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The Variant: Flanking rules in the DMG (page 251) require adjacency, but is the intent that the Enemy has combatants on opposite sides and thus someone with Reach (and using the reach) could still flank even if not directly adjacent?

Looking for both RAW as well as Intent of the flanking rule.

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RAW No, flanking's only conditions are explicitly related to physical position

When a creature and at least one of its allies are adjacent to an enemy and on opposite sides or corners of the enemy's space, they flank that enemy...

So, RAW say it has to be adjacent. No other conditions are listed besides position.

Defining Adjacent

Adjacent is not defined anywhere in the game as a game term, but it is used a lot. All the instances I have found of the term adjacent definitely imply only one meaning: that two things are immediately next to each other. For example:

On describing the rules for counting ranges on a grid the PHB says:

Ranges. To determine the range on a grid between two things—whether creatures or objects—start counting squares from a square adjacent to one of them and stop counting in the space of the other one. Count by the shortest route.

The word adjacent here clearly only makes sense when read as "the square physically right next to".

I cannot find a single example in any of the rule books where the word adjacent was used to indicate anything other than immediate physical proximity to another thing so it would be incredibly dubious to try to read it that way here.

Similar discussion from designer and possible intent

Jeremy Crawford also touched on this subject:

Q: Polearm Master fluff say you can keep your enemies at bay with reach weapons is not really true if attack is when adjacent

A: On the grid, the target is adjacent if you're using a quarterstaff, but 5 feet away with the [Polearm Master reach] weapons.

In this example, Jeremy reinforces the idea that "adjacent" is "immediately next to". Not only that, but note that he says that someone 5ft away from a reach weapon is 5 feet away. The strong implication being that they are not considered adjacent.

Conclusion

Bringing this back to flanking specifically, the rules do not even hint at reach being a factor. It doesn't even say you have to be able to make attacks. Just allies adjacent to an enemy on opposite sides or corners.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The test you mention does not imply adjacency. In fact, it would still work if one or more of the flankers stands further away with a reach weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Dec 21 '17 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about intent for flanking? Is the idea that a creature is currently under attack by two enemies within reach of it? Or is it purely that someone is standing on either side of them? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Dec 21 '17 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: Give me a minute and I'll have a better answer for that aspect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Dec 21 '17 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that quote is saying what you think it is. THat's purely about PM master triggering an OA when they come within your reach at 10', isn't it? But that if you have quarterstaff as a polearm, it happens at 5'. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Dec 21 '17 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: Correct, yeah it is a bit confusing but the important bit is that he says that enemy is adjacent when it is in the square immediately next to you (quarterstaff). But the key takeaway is that when he describes the creature being 5 ft away with a reach weapon he does not say "adjacent" he says 5ft away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Dec 21 '17 at 16:08

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