Lately, I find combat becoming very samey.

Lately, I find combat becoming very samey.

Lately, I find combat becoming very samey. I’m not sure if it’s because of the class-based damage, or all the weapons having nothing to really differentiate them… I just feel like anyone who isn’t a caster just goes through the motions in combat.

I think DW is just a bit too lightweight for my tastes at the moment. Is there some kind of supplement to add some rules and differentiating factors? I like dungeon world and the way it works, but the combat just doesn’t tickle my fancy anymore.

17 thoughts on “Lately, I find combat becoming very samey.”

  1. Ambush the group

    Get them to deal with archers


    Monsters that are hard to hit

    Enemies that are too big to fight

    Enemies that use tactics and whose equipment is a good counter to what th group does

    Things that are invisible or use illusions to defend themselves



    There is a lot of stuff you can do. If every enemy is just there to take damage you are not giving every monster live.

  2. What Tim said. The mechanics are there to soppurt the fiction but the best mechanics wont give you fiction unless you and your players produce it.

    PF GM: “The orc hits you for 8 hp.”

    Another PF GM: “The orc swings his rusted sword at your head. You try to duck and parry but he is too fast for you. It hits your helmet with a clang and slides off onto your left shoulder where it slices through your leather armour and into your flesh. You take 8 hp damage.”

  3. One thing that helps me keep a combat interesting is to give it a purpose other than “reduce all the monsters to 0hp”.

    The party isn’t just ambushed, they’re ambushed while they’re trying to make it through a trap-filled corridor, any of which will trigger the mechanism to destroy the very artifact they’re here to retrieve.

    The ambush becomes an obstacle to achieving an end, rather than just a roadblock to overcome. It also could add some interesting scenarios:

    An ambusher is about to step on a trigger that’ll blast him with fire from below; do you let him take the damage but also destroy the artifact, or do you save the ambusher?

  4. I don’t know if if this is the issue, Damian, but it is very easy to get into a your turn/their turn mentality and it is very easy to get into a dull rhythm.  Maybe try breaking that rhythm and start narrating results by ignoring the dice and narrate a portion of the battle. If players get complacent have that hill giant shatter a players shield and fling another  player across the field…then start up the dice rolling again.

    BTW…I am no expert in Dungeon World so take my advice with a grain of salt.

  5. As others say, more rules probably won’t help. Combat, like everything else in DW, is predominantly fictional. Your (and a player’s) description of actions and the scene will determine a great deal. Bringing monsters to life is critical advice: they are more than a bag-o-HP and a weapon. Having a sword doesn’t mean it’s the sole method of attack.

    Picture a cavern with roots and rocks everywhere on the floor. The monster may have a sword, but it would be more advantageous to shove, punch or kick the PC so that they stumble over the roots/rocks and land on their back. Suddenly the monster is smart, tactical and conniving. Things like that happen all the time in my campaign because I really try to answer the basic question of what I would do in the monster’s place.

    Bonus: if you improvise battle this way, your players will eventually follow suit. Last night my thief did an opening shot on a ghoul by stabbing it with his rapier, simultaneously using his shoulder to shove the creature into two others, clustering them. His move granted an ally +1 forward, which he passed to the wizard. She followed by hurling a fireball at the three of them, but the damage wasn’t as great as they hoped – the stabbed ghoul died, but the other two emerged from the ball of flame still burning and stumbling toward the PCs. One ghoul launched itself at the thief, biting his shoulder but its teeth failed to pierce his armor. The fire, however, damaged him. Blah, blah, etc.

    The point is, every combat is different because we all improvise, players and GM alike. If the wizard is the only one in the spotlight, use a different lens.

  6. When I run a combat encounter I try to ensure that less than half of the rolls the PC’s make are attack rolls (Hack & Slash, Volley). I force them to react to injuries, obstacles and other factors and use a variety of moves.

    Additionally I only choose to inflict HP  damage maybe ever third monster attack. Usually I go for knocking heroes down/back/ through a wall, ripping weapons or equipment off the heroes, pinning them under a thrown object, etc. Likewise my players also frequently attempt to do things to the enemy beyond HP damage. 

    Once you just just start going back and forth (hero takes HP – monster takes HP) the game really gets turned back into almost every other RPG out there. 

  7. Clever play should mean opportunities to deal damage without rolling Hack & Slash. Interesting threats present hard choices (save the wizard or take a free shot at the monster? Fall back, or risk H&S against something that breaks bones, rendering limbs useless?).

  8. I enjoy using monsters that are generally impervious to harm and that must be dealt with laterally. E.g.:

    – A ghost that can’t be physically assaulted but is destroyed if you douse its remains with holy water (or burn the remains)

    – An assassin vine with tendrils and shoots that can be cut and attacked but such damage doesn’t reduce its HP… you have to find the “heart” and chop it up).

    – A construct that keeps fighting despite almost any physical attack (forceful or messy attacks can rip it apart or slow it down), but that is animated by a “command scroll.” Tear the scroll out of it and it drops in a heap.

    You don’t want to overdo it, sure, but it certainly changes the fight from an exercise in brutality into a puzzle of sorts.

  9. “weapons have nothing to differentiate them…” 


    On a less flip note, the weapons in the game all have tags. They should be involved in every single action taken with those weapons. Have a weapon with “hand” range? You need to describe yourself ducking and dodging, getting in close, grabbing shirt-collars and hair and jamming that little pigsticker into their ribs. Blood all over your hands and face from such a gritty up-close battle. 

    Check this out, from page 20.

    “The most important role of a character’s equipment is to help describe the moves they make. A character without a weapon of some sort isn’t going to trigger the hack and slash move when fighting a dragon since a bare-knuckle punch really doesn’t do much to inch-thick scales. It doesn’t count for the purposes of triggering the move.

    Likewise, sometimes equipment will avoid triggering a move. Climbing a sheer icy cliff is usually defying danger, but with a good set of climbing gear you might be able to avoid the imminent danger or calamity that triggers the move.

    Weapons are particularly likely to modify what moves you can trigger. A character with a dagger can easily stab the goblin gnawing on his leg, triggering hack and slash, but the character with a halberd is going to have a much harder time bringing it to bear on such a close foe.

    Items and gear of every sort have tags. Tags are terms to describe things. Some tags have a specific effect on the rules (things like damage reduction on armor or a magical bonus to a particular kind of move or stat). Other tags are purely about the fiction (like the close tag, which describes the length of a weapon and how near your enemies need to be for you to attack them). Tags help you describe your character’s actions when the items are being used and they give the GM information about how the items you’re using might go wrong or cause complications when you fail a roll.”

  10. What sort of combat systems from other games do tickle your fancy? What is ‘heavy’ weight to you? We can then see how we can give you helpful hints within the existing ruleset to match the expectations of your group 🙂

  11. Thanks all… Adam Koebel really hit my problem on the head (no surprise there), in that the weapons were my problem, not the combat. I’ll need to make a conscious effort to really exaggerate weapons’ tags. I suppose that, before, I would allow a hack and slash with a 1h sword or 2h axe or dagger evenly. Needing to really be hugging the guy before the dagger can do what an axe or sword can is where I should be approaching this from.

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