The target of your shove must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 195-6
When it comes to taking offensive actions, players (and DMs) often overlook shoving as a worthwhile tactic. But in many scenarios, shoving can lead to higher overall group damage.
It doesn’t help that shoving and grappling are tricky for first-time players to wrap their heads around. That’s why we’ll be going over both the rules for shoving as well as ways to work shoving into your overall combat strategy.
How Does Shove Work in 5e?
Shove is a special attack action used to push a creature on an adjacent tile to the ground or away from you. Instead of making an attack roll against the target’s AC, however, a contest occurs between the shover and the target.
The creature who is shoving makes a Strength (Athletics) check (roll a d20 and add your Athletics modifier) and the target can make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (target’s choice).
The shover wins if the result of their check is higher, and then they decide whether to knock the target prone or push it away 5 feet. If the result of the contest is even or the target’s result is higher, the shove fails and nothing happens.
If the target is knocked prone, the following effects are also applied to the creature:
A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl*, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
Player’s Handbook, pg 292
*”Every foot of movement while crawling costs 1 extra foot” (PHB 191).
That’s the basics of shoving in 5e.
Shove 5e Rules
Players and DMs have plenty of rules questions on shoving in 5e. Below we’ve attempted to cover the most common ones:
Shoving is attacking. To borrow Jeremy Crawford’s line, something is an attack if “it involves an attack roll or the rules expressly call it an attack.” The rules for shoving expressly call it an attack, twice — “you can make a special melee attack” + “if you’re able to make multiple attacks…this attack replaces one of them (emphasis mine).
As pointed out in a different Sage Advice thread, shoves are just “unusual attacks that lack attack rolls.” Unless you’re talking about the uppercase Attack action, which shove takes the place of, shove functions as an attack in every semantic and mechanical definition of the term in DnD 5e and common usage.
However shoving doesn’t involve an attack roll. It involves a ability check (contest). So if some game effect requires that a creature makes an attack roll for a trigger to happen, shoving does not satisfy the trigger’s condition (Sage Advice Compendium 9).
You cannot shove as an opportunity attack. Because “an opportunity attack is a special reaction,” while the “shoving and grappling are special melee attacks that require the Attack action” (Sage Advice thread + SAC 11).
However, a creature can still use the Ready action to prepare a shove attempt as a reaction.
“Shoving does not involve an attack with a weapon or an unarmed strike.” This has the immediate implication that you can’t replace a two-weapon fighting attack with a shove, as covered on Sage Advice. This ruling was later codified in the Sage Advice Compendium (pg. 11) — shoving “does not involve the use of a weapon.”
An implication of this is that you can’t use a Reach weapon to shove a creature 10 feet away from you, since you’re not using your weapon to shove it, and Reach weapons only add 5 feet to your reach when you attack with them (PHB 147).
However, Mike Mearls contradicts Jeremy on this one and says he’d allow it with polearms, but not whips. Our final takeaway: it’s up to your DM. Figure out a consistent ruling and stick with it.
You can shove for multiple attacks per turn with Extra Attack. If your character has the Extra Attack feature, they can use shove to replace any and all of their attacks. A 5th-level fighter, for example, could attempt shoving creatures twice per turn if they want, or even three times per turn at 11th-level.
You can shove a prone creature. No conditions on a creature prevent you from shoving it (although a DM might call for a different sort of Strength check against a petrified — and thus 10x weight — creature).
However, you won’t have advantage on the ability check to shove a prone creature, as you would if you were to make an attack roll against them.
The Dodge action has no effect on being shoved. The Dodge action only gives attackers disadvantage on attack rolls and the user advantage on Dexterity saving throws. Since shoving does not involve attack rolls or Dexterity saving throws, Dodge has no impact on the likelihood of a shove succeeding.
For the Shieldmaster feat (PHB 170), you need to use the Attack action before using your bonus action to shove a creature. As Jeremy points out in this long and overly confusing Sage Advice thread and as the Sage Advice Compendium (pg. 8) explains much more succinctly, the bonus action for Shield Master cannot be taken until after actually attacking.
That’s because bonus actions with specific triggers always have to happen after the trigger. This confusion only arose thanks to an unfortunate tweet from Jeremy in the first place (the beginning of the aforementioned Sage Advice thread).
“If…then” statements work the same in DnD as they do everywhere else; the “if” condition must be satisfied first for the “then” effect to take place.
A player with Shieldmaster and Extra Attacks can choose to use their bonus action to shove after any attack. Which (I think) is what confused players about Jeremy’s original answer to the original question. The question was “Does ‘take attack action’ mean make 1 or all att rolls 1st? or can shove then attack?” which is admittedly not great phrasing.
In other words, the player was asking “do I need to resolve all of my Extra Attacks before using Shieldmaster’s bonus action to shove?” and Jeremy should have just said “no, you can put it after any attack, once you’ve attacked at least once. You don’t have to finish all your extra attacks.”
Instead, he gave a pretty unclear answer that caused three years of confusion (a rare miss, not hating on Jeremy — his rulings are usually super straightforward).
To be super explicit, an 11th-level Fighter with three total attacks and the Shieldmaster feat can do any of the following:Attack > Shove bonus action > Attack > Attack
Attack > Attack > Shove bonus action > Attack
Attack > Attack > Attack > Shove bonus action
But they cannot:
Shove bonus action > Attack > Attack > Attack
And, as mentioned above, any and all of those Attack actions can also be used to shove.
You can shove whoever you want with Shieldmaster’s bonus action. The feat only says that you can attempt to shove “a creature” as a bonus action — it doesn’t specify that it must be the same creature you attacked to trigger the bonus action.
Shoving counts as a melee attack for the Mobile feat (PHB 168). Since the Mobile feat’s third bullet-point only requires that a player “make a melee attack” against a creature to avoid provoking opportunity attacks against that creature, and since shoving is “a melee attack,” shoving meets the requirement.
The only iffy part is that Mobile specifies that this works “whether you hit or not.” Since shoving doesn’t involve an attack roll, it also doesn’t involve a hit. However, either reading seems to suggest that it doesn’t matter. If shoving can’t “hit,” then it’s fine, because Mobile says it works “whether you hit or not,” so shove will qualify 100% of the time as “not hitting.”
If shoving can “hit”, but you miss (i.e., lose the contest), then it also doesn’t matter — Mobile works because you attempted an attack. that’s the spirit and mechanics of the feat.
The Charger feat (PHB 165) allows you to attack or shove a creature as a bonus action after using the Dash action. This is one of the few ways for a non-shield user to get the opportunity to shove as a bonus action.
However, you still won’t be able to shove the creature to the ground and immediately follow up with an attack, since you’ve already used your action to Dash and your bonus action to shove.
You cannot use a Haste action to shove a creature. Since the Haste spell specifies that the additional Attack action it grants can be used for “one weapon attack only,” and, as previously covered, shoving isn’t a weapon attack.
You should be able to shove a friendly creature. Shoving a friendly creature might be a smart play if you’d like to get an ally out of harm’s way without provoking opportunity attacks (since OAs are only provoked when a creature moves itself) (PHB 195).
However, it’s unclear whether a player can choose to fail an ability check or contest like this. A DM could always give disadvantage to the target (if they’re willing to be shoved) and advantage to the shover (since the target presumably makes themselves easier to push).
You can’t shove creatures more than one size larger than you. For Medium-sized races, that means Large creatures are the maximum shove targets (sans Enlarge) and for Small-sized races, Medium creatures are the maximum-sized shove targets.
Ties go to the defender. Because shoves are contests and because “if the contest results in a tie, the situation remains the same as it was before the contest,” a tie results in the shove failing (PHB 174).
How to Use Shove in 5e
To use shove for maximum effect in DnD 5e, try some of these strategies:
If you have Extra Attack, shove a creature prone first for an advantaged follow-up attack. Attack rolls against prone creatures have advantage. This is the simplest way to use shove for an immediate offensive advantage for yourself. Plus, depending on the initiative, your allies should also be able to get some attack rolls in with advantage.
Be careful using this with ranged-heavy parties, as attacking prone creatures at range causes the attack roll to have disadvantage.
Shove a creature, then follow up with grapple to keep it down. Jumping on top of a prone creature to grapple it is incredibly valuable. The contest for grappling is the same as shoving, although it requires a free hand to attempt (PHB 195).
“A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0,” which is the most important reason why this combo is so potent — standing from the prone condition costs half a creature’s movement speed (PHB 290, 190-1).
So if a creature is suffering from both the prone and grappled conditions, it’s stuck in place and all melee attacks have advantage against it. Oh, and it has disadvantage on its attack rolls as well.
There are even character builds that are built around shoving and grappling really well, and such characters are a welcome addition to any melee-heavy party.
Shove to get away easier thanks to a disadvantage opportunity attack or distance. If you successfully shove a creature, you’ll have an easier time getting away from it. That’s because if you knock it 5 feet away, you’ll no longer provoke opportunity attacks from moving out of its range (unless it has a reach weapon).
And if you shove a creature prone, then it’ll have disadvantage on attack rolls (including opportunity attacks). Either way, a successful shove makes escaping much easier.
Get your Strength (Athletics) up. The simplest way to do this is to pick a class that’s already proficient in Athletics. The other option is picking up the Skill Expert feat (TCoE 80) to become proficient in Athletics and gain Expertise in it as well (which doubles your proficiency bonus) and gives you +1 ASI (for Strength, if you want yet another shoving buff).
This is a great choice if you’re thinking of building a character that relies on both shoving and grappling.
Use Enhance Ability, Guidance, or Hex before shoving. Enhance Ability can give you advantage on Strength checks, Guidance gives you +1d4, and Hex gives an enemy disadvantage on ability checks of your choice (Strength or Dexterity would be the relevant choices here).
These three spells can all increase your odds of success when attempting to shove a creature.
Be a Barbarian. Barbarian’s quintessential class feature, Rage, is the most surefire and consistent way to get advantage on Strength checks.
In fact, some of those powerful “shove + grapple combo” builds we mentioned before make use of Rage to ensure effective crowd control.
Use Monk’s Open Hand Technique. Way of the Open Hand monks can impose extra conditions on the targets of their Flurry of Blows (two unarmed strikes used as a bonus action after taking the Attack action).
Two of those conditions are essentially the same as shove, but with different wording — one forces a Dexterity save and knocks the target prone if it fails, and the other forces a Strength save and pushes the creature 15 feet away if it fails.
If you like the idea of getting more free shove-like attacks in your rotation, Way of the Open Hand Monks open up that possibility.