Flanking 5e is an often misunderstood rule of Dungeons & Dragons. Flanking isn’t actually difficult to understand, but only certain situations count as flanking, and not every character can benefit from it. This can lead to frustration and spats at the table. Many Dungeon Masters ignore flanking rules entirely or make up homebrewed rules to fit the party better.
Let’s clarify exactly what flanking is: when two allies in melee combat with an opponent are on opposite sides of that enemy. DnD combat works on a grid system where each square is 5×5 feet. A medium-sized creature takes up a single square on the imaginary board. If your character stands directly in front of an enemy’s square and your friend is directly behind them, the enemy is considered flanked.
Who Can Flank in 5e?
Technically, any creature can flank in 5e, but the only people who should be flanking are characters built for melee combat. Your depressed wizard with 30 hit points should not be running in to flank an orc. Flanking is an excellent opportunity to use a familiar, summoned creature, or animal companion.
Who Can Benefit From Flanking?
Everyone is so concerned about flanking because when your enemy is flanked, you have advantage on melee attack rolls against them. This can greatly benefit you during combat as you’re much more likely to hit. Rogues generally need advantage to use Sneak Attack, so this is a great opportunity.
However, ranged attackers do not benefit from flanking. This applies to ranged spells and ranged weapon attacks. There is no advantage to flanking from their perspective.
Alexa spends the majority of her days explaining the ins and outs of DnD to her two cats, much to their dismay.