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3 Round Combat Plans For Lightning Combats – Part IIFrom 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:
- Your Secret GM Goal. Play the strategic Resource Depletion Game to set up dramatic storytelling and a climactic Room IV encounter.
- Your Secret Monster Mission. Decide what specific jobs key foes have to win the Resource Depletion game.
- Your Secret Clue. We skin our combat for fantastic flavour, and then add Lore to set up future exciting gameplay.
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: PositioningThe 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 LairSay 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.
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-UpsAnother 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 TrickWe 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 ForgetAlso, remember your mission.
You are playing the strategic Resource Depletion Game.
So choose foe positions to best win your game.