Fighting reach enemies


How do you fend off reach enemies without eating too many AOOs, or letting them get the first strike? At low levels, I suppose readying an action to 5-foot step, then attacking would let you effectively get the jump on an enemy with a 10-foot reach who gets in range, but this only functions for the brief window of time when enemies are not consistently Large or larger, don't have access to the Lunge feat, and don't also use reach weapons. Without expending spells or feats, how do you beat reach-based enemies in melee combat?

You generally don't provoke more than 1 AoO for the same action, so if you avoid or tank through the 1st AoO, you should be fine.

Using Acrobatics is also a good idea... I honestly think this skill is severely under-appreciated. Other options are spells like Grace and Burst of Speed and/or feats such as Lunge. which is very useful and helps a bit against opponents with greater reach as well.

Also Litany of Sloth and Bladed Dash spells.

Silver Crusade

There's also the Bladed Dash spell (bard, magus) - amazing when used with Spell Combat.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
My Self wrote:
Without expending spells or feats, how do you beat reach-based enemies in melee combat?

1. Use ranged attacks.

2. Use acrobatics.
3. Use cannon fodder (animal companions/familiars/trained dogs/allies) to take the AoO then move in afterward.
4. Win initiative and close before they can act.

In all honesty though. If you plan on being a melee character I suggest having an high enough AC/HP that taking an AoO isn't a big deal.

Hard to get 'good' options when two of the largest resources in the game- feats and spells, are removed from the discussion.

I am honestly unsure what you are looking for here. Some magical item? Some strange piece of mundane equipment that allows you to tie their shoe laces toether from 20' away? Bribing your GM to make the enemies get really lazy?

Lemmy wrote:
You generally don't provoke more than 1 AoO for the same action, so if you avoid or tank through the 1st AoO, you should be fine.

Usually, but sometimes you run into a wall of pikemen. Then you provoke at least 3. At a time like that, you can

Lemmy & Maezer wrote:
Use acrobatics.

Although that time, I stepped back, put away my greatsword, pulled out my bow and

Maezer wrote:
Use[d] ranged attacks.

Irksomely, if you provoke due to Reach, and you have feats like Panther Style or Snake Fang, you don't get your bonus hit back if you don't have Reach yourself.

So to the given advice, I'd add

5. Get Reach yourself
6. Be so hard to hit that you CAN just eat those AoOs.
7. A Crown of Swords would let you counterpunch someone who hit you with an AOO.
8. A level in Aracanist can give you Dimensional Hop, which lets you do a tactical teleport 10' as if you were moving 5', so when you are 15' away from the pike line, you 'Hop 10 feet, then you are inside their Reach and getting to work.
9. A deeper dip in Arcanist can also get you a Miss Chance: see suggestion #6.
10. 2 levels in Ninja can win you the Vanishing Trick: turn Invisible as a Swift Action. You can only make attacks of opportunity when you know someone is there: +20 Stealth. And when you do, you enjoy a 50% Miss Chance, see suggestion #6.

If there is a creature between you and an enemy with reach, you have cover from that enemy. Cover prevents attacks of opportunity. Therefore, you just need to get someone adjacent to the enemy, and then everyone else slips up next to it through the area where there is cover.

Even the enemy's allies can provide you with cover, and if there isn't one in the right place, then either someone with acrobatics could tumble there, or the best-armored could just walk in, possibly while using total defense and risk taking the one hit to provide everyone else the cover lane. Even a cheap summon could provide the necessary cover, or an enemy could be combat maneuvered into the right spot.

Tactics FTW

EDIT: I know you said no spells, which might invalidate a cheap summon monster, but I figure if it's a first level spell it might be cheap enough not to count. Along the same lines, obscuring mist, minor image, etc. could block the enemy's line of sight past 5', which means it couldn't see you well enough to make an AOO. Or, you could use a smokestick/smoke pellet, and stick with the "no spells" clause.

Sovereign Court

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It depends a lot on the specific battlefield and enemy. Fighting a huge+ creature is significantly different from fighting a large creature or medium creature with a reach weapon. In these examples I'm assuming you have less reach than your opponent; I'm working from the presumption you have 5ft reach yourself.

Tactic 1: Let Them Come To You
A basic tactic in PF is to let enemies come to you, so that they have to move and make a single attack, and you get to be the first one to make a full attack. You can improve on this by readying an action to attack as soon as your enemy comes within reach. That'll put your new initiative just before the approaching enemy. So that way you ready, enemy comes close, you attack, then (if he survives) enemy full attacks.

Against enemies with 10ft reach, the basic tactic is to let them come in close enough so they can strike, and then use a 5ft step to close in far enough that you can strike as well. That way you don't provoke AoOs.

Now we combine these two basic tactics. While the troll is at 15+ feet away, ready an action to 5ft step closer and attack him as soon as he comes within 10ft.

Against enemies who have 10ft reach due to Reach weapons, this tactic works even better. Because as soon as you step in closer to them, they can't even hit you with their polearm anymore.

However, this tactic doesn't work if the difference in reach between you and your enemy is more than 5ft. They don't have to come close enough to you to let you do this. Unless...

Tactic 2: use reach weapons yourself
A longspear is a simple weapon. Most classes can use it. They're cheap, but can hit pretty hard.

Tactic 3: master the Cover rules
The cover rules are widely thought to be difficult. I disagree; there's a bit of a learning curve, but they're fairly clear an unambiguous when you really sit down to read them. Be that as it may, really understanding them will make you much more effective in combat.

  • If you have cover from an enemy, he can't make AoOs against you.
  • Any attack made against a non-adjacent target uses the rules for determining cover against ranged attacks. Since you provoke attacks for leaving a threatened square, and you're trying to close in on a reaching opponent, you're provoking in non-adjacent squares, so this is applicable.
  • It's quite possible that you have cover from an enemy, that doesn't have cover from you. This means you can cast spells, move, make ranged attacks without big risk.
  • To see if X has ranged cover from Y, draw a line from the corner of any square of Y to all corners of any square of X. Make sure to pick the squares/corners most advantageous to Y. If any of those 4 lines are interrupted by anything other than X, then X has ranged cover from Y.
  • Creatures that block those lines provide soft cover against attacks against non-adjacent targets. Soft cover is still enough to prevent AoOs. (Note that soft cover wouldn't help in adjacent melee.)
  • With one exception: creatures/allies you're currently moving through don't provide cover. This rule is hidden in the movement section of the combat chapter, instead of in the cover section.

Please don't just take me at my word here; thoroughly study the cover rules in the combat chapter. It will add a lot of tactical depth to your game.

Putting that together: the trick is to make sure you have cover in all the squares you move through while getting close enough to your enemy to attack him.

Tactic 4: the unseen approach
If you have total concealment from an enemy, he can't make attacks of opportunity against you. So if there's a giant bocking a gate, no obvious cover available, throw a smokestick at his feet. That blocks line of sight beyond 5ft, so you can go through the smoke and get close to him without provoking.

The two solid options, which anyone can use, in my opinion are:
1) Get reach yourself.
2) Get a healer buddy and don't care about AoO at all.

As Ascalaphus says, getting cover works, but may be hard to come by in the standard situation, where you have to get at the mob over there. Nonetheless, have a close look at low level spells and see what you can get as potions or otherwise, which may cover your approach. One of the best spells is Grace, which lets you move across the battlefield once without catching any AoO.

Anyway - if you are a melee character, don't be afraid of AoO, they are part and parcel of your job. People being afraid of AoO has caused more damage than the thing itself :)

Sovereign Court

Vatras wrote:
2) Get a healer buddy and don't care about AoO at all.

The thing I'm afraid for is usually not the damage, but what if the enemy decides to trip me? If he's bigger and got more reach than I do, he'll probably also have a good CMB. If I get tripped, not only do I lose my chance to attack, I'll also be at risk when I stand up.

Grace divine spell is swift action spell available to clerics, Paladins

If it is a reach weapon, sunder or disarm works pretty well IMO.

Using others as cover, as mentioned, works well... Buy a pack of dogs with your starting gold, have them run up and either take the hits, or provide cover for you.

Acrobatics is your friend.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Mobility, just out of reach, spring attack, improved sunder...All good feats for this.

Also the total defense standard action, but you lose the ability to take AoO.

We play with a houserule that charging an enemy does not provoke AoO from that enemy. It doesn't stop the enemy from having a readied action to nail you as you charge (although they rarely do in practice), but it has helped with martials closing the distance to creatures with reach.

Total defense into the edge of their reach and the five foot step in next round.

On the subject..mostly...does Combat Reflexes let you make as many attacks as your DEX bonus allows to the same foe? The feat doesn't specify that it doesn't.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Combat reflexes allows you to make more AoO a round. Each AoO trigger still only allows one attack, Some actions trigger more than one AoO, like casting a ranged touch spell next to an enemy, which allows 2 AoO, one for casting a spell and then another for making a ranged attack.

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