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Sneak attack requires that either your foe has lost their Dexterity bonus to AC, or that you personally are flanking that target. A foe flanked by your allies, but not by you personally, isn’t subject to sneak attack.

Is there any feat, class feature, etc. etc. out there that changes this? Could be an option for the sneak attacker or the flanker, e.g. something that says “you can sneak attack foes that your allies are flanking, even if you aren’t” or something that says “when you flank a foe, your allies also count as flanking that foe,” or something along those lines.

Since there has been some confusion, various scenarios where this would be relevant:

Grid Layout Notes
\begin{array}{c|c} \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} \\ \hline & & 😉 \\ \hline & \!\!\!\!🙂\rlap{\!🗡️} & 😡 \\ \hline & & 😉 \\ \hline \\ \end{array} \$🙂\!🗡️\$ is me with a melee weapon,
😉 are my allies, and
😡 is our foe.
\begin{array}{c|c} \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} \\ \hline & \!\!\!\!\!🙂\rlap{\!🏹} & & 😉 & 😡 & 😉 \\ \hline \\ \end{array} \$🙂\!🏹\$ is me with a ranged weapon,
😉 are my allies, and
😡 is our foe.
\begin{array}{c|c} \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} & \phantom{😡} \\ \hline & \!\!\!🙂\rlap{\!\!\!\!🔱} & 😉 & 😡 \\ \hline & & 😉 \\ \hline \\ \end{array} \$🙂\!\!\!\!🔱\$ is me with a reach weapon,
😉 are my allies who have island of blades, and
😡 is our foe.

Suggestions that can only handle some of these scenarios are acceptable, as are suggestions that have other caveats or limitations. Aside from island of blades mentioned in that third scenario, I’m not aware of anything that can change who counts as being flanked.

All non-epic/non-mythic officially-licensed D&D 3.5e or Pathfinder 1e content may be considered. Not interested in shenanigans; I want an official option that just does this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the goal to use this on a melee sneak attacker, who would also be threatening the target, or a ranged one who isn't threatening the target but would like to have sneak attack enabled? With the former any sort of feat that enables flanking from non-standard positions gets the job done, but the latter would require something more specific \$\endgroup\$
    – StephenTG
    Jun 21 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StephenTG I am open to answers that have limitations or caveats like that. But the only option I can think of line that is island of blades, which requires you to personally be adjacent to the target—my planned use is with a reach weapon, where I would not be. So an answer of just island of blades would be valid, but not really helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Heh. Read the comments, Joe! I just posted Island of Blades -- but since you're the person who introduced me to that Stance, I thought it might not meet your needs. Apparently it's the Microsoft answer...correct yet unhelpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoeNapalm
    Jun 22 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeNapalm Eh, still worthwhile to have mentioned here, in an actual answer, since it is an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re questioning here. To me, all that sentence means is that if you and an ally are both adjacent to multiple creatures, you flank all of them. For example, if we take my third scenario in the question but replace “me with a reach weapon” with a second enemy, the two allies don’t have to pick just one to be flanking. Both allies count as flanking both enemies. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 23 at 21:43

4 Answers 4

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Scenario 1: "When my allies are flanking a foe, if I threaten that foe then I count as flanking that foe"

First, you can (but don't have to) remove either one (but not both) of your allies from the diagram and still be counted as flanking that foe by employing the following feats:

  • The style feat Despana School (Drow of the Underdark 56), in addition to other benefits, allows you to remove either ally from the diagram and still leave you and the other ally flanking the foe if that other ally is a monster that you summoned. The feat doesn't require adjacency, so with this feat you're also flanking in scenario 3 as long as either ally is a monster that you summoned; this, too, renders the other ally irrelevant for flanking purposes and also eliminates scenario 3's need for the need for stance island of blades (Tome of Battle 37). The Despana School feat's prerequisite is a base attack bonus of +5, the ability to cast a summon monster spell, and the feats Power Attack (Player's Handbook 98) and Weapon Focus (PH 102), with the latter applied to either the light mace, heave mace, or warmace (Dungeon #133 80 superseding Complete Warrior 154, 158) (25 gp; 10 lbs.). You were building around this, right?

  • The general feat that's also a fighter bonus feat Double Team (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 95—6 and not to be confused with the totally different feat of the same name from the earlier Dragon #357 39) allows you to remove either ally from the diagram and still leave you and the ally flanking the foe if both you and that ally have this feat. This feat also doesn't require adjacency, so in scenario 3 you're also flanking if both you and either ally have this feat; in scenario 3, again, the other ally is rendered irrelevant for flanking purposes and the island of blades stance remains unnecessary. The Double Team feat's prerequisite is an excessive base attack bonus of +6 and the feat Combat Reflexes (Player's Handbook 92).

    If any route in this answer can be recommended, it's probably this feat. The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell heroics [trans] (Spell Compendium 113) can grant the feat to folks who meet its prerequisite so they don't have to actually take it. Heck, if the party has the heroics spell available, you don't have to take the Double Team feat. It's not like it's a prerequisite for anything.

  • The Rokugan ancestor (Crab) feat Great Teamwork (Oriental Adventures 63) allows you to remove either ally from the diagram and still leave you and the ally flanking the foe, but this benefit only applies while you're adjacent, so it does not also apply to scenario 3. Note that "[a]ny character can choose an ancestor feat, but only at 1st level" (Dragon #318 37), and the feat otherwise has no prerequisite. A similar benefit is realized from the feat Adaptable Flanker (Player's Handbook II 71, 74), but its prerequisite is ridiculous and its benefit inferior.

Now, with that out of the way, so far as I'm aware, only one official Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 game element facilitates flanking in the way that's actually desired in scenario 1: the teamwork benefit superior flank (Dungeon Master's Guide II 194).

Acquiring teamwork benefits

Because they're pretty obscure, here's the skinny on teamwork benefits: To acquire a teamwork benefit (Dungeon Master's Guide II 189—90) the team leader must have at least 4 Hit Dice, have at least an Intelligence score of 3, must be able to communicate with other members of the team, and meet the teamwork benefit's leader prerequisite, and each team member must have at least 4 Hit Dice, have at least an Intelligence score of 3, and meet the teamwork benefit's team member prerequisite. Then the team of 2—8 members (including the leader) trains together for 2 weeks, and one or more teamwork benefits are gained (up to 1 per 4 HD of the lowest-HD team member). Four times per year for 1 week each time, the team must again train together or else teamwork benefits are lost.

However, teamwork benefits just take time—no money need be spent to get teamwork benefits. Further, the design is fairly smart: the entire team need not be present for a teamwork benefit to be realized. If Jake's PC is the team leader or a team member and Jake's PC is dead, in prison, or off terrorizing peasants, then the rest of the team can go adventuring and still realize teamwork benefits (at least until it comes time to maintain the teamwork benefit).

Also, explicitly allowed to be team members are animal companions, familiars, and special mounts, but, of course, of course, they must still meet any benefit's prerequisite.

Superior Flank

For all this time and trouble, the teamwork benefit superior flank grants the following as its primary benefit:

Whenever two members of your team flank the same enemy, all members of the team can make melee attacks against that enemy as if they also flanked her. Creatures that can’t be flanked are unaffected.

Hence the teamwork ability superior flank only works with specific allies, but it does the thing that's desired in scenario 1 and your ally doesn't have to be a summoned monster or waste a feat to hang out with you, and you don't have to be from Rokugan. As an added incentive, every member of the team can do what you wanted to do, too. The team leader prerequisite for superior flank is sneak attack +4d6, and the team member prerequisite is base attack bonus +3.

Scenario 2: "When my allies are flanking a foe, I count as flanking that foe with a ranged weapon."

Nothing does this directly. However, as a curiosity, the whisperknife prestige class's level 9 extraordinary ability ranged flank says

At 9th level, you know how to flank a foe by using a ranged weapon. You must be within 10 feet of the enemy in question, and you flank as if you were wielding a reach weapon…. You do not threaten the foe and may not make attacks of opportunity against the foe unless you are actually adjacent to the foe and armed with a melee weapon. (Races of the Wild 136)

Got that? Okay. Scoot 5 ft. to the right. There. Good. Now, if you're a level 9 whisperknife—and I'm not judging you—, then you're kind of in scenario 3 instead. Good luck.

Scenario 3: "If my allies or I possess an exceptional ability, I count as flanking that foe with a reach weapon."

Scenario 1 already describes the Despana School and Double Team feats. They do this. There aren't further exceptions that I'm aware of.

Scenario X: "If I've got the monster's nose, my allies count as flanking that foe" and other unusual options

These are additional options that I thought might be of interest despite not meeting the above criteria.

  • The general feat and also fighter bonus feat Dedicated Nuisance (Dragon #343 93) allows you to make a melee touch that, if successful, "[u]ntil just before your next turn, all creatures adjacent to the target other than yourself are considered to be flanking the target." This benefit is mind-affecting so you can't play I've Got Your Nose with vampires or whatever. Ask the DM if this melee touch attack must be made exclusively to activate the feat or if it can be any ol' melee touch attack. (I suspect it should probably be the former, but I think the latter's at least balanced.) Note that you must still conventionally flank a foe whose nose you stole if you want to flank that foe; this feat only helps your allies. The Dedicated Nuisance feat's ridiculous prerequisite is an Intelligence score of 13, a base attack bonus of +4, and the feat Combat Expertise (Player's Handbook 92).

  • The tactical feat Clarion Commander (Tome of Battle 34) allows you to use the tactical maneuver perpetual flank that says

    To use this option, you make a DC 20 Intimidate check against an opponent as a standard action. If this check succeeds and you make a successful melee attack against the same foe on your next turn, you and your allies can treat that enemy as flanked for 1 minute.

    In all but the most unusual encounters, successfully executing this tactical maneuver means that its benefit lasts until that encounter ends. The standard action that's required for the setup is an extremely high price, though, and a foe can foil your attempt in a variety of ways even before you miss with next turn's attacks, but if you can pull it off then the tactical maneuver perpetual flank may turn the tide of the battle for the right group—like a band of rogues, for example. The Clarion Commander feat's prerequisite is a base attack bonus of +6, two White Raven maneuvers, and the feat White Raven Defense (33–4) that itself requires a White Raven stance.

  • If both you and an ally have the technique (ronin) feat Serpent's Coil (Way of the Thief 47) and you and that ally flank the same foe, until the two of you aren't flanking that foe, that foe loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class. No, you're not misreading, and welcome to AEG's Oriental Adventures line. The foe loses its Dexterity bonus to AC against everyone and against every attack. You and your allies can even still get in there and flank that foe, too, if you want. If your other allies specifically need flanking, though, this is no help, but in the majority of cases—and, let's be honest, like you said, that's dealing sneak attack damage—, this is as good as flanking if not better.

    Although the Serpent's Coil feat's prerequisite is only a base attack bonus of +4, that your allies also have to take it makes the actual price much higher. Even a DM who allows material from Way of the Thief may balk at allowing an animal companion or similar buddy to take the feat: the creature that takes the feat is supposed to be associated with the Serpents of Sanada organization described therein. Maybe they'll let your animal companion join? You can explain how he's a team player.


Note: This answer is for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 exclusively and is not meant to be comprehensive. The writer has deliberately ignored Pathfinder material.

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To a limited extent, there are Teamwork Feats that can fulfill your criteria. Note that all Teamwork Feats require that both you and the ally in question possess the feat.

Improved Outflank fits your requirements best, as it allows you and an ally to flank if you are adjacent to a square from which you could legally flank. Thank you @StephenTG for the reminder that this feat exists.

Blades Above and Below allows you and a differently sized ally to flank as long as you are both threatening the target, and the target is the same size category of either you or your ally.

Pack Flanking allows you to flank with an animal companion while you are adjacent or in the same square, and both threatening the same target. This is mostly useful for the Hunter class, as they can share Teamwork Feats with their animal companion after 3rd level.

For an option that ignores positioning entirely, there is the Advanced Rogue Talent Hunter's Surprise, which allows the Rogue to once per day cause all attacks made this turn against a single target to be sneak attacks, regardless of positioning or status. This is available at 10th level or later as a Rogue Talent.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You can add Improved Outflank to your list, as it's a bit more general than the other teamwork feats, though it does require two feats for both you and at least one other ally \$\endgroup\$
    – StephenTG
    Jun 21 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gah, the teamwork feats are just so aggressively mediocre. Improved Outflank is a weaker version of 3.5e’s island of blades, while costing way more (only one person needs island of blades, and it is one class feature among many for a 1st-level swordsage). Incomprehensible why they thought such pricey options required so many limitations. Still, +1 for relevant, albeit overpriced, options. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan They really are mediocre, unless you have a feature that lets you ignore the ally requirements like Inquisitors, or a way to share them with allies like Hunter. There are some rather ridiculous cases still, like a martial team running Paired Opportunist, Outflank, and Sieze the Moment with Rapiers, where every person flanking the target gets two attacks of opportunity every time that someone crits on a 15-20 threat range, and you start bouncing attacks across the target. Coincidentally, Teamwork feats were banned by that GM. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 21 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RayofLight Yeah, they’re designed around the assumption that you get to share them for free—which is insipid, since they read like you’re actually supposed to both take them—but even then, most, including these, have thoroughly unnecessary limitations, like the awkward “adjacent to a square from which you could flank” on Improved Outflank or the size requirement on Blades Above and Below. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21 at 19:33
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The 4th level ranger alternate class feature Distracting Attack, from PHB II p. 55, does exactly this. Any time the ranger hits an enemy with a weapon attack, melee or ranged, that enemy counts as being flanked for the next allied attack within a turn.

The problem (other than convincing some poor sod to take 4 levels of ranger and then trade away their emotional support animal companion) is that it lasts for a single attack. That might be fine at lower levels, but it is awkward, especially since this option doesn't even come online until level 4. Maybe you can convince your DM to let a druid take Distracting Attack, and then at least it would bridge from level 1 until iterative attacks.

Distracting Attack isn't a great practical solution, but it is mechanically exactly what you're looking for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it Distracting Attack or Distracting Shot? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's Distracting Attack, the page just has a big picture of Soveliss with a bow and I got some wires crossed. Thanks for the catch! It works on both melee and ranged. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 2:13
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Standard 3.5 rules don't use facing, so if a creature is flanked by you and your ally, then you both get a flanking bonus (and sneak attack, as applicable) regardless of which one of you the creature is looking at.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not at all the question asked. The question is about a target who is flanked by two of your ankles, neither of whom is you. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That makes for a disturbing image. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson Yeah, I almost deleted and re-submitted that comment after I noticed how my phone had screwed it up. ’tis a weird one. Particularly since “two of your” implies you have more than two... \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 15:38

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