Rogue Flanking Advantage and Sneak Attack

I've finally been able to actually play through some combats and wanted to make sure I understood a couple things

Advantage - So I get to roll twice everytime I'm able to attempt a Sneak Attack!!  Wow thats nice!!

Flanking - Doesn't exist in 5e so by the rules the Rogue would not get "Advantage" or SA each round.  Correct?  They still need to hide one round and then attack the next?

I see the Thug as an option to still do SA in Combat.  However my group only had two players so the "Two Friendly" doesn't help.

Any old school DMs still allow flanking?  Do you think it will return?  Perhaps as a higher level power?

I've finally been able to actually play through some combats and wanted to make sure I understood a couple things

Advantage - So I get to roll twice everytime I'm able to attempt a Sneak Attack!!  Wow thats nice!!

Flanking - Doesn't exist in 5e so by the rules the Rogue would not get "Advantage" or SA each round.  Correct?  They still need to hide one round and then attack the next?

I see the Thug as an option to still do SA in Combat.  However my group only had two players so the "Two Friendly" doesn't help.

Any old school DMs still allow flanking?  Do you think it will return?  Perhaps as a higher level power?



We use a grid and allow flanking.  It hasn't been too op as far as we can tell and it's a lot easier to believe than the rogue hiding every other round.

Hehe - flanking as 'old school.'  Hmmm.


I don't allow it to grant advantage and I see the thug as badly broken (although it does seem to depend on the size of the party).

I might allow some form of benefit if the situation calls for it - if you can approach without my knowing it while I'm distracted fighting someone in front of me - OK. But combat ought to be fluid enough, really, to require at least three people to surround someone - and in that cases only one of them (target's choice) ought to be  able to benefit.

Flanking is based on the principle:  The target is frozen in place while I move on my turn to gain a positional advantage and it ignores the fact that the target really ought to be able to keep shifting around to keep an eye on all targets.

Carl

We use a grid and allow flanking.  It hasn't been too op as far as we can tell and it's a lot easier to believe than the rogue hiding every other round.



Try using it with a 5th level rogue and then tell us how over powered it ain't.

Since sneak attacks in reality would mean you were attacking an unprepared opponent with surprise to hit a vital area, a creature in melee  is immune to sneak attack since it is constantly moving and not surprised to be attacked. You couldn't get a sneak attack or even a decent flank if not for the staggered combat sequence used in D&D unless you had enough people to completely block him from simply moving . 

The last thing using flanking to provide sneak attcks is, is more believable. 
I'm on the fence as to whether allowing flanking to give advantage is OP. I like the option of more ways to get my sneak attack damage in, and I absolutely hate the thought of sneak one round, backstab the next. After the first round of backstab, it should be near impossible for me to sneak back to the same target. And the fun factor of only being effective every other round is very low.

However, as the sneak attack bonus dice increase, it seems really broken that flanking would give you both two rolls to hit AND extra damage. As part of this playtest's feedback, I made the suggestion of letting the rogue choose to either roll to hit with advantage OR take the bonus damage.

I also would prefer if they would not call it sneak attack, and instead call it something like Finesse. That would fit better with Rogues (such as mine) that are more swashbuckler than assassin. 

Using flanking for advantage for all characters may also be unbalancing. But I really like the flavor of giving a rogue the ability to spend finesse in certain situations that do not grant other classes advantage, such as flanking or attacking from stealth, and letting the rogue choose to use the finesse on attack or damage.

 
I'm on the fence as to whether allowing flanking to give advantage is OP. I like the option of more ways to get my sneak attack damage in, and I absolutely hate the thought of sneak one round, backstab the next. After the first round of backstab, it should be near impossible for me to sneak back to the same target. And the fun factor of only being effective every other round is very low.

However, as the sneak attack bonus dice increase, it seems really broken that flanking would give you both two rolls to hit AND extra damage. As part of this playtest's feedback, I made the suggestion of letting the rogue choose to either roll to hit with advantage OR take the bonus damage.

I also would prefer if they would not call it sneak attack, and instead call it something like Finesse. That would fit better with Rogues (such as mine) that are more swashbuckler than assassin. 

Using flanking for advantage for all characters may also be unbalancing. But I really like the flavor of giving a rogue the ability to spend finesse in certain situations that do not grant other classes advantage, such as flanking or attacking from stealth, and letting the rogue choose to use the finesse on attack or damage.

 


This reminded me of an interview Mearls gave to EN World where he was talking about the sneak attack and how it made every rogue an assassin. He mentioned it in relation to rogue maneuvers he called tricks or some thing like that. It sounds like CS dice style attacks for the rogue class. 

It also sounded like the idea might be for the sneak attack or backstab to become the assassin's baileywick leaving the other combat maneuvers for the combat oriented rogue instead. 
Thanks for the input.  I felt I left a horrible post above.

To further explain the situation.  The fighter was in the middle of the stairs.  The Hobgoblin Warlord (from caves of Chaos) was left near the bottom of the stairs battling the Fighter.  The Lightfoot Rogue was hidden in the guard room shooting arrows and then ducking back behind the door each shot.  For a while it really felt like she was able to hide and shoot on the same turn.  But then she ran up and stabbed at him with her short sword.  Before I knew it I had slipped into 3rd edition mode and started giving her one roll of the dice but allowing SA each turn.

I confess I was partly being nice since I really didn't tone the battles down much for two first level chars to fight several hobgoblins and the 75 hp boss of theirs.  In the end I think the Rogue was still only hitting every other round since she was getting the one die roll.  The TWF fighter really did a great job using parry most of the time and then he rolled a 20 on one of his attacks two rounds in a row.  Once he got to add the Expertise die but as I said he saved that for parry most rounds.   Which really kept the hobgoblin flustered since the bad guy was hitting once each round and rolling low enough damage that all but one or two HP got through

Assassin and Interview Thoughts.  I actually would be happy with rogue tricks.  I can see the rogue getting half the SA (Oops back to 3rd) and the Assassin getting +1d6 every level.  Perhaps the rogue could get the flanking and methods to use it nearly every round and the assassin could have to wait as the rogue does now?

Try using it with a 5th level rogue and then tell us how over powered it ain't.


In due time.

Since sneak attacks in reality would mean you were attacking an unprepared opponent with surprise to hit a vital area, a creature in melee  is immune to sneak attack since it is constantly moving and not surprised to be attacked. You couldn't get a sneak attack or even a decent flank if not for the staggered combat sequence used in D&D unless you had enough people to completely block him from simply moving . 

The last thing using flanking to provide sneak attcks is, is more believable. 


Of course!  That's why it's done exactly that for the last 12 years.



Since sneak attacks in reality would mean you were attacking an unprepared opponent with surprise to hit a vital area, a creature in melee  is immune to sneak attack since it is constantly moving and not surprised to be attacked. You couldn't get a sneak attack or even a decent flank if not for the staggered combat sequence used in D&D unless you had enough people to completely block him from simply moving . 

The last thing using flanking to provide sneak attcks is, is more believable. 


Of course!  That's why it's done exactly that for the last 12 years.



Actually - flanking is not that realistic.  It has been used for the last 12 years because it is convenient and fits the game balance well.  Sneak attack (AD&D version) was realistic.  But it was a pain to adjudicate and led to problems of what some call "DM may I".   The 3.x rules were a huge improvement because they worked.

But they weren't that realistic because they depended upon the fact that creatures can't move unless it is their turn and thus the rogue (or whomever) can dance around the stationary target to get an 'advantageous position'.  But in reality the defender would be moving at the same time and doing so to keep both opponents in front of it at the same time.  And even if the attackers managed to come at him from both sides - only one of them should really get the full advantage. 

It is just very difficult to model this in a turn based game.

Make flanking require attackers on at least three sides and it is more realistic.  Although even then, only one should probably get advantage.

But, of course, realism isn't necessarily the most important factor.  Game balance can and does trump realism where necessary.

In 4E - combat advantage was a smaller benefit than advantage in 5N.  Thus in 4E combat advantage for flanking made sense - but not in 5N.

Carl
You know, Carl you have point about 3 attackers making game sense fo SA and only one of the characters getting CA. That's how thug Tactics works for melee. Explained that way, I don't mind it for ranged even. 
You know, Carl you have point about 3 attackers making game sense fo SA and only one of the characters getting CA. That's how thug Tactics works for melee. Explained that way, I don't mind it for ranged even. 



I don't like it for ranged thugs.  But I also think the thug should specify melee attacks.


On the other hand if the two melee attackers are on one side of the creature and the thug is on the other side I really don't object to the Thug ranged attacker quite as much.  This now places an additional burden on getting into position that places the Thug at risk and may justify the extra damage.


But more often than not the Thug is sniping from a place of safety behind his allies and the the 'allies in reach of the target' are on the same side of the target as he is.  I don't like the Thug being able to get sneak attack in every round under those conditions.


Carl        
You know, Carl you have point about 3 attackers making game sense fo SA and only one of the characters getting CA. That's how thug Tactics works for melee. Explained that way, I don't mind it for ranged even. 



I don't like it for ranged thugs.  But I also think the thug should specify melee attacks.


On the other hand if the two melee attackers are on one side of the creature and the thug is on the other side I really don't object to the Thug ranged attacker quite as much.  This now places an additional burden on getting into position that places the Thug at risk and may justify the extra damage.


But more often than not the Thug is sniping from a place of safety behind his allies and the the 'allies in reach of the target' are on the same side of the target as he is.  I don't like the Thug being able to get sneak attack in every round under those conditions.


Carl        



I think the thug should get -1d6 to SA damage for attacking from ranged. This makes it a little less OP and allows for different play styles within the thug.

You know, Carl you have point about 3 attackers making game sense fo SA and only one of the characters getting CA. That's how thug Tactics works for melee. Explained that way, I don't mind it for ranged even. 



I don't like it for ranged thugs.  But I also think the thug should specify melee attacks.


On the other hand if the two melee attackers are on one side of the creature and the thug is on the other side I really don't object to the Thug ranged attacker quite as much.  This now places an additional burden on getting into position that places the Thug at risk and may justify the extra damage.


But more often than not the Thug is sniping from a place of safety behind his allies and the the 'allies in reach of the target' are on the same side of the target as he is.  I don't like the Thug being able to get sneak attack in every round under those conditions.


Carl        



I think the thug should get -1d6 to SA damage for attacking from ranged. This makes it a little less OP and allows for different play styles within the thug.




I'd take away more than 1d6.  I'd go with more like half the number of d6s.  This would also bring their sneak attack damage down to that of 3.x.

Carl

Actually - flanking is not that realistic.  It has been used for the last 12 years because it is convenient and fits the game balance well.  Sneak attack (AD&D version) was realistic.  But it was a pain to adjudicate and led to problems of what some call "DM may I".   The 3.x rules were a huge improvement because they worked.

But they weren't that realistic because they depended upon the fact that creatures can't move unless it is their turn and thus the rogue (or whomever) can dance around the stationary target to get an 'advantageous position'.  But in reality the defender would be moving at the same time and doing so to keep both opponents in front of it at the same time.  And even if the attackers managed to come at him from both sides - only one of them should really get the full advantage.


I have to disagree. Flanking isn't inconcievable to pull off especially in large groups. If the defender has all his attention on one attacker the other attacker should have advantage. If he chooses to divide his attention then each should get only a small bonus to attack. This might be a greater benefit to the defender as an attacker with advantage is almost sure to hit.

The Kung Fu master is always getting flanked by at least three guys. And yet they come at him one at a time. 
Oh, Black Ninja Squad, will you ever learn?
I'd go the other way; realism-wise, flanking is a hell of a lot more realistic than the idea that combatants in melee are constantly turning around to face whoever's turn it is or "moving at the same time and doing so to keep both opponents in front of it at the same time." Historically and in the present day, flanking is an incredibly powerful tactic in battle.

Part of this is biological. Most creatures have a limited field of view that leaves it blind to things outside of its field of vision, and usually has weaker peripheral than central vision. Likewise, skeletal and musculature structure tends to create limited ranges of motion with varying effectiveness, and with creatures that are binocular, the most effective ranges of motion tend to deal with things directly in front of them. When you get attacked from a direction where you can't see or can't see well, or can't move as easily to respond, you're less successful in defense. 

When you add that on top of the added difficulty of fighting more than one opponent at a time (you have to respond to more attacks coming from more directions, you're dealing with more than one reaction time, etc.), you can see why flanking is physically difficult to defend against - one of the people you're fighting is attacking from a direction you find it very difficult to see or react to. 

Then there's the psychological factor. As a survival mechanicism, we fear and react badly to things we don't see coming compared to even quite scary things we can see in front of us. Thus, being attacked from the rear or flanks is a more frightening experience, because you're getting attacked from out of nowhere. This is a major reason why we have historical accounts of military units absorbing enormous punishment from frontal assaults but sticking together and then other accounts of flanked units that panic because they're being attacked from a direction they can't see or respond to as effectively. 

It's been argued that in D&D combats, creatures are turning to face their opponents, or to try and keep both in front of them as much as possible. This isn't a realistic assumption - creatures can only turn so fast to meet oncoming attacks, and turning has major downsides - it means shifting position and footwork, which increases the chance you'll get caught off-balance, and your flank/back is now exposed to your other opponent. Only in the unrealistic assumption that combatants are taking turns would it be possible to pull this off; in a simultaneous combat, you'll always be presenting an exposed side to one of your opponents.
 
Race for the Iron Throne - political and historical analysis of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Flanking as a game mechanic has always been a little contrived.  Consider this situation-


            X   A
            X   X  X
                 B  X

So players A and B have one mob at a disadvantage according to 3.5 ed.  But everything else that has been discussed about being distracted or field of vision is thrown out in this situation for the two players.  I mean in a 5 vs. 2 fight in a 15ft corridor who should be in trouble in this scenario.  But no, rules wise- playing on a grid- it just becomes a mechanical thing.  

That is my only argument with the entire system in this case.
Flanking as a game mechanic has always been a little contrived.  Consider this situation-


            X  A
            X  X  X
                B  X

So players A and B have one mob at a disadvantage according to 3.5 ed.  But everything else that has been discussed about being distracted or field of vision is thrown out in this situation for the two players.  I mean in a 5 vs. 2 fight in a 15ft corridor who should be in trouble in this scenario.  But no, rules wise- playing on a grid- it just becomes a mechanical thing.  

That is my only argument with the entire system in this case.



            X1  A
            X2 X3 X4
                  B  X5

X2 & X4 have no ability to retreat and this hampers their maneuverability. They are against a wall or would be forced to advance past an enemy. X1 & X5 have a wall blocking their movement options. Anyway you look at it X3 is humped. A and B can turn to face X2 and X4 respectively and have all enemies in their field of vision as well as an open path of retreat. It's not pretty but I can see some justification for the flanking system holding up under these conditions.

In some table top games they don't need to be exactly on opposite sides to benefit from flanking, only approximately, so: X1 & X4 would flank A, X2 & X5 would flank B. Maybe that would be more acceptable to everyone?
We played last night and used this idea:

The Rogue can get a sneak attack by giving up advantage.  Any time the rogue has advantage they can choose not to use advantage and, if they hit, inflict sneak attack damage.

We played using Flanking:  If you have an ally in the square on the 'opposite' side of the foe you are targeting with an attack, that attack has advantage.  We don't feel this is overpowered, Or overly tactical.  We think it's "just right" as far as grid tactics goes. 

The Rogue's Thug-ness also granted him advantage when an opponent had two other allies adjacent to it.  (He could then use his Sneak Attack by trading in that advantage.)

This played great!  The player running the Rogue loved the feel of it, loved deciding whether or not to go for the extra sneak damage.  

From my perspective DMing, He was still working for advantage every round if he could get it, but getting advantage didn't guarantee an auto kill every time, the way advantage & sneak attack damage always coupled together did.

The four of us unanimously felt this would be a great way to go to keep sneak attack possible every round without being over-powered or automatic.  


We had also ruled that if an opponent "completely unaware of you", you could keep your advantage and still add sneak attack damage.  "completely unaware of you" meant not just hidden, but had not revealed yourself or attacked in this encounter.  In other words, if the target was even suspicious you might be around the target was not "completely unaware of you".  

This never came up  It just so happened that the rogue didn't have a lot of stealth opportunities in the session.  But in theory I think this "completely unwaware of you" idea, while needing refinement, has merrit.  Maybe even just as an "Assassin" Specialty.

I really love this Sneak Attack idea,  try it out guys!
We played last night and used this idea:

The Rogue can get a sneak attack by giving up advantage.  Any time the rogue has advantage they can choose not to use advantage and, if they hit, inflict sneak attack damage.

We played using Flanking:  If you have an ally in the square on the 'opposite' side of the foe you are targeting with an attack, that attack has advantage.  We don't feel this is overpowered, Or overly tactical.  We think it's "just right" as far as grid tactics goes. 

[snip]


I really love this Sneak Attack idea,  try it out guys!



I was actually about to post this suggestion when I read your post. An excellent idea for flanking situations specifically.
We played last night and used this idea:

The Rogue can get a sneak attack by giving up advantage.  Any time the rogue has advantage they can choose not to use advantage and, if they hit, inflict sneak attack damage.

We played using Flanking:  If you have an ally in the square on the 'opposite' side of the foe you are targeting with an attack, that attack has advantage.  We don't feel this is overpowered, Or overly tactical.  We think it's "just right" as far as grid tactics goes. 

The Rogue's Thug-ness also granted him advantage when an opponent had two other allies adjacent to it.  (He could then use his Sneak Attack by trading in that advantage.)

This played great!  The player running the Rogue loved the feel of it, loved deciding whether or not to go for the extra sneak damage.  

From my perspective DMing, He was still working for advantage every round if he could get it, but getting advantage didn't guarantee an auto kill every time, the way advantage & sneak attack damage always coupled together did.

The four of us unanimously felt this would be a great way to go to keep sneak attack possible every round without being over-powered or automatic.  



I still feel that - with the current sneak attack damage where it is, it is a bit overpowered.    Especially given that the players hit most targets on an 8 - which means that 65% of the time the players don't need advantage to hit.


But as far as game mechanics go - I really like it.  If puts more choice into the player's hands and forces them to make a decision; just about anything which encourages player decision making is good.

Reduce sneak attack damage some and I'm all for it.  Even reduce sneak attack damage and let them add some status effects and I'd be all for it.   Just bring down the megadamage so that they don't kill nearly everything in the game in two hits.

Carl
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