Question on what is "adjacent" and what isn't for Large polearm masters

Rules Questions

Hi everyone,

One of my regular GM's in the Pathfinder Society has ruled that when my polearm master has the spell enlarge person cast on him, he can hit targets 15 or 20 feet away with no penalty, 5 feet away with a -4 penalty, and he can't hit targets 10 feet away at all. The key word is "adjacent", as shown in the description below:

"At 2nd level, as an immediate action, a polearm master can shorten the grip on his spear or polearm with reach and use it against adjacent targets. This action results in a –4 penalty on attack rolls with that weapon until he spends another immediate action to return to the normal grip. The penalty is reduced by –1 for every four levels beyond 2nd."

I think the problem with my GM's reasoning is that the above description does not take into account the fact that my character is Large when Enlarge Person is in effect. He believes that since 10 feet away from my character is not adjacent, he can't hit a target at that distance. I think that both 5 feet and 10 feet away should be considered adjacent, as the character is Large, and takes up four x 5 foot squares, compared to a Medium creature which takes up only one 5 foot square.

Any thoughts please? I need to get this rule clarified, preferably in my favour, as I play only reach based fighters, and this ruling from my GM is crippling.

Thanks in advance,

Captain Picard.

I am not a rules expert, but would have ruled it as you did. The rule is meant to make a reach weapon the same as a melee weapon (with penalty). As large creatures can hit 10' with a melee weapon, it stands to reason you should be hitting it with Polearm Master.

However, given that this appears to be one PFS GM out of several, there is a broader issue of heterogeneous rulings across GMs. This sounds like something where the powers that be (VAs/VLs/VCs) will or should want normalized. You should be emotionally prepared for it to be normalized against you (quite possibly ruining your whole build).

Your GM is right, although the ability itself probably intended for you to just lose the Reach property. Adjacent means adjacent, even if you're medium, large, or huge.

As for "crippling", maybe you should reconsider getting enlarged if you're unable to keep enemies out of the "reach donut". Otherwise there's a couple alternative solutions to your apparent problem.

1. Armor Spikes (Item)
Easiest solution. Much better than losing attacks of opportunities and taking that attack penalty from Pole Fighting. Just hip them with your hips.

2. Nimble Moves (feat)
You can 5-foot step even in difficult terrain, which should allow you to prevent an enemy from hiding in your 10 ft blind spot as an enlarged Polearm Master.

3. Weapon Trick: Polearms (feat)
You can accept a -2 penalty to attack rolls and treat your polearm as a club, lacking the reach property. You still get to apply (most of) your feats and magical enhancements. Probably better than taking the archetype, tbh.

4. Long Arm (spell and dip)
You're a fighter. Dip one level into Bloodrager to gain access to wands, and use the personal spell Long Arm instead of enlarge person. Unless you're fighting huge (tall) creatures you'll still outreach most enemies, and can 5-foot step away if they're too close. Take Nimble Moves if you're afraid of difficult terrain.

5. Battle Dancer (Dip)
Again, you're a fighter. Who cares if you dip. Take two levels of Battle Dancer Brawler and never worry about the donut again.

Adjacent means immediately neighbouring; on a grid squares which share a side (or in some instances a corner). This definition doesn't change with size increases (although you will naturally be immediately neighbouring more squares at a larger size), and it doesn't change with reach - just because you can reach a square doesn't make it adjacent.

The fact that you can reach 10 ft away doesn't change the fact that those squares aren't in direct contact with the one you occupy; they aren't adjacent.

Language is language. Rules were made for Medium (and Small) creatures, otherwise they should have definied a specific wording other than "adjacent" for "within reach of a non-reach weapon". For everything related to combat, I'm going with the second interpretation.

Note that when you become Tiny or smaller, "adjacent" can also mean "out of your reach without moving".

Silver Crusade

I also agree with the OP's GM's interpretation. In a HOME GAME I'd totally agree with the OP, that's how it's supposed to work. The wording of the rules are clearly in error: it should have just said the weapon 'loses reach'. That's clearly the intent, and Paizo's wording is just sloppy and wrong. That said, this was PFS, and a PFS GM's is to rule RAW not RAI. So the poorly worded rule must be interpreted as written, not as intended.

+1 to "GM read it right, probably shouldn't play it that way though".

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