[RPG] Can a rogue use Sneak Attack when an ally has been swallowed by the target

dnd-5emonstersroguesneak-attack

Our delightful barbarian decided to get swallowed by a Behir. Our Scout rogue decided to stick an arrow in the unfortunate beast and claimed that they qualified for Sneak Attack, as the barbarian was restrained but not incapacitated, and technically inside the Behir's stomach is within 5 feet of it. Our DM said no chance after we couldn't find an official ruling.

Does Sneak Attack work here? Can a rogue use Sneak Attack when an ally has been swallowed by the target?

Best Answer

RAW, you would get Sneak Attack, but I would agree with your DM in my ruling.

You have outlined the proper rules as written argument. The Behir's swallowing causes the ally to be Blinded and Restrained, neither of which interact with Sneak Attack:

You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

That said, the feature description of Sneak Attack also says:

you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe’s distraction.

The idea here is that when you have an ally engaged within 5 feet of the target, that ally is sufficiently distracting your target so that you can get off a good shot. I have always ruled that a swallowed creature is no longer providing this level of distraction and so does not qualify your attack for sneak attack. This explanation has always been received well by my players the few times this has happened.

So this one could go either way. It is also reasonable to rule that Sneak Attack does apply, since the swallowed creature can still damage the Behir, which may be sufficiently distracting. Just be careful, ambitious players may try to justify sneak attack damage on any target with sufficiently painful gastrointestinal conditions.

To be clear, I am generally against nerfing the rogue's Sneak Attack feature. I am very pro Sneak Attack. This is the only situation where I have ever ruled against a rules as written Sneak Attack.