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c_olsen73
2007-06-23, 10:21 AM
I've recently started a campaign (D&D 3.5) and all of my (not-so-bright) PC's have chosen to be crummy characters. My PC's at this point include

1. Halfling rogue, using a rapier
2. Human fighter, using dual longswords
3. Half-elf ranger, using a longbow

Though I have no bias against these particular classes, the fighting seems to get bland after a few battles, as no spells are even thought of, nor does the fighting style change. My bard refuses to use any spells, and the other characters always have the same strategy.

Is there a way I can get my PC's to perhaps pick more exciting characters? After I kill them off one by one, what sneaky way can I get them to choose less hackneyed characters? Is there a way to force one to be a caster? Again, my players are not the brightest crayons in the box, but surely they can play wizards or clerics, right?

Neon Knight
2007-06-23, 10:28 AM
With a cattle prod?

Nah, seriously just:

1. Get Tome of Battle.
2. Have them play the Swordsage, Warblade, and Crusader classes.
3. Have fun.
4. ???????
5. Profit!

The maneuver system in Tome of Battle is fun, varied, and generally awesome.

Jimp
2007-06-23, 10:33 AM
If you want them to change combat tactic you could throw different combat scenes at them. For example, they're in a forest and some kobolds hidden in trees could be sniping at the party. This will make them think about finding the kobolds, getting them out of the trees and then defeating them. It'll make a change from 'attack 15' 'hit' '6' 'dead'. Also, if they are a bit slow with strategy have the kobolds miss a little so that they don't die while they think :smallbiggrin:

FireSpark
2007-06-23, 10:37 AM
You could also try completely different scenarios. Sure they can bypass traps, track their prey, and meet in face-to-face in armed combat, but what if their problem is an evil wizard, towering above on a precipace, with protection from arrows cast upon himself? Gee, would be nice to have a sorcerer right about now, wouldn't it? Set up scenarios they never see coming, that way, you can begin to show them that they diversity to overcome obstacles (as with all things), and you'll begin to expand your own DM'ing talents.

Neon Knight
2007-06-23, 10:37 AM
......

Throw Tucker's Kobolds at them.

JellyPooga
2007-06-23, 10:56 AM
Simply throw situations at them which make them think "Hey, wouldn't a Wizard/Cleric be useful right now".

Wraithy
2007-06-23, 10:58 AM
flood their internal organs with koboldy goodness!

c_olsen73
2007-06-23, 11:02 AM
OK, cool....but

What in the nine hells are Tucker's Kobolds?

PinkysBrain
2007-06-23, 11:02 AM
Except for the fighter I don't see why they are crummy just from that description. They are hurting for AoE damage and healing though.

Ali
2007-06-23, 11:13 AM
http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/

Read this, it will show you how effective Tucker's Kobolds were.

Flakey
2007-06-23, 11:16 AM
You seem to be confusing fighting, and exciting roleplaying. Why can not a fighter have an interesting character?

Secondly if they go we attack this way every time, why would one of them being a mage make a difference. Its likely that the mage would use the same spells, in the same sequence, every time too.

Penguinsushi
2007-06-23, 11:38 AM
I'll go along with what Jimp said about changing encounters if you want them to do something differently... ...and second what Flakey said about the rp aspect...

...but more than that, I don't think the players are the problem - at least not the whole problem.

If they want to play those characters, let them. As the gm/dm, it's your job to make the game interesting no matter what. If the combats seem bland, that probably won't be solved merely by adding characters that take different actions. I mean, 12 standard, uncoordinated orcs in a plain 50x50 room are never going to be particularly "interesting", where as other morphing, evolving or unexpected combats will be interesting no matter what the players' modus operandi.

If you're pushing your characters to play certain things - that may well work and they may love it, but they might not, because you're taking away some of their choice...

~PS

hewhosaysfish
2007-06-23, 11:40 AM
Mix it up a little.
How many fights take place in a fairly open space with halof the enemies rushing towards them to fight and half hanging back to shoot/cast?

If they keep facing the same sort of situation, they will find what works best in that situation and stick with it. It's only common sense. So put them in a different situation.

If they're used to fighting in a twisty-dungeon corridor, put them in a wide open plain where enemies might out flank them. If they're used to a wide open plain, put them in a forest where they can't seem where the bad guys are all the time. If they're used to fighting in a forest, put them on a set of ledges up the side of a ravine where they can see the enemy but not how to reach him. If they're used to ledges, make them fight in a twisty corridor where they have to stand in a queue to fight.

Steal ideas from your favourite video game: Put them on boats. Push them off boats. Fight in the water. Fight on precarious perches. Fight over shark-infested boiling acidic lava pits... with spikes at the bottom. Make them fight while clinging to the gears of an Ancient Gnomish Ginormous Mechnaical Doodat. Make then fight in zero gravity. Make them fight in reverse gravity. Make them fight in the dark. Make them fight in a crowded street. Make them fight to a deadline. Make them fight silently and stealthily. Make them think!

Don't make all the enemies charge straight at them. Make ALL the enemies charge straight at them. Make the enemies fight from ambush. Make the enemies hit and run. Make the enemies fight from a defensive position. Make the enemies take advantage of the unusual situation. Make the enemies be as wrong-footed as the PCs. Make the enemies fly and attack from above. Make the incorporeal and attack from below. Make them invisible and attack from behind. Make them numerous and attack from all direction at once. Make them to powerful and force the PCs to run; play cat and mouse. Make the enemies run away because they are not powerful enough; play cat and mouse.
Make them pretend to be something else entirely. Make them pretend to be party members. Make them entirely illusory. Make them mind control hapless villagers. Make them try to mind control PCs. Make the PCs think!

...aaaand breathe....

So apart from the combat, how is the game going? Are the characters 2D race/class combinations with personalities cookie-cuttered out of Tolkien or are they masterful displays of literary-quality innovation?

Stormwolf
2007-06-23, 11:50 AM
I agree with Flakey - there's nothing wrong with the players' choice of characters - you need to think of situations that will challenge their way of fighting rather than presenting them with cookie-cutter encounters. Remember you are the one that has control of the environment / terrain as well as the sorts of critters that they'll encounter.

A good DM knows the strengths and weaknesses of the party and also the monsters they're up against. Play each critter to it's advantages (especially hit-and-run types) rather than a toe-to-toe slugfest and they'll soon wish they'd brought a few spellcasters along.

Also rather than just having 'standard' encounters try to 'see' the encounter in your head (like a scene from a good book / movie) - describe the scenario to the players. Build tension before the encounter and give them options to interact with the scenery as well as the monsters instead of just killing them. Unfortunately the 'good storytelling' aspect of DMing is something that only comes with practice but there's no better time to start than in the next session :) Good DMing is a lot about the preparatory work you put into an adventure before the players arrive (and after they leave).

Spook them. Split them up. Attack them from multiple directions. Don't let them rest. Just killing them off because you don't like their choices won't help - they'll probably just choose to play something similar again unless you force them to play a character class they don't want to play which is almost guaranteeed to make them feel they're being railroaded and therefore unhappy from the get-go.

Bassetking
2007-06-23, 11:55 AM
Ask about Tuckers Kobolds, and ye shall receive! (http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/)

Tallis
2007-06-23, 12:27 PM
Not much to add to the above except this: I had a player once who really liked the idea of playing an illusionist. He just wasn't any good at it. He never knew what to do with his spells. He'd stand back and do nothing or attack with his dagger most of the time. Finally he played a warrior. It was a perfect fit for him. Walk up to the enemy and hit it until it fell down was his play style. He had more fun because he felt he was being effective. Everyone else agreed. Not everyone is cut out to play a caster, the most important question is- do they enjoy playing their characters? If the answer is yes, then leave them be.

c_olsen73
2007-06-23, 12:32 PM
About the "How is the game going" question...I suppose that should have been my question in the first place. I have tried a few interesting things with the combat, and have developed what i think is a kick-a** scenario, but as I've mentioned before, my PC's imaginations must have been beat with a rod when they were young.

It doesn't help that this is my first real (long) campaign, and only one of my three PC's is really familiar with the rules. We're all studying hard, and we have a retreat planned for a week in Colorado to play and be nerdy in general, but they are already showing signs that they will have some RP troubles when the actual plot kicks in.

So ya...they're all pretty much 2D. Any ideas on how to counter this? If you have any questions you want to ask me specifically, my email is c_olsen73@hotmail.com

also- thanks for all the posts so far. I need all the help I can get.

Breaon
2007-06-23, 12:36 PM
One fun tactic (as a DM, annoying as a player) is to have 1-3 opponents remain behind, in stealth/invis (wand monkeys are great for this), and pop up when it becomes tactically advantageous. Just make sure to have them expend their wands before the PCs kill them :smallbiggrin:

Dan_Hemmens
2007-06-23, 12:47 PM
From the (scant) descriptions of your PCs, it sounds like they've chosen their characters for style rather than for strategy.

That is a *good thing*. It makes for far more interesting games than players who do things the other way around.

So *don't* present them with situations where their current strategies will be useless. Present them with situations where their current strategies will *shine*. Put the rapier-wielding rogue into a duel, because that's probably what he wants. Put the dual-wielder up against multiple weak opponents so he can get the cuisinart effect he's probably looking for. Give the archer situations where he absolutely *has* to make that critical longbow shot or it's curtains.

Your job as a DM is not to make the players do what *you* want, it's to let them do what *they* want.

Leon
2007-06-23, 01:04 PM
I've recently started a campaign (D&D 3.5) and all of my (not-so-bright) PC's have chosen to be crummy characters. My PC's at this point include

1. Halfling rogue, using a rapier
2. Human fighter, using dual longswords
3. Half-elf ranger, using a longbow

Though I have no bias against these particular classes, the fighting seems to get bland after a few battles, as no spells are even thought of, nor does the fighting style change. My bard refuses to use any spells, and the other characters always have the same strategy.

Is there a way I can get my PC's to perhaps pick more exciting characters? After I kill them off one by one, what sneaky way can I get them to choose less hackneyed characters? Is there a way to force one to be a caster? Again, my players are not the brightest crayons in the box, but surely they can play wizards or clerics, right?

Why force them to play what you like and not what they like? you may aswell just sit down and roleplay 4 PCs by your self in that case and that could meet your idea situation. but instead you have several people who have for what ever reasons chosen something to play even if it "bland" or what not. Are they having fun?

Its good to see a Non caster party for a change

Diggorian
2007-06-23, 01:49 PM
Your job as a DM is not to make the players do what *you* want, it's to let them do what *they* want.

this, plus all the above advice on varying tactics are your best bets.

Seems the core of the issue is that you want a more seriuos game than your players, whom I gather are hard working IRL and look to RPGs for some steamventing. Let'em know you want a bit more out of them and if they give it to ya great, if not take it easy on yourself DMing just became simpler for ya.

I've gamed with these casual types before, all they need is a simple formula: NPCs to beat down + hazards to avoid with skill + maybe a small puzzle or other thought provoker + a climax battle with slighty higher level NPCs mixed with environment hazards + ???? (OK, I'll tell ya -- a bit of effort on your part) = FUN ... as a profit.

Ravyn
2007-06-23, 02:56 PM
Yes, but is the issue that the character concepts have been seen before, or that you're not seeing any character development?

If the issue is the latter, then put them in situations that aren't fights. Throw colorful NPCs at them. Have wide-eyed children asking them why they took up the sword and how to be like them--they might actually respond by stopping and thinking about their backstory. Even the most shades-of-grey individual will at some point figure out what's being looked for and add a few colors to the palette. Be sure to positively reinforce working more in line with what you're looking for. Lead by example--if you can demonstrate to them just how awesome such and such an approach is, it'll make it look more appealing and make them likelier to follow it. If they seem interested but not sure how to implement depth and variety, either sit down with them one on one to work on it (I favor asking leading questions, when dealing with them) or recommend they come over here for help. We're always open.

Kurald Galain
2007-06-23, 05:33 PM
If they're always using the same strategy, put them in a situation where that strategy doesn't work. No, not every time, just once or twice to see how they adapt.

Rapier rogue? Have him fight skeletons.
Twin-sword fighter? Put him in a cave fight where he can't swing.
Bow ranger? Oops, there's a thunderstorm out (or a wind wall).

Also, give them options. Toss them a bunch of potions, wands or other niceties. Put them up against a foe that's immune to all physical weapons, but make sure the party has enough potions of fire breath or wands of miscellaneous zappage to beat them anyway. If they fail to catch the clue, have them all roll an INT check during combat and tell the highest roller "hey, you have an idea!".

Put them against an invisible opponent, and when they defeat him have them get a few potions of invis, so they can try that for themselves. Et cetera.

Dan_Hemmens
2007-06-23, 05:43 PM
this, plus all the above advice on varying tactics are your best bets.

At the risk of sounding pissy, since pretty much my entire point was that he *shouldn't* vary his tactics, I'm not sure how the two are compatible.


Seems the core of the issue is that you want a more seriuos game than your players, whom I gather are hard working IRL and look to RPGs for some steamventing. Let'em know you want a bit more out of them and if they give it to ya great, if not take it easy on yourself DMing just became simpler for ya.

I don't think that's true at all. Just because the players don't want to micromanage every possible advantage out of a combat encounter, that doesn't mean that they don't want a serious game. They're just not interested in playing a strategic wargame.


I've gamed with these casual types before, all they need is a simple formula: NPCs to beat down + hazards to avoid with skill + maybe a small puzzle or other thought provoker + a climax battle with slighty higher level NPCs mixed with environment hazards + ???? (OK, I'll tell ya -- a bit of effort on your part) = FUN ... as a profit.

I don't understand why you feel the need to disparage people who aren't worried about manipulating the system in order to optimise their mechanical advantages.

Perhaps what these guys want is complex moral decisions and sharply observed political intrigue. All the OP has said is that the *combat* is samey. Perhaps they just don't feel like investing heavily in the fighting.

Social_Outcast
2007-06-23, 05:58 PM
One possible idea to encourage PCs to develop is to lead by example, rather than punishment (drowning in kobolds and extreme range sorcerers can be quite frustrating).
I currently act as DM for a team including a Half-fiend Ranger, a Minataur Fighter and a Pixie Beguiler (diverse in their templates, sure, but no so diverse in Class choice).
With my gaming group, I usually always have the PCs interact and fight alongside an NPC of a class more varied than their own. This can be quite effective, as it commonly makes them think more tactically than they would otherwise.
When they were lower levels, they'd each down a potion and run head long into any situation while the pixie twidled her thumbs waiting for the next chance to user her bluff score. After introducing them to a cleric while clearing out a haunted forest and a Wizard when dealing with Oozes, they have begun to think about how they can defeat their enemies and what they shall need to do so (a Ranger and a Fighter can take down a horde of Orcs, but when attacked by a gang of ghosts or engulfed by a G. Cube, they don't really have many options) so Much so that the beguiler has taken levels in Rogue to assist the group with stealth, the Ranger is focussing on gaining the spell like abilities of her template, and the Fighter has taken levels in Wizard, hoping to become an Eldritch Knight (finally making use of his above average Intelligence).
Currently they are Paired with a Lizardfolk Druid who they now ask advice from before every action they do.
You have the ability to use any NPC in your environment to motivate your team, no need to be shy about using that power if you ask me.

-A

Diggorian
2007-06-23, 07:22 PM
At the risk of sounding pissy, since pretty much my entire point was that he *shouldn't* vary his tactics, I'm not sure how the two are compatible.

I simply meant varying up combats in ways that the players will enjoy.

The relevance and utility of any of my opinions on how to solve c_olsen73's issue are for him to consider and judge.

c_olsen73
2007-06-24, 03:38 AM
Thanks for the help guys. Low level campaigns can be frustrating when your PC's have scant knowledge of the workings of what make D&D colorful and spicy... I'm glad you all had some good ideas for me to try out. I'll try to let everyone know how it comes out tomorrow night.

ocato
2007-06-24, 05:37 AM
My bard refuses to use any spells, and the other characters always have the same strategy.




Do what now?

Kurald Galain
2007-06-24, 05:46 AM
Do what now?

The fighter also refuses to cast spells.

Callix
2007-06-24, 05:49 AM
If you want to shake up their characters, combat's not the place to do it. On the other hand, if you want to shake up their tactics, try giving them another, run of the mill fight, that gets swung against them because the enemy actally thinks. No unfair, unpredictable situations. Just give the dual-wielder to the big guy, flank the rapier-guy and charge the longbowman. It's only common sense. If a guy's got a bow, he's dangerous. If he's in melee, he's not. If a guy's got two weapons, your heavily-armoured THFer will tax him to his limits. The duelist will struggle when isolated and facing multiple foes. Make them think fast. They'll start surprising you.

Ethdred
2007-06-24, 09:00 AM
Do what now?

I'm glad someone else noticed this. Where did the bard come from? The list of three characters doesn't include a bard, or any casters, so it's not surprising that they aren't using any spells. Is the bard a DMPC? If so, why isn't it using spells?

Tallis
2007-06-25, 01:17 PM
Start with NPCs that use magic items creatively against the PCs, then a few encounters later (after the PCs have aquired said magic items) present them with an encounter where they would prove particularly useful. Later have actual spellcasters either with or against the party showcase some of what they can do. Just be careful not to overshadow the PCs. If they're interested in that sort of thing it'll give them the spark to start their own imaginations, if not then let them be as long as everyone is having fun.

Tallis
2007-06-25, 01:20 PM
I'm glad someone else noticed this. Where did the bard come from? The list of three characters doesn't include a bard, or any casters, so it's not surprising that they aren't using any spells. Is the bard a DMPC? If so, why isn't it using spells?


It sounds to me like the bard is an NPC. I think the idea of refusing to use spells is to encourage the others to b emore creative.
It might work a bit better to have the bard use spells creatively to give the PCs ideas of things they could be doing.