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The Player's Handbook on the ranger's extraordinary ability favored enemy says

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. ...If the ranger chooses humanoids or outsiders as a favored enemy, he must also choose an associated subtype, as indicated on the table. If a specific creature falls into more than one category of favored enemy (for instance, devils are both evil outsiders and lawful outsiders), the ranger’s bonuses do not stack; he simply uses whichever bonus is higher. See the Monster Manual for more information on types of creatures. (PH 47)

There's nothing there about immunity to critical hits or precision damage. And, after the chapter on skills, there's nothing in the Player's Handbook about the extraordinary ability favored enemy. (The Monster Manual mentions the special ability favored enemy only by listing some creatures' preferences.)

The Rules Compendium on Precision Damage says that precision damage

includes sneak attack and other abilities that work like it, such as a ninja’s sudden strike (Complete Adventurer 8) and scout’s skirmish (Complete Adventurer 12). (42)

And, seriously, the extraordinary ability favored enemy doesn't work like those special abilities. (Besides, why use an example from Complete Adventurer when there's a fine example in the Player's Handbook that can be used instead? That's just weird, right?)

However, the Dungeon Master's Guide mentions the special ability favored enemy in the context of Invisibility:

Invisibility does not, by itself, make a creature immune to critical hits, but it does make the creature immune to extra damage from being a ranger’s favored enemy and from sneak attacks. (295)

And, likewise, in the context of Darkness:

Creatures blinded by darkness lose the ability to deal extra damage due to precision (for example, a ranger’s favored enemy or a sneak attack). (302)

This leads to the question: Is the ranger's favored enemy bonus on damage precision damage or just a bonus on damage against certain creatures? That is, are creatures immune to critical hits likewise immune to the ranger's extra damage from the extraordinary ability favored enemy, or can a ranger, for example, pick as his favored enemy the creature type construct, elemental, ooze, plant, or undead as a favored enemy and against such creatures always apply that favored enemy bonus on damage to such creatures?


What I'm really trying to hammer out is the epic feat Improved Manyshot, which says

Regardless of the number of arrows you fire, you only apply precision-based damage (such as sneak attack damage or the ranger’s favored enemy bonus) once. If you score a critical hit, only one of the arrows deals critical damage (your choice); all others deal normal damage.

Emphsis mine. So addressing this feat specifically makes an answer more useful. Also, whenever I ask a question that I think only has two answers, there're inevitably more, so if you've an answer that goes unaddressed here, that's okay. Finally, while I understand the rules for primary sources and that the feat Improved Manyshot can't alter them, the conflict between the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide nonetheless concerns me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't the "primary source" doctrine apply and overrule Improved Manyshot's parenthetical? If it's not that simple/obvious, mentioning why in the question would help. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '15 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That doctrine should apply except that the Dungeon Master's Guide (also a primary source) provides sidelong support for the feat. If you want, I can make that more obvious, but I assumed a good answer would address the contradiction. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 3 '15 at 16:09
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The primary source on Favored Enemy is either Player’s Handbook in the ranger class description, or Rules Compendium if you buy its assertion of primacy. The descriptions in the Invisibility description in Dungeon Master’s Guide, Improved Manyshot in Epic Level Handbook, or even darkness, despite also being in the Player’s Handbook, are definitely not the primary source on Favored Enemy.

Further caveats, limitations, and addenda not mentioned in the primary source description are contradictions with that description. If Favored Enemy had defined itself as precision damage, the primary source on precision damage would apply, but it didn’t, which means that neither the precision damage description nor anywhere else can define it as such.

I would be inclined, in general, to follow contradictory rules as far as they go. Darkness and Invisibility cannot define Favored Enemy as precision damage in general, but it can say Favored Enemy doesn’t work in those conditions. Here, specific-trumps-general: rather than trying to redefine what Favored Enemy is (in which primacy asserts itself), they can define a special case which acceptably contradicts the general rules. So my reading of the rules as written would be that Favored Enemy is not precision damage, but it does fail to work in cases of darkness or Invisibility, and does apply only once to Improved Manyshot.

Ultimately, however, I would mostly ignore any and all rules as written that apply any more needless limitations on Favored Enemy. Of all the iconic core class features,1 Favored Enemy is one of the weakest, and that’s even assuming that it “just works” on any and all attacks against the designated foes (including, therefore, Improved Manyshot).

  1. Slow fall and wild empathy, if counted as “iconic class features,” are definitely weaker than favored enemy, and smite evil and trapfinding give it a run for its money too. That’s still a small list compared to all of the options.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is pretty much what I was thinking, but I was hoping a later text or errata I missed clarified the issue precisely. By the way, I like trapfinding (for a broad definition of trap) and wild empathy, but I totally agree that slow fall and trap sense suck eggs. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 3 '15 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention Favored Enemy works on things without discernible anatomy. How precise can one be on hitting an ooze? \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Nov 4 '15 at 0:15
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Personally, I don't like the wording of "Precision Damage" in the RC for this very reason and it contradicts prior usage.

Precision Damage as used in the RC is Sneak Attack, Sudden Strike and Skirmish. This damage doesn't apply to creatures immune to critical hits.

However, Precision damage was already defined by the DMG and others to include Favored Enemy bonuses, with respect to vision and with feats like Manyshot/Imp Manyshot.

We shouldn't take the narrower definition in the RC and apply it's limitations to anything previously referring to precision damage, like Favored Enemy. Just take it in context.

The DMG exception means you must recognize an enemy as favored in order to take advantage of it. This specific context applies broadly to both the RC's Precision Damage and the Ranger's Favored Enemy bonuses. This exception is different.

Manyshot/Imp Manyshot are significantly different with respect to "precision damage". In this context, it is the broadest version of "precision damage," including critical hits as well.

Yes, poor choice in RC, since it was already defined in the DMG as something different, but as Manyshot and the DMG section are already different, we should not look for a universal definition of precision damage, but only apply any limitations in context.

The use of the same term in different contexts and phrases like "such as" lead to difficulty in understanding the intent.

A Ranger's Favored Enemy selection includes creatures immune to critical hits (Construct, Elemental, Ooze, Plant and Undead). It would be illogical then to use a series of cascading inferences to cancel out these specific benefits.

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The creature types you list are not immune to "precision damage" specifically.

  • The creature type traits define them as immune to Critical Hits
  • Sneak Attack says it doesn't work on the listed creature types
  • Precise Strike says it doesn't work on creatures immune to crits (also "only works against living creatures with discernible anatomies")
  • Favored Enemy doesn't list them as exceptions, so it applies the same to all creatures

Given that Favored Enemy is different to all other "precise" attacks, it could be argued that it isn't a "precise" attack

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In my view, it is rather the precision damage, with the exception that it works against the chosen enemy, but all other conditions that hinder the precision damage does work.

Example, variant of rogue to attack Constructors, causes 1/2 of the Sneak attacks, Constructors it is immune to this ability, but it works.

The only exception is that the ranger's ability works against the chosen creature (even though immune is critical or indiscernible anatomy), so looking at this point of view, both books are correct.

Precision Damage:

  • Does it not multiply in decisive success.
  • Does not apply above 9m (why do you think the ranger gains the ability to improve accuracy against camouflage.
  • Does not apply to all targets when the attack is rolled with only one move.
  • It does not apply to creatures immune to decisive success or indiscernible anatomy (unless you say otherwise, or the ability states that it works).
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