Invisibility, Flanking and Table Vairation


Pathfinder Society

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

4 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

This would probably be a simple rules question, except it applies to the difference between how some of the GM in my local area handle this issue.

The issue deals with whether a character receives a flanking bonus to attack rolls if the person he's flanking with is invisible. I feel the rules are quite clear, yes. Nothing in the rules or FAQ concerning flanking, threatened squares or invisibility requires the target being flanked to be aware of those who threaten his square. The other GM disagrees, claiming common sense that a target cannot be flanked by enemies he cannot perceive.

At the moment, I'm not as concerned with which of these views would be officially correct, but whether or not this falls under table variation. If it does, then I'm free to handle it my way, and my fellow GM is free to handle it his. Of course, if this is not a mater of table variation, I'd very much like to know what to tell my fellow GM.

Reason Prompting Discussion:
I and a fellow player have a pair of characters we've designed to work together. One of our preferred tactics is for my sorcerer to turn himself invisible then summon monsters, create pits, etc. while standing opposite her ninja to allow her to full attack with sneak attacks. Naturally, this only works if my invisible sorcerer is able to flank while invisible.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

I have to say that common sense does say that you shouldn't be able to flank if you are invisible.

The whole intention of flanking and getting the +2 to hit and be able to take advantage of sneak attack, is that when two folks are standing on opposite sides of you, its a distraction and its hard to pay equal attention to both.

But if one is invisible, you don't really know where they are, so they are not providing that distraction.

That being said, RAW, there is nothing to suggest that common sense plays a role in game mechanics in this situation.

There are many holes in the game mechanics for situations like this.

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/55/5

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As asythril is fond of mentioning, an illusion that the enemy entirely believes to be true won't flank with you, while the invisible ally that neither you nor your target knows exists will.


If being invisible prevented flanking, then all one would have to do is shut his eyes in order to be unflankable.

The system gets a little wonky when it comes to relative perception. This is just one example.

-Matt is imagining a barbarian wearing blinders in order to be unflankable.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Mattastrophic wrote:

If being invisible prevented flanking, then all one would have to do is shut his eyes in order to be unflankable.

There's actually a 3.5 FAQ concerning this issue, which stately quite clearly a target cannot be flanked if he isn't aware of all the flankers, and even confirms that blind characters/creatures are unflankable. Of course, this isn't 3.5, and the rules for flanking, threatening, blindness and invisibility have all changed slightly.

I suppose I could ask my GM friend if you can flank a blind character and see what he'd say.

Dark Archive

I'd make an arguement that an invisible character can flank. He may not be able to be threatening with actual weapons and stuff, but he can still be distracting, making noises and things to keep the creature being flanked looking over his shoulder.

I think illusions should flank too, now that you mention it =P


At the risk of reopening this can of worms, it should not be harder to hit someone when you are invisible than it is to hit them if they can see you.(see the thread about stealth vs invisibility and uncanny dodge).

Yes they lose their dex bonus to AC, but what if they are wearing half plate or otherwise don't have a dex bonus anyway? Pathfinder doesn't have facing rules and backstabbing is represented using flanking rules as an abstraction. If you want it to make more sense, you should implement facing rules and only grant the +2 bonus when attacking from behind. Obviously you can't do this in PFS, and I don't see where there is room for alternate interpretations/table variation. Nothing suggests that you can't flank while invisible.


Well, I think the penalties for being blind are much worse than the flanking bonus, so covering your eyes is worse!

But, the OP is right, no where does it say that the enemy has to see you to be flanked by you.

But! Your sorc has to be threatening! And while he's casting a 1 round spell (e.g. Summon Monster X), he isn't threatening.

Also, when the sorc is next to the enemy, the enemy gets a perception check to notice (DC 0 Perception check for the enemy because the sorc has a -20 to being in combat as per the core rulebook > glossary > invisibility). The sorc can't stealth either (because he wants to be actively threatening?). In short, the sorc is putting himself in harm's way; a smart fighter can even determine the square and attack it (making it quite dangerous). I would even rule that the enemy must notice the ninja doing more dmg and assume flanking (and he'd move out of flanking's way).

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

The ruling I've used is to allow the target to automatically become aware of the invisible creature's presence, and allow a Perception roll to pinpoint him (and plain dumb reasoning if there's only one square he could be in to provide a flanking bonus, provided he hasn't moved).

Illusions/spells are funny though. Some effects do no damage and don't flank. Some do damage and don't flank. Some do damage and do flank. Some do no damage and do flank. Spells are weird, it's like they're magic or something.

Silver Crusade

Illusions don't flank. There's actually a feat (gnome only, IIRC) that lets you flank with an illusion.

Robert, he's not asking if the invisible person gets the flank bonus. I don't think anyone would say that he doesn't. It's whether the visible person gets a flank bonus if his flank buddy is invisible. I can see both sides of the argument on this one.

But Alexis nailed it for a caster who is busy casting. Even with a weapon in your hand, if you're busy with a full round cast (summoning), then you aren't threatening.

But if you're going to play as summoning sorcerer who wants to provide flanks for your friend, why not have the summoned critters be the flank buddy instead of moving up to the front line yourself? I have a sorcerer who does just that. He's got spells like Glitterdust and Grease to use when he's with a group with lots of front liners. But he falls back on summoning when he's with a group that lacks front line support, to provide flankers and meat shields. Even with a limited sorcerer spell list, this type of versatility is possible, especially since they're all conjuration spells, and Spell Focus: Conjuration is a prerequisite for Augment Summoning.


Dust Raven wrote:
The ruling I've used is to allow the target to automatically become aware of the invisible creature's presence, and allow a Perception roll to pinpoint him (and plain dumb reasoning if there's only one square he could be in to provide a flanking bonus, provided he hasn't moved.

That is how the RAW works for that. You automatically know what square a creature is in if it makes a melee attack on you and it is within 5 feet of you. There is no roll required. You know the square but still have the 50 % miss chance. A creature that remains invisible, or a creature in darkness, can just move after attacking you though.


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Does this help?

tl;dr: Yes, invisible creatures can help flank.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Robert A Matthews wrote:
Dust Raven wrote:
The ruling I've used is to allow the target to automatically become aware of the invisible creature's presence, and allow a Perception roll to pinpoint him (and plain dumb reasoning if there's only one square he could be in to provide a flanking bonus, provided he hasn't moved.
That is how the RAW works for that. You automatically know what square a creature is in if it makes a melee attack on you and it is within 5 feet of you. There is no roll required. You know the square but still have the 50 % miss chance. A creature that remains invisible, or a creature in darkness, can just move after attacking you though.

Not really. The invisible/unseen character is not attacking. It's just standing there, maybe doing other stuff, but not attacking. It's just his position grants an ally a flanking bonus.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Fromper wrote:

But Alexis nailed it for a caster who is busy casting. Even with a weapon in your hand, if you're busy with a full round cast (summoning), then you aren't threatening.

This is true, and I try not to overlook it. Usually he's already cast his summoning spells by the time he's invisibly moved into melee, where he's casting battlefield control spells such as create pit or grease, or otherwise buffing an ally using a wand or a scroll. He'll sometimes summon while out there, but he usually don't feel the need more than one summon monster spell per combat.

As for other things to do, other than the above, he's pretty useless in combat, and was designed to me. He's a non-combat sorcerer, specializing in more in subterfuge and infiltration (to go along with his ninja friend). His only direct damage spell is a page of spell knowledge. He's as likely to spend an action attempting to push/handle a summoned celestial leopard as he is to cast a spell when in combat. The way I see it, might as well do it from a position that grants an ally an advantage.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Cheapy wrote:

Does this help?

tl;dr: Yes, invisible creatures can help flank.

That helps! And I believe places this well outside table variation. I'll inform my group.

Thank you!


No problem! I don't think it makes much sense, but thems the kicks :)

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Makes sense? Doesn't really have to, but I can imagine how it works. But the implications of it working differently would concern me. If flanking is only possible against a target which perceives both threatening enemies, why can't he just ignore one (and thus treat him as invisible) to deny the other a flanking bonus? The other is how does one enemy being invisible place the target at an advantage?

But I digress. I have my answer and I'm happy with it. I'll just smile and be quiet now.

:)

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

While I understand why some DMs don't think it makes sense, by RAW you can flank invisibly. If we are talking a home game then a GM is free to house rule this however they like. However, since we are talking PFS, then the GM is not free to house rule something and should abide by RAW whether they agree with it or not. Organized play only works if it maintains a high level of consistency. There are enough vague rules out there creating table variation as it is without GMs trying to add more by not following RAW.

Silver Crusade

Evidently, many GMs just can't get out of the "I am god" mindset. I GM PFS just like I'm along for the ride like the players. It makes things a lot less adversarial.

2/5

Dust Raven wrote:
The issue deals with whether a character receives a flanking bonus to attack rolls if the person he's flanking with is invisible. I feel the rules are quite clear, yes.

Normally I'd say yes, especially if the invisible flanker was attacking the target, therefore causing a threat.

By the letter of the law, the rules are clear that your sorc (who is casting spells) will also threaten, although it becomes more unclear (to commonsense) when he's actually casting.

5/5

Dust Raven wrote:
There's actually a 3.5 FAQ concerning this issue, which stately quite clearly a target cannot be flanked if he isn't aware of all the flankers, and even confirms that blind characters/creatures are unflankable. Of course, this isn't 3.5, and the rules for flanking, threatening, blindness and invisibility have all changed slightly.

That must have been from the Andy Collins FAQ days - lots of ... interesting... answers. Do you have a link by chance?

Liberty's Edge

3 people marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

The main issue for this is which perception determines flanking. The person attacking or being attacked. The person attacking an opponent doesn't know the other person flanking is there unless the have the ability to see invisible. Thus how do they know they are flanking? This needs to be FAQ'd since nothing in the rules for flanking address this "specific" issue.


Think of the implications of sneak attack vs uncanny dodge. You can sneak attack someone that has uncanny dodge by flanking them. You cannot sneak attack them by being invisible. If you cannot flank while invisible, then improved uncanny dodge is pretty much a pointless ability. A character with uncanny dodge could simply close their eyes after attacking and effectively gain the benefit of uncanny dodge since closing your eyes treats all attackers as invisible.

Unable to flank while invisible = unable to flank a level 2 barbarian that shuts his eyes

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Mattastrophic wrote:

If being invisible prevented flanking, then all one would have to do is shut his eyes in order to be unflankable.

The system gets a little wonky when it comes to relative perception. This is just one example.

-Matt is imagining a barbarian wearing blinders in order to be unflankable.

Interestingly enough, you get a +2 to hit someone who is blind to you (whether they are actually blind or you are invisible).

This is the same bonus as Flank.

So are you saying you can double up on the bonuses to hit (+2 for flanking and +2 for being invisible to them) even though it makes no sense whatsoever that an invisible person not attacking the guy would provoke a distraction worthy of being called flanked?

I know what the rules say... but think about that for a second.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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You know guys, we could just take all the various situational advantages - target is blind, you're invisible, target is prone, you're flanking, etc - and lump it into a single bonus that you either have or don't have. If you have it, then you don't have to figure out whether you'd have it again from some other condition, since it wouldn't stack.

We could call it something nice and generic, like maybe "combat advantage".

;)

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Bad Jiggy! Bad!!! *hits Jiggy on nose with rolled up newspaper*

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

>:D

The Exchange 5/5

Jiggy wrote:

You know guys, we could just take all the various situational advantages - target is blind, you're invisible, target is prone, you're flanking, etc - and lump it into a single bonus that you either have or don't have. If you have it, then you don't have to figure out whether you'd have it again from some other condition, since it wouldn't stack.

We could call it something nice and generic, like maybe "combat advantage".

;)

can we stick in "High Strength Attacker" and "Magic Weapon" in the "combat advantage" catagory too?

The Exchange 5/5

Jiggy wrote:
>:D

do we view this from the left (frowny face guy in a hat)

or
from the right (big open mouth grin)?

Silver Crusade

I just thought about it and realized that rolled up newspapers hurt even more than they used to, since I gave up on dead trees and started reading all my news online. I hope I don't break my tablet...

Liberty's Edge 5/5

From rolling it up or hitting someone with it?


The invisible attacker isn't going to be silent (give or take magic), so the opponent is going to know *something* is there, and that's got to be distracting

The Exchange 5/5

Andy Brown wrote:
The invisible attacker isn't going to be silent (give or take magic), so the opponent is going to know *something* is there, and that's got to be distracting

sorry, doesn't count. Otherwise we will have people trying to get a flank bonus with Ghost Sound and such...


You get the +2 bonus to hit yes, but you are still denied a sneak attack due to uncanny dodge. You shouldn't be able to shut your eyes to negate sneak attacks with uncanny dodge. If you can't flank while invisible, you can't sneak attack a level 2 barbarian that shuts his eyes. If it were ruled that you can't flank while invisible, a lot of players with uncanny dodge would start shutting their eyes in combat any time they fight a rogue, ninja, jinkin, etc.

1. Open eyes
2. Attack
3. Shut eyes

You could have the creatures ready to attack when the player opens their eyes, but playing this way seems really silly to me.

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, it's a weird rules quirk; creatures that threaten can flank, even if the flankee has no idea the flanker is there.

There's a point in organized play campaigns where you just have to accept that the rules work the way they do, and stop trying to find an in-character justification for why it works that way.

Sczarni

nosig wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

You know guys, we could just take all the various situational advantages - target is blind, you're invisible, target is prone, you're flanking, etc - and lump it into a single bonus that you either have or don't have. If you have it, then you don't have to figure out whether you'd have it again from some other condition, since it wouldn't stack.

We could call it something nice and generic, like maybe "combat advantage".

;)

Been there, done that. Check out Tactics 101 in the Pathfinder RPG/Advice Boards. Lots of Combat Advantage going on there.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
SCPRedMage wrote:

Yeah, it's a weird rules quirk; creatures that threaten can flank, even if the flankee has no idea the flanker is there.

There's a point in organized play campaigns where you just have to accept that the rules work the way they do, and stop trying to find an in-character justification for why it works that way.

Ding. Ding. Ding. I think we have a winner!

The Exchange 5/5

Arni Carni wrote:
nosig wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

You know guys, we could just take all the various situational advantages - target is blind, you're invisible, target is prone, you're flanking, etc - and lump it into a single bonus that you either have or don't have. If you have it, then you don't have to figure out whether you'd have it again from some other condition, since it wouldn't stack.

We could call it something nice and generic, like maybe "combat advantage".

;)

Been there, done that. Check out Tactics 101 in the Pathfinder RPG/Advice Boards. Lots of Combat Advantage going on there.

it looks like you are quoting me above... but you trimmed out my comment to Jiggy.

can we stick in "High Strength Attacker" and "Magic Weapon" in the "combat advantage" catagory too?

should go after Jiggy's smiley and before your "Been there, done that"...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Pathfinder rules are more abstract than reality, but if you really need an excuse just assume the invisible ally is blowing on the back of the target's ear. This would be far more distracting than some hero with a sword.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Nick Adams wrote:
Pathfinder rules are more abstract than reality, but if you really need an excuse just assume the invisible ally is blowing on the back of the target's ear. This would be far more distracting than some hero with a sword.

So, can an invisble person flank, even if they don't have IUS or a weapon being wielded?

Can you threaten/take AoOs with a regular gauntlet, or does it need to be a spiked gauntlet to threaten/take AoOs?

If you take an attack with a plain gauntlet, since it is treated as an unarmed strike, IIRC, does that mean your target get an AoO as though you did a regular unarmed strike without IUS?

Can an enemy in water provide a flank against an enemy who is in air?

Spoiler:
Real question, actually, there is a place in one level of Thornkeep that has enemies in water, trying to pull the PCs, in a small corridor surrounded by the water area, into the water. Can the enemies, even if both of them are in teh water area, flank a PC in the dry area between the areas of water the enemies are in?

Shadow Lodge

Sigh, can't we let this thread die, already?

Invisibility does not interact with the flanking rules, AT ALL.

Spoiler:
Yes.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Jason Leonard wrote:
The main issue for this is which perception determines flanking. The person attacking or being attacked. The person attacking an opponent doesn't know the other person flanking is there unless the have the ability to see invisible. Thus how do they know they are flanking? This needs to be FAQ'd since nothing in the rules for flanking address this "specific" issue.

The rules don't require a creature to be aware of his enemies to be flanked by them. All that is required is his enemies threaten his square and be on opposite sides of him. There isn't anything in the rules which places this in a gray area or leaves it open to interpretation.

In the specific case of my kitsune sorcerer, the only time he would not help flank is when he's casting a spell with a casting time of 1 round (such as summon monster, which he's fond of) or when he's standing in the wrong square. Or during those times he's in human form and has forgotten to draw his dagger. Or pretty much any circumstance in which you can't flank, visible or not. Visibility has nothing to do with it.

Grand Lodge

The way I handle this is quite simple. First the person/creature being flanked may or may not know the invisible creature is there.. regardless if it is blind or not. It simply does NOT matter.

What matters is if the people threatening are aware of the invisble person or not. If one of the people flanking the enemy is invisible.. the ONLY person getting the flanking bonus is going to be the invisible person. The other ally that is not invisible is not aware of his invisible ally flanking with him so does not provide the requisite distraction to give you the bonus. Now if the person that is invisible goes in the initiative order before the non-invis person... then the invisibility problem no longer applies.

So like this.

0 = Non-invisible ally (no flanking bonus)
X = Creature
0 = invisible ally +2 (both allies gain bonus once the once invisible ally is no longer invisible of course)

If the creature was blind Then BOTH flanking gets the bonus because invisible does not matter any longer. But only if the allies are not stealthed. If stealthed and only if stealthed then the creature would not be considered flanked as the creature is NOT aware they are there.

If creature shuts his eyes to try and get the non=flanking thing someone brought up in the thread above mine.. then he is BOTH blind AND flanked.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Deanoth wrote:
What matters is if the people threatening are aware of the invisble person or not.

I'm reasonably certain this doesn't matter at all. The only thing that matters for flanking is if both allies threaten a creature from opposite sides.

Before and since starting this thread I've read and re-read the rules over and over looking for anything that further defines flanking, defines flanking differently or provides any exceptions to this definition of flanking, and have not found any. I started the thread thinking I may have missed or misunderstood something, but it's looking as if I have not.

Grand Lodge

Dust Raven.

I think that RAW is a bit to strict in this. If you read it "strictly" the the letter as written or RAW... then yes you are correct. But I do not think that this was as intended nor does it truly say anything about awareness or blindness or anything like it. So using this as RAW is next to impossible, so we as GM's need to do a rule as intended ruling.

I think that both flanking members HAVE to be aware of each other in order to do so. In my example above.. it is showing flanking. But the only person that should get the bonus is still the invisible person, at least until the invisible person actually "does" his attack which in that case he is no longer invisible.

As a GM I would do it as intended and have. I do go by the rules as strictly written when the intention comes through as such. Which is 99% of them... then there is a rule like you are pointing out that needs the clarification that this thread is pointing out and debating. Where a GM needs to adjudicate the ruling on this. I think that the only fair way is to do it from the view point that the allies need to be aware of each other to get the flanking bonus.

So the only flanking bonus that would be applied would be the invisible person or at least "until" the invisible person attacks.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Colorado—Colorado Springs aka Dust Raven

Deanoth wrote:

Dust Raven.

I think that RAW is a bit to strict in this. If you read it "strictly" the the letter as written or RAW... then yes you are correct. But I do not think that this was as intended nor does it truly say anything about awareness or blindness or anything like it. So using this as RAW is next to impossible, so we as GM's need to do a rule as intended ruling.

I think that both flanking members HAVE to be aware of each other in order to do so. In my example above.. it is showing flanking. But the only person that should get the bonus is still the invisible person, at least until the invisible person actually "does" his attack which in that case he is no longer invisible.

As a GM I would do it as intended and have. I do go by the rules as strictly written when the intention comes through as such. Which is 99% of them... then there is a rule like you are pointing out that needs the clarification that this thread is pointing out and debating. Where a GM needs to adjudicate the ruling on this. I think that the only fair way is to do it from the view point that the allies need to be aware of each other to get the flanking bonus.

So the only flanking bonus that would be applied would be the invisible person or at least "until" the invisible person attacks.

Okay, but until you receive that clarification, you would still have to run the game using the rules as written, yes? There's no way anyone can divine if the intent was anything other than what the RAW states unless the authors say something. They haven't. Ever. Even when asked. I have to assume, based on this question coming up dozens of times over the past three years that RAW = RAI in this case.

I could understand if there were some void or ambiguity, but I can't find it. Maybe it doesn't make sense. Maybe it doesn't need to.

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