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I (the GM) currently have a wizard in my campaign that was able to nab an amulet that controls a shield guardian. If an enemy were to make an attempt to break the amulet's chain so that it was no longer being worn (thereby causing the wizard to lose control of the shield guardian), what would the mechanics be for that? Would they make an attack roll against the wizard's normal AC, or would the AC be higher since it's a smaller, more specific target?

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Objects have HP and AC

According to the rules as they written. Objects have an AC and HP like characters do. So you can make attacks against items.

Object Armor Class

  • Substance AC0
  • Cloth, paper, rope 11
  • Crystal, glass, ice 13
  • Wood, bone 15
  • Stone 17
  • Iron, steel 19
  • Mithral 21
  • Adamantine 23

Object Hit Points

  • Size Fragile Resilient
  • Tiny (bottle, lock) 2 (1d4) 5 (2d4)
  • Small (chest, lute) 3 (1d6) 10 (3d6)
  • Medium (barrel, chandelier) 4 (1d8) 18 (4d8)
  • Large (cart, 10-­ft.-­by-­10-­ft. window) 5 (1d10) 27 (5d10)

There is no reason you couldn't use the standard grappling rules against a worn object (Grapple specifically mentions creature, but the mechanics could just as easily apply to objects as they already have AC to test against); possibly with disadvantage for movement or AC bonus for cover.

I, personally, would likely also make breaking the chain a subsequent athletics check or attack on the next turn, so that the player has a chance to attempt to stop the effect between you getting ahold of the item, and breaking the chain.

Or, Follow the Example of the Ioun Stone

The Ioun Stones have very specific rules about being taken or being broken. You could just adapt them to your necklace.

...must use an action to grasp or net the stone to separate it from you, either by making a successful attack roll against AC 24 or a successful DC 24 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. You can use an action to seize and stow the stone, ending its effect.

A stone has AC 24, 10 hit points, and resistance to all damage. It is considered to be an object that is being worn while it orbits your head.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the Ioun Stone comparison. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 11 '18 at 7:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although I like your answer a lot, it should be noted (since you specifically said RAW here) that Grapple in fact does not allow for objects to be grappled RAW "When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple.". You may want to make a note of this and/or remove the RAW part if that makes sense to you. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 11 '18 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, good point. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jan 11 '18 at 18:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought about the amulet's AC and HP, too, both of them being 10 according to the MM's shield guardian entry. But I was hesitant to make this the bar I set for hitting/taking it because objects being worn seem to follow different rules than ones that are just lying about (and I would imagine the amulet's 10 AC is when it's just lying about). But I also like the Ioun Stone idea after looking into them a little more, so I may do that. Probably with a Dexterity check/save/contest added to see if it hits first. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Stopheles Jan 11 '18 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The difference with the Ioun stone is that it is floating in air near you, not actually worn or secured. A better comparison would be to look for some sort of pickpocketing or similar ability to grab it or the sundering rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Jan 12 '18 at 10:42
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Use an Improvised Action

You do this by using the Improvising An Action rules, which exist to cover everything that isn't covered by a specific action. You can use it to resolve an "I snatch the amulet" or "I break the chain" attempted action. You'll find them in the inset box at the top-right of page 193 of the Player's Handbook. These rules refer to the DM telling the player what to roll — as DM, you'll be referencing the general guidance in the DMG in the Using Ability Scores section that starts on page 237.

Basically, the Improvising An Action's rules point that “The only limits to the actions you can attempt are your imagination”, and D&D 5e's emphasis on simplicity and speed, means that you pick an appropriate ability score, set an opposed target (either a DC or an ability score roll made by the target), and then roll 'em to see if it worked. Advantage and disadvantage as usual are applicable, and for such a specific and small target, probably relevant.

PCs can do what NPCs can do

As a bonus, using the improvised action rules will show them off to the players. Perhaps they thought their only options were the actions listed in the PHB! Seeing the amulet snatched may inspire them to start doing more varied things during combat — which will make fights in your game more dynamic, creative, and interesting.

This also gives you a way to judge how hard it should be for your NPC: how hard would you want this maneuver to be if the PCs tried it? So make it neither too easy nor too hard, and it will improve your game in the long run (even if the NPC's snatch attempt fails!), because it will enrich your players' imaginations.

(To that end I would personally rule this an opposed Dex vs. Dex roll, but with disadvantage to the snatcher due to the small size of the target. That means it has a small chance of success against all but very clumsy opponents, which seems about right. It also fits the "value" of the attempt as very high: a risky, low chance of success, but with a high payoff is a nice balance.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkBooth A good point; I've updated the answer! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '18 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Slippery Slope Warning: This could easily move into Improvised Actions to remove a focus/component pouch. Cool in theory, but once your PC Casters it can be used against them (which will be much more frequent than them going up against Casters) and that they can't cast spells with M Components, they may wish that door wasn't opened. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 11 '18 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm fine with that (I've never subscribed to the "equipment is part of the character" philosophy in D&D games, since unlike some games, D&D doesn't make that an actual rule), but that's good to note for a more general audience. (If/when that comes up in my game, that would just mean PCs start protecting their component pouches better!) It makes sense that if fighters can be disarmed, so can wizards (albeit with more difficulty). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '18 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yo sure about that first word? Nice answer though. \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Jan 12 '18 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick Oops! Thanks. Next time feel free to edit any obvious typos. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 12 '18 at 20:27
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D&D 5e (and previous versions, for that matter) has no mechanism for such specific targeting. It has always been assumed that a person's carried belongings are (perhaps even magically) a part of him, and if the character survives, his stuff survives with him, almost always.

So, that being said, snatching an amulet from an active person is not something there is provision for. To target the amulet without breaking the spirit of the game will require that the mage be rendered in a condition of unconscious, paralyzed, or at the very least, restrained, such that the amulet can be removed from his person.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it is fair to say that allowing the targeting of item is "breaking the spirit of the game" at all. There are many things not explicitly written into rules, but nothing I have seen says that it runs counter to the intent of 5e to allow it. Indeed, they seem to openly encourage DMs to actively enable these types of actions not covered by rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 11 '18 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ It has always been assumed that a person's carried belongings are (perhaps even magically) a part of him, and if the character survives, his stuff survives with him, almost always. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Jan 11 '18 at 19:28
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Treat the amulet as different entity that can be attacked.

This is how I will determine the DC (instead of AC):

  1. The amulet is unlikely to be kept within armor, so it does not benefit from armor AC.
  2. The wearer can try to evade the attack, so it will benefit from DEX modifier when wearing armor. So if the target wear a medium armor, it will have +2 maximum.
  3. Because he is targeting a specific part of the "body", increase the DC by 5.

For example with +2 DEX, that makes the DC = 10 + 2 + 5 = 17

This is how I decide if his attack successfully hit the amulet:

Do attack roll with disadvantage. If the attack is successful against the DC, then the amulet is destroyed. If not, then use the disadvantaged attack roll to attack the target character as usual with their AC.

You missed the amulet by inches, but your sword barely managed to land on his shoulder instead.

You do the attack with disadvantage because you aim for specific part instead of freely looking for openings.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is very much a house rule and should be marked as such. \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Jan 11 '18 at 14:21
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In my campaigns, when the PC's target an item, they have to make a dexterity check to see if they hit it. If they hit, they make a normal attack against the item, including the item's AC. Assuming the item is being worn, such as an amulet, it should be assumed that the person wearing said item should be hit by the attack as well. Therefore, the PC makes a standard attack against the wearer, including the wearer's AC. Items may be large enough to grant the wearer additional protection, such as granting additional AC to the wearer, but such things are totally up to the DM.

The principle of attacking an item worn or otherwise attached to a player can also be applied to ropes or chains that restrain or bind a character. Players should take disadvantage to hit the person that is restrained, since, chances are, they're trying to free them without harming them. The disadvantage represents the possibility of a player slipping up, and accidentally harming the character they are trying to free.

In one of my campaigns, one of my players put on a suit of armor that was, unbeknownst to him, cursed. The armor trapped him inside, and made him immobile. Another player attempted to attack the armor in creative ways as not to harm the player wearing the armor. They eventually destroyed said armor with minimal harm done to the player that was wearing it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How does this work out? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 11 '18 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they target the item, they have to make a dexterity check to see if they hit it. If they hit, they make a normal attack against the item, including the item's AC. Assuming the item is being worn, such as an amulet, it should be assumed that the person wearing said item should be hit by the attack as well. Therefore, the PC makes a standard attack against the wearer, including the wearer's AC. I mentioned that an item may be large enough to grant additional protection, but such a thing is totally up to the DM's discretion. \$\endgroup\$ – Aidanovski Jan 11 '18 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool! Could you describe that in the answer? We look for people saying "here's what I've done" to also say how it worked out in practice at the table, because it helps us distinguish things that only seem good in theory from things that work well in practice. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 11 '18 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your second paragraph seems to largely repeat the first. I'm not sure if you're saying anything new in the second one. Can you edit to make the whole answer clearer please. \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Jan 12 '18 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The second paragraph was intended to reiterate and further explain the first, however I agree that it was confusing and therefore deleted the first, favoring the second. Additionally, I expanded on my example for chained/bound characters, as well as provided an example from my campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Aidanovski Jan 12 '18 at 20:57

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