D&D 5E 5e Flanking - the good, the bad, and the broken?


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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Note how this:
"Injecting cinematic advantage into your game is all about offering deals; trading in-world fiction and a skill check from players for advantage on their next attack."

"The player rolls the check as part of their move or action. On a success, they get advantage on their next attack. On a failure something bad happens depending on what they tried, often falling prone."
Is not the same as this:
And if you fail your cinematic advantage roll your attack doesn't succeed?
There are a lot of other options, disadvantage on the attack, falling prone, being embarrassed...anything really. Whatever makes sense in the fiction at the time.

Also note when it's meant to be used..."Instead of offering flanking for positioning, why not offer advantage for big risky cinematic actions the characters take."

The point is the big risky action. No risk, no reward.
 

Voadam

Legend
I have played in games with no bonus, +2 to hit, and advantage.

In general it makes advantage more common, but not universal. This means combats go faster and damage gets applied more frequently. Front liners without specific advantage powers get a decently easy general option for advantage. Barbarians have still seen lots of opportunities for using reckless abandon tactically in the flanking advantage games I have been in. It makes high AC tanking a little less easy on both sides of the screen. It reduces a little the comparative advantage of monster things like pack tactics.

The +2 bonuses were nice, and in line with 4e and 3e flanking bonus so they were sought out. It is a bit annoying to go back to 3e situational combat numbers changing with things like this option, bless, cover, etc.

In games without flanking bonuses at all I mostly saw advantage from powers only, players did not try for cinematic moves to generate advantage and DMs were not really open to a lot of player initiated actions. I occasionally saw some DM initiated stuff that generated advantage or disadvantage, but it was not common.

Having combats go quicker and players whiffing less are positives in my book and I have been using flanking with advantage as a DM.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
can you explain for those of us ONLY seeing that side...how does it work?
You're in a fight in a bar. You want to swing from a chandelier. You make an athletics or acrobatics check as part of your move to represent you swinging from the chandelier. If you succeed on that check, you gain advantage on the attack; if you fail on that check, something bad happens to you, like having disadvantage on the attack, falling prone, spilling a table of drinks on a local VIP, etc. Whatever makes sense in the moment. Only instead of it being limited to just swinging from chandeliers, it can apply to just about anything.
 

can you explain for those of us ONLY seeing that side...how does it work?
Same as any ability check. Set a DC and have a meaningful consequence for failure.

At our table, for ability checks, I tell the player the DC and I also typically tell them the consequence(s) for failure (which acknowledges that the PC is a capable adventurer who usually has some sense of how difficult their attempted actions might be in the game world). The player, now given a sense of the difficulty of the attempt, can choose to have their PC go through with it or choose something else to do.

Whether you run it that way or not, my advice would be: don't get hung up on Sly Flourish's use of the word "often". Prone is not the only bad thing that could happen on a failed roll in these situations and it doesn't need to be the most common failure state either. Be as creative as you like. And be as generous as you like with the DC if you want to encourage these "cinematic" activities. DCs could even ratchet up as combat moves on to reflect risky maneuvers getting slightly more dangerous with "combat fatigue". Or not. It's really as flexible as you want it to be.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Another point: Flanking can also be represented in 5e with the Help action in combat. Again, you don't have to fiddle with exact positioning on opposite sides of a target, so it is easier to do, but it does take the helper's action to grant advantage to the helped ally.

Edited to add: This thread has a lot of discussion of flanking, and includes some interesting alternative house rule ideas: D&D 5E - Flanking
 

You're in a fight in a bar. You want to swing from a chandelier. You make an athletics or acrobatics check as part of your move to represent you swinging from the chandelier. If you succeed on that check, you gain advantage on the attack; if you fail on that check, something bad happens to you, like having disadvantage on the attack, falling prone, spilling a table of drinks on a local VIP, etc. Whatever makes sense in the moment. Only instead of it being limited to just swinging from chandeliers, it can apply to just about anything.
And it doesn't take an action so it's not like casting True Strike.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Another point: Flanking can also be represented in 5e with the Help action in combat. Again, you don't have to fiddle with exact positioning on opposite sides of a target, so it is easier to do, but it does take the helper's action to grant advantage to the helped ally.

Edited to add: This thread has a lot of discussion of flanking, and includes some interesting alternative house rule ideas: D&D 5E - Flanking
What I've started doing in my group, because it's fun, is allowing special attacks to negate a opportunity attack. ie, when you want to move out of being flanked, you can use an attack to shove, or distract the target, and simply gain the ability to move away from them without OA. Rogues can do this as a bonus action.

I've also told my group recently that they can use skill checks as part of movement if they want to take a riskier attempt to get out of taking an OA.

Not necessary by any means, but my group has been playing 5e for 6 years or so, and dnd in general for longer, we can dig into a little more complexity.
 

ECMO3

Hero
How so? People circle eachother and maneuver to try to get an advantage in a melee.
Yes, cartoonish you often end up with a line enemy-PC-enemy-PC-Enemy-PC then the next enemy to join move behind the PC on the back to get advantage. Eventually you hit a wall or shrub or something and that is what stops the practice.

No, it doesn’t. With Blur and invisibility it’s still worthwhile to turn advantage or disadvantage to a flat roll using flanking. Barbarians get to get advantage while tanking something solo, which others can’t usually do. That’s still the case if others can flank for advantage. Dodge is an infrequent choice for a reason, but it shouldn’t be any less frequently used. IME, Monks use Patient Defense more when flanking is possible and they’re outnumbered.
Mathematically It is a huge nerf. Disadvantage with a high AC will reduce the chance to hit by up to 95% over a straight roll. Blur or invisibility with a target 20 to hit takes the chance to hit from 5% to 0.25% or one hit in every 400 rolls. Give out advantage to flatten it and it is back to 5%. You will literally get hit 20 times as often. That is a far bigger impact than going from normal to advantage in the same situation where you will only get hit about twice as often.

To put this math in perspective if you face 100 enemy attacks over the coarse of a day that do 1d8dmg each while you are invisible with a 20 to hit your AC, on average you will take 2 points of damage if the enemy has disadvantage and 45 points of damage on average if he doesn't. That is a HUGE nerf.

WRT the Barbarian, you are taking the key feature and giving a lot of it to everyone. Yes, a Barbarian can still use it solo, but much of the time everyone can easily do something only he could do. This is even worse when you consider Barbarian is an underpowered class compared to the Paladin, Fighter and Tasha's Ranger.

Why would a monk use patient defense instead of simply attacking with advantage or taking disengage as a bonus action and moving out of range (since their move is higher than everyone else's).


Oof. That’s a mix of DMs not playing the monsters tactically to encourage tactical PC behavior, and just player mindset. It certainly doesn’t apply to my group, or other groups I know that use the rule.

My big thing is it does not improve the game at all. I have played a lot of games both ways and IME it brings nothing at all to the table IME. You want advantage use the help action or shove prone or come up with something creative. They can still get advantage, even at will, it just takes away and attack or an action to do it. That is what smart monsters will do in the example with invisibility that I used above, instead of just moving to the end of the congo line.

YMMV, but I think in general more people who have used it have had bad experiences than have had good.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My big thing is it does not improve the game at all. I have played a lot of games both ways and IME it brings nothing at all to the table other than extra math.
At your table, sure. I’ve seen it be nothing but a positive.

We established a long time ago that our gaming experience is so different that we might as well play different games.
YMMV, but I think in general more people have had the experience I have with it.
Okay?
 


Somewhat related, I've liked the house rule "If you have advantage and both attacks hit, you score a crit. If you have disadvantage and both attacks miss, you fumble."
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Granted that the PHB describes advantage as being roughly analogous to a +5 or +6 (can't remember which) you suddenly see how flanking absolutely destroys bounded accuracy.
Ok, I know this is tangential to the topic, but… no. The PHB does describe advantage as roughly analogous to a +5 bonus, and that’s technically accurate, but it’s a massive oversimplification and it leads to confusion like this.

So, what advantage does is it changes the probability curve of the dice roll from a flat line to a bell curve. It really isn’t equivalent to a flat bonus to the roll at all, but rather, a dynamic bonus that depends on the target number you need to hit. If you need a 10 or 11 to hit, it’s about equivalent to +5, but if you need a natural 20 to hit, it’s worth less than +1. Basically, advantage just decreases the variance on checks. It’s most helpful when your chances are close to 50/50 but doesn’t make much difference if you’re unlikely to succeed in the first place or already had a high chance of succeeding anyway.

Because if this, advantage doesn’t break bounded accuracy. It makes your rolls much less swingy, but it doesn’t actually allow you to hit a higher AC than you could have done anyway. +2 AC might have less impact on the average roll you’re likely to make, but it has much more impact at the extreme ends - the bounds - of your accuracy.

I'm also thinking maybe Advantage in general just grants +2 instead of multiple dice, to rein in the numbers overall.
That won’t rein in the numbers, it will shift the range of numbers the PCs can and can’t hit, which is precisely the thing advantage/disadvantage and bounded accuracy were designed to prevent.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Results of flanking, picture colorized:
1634803691117.png
 


Stormonu

Legend
I use flanking all the time, but I tend to use hordes against PCs, so they are usually the victim instead of the benefactor. The party has learned some caution and tactics though, including using choke points, buddy systems and putting backs to walls to avoid getting flanked.

Movement around someone once in their reach has been something that’s bothered me for handling in 5E (not a game breaker, but annoying), but I think I’m going to try and see if making the reach area “difficult terrain” helps any with that.

I also use disadvantage when firing ranged weapons into melee combat. I know that must annoy the Warlock, but it’s also made him a lot craftier.
 

Norton

Explorer
I've been allowing both flanking and cinematic advantage and the players go straight for conga every time. I thought they would find it as boring and "game board-y" as I do, but they seem more invested in surviving so it's okay by them.

I have been considering the +2 bonus alternative to advantage, but also allowing for a reaction attack from the target, perhaps at disadvantage, since a PC should be risking something by getting into a target's melee range in the first place. The target doesn't have to use it, but he would be swiveling his head madly in a fight where danger is coming from all directions and should certainly be prepared to meet it if he chooses.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
All the 5E games I've been in have used the flanking rules, and I've noticed that it tends towards situations where the players are striking with advantage almost every round. I see that as a problem, but I do like the 'realistic' aspects of it in the game.

So I think it may also be time to re-introduce some other 'realistic' aspects, to include moving more than 5' within the reach of an opponent produces opportunity attacks, and any creature or opponent with reach (or wielding a weapon with reach) gets a free shot as an opponent closes to adjacent melee range. This makes thing a little more granular and wouldn't be popular in some groups, but it would present some risk in going for the flanks every time.

Of course, these rules would work for players as well as against them.

I like the cinematic advantage option, as well as the Crit on a 19 or 20 when flanking idea as well. Both of those are also worth a try.
 

I've played with both - I wouldn't say it's a huge deal either way, and how big a deal it is depends on party composition:

1. Just because flanking is allowed doesn't mean you always have a flanking buddy. A party with a lot of frontliners will get a lot out of it, a party with ranged attackers, casters, and skirmishers will get a lot less. This is the main reason it doesn't have a big impact: you need to build the party in certain ways to really abuse it.

2. There are a few build options that are suddenly much less useful (ie the Samurai's Fighting Spirit) but savvy players will see it coming. And those aren't even really useless so much as situational. But a few character options become less cool.

3. I prefer the game without, though, simply because I find it adds very little. It's not the cost, it's the lack of value. Flanking did not make anyone more tactical or thin more deeply about the game. It's just another fiddly combat rule to keep track of.

Edit to add: it makes pet options, like Beastmaster and Pact of the Chain, potentially a lot stronger. This might be a positive, since those tend to feel underwhelming.
 

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