How can someone survive a powerful blow in combat? Of course, by being a Rogue and leveraging their Uncanny Dodge feature.
A massive ogre looks down at the diminutive halfling, a smirk on your bulbous face. You heft the massive club and swing it above your head. The halfling is unable to move in time, and you experience a rush of adrenaline when you strike. But hold on! The halfling manages to turn slightly at the last second. You can feel the blow, but they don’t appear as battered as you’d hoped.
So, how does it work exactly? And how do you know when to employ it? All of this and more is covered further down.
Table of Contents
Uncanny Dodge is a Rogue feature available at the 5th level. If a character is hit by an attack, they can use their reaction to automatically reduce the damage done by a single attack in half. This is true for melee, ranged, and spell attacks.
How Does Uncanny Dodge Work?
Uncanny Dodge may appear simple at first glance, but there are a few key components to understand if you want to use it correctly. Many DMs look at it and think it’s way too powerful, especially for a 5th-level character. However, because of the limitations on the ability and the significant increase in the power of enemies and spellcasters at 5th level, Uncanny Dodge is actually balanced.
The first and most important requirement is that the character be able to see their attacker. Unseen foe attacks and damage from overlooked traps do not qualify. It’s worth noting that the feature requires the damage to come from an attack, not an area of effect or magical effect. Recurring poison damage, fall damage, or magic missile (which always hits) damage cannot be reduced.
Second, it only works on one instance of damage. Many opponents and classes gain a second attack at Level 5, so DMs usually have a second chance to deal full damage to a Rogue on the same turn if their monster has Multiattack. Because Rogues only have one reaction per round, Uncanny Dodge can be easily countered by giving enemies multiple attacks or having multiple enemy attacks.
Third, Uncanny Dodge only applies to damage. Many attacks and spells inflict status conditions in addition to damage, and Uncanny Dodge has no effect on them. The same is true for attacks that cause recurring damage in subsequent rounds; Uncanny Dodge has no effect on that damage.
When To Use It
Uncanny Dodge, as previously stated, uses up your entire reaction and only halves the damage from a single attack. Uncanny Dodge may not be as useful if you rely heavily on your reaction time for other purposes.
Uncanny Dodge is most useful when an enemy scores a critical hit on you or manages to roll well on the damage. While it is true that you can only use it once per round, halving the damage is always worth it.
There’s no reason why Rogues who don’t use feats like Sentinel (Player’s Handbook), Gift of the Chromatic Dragon (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons), Gift of the Gem Dragon (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons), or Defensive Duelist (Player’s Handbook) shouldn’t use Uncanny Dodge every round. Just make sure to save it for the most powerful enemies so that you can reduce the most damage possible.
However, many Rogues built for melee enjoy using their reactions to make attacks of opportunity when enemies start fleeing or attacking your softer spellcasters. Uncanny Dodge prevents you from taking a parting shot at someone trying to get around. If you and your enemies are juking and jiving on the battlefield, you might want to save your reaction.