Knocked Prone While Flying


Rules Questions


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This question came up in last night's game and we couldn't find any rules that cover this situation.

In this particular case it was something with natural flight (ie wings) that was knocked prone (result of a crit card) and we weren't sure what to do. Eventually we ruled the flyer fell but had the Fly check to avoid the falling damage as described under the Fly skill.

Anyone know what happens or where this situation is covered in the rules?


I'd say it's like paralysis or other negative status - you get knocked out of flight. Being able to make a flight check to recover makes perfect sense (given enough altitude) in this case. I don't know if it is covered in RAW offhand though.


Lyingbastard wrote:
I'd say it's like paralysis or other negative status - you get knocked out of flight. Being able to make a flight check to recover makes perfect sense (given enough altitude) in this case. I don't know if it is covered in RAW offhand though.

I can't find the rule in the prd, but in the d20 srd, a flying creature knocked prone loses it's move for the round and its current movement is ceased. No other negative effects result from a flying creature being knocked prone, ie. it does not take a -4 penalty to AC from melee attacks or gain a +4 bonus to AC from ranged attacks, nor does it need to "stand up."


Thanks. It seems like this one just isn't covered. GM's Rule Zero to the rescue!

Scarab Sages

I would say that flying creatures cannot be knocked prone, based on the trip language:

PRPG wrote:
Some creatures—such as oozes, creatures without legs, and flying creatures—cannot be tripped.


Karui Kage wrote:

I would say that flying creatures cannot be knocked prone, based on the trip language:

PRPG wrote:
Some creatures—such as oozes, creatures without legs, and flying creatures—cannot be tripped.

Getting knocked prone is the effect of being tripped, but there are other ways of being knocked prone. Flying makes you immune to being tripped, but it doesn't make you immune to being knocked prone.

That said, I would treat is getting knocked prone while flying as stalling. You need to make a flying check to pull out of the stall unless you have perfect manuverability.


Karui Kage wrote:

I would say that flying creatures cannot be knocked prone, based on the trip language:

PRPG wrote:
Some creatures—such as oozes, creatures without legs, and flying creatures—cannot be tripped.

Well that's a nice nerf. Creatures with wings, and without perfect maneuverability, (ie creatures that clumsily flew naturally and not magically) could be tripped in 3.5. They stalled and fell 150'.

Scarab Sages

Frankly, I think Prone cannot be applied to Flying creatures by simple definition:

PRPG wrote:

Prone: The character is lying on the ground. A prone attacker has a –4 penalty on melee attack rolls and cannot use a ranged weapon (except for a crossbow). A prone defender gains a +4 bonus to Armor Class against ranged attacks, but takes a –4 penalty to AC against melee attacks.

Standing up is a move-equivalent action that provokes an attack of opportunity.


Karui Kage wrote:

Frankly, I think Prone cannot be applied to Flying creatures by simple definition:

PRPG wrote:

Prone: The character is lying on the ground. A prone attacker has a –4 penalty on melee attack rolls and cannot use a ranged weapon (except for a crossbow). A prone defender gains a +4 bonus to Armor Class against ranged attacks, but takes a –4 penalty to AC against melee attacks.

Standing up is a move-equivalent action that provokes an attack of opportunity.

A flying creature can stall and crash, and after they crash do you think they are standing up or lying prone?

Think of it this way if I made a force spell that was designed to knock you flat of you rear, your way of doing things would make flying creatures immune. A spell like that when used against a flying creature would cause them to lose control and possibly crash, IE stall.

A flying creature can end up prone, but they would have to crash into the ground first.

Scarab Sages

Maybe in 3.5, I just don't see where in the book you're getting it from. As for 'crashing', that kind of implies hitting the ground so... yeah, prone.

If you want to make an effect that did it to flying creatures, I'd just note that it made them lose control for however long instead of just saying 'knocking them prone'. I think it would just add confusion.

Though really, what effects in Pathfinder knock an opponent prone? Trip can't work on flying creatures, you can't grease the sky... I'm sure there are others, but would they even be applicable?


To be specific to the case, it was the result of a crit card. The language said something like "pushed them back, knocking them prone". That said maybe they can't actually fall to the ground as a result but it seems that there should be some sort of consequence to that amount of force being applied unexpectedly to a flying, especially a naturally flying, creature.

I can see where tripping wouldn't work on them, their legs aren't what is holding them up. However if the trip attack (or a grapple) fouled the wings, seems that they would be subject to falling prone, emphasis on the falling.


Karui Kage wrote:

Maybe in 3.5, I just don't see where in the book you're getting it from. As for 'crashing', that kind of implies hitting the ground so... yeah, prone.

If you want to make an effect that did it to flying creatures, I'd just note that it made them lose control for however long instead of just saying 'knocking them prone'. I think it would just add confusion.

Though really, what effects in Pathfinder knock an opponent prone? Trip can't work on flying creatures, you can't grease the sky... I'm sure there are others, but would they even be applicable?

Nothing in Pathfinder, but there are spells in 3.5 stuff that do things like that.

Scarab Sages

Or you could use the rules based on high wind speeds and how a creature can be pushed back or blown away by high winds.


azhrei_fje wrote:
Or you could use the rules based on high wind speeds and how a creature can be pushed back or blown away by high winds.

Not quite the same thing.

You can actually fly backwards in high winds. You wind speed is high enough to stay aloft, but you ground speed is negative.

Getting hit with some of these force spells would cause you to lose all of your momentum and thus you would not have enough airspeed to stay aloft.

It is more like crashing into a wall, than flying in high winds.


Now there are, with the addition of Gunslingers. They have a specific ability (pistolero archtype; twin shot knockdown) that if you hit with two attacks, you spend one grit point and knock the enemy prone. We were recently playing an 18th level game where i was a half celestial human gunslinger, and ran into this situation. I had the snap shot feats so i could be in melee, (i had the best ac anyway, being out of melee made no sense) and we were fighting an infernal, i hit him with all of my attacks, and knocked him prone. Our GM ruled that a small fly skill check would allow the Infernal no penalties, but that would mean that the entire ability would be negated. Using that logic, you should be able to use a tumble skill check to avoid becoming prone in any situation. Becasue of that ruling I got shafted and died twice practically (our sorceror had time heal).


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Maybe use the rules for in flight collision (dc 25? to stay aloft), if they make the check they don't suffer penalties, but if they fail they potentially take a lot of extra, unintended mind you, damage.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Lyingbastard wrote:
I'd say it's like paralysis or other negative status - you get knocked out of flight. Being able to make a flight check to recover makes perfect sense (given enough altitude) in this case. I don't know if it is covered in RAW offhand though.

has there been a ruling on this? does a toppling magic missile knock a flying creature prone if I succeed in my rolls?


It was never elaborated on how the rules should interact here.

Personally I think knocked to the ground and is prone is too severe. I would probably go with what Mabven suggested.

I might consider using a fly check to stay aloft similar to what Stubs suggested as well.

But as far as actual hard rules on the topic, none to my knowledge.


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Yeah, Paizo hasn't really answered most of the weird flying questions that come up almost right away in many campaigns. I'd love to see a rules supplement on aerial combat. Heck, even a blog post would be something.


It'd be especially interesting to learn how this would work with spells like Wind Walk or Fly.

Personally, I like the idea of them being effectively prone as they try to right themselves. It's sorta like flipping them over. They have to spend a move action next turn, same as before, but they don't necessarily fall.

As for winged creatures...that gets more complicated. An upside-down bird can't fly.


I don't mean to resurrect a old thread, but I do wish Paizo had some sort of answer for this.

My group has resolved the following that we believe to be fair and balanced so that flying while still being incredibly powerful and a significant advantage is not the end all be all mechanic. And that knocking a flying opponent prone does not necessarily result in what could be a total combat ending action either.

1) Being knocked prone in more a state of losing one's center of gravity rather than simply being placed onto the ground. As long as a flying creature that is knocked prone is at least 10 feet in the air, then they simply make the DC 10 fly check. If for some reason they fail, then they fall the 10 feet to the earth (take the falling damage) and are lying on the earth and are prone by all measures.

2) If the creature makes the DC 10 fly check, then it remains in the air, but is knocked off balance. It does not take the AC & attack penalties for being prone, but must make a move action (which could/would provoke an AoO) before it can continue to move again.

3) If the flying creature has lowered itself to less than 10 feet off the ground (for melee purposes, or doing one of those 5 inch hover things) then the rules of being knocked prone are the same as if it were on the ground. It does not need to stand up in order to fly,(unless it is a naturally winged flyer) but any movement including flight provokes and includes the normal penalties for being prone.

These rulings were made not only to account for things such as a flying wolf using its trip ability on a drake, for overrun and certain other CMB actions, or for specifically unique spells such as battering blast. Later in the game, many creatures with flying also have all sorts of magical means, that allow them to maintain a safe distance from the ground if they choose.


A simpler mechanism is to use the "knocked prone" result as "you lost 20' of altitude". If you are still above the ground, then you are still flying, albeit lower down (and possibly in reach of melee); if you hit the ground then you are prone. No falling damage.

Liberty's Edge

According to James Jacobs, flying creatures can't be knocked prone. Link I know that isn't official, but it is as close to an official answer as I have ever seen, so my group goes with it.

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