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A creature that doesn't possess at least 5 ranks in the skill Balance is considered flat-footed when balancing, but when exactly is the creature considered to be balancing? Is the creature balancing only during its own turn, or is the creature also balancing when it's in that precarious position and it's not the creature's turn?

For example, Abe—who possesses 0 ranks in the skill Balance—is walking a tightrope. Abe must make a Balance skill check to progress across the tightrope (DC 20). Abe fails the check by 4, so Abe can't move until his next turn but doesn't fall from the tightrope. After Abe's turn ends, is Abe considered balancing (therefore flat-footed) until Abe's next turn starts? Or is Abe only balancing (again, therefore flat-footed) on Abe's turn—like how a creature that takes the full-round (not 1-round!) action run is only running (and flat-footed) during its turn and ceases to run (and ceases to be flat-footed) at the ends of its turn?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have a PHB around, but would think Abe would need to roll a new Balance check to successfully move off the tightrope on his next turn, so still balancing. Had he succeeded his roll and ended his move on the tightrope it might be a different story, as I do not think he has to roll a check to leave the square (unless it is into another balance challenge). \$\endgroup\$ – user40124 Nov 3 '17 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DariusWhiteplume On the contrary, 3.5e has entering risky squares be the problem rather than exiting them. (I think the theory is You paid to get there so you don't also pay to leave.) So, yeah, entering that tightropy square fouled up Abe, but he could, on his next turn, move normally and without issue and at full speed from the tightrope to the unmentioned platform where he began. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 3 '17 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough! Roll back if/when you feel it needs to be rolled back, I won't mind. (I figure also that part of my edit was also getting into territory of personal taste around how to express things, but I'm not sure where that portion of it starts and ends.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 4 '17 at 12:39
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No game rule defines the term "balancing". However, the D&D FAQ on the grease spell suggests that a character is considered "balancing" when on a surface which requires a Balance check to move, even if they avoid the check by choosing not to move; and that you can remain so even on an opponent's turn.

Is a character in the area of a grease spell considered flat-footed?

Yes. Any character who is attacked while balancing is considered flat-footed unless he has 5 or more ranks of Balance (PH 67).

If a creature standing in the area of a grease spell takes damage, does it have to succeed on a DC 10 Balance check or fall down?

Yes. Any creature who takes damage while balancing must make another Balance check against the same DC (in this case, 10) to remain standing (PH 67).

The second question in particular defines that merely standing in grease, not moving through it, is enough to impose "balancing" status. Neither answer makes an exception for characters standing still or taking damage on an opponent's turn.

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Yes.

From your link, a balance check lets you "walk on a precarious surface." If you stop balancing, you stop being able to walk on that surface. Note that "walk" is not a term for "move into a square" (or anything else), it's just the English-language word for general perambulation on a surface. So, if you stop balancing, you have to stop walking on the surface, whether by falling down, flying, burrowing, whatever.

If it helps, you could instead remember that you are assumed to be moving within your square all the time.

(I would generally reach for a more exact rules reference, but I don't think there is one.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ See, this is pretty much exactly with what I'm struggling. I mean, yes, I get that a creature is assumed to be always spinning or whatever, yet the creature isn't off-turn actually walking. This makes it possible to instead simply stay in one place (i.e. the same square) indefinitely on a precarious surface without issue, not walking but merely standing, an rules hole seemingly not covered by the skill Balance. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 5 '17 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, pretty much because I'm not allowed to push my minifig around the battle mat when it's not my turn. (I mean, I've tried that, but everybody freaks out.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 5 '17 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Based on the Player's Handbook Listen skill's examples (78) and the section on Movement (162) normal movement is walking. However, "[c]haracters generally don’t walk during combat—they hustle or run" (163). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 5 '17 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Why? I mean, take another look at grease: "A creature can walk within or through the area of grease at half normal speed with a DC 10 Balance check. Failure means it can’t move that round (and must then make a Reflex save or fall), while failure by 5 or more means it falls (see the Balance skill for details)" (PH 237). That's pretty much the Balance skill in miniature… and equally unclear off-turn! Thing is, grease does say what occurs at the beginning of a turn when you start in its area, unlike, say, a tightrope that's mute. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 6 '17 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko RE: "[W]hich loss lasts till the beginning of your next turn." I know you're going by memory, but I'm trying to find where it actually says that. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 6 '17 at 21:29
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While he is in a situation or location (tightrope, ledge, etc) that warrants a balance check on his turn he is considered balancing unless he ends his turn in a location that doesn't warrant one.

The reason he's flat-footed is because dodging is really hard when you're trying to stay in balance and not drop to your death, for example.

It's the same logic which applies with climbing, flying, etc. You don't lose that "condition" just because it's not your turn anymore.

In fact action by another player or NPC can cause another balance check even if it's not his turn; say an enemy shoots him or a sudden gust of wind (a spell perhaps) hits him while he's on that tight rope.

Such a thing wouldn't even happen unless he was balancing on a tightrope.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved by rules citations. At least some of the evidence you cite (have to make balance checks when hit on a tightrope) isn't evidence for this answer, it's a consequence of this answer. If a character is not, in fact, balancing while on a tightrope off-turn, then they don't actually have to make a balance check when hit (except on AoO's during their movement). \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Nov 3 '17 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to this Stack! Take the tour. While there's certainly a place for common sense-style answers to gaming questions, sometimes a game's rules—whether accidentally or purposefully and for whatever reason—employ a different kind of sense. This means that explaining how even a (seemingly!) obvious conclusion is reached using the rules goes a long way toward strengthening an answer. That said, I appreciate your feedback, and thank you for trying to help strangers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 3 '17 at 22:44

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