Elara focused on her target. It had been a while since she had been so hard-pressed. Something in the fight shifted. Her target’s moves changed. They were quick and gave false openings.
“Is he trying to goad me?” That’s when she heard the slightest of creaks behind her. Elara knew she made a mistake and was about to be surrounded. Her only chance was to break free and regroup with her allies. She lunged forward making it look like she was going to strike, only to spin around and charge at the enemy behind her sneaking up. She shouted and raised her sword above her head as if to make an overhead smash. The soldier panicked and brought his shield up to defend, and Elara simply ran right by him.
“Too close.” She thought as she began to dash away.
Table of Contents
What is Cunning Action in DnD 5e?
Cunning Action is a Rogue feature ability that gives the player more options on moving around during combat. Instead of burning an action to use Dash, Disengage, or Hide the player can opt to use a Bonus Action for one of these three allowing more flexibility and movement while preserving their main action for an attack or something else.
It’s gained very early on, so it’s probably going to be one of the Rogue’s most used features right next to their Sneak Attack.
Cunning Action Rule 5e DnD
The official rules can be found in the Player’s Handbook on Page 96. Or below, for convenience.
- Starting at 2nd level, your quick thinking and agility allows you to move and act quickly.
- You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat.
- This action can be used only to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.
There are a few key things to look at for this ability. First, it uses your Bonus Action instead of your main action. Next, it only allows players to Dash, Disengage, or Hide. You can look below for some quick reference if you need a refresher on those three actions.
When you take the Dash action, you gain extra movement for the current turn. The increase equals your speed, after applying any modifiers. With a speed of 30 feet, for example, you can move up to 60 feet on your turn if you dash.
Any increase or decrease to your speed changes this additional movement by the same amount. If your speed of 30 feet is reduced to 15 feet, for instance, you can move up to 30 feet this turn if you dash.
You can check our full guide to the Dash Action in 5e here.
If you take the Disengage action, your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks for the rest of the turn.
You can check our full guide to the Disengage Action in 5e here.
When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules for hiding. If you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the “Unseen Attackers and Targets” section later in this chapter.
You can check our full guide to the Hide Action in 5e here.
Cunning Action Strategy & Tactics
Cunning Action is the perfect compliment to the Rogue. It’s what lets them move in and out of battle quickly, and more importantly, intact. They don’t have the highest hit dice when compared to other classes. They are somewhere in the middle between spellcasters and frontline tanks. This means they need to rely on not getting hit for survivability, and smart use of Cunning Action could mean the difference between staying alive and having to reroll a new character.
Here are a few different strategies to think about when playing as the Rogue and how to use Cunning Action effectively.
Hit and Run
Hit and Run tactics are one of the Rogue’s most effective tactics. They can attack an opponent (hopefully with Sneak Attack) and then use their bonus action to Disengage and run away. This is especially useful when paired up with a front-line attacker or tank like a Fighter or Barbarian.
If you choose the Swashbuckler Subclass from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything they have a similar ability at level 3 that allows the Rogue to avoid any Attacks of Opportunity attempted by anyone they attacked with melee. This saves their cunning action for a Hide or Dash action as well.
By using your Bonus Action to Hide, the Rogue can then attack from the shadows. This is a cheeky way to help ensure that your Sneak Attack damage is always valid. Keep in mind, though, if you’re in a completely open field with no cover and you attempt to Hide, you’ll need to be able to justify it to your DM, otherwise they probably won’t allow you to do it.
The average speed for most characters in 5e is 30ft. When you dash that doubles your movement speed meaning you can move 60ft with a Dash action. That should get you across the map to most locations. If you really need some speed you can use your regular action to Dash, which increases your speed to 60. Then use Cunning Action for a second Dash Action which doubles your speed again. This allows your character to move a whopping 120 feet in a single turn.
Odd Rules and Scenarios with Cunning Action
Cunning Action and Two-Weapon Fighting
A dual-wielding Rogue can get off some serious hits and really stack up the damage with their Sneak attack and extra hit. There is a problem if you plan on using Cunning Action while Dual Wielding.
When Dual Wielding, the rules clearly state that you can use your Bonus Action to make another attack. It doesn’t give you a second attack action. Since Cunning Action and the second attack with Dual Wielding two weapons both use the Bonus Action you have to choose one or the other. You cannot use Two-Weapon Fighting and Cunning Action in the same turn.
This is because no matter what, every character only has 1 Bonus Action to use per turn. Keep in mind that you can’t use a Bonus Action for anything you want either. You need a specific ability that clearly states you can use your Bonus Action.
If you have a second attack from a different ability, that can be used with Cunning Action as long as it doesn’t burn your Bonus Action.
Cunning Action and Spellcasting
There are a few spells that have a casting time of “Bonus Action”. If that’s the case, then you won’t be able to cast the spell and use Cunning Action in the same turn. You could use your main action instead, but that also negates the Cunning Action ability entirely.
Attacks of Opportunity
Cunning Action does not automatically negate all attacks of opportunity. It only negates them if the Rogue uses Disengage as their main action or chooses Disengage while using Cunning Action. Using the Dash action to pop in and out of Melee range applies Attack of Opportunity like normal.
Hiding in Plain Sight
This rule causes a bit of contention. The Cunning Action allows the Rogue to Hide. This inevitably leads to players saying, “I’m going to hide.” That’s fine, but sometimes they do it in a situation where it’s literally impossible to hide.
We used an example earlier where a fight was happening in an open empty field in broad daylight. It would be almost impossible to Hide without some seriously high rolls or equipment, and the DM should make that clear. In this scenario the roll to Hide would be astronomically high, something around 25+ to be successful. I wouldn’t know how to spin that in RP terms, but that’s a different problem.
Cunning Action and Items
If a Rogue is injured on the battlefield, they may want to pull back and regroup. They can use their Cunning Action to Disengage, move, or Dash away from danger and then use their Action to use an item like a healing potion.
In this scenario, a character would get their normal movement, the item would use up their main action, and they could use their Bonus Action for Cunning Action to Dash or Disengage. Since the item only uses the regular action, it’s completely legal for the Rogue to use Cunning Action in the same turn.
Step of the Wind & Cunning Action
This scenario will only come up with a Rogue/Monk multiclass, but it does illustrate the mechanics well. Monks have a Step of the Wind ability that allows them to Dash as a Bonus Action. Rogue’s Cunning Action allows them to use Dash as a Bonus Action as well. These two abilities are mutually exclusive. They cannot ever be used together since they both require the Bonus Action.
You could use your regular main action to Dash and then choose either Step of the Wind or Cunning Action for your Bonus Action. This will still give you two Dash actions in one turn, but you’ll never be able to use both of these abilities in the same turn.
Cunning Action 5e FAQs
What page can I find the Cunning Action rules?
The rules for Cunning Action can be found in the Player’s Handbook on Page 96.
How do you use Cunning Action?
Cunning Action uses a Bonus Action and simply needs to be declared during a player’s turn just like any other action. It gives them the option to use Hide, Disengage, or Dash.
Can I use Cunning Action to attack?
You cannot use Cunning Action to attack. It is only used for Hide, Disengage, or Dash.
Can I use Cunning Action and a bonus action?
No. Cunning Action uses the Bonus Action and players only have 1 Bonus Action per turn. They can use Cunning Action or a different Bonus Action ability, but not both.
What does the Cunning Action do in D&D?
Cunning Action uses the player’s Bonus Action to perform the Hide, Disengage, or Dash actions. It’s a great way to move about the battlefield quickly without getting attacked.
Does Cunning Action give you an extra bonus action?
No. Cunning Action gives you a way to use your Bonus Action. Every player has only one Bonus Action per turn, but they can only use it if they have a specific ability that allows them to.
Is Rogue Cunning Action a second bonus action?
No. The Rogue’s Cunning Action is an ability that uses the Bonus Action. Players only have one Bonus Action per turn and Cunning Action is one of the possible uses for it.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.