Total Defense and flanking


Rules Questions

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Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Splendor wrote:


As a final input there is no rule against flanking with a swarm, yet a swarm can't make an AoO.

Swarm can't make a melee attack at all, so they can't flank.

PRD wrote:


Swarm Attack: Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed.
....

Swarms do not threaten creatures, and do not make attacks of opportunity with their swarm attack. However, they distract foes whose squares they occupy, as described below.

Sorry for the necro, but I found this statement while checking other things, and it is the kind of error that generate troubles.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

First of all, apologies for the necromancy! I feel in this case the use of dark arts is warranted, since this is the most comprehensive thread that pops up if you search for "total defense + flanking".

I found a tidbit in the Melee Tactics Toolbox that seems to put the question to rest:

Melee Tactics Toolbox, p. 8 wrote:
Using the total defense action prevents you from attacking — including making attacks of opportunity — but you still threaten foes for the purposes of flanking.

So there you have it! :)


Nice find Kudaku. For proving me right I will forgive you of your thread necromancy :).


It is a weird place to put a rule clarification but it is a valid one. Good to see they are making good clarification lately.


Melee Tactics Toolbox, p. 8 wrote:
Using the total defense action prevents you from attacking — including making attacks of opportunity — but you still threaten foes for the purposes of flanking.
PRD wrote:

Threatened Squares

You threaten all squares into which you can make a melee attack, even when it is not your turn."

I guess the definition of flanking is different then I thought it was...

That must be the reason I flunked flank!

Good to know. Thanks Kudaku!


Galahad0430 wrote:
Democratus wrote:
So it's your contention that you stop flanking if you make an Attack of Opportunity and have none left for the remainder of your turn?
No, because at some point during your turn you WERE able to attack that square. With Total Defense, at NO point in the turn were you able to do so, thus not meeting the requirement to threaten.

But that clearly is not accurate. Since total defense is a standard action, if you take a move action first, during this entire portion of your turn you do threaten. Take a swashbuckler with opportune parry and riposte. The swashbuckler can move, provoke an AoO, parry it and riposte expending an AoO, and then go total defense.


Democratus' line of argument is actually quite reasonable.

Most of us have a pretty good sense that going full defense prevents you from flanking. On the other hand, we understand that a character who is out of attacks of opportunities still does flank. This seems to be an apparent paradox. How can we justify our intuition on how this works?

What is the difference between a character in full defense and one who is out of attacks of opportunity?

Normally a combatant is actively trying to attack and impede nearby foes all throughout the round. So even though a person's level of skill may only allow them to make one effective attack of opportunity, they are nevertheless attempting to attack enemies continuously in their non-turn based version of reality.

In contrast, a character in full defense has ceased all attempts to actively harm their foes. While they might have a special talent to get in a quick attack(perhaps), their primary focus during the round is defense. This isn't just fighting defensively, but full-on turtling with no effort to strike others. The complete lack of effort to attack is what causes opponents to no longer need to pay attention to and be distracted by the individual, resulting in the loss of the flanked condition.

Now while I believe the above explanation is close to the Rules as Intended, the RAW isn't really that clear at all. We generally all accept this is how it works, but the rules could use an extra sentence to spell out this difference, imho.


Seems only fair to put the question to rest since I was the one who started the FAQ request in the first place. Happy to help! :)


Byakko wrote:

Democratus' line of argument is actually quite reasonable.

Most of us have a pretty good sense that going full defense prevents you from flanking. On the other hand, we understand that a character who is out of attacks of opportunities still does flank. This seems to be an apparent paradox. How can we justify our intuition on how this works?

What is the difference between a character in full defense and one who is out of attacks of opportunity?

Normally a combatant is actively trying to attack and impede nearby foes all throughout the round. So even though a person's level of skill may only allow them to make one effective attack of opportunity, they are nevertheless attempting to attack enemies continuously in their non-turn based version of reality.

In contrast, a character in full defense has ceased all attempts to actively harm their foes. While they might have a special talent to get in a quick attack(perhaps), their primary focus during the round is defense. This isn't just fighting defensively, but full-on turtling with no effort to strike others. The complete lack of effort to attack is what causes opponents to no longer need to pay attention to and be distracted by the individual, resulting in the loss of the flanked condition.

Now while I believe the above explanation is close to the Rules as Intended, the RAW isn't really that clear at all. We generally all accept this is how it works, but the rules could use an extra sentence to spell out this difference, imho.

Except that the flankee isn't going to just say, "Oh, he has completely turtled up so I can completely disregard him and focus entirely on the other guy for the next 6 seconds." If you, yourself were in a fight, caught between a couple of flankers, and one seemingly went fully on defense, would you ignore him and turn your back on him to completely focus on the other guy? I certainly wouldn't. I'd still want to keep an eye on him, even if it compromises my defense, because I have no idea what tricks he has up his sleeve.

Furthermore, what's the difference between a character in full-defense and a character who double-moves? A double-move doesn't involve attacking any more than total defense does. But no credible argument can be made that a character taking a double-move or other non-attacking action combination would cease flanking unless it specifically says you no longer threaten.

The important thing to remember is that AoOs are based on your capacity to attack while flanking is based on the flanked character's wariness that you have the potential to attack. I think it would be nice to be able to "break" a flank by allowing yourself to be flat-footed to one of the attackers, but that is, ultimately, a houserule.


bbangerter wrote:
Haste wouldn't let you do it -- the extra attack requires that you take a full attack on your turn, which somebody using total defense clearly isn't doing.
Correct. Haste in 3.5 (iirc) allowed an extra standard action. Pathfinder changed that.

3.0 actually. My Wizard at the time had literally just hit 5th level and picked up the spell when we agreed to switch it over to 3.5. Literally the very next session - I had the 3.0 version on my character sheet but never got to cast it.

_
glass.


Kaazan:

The rules don't always make perfect sense. For example, they give a flank bonus to a visible person who has an invisible flanking ally. At least in this situation, it kinda makes sense.

Note that the flanking bonus doesn't result from simply having two nearby foes. Heck, a character can easily have FOUR+ adjacent foes yet remain unflanked. In order to flank, the attackers have to be in very specific positions and operating in unison to facilitate the flank.

So while you may not be completely ignoring the total defense guy, he's not operating in conjunction with his ally well enough to cause a serious distraction. Thus, no flank.

Again, this is mostly fluff to explain the rules that almost everyone actually uses. The rules themselves could use some clarification, as mentioned before.

---------------

Btw, a character who double moves is still in an actively aggressive stance. He may not have had time to attack normally, but he's still looking for a chance to hit his enemies given the opportunity.


Byakko wrote:

Kaazan:

The rules don't always make perfect sense. For example, they give a flank bonus to a visible person who has an invisible flanking ally. At least in this situation, it kinda makes sense.

Note that the flanking bonus doesn't result from simply having two nearby foes. Heck, a character can easily have FOUR+ adjacent foes yet remain unflanked. In order to flank, the attackers have to be in very specific positions and operating in unison to facilitate the flank.

So while you may not be completely ignoring the total defense guy, he's not operating in conjunction with his ally well enough to cause a serious distraction. Thus, no flank.

Again, this is mostly fluff to explain the rules that almost everyone actually uses. The rules themselves could use some clarification, as mentioned before.

---------------

Btw, a character who double moves is still in an actively aggressive stance. He may not have had time to attack normally, but he's still looking for a chance to hit his enemies given the opportunity.

Who says he isn't working in conjunction with his ally well enough? What part of the description of Total Defense says that?

PRD wrote:

Total Defense

You can defend yourself as a standard action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC for 1 round. Your AC improves at the start of this action. You can't combine total defense with fighting defensively or with the benefit of the Combat Expertise feat. You can't make attacks of opportunity while using total defense.

Nothing in there indicates that you stop threatening, that you "aren't working with your teammates", or anything of the sort. You get a +4 dodge bonus for 1 round, you can't make AoOs, and you can't combine it with fighting defensively or combat expertise. That's all. Flanking is contingent on only two things; position and your potential to attack. Are you paralyzed or under some other condition that prevents you from attacking? No. Are you in the proper position? Yes. Therefore, you provide flanking. No muss, no fuss.


As other commenters have pointed out, the line of logic is:

1) when you're in full defense you can no longer take AoO
2) if you can't take AoO, you no longer threaten
3) if you no longer threaten, you can't flank

Earlier, I have attempted to describe why a character who has merely run out of Attacks of Opportunity is in a different situation: his skill may not allow him to take another "real" attack, but he's still in a physically aggressive stance and attempting to strike foes despite being out of actual AoOs.

It's not hard to poke holes in this line of reasoning; I understand it's not a perfect argument. I am presenting this line of logic to explain why most tables are run this way. The rules really could be clearer.


I also would had ruled against the flanking bonus, but this ruling open more uses for total defense and don't break the game in any way so I'm happy with it.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Xaratherus wrote:
Democratus wrote:

...

Now, when you make a melee attack, you normally do so in one of three ways: Either by taking a full-round action and make a full attack; taking a standard action and making a single melee attack (or two melee attacks if you are two-weapon fighting); or making an AoO, which is not an action.

...

PRD wrote:

Full-Round Actions

A full-round action requires an entire round to complete. Thus, it can't be coupled with a standard or a move action, though if it does not involve moving any distance, you can take a 5-foot step.

Full Attack

If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough (see Base Attack Bonus in Classes), because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon, or for some special reason, you must use a full-round action to get your additional attacks. You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.
...

(Emphasis [bold] added)

You need a Full Attack action to get your second (or other iterative) attacks.

-Doomn

Edit: poor formatting
Edit2: Sorry, didn't really pertain to the original post.

Silver Crusade

The Two-Weapon Warrior archetype for fighter from the Advanced Player's Guide can make two attacks on a standard action with the

Doublestrike:
(Ex): At 9th level, a two-weapon warrior may, as a standard action, make one attack with both his primary and secondary weapons. The penalties for attacking with two weapons apply normally. This ability replaces weapon training 2.
class feature.


Byakko wrote:

As other commenters have pointed out, the line of logic is:

1) when you're in full defense you can no longer take AoO
2) if you can't take AoO, you no longer threaten
3) if you no longer threaten, you can't flank

Earlier, I have attempted to describe why a character who has merely run out of Attacks of Opportunity is in a different situation: his skill may not allow him to take another "real" attack, but he's still in a physically aggressive stance and attempting to strike foes despite being out of actual AoOs.

It's not hard to poke holes in this line of reasoning; I understand it's not a perfect argument. I am presenting this line of logic to explain why most tables are run this way. The rules really could be clearer.

Byakko, rather than continuing to be wrong, you should actually read the rules quoted.

And an assertion that everyone runs it like you've (incorrectly) read the rules, is a incorrect assertion. (Also, being able to take an AoO is contingent on threatening (and other factors), the reverse is not true.)

Here is the relevant rule so you don't have to find it upthread.

Kudaku wrote:

First of all, apologies for the necromancy! I feel in this case the use of dark arts is warranted, since this is the most comprehensive thread that pops up if you search for "total defense + flanking".

I found a tidbit in the Melee Tactics Toolbox that seems to put the question to rest:

Melee Tactics Toolbox, p. 8 wrote:
Using the total defense action prevents you from attacking — including making attacks of opportunity — but you still threaten foes for the purposes of flanking.
So there you have it! :)


bbangerter:
I said "most tables", not everyone. Changing a person's words, and then using that as the basis of your objection is kind of weak. Of course "most tables" is limited by my experience, knowledge, and observations (which are not exactly small, btw), but this should obvious.

As far as Kudaku's quote, I did indeed miss that. Thanks for reposting it. I don't, however, currently own that book so I'm unable to verify that line. If it truly says exactly that, I would not be surprised to see a shift in how total defense is handled over the next few months.

Also: Did you completely overlook the many times I've stated that the argument is not airtight and is easy to poke holes through?
I'm trying to demonstrate how people are thinking, not make a strong logical case.


Byakko wrote:
We generally all accept this is how it works, but the rules could use an extra sentence to spell out this difference, imho.[/b]

Sounds close enough to 'everyone' to not make much of a distinction. If you want to state 'at tables I play at' that is fine, but then actually state it that way. And an actual reading of this thread alone shows that it is not 'generally' accepted as working that way.

If you want to suggest Kudaku may be lying about what the book actually says.... well I don't own the book either, but I have no reason to not take him at face value. I don't think you actually believe he is lying either, but understand what comes across when you state "I'm unable to verify that line".

Byakko wrote:


Also: Did you completely overlook the many times I've stated that the argument is not airtight and is easy to poke holes through?

Yes and no. I found it irrelevant because I was aware of the actual rules quote provided (on top of my own belief all along the rules work as supported by this latest rules find).


bbangerter, it seems like you're going out of your way to be hostile here.

First off, that is a completely different line than you quoted in the post I replied to.

Second, you're taking that line out of context. It's embedded in a section which discusses that while "we" may read it one way, the rules are not actually clear. It should be blatantly obvious that the "we" in the context is referring to people who read the rules in this manner.

Lastly, I did not say, or intend to suggest, that Kudaku was lying. I am unsure if his text was is a direct quote and thus desire to read it myself. That is all.

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