We’ve put together a guide to Uncanny Dodge, a 5th-level rogue feature so good it’s often excluded from games by DMs. Whether you’re a new rogue learning how to use Uncanny Dodge or a dungeon master wondering if lead designer Jeremy Crawford (5e) has finally gone insane (he hasn’t do not worry), we’ve got you covered. Let’s get started.
Uncanny Dodge: What Is It?
Rogue class features Uncanny Dodge. The rogue can reduce damage taken from melee, ranged, or spell attacks by half as long as they have an active reaction. Once a rogue reaches 5th level, if any attack hits them, they can spend their reaction to divide the damage incoming in half.
The rule is pretty simple, considering how many people misunderstand, misuse, and generally freak out about it. It is understandable why the “balance brigade” is in a tizzy over this capability.
Can incoming damage be halved? If so, how often? That would basically give all rogues double hit points! This will be house-ruled out of my game. There is just no justice for the wizard or fighter in such a situation. Everything is broken.
How Powerful Is Uncanny Dodge?
Calm down, the straw-man amalgamation of anxiety-filled Reddit threads I read while researching this piece. I understand. Just breathe. (Incidentally, while I typed this section’s title into Google to do research, my computer started to dribble acid out of the USB ports and is now tweeting harsh things about Jeremy Crawford’s children. Send help.)
Initially, Uncanny Dodge may appear that you are transforming your party’s rogue into an unkillable killing machine (that’s exactly what rogues need: more freedom from consequences!). However, in practice, this ability is remarkably balanced.
Uncanny Dodge Works Only Against Attacks
We also have the fact that Uncanny Dodge cannot reduce all damage, only attacks. It creates a problem because many spells (like Fireball, which requires a saving throw, or spells like Magic Missile, which automatically inflicts damage) can’t be halved, and other effects like poison and fall damage.
Additionally, damage reduction is great, but Uncanny Dodge isn’t like Shield, which prevents enemies from hitting you. Even when you get hit, you get a nasty scratch on the ribs as opposed to a punctured lung. While you’re pretty good at reducing damage taken, enemies that inflict conditions (like Ghoul paralysis or a Gelatinous Cube’s grapple) will still have an effect on you.
Uncanny Dodge: When Should I Use It?
As I mentioned earlier, knowing when to use your Uncanny Dodge can be tricky, especially during a large-scale battle.Blocking a low-level skeleton is not worth the effort when his Ghoul buddy is right behind him, sharpening his claws. My personal method of determining whether to use Uncanny Dodge at any given moment is based on this order of operations.
If you answered yes to all of the above, then uncanny dodge is for you. I usually save Uncanny Dodge until an enemy rolls maximum damage or a critical hit when I’m in a big melee with a bunch of enemies of relatively similar challenge.
Therefore, if a round has elapsed and I haven’t been able to use it, you can burn it on what looks like the last attack of the turn without feeling too bad about it.
Although it can be tricky to use this feature in a “perfectly optimized” way, any amount of damage avoided is a good thing. That’s it for Uncanny Dodge, guys – one of the most over-hyped spells in D&D 5e, but one that actually is surprisingly elegant and well-balanced.