[RPG] What happens when the wearer of a Shield of Missile Attraction is behind total cover

coverdnd-5emagic-itemsshieldweapons

The Shield of Missile Attraction, a rare magic item that requires attunement, has the following curse:

Whenever a ranged weapon attack is made against a target within 10 feet of you, the curse causes you to become the target instead.

Say there are two creatures, one (let’s call it A) in clear arrow path and the other (let’s call it B) within 10 feet of A but behind total cover (such as a wall) but also cursed by a Shield of Missile Attraction. What would happen if someone tries to make a ranged weapon attack (such as shooting an arrow) at A?

  1. As there is not a clear arrow path to B, the shield's Missile Attraction property does not work and A gets shot.
  2. B becomes the target, but the Missile Attraction’s arrow deviation also causes the arrow to somehow go around the wall and B gets shot.
  3. B becomes the target, but the wall takes the arrow so that neither A or B gets shot.
  4. Some other scenario I haven't envisioned.

Best Answer

RAW, B is targeted

One of the foundational rules for playing the game (found in the Introduction to the Basic Rules):

many racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

In this case we have the specific rule from the magic item shield of missle snaring contradicting the general cover rules:

A target with total cover can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell

Regardless of the cover, the specific rule of the shield trumps any targeting limitations as the shield says (emphasis mine):

Whenever a ranged weapon attack is made against a target within 10 feet of you, the curse causes you to become the target instead.

Whether or not you are a valid target at the time of the attack is irrelevant as the specific magic item rule makes you into the target. No exception is provided by the specific rule (for what it's worth, it specifies "whenever").

How to narrate this

Total cover states that you can't be targeted directly by an attack. Perhaps the shield magically modifies the trajectory to take a path to you (similar to how fireball's effect can go around corners). If you are behind total cover, the arrow navigates around the cover.

A GM could then rule that your position relative to the new indirect trajectory has half cover, three quarters cover, or even impose disadvantage as he/she warrants. This is part of the procedure for Making an Attack:

Determine modifiers. The GM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target.

There is also an optional rule in the Dungeon Master's Guide called Hitting Cover that could aid in the narration:

When a ranged attack misses a target that has cover, you can use this optional rule to determine whether the cover was struck by the attack.

Essentially if the attack would have hit the target without the three-quarters cover (or whichever you impose) but the +5 AC makes it a miss, the cover blocks the arrow.

Rules as Common Sense

As a general disclaimer, a GM can rule that the cover provides substantial AC to block the arrow as a common sense ruling. Any GM can change the rules so the table can enjoy the game to their highest degree.