Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Simplified Flanking

The more "complex" flanking rule.

When DMing without a battle mat I find it pain to deal with flanking. I could just ignore it but
1) More fun when players deserve tactical choices/problems.
2) I want swarms of low-level critters to be dangerous.
3) Likewise even punk 0 lvl men-at-arms should be "worth it" if you bring a posse.

When running combats without square grids / battlemats I form combatants into groups. If the players are smart they will form one group. But lacking plans and tactics they typically fight as individuals. Even with disciplined parties thieves are caught out front and fighters like to charge. Sometimes they get split across different rooms. It's abstract "these two are blocking the door", "rest are around pool". Monsters are grouped as well. "4 by 2 kobold phalanx" and "shaman with two guard dogs". With that in mind, here is a combined flanking/mob rule.
For every attacker beyond X attacking the same group they all get +1 to-hit. With X of 1, two attackers each get +1, three attackers each get +2, and so on.

Where X is one of:
  • count of defenders in group
  • defending monster's HD, for big(er) monsters
  • a swashbuckling character's lvl or perhaps base to-hit
  • a number DM picks based on situation, like it's never gonna bother a Hydra
At most 4 same sized or 6 smaller sized attackers can beat on the same defender. 6 kobolds each with +5 to-hit should give even "Mr. plate and tower shield" something to worry over.


  1. This makes low level summoning spells, a weaponized variant on Unseen Servant, and hirelings very valuable for ganging up on one target.

    Depending on your refereeing tastes, large single monsters may be more or less common as opponents. It's generally a bad idea, since everyone can gang up on the boss and take it down really quickly. This rule is pretty dangerous for that style of opponent.

    That is, this rule makes the PCs more powerful except in situations where there are a lot of enemies and these enemies are organized enough to all attack the same target.

  2. I'm glad I found this. I'm about to put my PbP players up against a swarm of crazy giant rats, and like the idea of the added danger of being flanked.

    But I agree..might not be such a good mechanic for all situations. But for quickly resolving group-versus-swarm without a fiddly battle mat..I'll give it a whirl.

  3. @1d30

    You missed the parts where X equals "defending monster's HD, for big(er) monsters" and "a number DM picks based on situation"

    So, the big bad with 6HD is gonna require 7 attackers before they get bonus 7-6 = +1 for all. Assuming it's even possible to get 7 peeps attacking big bad at once.

    Also, I didn't make this very clear but the bonus is for organized/intelligent attackers. I wouldn't count untrained summoned creatures or low/unintelligent critters.

    I've never had organized players, I know they exist, I've played in groups like that, but never DM'd any. Where as my humanoids, city guards, bandits, wolves, etc. are very good with group tactics. But, if they are organized I'm fine, very glad to give them advantage.

  4. This is a pretty interesting idea. I usually ignore the strict requirement that flankers be directly opposite one another. In my combat experience, multiple opponents are usually quite able to get advantage against a single defender. That said, I do rule varying advantages, as opposed to a stock +2.

  5. Interesting rule.

    I already use Sham's grappling rules (with their delicious multiple attacker mob-up rules), so this is a handy parallel mechanic.

    *yoinked* with thanks

  6. Yeah, I think that discussion on grappling has been percolating in my mind and led to this, also recent post on The Mule Abides. Don't remember what he came up with eventually, have to go check.


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