A few weeks ago I think, I blew the collective minds of my weekly gaming group by suggesting they choose “flanking buddies.” This was new information to them, despite some mentions I had made to the effect of everyone pairing off to make sure nobody fought alone. It was important enough that I had to tell a story.

I don’t remember that story now, so this is just a tribute. I call it “flanking buddies.”

Peering through the cloudy mists of time, there was an age when it wasn’t so easy to get that thing we call “combat advantage.” That was back when we played Third Edition D&D, where men were dwarves and half-orcs and the women were chainmail bikini-clad elf babes or something like that. Not a lot has changed, actually.

Oh, except the RNG was a real force that you prayed to when you really needed to hit (Random Number God). Maximizing your effectiveness in combat meant taking advantage of every possible bonus you could get. We mastered the charging rules, and always, always flanked. Spoony remembers this as the “Conga Line of Death.”

Admittedly, I don’t believe in the Conga Line of Death so much, because all the players I knew (many who were experienced, but just as many who weren’t) didn’t want the enemy to flank them just as much as they wanted the attack bonus from flanking. So the whole battlefield shifted constantly. And I mean constantly.

Have you ever seen a Chess endgame that had one guy with just their King and a Pawn and the other guy with a couple pieces left? Seeing one guy’s King dodging and weaving and trying not to get cornered is a lot more like what we saw. Players would try to pin monsters down to sustain a flank, and monsters would do likewise.

But here now, that’s a story from the past. It’s an odd thing that nobody thinks of — forget combat advantage when you already have a plus-eight to hit the guy’s fourteen defense. You’ll only miss if you roll a five or less. Then what happens? BOOM. Three. You missed. Your turn is done and what have you accomplished? Nothing.

I remember when we would sometimes use our entire turn to get into a position — trading a standard action for an extra move action — to set up someone else’s flanking attack. That’s hard for players to do in Fourth Edition I think, because 4e gives everybody a power they can always use to some effect. Always attacking.

In Third Edition, we would sometimes get the wizard in there with his quarterstaff — he’d swing and he knew he’d miss — but there was always the chance for a critical hit. And then, he’d provided for the rogue to get Sneak Attack via flanking. The rogue would swing in like freaking Errol Flynn and skewer the monster. Classic.

Last night I suggested one of the most powerful tactical maneuvers a monster should have should be flanking. So the player shifts away? The monster moves around to flank again. BOOM. Dynamic. Does one give up, or do they keep at it? Who will be the first to flinch in this epic struggle of wills? I like my +2 to hit, thank you.

If you don’t have a flanking buddy, the next time you go to your game — pick one. Tell another player you would be honored to fight alongside them. Make something up. Help make sure they get the flank. That +2 bonus to attack rolls.

No one should ever not have combat advantage.