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A typical flat-footed creature can't make attacks of opportunity, but does a flat-footed creature still enable allies to benefit from flanking if the creature's appropriately armed? Similarly, does an armed creature still technically threaten a square even if it currently can't make attacks or attacks of opportunity, whether because it's flat-footed, exhausted its attacks of opportunity, petrified, or even dead?

Example

It's the first round of combat. The sinister achaierai goes first, taking a double move that places it adjacent to Bob who conveniently possesses the feat Improved Unarmed Strike. Chris goes next, taking a normal move—while drawing his longspear—that places him in a position to flank with Bob the goofy Acheron-spawned bird-beast. Chris takes a standard action to make a standard attack.

Does Bob's mere armed presence enable Chris to gain the benefits of flanking the achaierai?

enter image description here An achaierai. They're 15 feet tall and arrive in flocks of 5–8.

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From the D&D Glossary: threaten:

To be able to attack in melee without moving from your current space. A creature typically threatens all squares within its natural reach, even when it is not its turn to take an action. For a Medium or Small creature this usually includes all squares adjacent to its space. Larger creatures threaten more squares, while smaller creatures may not threaten any squares except their own.

Source: PHB

As long as the creature could make an attack on its own turn, it threatens a square. As an example of when a character could be armed and not threaten an area, during the surprise round, I would argue that a character does not threaten any squares, because they would not have a turn in the initiative order. Similarly, a petrified or dead creature would not normally be able to attack on its turn, and therefore, would not be a threat.

In your example, since this appears to be a standard round of combat (and not the surprise round), and both Bob and Chris are aware of the threat and engaged in combat with it, Bob would provide a flanking bonus.

Hope this helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Because attacks of opportunity are taken off-turn, does this mean that a creature that was able to make attacks on its last turn threatens until its next turn or does this mean that a creature that will be able to make attacks on its next turn threatens until that next turn? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 15 '16 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I would say that a creature that will be able to make attacks on its next turn threatens. Remember, AoO's don't have any in-game relation to threat, per the definitions. As an example, if I hit you last turn, but your Medusa friend petrified me, I would no longer be very threatening. \$\endgroup\$ – Reibello Jul 15 '16 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Huh. It'd be great if this were more than speculation. I know that the Rules of the Game columns sometimes cause more harm than good, and this 2004 thread isn't particularly useful either, but maybe they'll at least give you something else to look at. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 15 '16 at 1:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for something based in the text itself, I would advise you to consider the tense in which the rules are written. If, at the moment a creature provokes an AoO, you are eligible to make one, then you may. If you were under an effect that prevented you from attacking until the end of your turn, it would not impact your ability to make an AoO. If you were unable to make an attack until the start of your next turn, then you would be ineligible. Is there a particular circumstance you have in mind? \$\endgroup\$ – Reibello Jul 15 '16 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @joedragons I don't think so? I'm saying the DMG says that if a dude can't act during the surprise round, he doesn't even make an initiative check until the first regular combat round. I didn't speculate at all as to what that means. (Also, me bringing it up was only to guess as to why the answer mentions the surprise round in the first place. The author should probably clarify now that we're both wondering.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 16 '16 at 1:04
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Does a flat-footed creature still enable allies to benefit from flanking if the creature's appropriately armed?

Yes. The definition (as per your link) of flat-footed says this:

A flat-footed creature loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (if any) and cannot make attacks of opportunity.

It says nothing about preventing you from threatening the squares around (which is possible because of Improved Unarmed Strike).

Also, the definition of Threaten (from the same source):

To be able to attack in melee without moving from your current space.

This also does not rule out flat-footed as you are still able to attack from your space without moving (note that opportunity attacks are just a special type of attack). This can be contrasted with being Stunned, for example, which prevents you from taking actions, and thus would prevent you from threatening the area around you.

Does an armed creature still technically threaten a square even if it currently can't make attacks or attacks of opportunity, whether because it's flat-footed, exhausted its attacks of opportunity, petrified, or even dead?

No. If you cannot attack that square in melee without moving, you do not threaten it (barring exceptions from feats, etc. as usual).

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems contradictory. That is, a flat-footed creature unable to make attacks of opportunity is still dangerous enough to enable others to flank but not dangerous enough to even technically threaten the area around it? Also, although it's dumb, there's an argument that attacks of opportunity aren't, technically, actions at all, enabling a stunned creature to make them normally (although I've never heard this being allowed in actual play). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 14 '16 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is wrong. The number of AoO you have left to use has no impact on the area you threaten. Even if you don't have any AoO left, you still threaten the area around you as normal. If you rule that you don't threaten when you can't attack, technically no one ever threatens anything, since you can't attack (ie. take the Attack action) when it isn't your turn. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jul 14 '16 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan: My argument is that they do still threaten the area around them, they just can't make an AoO. But yeah, it is dumb. I can't find anything that seems to actually say anything about what type of action an Opportunity Attack is (or whether it is an action or not). Kind of weird since they manage to assign talking an action type but not an AoO... \$\endgroup\$ – firedraco Jul 14 '16 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage: Is that comment referring to my post or Hey I Can Chan's comment? \$\endgroup\$ – firedraco Jul 14 '16 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @firedraco An Action is something you do on your turn. An AoO is something you can (only) do when it isn't your turn. Therefore, it isn't an Action. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Jul 15 '16 at 1:39
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Does Bob's mere armed presence enable Chris to gain the benefits of flanking the achaierai?

YES

Related: flanking vs concealment (invisibility)

I know of no rules that actually deny threatening (= flanking) an area, other than the ones mentioned/being prone etc. According to RAW, AoO's have no relation to threatening an area, thus flanking has no relation to AoO's.

I find this logical; the defender incurs penalties for having more trouble anticipating/reacting to (all possible) attacks, let's call it distraction. Even adjacent flat-footed opponents look dangerous, thus distracting the flanked creature. Flanking is calculated every turn as a result of movement/position, not as the result of a possible action.

Also, if flanking would not apply in this case, why would it then still apply after a flanking creature has completed his turn? He can't attack anymore (other then AoO as a result of the flanked creatures' own choices), after all...

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    \$\begingroup\$ So that this is a fully-supported answer on its own, it's preferable that it answer the question independently by including any necessary statements, and refer to other answers only to give due credit. (For example, if any “reasons already mentioned” get deleted (which has just happened) this answer could stop making sense.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '16 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie; Done, I've learned something today! (Please do not delete your comment!) \$\endgroup\$ – agodwithoutananswer Jul 21 '16 at 5:42
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No on all accounts

When flat-footed,

you can't make attacks of opportunity.

And

You threaten all squares you can make attacks into, even when it's not your action.

If you can't make attacks, you do not threaten.

You gain flanking bonuses if

your opponent is threatened by a character or creature friendly to you on the opponent’s opposite border or opposite corner

To threaten is not a static state, but defined by your current situation; you must be armed, be able to reach the opponent, the opponent cannot have cover or have total concealment, and you must not otherwise be prevented from attacking or acting out of turn (if it's not your turn). You must be able to attack at the time whether-or-not-you-threaten comes into question (when an enemy provokes, or an ally attacks from a flanking position).

If you don't threaten, you don't provide flanking bonuses. Further, you don't threaten, nor provide flanking bonuses if you've exhausted your attacks of opportunity, are paralyzed or dead, or for whatever reason cannot make an attack or an attack of opportunity.

There is no super-set of consequence of when you can make an attack, but when you cannot make an attack out of turn. You technically threaten when it's your turn, even if you can't make an attack of opportunity, but there is no situation where this is relevant. An ally could potentially ready an action to attack on your turn to gain a flanking bonus if you could act on your turn, but were prevented from making an attack of opportunity.

Does Bob's mere armed presence enable Chris to gain the benefits of flanking the achaierai?

In your example, since Bob has not acted, he is flat-footed and does not provide flanking bonuses to Chris.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a mis-parsing of the sentence defining threatened squares. The statement is that “You threaten [...] even when it’s not your action,” i.e. that you threaten outside your own turn. It modifies when you threaten. It does not modify the requirement about ability to attack, because no one has the ability to attack when it’s not their action (barring attacks of opportunity, which you cannot do except when triggered and they would never be triggered if you do not otherwise threaten). Your reading would render the rule nonfunctional. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 15 '16 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you don’t threaten, you cannot take an attack of opportunity. If you can’t take an attack of opportunity, you can’t attack when it’s not your action. By your reading, since you can’t attack before the attack of opportunity, you don’t threaten—which means you’ll never get an attack of opportunity. Your reading also completely ignores the word “even” and the comma between the two clauses. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 15 '16 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ “It follows that if you can't make an attack of opportunity, you don't threaten” is your statement, and if that were true, attacks of opportunity would never exist—because if you can’t make an attack of opportunity if you don’t threaten. Since it’s impossible for one to be true without the other already being true, neither can ever be true. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 15 '16 at 19:24

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