i'm DM to a 4th edition campaign. Been a DM for about 13 years through 2nd and 4th edition and never had to deal with this.

We have a kind of new player into the party, a rogue from PHB1. During combat he kept asking if he could attack the eye of the enemy (Young Blue Dragon) to disable him, or just rip off one of the wings.

Now i know we're in combat, and to get hit in the eye you just need to be very careless or the attacker has to come completely by surprise to achieve something like this.

I can't seem to fond any rule regarding this issue.

The rogue just accepted that he couldn't attack the dragon's eye reluctantly.

Now my question is: Is there any source material addressing this? For now i made a table rule:

If you want to attack a localized spot, the defender cannot know of your existence (invisibility, teleport into battle, etc).

The usual bonus apply, (combat advantage)

If you miss the attack, the defender gets a free opportunity attack with +2 power bonus (aiming and focusing in the attack would be something like range attack, hence combat advantage). This is to prevent possible abuse.

I want to know if this looks like a reasonable rule to deal with this kind of attacks. Or if someone here has more ideas.

Thank you


2 Answers 2


There are no mechanics for called shots like this. This is not an abstraction that 4e generally cares to deal with and it introduces a level of realism that 4e is unconcerned with. You're not going to find source material that deals with this.

That said, there are plenty of ways to narrate this happening within the current mechanics. The best things to use are powers that inflict a condition or penalty. So if your PC wants to consistently go for the eyes, they could find a power that inflicts Blindness and basically that becomes their "move." If they want to learn how to inflict some kind of lasting effect, then find a power that inflicts a penalty of some kind.

For one offs like the dragon wings type situation though, you probably have to get a bit more creative. You are encouraged by the DMG to make improvisations to be about the same strength as encounter powers (depending on the repeatability of them). So they should do about 2W damage and inflict a penalty or 3W damage without a penalty of any kind (at low levels, obviously scale up as power levels increase).

So to get to the meat of the question, how do you model ripping a dragon's wings off? Or poking it in the eye? very carefully.

I would allow, at most, the PC to roll a skill check to either inflict a save ends condition (blind, or can't fly) as a standard action. the DC would be reasonable (medium for level). There would be no damage, but they would get a round, maybe two for their buddies to hammer on the monster.

I do not find your conditions of needing surprise to be helpful, but I would require them to find themselves in a position where they could actually, say, reach the Dragon's wings etc.

However, I would impress on your players that this is improvisational and that regularly using this sort of improv over and over will cause monsters to catch on to their tactics and make them ineffective.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this very much. One thing though, there are not too much powers like this, and the few that are, are either daily or encounter, and the players would argue that it's not really a power, it's just a "skillful attack". I guess my word would be final there. Anyways, i like your answer, and liked the last part, about the tactics. Specially for recurring NPCs (nemesis) like this dragon. \$\endgroup\$
    – panietoar
    Nov 10, 2014 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @panietoar yes. in 4e most cool things are encounter or dailies. As such you shouldn't expect something like a "called shot" effect to work more than once. If they want more damage but less accuracy (which is effectively what called shots are aiming for), then things like the power attack feat (or the ranged version like Power throw) can be used at-will. Ultimately though, what they are trying to do, if they want to be effective is an encounter power type thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Nov 10, 2014 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Encounter it is indeed, there's no way an enemy would not be prepared for that kind of attack once the intentions are shown. \$\endgroup\$
    – panietoar
    Nov 10, 2014 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you shun borrowing called shot from 2E and have them take the -5 to their roll? I definitely borrow combat/crit mechanics and haven't had a problem yet in the years my campaigns have run. \$\endgroup\$
    – 13ruce1337
    Nov 10, 2014 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @13ruce1337 depends on the effects, if the effects were in bounds..but to be honest -5 to an attack in 4e is pretty crippling. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Nov 10, 2014 at 23:02

The basic idea behind Powers is that they are Called Shots. The reason you can only use them once per Encounter or Day is that no enemy is going to fall for the same trick twice. Or that the chance simply doesn't come up.

While it sounds super heroic to stab the dragon in the eye, the truth is that the dragon isn't going to be standing still while the Rogue lines up the shot and will try to protect its vitals, so the odds of succeeding are like a thousand to one.

Which is then abstracted into "one attempt per day, if and only if you pick the Rogue power 'Blinding Barrage', and even then you might miss."

I mean; there's really no reason to even bother hitting an enemy in anything other than a vital area. The whole idea of having dice and attacks and hit points is to gamify the idea that both sides are trying to hit the other in a place where it'll hurt; the dice simply determine how well they succeed.

So at it's core in 4e the answer to "How do you model poking something in the eye?" is "by designing a Power that does that".

However, if you want to go the houserule direction, rather than jostling around with penalties to rolls and such (which will either make them always the better option or always the worse option), it's better to make the player pay some resource cost for it.

For example; whenever they want to do something fancy like this (and have it do more than the basic rules for Improvised Actions allow) you could tell them they have pay a Healing Surge before they roll. (To represent the extra effort they have to put into creating that opening they need)


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .