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5E A Simple Flanking Rule, What Do You think?

squibbles

Explorer
The rule:

"If a creature is within 5 feet of two hostile creatures of its size or larger, it is flanked. A flanked creature has disadvantage when attacking a target that is not also flanked."

My conceptual justification is that flanked creatures would need to invest more effort in being defensive and, therefore, have more difficulty attacking. My hope, mechanically, is that it makes positioning more meaningful but not overpowering.

Do you like the rule and, if not, what rule do you use instead and why is it preferable?
 
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dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
I don't think anything along these lines would be an issue.

Basically, instead of the attackers gaining advantage against the flanked target, it accepts disadvantage to bolster its defense.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Do you like the rule and, if not, what rule do you use instead and why is it preferable?
I personally do not like messing with Advantage or Disadvantage in the game more than it has already been done. I also feel like the designers leaned on it far too heavily as an easy crutch. My personal Flanking house rule is that if two allies are diametrically on either side on an enemy, if they hit, they do +1 damage. This scales with character tier to do more damage. So if a 1st level character were surrounded by 8 goblins and every goblin hit, the character would take +8 damage. Of course, that PC would be dead even without the flanking damage. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
What if “flanked” was the inverse of cover? You are flanked if there are at least two hostile creatures within 5 feet of you and suffer -2 to AC and Dex saves. You are surrounded if there is a hostile creature in each space within 5 feet of you and you suffer -5 to AC and Dex saves.
 

If you end your turn surrounded by foes on two sides, you are flanked until the end of your next turn.

While flanked, all attacks on you have advantage.

---

This makes combat more dynamic; you threaten to flank by getting into position, forcing foes to move or suffer consequences.

But it isn't auto-advantage. And the congo line of doom doesn't happen as much.
 

squibbles

Explorer
Thanks for the suggestions, all.

I notice that each of the three ideas above make flanked creatures take more damage or get hit more often. I recognize that makes intuitive sense, which is why it's also what the DMG option does.

I like flanking as a debuff to the target's outgoing attacks for two reasons, though.
1.) Focus fire is already an optimal strategy, I don't think I need to add a rule that makes it better.
2.) Since it's more likely that PCs will be outnumbered than that monsters will, flanking has the potential to be more of a danger to PCs than a benefit. I think it's more interesting to encourage PCs to move proactively than it is to deal more damage to them.

If you end your turn surrounded by foes on two sides, you are flanked until the end of your next turn.

While flanked, all attacks on you have advantage.
I feel like this idea a good one, since it uses the threat of damage rather than actual damage to make positioning more important.
 

The rule:

"If a creature is within 5 feet of two hostile creatures of its size or larger, it is flanked. A flanked creature has disadvantage when attacking a target that is not also flanked."

My conceptual justification is that flanked creatures would need to invest more effort in being defensive and, therefore, have more difficulty attacking. My hope, mechanically, is that it makes positioning more meaningful but not overpowering.

Do you like the rule and, if not, what rule do you use instead and why is it preferable?
Is this in addition to, or instead of Flanking giving advantage to attackers?

I've found that while fighting two people in front of you is hard, fighting two people, one on each side of you, is much harder.

I'd suggest changing the size restriction. Being flanked by halflings or goblins is still a threat, and still makes defending yourself/fighting back harder.
 

I'm generally not a fan of the flanking rules since 3E. The problem is that it often creates a chain of creatures, each trying to flank an opponent. I personally feel that the action economy is punishment enough when outnumbered, but if you want to show extra threat by being swarmed by enemies, you could grant creatures +2 to attack if at least 2 allies are also adjacent to the creature (possibly even +5 if at least 5 allies are also adjacent).
 

Flamestrike

Adventurer
I'm generally not a fan of the flanking rules since 3E. The problem is that it often creates a chain of creatures, each trying to flank an opponent. I personally feel that the action economy is punishment enough when outnumbered, but if you want to show extra threat by being swarmed by enemies, you could grant creatures +2 to attack if at least 2 allies are also adjacent to the creature (possibly even +5 if at least 5 allies are also adjacent).
Which just encourages PCs to gang up on 1 creature at a time, and kicks legendary creatures (generally encountered solo) in the gonads.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
@squibbles Your idea would probably work fine if your goal is to make your players dramatically harder to hit.The problem with flanking in 5e is that flanking is just one piece of a whole to tactical combat & it leaves out the other pieces. Take
1586231878611.png

In the example we have randy the red knight, Scott the sneak, Beth the blue knight, A fire giant with a 10 foot reach, & blue guardwolf, orange guardwolf, & green guardwolf. For purpose of example, all of these creatures have the sentinel ability that sets the target's speed to zero when they make an opportunity attack.

  • Scott walks up to blue guardwolf & passes through four adjacent squares with no reaction from rhe wolf plus two adjacent squares immediately in front of the fire giant who stands there watching passively.
  • Beth walks through 5 5 foot squares within the fire giant's reach all five of those squares adjacent to the green guardwolf who like the firegiant could attack someone in any of those squares.
  • Randy is a bit lbetter, he only passes through 4 squares within reach of both orange guardwolf & the firegiant.
If this were football, doctors would be called in to examine the defensive line wondering why they watched in stunned silence as the offensive line proceeded to all tackle the quarterback at the same time.

Just like the defensive line during a football game all four of those baddies would react to the PCs In 3.5. They would do that by making an opportunity attack when the PC moves from one square within reach to a second square within their reach (Threatened squares) At least one time during the time those PC's are moving. I say at least because with combat reflexes that could be as many opportunity attacks as those baddies have for a dex mod.

In 4e there would be a similar set of attacks when moving like that.

so 5e has no opportunity attacks? is that bad?...
1586232938951.png
Fire giant decides that Scott the sneak is the biggest easiest to hit threat and should be prioritized so gives the command to paste him while doing just that. The giant, Orange guardwolf & blue guardwolf are already within reach of Scott so proceed to attack him. Green guardwolf moves to attack Scott allowing Beth to immediately hits it with a the first opportunity attack of the combat.

A round or two later, scott is really hurting & wants to dig that rare potion of superior healing (dmg188 8d4+8) out of his backpack where it has been for the last six months. The backpack is the one he started the game with & could not get more mundane

In 3.5 digging through any container other than heward's handy haversack, even a bag of holding was not that magical... By the way, now you know why the 5e dmg lists the uncommon dmg153 bag of holding as capable of holding 500 pounds but the dg174 rare handy haversack can only hold 80 pounds.. They forgot the part that made the haversack so much better. Back in 3.5 it took an action to dig that potion out, in 5e Scott just does it at no cost (honest, phb190 interacting with objects around you).

In 3.5 drinking that potion is an action just like in 5e, but unlike 5e it's an action that provokes an opportunity attack so all three wolves and the fire giant smack him for drinking a juicebox in front of them instead of paying attention to the fight. Because of this, scott would have disengaged or similar and been much more careful about getting himself trapped there but still needs to wait till next round to drink that potion he just got curbstomped by 4 baddies retrieving from his newbie backpack.... Oh there's a good chance he's gonna die too because all 4 will get a regular attack/multiattack action before he can provoke another round of opportunity attacks drinking that potion. Bacj in 3.5 Scott would have needed to
1586237497697.png
rather than spending those extra rounds engaging in attempting to dish out damage as fast and long as he could until he was looking like the black knight. Also if you look closely at withdraw, Scott is double screwed because any square he moves to is threatened by the giant & two wolves so would get one two or more opportunity attacks just spending a full round withdrawing from that braindead position. That's tramatically different than
1586237924737.png
He is protected from opportunity attacks for the rest of his turn so is at no risk to get away if there was some reason to bother with getting away.


In 5e Scott fearlessly charged up into a terribly dangrous position with no consequence in order to get a bonus and later after realizing his internal organs need to renain internal went on with no risk or action cost to pluck a potion from his crude burlap sack of a backpack possibly even while he was drinking it at that & did so at no risk in a single turn.

You might say "Wow it sounds like that was crazy complex to remember all the things that could trigger an opportunity attack! How did you manage back then?" well...
1586235095195.png

somehow we managed. :D
I'll let someone else like @Garthanos with more knowledge of 4e go into any needed details for how it worked in 4e, but the process was fairly similar on most of those points.

So why not just add that back in? That kinda thing is something that needs to be designed to begin with because it touches on too many spells & abilities. For example, I used this in my example
1586235603541.png

How could that possibly go wrong with sentinel?
1586236521208.png
Should be fine in 5e right?
I dunno
1586236282190.png

1586236391520.png

Lets compare it to the 3.5 version
1586236192865.png


1586236122106.png

1586236229792.png
That's a pretty dramatic increase in power to turn a third level 30foot cone spell into a 20 foot round lockdown and stun till death with all sorts of possible ripple effects. Because 5e was not designed to include tactical combat from the start there are no abilities that were created with consideration of how those abilities would interact in the presence of tactical combat & all of the spells abilities magic items & monster abilities would need consideration to how they might interact negatively and possibly get changed by simply adding the big missing chunk of a tactical combat system from an old editon.
 

Which just encourages PCs to gang up on 1 creature at a time, and kicks legendary creatures (generally encountered solo) in the gonads.
IME, that happens already, because focus fire is an optimal strategy. Like critical hits, this will harm the PCs far more than enemies, as more often the PCs are outnumbered and most groups usually have a mix of melee and ranged characters (my suggestion only works if you're adjacent too), so the best they'll get is +2 attack.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
The rule:

"If a creature is within 5 feet of two hostile creatures of its size or larger, it is flanked. A flanked creature has disadvantage when attacking a target that is not also flanked."

My conceptual justification is that flanked creatures would need to invest more effort in being defensive and, therefore, have more difficulty attacking. My hope, mechanically, is that it makes positioning more meaningful but not overpowering.

Do you like the rule and, if not, what rule do you use instead and why is it preferable?
As with most flanking rules, this will make solo monsters easier to take down. A creature that can't hit isn't much of a threat. Although creatures that rely on saving throws for their attacks will be largely unaffected.

This also makes it very dangerous for a rogue to get surrounded, since that would make it impossible for them to sneak attack. Of course, unless they're completely surrounded this is fairly easy for a rogue to escape, so it may be a non issue in most cases.

Finally, consider that there are a number of abilities that confer disadvantage on attacks, such as the bard's Vicious Mockery or the battle master fighter's Distracting Strike. An easy source of disadvantage devalues those abilities.
 

Nebulous

Legend
What if “flanked” was the inverse of cover? You are flanked if there are at least two hostile creatures within 5 feet of you and suffer -2 to AC and Dex saves. You are surrounded if there is a hostile creature in each space within 5 feet of you and you suffer -5 to AC and Dex saves.
I really like that actually. 5e wanted to shy away from any fiddly math bits at all, but I think in moderation they're extremely useful.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
@squibbles Your idea would probably work fine if your goal is to make your players dramatically harder to hit.The problem with flanking in 5e is that flanking is just one piece of a whole to tactical combat & it leaves out the other pieces. Take
4e would in places be worse and in places be less of a problem than the 3.x version. An example of worse nobody needs a feat to do as many opportunity attacks on as many somebodies as not being careful as they can reach when they move past. However the key point is you add to the decisions about movement what powers the characters use many Melee characters may have abilities that allow them to sometimes be careful as part of an attack movement and others that allow them to be even more bold to gain benefit and nobody can constantly shift their speed (disengage while moving large distances all the time). For 4e these create decision points about what makes this tactical. Am I doing a brash assault to effectively gain an opportunity attack in trade for one and intentionally granting advantage to gain bonus damage yourself. Is my Warlord enhancing his ability to inspire an ally by taking a bunch of opportunity attacks while running to save his ally am I willing to exert and use this effort to achieve more mobility right now knowing i may not having it in me later when i need it. A barbarian might do a salmon leap that allowed one to make a surprise move to backflip beyond the enemy line but that wasn't going to work again and again and it might be best to do it when he knew it would benefit. In other words the things that encourage/enable mobility may cost special cost resources or have their own benefits tied to them or other things etc etc etc. Some feats allow one to have better armor against opportunity attacks. In other words choice and resources and estimations of risk make the results highly variable.
 
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dave2008

Legend
"If a creature is within 5 feet of two hostile creatures of its size or larger, it is flanked. A flanked creature has disadvantage when attacking a target that is not also flanked."
I just want to make sure I understand. So if Eric is fighting two orcs (both within 5 feet of him) he has disadvantage on the orcs (because they are not flanked), but if Eric is joined by Sara, now they don't have disadvantage because everyone is flanked? Is that correct?

How does this work in a 2 on 3 situation?
 


dave2008

Legend
4e would in places be worse and in places be less of a problem than the 3.x version. An example of worse nobody needs a feat to do as many opportunity attacks on as many somebodies...
Yep, that is one area were 5e OA improved by limiting it to one. Personally, I think in my next campaign I make go the PF2e route and take them away completely, except for fighters (class feature), and then offer a feat for other classes.
 

Yep, that is one area were 5e OA improved by limiting it to one. Personally, I think in my next campaign I make go the PF2e route and take them away completely, except for fighters (class feature), and then offer a feat for other classes.
This will mess with a significant number of class features (presuming you're also removing it from monsters unless they have a very specific Fighter-ish "lockdown"-type deal) and even other Feats (War Caster, for example) and spells (Dissonant Whispers is a junk spell if OA isn't a default thing, for example). 5E isn't PF2, and it isn't balanced on the assumption that you can just run past people or flee with no consequences whatsoever. You'll basically just be directly nerfing every single melee class/subclass in the entire game, except Fighter ones. As you don't get Feats without sacrificing stats in 5E, it's also a huge cost you're suggesting.
 

dave2008

Legend
This will mess with a significant number of class features (presuming you're also removing it from monsters unless they have a very specific Fighter-ish "lockdown"-type deal) and even other Feats (War Caster, for example) and spells (Dissonant Whispers is a junk spell if OA isn't a default thing, for example). 5E isn't PF2, and it isn't balanced on the assumption that you can just run past people or flee with no consequences whatsoever. You'll basically just be directly nerfing every single melee class/subclass in the entire game, except Fighter ones. As you don't get Feats without sacrificing stats in 5E, it's also a huge cost you're suggesting.
Yes, that is what I am looking for, in general, thank you for confirming. However, this isn't our only house rule, so it would be part of a number of changes.

EDIT: PS, there are no ASIs in our game - only Feats
 

What if “flanked” was the inverse of cover? You are flanked if there are at least two hostile creatures within 5 feet of you and suffer -2 to AC and Dex saves. You are surrounded if there is a hostile creature in each space within 5 feet of you and you suffer -5 to AC and Dex saves.
These aren't bad suggestions, but -5 AC and DEX saves is so mathematically similar to attackers having Advantage, and you having Disadvantage on DEX saves, that you might as well go that way. It also prevents you "doubling up" the benefit from Advantage accrued other ways (though does have the mechanical ugliness that the -2 to AC from the other flank is slightly superior if the attacker otherwise has Advantage, hmmm).

I think as a result I'd probably just only go with the -2 version as the other one is a corner-case scenario, and just makes summoners who pick the "lots of small monsters/objects" options for their spells more powerful.
 

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