View Full Version : Tricks to Avoid Repetative Combat?

2007-04-05, 09:50 PM
I'm currently GMing a D20 Past game, set in 1650. Since it's set in this time period, and plus, certain elements of the story prevent access to certain weapons and skills, all of the character pretty much have the same weapon.

Does anyone have any advice on how to speed combat up and make it a little less "same old, same old"? There are six playable characters, as well as a couple of NPCs and the opponents. This is my firs time GMing. Everyone seems to be enjoying the story, and the character management, but I'm worried eventually, our combats will become too stale.

:roach: Any advice from seasoned players would be greatly appreciated.

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-05, 09:55 PM
Gimmicks. Throw in things that are unusual to certain battles that can turn the tide either for or against the players. If every battle or two has a different gimmick, the players will start focusing on finding those gimmicks quickly and either exploiting or neutralizing them.

F.H. Zebedee
2007-04-05, 11:48 PM
Yeah, throw them for a loop. Have some trap go off in a dungeon while they're facing lower-CR monster that ices the floor like Grease, and have them deal with it somehow. (Either by making those balance checks or by melting the ice somehow)

Have some combats where bizarre enchantments force them to strategize differently. For example, have monsters that can only be hurt by a specific character, and then switch who it is after a couple turns. Depending on your play group, you may want to either make this a puzzle, or a fairly simplistic thing. (Puzzle=Party needs to figure out a pattern to the switches, Straightforward=Monsters color coded for your convenience.)

Remember, though. If you force them into bizarre situations, make sure that you don't get them in over their heads.

2007-04-06, 12:03 AM
It may take a bit more work on your part, but including the occasional unique terrain/environment battle can make things more interesting. Stuff like fighting in a maze, a frozen lake, a balcony in an opera hall, or a rocky hill can introduce some unpredictable elements into combat if done properly.

Aramil Liadon
2007-04-06, 06:38 PM
Balconies are good, heavy objects hanging from a thin rope are good, unusual opponents that make the characters think differently/creatively such as disarming or traps.

Screw the rest of my post. The below onws it at all possible levels. Bullet points? you rock, dude.

2007-04-06, 07:23 PM
D20 Past means not much magic stuff, right? Mostly human opponents?

Some combat variations:

Fights on moving platforms -- ships, wagons, spinning rafts hurtling toward a waterfall, the backs of a stampeding horde of buffalo.
Chase fights, where one side needs to get away or reach a location without being intercepted. You'll have to "shift" the battle map regularly, if you use one. Have lots of obstacles that affect the flow of the battle, like traffic on crossing streets, sudden turns, objects that can be broken or set on fire to delay pursuit, unexpected allies or extra enemies, supporting fire from the rooftops, possibly even sacrificial NPCs(*) for the party being chased. The key is to make victory not simply go to the higher movement rate. Build in some "they catch up, fight a little, get away again" points.
Fights for subdual, where the party has to take down a confused ally without killing him, or possibly collect a live enemy for interrogation. Maybe even silently.
Fights with more than two sides, and possibilities for hasty battlefield alliances or fruitful misdirection. "Guards! Guards! That one's the criminal! He's getting away!"
Fights with unusual weapon requirements, such as formal duels, or boxing matches, or ones that start in "peaceful" areas so everyone has to grab improvised weapons. (Is the fireplace lit?)
Fights in constrained or unusually shaped areas. Perhaps one in a garden labyrinth, where the walls can be hacked through with sufficient damage. Perhaps one in a fragile structure, where loud noises cause small cave-ins, making specific tiles unpassable.

Out of ideas now.

(*) That one's always my favorite in movies. "No, I'm done for. You go ahead, and look back with tears in your eyes while I hold them off for as long as I can. You can resume running once they've almost caught up with you again."

2007-04-06, 10:48 PM
seige engines!

Aramil Liadon
2007-04-07, 10:30 AM
^ Cannot emphasize enough! So much fun! Also burning projectiles, to add pyromantics to the mix!

2007-04-07, 02:06 PM
Thanks, everybody! All of these points have really helped me a great deal!

[While D20 Past doesn't have magic, yes, I can still use the "grease/ice" suggestions, with a few modifications - I can do tricks like having people fight on ships or in baker's or butcher's shops and have to deal with the various things and slippery bits.]

Their next fight's going to be in a Mess Hall, so that will add the tables and chairs element. A few sessions ago ,they had a bar fight in which one character swung across a chandelier and another botched an attack roll and broke the banister of the staircase and sent the entire party tumbling down the stairs.

I like siege engines, but does anyone know where to find the stats for something like that? I've never seen stats for war machines. There's going to be a fort siege at some point in the game, and they'll most likely be needed.

Dark, you've been extremely helpful, particularly. And, just so you know, there will be something along the lines of the sacrificial NPC, who's tragic death well set the stage for the second campaign.

Thanks again, everyone! Ropes! Chandeliers! Locations! Siege engines! Mazes! Oh, my! Thanks a ton!

2007-04-07, 09:49 PM
Stats for seige engines are in the Dungeon Master's Guide. There are also additional weapons in the Arms and Equipment Guide (which is 3.0, but dirt easy to convert). Complete Warrior has more stats and a reworking of seige weapon rules.

Of course, these are all DnD books, so if you run strictly d20 Modern and spin offs you may not have them or get a whole lot of use out of them, but they're the only seige engine stats I know of.

2007-04-11, 10:13 AM
Well, that will give me a start, at least. Thanks, I'll look into converting the stats over. It shouldn't be too impossible...

I've heard of a book called D20 Medieval, but I can't find any record of it other than one I can order from England for about $30, but I don't know if that would be too early to be helpful.

...As far as combat goes, in our last session, we had a player knock a player out with a dinner plate, one hid under a table and cut people's tendons as they passed, someone ran the full length of a table and tackled someone, and another player punched an NPC with a low constitution and crit, knocking him out, and then kidnapped him. These people are crazy.

2007-04-11, 11:04 AM
The basic combat encounters are:

1) Big tough guy (Ogre, Giant)
2) Lots of weak enemies
3) PC's get ambushed
4) PC's get to ambush someone else
5) Flying enemy
6) Ranged enemies from behind fortifications
7) Invisible/hidden/obscenely hard to hit enemies
8) Magic users
9) Overwhelmingly powerful enemies who will fight the PC's but have no real interest in killing them right now
10) Odd terrain (rivers and bridges, traps, collapsing floors, etc)
11) Combat encounter that actually a Skill encounter (you think you have to kill X, but really you have to Balance, then Tumble, then Jump, then Climb, then make a Bluff check, then try and kill X).
12) Some combination of the above

Once I pick an encounter, I then try and choose a main enemy with an interesting ability, spell, or power. I build the enemy's tactics around that interesting feature. And then I build it into my plot trees.

Also, I will sometimes purposefully build monsters or enemy parties of adventurers that specifically work against the party's weaknesses, or is very high CR but is build specifically to be killed by the party's strengths. Everyone in the party should have a chance to shine, and everyone should have their build beaten have the crud beaten out of it once in a while.

If you find your encounters are taking too long, try using fewer, more potent enemies. Instead of making putting more monsters on the board, just give class levels to the one or two monsters you want to use.