I’m a big fan of the flanking rules in 3e/4e Dungeons & Dragons because I think it’s a great incentive for players to work together in a melee, and it encourages creatures and characters to move around the field to gain an advantage.

I don’t even care about the so-called “Conga Line of Death.”

But I’m going to ditch them — at least in their present form — for a couple of reasons. First, it’s annoying to try and explain how they work. Since “facing” rules were dropped — or maybe they never existed — battlefield positioning shouldn’t matter. I hate explaining why a player doesn’t get a flanking bonus.

Distance can matter — melee attacks versus ranged attacks and all that — but where exactly a miniature is placed on a map relative to the target shouldn’t matter nearly so much. It contributes to long combat rounds and doesn’t add much.

There are some other problems — characters being able to easily secure a +2 bonus to attack, or the Combat Advantage they need to deliver a Sneak Attack — when they shouldn’t necessarily be able to cooperate in battle so effectively.

How often do we see a protagonist using the number of enemies surrounding them to an advantage? A surrounded creature or character isn’t always at a disadvantage — this can be even more apparent when we’re talking about supernatural entities, and not just the ones with “All-Around Vision.”

Plus, there are new disadvantages to allowing oneself to be surrounded — Opportunity Attacks are a prime example. If a player is in a surrounded position they’re restricted to shifting, or else they risk several attacks from enemies.

There’s a problem too with the 3e/4e rules treating flanking like it’s there, not bothering to really expand on the concept at all. Flanking is a tactical position that should be sought out for all the advantages it offers, but it’s taken for granted.

So to that end, I’m revising flanking to be simultaneously easier to achieve but harder to receive. Flanking is a class feature of the Warlord archetype, and is gained whenever the Warlord makes an attack against an enemy in melee.

Some other archetypes will gain a particular bonus when they have additional allies adjacent to the target, like a Rogue archetype being allowed to maximize damage if they hit an enemy who’s “distracted” by one of their allies.

The positioning requirement will be loosened so that flanking can be achieved merely by characters standing next to each other — an attack from two fronts is still an attack from two fronts, after all.

Giving flanking to the Warlord will help reinforce its warfare/military themes, and will allow me to pry some of its other features away to give to other archetypes. I would like for every leader to have a unique advantage to offer their allies.