Thursday, 4 November 2010

Open room, no cover

As you enter the room all of the doors slam shut, a quick check revealing these are magically locked. You look around and realise you are not alone.

With nowhere to hide everything depends on the makeup of your party and the enemy's.
The single most useful character type to have here is a controller, they can alter the terrain to make it more suitable for your own party and less for the enemy, which could completely change the outcome.

The first thing you're going to want to do is keep their melee from getting to your ranged - if you've got more melee than they have that should be easy and as a bonus you'll probably be able to get around to their ranged and keep them busy while your ranged focus on taking out the biggest threat.

If their ranged are trying to take out your ranged you may be able to temporarily neutralise them with a controller throwing up some kind of smoke-screen so they can't see the target. This may force their ranged forward to be able to see, bringing them closer to the melee and easier for your melee to reach.
If you want to keep their melee away from your ranged you could use the controller to put down a zone or wall in front of or around your ranged that'll slow the enemy down or harm them, providing a disincentive to go there. Obviously you don't want to block your own ranged's vision so a smoke-screen here would be worse for you than for the enemy. Also, a zone they can just walk around in one turn may as well not be there, if there's nothing to force them through it.

Narrow corridors

It would be rare to have an encounter entirely in one long thin corridor, certainly if you have no ability to teleport or fly to get behind the enemy it could also be less than fun.

In general I'd expect corridors to be branching off rooms the encounter is intended to mostly occur in, or if intended to be encounters, a series of intersecting corridors with intersections.
Even a long winding corridor would be hard to make fun unless there was a gimmick, like a trap that's steadily collapsing 3 squares of corridor per round.

Single, unwalled choke-point

Most commonly a chasm with a bridge running across it, but could be any terrain that blocks character movement but allows ranged attacks (lava or even a controller-produced hazardous zone).

Initially I'm assuming you have no means of crossing outside of the choke-point (flying etc.).

If there's nothing to hide behind you're generally best taking the far end of the bridge/causeway/corridor, it gives you control over it and you can retreat if necessary.

If they have ranged and you don't, you need to get across the bridge or they're getting free hits that you just can't return and it's in their interest to stick a couple of defenders on the bridge to keep you occupied while the ranged attacks rain down on you. They're minimising the number of characters you're able to hit with and maximising the number they can hit you with.

If you have ranged and they don't, take the causeway and hold it. If you have a controller slap down a zone that'll slow them down and stand your defenders behind it so the enemy has to pass through the zone and then the defenders to get to you. If you're lucky the zone will give you the ability to slide or push the enemy off the causeway into the lava.

Of course if the enemy may escape to bring reinforcements you'll be wanting to get across the chasm and block the exits asap, which puts the imperative on you to get across the chasm and behind the enemy.

In the event that one or more of your characters can fly, the main advantage is that you no longer have to treat the bridge as a choke-point, can get around behind them to flank defenders or harass ranged attackers. If they can't fly it's even better as they can't get around behind you in the same way.

On a D&D-specific note, you may be able to use the Tenser's floating disc ritual to carry one or more people across, or even hold them 'safely' above the chasm while they use ranged attacks, though you'd have to prepare it in advance of the encounter.

A single, walled choke-point

Commonly a door between two rooms, with plenty of room to maneuver on both sides.

All things being equal the best thing to do is rush to cover the doorway with your* defenders - get there first and hold it. Ranged attackers can form up behind and fire over/between the defenders.
This assumes a mechanic like in D&D where ranged attacks can go through an ally's square.
If you can't fire through an ally's square the best thing to do is hang back from the choke point and make the enemy* put themselves in it, allowing you to pick them off in smaller numbers as they queue to get through.

If neither side has ranged attackers it is again best to hang back and make them take the choke point, allowing your melee classes to surround them.

If the other side has more ranged than melee and you don't, you can use the walls on either side of the door as cover to negate the effectiveness of ranged attacks and force them to come through into melee range. It may reduce your ability to hit any defenders coming through the door, but you may be able to pull them out of the doorway out of sight of the ranged attackers and pound on them safely there.

If you have a controller class that can lay down a zone, you can make the doorway a hazardous area or difficult terrain, either making it harder to get to or out of or undesirable to hold it. If the zone negatively affects the enemy and not you, all the better.

Bear in mind that the enemy doesn't necessarily need to come through the choke-point, perhaps they're happy to wait for you to come through, or maybe the delay in attacking allows them to get reinforcements or set/activate a trap.

* I won't cover the same situation from both sides with the words 'enemy' and 'you' swapped around - if the situation puts you in the position I've listed as 'enemy', just imagine it the other way around. This applies whether you're the DM or the player side.



Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The point

I've only recently started playing D&D, having previously played an MMORPG for a year or two.
One thing I've noticed moving to D&D is the lack of strategy guides. I've found plenty of DM guides for encounter ideas or how to deal with groups that always use the same annoying tactic, but nothing about general tactics.

The number of different situations are practically infinite, so I'm not intending to cover all of them. Instead I'm planning to cover broad situations and how you might handle them - as a result it's not D&D specific, it should apply to any RPG.

A situation example is fighting through a bottleneck such as a door between rooms. It might be easy to defend against melee, but what if they're all ranged or controllers? What if you drop back and let them take the bottleneck? Even simple situations can be complicated, so I'll just cover what I can.

My expectation is that this guide will be as useful for DMs as for players.

Also, if you have a specific situation you want analysing to get some ideas of how to deal with it, let me know and maybe I'll cover it in a post.