We’ve done 610 comics at this point. The voluminous pages of the Handbook of Heroes have covered topics ranging from special snowflake one-shots to secret horse identity. Yet somehow, amidst all the dungeons and the dragons and the murders and the hobos, we haven’t talked about flanking. On behalf of the writing team, I would like to apologize for the oversight. Those responsible have been sacked.

Speaking as a GM, I quite enjoy a bit of tactical positioning. Getting a nice bonus for setting up my dudes strategically always struck me as smart design. After all, if we’re going to eschew the fluidity of theater of the mind it makes sense to leverage the grid for all it’s worth. The interesting decisions that come with circling around behind the party, cutting off their escape routes, and surrounding the vulnerable wizards and clerics make for a lovely waltz of move and countermove.

Speaking as a player, however, I find that the waltz breaks down into freestlying in a hurry. Where a GM can move many tokens with a single, unifying plan, players have a tougher time of it. That has a little something to do with the principles we talked about way back in our quarterbacking comic. Setting up a flank with another flesh and blood player requires you to verbally discuss the maneuver. Someone has to say, “Hey, why don’t you move over there on your turn?” And as Thief is discovering in today’s comic, that can feel uncomfortably like telling another warrior how to do his job.

Case in point, my Dead Suns party found themselves in a difficult fire fight last session. Surrounded by incorporeal baddies and minus one Starfinder thanks to some improbably bad hold person saves, they were being outmaneuvered by the forces of evil.

“Alright,” says yours truly. “The first oblivion shade spawn is going to move, then ready an action to attack. The second shade will skirt around to set up the flank. When shade 2 gets into position, shade 1 will take her readied action, thus allowing both baddies to get the +2 flanking bonus to hit.”

There was a moment of irate silence as my players absorbed this maneuver. Then, as one: “That’s bullshit!”

If you’ve ever played in the d20 system, you already know that there was nothing illegal about this move. What’s interesting though is the de facto unfairness of the situation that my players (correctly) spotted. It would feel like some odd species of metagaming if the party talked the same sequence out amongst themselves. The aforementioned quarterbacking would rear its head. Terms like “table talk” and objections like “you wouldn’t have time to discuss this in the heat of battle” enter the conversation. And upon reflection, I’d have to concede the point to my players. It is decidedly odd that the social conditions of play make strategic positioning more difficult for players than for GMs.

What do the rest of you guys think? Is this an accurate insight? And if so, are you OK with pausing the flow of play for in-depth discussions of which-square-should-I-stand-in? Or does it feel weird micromanaging the teams’ decisions in the name of maximum effectiveness? How do you handle this biz at your table? Give us all your most opinionated gamer opinions down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.