In this guide, we delve deep into the mechanics of cover in Dungeons & Dragons (DND).
Learn how cover works, its impact on gameplay, and how to use it effectively in your campaigns.
What Is Cover DND? (Official Meaning)
Cover in DND refers to the protection a character or creature receives from attacks and certain spells due to obstacles, terrain, or other characters.
By providing an obstacle between the attacker and the target, cover makes it more challenging to land a hit, increasing the target’s Armor Class (AC) or providing bonuses to saving throws.
Here is the official explanation from the Player’s Handbook:
CoverWalls, trees, creatures, and other obstacles can provide cover during combat, making a target more difficult to harm. A target can benefit from cover only when an attack or other effect originates on the opposite side of the cover.
There are three degrees of cover. If a target is behind multiple sources of cover, only the most protective degree of cover applies; the degrees aren’t added together. For example, if a target is behind a creature that gives half cover and a tree trunk that gives three-quarters cover, the target has the benefits of three-quarters cover.
A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. A target has half cover if an obstacle blocks at least half of its body. The obstacle might be a low wall, a large piece of furniture, a narrow tree trunk, or a creature, whether that creature is an enemy or a friend.
A target with three-quarters cover has a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. A target has three-quarters cover if about three-quarters of it is covered by an obstacle. The obstacle might be a portcullis, an arrow slit, or a thick tree trunk.
A target with total cover can’t be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.
Degrees of Cover in DND
As we mentioned, according to the Player’s Handbook (PHB), cover is divided into three categories: half cover, three-quarters cover, and total cover.
Total cover completely obscures the target from the attacker’s line of sight, making it impossible for the attacker to directly target the creature.
Spells and other effects that require a target cannot affect creatures with total cover.
Half cover is granted when an obstacle, such as a low wall or piece of furniture, covers at least half of the target’s body.
As mentioned earlier, half cover provides a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws.
Three Quarters Cover
Three-quarters cover occurs when about three-quarters of the target is obscured by an obstacle, like a large tree trunk or narrow window.
In this case, the target receives a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws.
How Does Cover Work in DND?
Each type of cover provides different bonuses to AC and saving throws.
How Cover in DND Impacts AC
Cover increases a character’s AC, making it more difficult for an attacker to land a hit.
The AC bonus depends on the degree of cover:
- Half cover: Gives you +2 bonus to AC
- Three-quarters cover: Gives you +5 bonus to AC
How Cover in DND Impacts Saving Throws
Cover also provides bonuses to Dexterity saving throws:
- Half cover: Gives you +2 bonus to Dexterity saving throws
- Three-quarters cover: Give you +5 bonus to Dexterity saving throws
Cover does not provide additional advantages beyond the bonuses to AC and Dexterity saving throws.
However, these benefits can significantly impact the outcome of combat encounters, making the cover a crucial tactical element in DND.
Here is a good video about the Cover rules in DND:
Cover DND Chart
Here is a chart that shows the degrees of cover along with a brief explanation and the corresponding AC bonus:
|Degree of Cover||Brief Explanation||AC Bonus|
|Total Cover||Completely obscured from the attacker||N/A|
|Half Cover||Half of the target’s body covered||+2|
|Three Quarters||Three-quarters of the target obscured||+5|
Pros and Cons of Cover
Like any other option in DND, cover comes with pros and cons.
- Increases AC and provides bonuses to Dexterity saving throws
- Encourages tactical combat and creative use of the environment
- Enhances realism and immersion in combat scenarios
- Can slow down combat due to additional considerations and calculations
- Requires a clear understanding of the environment and positioning
How To Get Cover In DND (Hitting Cover)
Finding and utilizing cover in DND can be a crucial aspect of surviving and thriving in combat.
By positioning themselves behind obstacles, other players, or creatures, characters can gain valuable bonuses to their AC and Dexterity saving throws.
In this section, we will explore examples of gaining cover through various means.
Characters can use their surroundings to their advantage, gaining cover by strategically positioning themselves behind various objects.
- Ducking behind a low wall during a ranged ambush
- Taking cover behind a large tree trunk while engaging in a forest skirmish
- Using a boulder as cover during a mountainside battle
- Hiding behind a stack of crates or barrels in a warehouse fight
- Peeking around a corner to shoot arrows while remaining protected by a building’s wall
Though not always the most effective or safest option, characters can sometimes use their allies as cover.
Some examples include:
- A halfling rogue hiding behind a heavily armored fighter, using their bulk as protection
- A spellcaster positioning themselves behind a mounted ally, using the horse and rider as a shield
- A ranged attacker using their taller allies as cover during a chaotic melee
Remember that using other players as cover can be risky and may result in friendly fire or unintended consequences. It is essential to communicate with your group to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Creatures, both friendly and hostile, can provide cover if positioned correctly.
Here are a few examples:
- A character using a large summoned creature, like an earth elemental, as cover against enemy attacks
- Hiding behind a defeated or unconscious enemy to shield oneself from incoming projectiles
- Using a tamed or controlled beast, such as a bear or dire wolf, as cover during a skirmish
When using creatures as cover, consider the size and shape of the creature, as well as any potential risks involved in using a living or hostile being as protection.
How To Hit Enemies Behind Cover
Successfully hitting enemies behind cover can be challenging, but with the right tactics and abilities, you can overcome their defenses.
Here are some examples to illustrate different methods of dealing with foes who have taken cover.
Using Spells That Don’t Require a Direct Target
Spells that reach a target in an area of effect can affect creatures with total cover, provided that the cover isn’t completely sealed off, and the spell doesn’t require a direct line of sight or an attack roll.
Here are some examples of spells that might reach targets in an area of effect:
- Fireball. This spell creates a burst of flame in a 20-foot radius, affecting all creatures within the area. It can potentially reach targets with total cover if the explosion wraps around the cover, depending on the DM’s ruling.
- Shatter. This spell creates a loud, ringing noise that affects creatures and objects within a 10-foot-radius sphere. Targets with total cover could still be affected if the cover does not provide sufficient protection against the force of the spell.
- Cloudkill. This spell creates a poisonous fog that spreads around corners and fills a 20-foot-radius sphere. It can potentially affect targets with total cover if the fog manages to seep around or through the cover.
- Evard’s Black Tentacles. This spell summons a mass of writhing tentacles that fill a 20-foot square area. The tentacles can potentially reach and affect targets with total cover if they can extend around or through the cover.
- Stinking Cloud. This spell creates a cloud of nauseating gas in a 20-foot-radius sphere. Targets with total cover could still be affected if the gas manages to seep around or through the cover.
These spells and others like them can potentially affect targets with total cover, but ultimately, the DM will determine if the cover is sufficient to protect the target from the spell’s effects.
Leveraging Abilities That Negate or Reduce Cover Bonuses
Some class features or feats can help bypass or reduce cover bonuses.
- A Sharpshooter feat for a ranged attacker, which negates cover bonuses (except total cover).
- The Spell Sniper feat for spellcasters, which doubles spell range and ignores cover bonuses for attack rolls.
- A Ranger with the “Horde Breaker” ability can attack multiple enemies, potentially hitting foes behind cover.
Overcoming Increased AC with High Attack Bonuses
A high attack bonus can help you overcome the increased AC provided by the cover.
- A high-level fighter with a strong attack bonus, allowing them to hit enemies even with the cover bonus.
- A rogue using their Sneak Attack to deal significant damage, potentially bypassing cover by exploiting vulnerabilities.
- A paladin with a high attack bonus and the ability to smite, increasing their chances of hitting targets behind cover.
Flanking Maneuvers and Coordinated Attacks
Tactical teamwork can help you bypass or minimize the impact of cover.
- A group of melee attackers flanking a target, forcing them to leave cover or become surrounded.
- A spellcaster gains line of sight and then uses “Hold Person” to immobilize an enemy behind cover, allowing allies to move in for an attack.
- Coordinating ranged attacks from multiple angles to limit the effectiveness of cover.
By employing these tactics and abilities, you can improve your chances of hitting enemies who have taken cover, turning the tide of battle in your favor.
How Does Cover Work With Hide?
Cover and the Hide action can work together to improve a character’s chances of successfully hiding from their enemies.
When a character is behind cover, they have a better chance of breaking line of sight.
And that is often a prerequisite for attempting to hide.
Here’s how cover and hiding interact:
- Breaking Line of Sight. To attempt the Hide action, a character generally needs to break line of sight from their enemies. Cover can provide the necessary concealment to make hiding possible.
- Stealth Check. Once a character has found cover and broken line of sight, they must make a Stealth check to determine if they successfully hide from their enemies. The effectiveness of their hiding will depend on the roll and their Stealth skill.
- Remaining Hidden. If a character successfully hides, they can maintain their hidden status as long as they remain behind cover or concealed. If they leave cover or make an action that reveals their position (e.g., attacking), they will no longer be hidden.
Keep in mind that certain class features or abilities can further enhance the synergy between cover and hiding, such as the Rogue’s Cunning Action or the Lightfoot Halfling’s Naturally Stealthy trait.
How Does Cover Work With Prone?
Cover and the prone condition can interact in interesting ways, providing both benefits and drawbacks to a character during combat.
Here’s how cover and prone interact:
- Cover Bonuses. A prone character can still benefit from cover bonuses to AC and Dexterity saving throws. However, the prone condition might make it more difficult to find suitable cover, especially for larger characters.
- Ranged Attacks. While prone, a character has a disadvantage on attack rolls for ranged weapons, making it more challenging to utilize cover for ranged combat effectively. However, ranged attacks against a prone character have a disadvantage if the attacker is more than 5 feet away, which can provide an additional layer of protection when combined with cover.
- Melee Attacks. Melee attacks against a prone character have an advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the target. This means that a prone character who is behind cover may still be vulnerable to enemies who can reach them in melee.
- Movement. A prone character’s movement speed is halved when crawling, which can make it more challenging to find and take advantage of cover.
Types of Cover
- Large chest
- Cavern wall
- Ice formation
- Sand dune
- Pile of rubble
- Armor rack
- Weapon rack
- Pile of bones
- Giant mushroom
- Large plants
Cover DND Ideas in a Campaign
- A battlefield filled with ruined buildings and walls, requiring strategic positioning.
- A dense forest with trees and underbrush providing varying degrees of cover.
- An underground cavern system with stalagmites and stalactites.
- A magical maze with shifting walls and illusions.
- A siege encounter with fortifications and barricades.
- A cityscape with rooftops, balconies, and alleyways.
- A swamp with tall reeds, murky water, and sinking terrain.
- A desert with sand dunes and rocky outcroppings.
- A snowy landscape with deep snowdrifts and ice formations.
- An enchanted garden with hedges and living statues.
- A graveyard with tombstones, crypts, and mausoleums.
- A haunted mansion with secret passages and shifting rooms.
- A mountain pass with boulders, ledges, and ravines.
- A marketplace with stalls, carts, and crowds.
- An ancient temple with pillars, altars, and statues.
- A magical storm with strong winds, lightning, and debris.
- A burning building with collapsing structures and smoke.
- A shipwreck with broken masts, debris, and floating cargo.
- A wizard’s tower with magical barriers and animated objects.
- A planar battlefield with shifting gravity and unstable terrain.
Cover DND Magic Items
Magic items that can create or enhance cover include:
- Cloak of Displacement. Provides concealment by projecting an illusion of the wearer’s position.
- Portable Hole. A foldable extra-dimensional space that can be used as an impromptu cover.
- Folding Boat. Can be transformed into a small boat or ship, which can act as cover.
- Instant Fortress. A small cube that expands into a fortified tower, providing total cover.
- Wand of Web. Creates webs that can hinder enemies and provide partial cover.
Cover DND Tokens
Cover DND tokens are small, easily transportable objects used to represent cover on a battle map or grid.
These tokens can be made from various materials, such as cardboard, plastic, or metal, and are designed to depict various forms of cover.
Players can purchase pre-made tokens or create their own to suit a campaign’s unique environments.
Cover DND Miniatures
Cover DND miniatures are three-dimensional models of cover objects used to enhance the visual aspect of the game and provide a more immersive experience.
Miniatures can be purchased pre-painted or unpainted, allowing players to customize their cover elements.
Some popular cover miniatures include walls, trees, rocks, and furniture.
Is Cover in DND Overpowered?
Cover in DND is not inherently overpowered, but it can be a strong tactical advantage when used effectively.
However, there are several factors to consider when evaluating the impact of cover in the game:
- Game Balance. DND is designed with a variety of tactical options in mind, and cover is just one of these. Other factors, such as positioning, terrain, and abilities, can also influence the outcome of combat. A well-balanced game will provide opportunities for both players and enemies to use cover and other tactics to their advantage.
- Enemy Adaptation. Enemies and NPCs can also use cover to their benefit, so players might find themselves on the receiving end of this advantage. Additionally, intelligent enemies might adapt their tactics to deal with characters who frequently use cover, such as flanking or using area-of-effect spells.
- Limitations. Cover does not provide complete protection, as it can be bypassed or negated through specific abilities, spells, or tactics. Additionally, not all environments will provide ample opportunities for cover, and in some cases, taking cover might limit a character’s offensive options.
- DM Discretion. Ultimately, the Dungeon Master (DM) has the final say in determining the impact of cover in the game. They can adjust the availability and effectiveness of cover to suit the needs of their campaign and maintain game balance.
Cover DND FAQs
Players (and DMs) ask a ton of questions about cover. Let’s answer some of the most common questions.
Does Cover Stack?
Cover bonuses do not stack. If a character is behind multiple sources of cover, only the highest cover bonus applies.
Can Water Be Cover?
Water can provide concealment due to its opacity.
But it does not generally provide cover as it does not create a solid barrier.
However, some DMs may rule that thick or magical water can provide a form of cover at their discretion.
Can Cover Be Destroyed?
Yes, cover can be destroyed depending on the material and the amount of damage dealt.
The DM should determine the object’s hit points and damage threshold, as well as any resistances or immunities it may have.
Destroying cover can expose targets and change the dynamics of the encounter.
Do Cover Bonuses Apply to Area of Effect Spells?
Cover bonuses to AC and Dexterity saving throws apply to some area-of-effect spells, like Fireball, that require a Dexterity saving throw.
However, cover does not protect against all area-of-effect spells.
Especially those that don’t require attack rolls or saving throws, like Cloudkill.
Does Cover Affect Line of Sight for Spellcasting?
Cover can affect line of sight for spellcasting if the cover is sufficient to block the caster’s view of the target.
If the target has total cover, the caster cannot directly target them with spells requiring line of sight.
However, if the target only has partial cover, the caster can still target them, albeit with the target benefiting from the cover bonuses.
How Do Large Creatures Interact with Cover?
Large creatures can use objects or terrain that are appropriately sized for them as cover, just as smaller creatures can.
However, due to their size, large creatures may have a harder time finding suitable cover.
Additionally, large creatures can provide cover to smaller creatures, as long as they sufficiently obstruct the attacker’s line of sight.
Can Cover Affect Attacks of Opportunity?
Cover can affect attacks of opportunity in the sense that the attacker’s line of sight is obstructed, or the target’s AC is increased due to cover.
However, it does not inherently prevent or grant attacks of opportunity.
A character still provokes an attack of opportunity if they move out of an enemy’s reach, even if they have cover.
Can Flying Creatures Benefit from Cover?
Yes, flying creatures can benefit from cover if they position themselves behind objects or terrain that obstruct the attacker’s line of sight.
This can include flying behind large trees, walls, or other objects suspended in the air.
Final Thoughts: Cover DND
Whether you are a frail wizard ducking behind a boulder or a rouge hopping from one shadowed enclave to another, you can use cover strategically and creatively to enhance gameplay.
We have so many other articles on this site about gameplay mechanics and DND in general.
Be sure to check out a few before you go.