Can a Thief rogue disarm an enemy in combat using Sleight of Hand as a bonus action?

One of my players rolled a Thief rogue. At level three they get the Fast Hands feature:

You can use the extra action granted by your Cunning Action to make Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks, use your thieves’ tools to disarm a trap or open a lock, or use an object in the environment.

The player asked mid-fight to use a Sleight of Hand check to disarm a foe. Since this isn’t clear in the PHB, the discussion slowed down the fight considerably. To end this discussion, I ruled that the player could make a Sleight of Hand check contested by the enemy’s Strength (Athletics) check.

I still find it hard to see how a Sleight of Hand check could work to disarm mid-combat, since there’s no way you’d be able to "sneakily" take someone’s weapon out of their hands while fighting.

There is an optional "Disarm" rule as listed in the DMG, which uses a weapon attack against an adversary’s Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Strength (Athletics) check to determine whether or not a disarm action succeeds.

Could a Thief rogue disarm an enemy in combat using Sleight of Hand as a bonus action?

When and how does combat start in a standoff?

I run Adventurers league at a local game cafe with a veteran group that has lots of experience playing prior editions. However these players knowledge of the rules is an amalgamation of 5e rules and previous editions’ rules, so we’re never quite sure if a specific rule belongs to 5e or not.

The question I have is in the following scenario, when exactly does combat start? Are ‘readied actions’ valid in this scenario and how do they interact with the 5e initiative rules?

I acted under the assumption that combat starts when the first creature decides to take a hostile action, rather than just threatening to do so–however this may have been too late.


The PCs were involved in a standoff with a group of bandits. Both sides came upon each other unaware. We didn’t roll initiative since although everyone was on edge, no one wanted to initiate the fight. Perhaps we should have rolled here but I know these players take ‘roll initiative’ as ‘roleplay is done just kill everyone’ and I wanted to build some tension first.

Most of the players told me they’d shoot if the enemies made any sudden moves. After a couple minutes of heated negotiation I decided combat began when one of the bandits got jumpy and was about to shoot on instinct. I decided the jumpy bandit didn’t surprise anyone, and since positions were already determined on a grid, I called for an initiative roll. I decided that the bandit with the highest initiative was my ‘jumpy’ bandit. When none of the PCs beat his initiative his turn started and he shot one of them.

At this point a few players shouted they had readied actions to shoot the first person who acts, so they should get to shoot now (before the bandit, using their reactions) and take their turns later in the round.

I honestly didn’t know how to respond to this for a moment, but then I just said “It’s a standoff, everyone’s ready to shoot the first person who moves. That’s why we’re rolling initiative–to see who reacts fastest”.

The Combat time vs Real time

D&D 5th edition. So I was playing yesterday and our party had been wandering through tunnels and the DM said there was some noise in the distance. So one of the players illuminated an object and threw it down the winding corridor about 80 feet from where my elvish player was at (I had just stepped through a door to another room also and the DM said the player that tossed the light sees a very large blue hand on the corner of a wall).

At that point I said I wanted to cast the Leomunds Tiny Hut, which he said okay to, as other players did exploratory actions. He then came back to me a few minutes later and said it would take 10 rounds because we are in combat now, I believed we hadn’t started combat yet, we are just in a state of exploring still and aren’t aware that the creature means us harm yet. He suggested as the DM he determines how fast time moves and I wouldn’t have had time to cast the 1 minute spell, though about 3 minutes of live time and other players discussion passed before we learned anything about the creature at all, and then he said I can keep casting the spell for the next 10 combat rounds our stop the spell and burn the spell slot. All that is fine, but I was just really confused about the game mechanics at that point.

The question I had was that, this seems like a logical problem because any time you go to cast a spell how do you know if your going to waste the spell because you later find out you are in combat because a creature pops up? Are they’re any objective aspects that define when combat starts?

The reason I probably am so confused is because I am new to the game and it seems like five minutes of sitting at the table playing and one hour passes for the players in the game, but at other points it seems like time outside of combat can move very very slow. Like if a spell takes one minute to cast and your not in combat, how much time in real time does that take? Thanks

When is combat started and spell casting in combat time

So I was playing yesterday and our party had been wandering through tunnels and the DM said there was some noise in the distance so one of the players illuminated an object and threw it down the winding corridor about 80 feet from where My player was at (I had just stepped through a door to another room also and the DM said the player that tossed the light sees a very large blue hand on the corner of a wall. At that point I said I wanted to cast the Leomunds Tiny Hut, which he said okay to, but then said it would take 10 rounds because we are in combat, I argued we hadn’t started combat yet, we are just in a state of exploring still and aren’t aware that the creature means us harm yet. He argued that he’s the DM and he determines how fast time moves and I would have had time to cast the 1 minute spell, though about 3 minutes of live time passed before we learned anything about the creature at all, and then he said I can keep casting the spell for the next 10 combat rounds our stop the spell and burn the spell slot. I disagreed. The logic problem I had was that, this seems like a logical problem because any time you go to cast a spell how do you know if your going to waste the spell because you later find out you are in combat because the DM decides so.

Since advantage and disadvantage caused in a heavily obscured area cancel out, what effect does it have in combat?

The rules say that creatures in a heavily obscured area “effectively suffer from the blinded condition”.

The blinded condition states:

Attacks rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

So when the Darkness spell (to use one example) is cast, combatants gain advantage and disadvantage when attacking others who are also inside the area, which cancel out.

Since they then cancel each other out and attacks are made normally, what really changes?

How do you balance an NPC ally with regards to the DMG combat balancing?

My players want an NPC to fight alongside them. They don’t like it when he is "cut out" of the fight and they don’t want it to feel like he isn’t being helpful at all since he’s proven to be competent. I’m okay with having him at their side but I don’t know how to balance the game where he joins as if he’s a party member.

For reference, the DMG has a chart that shows level-to-exp threshold in order to determine encounter difficulty. Since the NPC doesn’t have a level, he can’t be directly added.

Should I:

  1. Add his exp directly to the threshold. So if he has 200 exp, then normal exp threshold + 200

  2. Convert CR to level via Xanathar’s Table for 1-1 player matchups? CR 1/4 = LVL 1 character. CR 10 = LVL 10 character

  3. Subtract EXP from the encounters. Encounter difficulty exp - 200exp

I want to keep the game fairly balanced based on RAW.

What mechanic would be used for taking an opponents weapon from it’s sheath on his belt in combat?

Here is the scenario.

I am attacking a fighter with a crossbow. I run out of bolts and am unnamed as he charges at me with a spear. My opponent has a short sword on his belt. He misses with his initial spear attack and its my turn.

I want to take his sword from it’s sheath and if possible attack him with it. What process or series of checks need to be made for this to work?

How to add more combat into an investigation-heavy campaign?

I have experienced such an issue with a previous run of our Fate RPG campaign. The setting is somewhat influenced by the Dresden Files, which means the campaign involved lots of investigation (sometimes railroaded in) as our heroic band of vigilantes and rogue government agents uncovered the sinister plot of the villain.

One of the players did not like that direction and preferred to see more combat. Our GM argued that he is not putting us in combat often because he believes that since character growth comes from milestones rather than smashing mooks over the head, getting into fights often will only use up our Consequences and be a punishment instead of reward. In addition, he pointed out that beating/shooting/fireballing random thugs is likely to complicate the plot as more and more attention being put on the gang of (anti)heroes.

Is there a way to retain the interest of players who want more physical confrontation in an investigation-heavy campaign? None of us are really experienced at DMing a FATE based RPG and I would like some advice before I attempt a campaign with a revised version of the old setting. Do I need to make combat rewarding? Or should I just count on people treating the act of turning a sicario into tomato paste via fireball its own reward? Or is what I am trying to do pointless and it is best for that player to find another game?