In my next session, there's a good chance that the players will interact with a Kobold Ranger that has been following them around. It might even come to combat. However my players, being aware that Kobolds hate Gnomes, have decided that they will disguise the party's Gnome as a Halfling.

This led me to an interesting question, as this Ranger has Gnomes as one of his Favored Enemies but is likely to be fooled by the very convincing disguise. Will he still get his +2 bonus to skill checks and damage rolls against this Gnome if he doesn't know he's fighting his favored enemy?

The text only mentions that the target has to be of the specified type which the Gnome certainly is, but I'm not sure whether it's intended that he would still hit for extra damage if he thinks he's fighting (or tracking, or bluffing) a Halfling.


RAW answer: The damage bonus is granted regardless the Ranger's knowledge of the creature's identity.

PHB 1 (p. 47 says the following):

At 1st level, a ranger may select a type of creature from among those given on Table 3–14: Ranger Favored Enemies. Due to his extensive study on his chosen type of foe and training in the proper techniques for combating such creatures, the ranger gains a +2 bonus on Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against creatures of this type. Likewise, he gets a +2 bonus on weapon damage rolls against such creatures.

This does not mention anything about the the Ranger being able to identify the target as a Favored Enemy, so you get the bonus even if you do not know if you're fighting one.

Alternate take: Knowing a Gnome when you see one

Note that how the ability mentions that Rangers study their targets. Perhaps the ranger manages to identify the Gnome as being one because of these studies, or because they sound or move differently. You can try to have the Kobold identify the gnome as such with a Sense Motive vs Disguise roll to see through the disguise (remember that Favored Enemy gives you a bonus on Sense Motive checks!), and failing it does not grant the extra damage bonus because the Gnome is not being fought in the ideal way to fight Gnomes. Note that this solution is not strictly RAW, but it rewards the party's (attempted) cleverness which they will like.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 specially for the second part. If they get a bonus against a specific type of enemy is because they know them so well. So, they should be able to identify them on the spot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Jan 15 '15 at 15:40
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that they get the favored enemy bonus on the Spot check to see through the disguise! Also, you can apply circumstance bonuses - he already knows he's tracking a party with a Gnome in it (from the tracks? Maybe) and so gets a bonus to notice the only Small creature is only disguised as a Halfling when it's really a Gnome! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15 '15 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this answer as RAW. That being the case, do you think that flavor-wise this should apply to fighting an invisible enemy or something else that offers the PC no way of discerning the enemy's nature? I think the bonus stems from being able to use your knowledge of the enemy to focus on weak points. If you don't know what the enemy is, you don't know to focus on those tactics. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skiptron
    Feb 5 '15 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ IF the target is invisible, you can call it either a lucky shot or training in such tactics. As for a disguised enemy it can be either a lucky shot as well, or maybe calling it fighting in a style that does more damage against the preferred enemy but regular damage to foes who are not of that type. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5 '15 at 20:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ From a fluff point of view, I would argue that your favored enemy species has some kind of distinct fighting style. So whenever facing off against such an enemy, whether the enemy is cloaked, disguised or not the ranger will be able to get their bonus based on countering the enemies style. Aka, "this human fights a lot like an orc, let me use my knowledge of orcs. Oh! It was an orc." \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 '18 at 12:55

Dmg glossary rules that invisibilty. Total concealment. Incorporeality complete darkness. Blindness. Foils. Favored enemy damage bonus


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