Am Bad At Combat, How Do Better?

Posted in CategoryGeneral
  • NicestPancake 3 months ago
    I'm a new DM, and I know that my combat... tends to be lacking. I know, unoriginal start to a post, but hear me out.
    
    I'm actually so aware of this fact, that I plan* around* it, because I know that my players would get tired of the "daily grind," and so I let them have fun with it. One character even has homebrew tiny sheep that explode when killed! Because guess what, that gave them way more entertainment than hounding on four dudes until those dudes died. In fact, they were commonly ecstatic when one of those tiny little suckers died on a group of hunters.
    
    But, I added a new player in last-second because he was tired of DM'ing, and wanted to be a player, and, even though we only had 24 hours, I got him quickly set up. Something I hadn't realized at the time, though, was that this guy *HAD* to be the strongest, smartest person in every scenario. Every. Single. One. Which would be fine, but after an event occured, got a little... draining.
    
    In one particular instance, he killed an entire area of enemy with very little care for the area, he didn't scope out the buildings, nothing. He didn't even consider that *maybe* I had planned this encounter a little differently than the others, because the combat at other times was... "too boring." Which I know, which is why, this time, I had planned a little differently than usual. But because he could, he just... AoE'd the place.
    
    I know my frustration is coming out, now- but I know that, ultimately, the fault lies in me for not game conditioning him well enough. Question is, how exactly do I make better combat scenarios for him so that he feels a little more engaged, and not just a bunch of dudes coming at the party. (Or, I guess, how do I make my combat "not boring"?) How do I un-condition him to believe that all combat scenarios are going to be like that?

    I'm a new DM, and I know that my combat... tends to be lacking. I know, unoriginal start to a post, but hear me out.

    I'm actually so aware of this fact, that I plan* around* it, because I know that my players would get tired of the "daily grind," and so I let them have fun with it. One character even has homebrew tiny sheep that explode when killed! Because guess what, that gave them way more entertainment than hounding on four dudes until those dudes died. In fact, they were commonly ecstatic when one of those tiny little suckers died on a group of hunters.

    But, I added a new player in last-second because he was tired of DM'ing, and wanted to be a player, and, even though we only had 24 hours, I got him quickly set up. Something I hadn't realized at the time, though, was that this guy HAD to be the strongest, smartest person in every scenario. Every. Single. One. Which would be fine, but after an event occured, got a little... draining.

    In one particular instance, he killed an entire area of enemy with very little care for the area, he didn't scope out the buildings, nothing. He didn't even consider that maybe I had planned this encounter a little differently than the others, because the combat at other times was... "too boring." Which I know, which is why, this time, I had planned a little differently than usual. But because he could, he just... AoE'd the place.

    I know my frustration is coming out, now- but I know that, ultimately, the fault lies in me for not game conditioning him well enough. Question is, how exactly do I make better combat scenarios for him so that he feels a little more engaged, and not just a bunch of dudes coming at the party. (Or, I guess, how do I make my combat "not boring"?) How do I un-condition him to believe that all combat scenarios are going to be like that?

  • AntDM 3 months ago
    Hi Nicestpancake!!
    
    I had problems with combat too. It can easily be one of the least interesting parts of the whole game, despite the fact that most players spend the longest amount of time optimising themselves to... Do Battle! Wierd.
    
    First off, binge watch as many videos on YouTube with D&D 5e combat in the title. See how others do it and how they make it better. There are loads of ways to improve it, some of which only come after time and experience. So, mechanical things like Initiative (make an initiative tracker), Dice rolling (Advantage/Disadvantage? Make the player roll both dice at the same time to save...time!), Preparation ("Davrek, it's your turn now - Shelley, YOU will be up NEXT") so that the next player is already thinking about what to do ahead of time. 
    
    Also, I read a really good but slightly controversial article on combat a couple of weeks ago, and I'm incorporating some aspects of it into my game.  https://theangrygm.com/three-shocking-things-you-wont-believe-about-dd-combat/?fbclid=IwAR0_rjpvRDM2EQnZXaAaNgXN3L3x5DPKAwSUFXzniPMQ1N_fzYiyhZHy7yA
    
    I don't know how "serious" a game you run, but I suspect with tiny exploding sheep in it, probably not so much. Not my taste, but regardless, there are always ways to improve your game. So as for combat "flavour", use descriptive words for your monsters attacks. Rather than "It hit you. Take ...5 damage.", try "It lunged for your throat with its blackened claws; it hits you, scraping across your chest for 4 damage!" These things help. Look up "descriptive combat words" - I think there's a product made by Raging Swan Press that deals with this.
    
    If you feel the combat is dragging on too long... make it end. You're the DM. You control what HP or AC the monsters have. You control what happens. Just say to yourself, next hit kills the monster - nuff said. I trust you're rolling behind a screen so the players don't see the rolls, to maintain suspense? Try doing the same for some of their skill checks too (I find stealth, Investigation and Deeption particularly good ones to roll FOR the players WITHOUT them seeing the numbers rolled. Enhances the role-play, as YOU, the DM, have to describe to them how they, the PC, "feel" they performed! 
    
    Sorry, slightly off topic there.
    
    As for your AoE maniac, put civilians in the area. Make some innocents die horribly as a result of their actions. If they're more into the meta and roll-play rather than role-play, just explain that this is not how you want them proceeding, as it doesn't fit your game style. I hd to do this the other week with one of my players. It actually works.
    
    Hope that helps.
    
    Ant

    Hi Nicestpancake!!

    I had problems with combat too. It can easily be one of the least interesting parts of the whole game, despite the fact that most players spend the longest amount of time optimising themselves to... Do Battle! Wierd.

    First off, binge watch as many videos on YouTube with D&D 5e combat in the title. See how others do it and how they make it better. There are loads of ways to improve it, some of which only come after time and experience. So, mechanical things like Initiative (make an initiative tracker), Dice rolling (Advantage/Disadvantage? Make the player roll both dice at the same time to save...time!), Preparation ("Davrek, it's your turn now - Shelley, YOU will be up NEXT") so that the next player is already thinking about what to do ahead of time.

    Also, I read a really good but slightly controversial article on combat a couple of weeks ago, and I'm incorporating some aspects of it into my game. https://theangrygm.com/three-shocking-things-you-wont-believe-about-dd-combat/?fbclid=IwAR0_rjpvRDM2EQnZXaAaNgXN3L3x5DPKAwSUFXzniPMQ1N_fzYiyhZHy7yA

    I don't know how "serious" a game you run, but I suspect with tiny exploding sheep in it, probably not so much. Not my taste, but regardless, there are always ways to improve your game. So as for combat "flavour", use descriptive words for your monsters attacks. Rather than "It hit you. Take ...5 damage.", try "It lunged for your throat with its blackened claws; it hits you, scraping across your chest for 4 damage!" These things help. Look up "descriptive combat words" - I think there's a product made by Raging Swan Press that deals with this.

    If you feel the combat is dragging on too long... make it end. You're the DM. You control what HP or AC the monsters have. You control what happens. Just say to yourself, next hit kills the monster - nuff said. I trust you're rolling behind a screen so the players don't see the rolls, to maintain suspense? Try doing the same for some of their skill checks too (I find stealth, Investigation and Deeption particularly good ones to roll FOR the players WITHOUT them seeing the numbers rolled. Enhances the role-play, as YOU, the DM, have to describe to them how they, the PC, "feel" they performed!

    Sorry, slightly off topic there.

    As for your AoE maniac, put civilians in the area. Make some innocents die horribly as a result of their actions. If they're more into the meta and roll-play rather than role-play, just explain that this is not how you want them proceeding, as it doesn't fit your game style. I hd to do this the other week with one of my players. It actually works.

    Hope that helps.

    Ant

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