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DnD 5e has optional rules for flanking that includes guides for how it works when using a hex-grid tactical map:

On hexes, count around the enemy from one creature to its ally. Against a Medium or smaller creature, the allies flank if there are 2 hexes between them. Against a Large creature, the allies flank if there are 4 hexes between them. Against a Huge creature, they must have 5 hexes between them. Against a Gargantuan creature, they must have at least 6 hexes between them. - (DMG pg.251)

Perhaps helpfully they supplied an image showing a large creature (taking up 3 hexes) with four red hexes highlighted between two flanking attackers, but only because they're counted the long way round!

For every other size creature you can count the required number of spaces between flanking attackers without including the attacker's spaces, and for Gargantuan creatures there's even two spots that would flank with any given opposite, but if you don't include any attacker's space, there isn't a qualifying space for the second flanking attacker to take:

enter image description here

Interestingly square grids give far more options: large creatures have two possible flanking positions for any given non-corner opposing flank, huge have three and gargantuan four, as the guide there says

When in doubt about whether two creatures flank an enemy on a grid, trace an imaginary line between the centers of the creatures' spaces. If the line passes through opposite sides or corners of the enemy's space, the enemy is flanked. - (DMG pg.251)

On a hex grid ends up far more rigid, it appears. The wording in the DMG (and the fact that four unoccupied spaces are highlighted in the accompanying image) suggests to me that you're not supposed to count the occupied spaces, but if you can just count the long way around than two adjacent spaces would qualify. I have looked and can't find an errata, which I'd have expected by now if this was simply an oversight, so I'm really quite confused!

I can only see four potential solutions, all of which seem to run contrary to some of the material in the DMG:

  1. You count the square of one of the flanking attackers. This would render the image supplied very misleading, and would make hex grids closer to square ones on how many valid flanking positions exist (though it would be very easy to flank a medium creature.)

  2. You can count the long way 'round. Obviously this is problematic as it basically means any two spots are valid flanking positions provided you count the long way. It would render the whole section quoted above completely pointless.

  3. Against Large creatures the allies flank if there are 3 hexes between them, not 4. Obviously this is a direct contradiction, but it makes large creatures function for this rule similarly to gargantuan creatures.

  4. It's just impossible to flank large creatures. Which obviously seems arbitrary enough to be considered not the intent, especially as the image given is of a large creature.

Is there an errata that I couldn't find that gives a different way of ruling this? (Maybe "[x] number of adjacent spaces unoccupied by attackers means a creature is not flanked"?)

Alternatively, if there is no RAW solution to this, is there a generally accepted ruling?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately I couldn't find an image from the 5e DMG, but the 5e one is the same with an added arrow to show we're counting the long way around, which only heightens my confuzzlement. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 13 '18 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast - thanks for adding that link. I don't have an account, so can't navigate there to get it. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 13 '18 at 3:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ speaking of that sort of thing, do you think my linked image is ok, or is that a bit copyright infringementy? \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 13 '18 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that image is fine. :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 13 '18 at 4:11
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The DMG rules are consistent if you count the exact number of spaces, while measuring either way around.

In other words, if you have two creatures adjacent to a middle creature, then count both clockwise and counterclockwise. If the number of spaces (in either direction) equals the number you're trying to count, then there are that many spaces in between.

The trouble here is a geometric property that on a hex grid, Large and Gargantuan creatures are surrounded by an odd number of hexes. If you pick two of these hexes (as possible flanking locations), and count the spaces in between, then you are guaranteed to get different measurements clockwise versus counterclockwise.

However, it is possible to pick two surrounding hexes such that, if you count the in-between spaces both clockwise and counterclockwise, the measurements differ by 1. This is the closest way to split the difference (an odd number), so the DMG uses these measurements to determine flanking. Thus if a creature is surrounded by an odd number of hexes (i.e., they are Large or Gargantuan), then an adjacent attacker can flank with up to two other adjacent attackers.

When two Medium creatures are adjacent to a Gargantuan creature, there are 13 free adjacent spaces. If you can count 6 one way, then you must count 7 the other way. In this case, you counted the short way, but you still counted exactly 6, so they are flanking.

When two Medium creatures are adjacent to a Large creature, there are 7 free adjacent spaces. If you can count 4 one way, then you must count 3 the other way. In this case, you counted the long way, but you still counted exactly 4, so they are flanking.

By comparison, with Medium and Huge creatures, they are surrounded by an even number of hexes. It is possible to pick two of these hexes, such that you can count the same number of spaces in between both clockwise and counterclockwise; these are visibly the flanking positions.

As a side note, the second DMG quote only applies to a square grid. Otherwise you are dealing with creatures that don't have "opposite sides or corners".

So for the purpose of determining whether two attackers flank a Large (or Gargantuan) creature, you will have to count either clockwise or counterclockwise.

enter image description here

In the above examples, there are exactly 4 spaces counted in between the attacking creatures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't this reading imply that a large creature is flanked whenever it is has two creatures within 5 feet of it, even if they are adjacent to each other? After all, if we go by the longest distance between them, there will always be at least 4 hexes. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Aug 13 '18 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme No, it must be exactly 4, counted either way. I edited to clarify that. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Aug 13 '18 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems strange, then, that they make it 4 for a large creature, giving this overlapping effect, and 6 for a gargantuan creature, with the same actual result, but non-overlapping groups of adjacent hexes... \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 13 '18 at 7:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ When 2 Medium attackers flank a Large creature, there are 7 free spaces. The "opposite" space would have 7/2=3.5 adjacent spaces in between, so that's split as 3 and 4. If it's 4 one way then it must be 3 on the other. I don't know why the authors specified 4 when they could have said 3 and had the same result. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Aug 13 '18 at 7:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Four shall be the number of thy counting. Thou shalt not count unto five. Six is right out" (Obligatory for me, given my name.) \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Harder Aug 13 '18 at 18:20
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You can count the long way

The trick is that it’s not a minimum — it’s an exact requirement. You can’t count beyond 4, but rather have to be able to count exactly 4 hexes. It’s not a maximum nor a minimum.

Put another way, if you can find exactly 4 adjacent hexes between allies adjacent to a Large opponent, that counts as flanking. Any set of four adjacent hexes will do.

This means that there are two hexes the other attacker could occupy to help flank a Large attacker.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems strange, then, that they make it 4 for a large creature, giving this overlapping effect, and 6 for a gargantuan creature, with the same actual result, but non-overlapping groups of adjacent hexes... \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 13 '18 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also the wording for gargantuan creatures specifically states at least six hexes. Which adds to the confusion! \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Nov 17 '18 at 3:30

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