The errata for Complete Adventurer's skirmish ability states the following

She deals an extra 1d6 points of damage on all attacks she makes during any round in which she moves at least 10 feet away from where she was at the start of her turn. The extra damage applies only to attacks made after the scout has moved at least 10 feet. The skirmish ability cannot be used while mounted.

I have a discussion with my DM at this time for this unclear way of determining what "away" represents. As the sentence is "during any round in which she moves at least 10 feet away", I understand that the distance away has to be calculated from your point of origin to your point of arrival through a path you can actually move. For instance, someone with Improved Skirmish feat, would require a 20' "move away" distance. If the Scout is moving through a 5' wide corridor, 10' North and 10' East, he would have moves 20' and would be 20' away from his origin. My DM states that it should be understood that the distance is in straight line, thus my last example would deny the skirmish ability to the scout who has turned a corner as the "flight" distance would be about 14' not 20'.

So, as written, when determining a move distance, would you use the path that you can physically use or the straight line kind of approach?

Another example, if there is a closed door to a room on the East side and an opened entrance on the South side and you use your move action to move around and end up 10' from your point of origin in the room, would you get your Improved Skirmish feat kick in for your standard action attack? Of course if you open the door this round, next round you would have to calculate the distance through the door as it is physically possible.



It’s ambiguous, but I use total distance moved. For one thing, while the first sentence implies separation from the initial square, it is ambiguous, and the second sentence seems to be unambiguously talking about total distance—a contradiction if the first meant separation.

I would also observe that, no matter how you read it, once you have moved to a square ten feet away from your original location (to definitely qualify for “away” regardless of interpretation), you can always move back and still qualify for skirmish damage. It doesn’t say that the damage only happens at that distance, but that the damage only happens “during any round in which” or “after” moving 10 feet—so whatever you decide the 10 feet refers to, once you’ve met that requirement you have the damage for the rest of the round (interestingly, this includes attacks of opportunity after your turn).

Ultimately, though, my ruling in favor of all distance, regardless of how far from your original location you are, comes down to something very simple: skirmish is pretty poor. Compared to sneak attack, it’s easier to activate in general, but harder to apply to multiple attacks in a given round since moving 10 feet usually prevents a full-attack. On top of that, and more relevantly since every character already needs a way to move and full-attack anyway, skirmish deals half the damage of sneak attack. The AC bonus that it grants is decidedly inferior. And beyond that, sneak attack is a pretty inefficient way to do damage—just charging with a big two-hander requires none of the set-up, doesn’t have nearly as immune foes, and deals far (far) more damage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for the eye-opening that it is at any point in your turn so even if you move back it is still valid \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Nov 27 '18 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jonDraco I’d kind of hoped the point about skirmish being a rather inferior source of damage would be somewhat more eye-opening... Anyway, if you feel this has answered your question, you can indicate that to future readers by accepting it (clicking the checkmark), and if you do not, would you mind letting me know what else you’d like to see? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '18 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, EDITED (removed answered tag), I still would like to know if as written, you would consider a straight line or the physically possible path for away as, for example, you would need climb a wall 10' and walk 10' since it is not possible to go right through the wall. I will wait for a source that would unequivocally confirm it as it impacts more the Improved Skirmish ability. And for the inferior damage, well, I do agree but it doesn't concern my DM. I kind of agree, if I don't like it, I can just pick another class :) Thanks for all your insights though \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Nov 27 '18 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jonDraco Well, someone who has scaled a wall 10 feet tall is 10 feet away from where they started (up, rather than across), which is definitely legit. Coming back down (on the other side of the wall or not) is no different from moving back to where you started: you still were 10 feet away, so you still get skirmish. But there exists no more text to analyze, so you’ll never get the unequivocal answer you’re looking for—which is fine! You can leave it with nothing accepted if you like. Just warning you that you maybe shouldn’t hold your breath. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '18 at 18:07

Point-to-point distance from their original starting position.

My read on this comes back to one assumption on tactical movement and one reference in the RAW above:

  1. When it comes to rules on tactical movement (as defined in the combat section of the PHB), the underlying assumption is that any reference to character movement refers to the physical distance they traverse. Other rules explicitly specify where this is not the case (e.g., spell radii, ranged combat, overland movement) and a point-to-point calculation should be made.

  2. This particular rule specifically states that the scout must travel at least 10' away from their original position to activate skirmish. This reads similarly to the text used to call out distance calculations for emanations or spell effect areas (e.g., 'the spell emanates 10' from a point in space selected by the caster')

By combining these two factors, I think (using standard grid-based combat as an example) the simplest interpretation is that the scout must be at least two squares away from where they started to activate skirmish. This eliminates the 'total distance travelled' square dance and other similar scenarios where a character could abuse the mechanism without adhering to the intent of the RAW (which is of course subjective, but you can only adjudicate so far in the face of uncertainty).

  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing is, why would you use the spell's "emanation" effect and not the spell's "spread" effect description? I guess in this case, it will have to be the DM's decision since, as KRyan said, there will not be a rule to the letter found on this one. But I would really have hoped for it. Again, my opinion is that it is the traveled distance as I am not sure how you could calculate distance from point A to point B if there is a wall between the two. \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Nov 29 '18 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd go back to grid combat on this one as Z-axis movement has never been handled well in 3.5 and you've got to draw a line somewhere :) In your wall situation, as long as the scout is two squares away from their starting square along the X-Y skirmish can be activated. So, if they have traveled 10' to get around the wall but are still only 5' away from where they began, skirmish is not available to them. \$\endgroup\$ – DC Malleus Nov 29 '18 at 22:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand your point for simplicity's sake it is what I would do but for one thing. We still need to follow the rule as written for the fact that the skirmish ability, both damage and AC bonuses, kicks in as soon as you have been 10' away from where you were at the start of your turn and this until your next turn. So yes as KRyan said, if you move 10' (even if calculated in a straight line) you will get the bonuses even if you come back to your previous square as it doesn't say you have to end your move 10' away from where you started at the beginning of your turn. \$\endgroup\$ – jonDraco Nov 30 '18 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fair points, I suspect the lack of specificity regarding the mechanics post-10' of movement was an oversight (but then again, maybe square dancing was an intended mechanism?), but I think both yourself and @KRyan are 100% correct that as long as the character has moved at least 10' away from their square of origin at any point on the turn in question skirmish is active from that point forward for the remainder of the round. Let me know if that correction makes sense and I'll remove my answer in favour of the more correct interpretation provided. \$\endgroup\$ – DC Malleus Nov 30 '18 at 0:35

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