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I'm currently DM-ing a campaign and one of my players is playing a Warforged Artificer Armorer. At lvl 3 he gains the Thunder gauntlets that as Tasha's describes has a forced attack effect on the artificer.

"A creature hit by the gauntlet has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you until the start of your next turn, as the armor magically emits a distracting pulse when the creature attacks someone else."

the player of the class states that the creature first has to attack someone else before it finds out it gets disadvantage on attack rolls on other targets except him...

But what are the rules?

Does the creature that's being hit know that if it attacks a different target that it has disadvantage? Or does the creature really have to find out after first trying to target something else?

What is the range of the effect? Can a artificer/rogue do a hit and run tactic and impose disadvantage and/or trigger attacks of opportunity for their team members?

Please help me out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that the presumed purpose of the effect is to force the creature to target the artificer instead of their allies, I'd expect the player to be arguing for the opposite interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28 at 12:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well yes, but if a monster runs past the artificer triggering an AoO, would it stop and target the artificer or continue to move and try to whoop the wizard? \$\endgroup\$
    – Toofle
    Aug 28 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson When playing an Armorer or an Ancestral Guardian barbarian, my goal is for the enemies to attack someone besides me. Even if my artificer's AC is higher, a disadvantage attack against an ally is often less accurate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Aug 28 at 16:19
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The monsters don’t understand game mechanics.

“Disadvantage on attacks” isn’t something that anyone in the actual fiction of the game comprehends. Of course they understand “if I close my eyes, it’s harder to hit stuff”, but they don’t have the concept of “disadvantage on attacks”.

There is no reason for the creature to know how it works.

That said, why would the monster know the armor is going to pulse when it strikes someone else? The feature says it emits the distracting pulse when it attacks, and so unless that creature happens to know from previous experience fighting the artificer, it probably should be a surprise the first time the artificer’s armor emits a distracting pulse. There’s just no reason for any target of the feature to just know ahead of time what’s going to happen.

And since the creature doesn’t know how it works, it shouldn’t be a part of their decision making when attacking. I’m not saying who they have to attack, but you should just make that decision as though you had no idea how the armor works, at least until they figure it out. So your player is basically on the right track. There is no reason for the creature to know what’s going on until the armor distracts them. Once the armor distracts them once, then the creature can think “hey that was distracting, let’s kill him”.

As for the range of the feature, the maximum range is something like “as far away as you can get before your next turn”. No range is stated, so technically there is no range. Though in most circumstances you won’t be able to get that far before your next turn.

This is quite similar to this Q&A: Do enemies know that a character is using the Sentinel feat? In my answer, I write:

Characters in-universe have no concept called the Sentinel Feat.

Rather, they experience its application in the fiction. Most of the rules and features in the game do not correlate to tangible things in the fiction of the universe. Things like spells do, somewhat, but the Sentinel Feat translates to "this person is really good at pinning you down in a combat" - and this is something that is learned through being pinned down in melee combat.

Now, if a character with the Sentinel Feat was widely known for being good at pinning people down in melee combat, enemies who had heard of this character's skills might be able to strategize against this tactic.

In response to this question: Is there a way to ask in game (i.e. in a non-meta way) what a character's class is? , T.J.L. nicely lays out the distinction between game mechanics and the fiction of the world:

class is a metagame construct: from the characters' perspective, it doesn't exist. There is no good way to determine "class" as a hard fact for the character, because a particular set of abilities does not cleanly map to the character's identity and societal position in-world.

To put it a different way (using D&D 5E terminology)...

  • You have a two characters who wear heavy armor without discomfort, swing a greatsword with skill, and call on the powers of a deity to enhance their abilities and destroy their enemies. Are you dealing with a War Cleric or a Paladin?

  • You have two characters who wear medium armor, wield a longsword, and cast arcane spells. Are you dealing with an Eldritch Knight Fighter, or a multi-classed Fighter/Wizard?

To emphasize the difference even more... all four of these characters, if asked in game (without metagaming), may call themselves a knight.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Exception: intelligent creatures aware of the (in-game) mechanics of the Thunder Gauntlets (or a character's Sentinel Feat effect) can perfectly take them into consideration, and sufficiently intelligent and collected creatures may even be able to work out said mechanics during the fight itself. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Of course. We just can’t a priori say any creature just knows how they work. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28 at 17:12
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Game mechanics are the projection in our world of something happening in the game world

Disadvantage represents something that interferes with a creature’s ability to do whatever it is that they are trying to do. Sometimes a creature will know they are suffering under this disability and sometimes they won’t. If they know, we can accept that they don’t understand it in precisely the same way that we do: the same way they accept that we don’t know what it’s like to be hit with Thunder Gauntlets.

Whether or not they know turns on both the specific description and the creature’s knowledge and experience. From the description, the disadvantage happens “when the creature attacks someone else”; if they have never encountered or learned of Thunder Gauntlets before then, they don’t know it will happen. However, once they have learned this they will always know the distraction will happen.

As a DM, I would play this like that; unless there is some reason they would know (like they are or work for an artificer), they don’t know until they see it. Then they know.

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