View Full Version : Any way to keep one-on-one combat interesting for all players?

2011-06-08, 06:09 AM
I'm sure the common sense argument would be, "Don't put the PCs in a one-on-one situation but the trouble is it's so iconic, noble warrior fighting with his adversary, gladiatorial combat, seedy mano-a-mano fistfights.

Sometimes it doesn't seem right for all four PCs to go to town on a single enemy, it may make sense but it's not good storytelling for a villain to be bum-rushed by the heroes and beaten senseless. Minions are a good way of spreading out combat but what if that's not appropriate.

What if the King offers a reward for beating his champion in fair combat, what if the informant offers the information you need if someone beats the resident pit-fighting champion for him, what if the player tracks down his nemesis and insists no-one interferes with the fight? What can be done to stop the other players twiddling their thumbs for the next half an hour while the one player rolls dice?

2011-06-08, 06:18 AM
I've never found it a problem, because 1 on 1 fights are quicker. As long as it doesn't occur too often it seems to work out. Do solo fights really take half an hour for you?

2011-06-08, 06:18 AM
I'd suggest giving all PCs a way to equally contribute to the fight. Let one character be the champion who fights, and other characters either rigging the fight in his favor (e.g. buffing, debuffing, sabotage), or be involved in a fight of their own (e.g. the two champions fight each other 1vs1, while the rest of the party is holding off intruders trying to disrupt the fight).

That said, make sure to distribute the spotlight fairly equally; if one character always gets to be the champion, the others will inevitably feel left out.

2011-06-08, 06:25 AM
Let's examine a few possibilities:

Spellcasters: They can buff or heal the fighter. Debuff or dispel buffs on the nemesis. They can use crowd control to keep others from interfering, and bystanders from being accidentally hurt. They can use divinations to keep an eye on the battlefield and its surroundings.

Sneaky types: They can keep an eye on the fighter for treacherous sneaky types. Remember that the nemesis is (usually) evil and ruthless, and he probably won't bat an eyelash at the idea of sending assassins or archers against the fighter to ensure a victory.

Social types: They can shout encouragement to the fighter (give the fighter a circumstance +X to attack, AC or saves). They can heckle, humiliate and insult the nemesis (same as the fighter, only it's a penalty instead). They can sweet-talk authority into not interfering, or into not punishing the fighter, or convince them that it's the nemesis the one that's evil. Basically, come up with a problem that would ruin the party's day and could be solved with judicious social aptitude.

Other fighters: If there are no henchmen to fight, they can do three things. Feats of strength, where they struggle to hold a gate up, or a wall from collapsing, or a door closed, or some other crucial deed. Feats of dexterity, where they perform daring feats of acrobatics, balance, climbing, jumping, tumbling, dodging traps/attacks/spells/etc in order to get a MacGuffin while the Big Bad is busy with the fighter, rescue a captured NPC or stop something Very Bad from happening (massive trap triggering, someone's death, someone's empowering, the summoning of a Fiend Lord, etc). And finally, feats of constitution, where they have to run for long periods of time (perhaps they must out-run someone, or something), go through a plague- or poison-ridden area, or simply endure damage; until something happens (the big bad is defeated, the gates are closed, the rituals are stopped, etc) or they manage to activate/deactivate something.

Everyone: They can deal with the nemesis's henchmen. Just because the fighter gets the nemesis doesn't mean that's the only enemy around. Also, maybe the fighter and the nemesis are fighting on very unsafe ground, with traps, natural disasters, wild magic, random encounters and the like, all of which must be taken care of so that the fighter can have his ultimate showdown.

2011-06-08, 06:37 AM
Does the champion necessarily have to be a melee knight archetype kinda character? If you sent a spellcaster into the ring against a meleer, they would probably still win, even if confined. :smallsmile:

Darth Stabber
2011-06-08, 08:32 AM
Does the champion necessarily have to be a melee knight archetype kinda character? If you sent a spellcaster into the ring against a meleer, they would probably still win, even if confined. :smallsmile:

So not only can melee not have nice things, they can't have fun things either:smallwink:

Unless the enemy champion is built with a heavy focus on not dieing a dual between two fighter types should be fairly short. 5 rounds for players with even a moderate amount of optimization should be abou all it takes (depndant on lvl and builds), since it will likely go initiative, charge, then trading atk rolls back and forth. In all likelyhood only about 10 minutes of real time spent in combat rounds. If the wizard is going to be bored for those 10 minutes, tell him to take the opportunity to use the restroom or grab another soda from the fridge.

Another thought (though it only occupies 1 player), is to have another player run the opposing champion. Example, L5R's test of the topaz champion revolves around a competition for young samurai to prove themselves, those that aren't bushi (warriors) usually sit out of the iaijutsu duals that are the final event. Having the shugenja and courtier players take up the opposing dualists sheets, and have them run the duals from the other side.

Also, make an opportunity for the other classes to get similar opportunities. Maybe some form of magical dualing for the casters, and a thieves competion where two thieves try to be the first one to steal some specific thing, or bring back the most total stolen coin with a night's work.

Titanium Fox
2011-06-08, 08:57 AM
This happened to me once. I was playing a Cleric who had been branded a traitor to her theocracy, and a Paladin had come for her. The pair had a history, and the nuances of the story...

Let's just say she had just lit Pelor's corpse on fire. And then hit it with a +1 Shocking Greatsword. Repeatedly. >>

Anyways. The party started spamming Ray of Enfeeblement on him. The fight took two rounds. The melee types were distracted by a Llama. So if all else fails... Give the party a magical god Llama that soothes as you touch it!

So, in other words, give the players a toy to mess around with IC that doesn't effect the fight so that they're not bored OOC.