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The Artificer can see and hear his steel defender but not the enemy. The Steel Defender can see and hear the Artificer and can see and hear the enemy.

Can the Artificer use its bonus action to make the Steel Defender attack the enemy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the artificer know that the enemy is present? Is your question about the mechanics of what the artificer can order the steel defender to do, or about the meta-gaminess of whether characters can act on out-of-character knowledge? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 12 at 21:34

2 Answers 2

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Yes, they can

The Steel Defender feature says

In combat, the defender […] can move and use its reaction on its own, but the only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless you take a bonus action on your turn to com­mand it to take another action. That action can be one in its stat block or some other action.

There is nothing in there limiting the actions to involve only opponents you can see. It can be any action.

Obviously, to command it to attack a specific creature, you need to be aware that the creature is present. But a creature you cannot see is not automatically hidden from you.

Note however, that the Steel Defender's Force Empowered Rend attack has a limitation:

Force-Empowered Rend. Melee Weapon Attack: your spell attack modifier to hit, reach 5 ft., one target you can see. Hit: ld8 + PB force damage.

"You" in the defender's stat block refers to the caster (for example, it has hit points of "2 + your Intelligence modifier + 5 times your Artificer's level" and the defender does not have any artificer level). The defender itself is referred to as "the defender" in the stat block, as in the Defense Attack reaction ("The defender imposes disadvantage […]").

That means, while you can command it to attack the creature, it cannot carry out the Force Empowered Rend to do that, as that works only on a creature you can see.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is nothing in there limiting the actions, but the actions available to the steel defender may have restrictions as I talk about in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 1:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ClericoftheWest You are right. I added some text on that. \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 5:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting that if it cannot use the Force-Empowered Rend, it would have to use a weapon (or unarmed strike), but without proficiency. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    May 13 at 10:15
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A DM ruling could go either way

I think the questions you're asking is about the text of the Steel Defender's Force Empowered Rend attack, which states:

Force-Empowered Rend. Melee Weapon Attack: your spell attack modifier to hit, reach 5 ft., one target you can see. Hit: 1d8 + PB force damage.

The use of 'your' and you' in the description is ambiguous enough that personally I would allow it to attack someone that the artificer knew was in the vicinity but couldn't actually see at the moment. However, I could see a DM making a ruling that the attack uses 'your' proficency bonus and spell attack stat, and therefore the 'you can see' is meant exactly as it sounds, you(the artificer) has to see it.

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