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I've recently been discussing a combo found in this chapter of Harry Potter and the Natural 20. If needed, ctrl+f for "I am not walking in that" for the start of the encounter. The relevant part is quite short, damn good, near the end of the chapter, and does not overflow in to the next chapter. As I understand it, the situation is as follows:

  • Milo, our protagonist, is being hit by ranged magical attacks from an unknown location.
  • There is a blizzard, presumably giving the enemy concealment.
  • Because Milo does not know where the enemy is, he can't target it with magical attacks.
  • To counter this, he casts True Strike, following by Guided Shot (swift action - Complete Adventurer, I believe) and throws his dagger "in a completely random direction". This was enough to hit his target.
  • His plan is to find his target by using another divination to locate the dagger after it has hit, but that's not relevant to my question.

My question is this: To my understanding, Milo has the following benefits before throwing the dagger:

  • A +20 insight bonus to his attack roll
  • He is not affected by the miss chance that applies to attackers trying to strike a concealed target
  • His ranged attack suffers no penalty due to distance, but he still can't exceed his max range
  • His ranged attack ignores the AC bonus granted to targets by anything less than total cover.

However, as great as all of these are, are they enough to actually allow you to attempt to attack such a target? The rules have precedent for attacking targets that you can't see but can approximately locate (e.g. the rules for Invisibility), but in this case we've not seen the target and only have the vaguest idea of where it is.

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This combo doesn't work.

There is a difference between attacking an enemy you can pinpoint but you can't see, and attacking an enemy that is completely unseen and effectively invisible. Borrowing from the invisibility rules from the SRD:

If a character tries to attack an invisible creature whose location he has not pinpointed, have the player choose the space where the character will direct the attack. If the invisible creature is there, conduct the attack normally. If the enemy’s not there, roll the miss chance as if it were there, don’t let the player see the result, and tell him that the character has missed. That way the player doesn’t know whether the attack missed because the enemy’s not there or because you successfully rolled the miss chance.

This forces you to pick a square to attack. If you guess wrong, your attack will fail, no matter what.

With Guided Shot removing the chance of failing the attack by concealment, what this combo will do is to, at best, reveal to the user that the target wasn't on the intended square, but it will by no means force the laws of the game into a home-seeking dagger that will hit its target if tossed in a random direction.

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In the case of total concealment, guided shot (Spell Compendium p. 108) won't help (it only works against "anything less than total concealment"). The traditional 'pick a square and pray' approach of attacking unseen targets takes effect here. Perhaps Complete Adventurer's version acts differently, but I don't have it handy and, as it isn't the most recent printing, it also isn't RAW (a major goal of the fanfic in question, aside from one or two build conceits).

Per the Dungeon Master's Guide, a blizzard has the combined effects of bitter cold, high winds and heavy snow. Heavy snow functions much like basic snow/rain (-4 Spot and Search, severe wind-like penalty of -4 on ranged weapon attacks) plus fog. The fog effect could be important here because "fog obscures all sight ... beyond 5 feet", and creatures 5 feet away have concealment (which guided shot helps compensate for).

Creatures with basic concealment have a 20% miss chance, but are otherwise somewhat identifiable; a vague outline in the blowing snows. However, at a reasonable distance for our wizard to not be able to identify his assailant, he ought to have no clue whatsoever where to send the shot, unless the idea was given to him by his locate object spell. (Sometimes, random isn't random, and sometimes, authors just get details wrong.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would like to point out that if the player were targeted by a spell or attack, then the hostile attacker would also have to be within 5' to be able to target the player, due to the heavy snow also obstructing his vision, giving the player a 1/8 chance to select the correct square to target before accounting for probable direction. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Mar 10 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Player's Handbook p. 152 notes, "You can’t attack an opponent that has total concealment, though you can attack into a square that you think he occupies." Dungeon Master's Guide p. 302 notes that creatures blinded by darkness (this may be comparable) making ranged attacks against un-pinpointed foes roll to determine which adjacent square they're facing and attempt their attacks against the nearest foe in that direction. (Moot point since it's shown in the fic that the opponent is in fact blind-firing. And half the point of HPN20 is that Harry Potter wizards aren't D&D wizards.) \$\endgroup\$ – Powerdork Mar 10 at 15:41

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