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This came up in game last night: the Fighter, with Aggressive Block, Shield Blocks an attack. The Fighter and their attacker are in a narrow corridor - here is what the map looks like, where the Fighter is F, and the attacker X:

| |
|X|
|F|
| |

The attacker chooses to be moved (per Aggressive Block). The Fighter, who gets to "choose the direction" (per Aggressive Block), wants to move them into one of the walls so that they instead become flat-footed. However, Shove only lets you push the target away from you. In session, we ruled that the Fighter couldn't push the attacked into the wall, forcing flat-footed; I imagined it was for something against larger enemies where the direction away might be a bit more ambiguous, such as the following map (the X's being one large enemy):

| | | | | |
+-+-+-+-+-+
| |X|X| | |
+-+-+-+-+-+
| |X|X| | |
+-+-+-+-+-+
| | |F| | |
+-+-+-+-+-+

Did we make the right ruling? Can Aggressive Block truly send an enemy in any direction, thereby always guaranteeing flat-footed if your attacker is adjacent to a wall (and the Fighter wants flat-footed)?

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3 Answers 3

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You can Shove as long as it's away from you

As you noted Shove can normally only push creatures away, but there are various directions that would be "away" from the creature pushing (including North-West and North-East in your example). This can be further extended to directly East or West if you consider that diagonal squares truly measure 1.5 squares of distance like this for a 5-ft/square grid:

| |    |   |    |    |
+-+----+---+----+----+
| |12.5|10.|12.5|15.0|
+-+----+---+----+----+
| |7.50|5.0|7.50|12.5|
+-+----+---+----+----+
| |5.00|F.0|5.00|10.0|
+-+----+---+----+----+

Considering distance this way gives more real-to-life results for a map, but the in-game rules for movement/spell areas (see this diagram of measurements) would have all of these values rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 and allow for less possible directions of pushing if they happen to be directly North/South/East/West on the grid:

| |  |  |  |  |
+-+--+--+--+--+
| |10|10|10|15|
+-+--+--+--+--+
| |5.|5.|5.|10|
+-+--+--+--+--+
| |5.|F.|5.|10|
+-+--+--+--+--+

Regardless of measurement, a push to any square that is farther away from you follows the rules for Shove and would be legitimate.

I don't believe the line in Agressive Block "If it chooses to be moved, you choose the direction." means that you can ignore the result of Shove "You push a creature away from you". And even if it does allow you to ignore that stipulation, there still doesn't seem to be any rule preventing choosing a direction towards any adjacent wall/creature/etc to automatically give flat-footed if you desire.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Right, pushing X diagonally "back" away from F, into the squares you've labelled "10" would yield the flatfooted result, rater than a move, since the wall intercedes. \$\endgroup\$
    – reedstrm
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no reason that choosing to push an enemy toward a wall (and failing because there is nowhere for them to go) to cause them to become flat-footed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 7:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso The final line of Aggressive Block linked in the original post - "If the Shove would cause it to hit a solid object, enter a square of difficult terrain, or enter another creature’s space, it must become flat-footed instead of being moved". This comes after stating that the blocker chooses which direction to Shove. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 16:50
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Hmm, my reading of RAW is the Fighter chooses the direction of the Shove, so can in fact chose into an adjacent wall (or difficult terrain, or additional opponent). It's pretty clear to me that the ability to chose direction has nothing to do with size: it's more that allowing the Shoved opponent to always just "step away" would negate much of the utility of this feat. In fact, as to size, the feat states:

[…] the opponent that triggered Shield Block is adjacent to you and is your size or smaller.

so the situation in your second diagram cannot occur.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ mmm I didn't think about the size limitation, although to be fairly nitpicky, a simple Enlarge spell does make it so that the situation can occur again. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, something I thought of; if the Fighter can choose any direction, what is to prevent the Fighter from simply choosing "towards himself" and thereby forcing flat-footed via the "enter another creature's space" clause? \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @brandon has it right that Shove has to be away, so not possible to use it to pull. I was thinking the diagonally-away spaces that are "into the wall" on either side of the attacker would be where the fighter could choose. \$\endgroup\$
    – reedstrm
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 17:15
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You made the right call (I think)

Aggressive Block is not very descriptive of the circumstances in its final sentence, but it seems to establish that an enemy pressed to the wall cannot choose movement to get out of any disadvantageous effect.

_______
| |X| |
+-+-+-+
| |F| |
+-+-+-+

The language could be much more clear if the Fighter was supposed to be able to Shove a creature into a wall to force flat-footed instead (often better for a sword-and-board Fighter than having the enemy further away*). Something like "If you Shove the enemy into a wall..." or similar. But in this case it's the absolute "If the Shove would..." instead of 'could'. To me, this shows that the only time an enemy is forced to be flat-footed is when the Shove option would not provide any effect to the Fighter.


*The enemy isn't necessarily further away since the Fighter can choose to follow along with them when Shoving if they are willing to perform a Stride

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