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Let's say I have a single Shield of Missile Attraction:

Whenever a ranged weapon attack is made against a target within 10 feet of you, the curse causes you to become the target instead.

Let's say I also have access to an unlimited number of bored commoners cursed by the same Shield. I make them stand 10 feet apart in a line 8,000 miles long. I then attack the first one with an arrow. What happens?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Couldn't that same kind of peasants just hold their action to take the ammo from their neighbor as soon as their neighbor had the ammunition in hand using their reaction and transport the ammunition from one end of the line to the next in an instant with needing a cursed magic item? It would be limited to a single piece of ammunition but, unlike the cursed shield, could be used to transport any easily carried object and doesn't require a favorable interpretation of the rules to work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Dec 17, 2021 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara Ah, but this works on as many pieces of ammo you can fire at a commoner per round, No Action! \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Dec 17, 2021 at 4:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara Also, that would be limited to a single rotation per round, while OP's scenario a single piece would spin the globe infinitely many times in a single round. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Dec 17, 2021 at 7:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oddrigue: Fairly similar to the Peasant Railgun concept. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for additional interesting cases regarding the Shield of Missile Attraction, consider "What happens when two characters cursed by the shied are both within 10' of the target of a ranged weapon attack?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Dec 17, 2021 at 15:07

4 Answers 4

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Note: I changed the answer to include the first cursed target. Mea culpa if this makes this answer less appealing.

No, the arrow targets either the first or the second peasant in line.

The ranged attack is made only once, against the first peasant, and the target changes to either the first or the second one in line, as each target was within 10' of him. The sequence ends, since only one attack was made; the attack is not being made against the second peasant. It simply resolves against him or the first cursed peasant instead of the original target. The DM must choose between the two cursed peasants in range of the curse, in some fashion.

The 'curse' of the shield changes the target, but does not make a new attack each time the target changes. The curse says "whenever a ranged weapon attack is made against a target [change the target to you instead]." The change of target only happens on the attack, not on the targeting. Since there's only one attack, there's only one change of target.

The ability happens when a ranged weapon attack is made against a target, not when a creature becomes the target of an attack.

The Shield's effect says:

Whenever a ranged weapon attack is made against a target within 10 feet of you, the curse causes you to become the target instead.

(emphasis mine)

An attack occurs when an attack roll is made. "Making an Attack" (Player's Handbook, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, p. 194):

  1. Choose a target. Pick a target within your attack’s range: a creature, an object, or a location.
  2. Determine modifiers. The DM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.
  3. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

If there’s ever any question whether something you’re doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you’re making an attack roll, you’re making an attack.

(emphasis mine)

Choosing the target is part of the attack, but only when the roll is made, does an attack occur. Once the attack roll is made, the attack is then made against the intended target, the Shield's effect then changes the target from the original target to 'you'. It's still just the one attack, so the ability only 'fires' once.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this, but I think the 'attack not made on the second peasant' needs picking out to be clearer \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 17, 2021 at 8:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with answer: this Q&A may help in clarifying that there is only one attack roll against the first peasant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Dec 17, 2021 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The confusion is because OP thinks the shield triggers "when targeting" when it insteads triggers "upon attacking". \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ When the description says "become the target instead", what do they become the target of? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ We don’t signal edits, we have a revision history. Just revise your answer to say what you want to say. The bracketed edits are exceedingly confusing. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2021 at 22:48
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Maybe, but …

You don’t need the cursed shield. Just get twice as many people to stand 5 feet apart and have them Ready an action to pass on the arrow when it’s passed to them, then hand the arrow to the first person in line.

The rules exist to allow you to,play the game, not to simulate reality. If you look hard enough you can always find edge cases that make no sense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeaaah... "D&D is a hilariously bad physics simulator" and all that. See also: peasant railgun \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 12:54
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Congratulations, you broke the game.

There is an issue here: because all the peasants are 10’ apart from each adjacent peasant, when the arrow reaches one, there are now two eligible targets. The DM decides who becomes the target. But then the curses cause the two adjacent peasants to that one to become eligible and the DM must decide. But since the curse cannot allow any of them to be targeted, the arrow never stops.

The DM decides what happens because the rules do not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be tempted to say that the rule about combining effects applies; if an arrow is affected by one Shield of Missile Attraction, it can't be simultaneously affected by another Shield of Missile Attraction, since it's already under the effect of one of them and they can't stack. Whichever shield existed first takes priority when resolving ties. But spinlocking the world's magiphysics resolution engine is also good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Dec 17, 2021 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer The same one shield in this scenario has cursed all of the commoners. \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Dec 17, 2021 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Is the arrow a target? Does the effect on the arrow have a duration or is it instantaneous? You might be on to something, but there’s some work to do to answer those questions before you can call on the Combining Game Effects rule. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 0:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @order oh, natch. Well, whomever was cursed first takes precedence then - they can't all have attuned to it at once. ThomasMarkov: I suspect that the combining game effects rules as written wouldn't strictly apply here and was mostly referring to them in jest, but they're probably the most sensible framework that can be found in the rules for resolving the question of what happens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Dec 17, 2021 at 0:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer See this q&a, the shield can have multiple people cursed at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 0:48
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The arrow travels the normal amount of distance, landing near or striking a cursed person.

Suppose that targeting is resolved so that each cursed person in the line is targeted by the arrow in sequence, contradicting the current top answer. I really like the top answer, but I wanted to add a different comedic approach.

This curse should be thought of as a tragicomic device; it causes attacks meant for one person to tragically/comically strike a nearby unlucky person. Projectiles are not teleported by the curse, just directed off-course. Quoting "westward_man" from the DDB comments about this item:

Instead of making the arrows change course dramatically, play with the battle a little bit. Ranger says, "I fire my bow at the goblin by Jeff." You respond with, "As you draw your bowstring and take aim, your foot gets caught in a root and you stumble, throwing off your shot and hitting Jeff instead."

We can model the tendency of the curse to redirect projectiles as an attractive force around each cursed person. With the cursed people standing in a line, an arrow shot towards the line would whiz by each person according to the remaining airspeed and height of the arrow, until the arrow could not plausibly go past the current nearest person and still reach the next person. If the arrow is aimed perpendicular to the line, then we would have an amusing curved trajectory, perhaps from a sudden strong gust of wind.

In practice, I think that this means that, after the archer's attack, we would take a check for the archer and add it to some constant offset to compute which person in line would be the actual target, then handle hit and damage as usual. The bathos of the arrow striking a villager gives us an opportunity for comedy or tragedy, as appropriate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer treats the arrows reach like a physics sim — it would be good to support your ruling with an argument fuelled by the game engine. You'd want to go to the Making an Attack section or a similar place to argue whether changing the target does or doesn't extend the reach of an attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer, and it could be even more interesting if it included some analysis of range rules with regards to missile weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2021 at 19:57
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    Dec 20, 2021 at 19:25

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