Flanking

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The official flanking rules in the are short and sweet. There’s an explanation of them on p197 of the Core Rules (2009) and a nice diagram on p196. Both are grouped together in the excellent Pathfinder PRD.

The official rules state that in order to flank a foe two allied characters must threaten that foe from opposite sides of the foe’s square. As you imagine a rule like that is never going to wash in a system that doesn’t use a combat grid. For years we’ve been using the same house rules to cover Flanking. It is simple and easy to remember, and here it is:

  • If you are engaged in mêlée combat and you also outnumber your foe(s) by a ratio of 2:1 then you are considered to be flanking those foe.
  • Creatures with a Reach of zero (Fine, Diminutive and Tiny creatures) cannot flank.

Obviously the 2:1 ratio means that two or more allies need to be attacking the same opponent in mêlée. The advantage of this rule is that it’s really easy to implement and everyone remembers it. In fact it’s served us so well over the years that I don’t really feel a great need to change it.

Except….

I just want your opinion on whether you think the size of the opponent should play a role in things. The 2:1 ratio might be right if two humans attack another human, but should two humans be able to flank a giant, or a treant or a dragon? I think it’s fair that two Medium-sized creatures should probably be able to flank a Large creature… but when you get to creatures that are Huge or bigger I become less certain of the mechanic.

I desperately don’t want to make flanking any more complicated. If it’s not broken then I don’t want to try fixing it. But at the same time I want a  game that’s fair. So what do you think?


Go to Pathfinder: The New Deal index

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2 thoughts on “Flanking

  1. Neil, in essence – yes I agree that Huge creatures cannot be flanked by 2 medium creatures.

    I *would* add that this effectively powers-up monsters again.
    But – we can’t go adding house rules to compensate.
    (PoMT)

    Can we not try and *tweak* our rule to make it closer to the spirit of PF (and leave everythign else the same)

    Ie: To flank an opponent there must be >90° between attackers to gain flanking.

  2. I don’t mind tweaking the rule, but I have to say I’m at a loss as to how to do it. Obviously for flanking to work in the real world you need to be on opposite sides of your enemy. They need to be distracted and not quite able to see both their opponents. Saying there must be more than 90° between attackers is a good way of describing this.

    But how do we actually implement that? Without a grid we don’t know the absolute position of anyone (friend or foe) therefore how do you work out with any degree of certainty and consistantly that all the characters are in the right place?

    That’s not a rhetorical question! I want to know!

    The last thing I want is dissension at the table because you thought your character was standing in one place and I thought it was standing in another. The current flanking rules are easily adjudicated, but they’re not quite “flanking” in a strict definition of the term.

    I guess the question is: what would be best for the game?

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