September 4, 2008

I'm a marked target... Now what should I do?

I want to raise a question to all the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons DMs out there: how do you handle marked monsters and NPCs on the battlefield? Do they "know" they are marked? Do they just keep attacking whomever they please (and suffer the consequences)? Do they change targets and focus on whoever marked them?

Here's the problem: in my campaign I have a 'cardboard' character who is the only fighter in the party. His name is Crush. In strict 4E terms, he's the 'defender' of the group and since I'm the DM as well, I have to play him kind of ... you know... dum dum. The problem I run into is when he marks a target using his class feature Combat Challenge. I usually just have the monster he marked change focus to attack him instead, but my wife raised the question the other night "Why does that zombie have to attack Crush? Maybe he doesn't care that he's marked... i mean.. he is a Zombie, right? Muhhhh Bwraaaaaiiinzzz...."
... Admittedly, my usual choice may be residual fall out from playing too much Warcraft for the last 4 years (thank the gods I quit) ...
So... since 'marking the target' is a relatively new concept in D&D, how do you handle it?


  1. It's specifically stated somewhere in the PHB or DMG that all monsters and NPC's "know" what effects have been inflicted on them and what the consequences of them will be. So if a monster is marked it will act accordingly for the best tactics, this doesn't mean that if a PC has been taunting a monster and it's then marked by another target, you can't just say it KEEPS attacking the taunting person because the monster is angry and wants that person to die, it just means the monster is aware that it will have a -2 to that attack if it does attack them.

    It sounds cheesey in strictly game terms, but the DM is there to make things into a real world and it can always be attributed to some reasonable and realistic actions.

  2. According to the books (which of them I don't quite remember) both players and creatures under the effect of a mark automatically know that they have been marked and the particulars of the mark.

    This is stupid.

    Specially in the case of the fighter, who has no shiny fx nor needs to spell it out to the foe, I believe that the marked opponent should only know about the mark if: a) they somehow realize the fighter is acting differently towards them (a big somehow), or b) if they have 'suffered' the effects of the mark *and* they get what's going on.

    I don't think the zombie could do any of those, so I'm with your wife on this one Johnathan.

  3. i think the idea is that a 'mark' isn't some invisible thing that floats above your targets head. To 'mark' is an action you take that makes your target notice you more and want to attack you. Like shouting something about it's mother (taunting) or getting close enough to it so that it can't easily go after someone else. It's the representation of mark that i think is misunderstood here. Strategically, your 'marked' target might be better off attacking someone other than his 'marker' and he can certainly do that. But it's a strategic choice to do that, i believe, not because marked targets shouldn't care.

  4. Yeah, agreed with modonle here, it's not a magic invisible game condition, it's the fighter doing his best to get in the monster's way and distract it from attacking anyone else. Even a zombie knows that there's this annoying thing with delicious brains in front of it. I'd argue it wouldn't do anything but try to attack the thing that marked it, even if doing something else makes more tactical sense.

  5. Fortunately this is easier using a mindless opponent. The fighter is "in it's face" so to speak, and actively trying to make himself a juicier target.

    Other creatures "know" that they are marked in the sense that they realize that this peasky fighter is "all up in their grill" so to speak, and is interfering with their attacks.

    Of course, they don't HAVE to attack the fighter, he is just constantly in the way. So that -2 to hit against something that can somewhat easily hit it's target (the wizard) is meaningless.

  6. Hey all - its a pleasure to be the hosting this discussion.

    This whole issue of whether the enemy knows they are marked or not came about from the following scenario I discussed with some nerd friends of mine: A zombie hulk (L8) is one of many opponents the PCs are facing. The warlock scores a crit on her daily and deals massive damage. But - the zombie is marked, by a L3 fighter. My reasoning is that the zombie is going to attack whatever is hurting it the most; it is simply not smart enough to care that it is marked (plus - its +12 to hit vs a bunch of L3 PCs doesn't hurt either). So - it changes who it was fight and charged the warlock. This 'triggers' the fighter's Combat Challenge class feature and he manages to stop the zombie in his tracks.

    When else would the fighters combat challenge be used unless the DM directs a creature to attack someone other than the fighter who marked it, eh?

  7. I concur...informed decision from the target's perspective is definitely the way to go...

  8. To answer your second question, PvP combat...

    I don't think there's anytime that a DM does not control a monster's actions...

  9. "So - it changes who it was fight and charged the warlock. This 'triggers' the fighter's Combat Challenge class feature and he manages to stop the zombie in his tracks. "

    This seems to work perfectly as intended, in my book. The zombie would know that there's a fighter in its face, but it tries to engage the thing that just hurt it lots. The fighter's skill prevents that. Doesn't seem like there's any problem to me, and that's how I would have played it out too.

  10. Agree with Dave. Nothing about the mark says the marked target has to attack the marker. Just that they take X penalty if they don't.

    By the book, a target knows when they're marked. You could argue that a mindless creature would have no way of knowing... but you could also argue that a mindless creature would have no way of knowing who just hurt it. I'd say if it's bright enough to recognize the warlock as the source of the crit, then it's bright enough to recognize the mark.

    Whether it gives a damn about the mark is another matter.

  11. Ok - the rules state that all creatures know the effects of any powers or conditions that are in effect upon them.


    Now lets split some hairs, taking the RAW but giving it a new interpretation (after all, that seems to be the 4E way)

    A fighter marks his opponent.

    There are two things happening here.

    There is the mark. The mark is a condition that it in effect on the target.
    Then there is the fighter's special ability that allows him to do certain things when facing a target he has marked.

    Is the fighter's ability a power or condition that is in effect on the target? No. It is an ability the fighter has.

    So I give you an alternative interpreation that fits the RAW.

    The creature knows that it is marked and thus it knows that its attacks will suffer a penalty to attacks.
    The creature does NOT automatically know that this creature that has marked him is different from that creature that has marked him and that thus the fighter will hit him when he attacks someone else.

    He may learn that the hard way when he attacks, and perhaps he deserves a knowledge nature check to know about the fighter's powers just as the fighter gets one to know about his.

    But it needn't be automatic.

    (Paladin's divine challenge is arguably different, and they probably would be aware that there is more to the power than simply a mark).



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