I have a very specific problem. Someone in my 4th ed. game wants to lift a barrel (they're strong enough, that's not the question) and smash it on a rat swarm. I don't see how this falls under the category of "melee and ranged" attacks against which the swarm has resist half damage. Or does it?

Not only that, but it seems to me the barrel would hit smash a whole lot of rats, so the swarm should take the extra damage from the vulnerability the swarm has to close and area attacks. But an attack with an improvised weapon isn't a close or area attack, right?

Or would it be in between? The swarm can't resist but it also isn't vulnerable? Then what kind of attack is this? I'm confused. I'm sure this is simple than I'm making it, but I could use some reassurance.

Suggestions and advice welcome.


  • \$\begingroup\$ Too bad there's no provision in the rules for improvised close or area attacks. I'd consider a barrel smash or a barrel throw as a close or area attack comprising of a single square. \$\endgroup\$ – Snowbody Mar 5 '14 at 15:20

(Assuming Pathfinder) By the rules, this is totally simple. It's a ranged attack, with the usual -4 penalty for throwing an improvised weapon (unless they have Throw Anything).

However, you are correct in feeling that maybe it would make sense in the game world for the barrel to do more damage than a normal ranged attack. This goes past "rules" to "GM discretion." A rat swarm takes half damage from slashing/piercing, this is totally bludgeoning so at a bare minimum should do full damage (this applies in 3.5 and Pathfinder).

You would totally be within your rights to say that it does max damage or otherwise is slightly more effective (with the restriction that a barrel's so heavy that it has a range increment of like 5' so you have to get danger close to use it).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I should have been more specific. This is a 4th ed game, basically, with a few tweaks. Thank you, though. "GM discretion" is I guess what I wanted to hear. I really like the idea and want to see it be awesome for the player. \$\endgroup\$ – Lechlerfan Nov 18 '12 at 2:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will refrain from making any snarky comments about "DM discretion's not allowed in 4e" then... :-) \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 18 '12 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hahah. Thanks. This is a weird game. Started as 4th ed and when 4th ed rules get in the way of fun, we tweak. Makes it hard to keep track of rules, but allows the players the ability to feel like they can be creative and not limited by "the man." \$\endgroup\$ – Lechlerfan Nov 18 '12 at 2:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lechlerfan I think most of the site would agree that's how it should be, within reason. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Nov 18 '12 at 11:51

The barrel would be an improvised weapon. Let's assume it's two-handed, so that's 1d8 damage (PH1 219). It would be melee or ranged depending on whether it's being tossed. At the DM's discretion, I could see ignoring the resistance to normal melee or ranged attacks, since it's a barrel.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. While waiting for responses here on stack exchange, I finally just asked the player to roll (this is a turn-based, online adventure), and he rolled an 8. So, all this for nothing really. Although, I decided the barrel was filled with flour and so, though it missed the swarm, there's a concealment aspect going on now! \$\endgroup\$ – Lechlerfan Nov 18 '12 at 4:01

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