I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, March 23, 2017

5e quick fix: Flanking and Facing

5e quick fixes are exactly what they say on the tin. Small house rules to fix D&D problems you probably don't have. One day I'll put then all in a good looking PDF and the whole will be SMALLER than the sum of the parts - that is how small they are! Use them wisely!

I like the idea of flanking. But giving away so many advantages at once sounds unbalanced (bounded accuracy makes it even worse - now your 5th level fighter has no chance against a bunch of kobolds). Also, if I to mess around with those cool flanking rules, I would still be playing 4e, right? To be honest, I don't even use a grid.

I also like the idea of facing. It just makes sense to me. But it is all a bit too fiddly. Also, if I wanted those nifty facing rules, I would still be playing 3e, right?

Who am I fooling, I don't even use miniatures in most of my games...

But - wait! What if flanking IS facing?

Wayne Reynolds, Copyright Paizo.
Try this:

If a character gets surrounded by two or more creatures (or vice-versa), the creatures can divide themselves in two groups in order to flank/back-stab the character. The character chooses which group to face. The other group has advantage when attacking the character. The number of creatures that can attack a character at once is limited by their size, position (no backstabbing people who have their backs to a wall), and the length of their weapons.

No need for minis, grids, "drawing diagonal lines" or more than one paragraph, really. Giving advantage to only half the attackers makes things a lot more balanced, and letting the victim choose is even better. And flanking becomes a bit more interesting because it now involves some tactical choice: do you give advantage to the big boss or all his annoying minions?


  1. That's a good theater of the mind rule; I may steal it for Dragon Heresy, which has optional facing/flanking rules but I didn't think of this solution.

    1. Thanks! Steal away, I'm looking forward for Dragon Heresy!

  2. I really like this. Simple, easy to adjudicate, gives the player a meaningful choice. Excellent.

  3. This makes a more involved version of the wolf-pack-tactic of separating the group of attackers around the target, with the ones behind it attacking (with the flanking bonus) while the ones situated in its front defend (without any special bonus).

  4. I like the idea. One just have to realize that ganging up on one defender becomes even worse for the defender than it already is in 5e. I think that one of the reasons that creatures gets so ridiculously high hp in 5e compared to earlier editions is to off-set the high hp loss when adversaries gang up on one defender. With this rule, it becomes more dangerous, which might not be a bad thing. Being alone in a fight against many is NOT beneficial to your wellbeing and should be avoided at all costs.

    1. Yeah, you're right, and that is exactly waht the designers were going for ("goblins are still dangerous at level 10" and all). Even though the rule I propose is a lot more forgiving than the ones in the DMG, one should be aware that it makes small enemies in big numbers even more dangerous than they already are.
      I would like an alternative to that aspect of the game, TBH (i.e., for people who want a 10th level fighter to beat a dozen kobolds without breaking a sweat), but so far all my solutions change the whole nature of the game - using 3d6, for example, or half-level instead of proficiency, adding proficiency to AC and double proficiency for attacks, etc.