Flanking and ranged attacks


Rules Discussion


Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If someone is flanking an opponent, that opponent becomes flat-footed to them. It requires positioning and that both of the people flanking be able to make a melee attack.

If one of the people flanking does a ranged attack instead, is the opponent still flat-footed to them? Lots of ways to do this, the simplest would be two weapon fighting with a dagger as one of the two weapons. The actual situation where it came up was a gun with a bayonet and another gun.

In past editions flanking only worked for melee. I don’t want to carry forward assumptions from past editions. Right now I don’t see anything that prevents this from working,


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By RAW, you need to be able to make a melee attack to flank a target and then it becomes flat-footed to you.

Since you can always use the "fist" melee attack (as it can also be a kick or something else you can do without free hands) you don't even need to equip a melee weapon. You can just stand next to the enemy and shoot him in the face with your crossbow. He'd be flat-footed against the attack.


I have a character in a game I am running that is carrying around a gnome flickmace even though they are completely untrained in it. They eventually want to get training. But for now I pointed out to them that simply by wielding the weapon they are providing flanking at 10 foot range.

And yeah, if they were using a hand crossbow in the other hand, by RAW they would benefit from the flanking that they were providing. No matter which weapon they used for the attack.


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Yup, flanking is determined by your ability to make a melee attack rather than you actually making one.

Personally if this is intended functionality I would like paizo to simplify the language to cut down on confusion.

I like that it works this way for ranged attacks, but I kinda wish it didn't allow a random caster with zero proficiency in a whip to gain flanking from 10ft away even though the whip is never used (just held) and couldn't possibly hit the target even on a 20.

Honestly, mid to late game it stops mattering much though as flatfooted gets applied from so many sources that seeking out flanking is just something you do to get the chain of effects going.


The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
I like that it works this way for ranged attacks, but I kinda wish it didn't allow a random caster with zero proficiency in a whip to gain flanking from 10ft away even though the whip is never used (just held) and couldn't possibly hit the target even on a 20.

Oh, I fully expect that this player will occasionally roll d20-1 to hit with that flickmace. (Gnome Sorcerer)

And I helped them pre-select on Pathbuilder2 the general and ancestry feats that they need in order to get proficiency with the weapon by 5th level.

I could also see houseruling that if you are not capable of hitting the target that you are therefore not actually a threat with the attack and therefore do not provide flanking. Would only prevent reach weapon shenanigans since every character so far is trained with unarmed attacks and unarmed attacks are always available.

Liberty's Edge

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IIRC you benefit from the flanking for your attack spells too.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Flanking gives a penalty to AC. Anything that targets AC would benefit from that.

Sounds like people generally agree that this works.


I agree that it works, but have run into GMs who insist you must have a hand free even if making an attack with another body part because "Unarmed Attacks lists the statistics for an unarmed attack with a fist, though you’ll usually use the same statistics for attacks made with any other parts of your body." and Fist is listed as "Hands: 1". There's no dispute with any one-handed ranged weapon, and I think the other reading is obtuse and obviously not what was intended.

Re: whip/flickmace, I wish they'd say you flank if you are capable of attacking and an enemy is in your natural reach. You can use your reach with a reach weapon to determine if you provide flank to others, and for the purposes of attacks made with that weapon only.


For the original poster: Flanking does not include a “to whom” consideration. If a foe has to deal with a melee threat from opposite sides, then it gains the Flanked condition. When it has the Flanked condition then its AC is 2 lower than normal. That’s it.

Everyone can then take advantage of that lowered AC for any purpose. There is no “flanked to me but not to him” state.

Forcing the Flanked condition though does require opponents on directly opposite sides that *could* make a melee attack though. So both flankers must have the foe in Reach, be able to act, and be wielding a weapon (or capable of making an unarmed attack).


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BloodandDust wrote:

For the original poster: Flanking does not include a “to whom” consideration. If a foe has to deal with a melee threat from opposite sides, then it gains the Flanked condition. When it has the Flanked condition then its AC is 2 lower than normal. That’s it.

Everyone can then take advantage of that lowered AC for any purpose. There is no “flanked to me but not to him” state.

Forcing the Flanked condition though does require opponents on directly opposite sides that *could* make a melee attack though. So both flankers must have the foe in Reach, be able to act, and be wielding a weapon (or capable of making an unarmed attack).

This is not correct information. Flanking is a relative state based on positioning and an enemy may be flanked by some but not others:

"When you and an ally are flanking a foe, it has a harder time defending against you. A creature is flat-footed (taking a –2 circumstance penalty to AC) to creatures that are flanking it."


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Aye caramba, you are right. I’ve been playing that wrong… treating the “flat-footed” condition from flanked as a general condition.

I withdraw my comment and hope to soon recover from my stupefied condition.


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tivadar27 wrote:
Re: whip/flickmace, I wish they'd say you flank if you are capable of attacking and an enemy is in your natural reach. You can use your reach with a reach weapon to determine if you provide flank to others, and for the purposes of attacks made with that weapon only.

I would actually think it makes more logical sense the other way around. That if you are using a reach weapon you can benefit from flanking, but you don't provide flanking to others. Because the enemy will be paying less attention to you because you are farther away.

But either case is still a houserule. And it isn't one that I would use. I am fine with the flanking rules as they are - reach weapon shenanigans included.

Sczarni

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In PF1, the TYPE of attack mattered for determining flanking. Melee attacks generally benefitted, and ranged attacks generally didn't.

In PF2, enemies you flank are flat-footed to YOU, regardless of whether you're using a melee attack, a ranged attack, a spell attack, or some other ability that relies on an enemy being flat-footed.

It's a subtle difference that some PF1 GMs will need to adjust to.


Right, reach should still flank. A halberd isn't any less dangerous ten feet away as five.

I'm a little surprised at the 'you can flank while unarmed' and 'you can flank with a weapon you're untrained in' rules, although I do see at least some logic behind them. That's probably baggage from other games where you had to be 'armed' to flank.


Qaianna wrote:
I'm a little surprised at the 'you can flank while unarmed' and 'you can flank with a weapon you're untrained in' rules, although I do see at least some logic behind them. That's probably baggage from other games where you had to be 'armed' to flank.

And 'flank with one weapon, then attack with a completely different one that wouldn't qualify for flanking by itself'.

Sovereign Court

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breithauptclan wrote:
Qaianna wrote:
I'm a little surprised at the 'you can flank while unarmed' and 'you can flank with a weapon you're untrained in' rules, although I do see at least some logic behind them. That's probably baggage from other games where you had to be 'armed' to flank.
And 'flank with one weapon, then attack with a completely different one that wouldn't qualify for flanking by itself'.

Yeah, I'm still skeptical that that's really intended. I get that you can read the text that way but it still looks like wishful reading/exploiting an ambiguity to me.


The idea of a person who can cast magic spells being more theatening because they hold a whip, or maybe even a glaive;), that they are untrained with is still so weird.

Overall the rule does more good than harm though.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
And 'flank with one weapon, then attack with a completely different one that wouldn't qualify for flanking by itself'.
Yeah, I'm still skeptical that that's really intended. I get that you can read the text that way but it still looks like wishful reading/exploiting an ambiguity to me.

If you think it is wrong, please indicate where in the rules we are reading it incorrectly. That is much more productive than implying someone is exploiting the rules.

Flanking rules

It lays out what is required to flank and what happens when you are flanked. Being able to make a melee attack is one of the requirements. Positioning is the other. The flat-footed condition is the result of meeting those requirements.

It isn’t going to come up a lot and will badly backfire if the opponent has an Attack of Opportunity. Flat footed does not prevent Attacks of Opportunity in PF2.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I've house ruled that you can't flank with a weapon you aren't proficient with, but since everyone is proficient with unarmed that really only matters for reach weapons.

And I actually really like that ranged weapons can benefit from point-blank flanking. A) it makes logical sense to me and B) it subtly encourages archer characters to close in to where my monsters can thrash them mercilessly. :D

...Okay joking on B but more seriously I do like the extra strategic thinking for archers.


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BretI wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
And 'flank with one weapon, then attack with a completely different one that wouldn't qualify for flanking by itself'.
Yeah, I'm still skeptical that that's really intended. I get that you can read the text that way but it still looks like wishful reading/exploiting an ambiguity to me.
If you think it is wrong, please indicate where in the rules we are reading it incorrectly. That is much more productive than implying someone is exploiting the rules.

I'm not saying it's wrong. It is 100% what the rules say happens.

It is just surprising, unintuitive, and weird.


breithauptclan wrote:
It is just surprising, unintuitive, and weird.

I personally don't think so as it's applying a condition that results from you threatening it as none of that disappears if you shoot it with a bow. It makes as much sense as people wielding non-proficient weapons and/or having poor attack stats and being threatening: if anything, the ranged weapon is MORE dangerous.

Sczarni

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Yeah I find it conceptually understandable.

What happens when two enemies are flanking you? Your attention to defend yourself is halved. You don't know their abilities. Maybe they're Str 08 Wizards, maybe they're Str 18 Fighters.

Unless you're a higher level Rogue or someone that is similarly trained, you're going to be flat-footed.

And now that you're flat-footed, to THEM, it doesn't matter if one throws a dart or the other casts a spell; your AC is going to be lower.


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Qaianna wrote:

Right, reach should still flank. A halberd isn't any less dangerous ten feet away as five.

I'm a little surprised at the 'you can flank while unarmed' and 'you can flank with a weapon you're untrained in' rules, although I do see at least some logic behind them. That's probably baggage from other games where you had to be 'armed' to flank.

If it helps, the way I think of it is that from the perspective of the person being flanked they have no way of really knowing what the flanker is capable of. In Golarion there are people that can punch or kick you harder than most can hit you with a maul, or touch you and send a powerful spell coursing through your body. Even if your enemy is unarmed it's dangerous to lower your guard against anyone in the middle of a fight.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
breithauptclan wrote:


It is just surprising, unintuitive, and weird.

In what way? I think coming from PF1 it feels weird at first, but "I'm being threatened by two creatures with swords and it's throwing off my ability to focus and avoid their blows-- oh he shot fire out of his hand nevermind I'm at 100%" sounds a lot more uninuitive to me than what we currently have.

Horizon Hunters

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The risk of doing this is that Spells and Ranged attacks provoke Attacks of Opportunity. Sure, they're more rare now, but those that do have it usually pack a punch.


Nefreet wrote:

Yeah I find it conceptually understandable.

What happens when two enemies are flanking you? Your attention to defend yourself is halved. You don't know their abilities. Maybe they're Str 08 Wizards, maybe they're Str 18 Fighters.

Unless you're a higher level Rogue or someone that is similarly trained, you're going to be flat-footed.

And now that you're flat-footed, to THEM, it doesn't matter if one throws a dart or the other casts a spell; your AC is going to be lower.

And now I'm imagining two wizards with halberds going around bullying people. Bonus points if you're imagining them as Str 18 wizards

Sczarni

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Runelord is a thing.


I do see GMs not allow getting flat-footed on ranged/spells via flanking in general. They interpret the RAI as being clearly melee weapons in that section.

I do think it makes perfect sense that you get the benefit in exchange for being in close though, imo.


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Dubious Scholar wrote:

I do see GMs not allow getting flat-footed on ranged/spells via flanking in general. They interpret the RAI as being clearly melee weapons in that section.

I do think it makes perfect sense that you get the benefit in exchange for being in close though, imo.

Any GM that rules against players because they "feel" something is wrong and ignores balance better have a good excuse in situations like this.

Attack spells really suffer in pf2e, not being able to flank further limits their value.

(Targeting weak saves and having effects on successful saves more than makes up for not getting rune bonuses for DC. But attack rolls have nothing of the sort.)

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