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Inspired by this question, which asks if the Goblin Boss' redirect ability can be used to exchange places with a goblin the boss is not allied with (a PC goblin, for example), I want to know if it can be taken to the next extreme: can a Goblin boss make a goblin assailant hit themselves?*

Note: this is not a duplicate of this question, it is an extension of it. Handling this specific case would have been difficult and confusing to do in the context of the more general question. This one has nuances and mechanical implications that deserve to be addressed on their own.

Redirect Attack. When a creature the goblin can see targets it with an attack, the goblin chooses another goblin within 5 feet of it. The two goblins swap places, and the chosen goblin becomes the target instead.

As the answer to the linked question suggests, it seems that, RAW, a goblin boss can, in fact, use his redirect ability to make an attack hit an unallied goblin. It also suggests that this seems unlikely to be an intended use, so a DM may be quite reasonable in disallowing this. But let's suppose that we'll let it happen.

Is there anything in the rules which would prevent a goblin attacker (within the 5ft. range) from being made to hit themselves by this ability?

The best "no" answer would be a rule that specifically states that certain types of attacks can not hit the creature/whatever making the attack under any situation unless explicitly noted otherwise, or that an attacker cannot be the target of his own attack unless explicitly noted.


*I can see this popping up story-wise if a (PC) goblin makes a somewhat bungled attempt to assassinate the goblin boss.

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    \$\begingroup\$ only if the goblin boss is your older brother \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 11 '18 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do not think this is a duplicate and that it should be reopened. This is a specific case from the last one with its own nuances and implications. It may end up having the same answer, but the question of whether the attacker specifically can be targeted with this ability is neither asked nor addressed by the previous Q&A. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 11 '18 at 23:35
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Allowing this does not seem to conflict with any rules as written

Nothing in the ability description disallows it

the goblin chooses another goblin within 5 feet of it

The only two restriction are that the target of the ability be:

  1. a goblin
  2. within 5ft of the goblin boss

Jeremy Crawford even says that it can include PCs and other non-allied goblins:

The goblin boss's Redirect Attack doesn't specify whether the affected goblin is a friend or foe. It works on any goblin within 5 ft.

So, using the ability against opposed goblins does seem to be the intended reading as well.

So, nothing in the wording of the ability itself prevents this from targeting any goblin PCs that happen to be attacking.

You can attack yourself

You are a valid target for your own attacks mechanically speaking, per Jeremy Crawford:

The rules for attacks apply no matter whom you attack (see "Making an Attack," PH, 193). A DM might give you advantage to hit yourself.

Rules for attacking and targeting yourself are the same as for targeting other creatures, so there is nothing along these lines that would prevent something like this from occurring.

It does conflict with common sense however

Would switching places really make you hit yourself?

Note that the main mechanism for the target switch is the changing of places with the intended target (the goblin boss). This makes sense when thinking about switching with any goblin around the boss that is not the one attacking, but really does not make any sense for the case of switching with the attacker themselves though.

Consider this case:

A PC-goblin attacks the goblin boss at 5ft range with a crossbow.

Does it make sense that the goblin boss would be able to swap places with the PC in such a way that would result in the PC targeting and hitting themselves with a crossbow bolt? If the picture is that the bolt has already been fired, then this swap has to take place faster than the speed of a traveling crossbow bolt.

It might even make less sense in the case of the goblin trying to stab the boss with a dagger that somehow turns around and targets the PC when the boss switches place with them.

Obviously D&D is not a simulation, but results such as these would be very hard to describe narratively in a way that makes any kind of sense.

Related ability

Some indirect support that this may not be an intended use comes from a somewhat similar ability from the Way of the Drunken Master Monk:

Redirect Attack. When a creature misses you with a melee attack roll, you can spend 1 ki point as a reaction to cause that attack to hit one creature of your choice, other than the attacker, that you can see within 5 feet of you. (XGtE)

Being a similar ability whose purpose it is to redirect attacks it seems significant that it prevents the redirected attack from hitting the attacker.

In a way, allowing the redirected attack to hit the attacker would actually make more sense for the monk ability than for the goblin since they are not switching places. And the logic then becomes even more compelling for imposing this same restriction on the goblin boss' ability.

It just isn't fun

There are few things I can imagine being less fun rulings-wise than to force a PC to hit and damage themselves with an ability that I cannot even justify in fiction. It is not fun for me and definitely not fun for the player.

Conclusion

It seems that redirecting the attack is allowed by all the rules I can think of/find. However, I do not think I would rule it this way at my table because of the common sense issues and just the difficulties in making the narrative work. As always, the DM has the final say in the matter and they can choose whatever works best for them and their table.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer. I would note that in some groups "stop hitting yourself" is known to be very fun indeed! It seems the Goblin boss is really just an older brother. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Feb 11 '18 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll note that there is one major distinction between the monk ability and the boss's: the monk ability applies after an attack roll has been made (and missed), whereas the boss's applies once the target is designated and so before an attack roll is made. So I think story-wise a redirect on a crossbow attack would be like "PC goblin raises his crossbow to take aim; Goblin boss switches your positions and points the crossbow into the PC's own face just before he shoots in the process; PC fires at his own face." \$\endgroup\$ – zibadawa timmy Feb 12 '18 at 4:12
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I would say yes.

The power lets the two switch places, so not only is the "yourself" suddenly in the target position, but the Goblin Boss is suddenly in the attacker position. So that's how I would play that and explain it. It's a reaction, which is instantaneous in the 5e action economy, and can in various options be used to interrupt movement, spells, falling, and other actions, so I don't see any compelling reason why it couldn't be done.

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