UA:Combat Facing

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Combat Facing

The combat rules in the d20 System intentionally ignore the direction a creature faces. The rules assume that creatures are constantly moving and shifting within their spaces, looking in all directions during a fight. In this variant, facing- the direction your head and body are pointing- makes a big difference in how you move and fight.

This variant makes combat more complex, but it opens up new strategic options for PCs and monsters alike. It's a good choice if your group relishes the tactical complexity of combat and doesn't mind spending a lot of time duking it out with the bad guys. It won't change the power level of your game.

This variant supersedes the standard rules for flanking and creates new conditions for the rogue's use of the sneak attack ability.

Facing Direction

All PCs and most monsters have a facing: the direction to the adjacent square the character or creature is pointing toward. This means that a Medium creature standing in a given square has eight possible facings. The three squares a Small or Medium character is pointing towards are its front area. The three squares behind it are its rear area. The squares to the left and right are its flanks. Larger characters have more squares to deal with, but they still face toward one of eight directions. Their front areas remain the squares in front of them (including those on the front corners); their rear areas remain the squares behind them (including those on the rear corners); and their flanks remain the squares directly to their sides.

For some miniatures, it's obvious which direction they're facing; their faces are pointed in a particular direction, and they're brandishing a weapon in that direction too. But some miniatures look one way and point their weapons another, or it's otherwise unclear which way they're facing. To keep things clear at the gaming table, it's easiest if you mark the front of each miniature with a small dot or arrow on the base. That way everyone knows which way the character represented by the miniature is facing.

Some creatures simply have no facing. See Faceless Creatures, below.

Facing and Movement

Facing has some significant effects on movement.

Changing Facing: As you move, you can freely change your facing, rotating the miniature before you step into each new square. In addition, you can change facing at the end of your move. These rules do not apply if your movement is limited to a 5-foot step; see below.

If you do not move during your turn, or if your movement is limited to a 5-foot step,you may change facing once, at any point during your turn, as a free action. You can turn to face any direction you like, but you cannot change facing more than once. (You can also change facing as a move action, however, if you aren't using your move action to do something else.)

Normal Movement: You can move into any square in your front area t the normal movement cost. As you move, you may change your facing as you enter each new square. Make it clear which way you're facing as you move, if it matters (such as when enemies are near), and set your miniature's facing when you're done moving. (If your miniature is on a square base, the corners of the base may extend beyond the miniature's space. That's okay, but remember that regardless of your facing, the size and shape of your space never actually changes.)

Moving Backwards or Sideways: In general, you'll usually turn your character in the direction of movement before making a move. (As described above, you may freely make such changes in facing during movement.) However, sometimes you'll want to move without changing your facing, to avoid exposing your flank or rear area to an attack of opportunity while you move. It costs two squares of movement to enter a square on your flank or in your rear area.

5-Foot Steps: When taking a 5-foot step, you can move into any adjacent square, even squares in your rear or on your flank. You do not change facing when taking a 5-foot step. (You may, however, change your facing once as a free action; see Changing Facing, above.)

Facing and Attacking

In general, a character can attack into any square in his front area without penalty. This means that a character making a full attack should consider carefully when he takes his free action to change his facing. For example if a 6th-level character is beset by a bugbear in his front area and a goblin in his rear area, he can attack the bugbear, take his free action to change facing toward the goblin, then attack the goblin. But he can't then change his facing again. He's stuck with his back to the bugbear, which is in his rear area.

Characters who don't want to change their facing to point towards a foe can attack into their flank areas at a -5 penalty and into their rear areas at a -10 penalty.

Characters can make ranged attacks into any square beyond their front area without penalty. The penalties for making ranged attacks into flank and rear areas are the same as for melee combat.

Opponent facing

Not only does your facing matter when you're attacking, but the facing of your opponent does as well. If you're attacking from a foe's flank area (or the squares beyond it, if you have a reach weapon or ranged weapon), you get a +2 bonus on the attack roll You don't need anyone opposite you on the other side of your foe. If you're attacking from a foe's rear area (or the squares beyond it), you get a +4 bonus on the attack roll.

Sneak Attacks

A rogue can strike for sneak attack damage whenever her foe is flat-footed or whenever she's attacking with a melee weapon from the foe's rear area. She doesn't need anyone directly opposite her to get the extra damage. The standard rules for creatures' immunity to sneak attack still apply. For example, a shambling mound has a rear area, but it's immune to sneak attack damage because it's a plant. Conversely, a phasm doesn't have a front or rear, but you can still deal extra sneak damage if you catch it flat-footed.

Facing and Perception

It's much easier to see what's going on in your front area, and much easier to sneak around behind someone's back.

Spot Checks: Characters take a -5 penalty on spot checks to perceive things in their flank area (or beyond) and a -10 penalty on Spot checks in their rear area (or beyond). The Combat Awareness feat eliminates this penalty. Faceless creatures (see below) and creatures with the all-around vision ability don't take this penalty.

Readied Action: You can't ready an action to respond to a trigger that occurs in your rear area if you have to see it happen (such as a doorknob turning). But you can ready an action for a sound-based trigger (such as the click of a latch opening).

Other considerations

The facing variant requires several other rule changes.

Faceless Creatures

Some creatures have no real facing because they can move, attack, and perceive equally well in every direction. All elementals and oozes are faceless. Also, the following monsters are faceless: lantern archon, assassin vine, chaos beast, darkmantle, violet fungus, gibbering mouther, mimic, phasm, will-o'-wisp, xorn, and octopus (including giant octopus).

Faceless creatures can move or attack into any adjacent square, and they can't be flanked or attacked from the rear because they don't have flanks or rears.

Tiny and Smaller Creatures

Tiny and smaller creatures don't have facing. They can move or attack in any direction and are otherwise treated as faceless.

Feats and Class Features

Some feats and class features provide an additional facing-related benefit to the characters who have them. Also, the Combat Awareness feat affects a character's awareness to his flanks and rear.

Cleave and Great Cleave: The extra attacks granted by these feats can be made into flank areas without penalty, as well as into front areas.

Combat Reflexes: Characters with this feat can make attacks of opportunity into their flank areas without penalty.

Improved Uncanny Dodge: No attacker gets the +2 bonus for attacking in your flank or the +4 bonus from attacking from the behind you. Only a rogue four levels higher than you can deal sneak attack damage by attacking from a rear square.

Mounted Combat: Characters with this feat can attack into their steeds' flanks without penalty while mounted.

Whirlwind Attack: Characters with this feat can attack into any area without penalty.


Spells and spell-like abilities that have areas such as lines and cones emerge from any grid intersection between the spellcaster's space and his front area. A spellcaster can't target anything in his rear area with a spell.

Flank Attacks

Some monsters have attacks and abilities that reach flank squares as well as front squares. These creatures take no penalty for making these attacks into flank squares.

  • Devil, Pit Fiend: Wings.
  • Displacer Beast: Tentacles.
  • Dragon: Wings.
  • Howler: Quills.
  • Hydra: Bites.
  • Kraken: Tentacles.
  • Otyugh: Tentacles.
  • Roper: Strands.
  • Squid, Giant: Tentacles.
  • Scorpion, Monstrous: Sting.

Rear Attacks

Some monsters have attacks and abilities that emerge from or attack into rear squares, not front squares. These creatures take no penalty for making these attacks into rear squares.

  • Aranea: Web.
  • Arrowhawk: Electricity ray.
  • Cloaker: Tail slap.
  • Demon, Bebilith: Web.
  • Demon, Marilith: Tail Slap.
  • Devil, Pit Fiend: Tail Slap.
  • Dragon (any): Tail slap or tail sweep.
  • Formian (any): Sting.
  • Lillend: Tail Slap.
  • Manticore: Spikes.
  • Naga, Dark: Sting.
  • Nightshade, Nightcrawler: Sting.
  • Purple Worm: Sting.
  • Rast: Tail Slap, tail touch.
  • Salamander: Tail slap.
  • Tarrasque: Tail slap.
  • Wyvern: Sting.
  • Crocodile: Tail slap.
  • Whale, Baleen: Tail slap.
  • Whale, Cachalot: Tail slap.
  • Bee, Giant: Sting.
  • Wasp, Giant: Sting.

Shields (Optional)

If you're particularly keen on facing, you can add another layer of realism by modeling how shields only protect against attacks from some directions. This "variant to a variant" system introduces a shieldless AC for a character who is attacked from a direction where he can't interpose the shield between himself and the threat. Shieldless AC is easy to figure: Just subtract the AC bonus the shield provides (including its enhancement bonus if it's a magical shield) from the character's normal AC.

A character holding a shield must indicate whether he's wielding it to the left or right. The shield only adds to the character's AC against attacks coming from his front area and the flank area on the shield's side, plus any squares that lie beyond those areas.

The shield spell provides a bonus to AC against attacks from the front area only.

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