Big and Little Creatures in Combat

Go to Pathfinder: The New Deal index

In the official rules Medium and Small creatures take up a 5 ft. square on the battle-grid, and have a reach of 5 ft. This section of the combat rules are concerned with how many squares creatures of different sizes take up, and how that affects things like attacks of opportunity. You can find the rules on p194 of the Core Rules (2009) and on the Pathfinder PRD. They’re quite short.

Now you may think that these rules don’t have much relevence to us, but it is still worth knowing how much space creatures of a certain size occupy. After all, as a GM I want to know how many red dragons can gang up on one PC.

Removing the grid-related rules, we can try to extrapolate how many creatures of a particular size can surround another creature of the same size. Obviously this assumes combat is being fought in an infinitely large flat plain, with no objects, obstacles or dodgy terrain to impede movement.

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work. The geometric dimensions of certain Sizes don’t tesselate – so what you and I think may be perfectly logical cannot be represented on a grid.

Therefore I’ve cheated a little bit and turned to the D&D Next rules for inspiration. As in 4e there are no Fine, Diminuitive or Colossal creature sizes, but these are easily added back into the game. I’ve used the D&D Next rules from the DM’s Guidelines from the latest Playtest Packet as a base, and then made some changes to make it more Pathfindery (that’s a word, right?)

Creature Size

During a battle, creatures take up different amounts of space on the battlefield. A lone ogre can block off a 10-foot-wide bridge, while over a dozen goblins could surround a storm giant. A creature’s size determines how much space it takes up, how far its attacks can reach, and how many enemies can gang up on it.

Size Space Surround Fills
Fine 0.05 × 0.05 ft. 0.08 0.1
Diminuitive 0.2 × 0.2 ft. 0.32 0.2
Tiny 2.5 × 2.5 ft. 2 0.5
Small 5 × 5 ft. 8 1
Medium 5 × 5 ft. 8 1
Large 10 × 10 ft. 12 1.5
Huge 15 × 15 ft. 16 2
Gargantuan 20 × 20 ft. 20 2.5
Colossal 30 × 30 ft. 30 3.5

Space: This is the area in feet that a creature occupies. A creature’s space is not an expression of its actual physical dimensions, but the area it effectively owns in the game. A human isn’t 5 feet wide, but it does own a space that wide, particularly in combat. If a human stands in a 5-foot-wide doorway, other creatures can’t get through the doorway unless the human lets them.

Surround: This column represents the number of Medium creatures that can fit in a 5-foot radius around the creature.

Fills: When creatures of different size surround one opponent, a creature counts as this many Medium size creatures when determining how many can fit in 5-ft. radius area. For example, eight Medium creatures can surround a fellow Medium creature. A pair of Gargantuan creatures (worth two and a half Medium each) and two Large creatures (worth one and a half each) could also surround a Medium creature. Three hundred Fine creatures (each worth a tenth of a Medium-sized creature) can surround one Colossal creature.


Now, these rules appear a little fiddly… also they might be a tad misguded when it comes to very small creatures. A Fine creature is a mosquito. I think more than 300 could surround a Great Wyrm Red Dragon! HOWEVER, these rules are only there as guidelines and should be judged as such. They are a means for the GM to rule that twelve humans can surround a Hill Giant, or only two Tarrasques can attack one of Marc’s characters at the same time.

Having a record of the ‘space’ that is owned by a particular creature is important, and this harks back to the last post on Movement, Position and Distance. If we know that three orcs can block/defend a 15 ft. wide bridge, then it’s obvious to players when they need to Overrun them or jump over them witht he Acrobatics skill to get past, and when they can just run around them.

D&D Next is the first version of D&D since 1989 that isn’t assuming the use of the battle-grid and miniatures. These are the rules that they are using. It’s also almost identical to the table I developed for HD&D.  I think we’re in safe hands using these rules to express a troublesome element of grid-based combat.

Go to Pathfinder: The New Deal index


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