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A recent answer presented the following ruling from Dragon Magazine 371, page 9 (emphasis added):

If you choose multiple heritage feats (or feats that similarly modify at-will powers), you choose which feat modifies the power for the purposes of resolving the attack with the power.

I don’t have the issue myself, but this ruling appears to be a broad ruling that lays down a fundamental rule for all games of D&D 4e. However, a search of the online compendium doesn’t turn up this same rule, and I haven’t found this rule reflected in either the Rules Compendium or the player’s handbooks I own.

This is startling for me, because I expect these rulings to be strictly the domain of published manuals, whilst it’s the role of Dragon Magazine to simply produce extra content. It’s even a little concerning, since Dragon Magazine has produced some of the game's most headscratch-inducing material, like feats, items and powers that are strangely worded, or which make poor (or incorrect) use of D&D 4e conventions such as the power block format. Their QA and editing processes seem to not be as rigorous as those applied to the manuals.

That all said: if a Dragon (or Dungeon) Magazine article lays down a general rule that can apply to all games of D&D 4e (including those not even using magazine content), and it’s never reflected in a published manual, is that an official rule we as players should respect as such and make efforts to play with?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

If a rule is pronounced in a forest, does it still affect the game?

These rules are published by WotC, which makes them official. RAW, some apply to the whole game (I'm not aware of any other such occurrences, but they could exist). However, most people won't see them. This, coupled with the reasons not to trust the content of Dragon and Dungeon too much that you've listed, makes them optional for most groups. It is not different from choosing which Dragon content to allow in one's game.

Such decision is further supported by these rulings not being included in any errata, something 4e has never been shy about doing. Had they been considered a fundamental part of the system, they would have been there.

In this particular case, the rule is a vague general statement, very much unlike the usual formulaic language of 4e, addressing an edge case that would not arise in most games. If it does arise, and the rule is deemed useful, the group may well choose to follow it - if they can find it first!

In conclusion, it is up to the group whether or not to internalize any such rulings.

On a personal note, this is the modular design Next is promising us in action - freedom to ignore rules at our convenience.

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There are several arguments against Dragon articles, I try to address the most well-known ones:

  1. Bad quality
  2. No errata
  3. Bad availability

Bad Quality

WotC is famous for the inconsistent writing, and the apparent lack of proofreading. When the PHB first came the Swordmaster paragon path was able to use 4 at-wills for chargin, 2 of those did not even exist. A Fighter was able to punish any marked enemy, not just the ones marked by him. An Eladrin Swordmage could attack every enemy adjacent to him after a Fey Step with the Eladrin Swordmage Advance feat. What I am trying to say is that Dragon article quality might be bad, but it is not much worse than average, it worse at all. We are talking about shades of grey here.

No Errata

Some Dragons were actually errata-ed, jsut not in the regular way. Even one of the feats (Deft Hurler) referenced in the question the opening post talks about was updated in the Dragon Magazine Annual 2009.

Bad Availability

If you do not check the errata and new products regularly, how will you know that themes even exist, or that you can attack only once as a free action now? If you only own a PHB but you purchased an Insider subscription, you could expect to know about the rules changes. The PHB states thay you need a Holy Symbol for cleric powers, and you can not use Sorcer Powers with a rod, and if you search the compendium for implement rules you will still find this (2014.02.16):

The implement keyword identifies a power that can be used through an implement, and the implement must be a type wielded by the power’s class.

So the news that now you can use any implement power with any implement can not reach you. This does not make it any less true, Rule Compendium 113:

If an adventurer does have proficiency with an implement, he or she can use it with any of his or her implement powers.

"Ignorantia juris non excusat" (Ignorance of the law excuses no one). In other words if a rule is pronounced in a forest, it does still affect the game.

TL;dr

Dragons are are published by WotC, which makes them official.
There are some obviously bad rules, feats, powers and other stuff in every product, but until WotC says otherwise they are the rules.

Of course you can disregard any of them freely, just like you can ban axes or Psionic classes, as long as you know you are houseruling.

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Not sure if this answer is the best way to voice your frustration (but it's not my downvote). –  Mala Feb 17 at 19:00
1  
It is not about frustration. What makes any product official? –  András Jul 24 at 11:29

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