Flanking is bad now?

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The Ecology of the Death Knight and short description of the battle with a dragon both stated that being flanked would allow those monsters to activate certain abilities. Isn't that a little odd?

It takes what is normally a tactical advantage for the flankers and turns it into an advantage for the flankee. Why? Shouldn't flanking an enemy still give more of a benefit to you than the enemy?

It seems to say "HA! You went to extra work to get a bonus, now all you get is claw to the face!"

Maybe the advatages of flanking in 4th Edition overwhelm whatever abilities the monsters get to use when flanked. I don't know. But I reserve the right to complain as much as humanly possible if, playing 4th Edition games, players avoid flanking anything because of the punishment given out by previous monsters.
Its called balance. Whats good for you is good for me.:D

HAND OF KARSUS!

 

 

I also read in one of the blog's that flanking would increase the damage you deal (even for non-rogues), so it still is a benefit ... some monsters might have developed a counter to it though ;)
The Ecology of the Death Knight and short description of the battle with a dragon both stated that being flanked would allow those monsters to activate certain abilities. Isn't that a little odd?

I don't find it particularly odd that a few creatures have developed effective counters to being flanked. Only tactics that *aren't* useful are likely to be universally un-countered.
At least I have my proper avatar now, I guess. But man is this cloud dark.
I don't find it particularly odd that a few creatures have developed effective counters to being flanked. Only tactics that *aren't* useful are likely to be universally un-countered.

I will be fine with it as long as it is limited to few creatures, but so far it seems to be a standard ability for melee monsters. If many creatures are able to counter a useful ability then it stops becoming useful.

By standard ability I don't imply that every melee monster will have it, just that it seems that it is not going to be that rare of an occurance.
Dragons have a huge tail that's big enough and powerful enough to be an enemy in its own right. It is so big that if it just swings the tail around relatively wildly it's still likely to hit you, it also covers a lot of ground. The dragon has super senses so it knows you are back there. The concept that this should not come into play if you try to flank the dragon is, well to put it simply, idiotic. They are doing the right thing.

Why should you get the tactical advantage of flanking if the dragon can't use the tactical advantage of having a tail?
Plus from the example dragon fight the dragon did not utilize its tail in a normal attack routine, but rather got to use it as a bonus ability when the rogue moved around to flank. The tail slap got changed into a more defensive sweep.
I see that as a much more interesting thing than just being an additional attack made on the dragon's turn.
I think it just means that flanking is no longer the no-brainer tactical maneuver it was in 3.5 (who wouldn't, for a free +2 to-hit).

Flanking would likely still give you benefits, but this may allow the monster to unlock additional abilities at the same time. So you must weigh your options carefully, and decide of the advantages of flanking outweigh that of the foe becoming more challenging.

Interesting concept, I must admit.
Plus from the example dragon fight the dragon did not utilize its tail in a normal attack routine,

And if you noticed it executed the tail attack as an immediate action.

We also know that full attacks are gone (yay!).
Actually, as far as tactics go for ANY sort of a game, nothing should ever be set in stone. There should always be some situation where doing X is bad, even if X is normally good. It keeps you on your toes. I am figuring that is the situation with this ability you mentioned. Flanking is normally good, but in this one odd case....

Now, if it became so common that nearly everything had such an ability, then it would be a problem. But we have no evidence that is the case.
My way of looking at is to take the point of view of the mechanics and how it might play out if the fight were real and happening in your backyard. The rogue moves around to try to gain flanking on the Dragon. The Dragon notices, feels, intuits, that this is happening and makes an immediate attack, not in reaction to the actual flanking, rather in reaction to the attempt to flank. The dragon sees the rogue moving toward a position that presents a greater threat and swipes his tail back and forth in an effort to dislodge, dissuade or otherwise bother the rogues attempt to gain a flanking position.

Remember, its a turn based game attempting to simulate simultaneous actions.
The Ecology of the Death Knight and short description of the battle with a dragon both stated that being flanked would allow those monsters to activate certain abilities. Isn't that a little odd?

In case of the dragon, it allways have been, sort of. They have attacks that can only target people behind them (tail slaps) or in their sides (wing attacks or whatever).
Similarly, surrounding a beholder is a bad idea, becouse it just increase it's firepower
In case of the dragon, it allways have been, sort of. They have attacks that can only target people behind them (tail slaps) or in their sides (wing attacks or whatever).
Similarly, surrounding a beholder is a bad idea, becouse it just increase it's firepower

I think this is probably the big thing.

Most encounters are (according to early statements) supposed to be equal in numbers to the party. However certain iconic fights, say beholders, dragons and truly powerful fiends, look like they're still going to be 1 per party. Which means that monsters going to be flanked and is going to need some ability or benefit to make flanking not as powerful as it is against other monsters.
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
Actually, as far as tactics go for ANY sort of a game, nothing should ever be set in stone. There should always be some situation where doing X is bad, even if X is normally good. It keeps you on your toes. I am figuring that is the situation with this ability you mentioned. Flanking is normally good, but in this one odd case....

Now, if it became so common that nearly everything had such an ability, then it would be a problem. But we have no evidence that is the case.

And no evidence that it isn't the case. Yes, bad argument. I know.
All I know is that the two monsters that I have seen abilities described, both have anti-flanking abilities.

I really don't care what a theoretical dragon could or could not do to someone coming up behind it. To me, the flanking bonus was often a reward for doing something cool like tumbling behind the opponent or something like that as opposed to just moving to the closest spot and attacking. I don't really think there is a need to punish someone for doing that.

Note: Still don't know exactly what flanking does, how many monsters have anti-flanking, and if this actually has a positive effect on combat (from my point of view).
I think all monsters including constructs and undead will be critable now, and subject to sneak attack damage, so it's sort of off-setting.

Were many monsters to have this ability, it would suck for rogues, but I imagine it's restricted to only certain creatures.
Shouldn't flanking an enemy still give more of a benefit to you than the enemy?

Not if the enemy has something like a real nasty tail or something.
I think this is probably the big thing.

Most encounters are (according to early statements) supposed to be equal in numbers to the party. However certain iconic fights, say beholders, dragons and truly powerful fiends, look like they're still going to be 1 per party. Which means that monsters going to be flanked and is going to need some ability or benefit to make flanking not as powerful as it is against other monsters.

I think you hit the nail with the party vs iconic monster issue. Those monster that are supposed to fight alone will be able to do multiple actions per turn, and "skip" turn abilities (like tail slap when you try to flank).

One of the drawbacks of the "gang him" 4vs1 encounters in D&D is that the moster only have 1 action while the players have many. Those lead to enconters where the monster roll low in initiative and die without acting (happened to me with a gorgon ), or the monster suffering from 1 player being able to use his action to make him lose his action. For example, a mage enemy that is readied against by other spellcaster, can get his spell countered every turn. At lower level, a party bard casting daze every turn, can get a monster lose his only action every turn. And so on.
I don't get the immediate jumping to conclusions. "Flanking is bad now?" Come on, for crying out loud. How absurd. It seems like a kneejerk conclusion that the designers are morons no matter what they do.

Why would they invalidate the core schtick of the rogue? A: They wouldn't. (Though I wish they would; I don't like this particular implementation of the rogue's backstab. But given they're keeping flanking, of course rogues will be best at it, and no, of course most monsters won't be able to counter it.)
"We've been shown two monsters and both have anti-flank, so all monsters must have it" is like saying "This one monster we've seen [the red dragon in one of the articles] has fire breath, so all monster must have it."

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"We've been shown two monsters and both have anti-flank, so all monsters must have it" is like saying "This one monster we've seen [the red dragon in one of the articles] has fire breath, so all monster must have it."

Are you implying that zombie trolls will NOT have fire breath?
And no evidence that it isn't the case. Yes, bad argument. I know.
All I know is that the two monsters that I have seen abilities described, both have anti-flanking abilities.

We also have absolutely no proof that I am not actually Elvis. Or that the articles they have been showing aren't really a clever ruse because in May we will find out that they are planning on turning D&D into Care Bears: The RPG, or that the entire design staf of WOTC aren't actually killer androids sent from the future, etc. That's why the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim.

Two monsters is hardly a representative sampling considering there are supposed to be something like 200 monsters in the MM. Ane one of those two (the dragon) should by all rights be just about the scariest thing you can encounter so if there is any kind of anti-flanking at all, he SHOULD have it and I would be disapointed if he didn't.
One of the goals they're aiming for is monsters who fight in a way that's surprising but makes sense. So players say "Hey, I didn't expect that, but yeah, you'd expect a creature like X to be able to do that." That was mentioned in the latest podcast, with ettins as an example.

Dragons would expect a lot of attacks on their flanks. Many PCs won't be game to assault the dragon at its head, which is extremely dangerous, so they'll go for the 'softer' option. The immediate counteraction against flanking is a dragon's way to defend itself, which makes sense (a pressed dragon reflexively lashing out with its tail). You could say that dragons have 'evolved' the maneuver - those who learnt how to do it were more likely to survive fights against adventuring parties than those who didn't.

I think flanking's still going to be useful in, say, 90% of situations, but there'll be that extra 10% to keep players on their toes.
And even once the surprise factor is gone (i.e. the characters have fought this monster before and KNOW it can get them if flanked) it makes the decision to do so exactly that; a DECISION, as opposed to being (as another poster on this thread called it) a no-brainer. It means the player ahs to ask himself "Hmmm, if I flank it, it will be easier to hit but I might get smacked in the process. Is it worth it?" AFAIAC, that's a good thing. The more the players have to weigh risk vs reward at every stage of the game, the more exciting it is.
"We've been shown two monsters and both have anti-flank, so all monsters must have it" is like saying "This one monster we've seen [the red dragon in one of the articles] has fire breath, so all monster must have it."

Come on. Really.

What I said was more along the lines of "We've been shown two monsters and both have anti-flank, so it not completely unreasonable to believe that this is not a rare ability among monsters.

I agree with what you said, but was not arguing against it.

We also have absolutely no proof that I am not actually Elvis. Or that the articles they have been showing aren't really a clever ruse because in May we will find out that they are planning on turning D&D into Care Bears: The RPG, or that the entire design staf of WOTC aren't actually killer androids sent from the future, etc. That's why the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim.

I said it was a bad argument.

Two monsters is hardly a representative sampling considering there are supposed to be something like 200 monsters in the MM. Ane one of those two (the dragon) should by all rights be just about the scariest thing you can encounter so if there is any kind of anti-flanking at all, he SHOULD have it and I would be disapointed if he didn't.

Yes, a 1% sample stinks, but that is what I have to work with. Also I don't think just because a Dragon is scary is a good enough reason to give it anything they come up with. I should note though that I like the Dragon anti-flanking. It just seemed better when it sounded unique.
I will be fine with it as long as it is limited to few creatures, but so far* it seems to be a standard ability for melee monsters. If many creatures are able to counter a useful ability then it stops becoming useful.

By standard ability I don't imply that every melee monster will have it, just that it seems that it is not going to be that rare of an occurance.

*emphasis mine.

Just being a bit nitpicky here, but isn't "so far" just the Death Knight and the Dragon? Do we have any idea that it might actually be a standard ability or is it just something that one of the mightiest, most feared creatures can do as well as a tactic that an undead warrior who is a master of the battlefield can use?

You may be correct, of course, but I'm going to wait a wee while before deciding to panic, personally
Just a couple of monster design points from observation.

The first is that they have stated in podcast 14 that they were trying to reduce the AoO to more specific situations.

The anti-flank tail attack as described in the R&D Red Dragon battle was listed as an instant action. The article further noted that how the Red Dragon had used its immediate action for the round already, it could not activate the tail slap a second time to counter a rogue's attack on its flank.

This likely shows that 'immediate actions' are likely going to be extra things that monsters do to replace the previous AoO rules (not completly but to some degree).

It is also worth noting that the first dragon tail slap stopped the rogue from doing their melee attack from behind and sent them flying back 10 feet (I should probably use the term push back 10 feet to avoid someone thinking that a dragon gives flying ability when it hits with its tail -- sorry, I've read too many silly sage advice Q&As ;>).

I do think that monsters that are often fought to fight more or less solo will have some immediate action choices to use in fights to allow them to react to player actions. This would go with the stated aim of getting the combat more fluid and active with charges and counter charges then current 3e combat tends to feel.

I doubt that you will see this on minion monsters that are designed to have 'backups' or 'buddies' there to pounce on people that loiter behind the line of battle too much.

More mobility and options to react for characters and monsters seems to be the way of 4e combat.
It seems to say "HA! You went to extra work to get a bonus, now all you get is claw to the face!"

"it was at that point that I knew I could either dodge left and hit him in the face with a spinning roundkick, or take a monkeyclaw to the face and die horribly".

"argggggg"
*emphasis mine.

Just being a bit nitpicky here, but isn't "so far" just the Death Knight and the Dragon? Do we have any idea that it might actually be a standard ability or is it just something that one of the mightiest, most feared creatures can do as well as a tactic that an undead warrior who is a master of the battlefield can use?

You may be correct, of course, but I'm going to wait a wee while before deciding to panic, personally

I'm not panicking yet. If I were I would be typing in all caps as well as possibly using the bold tag. :P

And I do agree with you.

I don't get the immediate jumping to conclusions. "Flanking is bad now?" Come on, for crying out loud. How absurd. It seems like a kneejerk conclusion that the designers are morons no matter what they do.

Why would they invalidate the core schtick of the rogue? A: They wouldn't. (Though I wish they would; I don't like this particular implementation of the rogue's backstab. But given they're keeping flanking, of course rogues will be best at it, and no, of course most monsters won't be able to counter it.)

I don't like having wordy titles for threads and anything else that was as short seemed too weak to be taken seriously. Although now that I think about it "Will players still want to flank?" might have worked too, but without any explanation it still seems I'm saying that flanking will become something to be avoided because it is a penalty. "Will getting hit by dragon's tail cause players to avoid ever flanking?" gets my desired point across more clearly, but it is too long for me to tolerate.

I am sure the anti-flanking moves will be balanced I just am concerned one bad experience with flanking will cause a player to avoid it for a long time after, similar to how a bad experience playing a spellcaster will stop a player from playing a spellcaster for a long time after that.
I really don't care what a theoretical dragon could or could not do to someone coming up behind it. To me, the flanking bonus was often a reward for doing something cool like tumbling behind the opponent or something like that as opposed to just moving to the closest spot and attacking. I don't really think there is a need to punish someone for doing that.

Back in my day, when we saw a "theoretical dragon" we rogues didn't tumble behind it... we ran like our lives depended on it. Wait... they did. It's a freekin Dragon (tm). He might eat you. He's had hundreds of years to practice being a dragon a he doesn't plan on giving up anytime soon. Of course he fights tooth and nail (and now tail) to keep your silly rogue from tumbling underneath for a quick +2 and some extra damage.

What changed where players are now thinking that dragons and death knights are simply statistics to out mod?

As I understanding, the flank is not a reward for doing something cool, but a bonus for managing to get into a position where one can plan a more effective attack. As I see it, finding the right spot to put a sword into a dragon should be a pretty daunting task, even if one knows where the dragon is vulnerable. I think it's pretty darn cool that the designers have finally started thinking of creative ways to make players reconsider a tactic without nerfing the whole rule or just adding penalties to the player's dice roll.

I agree with the guy that basically said now it's time to decide whether the boost to your attack is worth taking the tail of a beast that players ought to think twice about entering into close combat with.

After reading this thread, I am proud to say that I have more faith in 4E now than I ever had in 3e.
Its called balance. Whats good for you is good for me.:D

Arbitrary ******** rules designed to **** the player and opunish people for being tactical does NOT equal balance.
Arbitrary ******** rules designed to **** the player and opunish people for being tactical does NOT equal balance.

Arbitrary my ass. I want you to give me ONE good argument why a dragon should not be able to do this.

Tactics requires assessing your opponents strengths and weaknesses and finding ways to work around them. Some tactics don't work every time, you, need to change them depending on who you're fighting. Having a tail at the dragons back is a tactical advantage of the dragon that makes flanking them harder, why, other than arbitrary BS should a dragon not be able to use it's tactical advantage of having a tail?

Just because you are lazy, and heaven for bid you might have to consider what tactics you use when fighting different opponents is not a good reason.

Being tactical REQUIRES the ability to assess a situation and find out the best way to adapt to it and deal with it. It does not mean doing the same thing over and over again expecting it to have the same effect no matter who or what you fight.

Dragon's have a tail, you go behind them, they're going to slam your ass with it, that's realistic and makes sense, deal with it, and learn to actually use real tactics and adapt to your enemy.

If anything this is punishing people for NOT being tactical, or enforcing that some tactics are harder against some than it is others.

Where as what you want rewards people for doing the same damn thing over and over again.
Arbitrary ******** rules designed to **** the player and opunish people for being tactical does NOT equal balance.

wow, drama queen much?

It isnt designed to punsih you for being tactical, it is designed to punsih your character for trying to get behind a monster and gain the advantage. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who would just stand there and let themselves be flanked. If I had a big ol tail I could swing at you and have the chance to knock you a few feet away and keep myself alive longer, i would do it. Stop metagaming everything and look at things using a little imagination and common sense.
The tail attack and wing blast are nothing new.

The big change is that the designers have allowed the monster to use these things as immediate actions.

The monster is now designed to be more dynamic, reacting to actions of players. The monster does not sit still for the whole round waiting for its iniative to come around to take one or two actions.

This also prevents the poor dragon that rolls a 1 for iniative getting blasted to pieces while it does nothing but sit there.

If Dragons have enhanced senses and are one of the top predators then they should be able to do some actions while they set up for their killing blow.

I mean, if I fight a dragon and survive then I want to be able to croon on how tough a challenge and battle it was. The tougher the opposition, the better it feels when you win.
You ARE "punished" for moving into flanking position on a 3e dragon, in two ways. First, getting close enough for some stabby action usually means moving through a threatened square (of its >5" reach) and drawing an attack of opportunity, doesn't it? Those seem to be gone in 4e, at least judging from the playtest reports I've read.

And second, by spending a move action manuevering into position in 3e, you're possibly giving up a full attack round and all the damage that comes with it. Since full attacks are gone in 4e, there's much less of an opportunity cost in moving around on your turn to stay in flanking position.

So basically, by better-enabling mobile combat, 4e makes flanking a much BETTER technique than it was in 3e, and it's really not surprising that some of the higher-end monsters get a few special tricks to counter what would otherwise be a pretty ubiquitous tactic.
Arbitrary ******** rules designed to **** the player and opunish people for being tactical does NOT equal balance.

If by "being tactical" you mean, "always using a technique that gives you a benefit and has no real drawback or cost involved" then yeah, you are being tactical when you flank in 3.5. Otherwise you are just doing something it would be silly not to do, like strapping on your armor.
Arbitrary ******** rules designed to **** the player and opunish people for being tactical does NOT equal balance.

I think it's a piece of brilliance that forces players to think a little. Deity-forbid.
I think it's a piece of brilliance that forces players to think a little. Deity-forbid.

Its what I said earlier, anything you can do I can do better. Flanking is now balanced!:D Mechanically I am really starting to like whats going to be in 4E. From what we have been told that is!;)

HAND OF KARSUS!

 

 

I'm as happy about 4th edition as anyone but just because its confirmed in 4E, doesn't mean its a good idea. Does no one remember Elusive Target? I'd never heard so much complaining about an ability, both in the forums and in my play group. Now, I'm not particularly bothered by Elusive Target or this ability. But wizards really should know that there are a lot of people who will be.

It'd be much better if they just gave these creatures the 4E equivalent of improved uncanny dodge if they want to discourage flanking them.
It'd be much better if they just gave these creatures the 4E equivalent of improved uncanny dodge if they want to discourage flanking them.

The thing is I don't think it is about "discouraging" flanking. If that were the case, it would just be easier to write flanking out of the rules. It's a matter of making flanking into an actual tactical decision, i.e. "Does this creature have some sort of special atack if I flank it and if so is it worth doing anyway?" You don't acheive that by simply making the creature unflankable.
The thing is I don't think it is about "discouraging" flanking. If that were the case, it would just be easier to write flanking out of the rules. It's a matter of making flanking into an actual tactical decision, i.e. "Does this creature have some sort of special atack if I flank it and if so is it worth doing anyway?" You don't acheive that by simply making the creature unflankable.

Agreed.

And as an off-topic example, I give you my "high ground" situations:

1) Person with high ground gets a to-hit bonus in melee. They can drive down with much more force and tend to hit the upper body more. This in turn generally means they hit more often.

2) Person with high ground gets a defensive penalty in melee. Since they have to reach down to block or parry, they tend to be more off balance.

They may seem contradictory, but having done RL English longsword fighting for over a decade now, I can say both cases are true.

: back to the topic on hand,

1) You can flank, but in certain cases, expect a counter to the advantage based upon developed skill, or upon natural factors, like a tail. A man with a sword can't defend himself well from an attack from behind, a dragon can, as the tail is armored and mobile. Seems simple enough to me.


Would you say that the use of plate mail is counting your dagger blow, making it nearly useless?
Or how about "protection from normal missiles" vs. archers with great, but non-magical gear?
Of course, in both cases, so why should flanking a dragon be different?


.
I think this is the goal from the discussion of the blogs, podcasts, and R&D articles that they have shown.

They want the monsters to be more interesting to encounter.

They want to encourage players to think that dealing with a dragon is a different challenge then taking on a griffin or wyvern.

When you encounter a Lamia and a Sphinx that you really see these as two different creatures in how they act and think.

I think that you will find that tail slaps are but the tip of the dragon when it comes to how they will represent the new versions of dragons.

Currently, the differance in dragons is a bit of colour and a different flavour of breath (I know there are a couple of extra ability differances). The R&D article on the Red Dragon though showed that they have taken the differance of the Red Dragon with the association of fire and gone deeper. The dragon has more than a fire breath weapon. It generates fire attacks of other types to use against those that threaten it.

I would also suspect that there will be more of a tie in between things like kobolds and draconic races in the 4e materials. If you fight the dragon then you might also find yourself encountering either some scavengers (kobolds that trigger a pit trap or two during the fight) or loyal pets/retainers (like hell hounds or half dragons).

The reason is to give players more concerns and things to do in a tactical situation and to make the black dragon really feel like a creature of acid and rot which likely creates sticky gobby masses of acidic goo that adhere to people (I see a very toad like connection with black dragons while I see a cleaner fire scoured view with red dragons). I also see the white dragon as being fairly straight forward melee beserk fighter (subtly not the strong point) but with aura of bone chilling cold and hoary fogs around them making their beserk attacks seem all the faster as everyone else is slowed around them.

The concept of the elimination of flanking or improved uncanny defense is just not as interesting if all creatures have it compared to a hundred and one other ways to have effects that make people go -- 'Hey, that is the way a White Dragon should be. They should be able to cloak themselves in hoary frost mist that makes it hard to shoot at them and forces people to melee with these psychos.'
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