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A 4th-level ranger with a light melee weapon each hand and the Two Weapon Fighting fighting style can make 2 attacks in a turn (1 with the Attack action for the first hand, 1 as a bonus action for the second hand without penalties). Can he hit and damage one enemy with the first attack, see if the enemy dies, and then decide to hit the next one (if nearby)? Or must he target only the first creature with both attacks?

In short, can the ranger choose different targets for different attacks in the same turn? My DM says NO.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Role-playing Games Meta, or in Role-playing Games Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Nov 17, 2023 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide the reasons and the explanations of your DM, if any, behind this ruling? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Nov 17, 2023 at 8:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage, the DM says that until a counterproof, this is the way: this topic and your answers is the counterproof I look for. Thanks all. \$\endgroup\$
    – alemayo
    Nov 18, 2023 at 1:11

1 Answer 1

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Yes, they can.

Choosing a target is part of making an attack, not part of taking your turn or taking the attack action (and in this case it's two separate actions, one action and one bonus action, making the separation even larger). Making an attack has three phases:

Whether you're striking with a melee weapon, firing a weapon at range, or making an attack roll as part of a spell, an attack has a simple structure.

  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.

As attacks are not simultaneous (as evidenced by being able to move between attacks) and there is no rule that requires a pre-declaration of attack targets — targeting is part of the individual attacks, not an overall action — nor is there any rule that requires all attacks in a turn target the same enemy, you are able to decide your target with each attack based on the outcome of prior attacks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the right answer, but it might be worth qualifying that although it is RAW, the DM's ruling takes precedence. In this case, the question is whether the DM knows that they are not following RAW. If they know and still say no, they are right by definition. Also, within the abstraction of one's turn, there is not 'longer' between between an action and a bonus action compared to between two parts of the same action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 17, 2023 at 4:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ That applies to any and all disputes with a DM, but I don't think it adds much for the question askers to always say "and your DM can choose to define their own rules." As for the actions, I was only drawing the separation as to targeting: even if someone were to make the argument that one action targets once, these aren't the same action to begin with. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shivers
    Nov 17, 2023 at 4:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ There isn't much value in answering every question with "but your DM can say different." In this case, however, OP has specifically said that their DM has already made a ruling and yet OP is still seeking a different answer. IMO, it is worth it in this case to make sure they understand that the DM is empowered to change the rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 17, 2023 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shivers +1 for explaining this in detail and making clear the RAW. Indeed, the question isn't about whether the DM's ruling trumps the RAW - which it does obviously. There are other questions which broach that subject in the stack, including questions on how to talk with a DM when there is a dispute. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Nov 17, 2023 at 9:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll just say that if the DM rules you have to predefine all your attacks ahead of time, that's a pretty significant debuff that applies only to weapon-focused characters. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2023 at 15:46

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