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Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
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3 Round Combat Plans For Lightning Combats – Part II

From JohnnFour | Published March 30, 2021

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1,149


How do you make your next combat fast and exciting effective 3 Round Combat Plans?
And what are we supposed to do in each round? What is our strategy here?
That’s what I show you in today’s tips, which are taken from my brand new Faster Combat 5E course launching this spring.
Today, I’ll go through each round with you, using a gnoll pack example.

In RPT #1,148 | 3 Round Combat Plans for Lightning Combats - Part I I shared our three design objectives:
  1. Your Secret GM Goal. Play the strategic Resource Depletion Game to set up dramatic storytelling and a climactic Room IV encounter.
  2. Your Secret Monster Mission. Decide what specific jobs key foes have to win the Resource Depletion game.
  3. Your Secret Clue. We skin our combat for fantastic flavour, and then add Lore to set up future exciting gameplay.
That’s our design framework.

Now let’s dig into your strategy and actions for each round so you know how to run cunning 3 Round Combat Plans.

Round 1: Positioning​

The first round is all about movement.

In most melees, one side enters the battlefield first. The combatants might appear from a map edge or somewhere in the middle. They then move toward their foes or take up tactical positions.

The other side enters the battlefield, reacts to the approach, and does the same.
Player characters are usually the aggressors. Meaning, they often enter second.

This gives you a huge boon, because you can put foes in advantageous positions in advance and not burn their movement. Depending on your game system, saved move actions can earn you extra attacks or other options.

When placing foes on the map, first think, how will the characters move?
You aren’t meta gaming here. Experienced foes will have learned that certain opponent types will move in certain ways.
Some opponents will rush to form a front line.
Others will hang back behind that defensive curtain and do nasty things with ranged attacks, special attacks, or magic.
Speedy opponents try to flank, strike, and withdraw.

So observe how your players move into battles and what positions they take.
Learn how they move so you can place foes in the best spots on the map for advantage.

Example: The Gnoll Lair​

Say we have gnolls in their lair, which is in a cavern complex, and they are not on alert, but they do have their regular defenses up.
The PCs charge in, as usual.

The warrior types go first and begin hammering the first gnolls they reach.
The rogue follows behind, finds a shadowy area, and begins picking off the pack one by one.
Wizards and priests move in and take up position behind the warriors with their backs against walls but near the entrance for easy retreat.
The standard formation. :giggle:

Anticipating this, we set up our defenses accordingly.

We leave a few gnolls in the cave doing their day-to-day stuff. A couple tend a low fire, cooking. A couple dogs nap. Another pair spars, practicing for the day when foes breach their lair.
That day is today.

However, we also decide to put four gnolls on guard at all times. That’s good leadership.
Two gnolls hide in nearby caves so they can run around fast to access squishy foes hiding behind the jerks in the metal coats with pointy sticks.
The other two gnolls climb up and take position in sniper nests built to provide cover – one on a narrow ledge and the other atop a capped stalagmite.
Should the PCs approach without stealth, the snipers can ready their shots to fire as soon as squishy foes break through the entrance barricade.
Meanwhile, the flankers are already in position and ambush the squishies, hopefully before a single spell fires off.

Choose Your Match-Ups​

Another thing you want to understand for round 1 is both sides will want to pick ideal match-ups.
Your party will often form standard tactics based on past experiences.

“Ok Johnn, is there a leader type around? We want to focus attacks on them, if we can.”
“Johnnnn, how about magickers. Any of those around? I want to shoot them first.”


Those are sound tactics. Well done, players.

Your counter-tactics depend a lot on what game pieces you have in play.

For example, if you have a leader who serves better in the rear, then put them in that position. If they are more effective on the front line, situate them so they can meet the warriors’ charge.
Likewise with other special foe types such as casters and ranged attackers.
Put foes in positions so they get the match-ups they want and that do not work in the party’s favour.

A Trick​

We can derail good character tactics and positioning with clever tricks.

One such trick is The Decoy.
Position foes on the map in such a way as to lure characters into vulnerable positions.

For example, four gnolls cluster around the fire. The PCs charge through the barricade, see the obvious dogs in the middle of the cave, and charge.
The players’ myopic attention immediately focuses on the centre and they react accordingly.
On their turn, the campfire gnolls wait for the PCs to get close and then one smashes a small flask of whiskey into the fire, causing a small explosion (and making the other gnolls bark in anger – it was good whiskey).
Seeing what their comrade is about to do, the rest of the campfire gnolls fall back a couple of paces to stay unharmed, then they strike.

Most of the party has moved near the cave centre due to our trick or because it’s where the action seems to be. There’s no cover or defensive terrain here, so the PCs become exposed.

This gives the ambusher gnolls easy access to the party’s rear. It also gives the gnoll archers short-distance easy shots at their chosen targets.
Decide the most advantageous positions for foes, and lure the PCs there to get yourself a tactical advantage.

Don’t Forget​

Also, remember your mission.
You are playing the strategic Resource Depletion Game.
So choose foe positions to best win your game.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer

Round 2: MVP Actions​

Round 2 is all about unleashing our best attacks and moves.

We design our combat to achieve the Secret Monster Mission in Round 3.
So we need key foes to survive until at least Round 3. These are the combatants critical to our plan.
We also need to keep players distracted from our true goal.
And we want to push back hard on the PCs’ initial attack to make our fight even more exciting for them.

All foes should now be in position.
We now unleash MVP abilities.
These are your foes’ best attacks, special abilities, or killer combos.

The MVP ability is a cornerstone of the encounter. Your goal is to squeeze as much value out of it as possible. How you accomplish this varies based on what your MVP ability does.

Abilities that provide utility or crowd control should be used right away. The longer they are in use, the more value you get out of them.
In addition, they help keep your key foes alive for round 3.
Use rechargeable- or reload-type actions as soon as possible. This gives foes more chances to recharge throughout the fight.
For example, use area of attack (AoE) actions only if you can hit at least two PCs. Whereas you want to employ single-target burst damage on low defense or low health targets to drop them fast.
If you cannot use your MVP ability on turn 1, you should prioritize setting up your creatures for the MVP ability on turn 2 or 3.

Gnarly Gnolls​

Our dog foes have pretty standard abilities out of the box. They whack with clubs or use bows.

Let’s say this is Room I: Entrance and Guardian.
Our goal is to deplete the party of 20% of its resources.
Meaning this needs to be a Difficult (but not Deadly) encounter.
We add a leader who lives in her own cave nearby, and a shaman, also with her own cave.
We look at the map and see it’ll take the leader two rounds of movement to reach the predicted front line.
That’s not good.
We want the leader’s superior attacks starting in round 1, round 2 at the latest.

There are typically four Combat Roles:
  • Brute => Tough, average or greater damage
  • Artillery => Weak defense other than distance, minor or greater damage
  • Controller => Generally weaker, medium damage, nerfs opponents
  • Striker => Fast, ok defense at best, big damage
With our design hat on, we decide to make the leader a Striker.
So our gnoll leader sticks with light armour, a long-legged speed increase, and a big attack with a spiked club wielded in both paws.
We put the leader at the fire so she can attack right away.
Depending on how the initiative roll goes, she’ll leap ahead, strike the most vulnerable foe, and dart back to the pack again.

From her perspective, if she hits (more likely now because of her choice of target), she’ll deal a lot of damage and maybe down a foe to even the odds right away.
From our strategic perspective, we deliver an exciting shock to the party and drain healing slots.

Our shaman is different. She has a spell that can slow charging foes. So she wants to get out of her cave and within range to affect as many foes as possible before they split up.
Slow foes means the snipers get extra or easier shots in, depending on your game system. It also delays foes reaching the fire, helping the pack survive longer.
Our shaman knows from experience her leader’s terrible might. So she places the area of effect so that the lead dog can reach a foe or two without entering the slow zone.

This tactic also keeps foes clustered longer, which sets up the next spell of holy thunder sure to strike fear and break bones of the enemy pack.

Round 3: Execute Your Mission​

The time is now.
We’ve attempted to maneuver characters into disadvantageous positions on the map.
We’ve unleashed our biggest attacks, while we’ve still got them, to further weaken the party and to give us many advantages possible for the final round.

We’re roleplaying foes to meet their level of intelligence, instincts, and experience. Everything executed so far you see in real life animals who build nests and lairs for defense and respond with the intent to intimidate, dominate, and survive.
So we’re not cheating here or meta gaming.
We’re running a solid strategy.

While our Combat Design is hat on, we need to balance the encounter to achieve our goal.

Most GMs do the wrong thing, in my opinion, and balance to make fights fair. Not too weak, and not too tough.
But Wizards of Combat know different.
We “balance” or design melees to achieve our resource objective, which is part of the long-game of our adventure, which is part of our Infinite Game major goal (we play to play again and have more fun at every game).

Consequences of previous rounds start to bear fruit.
Guess what happens when foes use their MVP abilities?
The PCs do the same.

We’ve also done some damage – especially to the squishies who might’ve grown overconfident from weaker foe tactics in previous adventures and are now quaking in their pointy hats.
As our combat strategy and skills level-up, we achieve more with less.

Too often we try to clobber the PCs in an attempt to earn drama from the threat of death.
We’ve got that going for us already with 3 Round Combat Plans. We do not need to bring nukes to knife fights any longer.
Which gives us a lot more breathing room for storytelling because we have what were previously “weak” game pieces punching above their weight now.

So in this round we top-up our Resource Depletion Game. We work to get the last few percentage points drawn from the party.
  • We might have MPV abilities that recharged or remain available
  • Our tactical positions might still hold
  • We can continue to whack, cast, and shoot

How to Win in Round 3​

Should our players be resilient and our gap remains large (e.g. we a 40% depletion goal with 20% remaining), we have arrows remaining in our quiver for this final round.

Three examples:

We can bring in a second wave. It’s been two rounds of ruckus. During adventure design, you can place supporting foes nearby. Regardless of party entry location, neighbouring encounters can join the fray.

We can retreat. Withdrawal and flight can also lure PCs into your next encounter, which becomes a perfect hook to keep your adventure going.
And what do the characters retreat into? Traps, hazards, and reinforcements.

And the final example, we can focus fire.
If we have not already, we can turn all survivors possible on one PC.

Greater numbers allow more supportive actions, such as aid another, knock prone, and other mechanics that give allies boons and bonuses.
We can skim resources off every player character, or drain one PC fast.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer

Our Victory​

In round 3 we have two goals.

The first, as described above, is to reach our resource depletion target.
The second is to end non-climactic combats on this round, if possible.

As a player, it gives me great frustration when a GM lets combat linger.
Traditionally, they try to get last licks in for as long as possible, hoping to weaken the party.
But they do so without a strategy.

We’ve got that strategy now. And we’ve raised our thinking to the adventure level.
It doesn’t matter if all the gnolls fall in round three.
An easy party win with high fives all around has you chuckling behind your screen.

In this final round we bring everything to bear to reach our target and then punch out, pun intended.

In some cases we might need to extend the combat for other reasons.
Wizards of Combat create Combat Missions for players to achieve, for example. This key technique injects fantastic story into your fights.
If the party has not accomplished their mission, they’ll want the fight to carry on.

But with the other methods of Faster Combat in your GM Toolbox, your first three rounds are already speedy, and any remainders will be too.
Meanwhile, through clever combat design, you’ve earned your victory.
Your players won’t high five you.
But I will.
Good job.

Gnoll Parting Shots​

I have the option here to retreat at any time or stick around if I need more resource depletion.
In this final planned round, the leader if still alive will summon pack members to help her whack the enemy’s toughest member or alpha.
With increased chance to hit now, she’ll likely do some great damage in the hopes the enemy will decide it’s not worth fighting any longer.
The shaman will turn to a damage spell, possibly focus-firing on her leader’s opponent.
Snipers will do the same.
I also have the option to bring in a second wave, as gnolls in nearby caves should be awake and prepared now. They could come in, extract their leader and shaman, and get out to a more defensible area.

I know from some simple tracking that the PCs do about 125 points of damage in a Tier 1 round, and 68 in a Tier II round, on average.

Tier 1 means the party is fresh.
Tier 2 means the party has used their MVP abilities and are down to their secondary, standard attacks.
Tier 3 means the party is down to last spells, ammunition, and weakest attacks.

For an encounter like this, I’ll assume the PCs bring out their Tier II attacks, as this is just an early encounter.
So if I give the gnolls 30 health each, two will drop in a round. That’s a rough estimate – I can’t control the players’ tactics and choices.
Three rounds means six casualties. Add the leader and shaman, and the combat should be just about right for my Resource Depletion Goal of 20%.

rpt-divider-minor.png

It’s Your Turn​

Next combat, spend a bit of time with your Wizard of Combat design hat on.

Plan round 1 so foes need move as little as possible to give them potential extra actions, advantageous positions on the map, and the best match-ups.
Plan round 2 to unleash all your MVP abilities to rock the party, control the battlefield, and make your players so nervous that they use their MVP abilities.
Plan round 3 to top-up the remaining resource depletion and make an early exit.

Faster combats plus good strategy plus clever tactics levels you up to becoming a Wizard of Combat.
3 Round Combat Plans help you play a smart game that feeds into your wondrous adventures.
They finish fights faster, giving you more session time for more roleplay and encounters.

They also give you more storytelling options. Combats that grind and linger have terrible stories.
Combats that shock, attack in multiple ways, and have a variety of opponent roles make for awesome stories.
Try planning a 3 Round Combat Plan and see how it goes next session.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
Thank you Johnn! That was a nice read.
I guess, I have known 3 round combat plans only on level 1 before.
I liked your examples here.

My last combat encounter was a long combat. You are right that it tended to drag on a bit. I felt though, that it was necessary for the story. In hindsight, I am not so sure anymore.

Let me see, if I can translate my last combat into your schema above:

The Outset | 5RD Room I
After a short series of roleplaying scenes with some NPCs, the PCs were defending a walled fortification at the entrance of an ash-filled canyon, when suddenly a horde of about 5 dozen goblins attacked to break through. The PCs only consisted of a sword mage called Lucian (controller, striker) and his brother Kendrick, a ranger (artillery). It was a night two days after an attack by unknown creatures (goblins). Two of their comrades had fallen due to poisonous arrows and at that night of the second attack the burial ceremony was currently taking place.

My GM Goal | Let the players get to know their new PCs, experiment with their abilities, and give them an exciting fight with sudden turns and high stakes of danger, while introducing the adventure hook (Room I of the 5RD approach). Resource depletion was one of my goals, but not my main priority.​
My Monster Mission | Prevent the guards (PCs) from noticing that a tunnel is being burrowed below the wall through which the goblins' families flee to the other side of the wall. To direct the burrowing worm below the surface, the goblins need to lure it on with dead people. These can be dead humans or in this case half-elves, but if nothing works, dead goblins do fine too. The attacking goblins know that they will probably die, but their dying is required for their monster mission to be accomplished.​
My Settings Clue | On the one hand I wanted to present the goblins as an unorganized horde of savages who even sacrifice themselves for the wellbeing of the tribe, on the other hand I wanted to present them as individuals that have their own fears and hopes, individual faces and tactics that don't work in synergy. The fleeing goblins will be the outset of the adventure, while the synergy between a huge burrowing worm and the goblins who follow that worm to get quickly around sets the first stone to the later developments.​
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
The Maneuvering | 5RD Room II | Rounds 1 to 3
I think it was 3 combat rounds I used for maneuvering and getting into position.
While the goblins had the advantage of numbers, darkness and distance, I gave the guards the advantage of range, cover and weaponry. My aim was that the PCs got comfortable with their PCs and I used some typical standard attacks for the goblins.
Round 1. The first goblins arrived in shooting range in the first round. They held torches and were screaming and caught the complete attention of the PCs. Meanwhile, the PCs noticed a shivering of the ground as the goblins charged (but didn't know that the trembling ground was because of the burrowing worm).
Kendrick's first shot was already a major critical hit. He managed to pierce the eye of a goblin that was illuminated by his torch, but who hadn't even seen the wall yet. Simultaneously, as the current head officer of the wall Lucian called alarm and it was heard in the fortress behind him. Then Lucian prepared a magical missile deflecting shield in front of him with which he also protected his brother.
Round 2. The goblins were still far away and not anywhere near the walls. I described how more and more became visible. Lucian summoned a magical stone boulder out of thin air and hurled at the goblins. He missed to hit one directly, but as the boulder slammed into the side of the canyon wall, it set loose several huge stones, which plummeted down, crashing goblins, blocking their paths or stopping the approach of others. But it didn't stop the tide. Kendrick killed another, likewise with an arrow through the throat.
Round 3. The goblins approached the wall. They knew nothing of any magical protection and fired numerous arrows at the heroes as they came closer. Two NPC guards were hit, but the PCs were protected by the spell. Once more, Kendrick managed to shot a goblin easily through the head and kill it. He kept track and called it out to his brother. Lucian was competetive and hurled another magical stone missile at one of the goblins. This time, he timed it right, and as the wolf riding goblin jumped with his beast right above some other goblins' heads, Lucian let loose. The stone hurled shreaking through the air and plunged right through mount and goblin with a critical success. And Lucian grinned at his brother and confirmed: "Kendrick 3, Lucian 3".

The Overwhelming Force | 5RD Room III | Rounds 4 to 6
Now I thought it was the right time for some little surprises. The players had come into a nice rhythm and showed how powerful they were. Now they needed options, I thought. Also, I wanted to show the goblins' real strength: numbers, stealth, a mighty master, and a tendency to use dirty tricks (even sacrifices).
Round 4. The goblins amassed in front of the wall, too many to overcome with this few lot of guards. The goblins continued shooting arrows and trying to climb the wall. An NPC was again badly hurt, the arrows around Lucian strangely never hitting him. Lucian saw that other guards arrived atop the wall and called for fire arrows. Then, he stood there with this arms wide spread mumbling otherworldy words and like a gush of tar a sticky web shot from his arms and down in front of the wall, glueing dozens of goblins to the ground.
Before Kendrick could fire another arrow though, I called for a perception test and he succeeded. In the corner of his vision he had noticed a movement on the canyon walls that connected with the fortress wall. There were goblins camouflaged with ash climbing the sheer walls and about to reach the fortification. Hadn't he had noticed they might have been overrun from the side. Running up to a better vantage point he turned his attention fully to the goblins about to jump down on the fortification. He noticed the big ballista ontop of one of the towers, but he kept to his bow instead. He aimed at one that was climbing over some other goblin and managed to severely wound the above so that he fell down and took the below with him. "Kendrick 5, Lucian 3" But there were still several more that were about to reach the fortifications.
Round 5. The guards were firing down towards the goblins. Many corpses already lay there, still crawling forward if not in the web, those in the web tried to move but even the strongest couldn't. Some were running around the web, and now the PCs saw how fallen goblins were picked up and carried to the wall. At first, it seemed like a protection from the arrows above, but then, a bigger one still in the web picked up one goblin with a pot as a helmet and hurled him towards the wall, as the first fire arrows hailed down on the caught and defenseless goblins and set them ablaze. The goblin with the helmet crashed against the wall, but although stunned was quickly back on his feet. One goblin shot an arrow at one of the NPCs that the PCs had been familiar with and the arrow went straight through his neck and he toppled over and down the wall.
That was when Lucian noticed a surge of magical energy from below. Something was there, but he didn't know what or who it was. He called out to his brother to be careful of a shaman or something, but he wasn't able to spot one (it was already the worm's presence that he had felt). All he could see was a mass of goblin corpses at the base of the wall and he feared that they would be used against the guard. He saw the one with the helmet pick up the corpse of that NPC they had been familiar with and carry it to the other goblin corpses. Quickly, Lucian hurled a fear spell at him to stop him in his tracks. Meanwhile, Kendrick fired at one goblin with a mighty scar over his face climbing quickly towards the fortification. In the last moment that goblin let loose, plunged down several feet and cought himself to climb up again.
Round 6. As the goblin tar fire was ablaze in front of the wall, the onslaught of the goblins came to a halt. Some kept their distance. The wall was manned and arrows were hailing down. Lucian concentrated his attention on the corpses and then quickly summoned a ball of fire 8 yards down at the base to engulf the corpses and stop whatever the goblins had intended. Again, the two heroes noticed a tremble in the stones below them. And this time they both heard a shrill scream, nothing they had ever heard before. They made their willpower checks and thus, the players knew that something was going on, but not yet what was happening. Lucian knew that it was no magic, but that some kind of energy was almost upon them. Lucian could hardly see what was happening below with all that smoke that he had created and (luckily) walked a couple of steps to the side to see what happened with the corpses. Also, Kendrick had looked over the side of the wall bearing to look for that goblin that had caught himself and was quickly climbing back up.

The Turn of the Tide | The worm
That was when a loud crash sounded from the wall and the wall wavered. Lucian saw that the ground erupted in front of the base of the wall where most of the (burning) corpses were and with horror he saw a huge translucent gaping maw swallow them and burrow on, toppling a part of the wall (where Lucian had stood only moments ago) and intrude into the other side, into the fortress.

Several guards plunged down or were killed by the toppling wall. Likewise, running goblins were hit by stones or burried under their combined weight.
Lucian quickly cast another glue spell to hold the creature's and goblins' advances into the hole in the wall, but he lost his footing to the shifting stones below and also his concentration. The sticky tar connected with the wall and glued his own hand to it. A major setback.
Kendrick managed to stay on his feet (he had been farther from the epicenter) and quickly shot once more at the one goblin with the scar below him, but the goblin managed once more to evade his shot and successfully climbed onto the fortification. And as Kendrick hadn't paid much attention to his surroundings, he hadn't noticed that he was not protected anymore by Lucians magical shield. A poisonous arrow hit him in the arm, but luckily, it got stuck in Kendrick's leather armor not piercing his skin enough for the poison to come to effect.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
The Battleplan | 5RD Room IV-1 | Rounds 7 to 9
Had the PCs been in the advantage before, now the wall was breached and the fortification was being stormed. The tide of the battle had changed. The enemies' battleplan had worked. There weren't many goblins left to climb the heap of stones and into the fortress, but still enough to make for earnest problems. And in addition, some kind of huge worm creature burrowed its way inside. Now it was up to the PCs to rescue the base, to show that they were no ordinary guards, but real heroes.
Round 7. Lucian freed his hand and slid down on the heap of stones towards the incoming goblin forces. He intended to meet them head-first. His magic energy was all but depleted, so he buckled his shield and pulled out his sword and slashed it at the nearest goblin, the one goblin with the helmet again who had managed to shrug off the fear spell. His blade connected and cut into the goblin's arm. The goblin countered with a swing of his long knife, but Lucian deflected the blow with his shield. He was not only a powerful mage, he was also a skilled fighter.
The ground heaved again and as something was (still) moving below him, he heard again this high-pitched scream in his head and he felt dazed a bit (intelligence score dropped by 1).
The goblin with the scar was already pulling a toothed knife and running towards Kendrick and one other managed to reach the fortifications, as Kendrick heard a loud rumble, saw the ground bulge within the fortress, as something was burrowing just below the surface and then saw a toothy, tentacled maw break through. It was huge like a house, grabbed the corpses of the fallen guardsmen that were about to be put to the earth and screaching painfully in his head. Maybe it was just an instictive reaction, maybe it was because he saw his only friend down there beside the creature, but Kendrick ignored the goblin and let loose an arrow at one of the long tentacles of the creature. And as the arrow hit, it plunged deep into it, but was slowed and seemingly engulfed be the creature as if it had no blood but was made of goo. Nevertheless, the creature twitched and janked and hit two guards with one of the tentacles throwing them a dozen yards.
Round 8. Back in the courtyard Lucien's friend was screaming with fear, although she was a mighty warrior. The only friend of Kendrick was just standing there as if under a spell, like all the rest of the guards around that worm. They were helpless.
But Lucien was fighting his own fight. He saw that several more goblins were arriving and he pushed deep into his inner reserves and pulled energy out from his body to fuel his spell. In a matter of seconds he was seemingly covered with tiny twitching arcs of electricity, as he hasted his body to cope with the many goblins. He was about to swing his first attack at the nearest goblin, as he felt a sudden gush of air behind him. Surprised that the goblin with the scar had not gone all frenzy on him, but rather ignored him and jumped down towards the worm (!), Kendrick had ran over the fortification to his brother. A sideway glance had shown him that he would probably be ok. He jumped off from the chasm towards the heap of stone to glide down the other side and into the courtyard. While in the air though, he had quickly pulled out another arrow and let it loose. A perfect shot. Faster than the wind that accompanied it, it had shot through Lucien's cape, below his arm and into the goblin's face that was not covered by a helmet behind Lucien. Astonished, Lucien and the goblin looked at each other for a moment, before the goblin with the helm died.
Round 9. As Kendrick was sliding down the heap of stones, the high-pitched ringing in his head grew louder and he felt dazed for a bit (intelligence dropped by 1). He called for the cook, his friend, to set the worm afire with his torch, and the cook did as he was told as if he was doing everyone's bidding without emotional reaction. But the fire just extinguished and didn't lead to a reaction with the worm. He saw that the other goblin had landed near Lucien's friend and warrior. His legs were broken and he screamed, but still tried to reach the worm. Himself, he ran over to the cook and pulled him from harm's reach. While doing so, he saw that there were not only bones and weapons hovering within the translucent body of the worm, but also the form of a guard, someone he was unfamiliar with but who wore the blue uniform.
On the other side of the wall, Lucien slid down a few yards further to meet the next of the relentless goblins. Alas, his sword couldn't keep up with his amazing speed, cought on a stone and was hurled across the bloody rough ground. He had lost his weapon as three goblins were rushing towards him. A goblin with a coat of feathers attacked him with a spiked club and Lucien - still shocked from his blunder and still sliding - was unable to protect himself enough with his shield. The spikes bit deep into his leg. But Lucien was still quick. Biting down his pain he rolled and reached for his sword as the goblin was again upon him to finish what he had begun. From the ground Lucien swang the sword in a wide circle cutting deep into the goblin's leg, so that he stumbled backwards. Another goblin, this one bald, rushed past Lucien, ignoring the fight and picking up the dead goblin with the helmet as he ran. Lucien slashed at him, but missed.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
The Master | 5RD Room IV-2 | Rounds 10 to 12
I felt that the fight with the goblins had dragged on long enough. The real monster was unleashed and I wanted to set one last centerpiece of the combat on their master (?), this unnaturally huge worm.
Round 10. Kendrick changed his tactic. He got behind a wagon and pushed and pushed it towards the worm. He managed to reach some speed, but as it connected with the worm, it didn't topple it over, the wagon plunged just into it as if it was made of jelly and stuck, a part still protuding, a part within and sizzling from some kind of acid.
The fight with the goblin with the feather cape was over, Lucien saw. He held his leg and crawled backwards. Lucien turned quickly around to the goblin that was carrying his dead comrade, and followed him as fast as he could. He already knew that the worm had something to do with the corpses. He believed that the worm could be lured with food in the form of corpses and didn't want the goblins to use this trick again against them. With a small gesture and a stream of magical words, he called forth a telekinesis spell to grab the corpse from the goblin's clutches. And with an invisible jerk he managed to pull the corpse away. Lucien made the body hover nearer towards the worm and saw that the worm - something like sniffing the air - instantly reacted to this "snack" and turned back towards the wall. The bald goblin jumped and tried to reach it several times but failed. But already, Lucien saw that another goblin was charging towards him.
Round 11. Some guards were still fighting atop the wall, the ones near the worm just stood there, like in a trance. The scarred goblin with the broken legs saw in shock and fear what Lucien was doing. He yelled at the worm and even took out dagger to end his life before the worm could react on the corpse at the wall. But he couldn't make him kill himself. Tears swelled from his eyes.
Of course, Kendrick also noticed that the worm had suddenly reacted to the piece of dead meat hovering half a dozen yards away from the breach in the wall. And there was Lucien on top of the heap of rubble, surrounded on both sides by goblins. Ignoring the bald goblin that had been trying to reach the hovering goblin corpse with the helmet Lucien had turned around to face the other goblin. Only Kendrick saw now that the bald goblin turned from corpse to caster and climbed up to kill Lucien. He was almost at him as Kendrick knocked another arrow, aimed carefully, and then let loose. Once again, he killed a goblin by impaling several inches of steel in the base of his skull. Lucien didn't even notice. And Kendrick didn't count anymore. He feared for their lives.
The new goblin was covered in old wounds, Lucien saw. The franatic face spoke more of panic than of anger as he rushed towards Lucien and had tried to attack him from behind, while he was concentrating on his telekinesis spell. Lucien turned around completely, wincing for his leg wound, but once again, he managed to block the attack and countered with a thrust of his longsword. Piercing the goblin's chest and cutting a hole into his rib cage right down to the goblin's lungs. Hastened as he was, he didn't wait for the goblin to drown on his own blood, but pulled back the blade, anger flaring, and thrust it one more time into the bare chest precisely impaling the goblin's heart. A cruel touch he always had. As blood was bubbling out of the small creature's teethy mouth, he said something in goblin, but Lucien did not understand what it was. But before the eyes glazed over, he saw a reflection of a toothy maw becoming bigger and bigger. In the rush of the battle, he hadn't noticed what happened behind him. The adrenaline had been pumping twice as fast through his veins, the gurgly scream of the goblin before him, all the screams of the other dying humans and goblins around him, and the still high-pitched tone from the creature in his mind, had droned out all other noises.
In the last moment he realized that his brother was screaming and calling for him at the top of his lungs. And instinctively he tried to jump out of the way, but his wounded right leg swayed a split second before he could jump. Horrified Kendrick ran as fast as he could, jumped up and further towards his brother, as he watched the huge worm plunge forward towards the corpse. It was fast and huge and long. It swallowed the goblin corpse with the helmet, the dying bald goblin, his brother and the other goblin in one stroke. And it was burrowing down again towards the corpses on the other side of the wall.
Round 12. Kendrick was fast and quickly reached the top of the rubble, always running alongside the worm. Crashing against some part of the rubble, the wagon that had still been halfway within the creature pushed through and took with it the blue uniformed guard. Kendrick ran for the life of Lucien. But the worm was quicker. The last thing he saw of his brother, was Lucien's flailing arm in the corner of the creature's mouth before it slid into a tunnel below. "LUCIEN!!!" he cried out loud in shock.
"What's the matter?" Lucien answered out of breath atop the wall to Kendrick's surprise. Lucien had managed to blink away and into safety.

A Failed Plan | 5RD Room V | Rounds 13 to 14
A quick end that was to put the following events in motion was intended to close the session. And apart from the late time and one of the players being already drowsy, I think I found it nicely.
Round 13. As the worm burrowed its way back to where it came from, taking with it most of the fallen, the guards on the other side of the wall came to again and Kendrick tried one last time to put a spell on the worm. He commanded it to stop, but the creature shrugged the spell off and continued in its rampage. Seeing this, the goblins fled, from the worm, from the wall, and from the failure.
As the last of the worm was gone, the tunnels below the rubble collapsed. Quickly, Kendrick pulled up to the wall besides Lucien.
Round 14. And as the ash and dust had settled Kendrick and Lucien saw down into the tunnel and there in the gloom huddled together in fear were many further goblin faces: women and children, battered and bleeding, dirty and with fearful eyes. As Kendrick called to the other guards "More of them here!", Lucien sighed deeply, leaned against a battered piece of wall and summoned his last reserves for a spell, before he lost consciousness: Once more a spray of tar web that glued the goblins in place.
It was Kendrick on top of the wall who watched as the rest of the guards came towards them, taking the goblins as prisoners one by one. And as the bleak morning sun rose over the peaceful grasslands to the south that they were protecting, in a corner of his eyes he noticed that the body of the unknown blue uniformed guard that he had rescued, began to stand up again, half flesh, half bones.


So, to sum it up, after some quick roleplaying at the beginning, the whole session was covered by combat. It was tense and each round quicker than one might expect (it were only two players after all). But nevertheless, after 2 hours of combat, the players were exhausted. I had managed to come to the point that I had intended to reach, I liked the flow of the combat, but I was still disappointed that it was all only combat.
 
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