end up using these awesome forgotten DnD combat rules . That said, DnD 5e's Help action is not only the most often overlooked by players, but also the action that many get wrong.

Related: 7 Best Dungeons & Dragons 5e Campaign Modules, Ranked

What Is The Help Action In D&D 5e?

The Help action is when a Dungeons & Dragons player uses their turn to assist one of their allies, either another player or NPC, to complete a task. How a player Helps can change depending on whether they are in or out of combat, as the action has a great amount of flexibility. In its simplest terms, the Help action in DnD 5e lets a player give advantage on an attack roll or skill check.

When To Use Help In A D&D Game

Knowing what is possible with the 5e Help action is key to knowing when to use it. Out of combat, the Help action takes the form of giving advantage on a skill check and is the most common way the Help Action is used in most DnD games. Helping in this way can be assisting a fellow party member when searching for something for an advantage to an Investigation check, or chiming in during an intense conversation to give advantage on Persuasion.

In combat, Help can be used to give advantage to another player against an enemy that is within five feet. This could take the form of distracting them or calling out a weak spot. It's important to understand that while the player is using Help to aid an ally, in terms of DnD 5e game mechanics, it is the enemy who is the target of the action.

For example, a player could say they use their action to Help the barbarian attack a cultist. This means the barbarian will only get advantage on the attack roll if they attack the specific target mentioned. If the barbarian chooses to attack a different target or the cultist dies, then the Help action has been wasted.

This can make 5e's Help action a little tricky to use in combat as it requires clear communication between party members and some tactical thinking. It is most effective against boss-type DnD enemies where every blow counts. In these situations, players tanking or who aren't primary damage dealers can use Help to ensure that those who are about to dish out plenty of damage are going to land that hit.

Related: D&D Rules Everyone Is Doing Wrong

Other Ways To Use Help In D&D Without Using An Action

The easiest way for a 5e DnD player to use the Help action in combat without using their own action is to use the spell find familiar and have the familiar assist. The familiar can stick close by to damage dealers and, as they have their own initiative, can use the Help action on each of their turns. Find familiar is a first level wizard spell, but by taking the Magic Initiate feat, any class can gain this spell.

Another way to use the DnD 5e Help action without sacrificing a turn is to use it as a bonus action, which is currently only available in two ways. The first is to choose the hobgoblin race for a new DnD character as they have the racial feature Fey Gift which allows them to Help as a bonus action a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus per long rest. This feature also has an upgrade at level three to add to the benefits of using Help, such as granting temporary hit points, increasing movement speed, and dealing extra damage.

Finally, Mastermind rogues have the third level Master of Tactics feature in 5e, which allows them to use Help as a bonus action. Master of Tactics is great for ranged rogues as it increases the range of Help from five feet to 30 so long as the target can see or hear the player. All of which adds more versatility to this underappreciated Dungeons & Dragons mechanic.

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The Order of Combat

Combat step by step.

  • Determine surprise . The GM determines whether anyone involved in the combat encounter is surprised .
  • Establish positions : The GM decides where all the characters and monsters are located. Given the adventurers’ marching order or their stated positions in the room or other location, the GM figures out where the adversaries are̶how far away and in what direction.
  • Roll initiative : Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative, determining the order of combatants’ turns.
  • Take turns . Each participant in the battle takes a turn in initiative order.
  • Begin the next round . When everyone involved in the combat has had a turn, the round ends. Repeat step 4 until the fighting stops.

Bonus Actions

Other activity on your turn, movement and position, breaking up your move, moving between attacks, using different speeds, difficult terrain, being prone, interacting with objects around you.

  • draw or sheathe a sword
  • open or close a door
  • withdraw a potion from your backpack
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  • stuff some food into your mouth
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  • fish a few coins from your belt pouch
  • drink all the ale in a flagon
  • throw a lever or a switch
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  • take a book from a shelf you can reach
  • extinguish a small flame
  • pull the hood of your cloak up and over your head
  • put your ear to a door
  • kick a small stone
  • turn a key in a lock
  • tap the floor with a 10-­foot pole
  • hand an item to another character

Moving Around Other Creatures

Flying movement, creature size, squeezing into a smaller space, actions in combat, cast a spell, use an object, making an attack.

  • Choose a target . Pick a target within your attack’s range: a creature, an object, or a location.
  • Determine modifiers . The GM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells , special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.
  • Resolve the attack . You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

Attack Rolls

Modifiers to the roll, rolling 1 or 20, unseen attackers and targets, ranged attacks, ranged attacks in close combat, melee attacks, opportunity attacks, two-weapon fighting, contests in combat, shoving a creature, damage and healing, damage rolls, critical hits, damage types, damage resistance and vulnerability, dropping to 0 hit points, instant death, falling unconscious, death saving throws, stabilizing a creature, monsters and death, knocking a creature out, temporary hit points, mounted combat, mounting and dismounting, controlling a mount, underwater combat.

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Dungeons & Dragons: The Help Action Explained

Everybody needs help sometimes. Especially your character in Dungeons & Dragons.

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What is the help action, when to use the help action in combat, familiars and the help action, how to improve your help action.

While Dungeons & Dragons is a game synonymous with role-playing and puzzle-solving, it's also home to a robust combat system that can offer significant complexity and depth for those looking for it. Each player's character brings different utility to a party that can be utilized when creating strategies in combat.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Tips For Running Combat Encounters

While different types of characters tend to focus on fulfilling various roles in combat, in turn using different actions and abilities provided by their class, subclass, and race, there are several universal actions that can be used by any character in Dungeons & Dragons. Perhaps one of the most easily overlooked yet useful actions a character can take both in and out of combat is the "Help" action. So today, we're going to deep dive into everything players need to know about this great action in D&D.

As the name would imply, Help is an action a creature can take in order to help another creature with a task. If a creature takes the Help action, the target of the action gains advantage on the next ability check they make, potentially allowing for a task to be more reliably fulfilled.

Outside of combat, this can be incredibly useful when trying to perform a key task. Even if a character isn't skilled at a given task, by helping an ally with proficiency in the area at hand, the Help action can allow players to try to further tip the scales in their favor.

In the context of combat, Help can be used to assist an ally in attacking a foe, distracting a creature to make it easier to hit. When doing so, a creature has an advantage on their next attack roll made against the distracted creature. When using the Help action in combat, it's important to remember that the helper must be within five feet of the creature being distracted. Additionally, even if an ally is capable of making several attacks on their turn, Help only provides advantage to the first attack made.

While the Help action is quite useful in general, there are definitely key scenarios in which it is notably more welcome than others. As Helping provides advantage to an attack roll, if an ally is suffering from an effect that causes them to make an attack roll at disadvantage, such as if they're blinded, Help can be used to cancel out this disadvantage.

Additionally, when trying to ensure that a key attack is able to land its mark against a foe, such as a Paladin looking to land an attack with double smites, the Help action can ensure the attack makes contact with the target. Plus, when in dire straights and running low on resources such as spell slots, this action can be used to assist a character of a martial class dependably deal damage.

While receiving Help from an ally is nice, it's often not the most optimal use of a character's action economy. One of the most reliable ways to ensure that your character will be able to help their allies or even receive help for themselves is through having a familiar.

Familiars are animal (and sometimes monster) companions that can be created via the Find Familiar spell. They have access to their own turns and are controlled by the creature that created them. While in most cases Familiars are incapable of attacking, they can take other actions such as Help. This means that, through the use of a Familiar, a character is capable of providing themselves and allies with advantage on attack rolls without sacrificing one's own actions to do so.

While the Help action is already quite solid in its own right, there are several options in character creation that may let a player augment its benefits. Firstly, as of the release of Monsters of the Multiverse, the Hobgoblin race has access to the Fey Gift trait allowing Hobgoblins to help allies as a Bonus Action a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus. Although helping as a Bonus Action is already a more economical use of one's actions, upon helping a creature this way, the Hobgoblin can provide extra bonuses to itself and the helped creature such as additional movement speed, or temporary HP.

Alternatively, for those looking to play a Rogue, the Mastermind Subclass greatly improves a character's Help action. Like Hobgoblins, Mastermind Rogues are capable of Helping as a Bonus Action rather than an action. Unlike Hobgoblins, however, Masterminds aren't limited in how many times they may do so per long rest. Additionally, while helping in combat normally requires the helping creature to be within five feet of a target, Masterminds increase this range, allowing the target to be as far as thirty feet away.

Next: Dungeons & Dragons: What Is Action Economy?

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How to Use the Help Action in D&D 5e

5e help action in combat

The Help action in D&D 5e is one of the most dynamic actions any character can use. In fact, it should be the default action you should use when you can’t think of anything to use your action on in combat. What’s a better way to spend your turn than helping out your allies?

In my previous  D&D 5e mechanic examination article , I mentioned that you can use the Help action as a Ready action. Surprisingly, that part of the article got a few responses from people saying that they always forget about the Help action.

The Help action isn’t a glamorous display of strength. It’s not the most exciting action you could take in combat. However, it’s an excellent strategic maneuver when used in the right situation.

My favorite thing about the Help action is that it has two completely different uses. Its first use is for a creature to aid another creature in accomplishing a task. The secondary use is to distract a nearby creature to help an ally strike the distracted creature.

There are so many potential use-cases for the Help action which is why I call it one of the most dynamic actions in 5e.

Help action DnD 5e

Using the Help Action for Ability Checks

I’d wager that the most common usage of the Help action is to assist an ally in an ability check. Essentially, a creature can use their action to give an ally advantage on an ability check. This can also be used outside of combat which makes it an amazing tool for ability checks.

“When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn”. – Player’s Handbook (PHB) pg 192

Essentially, the assisting creature or player needs to state what task they are helping which ally with. They will grant advantage on the roll as long as the ally follows through and continues focusing on the task at hand.

In practice, I find that this use of the Help action opens up a ton of new role-playing possibilities. For example, during a difficult Persuasion check, the less charismatic fighter may pipe up with an excellent point to help the bard negotiate. It gives everyone a reason to give input during these situations.

Homebrew Rule: You Can Only Help if You Have Proficiency

One issue that I hear a lot of DMs have with the Help action is that it practically allows the party to give each other permanent advantage on any ability check. This certainly could be an issue and can be a gateway towards the DM  scaling ability checks to an unreasonable difficulty .

A common fix I’ve heard is that a creature can only assist another creature with an ability check if they are proficient in the check themselves. Admittedly, this is a solid solution to the issue. It limits the number of people who can grant each other advantage, and it does make sense.

Someone assisting the wizard with an Arcana check should have some specialized knowledge in the arcane, right? Not necessarily! A famous method of debugging code called  rubber duck debugging  shows that explaining yourself to even an inanimate object can be extremely helpful in solving complicated issues!

Think about it, you’ve bounced ideas off of friends, family, or coworkers when you’re an expert in the subject. Their input may be basic or non-existent, but sometimes hearing a different point of view or just hearing your thought process out loud is helpful in it of itself.

That being said, if you find your group does have an issue with too many people granting each other advantage on checks this is a pretty reasonable homebrew rule.

Combat Help action DnD 5e

Using the Help Action in Combat

The lesser-used part of the Help action is by far the combat portion. It’s admittedly a little tricky to navigate, so let’s break it down to see why it’s such an awesome tactic.

“Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.”-PHB 192

Basically, you can use an action to distract a target creature that’s within 5 ft. of you. You could feint an attack, yell loudly at it, or any other type of distracting behavior. Regardless, the creature is now less focused on the ally you’re aiding who can make an attack against the creature at advantage.

The ally doesn’t have to  stay  within 5 ft. of the creature, though.  That’s the big mistake myself and others have made when initially reading through the description. A player can move within 5 ft. of a creature and ally of choice, use the Help action, and then move away. You may provoke an opportunity attack in doing so, but it could potentially be worthwhile.

Essentially, once a creature has been distracted via a Help action, they’re distracted for the round. That being said, part of the Help action is to choose a specific ally that you’re helping so this does not give advantage to the rest of the party as well. One person gets the advantage of striking one specific creature.

Keep in mind that only the first attack your ally rolls against this target is at advantage.

The Help action is by far one of the best ways to use your familiar when they’re not assisting you with spells that require Touch Attacks. Your familiar cannot attack by themselves, it’s true, but they can float around a front-line character and grant them advantage on an attack each turn!

The only risk in using your familiar in this manner is that it paints them as a target for the enemy. Objectively speaking, this is not a big deal as the punishment for a familiar dying is only 10gp in 5th edition. In past editions, this could be a detrimental risk to the caster.

This doesn’t take away from the  caster’s action economy  either as familiars act independently. So, with only a 10gp loss on the line, you may as well try to help out your allies with your familiar if you’ve got nothing better for them to do.

familiar help action DnD 5e

You’re Always Useful

This is still a niche maneuver. In general, it’s best for a character or a creature to simply attack, cast spells, or take one of the other actions in lieu of a Help action. That being said, there are times where your character is simply not as effective as they generally are. I’ll give you an example.

I was playing an  arcane archer  a while ago and we got ambushed by a group of werewolves in melee range. This was before I had  Magic Arrow  and I had used up my  Arcane Shots . I didn’t have silvered ammunition so I wasn’t useful during the fight.

So, instead, I got into melee range with our Paladin who had a silvered longsword, and used the Help action to grant them advantage.

Like I said, a very niche situation because if my character was a level or 2 higher they’d have been slinging magic arrows at the werebeasts without hesitation. Regardless, this was much more satisfying to do than simply doing nothing throughout the combat. I was still contributing!

There’s always something to do in combat in D&D 5e. The Help action, among others, gives you tools to be creative and assist your party even if you’re not currently effective!


The Help action is a great tool to keep in your back pocket. Use it whenever a creature or your PC isn’t effective in their own right and help boost your nearby allies. That being said, I’d still call the Help action a niche action in combat situations. It’s useful in a very limited number of scenarios.

The Help action truly shines when used to assist allies with ability checks. If the party is creative enough they can find ways to regularly give each other advantage on difficult checks.

In theory, this sounds like most parties will be able to weasel their way into constantly getting advantage. In practice, I don’t find this to be the case. Generally, I’ve found that players will come up with a reasonable way to assist an ally and suggest it to you.

If they don’t do this already, consider asking them to! I find that it helps everyone understand both the mechanics and the narrative of the Help action anyways. It’s also a way to weed-out situations when receiving assistance from an ally doesn’t make much sense.

5e help action in combat

I’m a 30-year-old Computer Engineer living just outside of Boston, MA. D&D 5e is my favorite TTRPG system, therefore, most of the articles written by me will involve that in some way. That being said, I do dabble in a few other systems, so posts discussing those systems and their mechanics may pop up every so often. Some of these systems include the Star Wars RPG and Apocalypse World.

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Help Action 5e Guide

Help Action 5e Guide

Amid the battle, a cat darts around the field, rushing between enemy legs and attempting to trip those running. She’s moving too quickly to be hurt and runs to aid ally after ally, all under the telepathic command of her wizard. She darts across the middle of the battlefield, making a beeline to the area where the Barbarian is squaring off against the heavily armored Fighter . If she tries to trip him, she might take too much damage and poof back into the Feywild.

Knowing this well, the Familiar darts up some rocks and sits, waiting for the perfect moment and the command from her wizard. When it comes, she leaps from her perch and slams into the Fighter’s face, her little paws finding their way into his eye socket. She clings on for dear life as the fighter reels backward, both caught off guard and now blinded by the presence of furry paws against his eyes.

This gives the Barbarian the perfect advantage. Taking the higher of the two rolls, he just barely meets the Fighter’s armor class and manages to knock his opponent down to one knee. Although the Familiar took damage in the process, she did her duty in using her action to assist and give a much-needed advantage to the party’s Barbarian. Welcome to a Help Action 5e Guide.

Table of Contents

Bottom Line

The help action allows you to give players advantage on their next strike during battle or advantage on ability check rolls. Players can give it to each other, and, if commanded, a familiar can assist other players both inside and outside of combat.

Not every situation allows for the help action to be used, however, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! Even familiars can use their action during combat to help, which is the most use they really can be during a fight.

What Is It?

Help Action dnd

The help action, also known as assisting, allows you to use your action to aid another player, either in combat or outside of combat. Helping another player allows for them to gain advantage on their next ability check. Assisting during combat could also help in giving a player advantage on their next strike so long as they attack before your next turn.

How You Can Help

There are a variety of ways that you can help someone and vice versa. Sometimes helping might require thinking a little outside of the box or waiting for the right scenario to come, but for the most part, it’s pretty clear where you can help and where you should help.

If someone is attempting to make an ability check and you feel that you have enough skill in that area to help, offer it and offer up the chance for an advantage roll.

Outside of Combat

One of the most common ways to help or assist another person is during perception checks. When on the lookout, either when settled down for the night or on the road, you and another player can team up to watch the world around you for anything notable.

Teaming up with another player allows for them to get advantage on their next perception check, which can be life-saving under the right circumstances.

This is one of the many reasons I heavily advocate for players to take night watches in pairs instead of alone – that and taking watches in teams really helps with player and character bonding.

Help Action 5e dnd

However, you cannot help with every ability check. There is a chance that your Dungeon Master will want you to explain how you can actually help with this check, or they might just flat out deny your request. Regardless, it’s worth it to try – especially if you’re trying to persuade someone (like a hoity-toity noble) into fulfilling a request.

Pairing up into groups that back each other up is definitely one way to convince someone that you are all on the same page and have good intentions, though it’s not a guarantee. Regardless, with advantage on your persuasion roll, the DM can’t refuse if the dice roll high enough.

Using the help action in combat is where things can get a bit more tricky and may require a bit more creativity on your part. Though depending on the situation, it may be one of the only ways that you can help your allies.

For example, if you’re a Sorcerer, out of spell slots, and have the muscle of a peanut, it won’t do you good to make many melee attacks. Attack Cantrips are nice in this case, but the help action can be just as, if not more effective.

During combat, you can use your action to help another player’s character and give them advantage on their next attack. This essentially doubles the chances for that player to roll a natural 20 and to hit. If your melee fighters can hit harder than a 1d10 cantrip, I highly encourage you to take this option.

During combat, you can feint, distract the enemy, or draw their attention away to give your party members advantage. Taking the Help action only becomes all the more dangerous for your enemy if you have a rogue who can Sneak Attack.

Use with Familiars

familiar help action

It is time to celebrate, Wizards! Your familiar can actually use the help action. This means that you may not have to use your turn during combat (or time-sensitive situations) to help an ally. Instead, you can send your familiar to be a buddy for you.

Familiars are capable of providing your allies with advantage on their attack rolls through a variety of actions that don’t require any actual combat on their end. Familiars can distract the target or find ways to make your ally’s attack even more effective.

For those with touch-based spells that can boost your ally’s abilities, your familiar can quickly deliver those spells for you. Meanwhile, you can stay nice and comfy where you’re hopefully safe.

How You Can’t Help

Unfortunately, we can’t always help our friends. As much as I’m sure we would all love to give each other advantage all of the time, sometimes it just isn’t viable. Where two characters might be able to point out things to look at during perception checks or narrow the field of view you actually need to keep your eyes on, other tasks are just too difficult to achieve with two people.

Things like picking a lock might end up being too difficult if you have two people working on it. On the other hand, with tasks like these, there is no reason why you can’t just try again. Unless your lock picks break inside the lock and ruin it or you run out of lock picks, there really isn’t much of a reason not  to try again. In cases like these, advantage from assisting is not that necessary.

Other tasks you may not have the skills to help in. If your charisma is horrible and you’re attempting to help with a persuasion check, you might end up doing more harm than good.

If you have an absolutely horrible perception, you might  be able to get away with helping someone else out for a perception check, but on the whole, you might be better to leave it for someone with a higher Wisdom.

That’s not to say you’re useless and shouldn’t help, but figuring out where you can best aid and best be aided is all to the benefit of playing toward your character’s strong points. However, trying to justify how you can help when you theoretically can’t, can end up being a very funny and memorable moment.

Turning an Action into a Bonus Action

5e help action in combat

For most players, the Help action can only be used as a regular turn rather than as a Bonus Action. However, if you’re playing a Hobgoblin, you can access the Fey Gift trait, allowing for you to use Help as a Bonus Action.

Hobgoblins get a few extra benefits from doing this as well, gaining additional movement speed or temporary HP. The downside is that you can only do this a certain amount of times per long rest.

If the Hobgoblin isn’t appealing, however, you can also play as a Mastermind Rogue. Taking this subclass allows for you to take the Help action as a Bonus Action instead.

Unlike Hobgoblings, Mastermind Rogues can do this as many times as they want and are able to help someone up to thirty feet away from them.

Think Outside the Box

Let’s assume you and another player (or even an NPC) have half-proficiency in a language. Although not common, it’s not impossible! In a case where you need to translate something from this language for your party or for someone else, it may help if you were to assist each other in the translation process.

It’s the same as if you were learning a language or attempting to translate something you only held partial fluency in for real life. Having someone else there, whether they’re the same language level you are, slightly lower, or slightly higher, helps!

People grasp different concepts in language. You may find you have an easier time translating and understanding the context or connotation of something easier together than you would going about the task alone.

You don’t have to be doing the same thing as your counterparts to help either. In social situations where you are attempting to persuade someone, and multiple people are helping, there are other ways to get advantage for the rolling player. Where one might be attempting to persuade, depending on the situation, other players could intimidate, show off skills, or use discreet spells to help.

If you’re in a risky situation with a tough-as-nails group and you’re trying to weasel your way out of it, a little bit of persuasion mixed with some intimidation could be the way to go. Not only can you make them think that your group is tougher than theirs, but it might help to get them off your backs for a bit, thinking that your group bears no ill-will toward theirs.

Help Action 5e Guide: FAQs

Question: can i use the help action as a bonus action .

Answer: No, you can’t. It’s in the name – the Help action is an action, not a bonus action, sorry! Well… unless you’re a Mastermind Rogue. In that case, you can, in fact, use the Help action as a bonus action.

Question: Are you able to Help yourself? 

Answer: No, you can’t. Considering that the action expires at the start of your next turn, it would be wasted before you could use it. It gets a little fuzzy around the edges with familiars, so rules for that may vary from table to table. I recommend talking to your DM about whether or not your familiar can help you, but don’t feel sad if they say no – your little buddy can still help your friends!

Question: Can you ready a Help action? 

Answer: Technically, yes. Readying an action only implies that you’re going to take your action once a certain event happens. Readying a Help action would mean that you are waiting for your certain event to take place before you help an ally. This may mean that you’re waiting for them to get closer, or you’re waiting for an enemy to move. Regardless, you can, in fact, ready one. Doing so requires cooperation and coordination but is completely viable.

Hope This Helped!

The Help action can be, and often is, overlooked. It can be a complete game changer that, based on the situation, can completely alter the outcome of a campaign. Whether you’re trying to convince a noble to give you more money and help, or you’re giving the Fighter a better chance at hitting the highly-armored enemy, the Help action is genuinely very useful.

It can be difficult to think quickly on your toes when you’re playing DnD, and opportunities are often missed. Next time you see an opportunity to help, though, I recommend you take it by the fist and refuse to let it go – even if you have to make a hilariously wild explanation for how your help will actually benefit the rolling player.

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5e SRD:Help Action

From d&d wiki.

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally's attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage .

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5e help action in combat

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Help Action 5e [DnD Rule Guide]

The Help Action

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

Alternatively, you can aid a friendly creature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally’s attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage .

Working Together

Sometimes two or more characters team up to attempt a task. The character who’s leading the effort–or the one with the highest ability modifier –can make an ability check with advantage, reflecting the help provided by the other characters. In combat, this requires the Help action.

A character can only provide help if the task is one that he or she could attempt alone. For example, trying to open a lock requires proficiency with thieves’ tools, so a character who lacks that proficiency can’t help another character in that task.

Moreover, a character can help only when two or more individuals working together would actually be productive. Some tasks, such as threading a needle, are no easier with help.

Help Action 5e

The help action is often overlooked or overused by DnD 5e players. But helping, or working together, are core to the Dungeons and Dragons experience as a collaborative roleplaying game.

In this article, I’ll cover how the help action works both in and out of combat, how it relates to the rules for “working together” (PHB 175), and a few tips, character builds, and spells to make the most of the help action in your next DnD game.

What Does Help Action Do in 5e?

The help action does one of two things in DnD 5e:

Out of combat: Grants advantage on an ability check that another creature makes. For this to be usable, it must be a situation where the helper “could attempt [the task] alone” AND where “two or more individuals working together would actually be productive.”

The examples given in the Player’s Handbook are that a player would need proficiency with thieves’ tools to help pick a lock and that a player couldn’t help another creature thread a needle, because this task would be “no easier with help.”

In combat: You target an enemy creature, causing the next attack roll against it to be made with advantage. You must be within 5 feet of the enemy (the “target” of the help action in this context) to use the help action, but you do not need to remain within 5 feet of the enemy before that attack roll is made.

That’s the basics of the help action in 5e, but it doesn’t cover all the rules and nuances.

What Are the Rules for Help Action in 5e?

The rules for Help Action in DnD 5e are as follows:

In combat, help applies to the NEXT ally to attack a target; not to a SPECIFIC ally. This was confirmed on Sage Advice by 5e’s lead game designer .

While I’m normally okay with Jeremy Crawford’s rulings, this one is actually contradicted by the Hobgoblin racial ability, Fey Gift. This racial gives a buff to the creature you help in combat…which, technically, is the enemy. Obviously, this is not the intention of Fey Gift. But then, who do you buff? The first ally to attack the target?

Furthermore, Jeremy Crawford contradicts himself with this tweet , stating that a Mastermind Rogue can help two allies in combat, one with their action and one with their bonus action. Does this mean that the next two attacks against the target (the enemy) gain advantage? It sure doesn’t sound like it or seem like it based on the context of the question (Can a MM Rogue “assist 2 different PCs in combat” to which JC replies, “Yes.”

So while the Rules as Written are that help applies to the TARGET FOE, not AN ALLY, many DMs ignore this in light of these contradictions with other printed material and Jeremy Crawford’s own words. Ask your DM how they plan to rule if you’re cooking up tactics that rely on the help action in combat.

Unfortunately, this awkward wording of the help action remains in the latest One DnD playtest materials, so this confusion/necessary house ruling will persist in the future of DnD.

In combat, help only applies to the FIRST attack roll made against the target. This is both a continuation and extension of the rule above. Help definitely does not apply to multiple attacks; only the first attack against the “target.” Even if your DM rules that the “target” of help is your ally rather than the enemy creature, only their first attack roll is made with advantage.

You do not need to stay within 5 feet of the foe after using the help action. The Sage Advice Compendium confirmed that “you can take the [help] action and then move away. The action itself is what grants advantage to your ally, not your staying next to the foe” (SAC 12).

A familiar from the Find Familiar spell can use the help action in combat. Also confirmed in the Compendium , a familiar “can take non-attack actions, including help” (SAC 18).

d&d 5e monster myconid minis helping each other

How Do I Use Help Action in 5e?

Here are a few situations and ways to use help action in combat in DnD 5e:

Use it with your familiar. By far, the most common tactic involving the help action is to use it with your familiar from the Find Familiar spell. It can’t attack anyway, so this is far and away the most useful thing it can do in combat.

The common choice is the Owl familiar, which, with the Flyby trait, does not provoke opportunity attacks . Coupled with the ability to fly , the Owl is very safe to run in, use the Help action, and then fly out of range/line of sight of enemies afterward. Ranged enemies can still snipe the Owl, but it only costs 10 gp and an hour casting time to get it back again.

Use it before an ally makes an important attack roll. Normally, it’s better to attack or cast a spell rather than use the help action. After all, if two players make attack rolls (rolling 2d20 total), there’s a chance that both attacks will land; if one play helps and one player attacks, you’re still rolling 2d20 total, but only one attack can possibly land.

However, if an enemy is about to use a very important attack (usually a spell attack with a strong secondary effect), it might be better to increase the likelihood of it landing, rather than taking your own attack roll. Note that, with a strict DM, this requires communication on the player you hope to help’s turn, since otherwise, you’re using above-table knowledge to make in-game decisions (i.e., metagaming).

Ready it for before an attack later in the round. If your DM rules that the help action targets an enemy rather than an ally (which, again, rules as written, it does), then there’s still a way to get around this annoyance and help the ally you actually want to help — the ready action. Simply ready the help action for directly before the attack roll you want to help with, and you’re golden. You can also do this with your familiar.

The downside of this tactic is that the helper must remain within 5 feet of the target before the trigger occurs, because otherwise, the help action will be invalid at that moment, and the readied action will be wasted.

Be a Mastermind Rogue. Their 3rd-level feature, Master of Tactics, allows you to use the help action as a bonus action, and to target an enemy within 30 feet of you rather than 5 feet. This allows you to give an ally attack advantage every round of combat, which is a nice, consistent boost to your party-wide damage.

Note that Rogues have a lot competing for their bonus action already with Cunning Action (dash, hide , or disengage for a bonus action). However, if you’re playing a ranged Rogue character, you don’t need to rely on Cunning Action as much as melee-based Rogues.

Be a Hobgoblin. Their racial feature, Fey Gift, allows them to use the help action as a bonus action a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus per long rest. Additionally, they can choose from one of three buffs when they help an ally:

Hospitality. +1d6 + proficiency bonus temporary hit points for you and the helped ally.

Passage. +10 speed for you and the helped ally.

Spite. The first time the helped ally lands an attack before your next turn, the target of the attack has disadvantage on their next attack roll.

Help Action 5e DM Tips

Many DMs feel that the help action outside of combat is annoying and slightly game-breaking. After all, it can basically be spammed without limit…but not really. Here are both rules as written tips and house rules for making the help action less spammable:

Ask players HOW they help. Remember, the rules for “Working Together” (PHB 175) require that “two or more individuals working together would actually be productive.” In other words, the burden is on your players to explain how their help would be, well, helpful.

Don’t allow it if the explanation of helping makes no sense. If your player can’t come up with how their help would “actually be productive,” don’t allow the help action to be used for that ability check.

Sometimes, this isn’t really necessary — two players pushing open a door are obviously stronger than one player. Other times, you’ll actually get a good bit of roleplaying and character-building by forcing this explanation.

Require proficiency in an ability to help with an ability check. This is technically a house rule (albeit a common one), but it’s actually somewhat supported by the rules for “Working Together.” Specifically, “a character can only provide help if the task is one that they could attempt alone…a character who lacks [proficiency in thieves’ tools] can’t help another character [trying to open a lock].”

Now, any character can attempt any skill check in most circumstances, so technically, they do satisfy the requirement of being able to “attempt” that task alone. But the thieves’ tools example suggests that 5e’s developers recognized that help might be too spammable/un-fun if some guardrails weren’t put around the action.

Help Action DnD 5e FAQ

DnD 5e help action questions and answers:

Does the help action affect saving throws? No, the help action does not affect saving throws; it only affects a single attack roll. If your ally uses a saving throw -based spell, like Toll the Dead , the help action has no effect on the target enemy’s ability to resist the spell.

Can monsters take the help action? Yes, monsters can take the help action in DnD 5e, as they have the same basic actions as player characters do. However, helping does suggest both collaboration and a modicum of intelligence, so helping might not be roleplay-friendly with certain creatures.

Is help an action or bonus action? Help is an action in DnD 5e. There are only two exceptions to this: Mastermind Rogues can help as a bonus action as often as they like, and hobgoblins can use help as a bonus action a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus.

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