When it comes to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) combat, there are a number of choices that you can make.
These often come in the form of actions, bonus actions, or reactions. They work together to create several different action economies.
In this article, we will go over 11 things you need to know about bonus actions (BA) in D&D.
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What Is a Bonus Action in DND?
A bonus action is an additional, optional action that occurs immediately on top of a regular turn. It is a new action that does not affect a turn. A player can perform one when they have already used a standard action.
You get a bonus action (BA) when you possess a spell, class feature, ability, or an item that grants you one.
The bonus is limited and usually only plays a utilitarian role. For this reason, you must carefully choose when and how you want to use it.
Using your BA is not always compulsory.
In most cases, a bonus action gives you access to special abilities or spells that have a casting time of one action.
For example, Magic Missile or Shield.
One of the most common BAs in D&D is Cunning Action. It is a class feature given to Rogues and allows them to perform hit and run maneuvers while in combat with other character classes.
It also allows them some other things as well:
- They can dash as a bonus action.
- They can disengage as a bonus action.
- They use your dodge action as a bonus action, allowing you to further benefit from Uncanny Dodge.
- They can use Hide as a bonus action too.
Additionally, a BA is quicker and more incidental than a regular action.
In some cases, you can perform a bonus action in place of using a regular action. However, it is only possible when the relevant one is not a vital part of the player character (PC) or non-player character (NPC’s) turn.
Types of Bonus Actions in Dungeons and Dragons
There are many types of bonus actions.
Different types fall under features, class, spells, ability, or items that grant them to characters.
Common types include:
- Offhand-Attack. The Offhand-Attack comes in as an ability that uses your bonus action to attack with a weapon. Basically, this allows you to attack someone with a light melee weapon you have during your turn. If your character has two weapons at once, then he can use a bonus action to attack with a second one but only one time. Also, if either of your weapons has a through capability, you can use the bonus attack to throw it instead of a melee attack.
- Cast a Spell. Casting a spell comes as a special ability for some classes. Examples are evocation spells or cleric domain spells. This action includes cantrips with casting times of one bonus action such as hex and ray of frost.
- Use Class Features. This type of bonus move lets you use the ability or spell that your class or race grants as a bonus action. For example, as a cleric, you might possess an ability that gets triggered as a reaction. In such cases, it is possible for clerics to use their Channel Divinity as a bonus action.
While most BAs in this category come as class-specific, many characters get Two Weapons Fighting.
It is a form of fighting style that new players should master.
How Do Bonus Actions Work in D&D?
Bonus actions in D&D provide an opportunity for your characters to attack, cast spells, or disengage from sticky combat situations.
During each round of combat, your characters have the chance to use a BA.
However, each player has different options, with some enjoying a broader variety than others.
In combat, each player has several options:
- A move (Move up to your speed)
- A bonus action (with a relevant ability that says you have)
- Object Interaction/ Free action
- A reaction
If your character has two weapons at his disposal, he can use the attack action with the dominant-hand weapon.
That should add to their proficiency bonus.
Then he can take a second attack using the off-hand weapon, but it won’t add a proficiency bonus unless it’s negative.
There is also a class ability such as Druid subclasses’ Wild Shape or Barbarian’s Rage.
These count as a bonus action. Such actions help speed up combat, which could otherwise take an entire turn just to get ready.
Here is a good video that further explains how Bonus Actions work in Dungeons and Dragons:
Who Gets Bonus Actions in D&D?
Every player character (PC), non-player character (NPC), an enemy can technically get bonus actions. Some classes, like Paladins and Rouges, automatically get bonus actions.
The good news is that almost everyone gets the Two Weapons Fighting bonus.
They also get Object interaction used for other extra little things. For example, you can use your Object interaction to open doors, pick up objects, or draw weapons depending on your situation.
Keep in mind this Object interaction does not normally use your standard actions.
All other bonus actions are specific to class or race abilities, spells, or other features.
Almost every class in the player’s handbook has one. In addition, several races have features that grant additional bonus actions.
Can You Hold a Bonus Action in D&D?
No. You can’t hold a bonus action in Dungeons and Dragons.
You can not hold onto your move either.
However, you can hold a BA using a reaction and an action with a specified trigger. When such a trigger occurs, you may:
- Spend an action on a thing you started
- Dash using your action
- Continue to hold on to your action
Can I Use My Action as a Bonus Action?
According to lead D&D game designer, Jeremy Crawford, “Actions and bonus actions aren’t interchangeable.”
Therefore, you can not trade bonus actions for actions or use more than one BA in a single turn.
For example, the rules as written (RAW) do not allow player characters to use a BA as an action and then use another BA.
This is true of physical actions and spells.
Can You Disengage as a Bonus Action?
Yes, in some cases, you can disengage as a bonus action.
Certain classes like Monks and Rogues can use a BA to disengage. They can also attack and move away from an enemy.
That said, any character can disengage as a standard action.
Disengaging serves as your “attack”. You still get a “move” during your turn.
Can You Throw a Weapon as a Bonus Action in D&D?
Many players ask if they can throw a weapon as a BA in DND. They either ask generally or with a specific weapon in mind.
The short answer is: Yes.
Unless otherwise specified in the BA details, you take our regular action first, followed by the BA of throwing a weapon.
For more details, check out the current version of the Player’s Handbook for rules on:
- Two Handed Fighting
- Dual Weilder Feat
Can You Throw a Dagger as a Bonus Action?
Yes, player characters can throw daggers as a BA. Daggers are light weapons that take a minimal amount of body movement to throw at an enemy or other target.
Unless you have a special feat, spell, etc, you will still need to take your standard action first.
Can You Throw a Dart as a Bonus Action?
You can throw a dart as a BA in Dungeons and Dragons.
Like daggers, darts are short and lightweight weapons that require little effort and body movement.
And, like daggers, you typically must expend your standard action before throwing them as a BA.
Can You Throw a Javeline as a Bonus Action?
You can throw a javelin as a BA in DND. However, the javelin must already be drawn and in your hand. You cannot both draw and throw a javelin as a BA, as these are two separate actions.
Depending on what you want to do, and if your Dungeon Master agrees, you should be able to make this work.
It should be noted that, according to the DND rules, a javelin is not a light weapon such as a dagger or dart.
In some cases, you must also take Two-Weapon Fighting prerequisites into account.
Abilities such as multiattack or the Duel Wielder’s Feat can also come into play.
How Many Bonus Actions Can You Get?
You only get to use one Bonus Action each turn. That means you can only use one at a time, even if you have multiple features that grant you several.
With certain features, you can always get more actions.
That is not the case with bonus actions.
In fact, there aren’t many features that grant you more than one. With this in mind, always ensure you use your action wisely.
What Is a Bonus Action Spell?
A bonus action spell is any spell that your players can cast as a bonus action.
In the current edition of D&D, spells become bonus actions if the Casting time section explicitly describes them as such. There are over 35 spells in D&D that can be bonus actions. Some do not need your concentration for you to sustain them to the maximum.
Others will require you to incant for most of your six seconds during your turn.
Here is a chart with common cantrip and level 1 bonus action spells by character class:
|Level 1 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
|Expeditious Retreat||Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock|
|Magic Stone||Warlock, Druid|
|Healing Word||Druid, Bard, Cleric|
|Shield of Faith||Cleric|
Next, here is a chart with Level 2 spells by class in D&D:
|Level 2 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
|Dragon’s Breath||Wizard, Sorcerer|
|Misty Step||Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer|
|Shadow Blade||Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer|
|Magic Weapon||Wizard, Paladin|
|Healing Spirit||Druid, Ranger|
Here is a chart with level 3 bonus action spells by class:
|Level 3 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
|Mass Healing Word||Cleric|
Let’s look at a table with level 4 spells by class:
|Level 4 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
|Grasping Vine||Druid, Ranger|
|Guardian of Nature||Druid, Ranger|
Next, check out this table with level 5 bonus action spells by class:
|Level 5 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
|Far Step||Warlock, Wizard, Sorcerer|
|Holy Weapon||Paladin, Cleric|
Finally, here is a chart with level 7 spells by class:
|Level 7 Bonus Action Spells||Character Class|
Can You Cast a Cantrip as a Bonus Action?
Player characters can cast a cantrip as a bonus action during their turn.
If you use a bonus action to cast a spell with a casting time of 1 bonus action, you may also cast a cantrip using your action. Some D&D tables (and DMs) allow you to cast a spell of 1st level or higher as part of your action if you cast a cantrip with your bonus action.
Bonus actions are critical for most of your character builds.
Using them consistently and strategically can improve your combat effectiveness. While you only get one per round, they are always a plus for your characters.
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