What can Artificer’s Alchemical Homunculus do outside of combat?

In the new version of the Artificer UA Artificer class one of the specializations is Alchemist. The alchemist gets the ability to create an Alchemical Homunculus.

The description has a section on actions in combat

In combat, the homunculus shares your initiative count, but it takes its turn immediately after yours. The only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless you take a bonus action on your turn to command it to take one of the actions in its stat block or to take the Dash, Disengage, or Help action.

RAI, outside of combat, what can it do (other than the actions listedabove)? I see it has perception skill of +4, but unlike a normal homunculus it doesn’t list a telepathic bond of any kind. I would assume this means that all commands must be verbal, but it can’t talk to relay information back to the player.

Is it smart enough to do things like hover over something and bounce up and down to get the party’s attention? I realize we’re getting into areas of GM fiat, but I wanted to know if I missed something in the description for how capable it is to follow orders given outside of combat.

If I cast the Friends cantrip on an enemy, can I Hex/Hexblade’s Curse them without provoking combat?

If I cast the friends cantrip on an enemy, can I hex/Hexblade’s Curse them without provoking combat?

I’m assuming that I won’t be able to remain unseen/unheard while casting, but I suppose the meat of my question is:
Will the enemy notice that they’ve been hexed/cursed, and will this automatically provoke combat?

How does initiative work when teleporting into combat?

A Wizard PC Teleports their party from a safe place directly to the location of a group of foes, who the party intends to attack.

If the foes did not know this was about to happen, they should be surprised.

How does initiative work in this situation, and when does the Wizard take their next turn? To illustrate why I am confused, there are a few possible adjudications below.

  1. The moment the Wizard decides they want to Teleport into combat, initiative is rolled. The Wizard casts Teleport on their turn, which may be after the turns of their companions, and teleports to the foes’ location. Any foes who rolled higher initiative will no longer be surprised. The Wizard takes their next turn in the second round, in which no foes will be surprised.
  2. At the point the Wizard casts Teleport, they are not in combat. After the spell is cast, (since the party intends to immediately attack) the combat begins, and initative is rolled. The Wizard takes their next turn in the first round, while some foes may still be surprised (depending on their initiative).
  3. Case #1, but the Wizard can use Ready-ing the Teleport spell to effectively turn it into case #2.

How might this homebrew undead hybrid character type unbalance combat compared to non-undead creatures?

About a week ago in-game (half a year IRL), a series of deadly events occurred resulting in two PCs becoming undead. One used to be a tabaxi, the other a high elf. Both of them are now undead versions of themselves: the tabaxi by making a pact with an neutral evil demi-god of the Death Plane and the other by dying and being resurrected during this pact-making process.

According to What are the mechanical consequences that arise for a PC with the undead creature type?

By RAW, per Quadratic Wizard’s answer:

Undead type has no inherent mechanical effect in D&D 5e

So ever since these events happened, I’ve been finetuning the following homebrew traits.

Characters that became undead

  • Hybrid Nature.[*] You have two creature types: humanoid and undead. You can be affected by a game effect if it works on either of your creature types. For the humanoid traits, use your original race description.

  • Undead Defenses. Vulnerable to radiant damage; Resistant to necrotic damage.

  • Undying Resilience. Cannot be healed by conventional healing (e.g. spells, potions), but can sometimes be healed by cantrips from the necromancy school (such as Chill Touch). Make a Constitution save (with advantage) versus the spellcaster’s Spell Save DC. On a success, you are healed for the amount of damage dealt. On a fail, nothing happens.

  • Desecration. Advantage on ability checks, saves and attack rolls while standing on a desecrated surface.

  • Ill Will. 14th level necromancers can command you at will, while you automatically fail the first three Wisdom saves.

Question

I’m trying to find a balance between benefits and downsides for becoming undead, so that undead humanoids are more powerful in combat than mere mortals, but not so strong (or without significant handicaps) that everyone wants to turn undead. My reasoning for this: with great risks come great rewards, but even greater downfalls. With “mere mortals” I mean (player) characters that are “just” humanoid while of the same level and class. So preferably the undead traits carry a danger to them, to keep the more careful characters (and players) from wanting to delve into such practice. Through interactions with the world setting and narration the dangers of undead seem clear to the players, but I’d like to emphasise this further through combat mechanics (of which some they can still discover).

The party has found out about all undead traits mentioned above, except from the final two (Desecration and Ill Will). I’m wondering whether I should add an additional benefit (such as a raised Constitution, or some other defense), and whether the desecrated grounds feature is too powerful already for a PC to have (as soon as they find out). I’m mostly wondering how the current undead hybrid type will unbalance combat at my table.

Other possibly relevant details regarding my campaign:

  • Party composition (level 12): minotaur paladin of conquest, animated armor eldritch knight/wizard, undead tabaxi ranger/assassin/warlock, undead high elf mastermind, tiefling warlock.
  • Every PC has Healing Surges.
  • The main story arc heavily features undead creatures: mostly enemies but some (powerful) allies too
  • The BBEG is a devil attempting to become a lich (so will also become undead as a result)
    • From party level 15 onwards, an apocalyptic inter-planar war strikes down on the Material Plane (featuring mortals, angles, demi-gods, devils, necromancers and countless undead). The party is currently preparing for this coming war.
    • Current allies of the party include an important figure within the clergy of Helm (one of the most popular gods in my world, though only this one cleric knows of their undead nature), some secret wizards, and the mentioned demi-god (undead necromancer) of the Death Plane.
    • The organisation that hunts down the party consists of radical extremist paladins of Tempus that bring “redemption” to all magic users – they plan to slay ‘m all. These are adversaries by default, but some individuals could change their minds by the party’s initiative.

[*] based on Unearthed Arcana: Centaurs and Minotaurs

Movement during Combat Patrol

I wonder about this section of the Combat Patrol feat :

You may move as part of these attacks, provided your total movement before your next turn does not exceed your speed.

It is not stated if the character may move before or after making the triggered attack and it doesn’t seem obvious to me when looking at the attack of opportunity rules :

An attack of opportunity “interrupts” the normal flow of actions in the round. If an attack of opportunity is provoked, immediately resolve the attack of opportunity, then continue with the next character’s turn

Let’s say we have a monk character with a reach weapon and using the Combat Patrol feat. Thanks to its unarmed strikes and its reach weapon, the monk threatens both its adjacent squares and the others in its weapon reach.

If an enemy adjacent to the monk uses a movement action, it will trigger an attack of opportunity. Does that mean that the monk can move before making the attack of opportunity to be able to do it with its reach weapon instead of its unarmed strike ?

Can Magus change their grip on their sword during spell combat as a free action?

RAW, grabbing a 1-handed weapon in both hands is a free action, as is letting go of your weapons. I also know that it is generally accepted that you can take at least 1 free action (5 ft step) during a full-round action such as spell combat, and that the # of free actions you can take per round is more or less up to your DM’s discretion.

Is it possible, as a Magus with a longsword, to do the following as part of spell combat?

  1. Cast touch spell with 1 hand free, per Spell Combat rules.
  2. As a free action, wield longsword in both hands (granting you access to 1.5x str to damage instead of 1x, and +3 damage on power attack per pt of BAB lost).
  3. deliver spell through free melee attack, per Spellstrike rules.
  4. Take full attack action at -2 penalty per the Spell Combat rules.

Can an attack be made without triggering combat?

This is a follow up question to: Does NPC engaging in combat remove penalty for re-stealthing?

Is there a scenario when a surprise attack can be made without triggering combat? Maybe there is a different term for it than “surprise attack”.

For example, If the entire party is hidden, can a surprise attack be made without triggering combat?

Scenario : Party is hidden behind a castle wall, Rogue fires a crossbow bolt thru an embrasure / arrowslit. The NPC down below would only know a general direction. But it seems there is no way for that NPC to engage in combat.

Does NPC engaging in combat remove penalty for re-stealthing?

If a rogue uses ranged sneak attack, then another PC engages in melee combat with the same NPC, Do the NPC essentially lose sight of a ranged sneak attacker? Is it flanking at that point for the ranged rogue on round two? Does he have to re roll stealth?

Scenario Rogue is in room down hall , hiding behind door. NPC passes, gets sneak attack shot with crossbow. Rogue ducks back behind door. Dwarf runs up and hits with axe (melee) Can the rogue next turn perform another sneak attack?

A. If the back is to the hall door where the rogue is. B. If NPC is facing down hall where rogue is (because that’s where dwarf came from).

Would the NPC believe the sneak attack came from the melee attacker?

Does re-stealthing gain a bonus if the NPC is engaged in other combat?

In Pathfinder. As a rogue, if I make a successful ranged sneak attack and attempt to re-stealth (purpose I want to make another sneak attack) If that enemy is engaged in combat (let’s say with other PCs… the NPC would obviously be distracted and stealthing should be easier.

Is there a rule to back this up or shoot this down? I’ve seen this takes a -20 on re-stealthing. But if my dwarf is raising a great axe at the NPC, certainly he iant concerned with where the sneak attack came from.

Thoughts?

Somewhat related to this question: How often to roll Stealth vs. Perception?

How can I combine numbers of low CR creatures so that using them doesn’t bog the combat down?

I have a whole series of encounters built around various kinds of spiders, controlled by some significant baddies in service to Lolth.

At the bottom of this arachnid hierarchy is a large number of chitines. Thematically they fit well within the scenario, but I was not satisfied with my first session using them. Many of them were initially killed with areas of effect attacks, which was great, but then I tried having them move and attack in groups, and I winged the mechanics and math of it. It went okay, but I’d rather have a little more structure than just wing it.

What I would like, maybe, is a way to take the stats of x number of critters (chitines in this particular case) and combine them into a group, so that the stats of the x critters are reflected in the group.

I read through the section on mob combat in the DMG, and I think that is the sort of direction to go in, to combine numbers of critters into a group, but the DMG calculations seem complex to handle on the fly, and I don’t want to have to consult a table. It would be great to have a formula or method to translate x critters in a group into y to hit and z damage, and so on.

So, my question is, I How can I combine numbers of low CR creatures so that using them doesn’t bog the combat down?

Also, I’ve read this question and I don’t think it’s a duplicate of mine, since I’m specifically talking about low CR creatures.