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Considering a medium creature, with 5ft of reach, wielding a reach weapon such as a longspear.

By the rules:

With a typical reach weapon, you can strike opponents 10 feet away, but you can't strike adjacent foes (those within 5 feet).

Squares within 5 feet would be all adjacent squares to the creature, including diagonal ones (first diagonal being counted at 5ft).

It appears clear that the weapon will allow attacks into four squares: those 5ft away from the creature in the north, east, south and west directions. They are 2 squares away in a straight line, thus 10ft away, within reach.

But now, what about the squares diagonally away, beyond 5ft, north-east, south-east, south-west and north-west of the creature? According to the rules, the second square of a diagonal line is considered 15ft away when it comes to movement. Does this also apply to attack distances?

Also, what about squares reachable by going diagonally once, then straight up/down/left/right? This would usually count at 10ft of movement, so are they attackable?

Here's a diagram:


C is the creature, dots are where I assume you cannot attack, Xs are where I assume you can attack and question marks are where I'm not sure you can.


The Case of the Missing AOO

I've come across an interesting point on the Paizo forums. If you are in one of the far corners and you consider these not threatened, then you can diagonally move towards the character and never provoke an AOO (that is, per RAW)... and yet, logically, a threatened area should make an uninterrupted circle around the creature. This may explain why 3.5 made an exception out of this.

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You are correct that this is why 3.5 made an exception here. But it doesn’t really affect this question. –  KRyan Oct 20 '13 at 20:16
@KRyan: I thought it may be an argument in choosing which of the two officially-undecided options one were to choose. –  leokhorn Oct 20 '13 at 20:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In 3.5, you’d get all of the ?s. If it weren’t for the exception made for reach weapons, and we calculated distances for them normally, you would miss out on the four ?s in the furthest corners:


The reason for this exception is pretty simple: the above figure does not make a continuous ring around the character C. That means that someone could slip in through the corner, avoiding an attack of opportunity and defeating a lot of the purpose of having a reach weapon in the first place.

Pathfinder does not make this exception, and so this possibility of slipping through the corner becomes a problem. However, the developers at Paizo have ...for lack of a better word, we’ll call it a clarification, though it honestly just confused me more. From the FAQ, which Paizo likes to treat as official:

Can you or can you not attack diagonally at a distance of 2x squares (15'=10' exception) with a reach weapon?

James Jacobs: Nope. A reach weapon gives a specific extension to your reach. When you count out squares, since every other square is doubled when you count diagonally, that means that there’ll be corners where you can’t reach.

Sean K. Reynolds: It's an artifact of the grid. The closest the rules come to addressing this is in Large, Huge, Gargantuan, and Colossal Creatures, which says:

Unlike when someone uses a reach weapon, a creature with greater than normal natural reach (more than 5 feet) still threatens squares adjacent to it. A creature with greater than normal natural reach usually gets an attack of opportunity against you if you approach it, because you must enter and move within the range of its reach before you can attack it.

So just because the grid has a square for "15 feet away" and a square for "5 feet away," but no square for "10 feet away," using that corner path doesn't mean you're magically teleporting from 15 feet to 5 feet; you are passing through a 10-foot-radius band around the creature, and therefore you provoke an AOO.

Admittedly it's not clear, and obviously it doesn't have the diagram in the 3E book to provide a non-textual example, but it's supposed to work as I described above.

Basically, the idea is, you don’t threaten 15 ft. away, so you don’t get the corner, but you do threaten 10 ft. away and there’s no way to move from 15 ft. away to 5 ft. away without passing through a point that is 10 ft. away. Thus, someone moving from 15 ft. away on the diagonal to 5 ft. away on the same diagonal is going to provoke.



The enemy E moving to the point marked _ towards C with a reach weapon provokes an attack of opportunity (assuming this isn’t a 5 ft. step of course), because somewhere between E’s square and _, there is a point that is 10 ft. away from C that E has to pass through.

Presumably, you would adjudicate this square as being the square E starts in, before moving. In this sense, the end result is identical to the 3.5 version for movement towards you: creatures leaving that corner square to enter a square inside your reach provoke an attack of opportunity as if you threatened that square. You are not eligible to make an attack of opportunity if E performs any other action that provokes from that square, including movement in other directions, because you do not actually threaten it.

This is a headache.

Reach weapons are one of the few fairly-nice things that melee can get. There’s really no need to nerf them. I strongly suggest that you straight-up ignore this nonsense and use the 3.5 rule. The exception to the usual calculation of ranges in the case of reach weapons is weird, but clearly there was a good reason for it: without it, you wind up with this mess.

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On the subject of undoing unnecessary Paizo nerfs to reach, continuous reach à la the 3.5 spiked chain is something actually worth spending a feat on, unlike 99% of 3.5 exotic weapons and 100% of Pathfinder exotics (the latter being by design and explicitly defended by the Paizo chief). The spiked chain itself was a little silly as a weapon, but a less-silly weapon could conceivably have the same property. I vote for the meteor hammer. –  KRyan Oct 20 '13 at 20:02
I don't think Jacobs and Reynolds' quotes are in opposition. You can't normally attack into the diagonals, says Jacobs, and Reynolds clarifies that if someone moves in on you that doesn't mean they quantum tunnel, you can still attack them. –  mxyzplk Oct 21 '13 at 1:02
@mxyzplk OK, I see now; that is bizarre and unclear, but I see your point and it does clarify what the two of them are talking about. The reach-weapon exception was a bit odd in 3.5, but this situation is worse. I’ll try to rewrite the answer here to clarify the situation. –  KRyan Oct 21 '13 at 22:57
KRyan is right. The 3.5 exception rule is a MUST. Imagine in Pathfinder that you take an AoO and (improved) trip someone coming at you diagonally. Whichever square he falls in you can't attack that square now, can you? But you get an attack from improved trip... Plug in the Grid holes I say and do away with stupid Pathfinder rules. –  Simanos Jun 1 '14 at 8:34
@Simanos ohi didn't even think of that! Adding that to my answer, that's way too important a point to miss. –  KRyan Jun 1 '14 at 12:02

You lose some corners for longer reaches.

The lavender-and-green graphics toward the bottom of this page exactly illustrate how reaching on a diagnonal works.

In reference to the FAQ comments by James Jacobs and Sean K Reynolds, I believe they are 100% compatible with this diagram:

  • Jacobs answers the question "Can one attack someone 15' away on a diagonal?" Answer: No.
  • Reynolds answers the question "Does that means one can sneak in on the diagnonal, somehow moving from 15' away to 5' away without passing through intervening space?" Answer: Also no. You still trigger an AoO as you pass from 10' to 5' away, even though there isn't a square for 10' away on the grid.

Regarding differences for creatures that're long instead of tall, the lavender-and-green reach charts toward the end of the page give examples of both. Essentially the only difference is that long creatures tend to have less reach than a tall creature of the same size.

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I'm realizing the diagram with the three-sized guys makes little sense to me. Does it consider "long" creatures rather than "tall"? The other diagrams do show the loss of corners and fit with the "reach uses movement rules for distance" concept. –  leokhorn Oct 20 '13 at 17:39
I agree with @leokhorn: I saw those diagrams and dismissed them, because they make no sense and don’t match what anyone is saying, even with all the different versions of the rules going on. I also wasn’t sure if they were Paizo’s or added by the d20PFSRD website, so I’m not sure how official they are. SKR explicitly references a lack of such images in his FAQ answer. –  KRyan Oct 20 '13 at 19:56
@KRyan: From what I can tell, d20PFSRD sometimes complements its pages with official FAQ & Errata and sometimes custom attempts at better explaining rules. I think this is a case of the latter. The second set of diagrams is definitely helpful if you choose to go by what appears to be RAW and not the 3.5 version. But I wouldn't say it's official or debate-closing in any way. –  leokhorn Oct 20 '13 at 20:23
The lavender-and-green templates are still wrong, so far as I can tell. The natural reaches shown for Large (tall) and Huge (long) creatures include corners that I think the rules would not have them include. –  KRyan Oct 22 '13 at 2:21
@KRyan: I agree. I tried making my own templates yesterday by using movement distance rules for reach distance (PF RAW, right?). The medium template on PFSRD fits but Large (tall) already doesn't. The natural reach for 10ft is a perfect square whereas the same distance applied to the medium creature (reach weapon) cuts corners. I even went back to my 3.5 DMG and they also mess it up by not cutting corners on Medium but then cutting various corners on bigger-sized creatures... I think no one agrees on this, not even among the same designer team. I give up using official sources. –  leokhorn Oct 22 '13 at 8:16

The rule reference that you're looking for is found in the 3.5 player's guide(not sure what page) under the section on attacks of opportunity.

Quote taken from the SRD

Note: Small and Medium creatures wielding reach weapons threaten all squares 10 feet (2 squares) away, even diagonally. (This is an exception to the rule that 2 squares of diagonal distance is measured as 15 feet.)

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That looks like the 3.5 rule; Pathfinder seems to have changed it, though what it’s been changed to, I can’t figure out. –  KRyan Oct 20 '13 at 15:32
Considering how confusing the PF version seems to be, I appreciate having a reference to the previous set of rules. –  leokhorn Oct 20 '13 at 16:21
Not a problem. I'd suggest double checking with the DM to see what their stance is, which is a good general rule of thumb on any 'screwy' rules. –  Guest Oct 20 '13 at 16:35
I can be both the GM and the player in this case, depending on the context :) –  leokhorn Oct 20 '13 at 17:36

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