Legitimate Targets

I have owned the D&D 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide for some time now, but until now, l have only dipped into it a bit. I found myself reading it more attentively this weekend, and found two interesting things in a short subsection of “Running Combat” called “Legitimate Targets.”

The first bit is funny and evocative in how it treats the fact that many healing surges or other beneficial effects come as part of a successful strike from an appropriate character (like a cleric, paladin, or warlord) in combat:

…[T]he power functions only when the target in question is a meaningful threat. Characters can gain no benefit from carrying a sack of rats in hopes of healing their allies by hitting the rats.

The awesome thing about this is that I assume it is in there because somebody actually tried that once.

Immediately following that statement is a paragraph about the numbers of characters who can be affected by a character’s powers, such as a warlord’s ability to inspire his comrades:

…[U]se common sense when determining how many allies can be affected. D&D is a game about adventuring parties fighting groups of monsters, not the clash of armies. A warlord’s power might, read strictly, be able to give a hundred “allies” a free basic attack, but that doesn’t mean that warlord characters should assemble armies to march before them into the dungeons.

This is quite at odds with my AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, which has rules for construction, sieges, naval combat, and the like. I think I remember that there were strong undertones throughout D&D and AD&D that a character’s ultimate goal might actually be building a stronghold and raising an army. This is also why “warlord” as a D&D class leaves me cold—if she or he is such a warlord, what is he doing in a cellar fighting giant spiders with a dwarf fighter and a halfling rogue? Just sayin’.

(BTW, “Legitimate Targets” would be a great name for a D&D blog.)

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