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My hybrid Psion/Ranger is about to reach level 6, and I need to pick a level 6 Ranger Utility. I'm considering picking the level 2 Utility Crucial Advice, but I'm also looking at the level 6 Utility Skilled Companion.

I'm not clear on whether it provides a bonus to a single ally that lasts for 5 minutes, or if it provides bonuses to all allies for the next 5 minutes.

Skilled Companion is a Daily, Martial ability, used as a Minor Action, Ranged 10, with one ally as the target. The effect reads:

Any ally within 10 squares of you who attempts an untrained check with a skill in which you are trained gains a power bonus to checks with a single skill of your choice equal to your Wisdom modifier. The ally must be able to see or hear you to gain this bonus. The benefit lasts until the end of the encounter or for 5 minutes.

The particular scenario in which I'm thinking of using this is when the whole party needs to sneak somewhere. I'm trained in Stealth, so it seems to me that every one of my allies who isn't trained in Stealth should be able to receive a bonus to their Stealth check equal to my Wisdom modifier for any Stealth checks they make for the next 5 minutes.

The part that is confusing me a little is the one ally target. Is that simply saying that each time one of my allies gets the bonus I'm targeting them with a Ranged ability?

My DM seems to think that this power would only apply to one ally for a single check, but can't really explain why. I disagree, based not only on the text of the Effect, but also because Crucial Advice exists, and if my DM is right then that power would not only be objectively better than Skilled Companion, but also available at a lower level.

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3 Answers 3

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Skilled Companion gives one ally a bonus. They could have written it better.

Your confusion is 100% justified.

It is quite confusing that the target line says "one ally", and the effect says "any ally" rather than referring to your target. It's reasonable to wonder if that would actually mean this power affects every ally - because you're right, it would often mean that.

Normally, powers like this would say "your ally" (as in Fey Switch, PHB1 p134). The powers that don't refer to the target really do tend to pick someone entirely outside the target. There's several powers in the very same PHB this power is from that target a creature, then do something entirely separate with an ally who wasn't targeted at all: e.g. Commander's Strike, p145.

So who's it affect?

Going with the power exactly as written, you could interpret it one of two ways:

  • You target one ally. Then you completely disregard this, and actually affect all your allies, by one interpretation of "any ally."
  • You target one ally. You affect that one ally, as in the sense of "any one ally."

The second one makes more sense, but they should have written something like "your ally" or "that ally" instead. "Any" is a word that can be used in a singular or multiple sense, and this clarifies it to probably mean singular.

Thank goodness it's only a target/effect line. If this actually did something specific to that ally, in addition to its current effect line, I'd have no idea what the effect line would mean.

One check or multiple?

My DM seems to think that this power would only apply to one ally for a single check, but can't really explain why.

It applies to multiple checks. There's nothing limiting this to just one check. If it limited it to just one check, the first sentence would instead say something like this:

The next time your ally attempts an untrained skill check with a skill in which you are trained, they gain a power bonus to their check with a single skill of your choice equal to your Wisdom modifier.

Actually, this writing collapses if we poke it with a stick.

I'm going to take picking apart this power one step further: consider what the following really means.

Any ally within 10 squares of you who attempts an untrained check with a skill in which you are trained gains a power bonus to checks with a single skill of your choice equal to your Wisdom modifier.

By this exact writing: if you are trained in dungeoneering, and your ally is not, and they are targeted with this power then make a dungeoneering check, they can get a power bonus to stealth - whether trained in it or not.

It doesn't limit you to only picking the untrained skill. Also, it doesn't specify whether the power bonus lasts a while, or whether it only lasts for that roll (making a stealth bonus useless), because it doesn't say things like "a power bonus to that check" or "until the end of the encounter" which would make it clear.

Let's rewrite this power into what the author probably meant.

Range: 10 squares.
Target: One ally.
Effect: Choose a skill in which you are trained, but your ally is not. For the next 5 minutes, or until the end of the encounter, your ally has a power bonus to that skill equal to your Wisdom modifier.

Much more straightforward.

Tangentially: On targeting, and retargeting

The part that is confusing me a little is the one ally target. Is that simply saying that each time one of my allies gets the bonus I'm targeting them with a Ranged ability?

Even if this targeted everyone I'll clarify: no, you'd just target someone once, the first time you use the power. Everything in the power only happens when you first use it: it'd take something very different to make you target them over and over. For instance, the effect line would say:

The next time your ally attempts an untrained skill check with a skill in which you are trained, you may use this secondary action as a free action:

(a secondary action which targets one ally and gives them a bonus to the roll)

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In reference to poking that wording with a stick, it does say that 'this benefit lasts for 5 minutes or until the end of the encounter'. So, if you picked Stealth after a Dungeoneering roll, I think they would get bonuses to any Stealth checks they happen to make for the next few minutes? This gets at the core of what's bothering me, I think. If the one targeted ally gets the benefit at the time the power is used, then why does the wording wait for an ally to use a skill for you to pick which skill they get a bonus to? –  DCShannon Apr 25 at 2:15
    
The bit about retargeting makes sense for attacks, I agree. But this isn't an attack, so it would seem odd for it to have a Secondary Attack. Are there similar sorts of Utility powers with Secondary Effects? I can't think of any off the top of my head. –  DCShannon Apr 25 at 2:17
    
@DCShannon It's totally unclear and ambiguous, which is my point. And you're right it's not actually an attack, I'm not sure what the actual term would be. I just picked attack because I couldn't be bothered to work out what it'd be for something like this; I've edited it to say action. And I have no idea if there are other utility powers with secondary components, but that's beside the point: I'm just demonstrating how it'd work if you repeated the power (in a sense) each time. –  Jonathan Hobbs Apr 25 at 2:41

It only affects 1 ally.

4e powers do only exactly what they say, no more no less. Because the power's target line reads "one ally" it can only effect one ally with its effect line. This means when you would use the ability you would have to pick 1 ally PC and use it, its used up (since its a daily) as soon as you use it so it only helps that 1 ally once.

Not all powers are created equally

4e like any RPG system that continues to have published releases over a series of years suffers from power creep. Feats, powers, and items that premiered in PHB1 and other early published works sometimes fall behind in their usefulness compared to newer feats. For example, Weapon Expertise came out in PHB2 and gave you +1 to hit with a chosen weapon group. Its nice, but nothing special. However there are specific weapon group feats that have that +1 one to hit built in and another useful ability as well. Say you're using an Executioner's axe. You could take Weapon Expertise(Axes), but why would you do that when you could take Axe Expertise:

Axe Expertise

Benefit: You gain a +1 feat bonus to weapon attack rolls you make with an axe. This bonus increases to +2 at 11th level and +3 at 21st level. Also, when rolling damage for a weapon attack you make with an axe, you can reroll one damage die that results in a 1, but you must use the second result.

Your DM is completely correct

Crucial Advice is a better power since it lets you use it in reaction to a bad roll rather than expending it ahead of time (on what may be a high roll that didn't need your help) and you can use it multiple times per day since its an encounter power instead of a daily.

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It can be used on one ally only when it says "Target: One ally"

It says in the effect: "Any ally within 10 squares…"

To imply that you can choose which of your allies within 10 squares will get the benefit.

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