Closing opponents

Can someone explain this paragraph?
“A combatant using a weapon with a long reach (spears, for instance) may choose to attack a closing opponent on the closing opponent’s number and thus attack simultaneously with the opponent, even if the combatant rolled lower for initiative. Likewise, if a combatant has a missile weapon readied at the beginning of round and is not engaged in melee, he can fire at a closing opponent on the closing opponent’s number even if the combatant rolled lower for initiative.”

What is a closing opponent?

I believe “closing opponent” here refers to an enemy of the spear-or-missile wielder and who, on their action, is using their move to enter melee with the spearman, and then is making a melee attack against said spearman. Basically this models “Oh no that orc is coming for me but I have a reach weapon”; it can be thought of sort of like the attack of opportunity mechanic from 3.x, except rather than occurring before the closing guy gets to attack, the attacks are resolved at the same time, only the target of the closing guy’s melee attack gets to react, and this expends the reacting character’s action for the turn.

(At least this is how we play it).

Yeah, in short…

  • You’ve got a spear or polearm.
  • You have low initiative.
  • Someone with high initiative is moving to engage you (charging or not).
  • You get to attack them on their initiative, as they move to engage you (are closing with you), resolving your attacks simultaneously.

Same with a ready missile weapon.

The way it’s written, mutual death is basically a possibility; I might actually houserule it so that a missile weapon, or a spear or polearm against a shorter weapon (e.g. not spear, polearm, or lance) lets you attack first, possibly killing your attacker before they can try to hurt you.

The exact “definition” of closing opponent is an opponent who begins his initiative number unengaged with you and moves such that he is now engaged with you.

If you have a higher initiative number, you can simply attack first. This rule allows you to attack simultaneously if you have a lower initiative number.

Great, thanks everyone!