This material is designated as Open Game Content.
The grey elves charge the field atop their proud griffons, the sky elves swoop down to decimate their enemies, giant eagles carry off deadly barrels of naphtha to sink enemy ships and high elf wizards rain a barrage of magic missiles from above. Given the magical nature of elves and their friendship with flying creatures, it is not surprising that they find themselves fighting in the air more often than other races. This chapter details a simple and complete system to simulate aerial battles without bogging down the game into all the details that would go into a strategic miniatures game.
You can find the rules for aerial tactical movement in SRD, which detail what a flying creature can do depending on its manoeuvrability. As they stand, the rules work very well when only one of the involved combatants is capable of flight, but they start to break down as more opponents take to the air, complicating matters as a third dimension is added to tactical movement, and the speeds and the distance covered in flight surpass the capacity of a simple gaming grid.
The time two flying combatants spend in direct contact with each other is minimal compared to the long engagements that occur during melee combat on the ground. Two opponents move at varying speeds in relation to each other, rendering the normal rules for ranged attacks and tactical movement, if not useless, at least extremely cumbersome.
Air Combat Basics
Air combat can be summarized in two phases: the positioning phase consists of out-thinking the enemy. Each flyer tries to exploit its own strengths and its opponent’s weaknesses in flight capability. The attack phase is straight-forward combat, when both combatants deal damage depending on how they are situated in relation to each other, a position that they must have determined in the first phase.
The system for aerial combat simplifies all the mechanics and calculations that would normally go into a fight between two or more flying opponents. It uses all of the existing information for characters and creatures and introduces a few concepts that do not interfere at all with how the rules work. The most important concepts in aerial combat are speed and manoeuvrability, the flight bonus, arcs, relative range and altitude.
Speed and Manoeuvrability
These two values determine how fast and well a creature moves in the air. A fast creature can easily overcome a slower one and use its advantage to position itself more favourably, like setting itself up for a dive and rend attack, or able to choose an angle of attack that will not provoke a retaliation. A very manoeuvrable creature has the advantage of adaptability, as it can turn and move in sharper turns, allowing for surprise attacks and better defence.
Both factors are already listed in each creature’s entry in Core Rulebook III, while the information for flying magic items and magic are in the other two core rulebooks. Core Rulebook II lists all that a creature can do according to its manoeuvrability, like flying backwards, hovering, the minimum speed necessary to maintain flight, climbing and diving limits and turn angles. This information is useful to determine if the creature can actually do what it is trying to do, but it all boils down to a single number in the form of the flight bonus.
The Flight Bonus
Flying creatures add their flight bonus to certain die rolls when flying around each other looking for openings, or when attempting complicated flight manoeuvres. A creature’s flight bonus is:
size modifier + (speed factor x manoeuvrability multiplier (rounding down) )
The size modifier is the same as the one used for AC and attacks. The speed factor is equal to 1 for every full 10 feet of fly speed, and the manoeuvrability multiplier is described below.
|Examples (values are given between parentheses)|
|Creature||Size||Speed /Manoeuvrability||Flight Bonus|
|7th level human sorcerer under fly spell||Medium (+0)||90 ft. (9) / Good (x1.5)||+13|
|Beholder||Large (-1)||20 ft (2) / Good (x1.5)||+2|
|Chimera||Large (-1)||50 ft. (5) / Poor (x.75)||+2|
|Gargoyle||Medium (+0)||75 ft. (7) / Average (x1)||+7|
|Griffon||Large (-1)||80 ft. (8) / Average (x1)||+7|
|Juvenile Gold Dragon||Large (-1)||200 ft. (20) / Poor (x.75)||+14|
|Manticore||Huge (-2)||50 ft. (5) / Clumsy (x.5)||+0|
|Pegasus||Large (-1)||120 ft. (12) / Average (x1)||+11|
|Will-o’ Wisp||Small (+1)||50 ft. (5) / Perfect (x2)||+11|
|Wyvern||Huge (-2)||60 ft. (6) / Poor (x.75)||+2|
The pegasus and the dragon are accomplished aerial fi ghters, because of their speed and manoeuvrability, with magic giving the sorcerer a great edge. The wyvern and the manticore do not fare well against other fl yers, being mainly predators who hunt grounded prey. Even if the will-o’ wisp and the beholder err on the slow side of speed, their good and perfect manoeuvrability allow them to break off from aerial combat easily, although the beholder has its size stacked against it.
The Manoeuvre Check
When performing tactical manoeuvres or some aerial attacks, the creature rolls a manoeuvre check. This check consists of a skill check or saving throw with the flight bonus added to the result. Players and Games Masters choose what skill or save applies to the creatures or characters, and this choice remains until the end of the aerial encounter.
|If the flyer is…||Add the flight bonus to…|
|A flying creature||Reflex saves|
|A character riding a flying creature, with the Flying Mounted Combat feat||Ride or Handle Animal checks|
|A character riding a flying creature, without the Flying Mounted Combat feat||Ride checks, Handle Animal checks are at -2|
|A character polymorphed into a flying creature||Reflex saves|
|A winged character||Reflex saves|
|A character under the effects of a spell that allows flight *||Spellcraft check or Reflex save|
|A character using a magic item to fly *||Use Magic Device or Spellcraft checks, or Reflex saves|
* For magic-enabled flight, consult the spell or magic item’s description for speed and manoeuvrability.
A flying creature has six angles from which it can launch attacks or be attacked from. Some attack actions can only be aimed at certain angles as defined in each attack’s description.
Front: Where the creature is facing. This is the most dangerous angle as the creature usually has several natural attacks in wait, plus it is where any rider concentrates his attacks as well. Most of the aerial attacks described later can be performed from the front angle.
Flanks: Every creature has a left and a right flank. It is partially vulnerable on its sides as not all of its natural attacks are available, though a rider can easily turn to either side to cover them. Flank attacks are difficult unless the opponent matches or overcomes the creature’s speed.
Rear: The most vulnerable angle as the creature has few or no natural weapons to the rear and, even then, it is very cumbersome to attack or defend in that manner. Most flying combat involves the opponents manoeuvring to attack their enemy’s rear. All attacks on an enemy’s rear gain a +2 bonus to the attack and damage rolls.
Top: A creature is not aware of everything that happens above it, although a rider has a wider perspective. For many creatures, their top angle is also vulnerable as they cannot adequately defend it. An armed rider takes care of this, but he places himself in danger from attacks from this angle. All attacks on a riderless enemy’s top gain a +1 bonus to the attack and damage rolls.
Bottom: Attacking a flying creature from below can be very effective, but it is also very difficult. A rider does not see what happens below his mount, but the creature certainly does, and any attacker coming up is at a disadvantage as its speed is reduced in a climb, and the defending creature can veer off more easily, or initiate its own dive attack with a speed increase. If an attack hits, however, most creatures’ vitals are exposed, which is why aerial barding has more chest plates than the armour for ground mounts. All attacks on an enemy’s bottom angle gain a +2 bonus to the attack but provoke an attack of opportunity. Regardless of circumstances, a rogue can perform a sneak attack on an enemy’s bottom angle if the target is not immune to it.
Distance in ground combat is easy to determine as combatants stay put or generally do not cover much ground out of caution or strategy. Distances remain more or less the same. Aerial combat is fast and furious, with opponents speeding or slowing to try to gain an advantageous position, and climbing or diving to gain and lose momentum. Distances between opponents change wildly, and they do so in three dimensions. What happens on the ground is unimportant and aerial combatants will often fly far away from their grounded allies as they concentrate on their flying enemy.
Aerial combat bases its tactical movement phase on relative ranges, rather than absolute. This is the distance creatures keep from each other at all times, depending on their speed and manoeuvres, ignoring the absolute distance they move according to their speed in relation to the ground. The relative range always has the creature at its centre, with four ranges emanating away in concentric circles. These circles are the areas of influence of a creature, and determine what it can do in a single round of combat. The ranges are, from outermost to central:
Dogfight Range: This is the furthest distance at which a flying creature is considered engaged in aerial combat with another. It is equal to four times its speed, so that a pegasus has a dogfight range of 480 feet, while a juvenile gold dragon can begin engaging in combat at 800 feet. It measures the distance that a creature can cover in a full ‘run’ to reach a target, but without getting an action and provoking an attack of opportunity. Many tactical manoeuvres occur at this range.
Charge Range: Once a creature moves within twice its speed from another, it enters charge range, the distance it can cover in a charge action and get an attack at +2 bonus with a -2 penalty to AC, or in a double-move action without an attack action. The pegasus has a charge range of 240 feet, and the dragon of 400 feet.
Move Range: This is the distance a creature can move normally at its speed and still get a standard action. The pegasus has a move range of 120 feet, and the dragon of 200 feet.
Melee Range: This is as close as two aerial combatants dare to approach each other without risk of locking (see the attack actions). It equals the creature’s reach, with the pegasus having a range of 5 feet, and the dragon of 10 feet. Note that no pegasus in its right mind would want to get so close to a dragon. Riders can extend this range with reach weapons such as halberds and skylances.
Distance Attack Range: This is a special range that ignores the previous ones, as it can extend through all of them. It is the distance from special attacks and abilities, and each has its own range. For example, the juvenile gold dragon can stay within move range and breathe its 40-feet long cone of fire, or the pegasus’ rider (a 4th level wizard / 2nd level fighter) can start firing magic missiles (140 feet range) at targets just outside the pegasus’ move range.
It does not matter how fast a creature can fly if its wings or lungs give out at a higher altitude, or when a slow enemy can outmanoeuvre it among high trees and narrow canyons. Altitude can play an important part during aerial combat.
Keeping track of altitude in aerial combat follows the same simplified rules as relative range. Instead of maintaining a record of the exact altitude a creature is at, calculate how many ranges separate it from the ground. Without performing any special manoeuvres that would increase its speed, a creature descends one range per round, given that one range equals its move speed. All flyers may descend two ranges using the same move-equivalent action if they wish, and all creatures except those with perfect manoeuvrability can only ascend a half range without extra effort.
Aerial combat is a series of dodges and quick feints up and down so, unless the creature willingly makes an effort to climb or dive, it is considered to remain in the same altitude range. Note that different creatures will have different altitude ranges even if they are flying at the same distance from the ground. This means that each will reach the ground sooner or later than others.
Attacks of Opportunity
Attacks of opportunity are determined using the same rules as ground combat, except that the threatened area extends below the creature and above if the creature or any rider has weapons that can aim at the top angle.
For example, a creature in dogfight range in one round is taking a run action that will attract an attack of opportunity if the defender is able to strike in that direction. A creature closing in from its charge range will not, whether it is charging or taking a double-move action. A creature closing in from its move range may provoke an attack of opportunity if it passes through a threatened space.
Extended Attacks of Opportunity
Given how quickly and unpredictably a flying creature moves, it threatens the front, bottom and flanks angles within its move range under special circumstances. If an opponent flies through its move range while performing nothing else except a move or a run action, the creature can change course to intercept and deal an attack of opportunity. Both opponents make an opposed manoeuvre check (Reflex save bonus or skill modifier + flight bonus), if the defender wins, it manages to dodge the intercepting creature. If the attacker wins, it proceeds to a normal attack roll.
As a normal ground encounter, combat begins in the air when the two combatants spot each other. They proceed to look for a way inside their opponent’s guard and prepare magic and weapons as they come nearer and nearer. If one of the creatures wishes to avoid combat, the normal rules for pursuit apply until the other catches up or is lost. If both express hostile intentions, they approach until one of them has the other within its dogfight range, at which point aerial combat begins. Note that a creature with a higher dogfight range can start combat actions first, setting the terms of the fight thanks to its speed. It falls to the other combatant to rely on wits and manoeuvrability to resist any initial attack.
Unlike encounters in the ground, spotting distance in aerial combat is a matter of miles, not feet. To spot a flying target, the characters must roll a Spot check with a base DC of 20, modified by conditions like contrast with the landscape, number of creatures, and lighting conditions as in the table in chapter 3 of Core Rulebook II. The table overleaf gives the spotting distances for aerial encounters based on weather and size of the creature to spot. Fine and diminutive targets cannot be spotted until they are within the creature’s move range.
Spotting Distance (in feet)
|Clear*||750 ft.||1,500 ft.||3,000 ft.||6,000 ft.||12,000 ft.||18,000 ft.||21,000 ft.|
|Light Fog / Heavy Rain / Light Clouds||300 ft.||600 ft.||1,050 ft.||1,500 ft.||3,000 ft.||4,500 ft.||6,000 ft.|
|Dense Fog / Dense Clouds||5 ft.||5 ft.||15 ft.||15 ft.||15 ft.||30 ft.||30 ft.|
|Mist / Light Rain||375 ft.||750 ft.||1,500 ft.||3,000 ft.||6,000 ft.||9,000 ft.||9,000 ft.|
* Do not roll a Spot check on clear weather, opponents see each other automatically when within spotting distance.
Estimated Time of Arrival
The estimated time of arrival (commonly known as ETA) measures how many rounds it will take for two creatures to cover the distance between them. Special manoeuvring has no effect until at least one creature engages the other at its dogfight range. Until that time, any movement one of the opponents makes, the other can easily compensate for.
To calculate the ETA, determine the spotting distance and divide it by the sum of both opponents speed. With the pegasus and the dragon, they would spot each other at 6,000 feet on a clear day (both are large creatures), if they start approaching each other instantly, they will be engaging in 18 rounds (6,000 / (120 + 200) ); plenty of time for either to start preparing anything they want to surprise their opponent with. During the clash of armies with aerial combatants, opponents usually start their encounter much closer than spotting distance as they break formation; the Games Master should determine this distance and calculate ETA as appropriate.
Once one of the creatures has the other in its dogfight range, aerial combat begins in earnest. Instead of using a normal grid to calculate positions, place the Player Characters at the centre of all the action, with their melee, move, charge and dogfi ght ranges extending outwards, with both they and their enemies trying to move around each other for a better angle of attack. Place the two combatants facing off at the angles at which they approached each other. For example, if a creature is sneaking upon another, it is flying from its opponent’s rear angle, and when they are on a clashing course, it approaches from its enemy’s front angle.
In a round, a creature can attempt to move one or more ranges towards or away from the other or change angle of approach, using its own range information and movement rates. Both opponents roll a manoeuvre check using their Reflex save or an applicable skill modifier, plus their flight bonus. The moving creature must choose a course of action that further modifies its roll. The creature with the higher result outmanoeuvres the other, meaning that if the creature attempting to close in or move out wins, it performs its movement normally, but if the other creature wins it can decide how much it allows its opponent to move, from allowing a normal movement to keeping the distance unchanged.
Match Speed: The creature moves at the same speed as its opponent and keeps its distance unchanged, maintaining its range and angle. The creature does not roll a manoeuvre check to match speed with a slower opponent, but it rolls a normal opposed check if the opponent is faster. If the creature rolls lower, the opponent can determine it if loses pace or maintains the distance. A creature that loses pace moves one range outwards and shifts one angle towards the rear.
Close In/Move Out: The creature tries to approach or escape its opponent. It can attempt to move as many ranges as it can afford, spending a move-equivalent, double move or run action. Each option carries its own modifiers, and moving out is easier than closing in because there is no creature to worry about in the outbound direction.
Shift Angle: The creature tries to change its attack angle to a more convenient one. It can try to shift to an adjacent angle or to the one opposite its current position spending a move-equivalent, double move or run action. Shifting two angles is considerably harder, as the creature most literally move around its opponent. It can attempt this by moving in the same horizontal plane, moving across its target’s flanks, or trying to fly above or below it. Unless the creature can perform sharp turns (good and average manoeuvrability), it faces the same direction in which it started its movement.
|Movement||Action||Manoeuvre Check Modifi er|
|Match speed||Move-equivalent||+0 (special)|
|Close in one range||Move-equivalent||+0|
|Move out one range||Move-equivalent||+1|
|Close in two ranges||Double Move / Charge||-1|
|Move out two ranges||Double Move||+0|
|Close in three ranges||Run||-2|
|Move out three ranges||Run||-1|
|Shift one angle||Move-equivalent||-1|
|Shift two angles above||Run||-4|
|Shift two angles aside||Double Move||-2|
|Shift two angles below||Move-equivalent||+0|
Distance Between Melees
In an encounter with several flying combatants, allies can rush to each other’s aid as they finish off their opponents. As aerial combatants move erratically in absolute terms, the distance between them changes rapidly. To determine how long it will take a creature to reach a particular group of dogfighting combatants, roll 1d8-4 (note negative results) and add the lowest flight bonus of the creatures it wants to reach. The result is the number of rounds it will take the creature to engage in aerial combat with its new opponent.
When a flying creature has another within any of its ranges, it can attempt any of the following offensive manoeuvres as a standard action. Since keeping pace with a flying opponent is a move-equivalent action, creatures seldom perform full-round actions unless special circumstances apply. Riders may attempt fullround actions as described in the Ride skill in Core Rulebook I. Some attacks have certain prerequisites in the form of base attack bonuses, skill ranks or feats, and can be performed only from certain ranges and angles, as defined in their description. Angles always refer to the defender’s angle unless described otherwise. Attacks can target a mount’s rider without additional penalties.
You drop missiles, weapons and other objects at enemies on the ground.
Maximum Range: Not applicable.
Angle: Attacker’s bottom.
Effect: Bombing attacks are ranged touch attacks with a range increment equal to the creature’s speed. Solid objects and weapons deal their normal damage plus 1d6 per altitude increment based on their weight as described in chapter 3 in Core Rulebook II under ‘Other Dangers.’ Bombs dropped at moving speed continue moving on the ground for 1d6 x 10 feet in the same direction as the bomber, dealing 1d6 points of damage less for every 10 feet moved to anything within their path. Grenadelike weapons always deal splash damage in the direction of the bomber’s movement.
You can pick up a creature and drag it for a certain distance, then drop it for additional damage.
Prerequisites: Creature must have Strength 18+ and grappling appendages like claws or talons.
Maximum Range: Melee.
Angle: Attacker’s bottom.
Effect: The attacker makes a grappling attempt and, if successful, can carry off the defender for one round per Strength modifier. Every round after that, the attacker must make a Strength check at a -1 cumulative penalty or release the defender. The defender may try to free itself with a grappling check in every round. Depending on where the attacker drops the victim, the latter suffers appropriate falling damage. As a normal grappling attack, this action provokes an attack of opportunity.
You rush at your enemy.
Maximum Range: Charge.
Effect: The attacker and the defender make opposed manoeuvre checks. If the attacker rolls higher, it does not suffer the -2 penalty to its AC because of the charge. If the defender wins, he gains a +2 dodge bonus to his AC for the remainder of the round. This attack can target a mount’s rider.
You move erratically, concentrating on dodging all enemy attacks instead of attacking yourself.
Prerequisites: None for the creature. Rider must have the Aerial Mounted Combat feat to engage in special evasive manoeuvres.
Maximum Range: Charge.
Effect: The creature engages in the aerial equivalent of full defence, taking a full-round action to defend from all attacks in a single round, gaining a +4 dodge bonus to its AC and that of its rider. In addition, the creature may attempt one of the following evasive manoeuvres as long as it took the full defence action:
Sharp Climb: After any failed attack against it, the creature can roll an opposed manoeuvre check and end up at its enemy’s top angle. The dodge bonus to AC against further attacks is reduced to +2, but the creature may deal an attack of opportunity against its enemy’s top angle.
Sharp Dive: After any failed attack against it, the creature can roll an opposed manoeuvre check and dive abruptly, automatically moving up to two ranges outward without provoking an attack of opportunity and ending up at its attacker’s bottom angle.
Drop Speed: After any failed attack against it, the creature can roll an opposed manoeuvre check and reduce its speed violently, automatically moving up to one range outward and ending up at its attacker’s rear angle. This manoeuvre does provoke an attack of opportunity. A creature with perfect manoeuvrability can make a full stop and completely disengage from combat on a successful manoeuvre check.
Voluntary Stall: After any failed attack against it, the creature can roll an opposed manoeuvre check and stop flying, dropping towards the ground in a stall. It automatically disengages from combat, but falls 150 feet and must roll a Reflex save (DC 20) to start flying again, falling another 300 feet if it fails. The creature takes falling damage if at any point of its fall it reaches the ground. A creature that can hover does not need to roll to recover from a stall.
Special: With the Aerial Mounted Combat feat, the rider can use his Ride modifier instead of his mount’s Reflex save, adding the mount’s flight bonus to the manoeuvre check. The rider can also use his Ride check result instead of the creature’s save to recover from a stall.
By striking the rider of a flying mount, you can try to dismount him, which in aerial combat usually means certain death.
Maximum Range: Any.
Angle: Any except bottom.
Effect: The attacker makes a normal attack roll against the rider’s AC. If successful, the rider does not suffer the damage rolled, but instead makes a Ride check (DC equal to damage rolled) to stay in the saddle. If he fails, he must make a Reflex save (DC 5 + mount’s flight bonus) or fall off his mount towards the ground. A skysaddle prevents the rider from falling off, but it may snap (see description in the Tools of the Elves chapter). This attack can be combined with any other form of aerial attack.
You engage in an all-out attack with an adjacent enemy.
Maximum Range: Melee.
Angle: Front, rear and top.
Effect: The creature must start its round in melee range with its opponent. It rolls a manoeuvre check (DC 18) to keep aloft and, if successful, it can make a full-round action to use all of its attacks, including all of the rider’s. It can maintain this attack for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier, but the opponent must initiate a lock of its own. Failing the manoeuvre check means the creature must take a move equivalent action to keep flying or it stalls. A creature that can hover can maintain a lock at will without the need to roll a manoeuvre check.
You use a natural or melee weapon to attack.
Maximum Range: Melee.
Effect: As a standard action, the creature can use any one of its melee attacks. A rider may attack normally as per the rules for Ride checks.
You make a fast strike at an opponent and fly away.
Prerequisites: Creature must have the Fly-by Attack feat, or rider must have Aerial Mounted Combat and Ride-by Attack.
Maximum Range: Move range only.
Effect: By taking a charge action, the creature may move and attack as with a standard charge and then move again, ending its turn at its move range, but in the target’s rear angle. The creature does not provoke an attack of opportunity from the opponent that the character attacks.
Special: If both creature and rider have the prerequisite feats, they gain a +2 competence bonus to their attack rolls.
You sink at least one weapon into the opponent’s hide and let momentum increase the damage.
Prerequisites: Claws or piercing weapon.
Maximum Range: Charge.
Angle: Flanks and rear.
Effect: After a successful attack, both combatants make an opposed manoeuvre check. If the attacker rolls higher, it sinks its weapon into the defender’s hide and deals 2d6 additional points of damage. If the defender wins the opposed check it negates the additional damage and can make an attack of opportunity at a flank, but not its rear.
You bump into your opponent, seeking to destabilise it.
Prerequisites: Creature must have Improved Bull Rush or rider must have the Trample feat.
Maximum Range: Charge.
Effect: This is a normal bull rush action that, if successful, imposes a -4 penalty to all of the target’s manoeuvre checks and negates its Dexterity bonus to AC until the attacker’s next turn. Creatures cannot ram targets that are two category sizes larger than them.
You point and shoot your ranged attacks at a target.
Maximum Range: Special.
Effect: Because of the constant movement and wind conditions, ranged attacks between flying creatures are utterly ineffective from further than move range. In addition, any ranged weapon used from further than two of its range increments fails automatically. Spells may be affected in particular ways (see below).
You act normally by directing your flying mount.
Maximum Range: Not applicable.
Effect: A rider can guide his mount with his knees to use both hands and have his full action in his turn. The rider may attack, cast spells, activate magic items or perform any other action as per the rules for the Ride skill. All feats for mounted combat apply if the rider has the Aerial Mounted Combat feat.
You move in the same direction as your target while you attack it.
Prerequisites: Ranged attacks, ability to shoot over flanks.
Maximum Range: Move.
Angle: Flanks, top and rear.
Effect: Both combatants make a manoeuvre check. If the attacker wins, it can travel along its move range, shifting two angles forward or backward. A rider gains an additional ranged attack, which he can use as described above.
Spellcasting requires stability, and sky riders get anything but. When a spellcaster riding an aerial mount wishes to hurl magic at opponents, he must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell’s level) or lose the spell in mid-casting. Some feats and special abilities mitigate this effect, but the best way to do magic while on a flying mount is to use spell-triggered magic items like wands, rods and staves.
Other means of aerial transport do not have this impediment, such as the fly spell or other magic items. These methods of flight give the spellcaster the steadiness he needs to perform the act of casting. Natural flyers who are also spellcasters suffer no penalty either, since for them flying is as natural as walking for grounded casters. Characters that gain the natural ability to fly and are able to cast are considered natural flyers.
The further a spell must travel, the less likely it is to hit a moving target. Make a note of a spell’s range to determine how many aerial combat ranges it overlaps. For example, a magic missile cast by a 3rd level wizard has a medium range of 130 feet, barely reaching into his pegasus’ charge range.
An alternative to speed up calculations is to take a spell’s range classification (close, medium and long) and assign them a reach equivalent to a mount’s aerial combat range. Spells with a close range can only affect the flyer’s move range, medium range can reach as far as the charge range and long range can extend to dogfight range and further. This means that, even if a spell has a longer absolute reach, the fact that both the caster and his target are moving too fast reduces their effective range.
The formulae for spells were designed to deal with a (mostly) static spellcaster targeting (mostly) static targets. Aerial combat pits opponents moving wildly around each other, making combat spells harder to hit their marks.
Ranged Touch Spells: These kinds of spells are the hardest to cast during aerial combat. The spellcaster must abide by the limitations of ranged attacks as detailed above.
Spells With a Reflex Save: Creatures can avoid certain spells because they can react quickly and move out of the way. In aerial combat, the single shift of a feather can send a creature dozens of feet away from an effect. If both caster and target are engaged in aerial combat, the target creature may add its flight bonus to any Reflex save. On a natural 20 on the saving throw, the target creature may negate the effect completely as if it had the evasion ability.
Area Spells: Area effects remain in place, or the caster can move them slowly by concentrating. An aerial target can avoid affected areas easily, or fly through them so fast that it does not suffer any ill effect. The Games Master should adjudicate the result for each individual spell, but as a guideline, a creature adds its flight bonus to negate the effects of any area effect. This does not stack if the saving throw is a Reflex save, as mentioned above.
Number of Creatures: Some spells may affect multiple creatures as long as they remain close to each other. In aerial combat this is rarely the case unless the spellcaster sneaks up on a tight flying formation. These spells can only affect one creature, plus riders if it has any. Every other creature engaged in aerial combat is simply too far away.
Levitate: Casting levitate on a flying creature increases its manoeuvrability to good.
Magic Missile: There is something excitingly odd about a creature evading a volley of magic missiles cast from a flying opponent. Magic missile normally does not allow a saving throw, but the creature could conceivably move out of its range. The spellcaster rolls 1d20 plus his level and the target rolls a normal manoeuvre check using its Reflex save and flight bonus. If the target wins, it managed to move out of the spell’s range and suffer no damage, although it ends up one of its aerial combat ranges further from its target. Use these guidelines for other normally unavoidable spells that could be dodged in this manner.
Aiming a Spell
If a spellcaster aims a spell carefully at a flying creature, he can compensate for both his and the target’s movement. The spellcaster must spend double the casting time of the spell for this to be effective and make a Spellcraft check (DC 10 + spell’s level). If he succeeds, he negates the target’s flight bonus to its saves. He can still cast the spell if he fails the check, but the creature enjoys its flight bonus.
Certain actions or positions make creatures more likely to hit their targets. This is why a dogfight can become an elaborate dance as both opponents seek to manoeuvre into the most advantageous position. The modifiers apply to manoeuvre checks, melee and ranged attacks and qualify only for three-dimensional combat. If any of the opponents is on the ground, use the normal combat rules in SRD.
Aerial Combat Modifiers
|Attacker flying above||+1|
|Attacker flying upwards||-2|
|Attacker flying downwards||+2|
|Attacking riderless creature’s top angle||+1|
|Attacker on defender’s rear||+2|
|Attacker on defender’s bottom *||+2|
|Defender flying downwards||-2|
|Defender flying upwards||+2|
* Provokes an attack of opportunity from defender.