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Suppose a medium PC were wielding a reach weapon. If an enemy were to move through the weapon's reach, and into the 5ft "dead zone" directly adjacent to the PC, would that provoke an attack of opportunity? Is this natural reach area considered threatened for the sake of provoking AOOs?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the enemy also Medium? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may be interested in this question (specifically the second bullet). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28 at 3:54

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Yes, it provokes. This is a huge part of what makes reach weapons good.

This scenario really isn’t any different from moving away from someone. Moving from within their reach to outside their reach provokes. This is the same thing, only the area “outside their reach” is, in this case, closer to them instead of further away. That fact doesn’t really change anything.

In both cases, the relevant trigger for an attack of opportunity is moving out of a square that is threatened (without using some kind of special movement that avoids provoking, like a 5-foot step or Acrobatics). Clearly, moving out of their threatened area and into the “dead zone” (or outside their reach entirely) is moving out of a threatened square, so it provokes.

Furthermore, attacks of opportunity happen before the thing that triggers them. If someone tries to cast a spell and provokes, the attack of opportunity happens first, and can prevent the spellcasting entirely. Likewise, when someone tries to move out of a threatened square, the attack of opportunity happens before they leave it—and can even disrupt that action, e.g. if you trip them. So the fact that the provoked character can’t attack into the destination square—whether because that is too far away or because it’s within their dead zone—doesn’t matter. The attack of opportunity happens in the square they were leaving, which they can attack into (by definition, since that’s what it means to threaten it).

Is this natural reach area considered threatened for the sake of provoking AOOs?

The character may or may not threaten that area, depending on how they are otherwise armed. Assuming a typical humanoid, without any particular feats, and using your typical two-handed reach weapon, they do not threaten that area, because they’re not armed with anything that can hit that area. But there are various ways they could be armed with something that does hit that area:

  • They might be using a one-handed reach weapon, and have a non-reach weapon in the other hand.
  • They might have more than two hands, and have a non-reach weapon in one of the other hands.
  • They might have Improved Unarmed Strike, and be considered “armed” with just their legs, elbows, head, etc.
  • They might have some other natural weapon they can use with their hands full, such as a bite or gore attack. Note that claws would not typically be available here.

However, the important thing here is it does not matter whether they threaten that area for the question of whether or not the movement provokes an attack of opportunity and whether or not the character can take that opportunity. Regardless of whether or not they threaten the reach weapon’s “dead zone,” the attack of opportunity happens before the target enters the dead zone, in the area that the reach weapon threatens. Thus, even if they do threaten the “dead zone” with some other weapon, that isn’t the weapon they’re using to take the attack of opportunity: they’re using the reach weapon for that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to address Is this natural reach area considered threatened for the sake of provoking AOOs? specifically. (Or urge the asker to ask that part separately.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28 at 4:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wasn't this actually part of some sort of munchkin build in certain RPGs? I distinctly remember an Order of the Stick comic with a Half-Ogre using a spiked chain as his weapon who would abuse reach weapons and Spring Attack to fend off melee attackers. giantitp.com/comics/oots0216.html \$\endgroup\$
    – Nzall
    Commented May 28 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ultimately moot since the AoO happens before the target ever gets there, but sure, addressed it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 28 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nzall Yes, I thought of that too—only reason I didn’t link it from my answer is because of Pathfinder’s silly nerf of the spiked chain that kills that build (and that item in general, for any purpose). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 28 at 14:01

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