Immediate Reactions Question

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Ok I have a real noggin scratcher here, and I need help. This is not a small, unimportant problem, and the answer will change the dynamics of the game in a MAJOR way.

For the record I am refering to Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (D&D 4e) here. I actually find this distasteful, but this is going to take a wall of text to explain because it requires me to SERIOUSLY split hairs and then split the split hairs again, so get ready for some SERIOUS lawyer talk.

Before we begin, remember that you may only make 1 "Immediate" type of action per round as stated on page 268 of the Players Hand Book 1 (PHB1).

Consider the rules for "Immediate Reactions" quoted from the (PHB1):

"An immediate reaction lets you act in
response to a trigger. The triggering action, event, or
condition occurs and is completely resolved before
you take your reaction, except that you can interrupt
a creature’s movement. If a creature triggers your
immediate reaction while moving (by coming into
range, for example), you take your action before the
creature finishes moving but after it has moved at
least 1 square.
An immediate reaction might interrupt other
actions a combatant takes after its triggering action.
For example, if a power lets you attack as an immediate
reaction when an attack hits you, your action
happens before the monster that hit you can take
any other action. If a monster has a power that lets
it make two attack rolls against you as a standard
action, and the first one hits, you can use an immediate
reaction before the next attack roll."

Now consider the rules for "Immediate Interrupt" also quoted from PHB1:

"An immediate interrupt lets you jump
in when a certain trigger condition arises, acting
before the trigger resolves. If an interrupt invalidates
a triggering action, that action is lost. For example,
an enemy makes a melee attack against you, but you
use a power that lets you shift away as an immediate
interrupt. If your enemy can no longer reach you, the
enemy’s attack action is lost."

Now consider the item "Mithral Armor" from the "Adventurer's Vault" Book:

"Mithral Armor Level 4+
Mithral armor shines like polished silver. Most who use it claim
it has saved them on more than one occasion.
Lvl 4 +1 840 gp Lvl 19 +4 105,000 gp
Lvl 9 +2 4,200 gp Lvl 24 +5 525,000 gp
Lvl 14 +3 21,000 gp Lvl 29 +6 2,625,000 gp
Armor: Chain, Scale, Plate
Enhancement: AC
Power (Daily): Immediate Reaction. Use this power when
a melee or ranged attack hits you. Take half damage."

Now... the ability on Mithral Armor is an Immediate Reaction, so according to the rules of immediate reactions, you have to wait until the attack hits you, and you must wait until it is "completely resolved" before you may activate your Mithral Armor. This means that the item does absolutely nothing though because you would have already taken the damage before the ability ever goes off.

Also, it says "Take half damage." That does not mean from the next attack. It does not mean until the end of your next turn, or until the end of the encounter.

Now consider the ability of the Epic Destiny path "World Tree Guardian" from the "Primal Power" book, and consider the level 21 ability "Bark of the World Tree":

"Bark of the World Tree (21st level): Whenever an enemy hits you , you can use an immediate reaction to gain resistance to all damage equal to 5 +your Constitution modifier. This resistance lasts until the start of your next turn."

I think many people would say that according to the rules of immediate reactions, you must get hit by the first attack, let it resolve completely, taking full damage first, and then you would have the resistance to all damage on all additional hits that might hit you after the first one. That would mean the Mithral Armor, run the same way, does absolutely nothing though.

Wait, I have more evidence: Consider the ability from the "Warden" class in PHB2:

"Warden’s Grasp Warden Feature
Spectral vines clutch at a foe that has attacked your ally,
impeding your enemy’s movement.
At-Will ✦ Primal
Immediate Reaction Close burst 5
Trigger: An enemy marked by you that is within 5 squares of
you makes an attack that does not include you as a target
Target: The triggering enemy in burst
Effect: You slide the target 1 square. The target is slowed
and cannot shift until the end of its turn."

If we run this ability as "Immediate Reaction" is written, this ability is nearly absolutely useless too because it would only shift the enemy AFTER they do their damage to your ally. It would do nothing to prevent the attack.

Now also consider this Ranger move from PHB1:

"Yield Ground Ranger Utility 2
Even as your foe connects, you leap backward, out of the way of
further harm.
Encounter ✦ Martial
Immediate Reaction Personal
Trigger: An enemy damages you with a melee attack
Effect: You can shift a number of squares equal to your Wisdom
modifier. Gain a +2 power bonus to all defenses until
the end of your next turn."

Note that this power is also an immediate reaction and states that it is when an enemy "damages you." Note that the ability from Mithral Armor is when an attack "hits you." Note that the Warden move: Warden's Grasp is when an enemy "makes an attack." I will discuss this very important difference shortly.

I have checked all the Erata, on all these moves I have proposed. There are Erata documents for the books I stated, and the items / powers I have stated have no erata regarding them, so they are supposedly correct, as they are written.

After searching through D&D 4e's books I find lots of powers, items, etc as "Immediate Reactions" that seem like they have an "intended effect," but are useless as the rules of Immediate Reactions are stated. This lead me to 1 of two conclusions. Either:

1) The writers of this book made these key words "Immediate Reaction" and "Immediate Interrupt," which are extremely important and effect the game in a huge way and completely failed to use their own terminology properly resulting in an utter failure in the ability of the game to even operate properly because the difference in wording something as "when an enemy attacks you," "when an enemy hits you," and "when an enemy damages you" are all pointless since they all mean the same thing when the ability they trigger is an immediate reaction. The abilities triggered must wait till after the power that triggered them is completely resolved, which means that there are a lot of abilities that do absolutely nothing at all, such as the Mithral Armor as an example or next to nothing at all. If this is true, I am going to say that D&D 4e is a complete and utter failure, and is simply unplayable. It doesn't even work. The developers don't even know what they are talking about or doing.


2) This is something we are not understanding here.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I opted for option 2, and went to go consider the way you make an attack in detail since the rules on "Immediate Reaction" and "Immediate Interrupt" seem pretty iron clad.

Consider that on page 269 of the PHB1 we have rules on making an attack:

All attacks follow the same basic process:
1. Choose the attack you’ll use. Each attack has an
attack type.
2. Choose targets for the attack (page 272). Each target
must be within range (page 273). Check whether
you can see and target your enemies (page 273).
3. Make an attack roll (page 273).
4. Compare your attack roll to the target’s defense
(page 274) to determine whether you hit or miss.
5. Deal damage and apply other effects (page 276)."

Now if you go read the following pages listed in that list, you start to get the impression that making an attack is actually a multi-phase or multi-step process because each step is broken into it's own section with it's own header. IF this is the case, then it is possible that an "Immediate Reaction" that triggers "on hit," would actually pause the attack process at step 4, and resove prior to damage being delt.

The "Immediate Reaction" rules state that you must wait for the action to "resolve completely" before the "Immediate Reaction" occurs, but what I am suggesting is that IF making an attack roll, determining hit or miss, and dealing damage, are three seperate phases, then it is possible for the "Immediate Reaction" to allow the "Hit or Miss" step to occur and resolve completely, but the "Immediate Reacion" would still go off before damage is dealt. In this way, the Immediate Reaction DID, IN FACT, allow its trigger to resolve completely first, but then goes off before anything else does.

This suggests that resolving things works similar to resolving things in Magic the Gathering, where resolving one big thing like the "attack phase" is actually a series of resolving several little things one at a time, and there is a pause for other things to interject between them.

If we assume this is the case, then suddenly everything makes a lot more sense. Take for example the "Warden Grasp" ability I posted: The way that would work, now, would be that the enemy "makes an attack" against your ally. The enemy spends the standard action and rolls the die, but BEFORE it is even compared against your ally's appropriate defense to determine whether it is even a hit or miss, the "Warden's Grasp" ability would go off and allow you to shift the enemy away from your ally. If the enemy does not have enough reach, the attack is now invalid, and would miss.

That makes the ability seem a lot better now doesn't it?

If we assume that is how the "Mithral Armor" works, you are hit, and the hit phase / action is completely resolved, but BEFORE damage is dealt, it declares you are going to take half damage.

Now that item works.

If we assume that is how the "Bark of the World Tree" works, the hit on you would be declared, and then you would gain your reistance to all damage BEFORE the damage is delt, meaning it DOES reduce damage of the first attack. Makes that seem a lot better eh?

HO HO! I think we have figured it out right? Well maybe, but I am not quite done.

Consider the item from the Adventurer's Vault "Cape of the Mountbank:"

Cape of the Mountebank Level 5+
With a flourish of this silk-hemmed garment, you transport out
of harm’s way.
Lvl 5 +1 1,000 gp Lvl 20 +4 125,000 gp
Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp
Lvl 15 +3 25,000 gp Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Item Slot: Neck
Enhancement: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
Power (Daily ✦ Teleportation): Immediate Reaction. Use
this power when you are hit by an attack. Teleport 5
squares and gain combat advantage against the attacker
until the end of your next turn.

Consider its flavor text: "With a flourish of this silk-hemmed garment, you transport out of harm’s way." It seems that this item is intended to let you see if the attack would be a hit or a miss. On a miss, you would not bother using the cape. On a hit, you would declare the teleport BEFORE damage is dealt. The flavor text seems that the intent is to let you avoid taking damage. Thus, you would teleport away, not taking any damage since you are no longer in the square the damage is being done, and you are no longer a valid target right?

Wait! How is that possible? The phase that determined whether you were a valid target is already over! How can you be hit, have it confirmed and perhaps even crit upon by, for example, a battle axe, but not take any damage due to a move action? Move actions do not invalidate damage. Does this mean you are hit, teleport, and avoid the damage? Does it mean that you are hit, teleport, resolve the teleport, then take the damage anyway?

If you are hit, teleport, resolve teleport, then take damage anyway, now we are splitting a hair that we already split again! The teleport would happen BEFORE damage is dealt, and so does the resistance to all damage from "Bark of the World Tree," but since damage resistance does affect how damage is dealt, and movement does not affect how damage is dealt, is it possible that the damage is assigned during the "hit" step, but not dealt until the "damage" step? Also, how can damage be assigned when the amount of damage has not even been determined yet since the damage roll has not been made yet?

Consider the ranger move I posted earlier "Yield Ground." That one is basically the same thing, but states that the immediate reaction happens when "an enemy damages you." It seems that there IS a difference. Does it prevent the damage though?

Now, if we state that since the ranger move is different than the cape, the cape IS intended to let you evade an attack, then isn't that overpowered? You don't have to buy the +6 version. Why not just buy 10 of the +1 versions for 1,000 gold each? Also, if cape of the mountbank allows you to evade an attack, then so does this next move.

Consider the "Epic Destiny" "Primal Avatar" from PHB2 and the level 21 ability:

"Primal Travel (21st level): When any enemy hits
you with a melee attack, you can teleport 3 squares as
an immediate reaction."

If the cape of the mountbank lets you evade an attack, then having this epic destiny let's you evade the first hit that would deal you damage EVERY TURN. Is that ok, or do we say that the Bark of the World Tree would reduce the damage because it affects how damage is dealt, but while the teleport would resolve before the damage is dealt, you will still take the damage?

No matter what the answer is, this game requires a real life intelligence check of at least 14 just to play it, and has a prerequisite of having a law degree! This is absurd! No wonder the community had a hard time with it! Can I get an official judge's response here?

Also, how do you people think it works?
While I think the Mithral Armor is poorly written and should have been an Immediate Interrupt, i think its still sufficiently clear RAW in doing what it says it does, which is applicable to the triggering attack by taking only half damage.

 A few other powers similarly reduce attack's damage as an Immediate Reaction (Grounding Rebuke, Tenacity of the Tusked, Caiphon's Leap, Defensive Volley, Narrow Escape etc...)


Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Not really sure what you are hoping to get from this thread?

We all know what is intended from all the powers you have listed, also Dnd is a game played around a table with like minded players. As long as you all agree, which I can't imagine players at your table are, why does it matter that there maybe some powers that are worded slightly oddly?
Generally it works by playing to what the writers intended (as you interpret collectively at your table) rather than RAW, because most of the writers were very bad at RAW, ad Mithral Armour so capably demonstrates, among many other things.  A LOT of writers assume Reactions can Interrupt if they react to a step that hapens early in the attack sequence - but they're not correct, and the edition was in a lot of cases and places not terribly well-edited or well-proofed.

And yeah, what question can we actually answer for you that isn't just general (and accurate) ranting about the writing not being very good?
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
You can't parse the attack phase like in Magic: the Gathering. The result is far too broken, plus it effectively destroys the difference between immediate reactions and interrupts. If you can convince a DM, good luck, but you will be increasing the power level of the game dramatically.

As for your specific points...

Mithral Armor is worded badly. Its intent is obvious though, and only the strictest of DMs wouldn't interpret it so. Double-check before deciding to use it.

Bark of the World Tree is very clearly supposed to protect you from attacks after the first (the Ranger utility and Cape of the Mountebank fall into this category)

Warden's Grasp is meant to punish someone for attacking someone else, but due to its incredible range, it does so retroactively. Otherwise, by your wording, it is a Lightning Rush 6 levels earlier that does not require power points, does not provoke OAs and does not require item/feat support to negate attacks (aka it is stupidly good and clearly not taken to be read that way). 

Everything but Mithral Armor works exactly as it should under the Immediate Reaction rules. Don't let one bad wording lead to bad rules decisions.
#2 is somewhat to blame: while later material has generally flagged these sorts of powers as Immediate Interrupts, it was commonplace early on in 4E to write Reactions through the lens of step-by-step resolution, with the distinction being that a Reaction couldn't pre-empt the triggering step (but could pre-empt subsequent ones) while an Interrupt could pre-empt the triggering step.

This shifted over time to the understanding that a Reaction had to wait for the entire sequence (not just one step within it) to finish, but the earlier material was never really updated accordingly.

As such, if something listed as a Reaction would need to affect the triggering event in order to function, it nowadays effectively gets to play the "exception-based design" card and do so, as is officially the case for triggered Free actions.
I think a lot of the problem is that outside of the rules constructs of "Immediate Interrupt" and "Immediate Reaction", the description of the trigger and the effect sounds like something that would be a "reaction" in the common usage of the word outside of the 4e rules.
  Mitrhal Armor is an obvious example of this thinking - "I get hit by an attack, so I react and only take half damage".  Since it's not preventing, redirecting, or stopping the incoming attack it doesn't seem like an "interrupt" in common language, but a reaction.

 So a lot of the writers were making the mistake of thinking of Interrupt and Reaction in the common language sense as opposed to the way they are defined in the rules.

And yeah, what question can we actually answer for you that isn't just general (and accurate) ranting about the writing not being very good?

Does an immediate reaction that triggers "on hit" resolves before or after damage is dealt?

When it says that the immediate reaction must wait until the trigger resolves completely... at what point do you say it has resolved completely? How thinly do you slice it?

Do you say that you must wait until triggering player's turn is complete? Until the triggering player's standard action is complete? Until the Power is complete? Until the Attack is over? Until the Attack roll is over, but before hit or miss is determined? Until the determination of hit or miss is over, but before damage is assigned? Until damage is assigned, but before it is dealt? Until damage is dealt?

Those things I mentioned are all individual steps according to the PHB that must resolve independently, and in that particular order. An attack is not 1 event, but a series of shorter events that must take place in order and resolve completely one at a time. Since they must resolve independently, in theory an immediate reaction could allow the "hit or miss" determination to be resolved completely according to the PHB, but then the immediate reaction would occur BEFORE the damage from that hit would be dealt, which could affect how much damage is taken, if any.
After the entire attack, but before the next attack in a multi-attack power.  Unless the writer is bad at rules, which a LOT of them are.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

Hello Plaguescarred or thespaceinvader,

How would you rule on Startling Offensive and charge attack?

Would the charging attacker be able to resolve his attack before the rogue shifts away?


To all that is good and worthwhile.