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DnD Disengage 5e rules explained

If you want to dodge opportunity attacks in Dungeons and Dragons, you might need the DnD Disengage 5e rules – and we’ve got you covered.

DnD Disengage 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of Drizzt Do'Urden in combat

If you’re stuck for a spell to cast or a sword to swing, Dungeons and Dragons is full of extra actions you can take in combat. While these are simple acts, the fact you use them less often than attacks means it’s easy to forget the rules of a mechanic like DnD Disengage 5e. Worry not – we’ve used our bookish RPG brains to create a helpful Disengage rules reminder.

Below you’ll find a rules guide that expands on the definitions provided by Wizards of the Coast’s core DnD books. We’ll cover which DnD classes and DnD races Disengage the best, as well as the strategic situations where you might choose to use Disengage.

DnD Disengage 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a human woman dodging another human woman's attack

What is DnD Disengage, anyway?

The Player’s Handbook has this to say about the Disengage action: “If you take the Disengage action, your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks for the rest of the turn”.

This does require you to understand what a DnD Opportunity Attack is, of course. We’ve got a handy guide for that, too, but all you need to know for now is that combatants get a chance to attack if a foe moves out of reach.

With that in mind, the Player’s Handbook tells us two seemingly obvious things about Disengage:

  • It takes an action to Disengage.
  • If you Disengage, nearby enemies won’t get a chance to make an opportunity attack against you.

Simple, right? Well, not always…

DnD Disengage 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Rogue

Disengage isn’t always an action

Plenty of DnD character builds offer a way to use Disengage as a bonus action rather than a regular action. This is far more effective when it comes to action economy as it saves your action for more useful things, like damage, area control, or healing.

These are the main culprits you’ll find bending the rules:

  • The DnD Rogue – this class can use Disengage as a Cunning Action from level two, which helps them dodge in and out of melee while making Sneak Attacks.
  • The DnD Monk – From level two, Monks can spend their Ki on the Step of the Wind ability, which lets them Disengage as a bonus action.
  • The DnD Goblin – This race’s Nimble Escape feature lets them Disengage without spending an action.
  • Various DnD monsters – Plenty of opponents have the option to Disengage as a bonus action, including NPC Goblins.
  • Hares?? – If a DnD Druid used their Wild Shape to turn into a Hare, they could Disengage as a bonus action. If they were a level 18 Druid, they could be casting spells in Hare form with their action, but otherwise this option doesn’t have much to offer.

Disengage doesn’t stop every opportunity attack

There’s one specific DnD feat that screws with the Disengage rules, and that’s Sentinel. A character with this feat can make attacks of opportunity even if their enemy Disengages. It’s a pesky extra rule to remember, but hey – it only benefits your party.

DnD Disengage 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of two Dhampir having a sword fight

When to use the DnD Disengage action

Disengage offers two main advantages to a DnD player: damage reduction and positioning.

It’s a no-brainer that reducing the number of attacks you take protects you from damage. If you’re close to death, it’s often better to safely remove yourself from action rather than stand your ground. If you’re a Druid or DnD Cleric, maybe you can sneak in a Healing Word 5e spell as a bonus action, too.

There are also many reasons why you may want to move to a particular spot on the battlefield. Perhaps your objective is to reach a door, and you want to protect yourself from enemies who could attack you en route. Or maybe you want to step up to a different enemy to distract them from a friend whose HP is low.

DnD Disengage 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a bar brawl

Disengage is handy in all of these situations. However, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, Disengaging as an action is a poor use of resources.

If you can Misty Step out of danger as a bonus action, you should do that instead. If you want to take less damage when running through a horde of enemies, the Dodge action might be more effective. The Disengage action isn’t useless, but it is pretty situational. Unless you really need it, leave it to those who can use it as a bonus action.

If you find yourself forgetting how to play Dungeons and Dragons quite often, here are some more rules reminder guides to bookmark. We can guide you through DnD level ups, explain the main DnD conditions, and even walk you through the infamous DnD death saves.