Making combat interesting

Varying creatures

Going back to our Owlbear example, while fighting an Owlbear on occasion is fun, it doesn’t make for an all too engaging encounter. The Owlbear can really only do 2 things, attack, and take attacks. There isn’t all that much strategic depth that the DM can utilize when using an Owlbear. So to change up encounters why not employ other creatures that aren’t just “bags of hitpoints”

Source here

Varying terrain

Back to our Owlbear, the party encountered it while traveling through the forest, so for the terrain, this means that the battle area is presumably flat, there may be some cover (in the form of trees and shrubbery), but beyond that, nothing else that is going to benefit/hinder either side. So if you throw a primarily melee-focused enemy at the party, combat will probably devolve into both sides getting into each other’s faces, and spending their turns wacking each other to death, with little thought as to how to use the environment to their advantage.

  • Earth — this area is considered difficult terrain
  • Fire — any creature that starts its turn here suffers 1d6 fire damage
  • Water — it is just a huge body of water. If a creature enters this area, it starts to sink into the water unless it can swim
  • Air — literally just a giant hole in the ground

Unknowns

Often, when players enter into combat, they are used to the idea that they have perfect knowledge of the entire battle area. They know where the enemy is, they know where cover is. Essentially, they know the ideal spots to position themselves for maximum effect. A nice way to spice up combat is to just simply throw a wrench into that idea. Make it very clear to the players that there are a lot of elements about the battle area that they don’t know about.

Source: here

Alternative objectives

And lastly, alternative objectives. For most encounters, usually the objective is pretty straightforward. There is the enemy (the Owlbear), and the party’s job is to outlast the Owlbear, and kill it, before it can kill them. But not all encounters have to be so straightforward and simple. Introducing alternative objectives other than “kill the enemy” can add an additional layer of depth to combat.

Source: Geek and Sundry

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Earl Ng

Earl Ng

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Consultant, tech-geek, and D&D enthusiast (read: addict)