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

Thanks for the feedback so far. Two quick notes - I am not the DM and suggestions for alternatives to the Flanking variant in the DMG aren't on the table. Also "I (don't) like it" is basically "this random person you have never met or come to value their opinion gives it thumbs up or down" - much more helpful are the ones describing why, like combat becomes more static or that unlike in 3.5 there is no cost to it.

But alternatives are helpful, IMO. When flanking is brought up as a possible rule at the table, is it not helpful to exemplify other ways that a DM can opt to grant advantage in combat? Especially since some/many others find these alternatives more fun than "I get on the other side of the baddie at no cost"?

Ultimately, you're providing reasons to your DM for/against flanking that you are harvesting from the internets. If flanking becomes a rule at your table, you'll all discover over time if it adds to the fun or not. You don't need us to tell you that.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I've played with it and I have played without it. I don't like it and I really don't see the need for it or that it brings anything to the game. I will play games with it and I have fun in them, but I much prefer no flanking. For me the rub is - why have it?

If you have it the characters and the enemies move around each other to try to get it and in large battles it just makes the game cartoonish.
How so? People circle eachother and maneuver to try to get an advantage in a melee.
It also nerfs spells like blur and invisibility and classes like Rogue and Barbarian and makes dodge an even less viable option.
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.
It also tends to make combats less flavorful and less fun. There is already an opportunity cost for doing anything other than swinging your sword or casting your spell. Things like help, grapple, throwing a flask, or trying to jump on an enemy two sizes higher than you, if you put flanking in the penalty you pay for doing these things is even higher. Finally and most significantly players won't get creative to try to gain advantage when they can just get it anyway.
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.
 

HammerMan

Legend
I have a comparison,

in a game I play we do flanking for advantage. in that game we almost ALWAYs have advantage. (we use roll 20 and we keep the advantage toggle on default in combat) You would think this would lead to more movement...but most people just move into flank then attack, if something dies move to set up another flank.

another game I play we do NOT have flanking for advantage. We use Bless more often, we move around and change targets more, and we covet advantage.

in the first game we get annoyed if we DON"T have advantage, in the second we cheer when we get it.

make of that what you will
 

Ringtail

World Traveller
When flanking, you score a Critical Hit on a 19 or a 20.
This actually sounds like a lot of fun. I might try this.

Truth be told I'm starting to dislike flanking, but it depends on the circumstances. When playing Theater of the Mind I just got advantage for free as more often than not there wasn't anything stopping me from flanking or the DM couldn't be bothered to figure it out in their head.

At least on a battle map, you might not have enough movement to complete the flank this turn, or the enemies' back might be blocked, fighting in a chokepoint, etc. However even with these in place it's still pretty damn easy to achieve flanking.

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. I like the tactical map aspect of it though so I'll probably keep it, I've seen good suggestions here so far:
  • Flanking grants +2 Instead of Advantage.
  • Increase Crit Range by 1 when flanking instead of Advantage.
  • Movement through a creratures threatened square provokes AoO, not just moving out.
I'm also thinking maybe Advantage in general just grants +2 instead of multiple dice, to rein in the numbers overall.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
But alternatives are helpful, IMO. When flanking is brought up as a possible rule at the table, is it not helpful to exemplify other ways that a DM can opt to grant advantage in combat? Especially since some/many others find these alternatives more fun than "I get on the other side of the baddie at no cost"?

Ultimately, you're providing reasons to your DM for/against flanking that you are harvesting from the internets. If flanking becomes a rule at your table, you'll all discover over time if it adds to the fun or not. You don't need us to tell you that.
I have already tried it previously with another group and we didn't like it - that's in the OP. I would prefer not to add a variant to a year of gaming that I know won't be fun for me. This isn't about exploration of untried options. I've already passed my experiences on, but others speaking on it will discuss in other ways - different viewpoints on the same thing and new ways to put it. For example, it was mentioned the difference between the 3.5 5' foot step and the 5e move-freely-within-range to show that getting flanking for melee characters was less cost. I didn't consider articulating that previously, but it matches my experience. That was quite useful.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Advantage for flanking in 5E is a bad idea. It trivializes advantage. The movement rules in 5E encourage the ability to move (as you only get 1 reaction for OAs and only get to take them, generally, when something leaves your reach). I tracked how often I was able to gain advantage on an attack with my melee fighter in a setting where it was allowed - 92% of my attacks. That is too much.

I do have a flanking rule, however: Rather than making flanking a bonus to attack or advantage, I make it a lockdown maneuver.

The basic rule: If a creature is flanked, they provoke an OA from all adjacent enemies if they move.

The (big) caveat: When they move, they can elect to ignore a creature for purposes of determining if they are flanked. If they do so, that creature gets a special OA. The OA conforms to all normal OA rules except it does not require a reaction.

It works well. 5E encouraged the ability to move - but I find the capability to move is too free in crowded combats. This allows a technique to close it down a bit, and also limits the concerns around a trivial attacker being used to gain a flank. ("Oh, your 12 dexterity wizard with a nonmagical dagger is flanking me? I ignore them and move away. Even if they hit it isn't a hit that worries me.")
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
That's... not how it works.

This is from Sly Flourish's Blog:

"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."

So it's worse than just missing your attack. You might end up prone with advantage against you.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
I agree with others that the DMG's Flanking optional rule makes advantage too easy to get and much too common.

As for presenting the argument to a 3.5 DM, I would put it this way: D&D 5e has streamlined and simplified a number of the very detailed rules of some earlier editions. In 3.5, flanking would give most attackers just a +2 bonus to hit, but rogues (or other classes with sneak attack) benefited far more from it, getting sneak attack dice added to damage.

Standard 5e rules have simplified this to say that flanking does not offer much to most classes (getting rid of the +2 to hit), but rogues still needed a way to get their sneak damage. 5e has abstracted the old flanking benefit for rogues into the "if another active enemy of the target is within 5 feet of the target, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll for some reason, you get to apply sneak attack damage" rule.

Edited to Add: Also, as others have pointed out, in 3.5 to maneuver around an opponent within their reach you provoked Opportunity Attacks. That has been removed from 5e, counterbalancing the removal of the +2 to hit, IMO.
 


This is from Sly Flourish's Blog:

"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."

So it's worse than just missing your attack. You might end up prone with advantage against you.
Closer… yet still off.
 

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