Flails are a Let Down


General Discussion


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I read a recent post online questioning the validity of the flail as an actual war weapon versus a fantasy weapon. This is a fantasy game, and I have loved the flail ever since I saw Ivanhoe and two full plated knights were beating the heck out of each other with axes and flails. Sweeeeeeet! So I'm going to ignore the historical and go totally fantasy here.

The flail. It does lower damage than other martial weapons. It has a limited damage type - bludgeon. It does the fruitier effects of disarm and trip. It has the sweep special effect.

Balance Analysis: The flail is balanced compared to other weapons. I'm not going to argue it's a gimp weapon or over powered. It has lower damage but additional capabilities.

Fantasy Analysis: What a let down. This is not why I want to wield a flail. I want to be a nasty monster and murderize foes with this thing! The very first game I ever played, I was handed an npc fighter sheet. The guy had been given a lot of weapons. I still remember my eyes lighting up when I read flail, "This guy has a what?!? I WIELD IT!!!"

Problem 1) Damage Type Bludgeon - Most fantasy flails are covered in spikes. I expect my flail to do bludgeon or piercing as needed. It's covered in nasty spikes! It looks awesome! It's failing expectations here.

Problem 2) Disarm and Trip - I'm not wielding this thing to be a fancy technical fighter. I'm wielding it to smash the heck out of people, punch through their armor, make a mess of them! Flail needs its own unique power like Shield Bypass. This should reduce the effectiveness of a shield as the chain can wrap around it to deliver blows. THIS is one of the reasons I wield a flail! To heck with conventional hack and slash. I want nasty, dirty DAMAGE.

Problem 3) Sweep - Sure, the flail is swung around, but once it impacts something, it's done for. It's going to bounce off and... read this closely... FLAIL AROUND! Yes, the verb flail literally means wild and erratic motion:

Definition wrote:

wave or swing or cause to wave or swing wildly.

"his arms were flailing helplessly"
synonyms: wave, swing, thrash about, flap about, beat about, windmill, move erratically
"he fell headlong, his arms flailing"

This is not in line with expectations for making it easier to hit other targets. Sweep is not a fitting effect for a flail.

How the flail looks today: Martial, 1H, 1d6 Bludgeon | Disarm, Sweep, Trip

How I want it to look: Martial, 1H, 1d8 B/P | Shield Bypass
Or: Martial, 1H, 1d6 B/P | Deadly 1d8, Shield Bypass


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I had a similar idea in this thread:
https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42f4z?Weapon-traits


So we are just looking at fantasy flails. That’s fine with me. I’m no wordsmith and I’m not going to give a physics lesson but the short version is that that length of chain on most fantasy flails is why it should do less damage. It may look cool but it makes it largely ineffective. Plus anyone who gets within your arms reach will make you incapable at actually swinging it as intended, you’d be forced to hit them with the handle which honestly would probably have been just a superior weapon in the first place if you’d have gotten rid of that stupid chain. The majority of the kinetic force is lost. If someone wants to go into more detail feel free.


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I like it, so I'm going to repost you here. All good ideas, and the weapon capabilities need to be expanded along these lines:

morphail wrote:

I love weapon traits. They make for interesting gameplay and help with simulating melee combat.

Therefore I think weapon traits should have a bigger impact on the game. Weapons that allow disarm/trip and so on are great because they give more options for strategy (I'm ignoring if these are powerful/useful strategies for now) . They make the weapon shine in doing whatever it's designed to do. We need more of these.

Examples I think should be added are:
Armour penetration. Weapons such as (war) hammers and picks were specifically designed to overcome heavy armour. A trait such as "penetrating" could allow a two action attack against a target in medium, heavy or construct armour. This attack targets TAC instead of AC. GM can decide that additional monsters are considered "armoured" such as giant beetles or earth elementals.
This trait makes hammers and picks very powerful against specific enemies (reduced in power because of action economy). If this trait seems too powerful, it can be dealt with the same way as Forceful, Agile and Reach are treated- having smaller damage die. This way a sword (d8, versatile) is better when fighting lightly armoured people (and most monsters) while the new warhammer (d6, penetrating, shove) is better against heavily armoured enemies.

For flails you can go another route. Flails (arguably) are used to overcome shields. So a simple way is to give flails some form of advantage against raised shields (or even against cover). But I thought of something more fun with the shield mechanic:
New athletics maneuver called "depress shield" has the attack trait and requires an empty hand: target enemy with raised shield reflex DC. On a success the shield is no longer raised- the target loses its bonus to ac and can't take the shield block action until it raises its shield again. On a critical the target can't raise the shield until the end of its next turn.
Now flails can have a trait that allows them to use this maneuver without an empty hand and gain item bonuses (just like trip and disarm maneuvers).


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I had lots of other ideas about weapon traits, mainly a heavier emphasis on weapon groups with all martials, and linking what traits you get to the level of proficiency you have.

For example untrained in Daggers and Knives can't throw them, can't finesse them while at the hands of an Expert you can throw them and backstab while Master in Daggers and Knives get all these things, and the "Master's Critical Specialization trait " (which is simply called Bleed).

Same with Brawling group- if you are untrained, your hands are not dangerous 1d4 agile-finesse killing machines. If you are Black Widow (or a monk)- they are.


I also feel like the whole “ignoring shields” thing is a fallacy. It wouldn’t work on anyone who actually knows how to use a shield. The flail would more than likely just hit the back of the shield, their arm or hand if your lucky. I suppose the “depress shield” mechanic is possible. But wouldn’t that just be disarming their shield? Which flails can already do. They just need to flesh out the disarm rules.

I’m going to bow out now because this is likely one of those threads where the OP doesn’t want to hear another view point, just things that support their opinions. It’s not the first time...


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Most weapons in the Playtest were quite underpowered, since there were only a handful of weapon properties that were actually valuable enough to merit a damage dice downgrade. Trip and Disarm were definitely not worth it. The handful of cases where weapons actually did have abilities that synergized with your class made those weapons all but mandatory (ie, forceful weapons for fighters). I hope to see a complete overhaul of weapons in the final version.


Come on, Raylyeh, buck up. You're entitled to your feelings about flails vs. shields.

We could apply the same feelings to disarm (how would a ball on this kind of chain actually entangle a weapon and be able to be used again after if it really could?) or trip (how could this small weapon on an unfirm chain trip somebody?).

I prefaced this with a clear slant towards the fantastical. I'm trying to stay away from the real life discord and look at what's fun in a fantasy game. There are lots of currently ongoing internet threads about whether flails ever existed and how they work with SCA and professional martialists weighing in about all of this stuff. There are links and videos a plenty. Zzzzz.....

My fantasy about using a flail is to nail somebody in the head and, regardless of helmets and armor, leave a spike broken off in their skull or my flail stuck hanging out of their head as they convulse and die or their helmet dented in at a sickening depth. Personal preference here, so chime in if you have your own, but I want to rip shields off or swing over them or depress them as was suggested by Morphail. I want to do nasty close quarters combat with them. I don't want to disarm or trip or do things I see as more of finesse moves. I'm whipping my flail out to bust some heads, pure and simple.


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The DM of wrote:
My fantasy [...] is to nail somebody in the head and [...] leave a spike broken off in their skull [...] as they convulse and die...

This is your fantasy, which I suppose you are entitled to. Not sure how widely shared it is within the Pathfinder community at large.


I agree with this thread, and some other (specific and general type) weapon mechanics rub me wrong as well. I feel the whole point of those is to give specific flavor to specific weapons' (or types of...) gameplay beyond just 'balanced numbers'. So when they don't really match the weapon well, to the point it feels like something a totally different type of weapon should have, it feels actively counter-productive.


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Flails do share the best critical specialization effect with hammers, for what its worth. Knocking a creature prone is pretty much always superior to making it flat-footed like a sword does. I don't think there's any time that effect isn't useful. Grants flat-footed regardless of position plus a penalty to attack rolls, unless the enemy wastes an action that provokes. (I suppose knives are pretty good too, but they do even less damage than flails.)

I think if you want flails just knocking people senseless, that's probably the perspective you want to focus on. Critical hits are afterall when you land the most decisive blows. And where a crit with a whip might involve you wrapping the whip around their leg and yanking them off their feet, you can just flavor the flail as hitting that freaking hard.


I have personally been thinking a "shield bypass" skill is warranted in this. The best name I can think of so far is "Hook"

A lot of the weapons with Trip would seem to qualify for it.

Now if you replace skills, or just add the skill, is the next question.


I am very disappointed you didn't name this thread "flais are a flop".


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

But it's not too late to make a thread about how blowguns blow!


Dasrak wrote:
But it's not too late to make a thread about how blowguns blow!

IMO the best thing to do with blowguns is give them some kind of "remain in stealth/invisibility" bonus, so you can use them to apply poisons etc.


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Dasrak wrote:
But it's not too late to make a thread about how blowguns blow!

Or about how clubs are wack!


Captain Morgan wrote:
Flails do share the best critical specialization effect with hammers, for what its worth. Knocking a creature prone is pretty much always superior to making it flat-footed like a sword does. I don't think there's any time that effect isn't useful.

In PF1, tripping/knock down was good... unless the rest of your team was ranged focused. They'd have to make a riskier shot at times. Or it didn't matter because you'd buff, be prebuffed, and had your numbers so high it didn't matter.

PF2 only increases AC by 1 vs ranged so it's not as bad but that 1 point also can shunt off crits from ranged attacks and it's not as easy to find +s to get over that increase, however small it is.

Have to see how in practice it measures up but there can be times where knocking someone down isn't the best choice.


Ediwir wrote:
I am very disappointed you didn't name this thread "flais are a flop".

lol, what's that word for the anguish of not having said something cool or funny after the moment is over? Feeling it!

George Castanza wrote:
Yeah well the jerk factory called, and they're running out of you!

Dark Archive

Ediwir wrote:
I am very disappointed you didn't name this thread "flais are a flop".

Well, I'm disappointed nobody in this thread came up with "Flailure."


I agree with the OP.
Disarm/trip should be a whip, or spiked chain.

War hammer should bypass damage reduction.

Maybe Flails could prevent enemies from using reactions, which includes shield block. Or perhaps they do the most damage, but also hurt the user on a critical miss.

A three headed flail should be a thing as well. Not sure what it would do differently.


I think you are too tied up with disarm and trip being some fancy finesse maneuvers because of other things that posses them too and how they are frequently described as working.

Whenever I imagine a flail disarming someone, it's not wrapping around the weapon and pulling it out of their hand. That would be absurd. I imagine you just hit the item they're carrying so hard (or hit their hand) that it smashed the item out if their grip and possibly broke their hand.

Similarly with trip, you don't need to literally trip up their legs. With a flail I imagine you either slam the flail into the leg or straight down on them so hard that they lose their footing.


Vali Nepjarson wrote:

I think you are too tied up with disarm and trip being some fancy finesse maneuvers because of other things that posses them too and how they are frequently described as working.

Whenever I imagine a flail disarming someone, it's not wrapping around the weapon and pulling it out of their hand. That would be absurd. I imagine you just hit the item they're carrying so hard (or hit their hand) that it smashed the item out if their grip and possibly broke their hand.

Similarly with trip, you don't need to literally trip up their legs. With a flail I imagine you either slam the flail into the leg or straight down on them so hard that they lose their footing.

Those sound more like Sunder and Knock Down


Sunder would be more like attacking the tip of a sword so it breaks off from the force, whereas disarm would be going after the pommel.

Is all about leverage.

Same goes for attacking a shield: you can hack at the edge and break it, or you can smash the center portion and break their arm (rending them incapable of using it effectively).

Of course, material strengths are important when it comes to sunder, whereas disarm would would involve the bodily reliance of the wielder.

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