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Definition

Prone is a condition to which a creature may be subject.

Conditions alter a creature's capabilities in a variety of ways ... Most conditions ... are impairments, but a few ... can be advantageous.

Now,

Combatants ... lying on the ground ... are prone.

But the rules never specify that literally lying on the ground is a necessary condition. On the contrary, the designers have clarified that

You can almost always be knocked prone. About the only time it's physically impossible for you to be knocked prone is when you're affixed to something that keeps you upright.

and

If you're knocked prone underwater, you're subjected to the effects of the prone condition as normal. One way to visualize it is that you're floundering.

And even, specifically with regard to hovering

Q: If a creature is swimming, hovering or is otherwise unable to fall (e.g. chained to a wall), does knocking them prone actually inflict the prone condition?

A: If it's physically impossible for you to be prone, you're not subject to the prone condition.

So, it appears that, both RAW and RAI, you can be subject to the prone condition, regardless of the medium.


Applications

Specifically, with respect to flying, the rules address scenarios where a flying creature may be subject to the prone condition.

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.

Allowing for a flying creature to remain magically aloft or hover while prone.


Present Dilemma

But, the rules on prone movement are contradictory:

A prone creature’s only Movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.

Leaving unclear how to resolve this for e.g. swimming or flying creatures. Because, literally standing up in any conventional sense of the term is impossible.

Fortunately, the Combat rules for being prone specifically clarify that in combat

To move while prone, you must crawl or use magic such as teleportation ...

But, this is also a little ambiguous. On a strict reading, any movement is impossible for a prone, flying creature who cannot literally crawl or teleport. But, this seems unreasonable; intuitively, it ought to be able to move, but it’s still unclear to me.


Inquiry

My concern is, principally, can a prone, flying creature move at all, RAW, or does it need to do a mid-air stand-up before it can move?

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2 Answers 2

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Prone is prone and is mechanically the same, even if you're flying and don't actually fall to the ground because you have hover or flight magic. Being prone in midair could mean being disoriented, for example, tumbling uncontrollably, and it takes some effort to stabilize and get back to flying properly. You could move without recovering, and it uses the same rules as crawling -- you spend an extra foot for each foot of movement. But since removing prone costs half your movement, it's usually better to just "stand up" and recover.

Note the nearly identical discussion in What happens when a swimming creature falls prone?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Sep 26, 2022 at 19:11
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The rules are unclear.

As What happens when a swimming creature falls prone? points out, There are no rules that cover this. So the best we can do is apply the general rules and treat Prone as a condition that takes on different flavors. In this case "Crawling" in the clause

A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl

is likewise, best interpreted as a flavor

If we rule that being Prone is a condition that has different flavors in different media, then you ought to be able to willfully move, while airborne and prone. If we flavor "being prone and airborne" as "tumbling through the air", then "crawling while airborne" may appear as a tumbling creature trying to float in a given direction. This stilted flying is a flavor of the RAW crawling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll leave a gentle reminder to avoid namecalling, which includes describing actions in ways that feel personal. More generally you may find Why is an answer being downvoted without any comments? useful. I suspect not everyone is happy with your leap in logic, or that you an in a way presenting the narration solution from a different Q&A as if it were the rules, and obfuscating it as a link. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 23, 2022 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil, ok . Good points. \$\endgroup\$
    – nonymous
    Sep 24, 2022 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this is a terrible answer, but they leap in logic here makes this unnecessarily confusing. This feels more like a tangential discussion prompt to a different answer to a different question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 24, 2022 at 5:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nonymous The whole approach to the question, you don't address "Can a prone, flying creature move, and how does it resolve the prone condition?", rather you start 3 steps later assuming a lot of what the answer to the other question addresses without refering to the approach - it reads disjointed. Which is understandable for someone who has read all of that, but your answer should stand on its own. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 25, 2022 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to gently advise against comments like that (which has now been removed twice). Implying that someone has simply failed to understand your answer is both rude and unproductive. And generally don't repeat comments. It was removed in response to a flag. If we delete a comment and we forget or opt not to explain it, raise a flag on the post asking (nicely) for an explanation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 26, 2022 at 16:40

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