So I just ran my second game today, And I learned that combat is pretty tough to handle.

So I just ran my second game today, And I learned that combat is pretty tough to handle.

So I just ran my second game today, And I learned that combat is pretty tough to handle. I keep having difficulties with keeping track of 1: the stats of the enemies that I mostly make up on the spot (seeing as they are mostly people) 2: Where the baddies are durring a fight and 3: where the players are durring a fight. Another issue that I’m having is keeping the combat feeling fresh and at the right difficulty.  Any tips for a newbie GM?

18 thoughts on “So I just ran my second game today, And I learned that combat is pretty tough to handle.”

  1. I had a hard time remembering where everything was, and who was fighting what at first – but what I’ve found is using a spreadsheet or piece of paper, and then writing down quick notes for each enemy about positioning and target seems to help a lot.

  2. yeah, someone (either the gm or a player) should draw a map of the current location and you should keep track of your monster’s stats on paper.

    Also, don’t worry about difficulty. If there are monsters, give them stats, quantities and resources as is appropriate for them in your setting. You just have to worry about make them fantastic!

  3. For getting a layout of the battlefield and positioning, either messing around with minis, toys, or whiteboard markers on a plastic, whiteboard, or laminated surface is great. Be fast and loose, concentrate on how things look, sound, and smell.

    You can also run the action fast and loose – the rules let you jump between punching guys to climbing to sneaking to bullying someone seamlessly. If you break out of the mindset of “this is combat ant that is everything else” you can have much more fluid scenes. Try reducing the number of enemies for the action, or make them a larger “mob of Gobs” monster with a single HP pool.

  4. I ran quite possibly one of the best fight scenes I have ever run the other night without writing down a single stat for the baddies.

    All i had was a short list of bad guy NPC’s in the battle and for each one I listed three moves that went from least dangerous to most dangerous. Example: Samson the main baddie 1. Ordered fire arrows shot into the town, 2. Ordered ladders sent to the walls and, 3. Charged the town himself (given some bad as magical reinforcement from another NPC)

    This gave me the big “game changers” that might come about at any time in the fight. And as the fight went on, the stakes got higher.

    The PC’s waded through countless mooks in the beginning, describing in great detail how they moved the masses with sword and magic. Little by little I would introduce the bad guy NPC’s. If a players’ roll went poorly I’d move forward with one of the NPC moves making him more of a threat.

    As far as Hit Points…I didn’t keep track of a single one. If it made sense for a baddie to fall, he fell. If an attack was close, but not amazing, I kept the baddie around to taunt and complicate. And if the roll was awful, I’d have the baddie punch the PC in the gut, or worse.

    You might think this method would make the fight seem too easy, but seeing as how between all of the characters they got  a dislocated shoulder, “soul burnt” mind, slashed arms, damaged armor, lost companions, half the town burt down and of course all the minor cuts and bruises of adventuring. I’d say the challenge was fair 🙂

    Also maps were minimal. So long as the threat was immediate and clear, very few players needed anything written out. When a sword is coming towards your face you don’t need to ask “how far is he” you just need to describe what you are doing to stop it!

    Soap box: “Tactical” games give a false security of distance and perspective. Anyone who has been in a fight (or even paintballing!) can tell you, adrenaline doesn’t care about feet and meters,  the enemy never stays at a set distance, and the fear of being flanked either is, or should be, a constant companion. 

    If you made it this far…thanks for reading…I think this topic matters to me 🙂

  5. The easiest thing to stop thinking about is the difficulty. If it is too easy, so what? Just let the baddies die and move on to the next scene. If it is too hard, so what? Capture them and move on to the next scene. Use that energy to think about the fiction instead.

    Also, you could try this style of combat and see if it suits you (it might not, of course):

    1. Lay out the situation to the players as clearly as possible, i.e. these are the bad guys, this is what they’re doing, this is where you are, etc.

    2. Ask everybody in turn what they are doing. Just get them each to describe their actions until they are all cool with what they’re trying to do.

    3. Resolve all their actions in whichever order seems best, by saying what happens or rolling dice and then saying what happens.

    4. Take stock of how the situation has changed and go back to step 1.

  6. I used drawing pins and a pin up board on the table with graph paper, red=monsters, green=pc’s. Then have a sheet with all of the monster stats your plan to be using in the session. Finally use some scrap paper to record monster health. 

    Simplest tip for making combat more interesting is changing up the battlefield. Put some cover or obstacles in, make something fall over or set something on fire. 

    Another tip for interesting combat is make your monsters act like actual intelligent beings that run away when they think their going to lose, call back up and use the environment to their advantage. Doing so will make the players act in the same way. Don’t make combat two sets of descending numbers,  make it a lively scene full of different actions rather than just hack and slash. 

  7. I mean practicing the kind of techniques that make the game work without minis! By using them you run the risk of settling on your old dnd techniques and you don’t let the game teach you a lot of things!

  8. I use a chessex battlemat, and some glass stones. I write down armor and hp right on the battlemat, no reason why the players can’t see it. I find I do tend to let the ranges of the weapon fade away – for example the distance between hand close and reach seem important on that first move of the combat but gets lost in all other ones.

  9. Well, don’t read my post as criticism.

    BUT, my experience about it, is “thing always go worse before improving”. I see, you like using miniatures, but the game gives you a whole lot of techniques that work better in discourse instead of a grid. You would’t use miniatures when playing poker just because you like using them, would you?

    It’s of course perfectly legit to play dw as you wish, i’m just pointing out, for no one’s sake except your, that by tring to bend yoursekf ti the game and enduring the initial pitfall, you are gonna discover and learn new skills for yourself and your group, and maybe, but only once you become good at it, just maybe you could end up liking it better. But you’ll never know if you inject the games you already know how to play in dw.

    Just remember: this is not criticism, just me trying to convey my experience of playing pbta games.

  10. A loose map and minis is a perfectly fine visual aid to get where things are in an action scene. Just play fluid and loose, experiment with your action scenes. Think about dangerous places, exciting chases, and scary faces. There’s lots of things that are exciting, tense actions that aren’t straight up combat.

  11. Don’t worry so much about position. All that matters is narrative possibility. Is the party being attacked by a hoard of kobolds? Those kobolds can reach any party member period. What’s important is how a given threatened party member responds. When you say, “Three of the scaly dragon worshipers are charging at you what do you do!?” How your player responds is all that matters. If they charge straight back at them bellowing a dwarven drinking song and visciously swinging their axe. Well that’s hack and slash and the player has taken care of who is where and who can hit whom for you. Alternatively if they choose to leap onto a rock and fire off their hawk-feathered arrows that’s volley. And again they’ve solved for you who can hit whom. And narratively that’s all that really matters.

  12. Make the environment for the fight awesome.  Have them battle as they fall in the air into a bottomless cavern.  Split the earth and collapse the ceiling.  Push shit over and light it on fire.  Battles should never occur on a featureless flat plane.  Have a mom with a child become imperiled.  Have zombie arms busting through the walls to grab them.  METAL!

  13. And encourage your players to add features as needed. If they need a sizeable rock to hide behind. Bam! There’s a sizeable rock to hide behind. If they want a raging river to throw a foe into. Bam! There’s a raging river.

  14. +pavel if you actually intended minis as loose visual aids, i take it back, chances are you are already using these or similar techniques. As for eich techs, une examole is how the scene flow works, without initiative or turn order, and how you can rrnspond to a 6- with an hard move against another charater. These kind of rules letting (and teaching you) how to make a fun fight without breaking into “skirmish mode”.

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