5E Ten little things my players hate the most. But I use as much as possible in 5ed.
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  1. #1

    Ten little things my players hate the most. But I use as much as possible in 5ed.

    In many games I have the chance to come across; I see many young masters taking monsters out of the MM and play without sense of tactics. Most monsters in adventures feels like statues waiting to activate as in a videogame where they jump to life only as the players are coming in. Here are the few things I do to make monsters and setting alive in campaign and adventures.

    1) Monsters use the grab option to position players in a way that they will get attacked with advantage.
    I use this with many monsters. Not only intelligent ones. A mated pair of owlbears, manticores or whatever will try to move PCs around. Once grabbed, they are easier to bite and tastier too! This is especially devastating with undeads...
    2) The dodge action is there for monsters too!
    High AC monsters like Hobgoblins love to do some dodging while their friends fire arrows after arrows at the players (front rows or not). If the players are hard to hit, why bother to attack? This changes the odds in the favor of the monster while the players are trying to hit at disadvantage. The face of a sharpshooter or great weapon master forced to strike at disadvantage and not using his/her feat leads to great satisfaction as they have to find a way to actualy get to use their feat. Even the shooting rogue gets angry. Sneak attack is good, but it has to hit to do something. It also forces players to vary their cantrip. Saving throw cantrip now is a thing to have when the foes are too hard to hit.

    3) Move, shoot, move again to full cover.
    If it is possible. Foes will do this at first opportunities. This prevent the players from targeting the range attackers and force them to try to hit the dodging ones in the front row. This makes players hate #2 even more.

    4) What players get, monsters can get too. Especially at med and high levels.
    If feats and options in the DM guide are used, monsters get the short end of the stick (if they get to touch it at all). And it can lead to a lot of DM frustration with the system. As a house rule, I sometimes give a bit of feats to monsters/foes if the fight warrants it. I use this, generaly, only on meaningful fights (and not random encounters) and even then, not on all. Just enough so that the players stay on their toes.

    5) Magic is good for the players, so is it for their foes.
    Want to give a +1 shield to the players? Make sure it is used by the boss. All these wonderfull potions of healing that you can get on the PHB can be used to by players' foes. Nothing is more frustrating to players than to see THEIR treasures being used up by the vilains. Wand of magic missiles? Sure, I am about to die so I'll use every charges that I can. Maybe the players won't get it as the wand lose its magic on the morning (happened once, rolled in front of the players. The wizard was mad and blaming his bad luck).

    6) If you invade someone's home, be prepared to do it one shot or they will chase you!
    This is not as obvious as it may seems. Many times young DM will let players rest and their foes are just waiting for them to come back. Make the foes actualy search for the players. Let them prepare traps and ambushes in case the players are not found. The look of stupor from players when they say:"But we cleared that room the day before! How come are there monsters in there now? We're trapped! FLEE!" This also has the side effect of making nova fight less and less frequent.

    7) Divinations are not reserved for the sole use of the players. Evil NPCs can and will use it too.
    Almost the same as #5. Now it is for magic itself and not the items. Evil casters will use divination magic to locate their foes if they are aware of them. Once a group retreat to regroup and rest, evil casters will use divination to find the players and learn about them. They will change their spell selection according to what they can learn. Be honest and make sure the evil one doesn't learn more than what the players could with the same spells. I personnaly let the players know when they are the subjects of divination magic and they succeed their saves by more than 5. They know that the same will be applied to the victim of their divinations.

    8) Anyone can get their greedy hands on the MM. So change the monsters a bit.
    A variant of #4. I do this only if I feel that a players is having a MM at home. More over, a lot of players commit to memory the MM. This is especially true with hard monsters such as demons/devils/dragons and many undeads. Nothing is funnier than to modify some of them a wee bit. And not all of them. Just a few. A fire elemental that does dmg to its melee attacker (as a weak fireshield) can be surprising. Especialy if the previous one was not doing it. I made a shield guardian looking like a large four armed skeleton with two energy shields and two long swords. It was simple shield guardian but the fact that it looked like something else and was protecting the evil necromancer was enough to put the players in an uproar! Too strong were they saying. Way too strong! This was a 10th level group with 6 players in it... their face when they learned... their face...

    9) Reputation can be good or bad.
    Ho no! It the all time slayers that take no prisonners group! Flee or fight to the death! When no one is surving the group, the word will get around. You can be sure that evil npc's in the region will learn about the players. If they are the slaying type, they will hire assassins or have spies to check up on them. If the players are going the way of the NPCs, they will either flee or prepare with reinforcement. If the vilains win, they will make sure that the players won't be raised.
    If they tend to make prisonners. The villains will be more enclined to let the players get away for a ransom. The villains might even get lazy and not check up too much on the PCs. After all, they are not slayers. Sometimes, foes will simply surrender if they know they can't beat the players and that they will live to see an other day. Better be in prison than dead.
    This make the players aware that what they do will have an impact on their role play. The more reckless they appear, the more shady their patrons get. The more they appear on the good guy list as sensible and forgiving, the more they can hope to see someone going out of his way to help them.

    10) There are thieves in the world.
    There is nothing more frustrating than to see you made a mistake in giving something to the players. You can't just take it back. Stealing is often the best solution. I don't do it often but if I have no choice I will not hesitate. Now be prepared to have a lot of whining. Be fair and give a chance to the victim to actualy get his item back. Prepare/devise and adventure around the thief and the buyer. Now if the players are paying a bit of their earning to the local thieve guild, they might actualy have a warning about a possible theft of the item before it actualy happen!

    Once a player of mine got his magical full plate stolen by an efreet. The efreet woke him up and said:" I take this piece of magical protection in the name of Tantaculos the mighty which, incindentaly, is in need of it. He wished for such an armor and yours was the nearest one. His wish is now fulfilled. I will bring this armor to his delve in the mountain south of Llorkh. My servitude will end with this token. Good day to you mortal." It was a hell of an adventure to get it back.
    Last edited by Helldritch; Thursday, 8th December, 2016 at 02:17 AM.
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  2. #2
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    I like them and they make sense. I find that I'm a bit guilty of not repopulating dungeons, mostly because I'm lazy.

  3. #3
    My concern over monsters attacking in the night is mainly that I don't want to TPK my party, and interrupting their (system mandated, basically) rest makes that more likely.

  4. #4
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    If I have an area I need to improve in, it is using Magic. Not just magic items on monsters and foes, but them actually casting spells. I don't typically play spell casters when I get to play so... I think a lot of the more clever or cruel uses for magic can be lost on me at times.

    I like your list. I am glad to see I practice a lot of what you preach already. Good to see others heading in a similar direction. Hey... maybe I am not such a terrible DM after all?
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  5. #5
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    1) I base this off monster intelligence. Dumb creatures shouldn't be all that tactical.

    2) The Dodge Action is horribly underused, both by players and DMs. It's almost always better to move and then Dodge, rather than move and make a crappy ranged attack while trying to get into melee. I've used dodging front liners to protect spellcasters before, and many do players hate that!

    3) Intelligence monsters should always do this. Intelligent PCs too.

    4) I reserve feats and other options for special NPCs. Monsters usually do fine without boosts.

    5) Intelligence is once more the rule of the day. If the monster is smart and can physically use a magic item, they totally do! I actually remember people complaining about Sunder in 3E, because you were blowing up your loot

    6) I may not have the monsters chase after the PCs, but I always have them react to the invasion. PCs dumb enough to rest in the lair are attacked without mercy. Traps and ambushes will be set, if possible, and if there is enough duress, the monsters will flee the lair (with their treasure and whatever else the players wanted).

    7) I'm a bit iffy on this one, because the NPC has to know about the players. Either they needed to ruin a plan once without locating and killing the NPC, or the PCs have to be so famous that the NPC would be afraid that they'd hunt him down. Once they've drawn the attention of a powerful spellcaster, however, all bets are off!

    8) 5E is still new enough that I've yet to feel the need to do this, even in a group with 3 other DMs. They may have good ideas about the monster, but very few players attempt to memorize the MM (I did know one once that did this in 3E for all 5 MMs). If the players deliberatly try something from a meta-game prospective, I require an Intelligence check (Nature, Arcana, or whatever seems most appropriate) or the action is disallowed. Thankfully I play with mature players that don't do this.

    9) As with 7, I'm iffy on this one. The players are not the only powerful force in my campaign world (and in fact, are just now starting to get into "name level" recognition), and it seems unjustified to have things react unless it makes sense for them to do so. Of course, I'll have NPCs react based on stereotypes (I just had a drow prisoner laugh at the intimidation check of our high elf, because "surface elves are too soft for real torture").

    10) I've used thieves in the past, but I find it to be obnoxious nowadays. I have had PCs roll Wisdom/Perception while in town, relieving them of some coin on bad rolls, but not to remove anything specific.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helldritch View Post
    9) Reputation can be good or bad.
    [INDENT]Ho no! It the all time slayers that take no prisonners group! Flee or fight to the death! When no one is surving the group, the word will get around.

    Just wondering how word can get around if the Party leaves no survivors?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    1) I base this off monster intelligence. Dumb creatures shouldn't be all that tactical.
    Well, on that, monster's instinct here rules. Not intelligence. Lions do that all the time. Wolves too. Even cats do it. (reptile do not tend to work with their peers, but mamals certainly do.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    2) The Dodge Action is horribly underused, both by players and DMs. It's almost always better to move and then Dodge, rather than move and make a crappy ranged attack while trying to get into melee. I've used dodging front liners to protect spellcasters before, and many do players hate that!
    Fully agree on that. I might add that one weakness of young DM is to build encounters with similar creatures. All goblins, all ogres or all whatever. A few hobgoblins with a cult fanatic or two and a wizard or cleric can really mess up players' usual plans. Diversity should always rule.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    3) Intelligence monsters should always do this. Intelligent PCs too.
    You might be surprise at how hard it is for players to do that. They have to be the victim of this tactic to think to use it. Then the devious DM choose ready an action. Movement into fire position to shoot the arrows/cantrip/bolts/whatever. I have had an instance where I was readying arrows to shoot the mage when she would get into position only to hear her say:" I wait to see them get out of cover to firebolt one." Then the ranger and the two clerics did exactly the same thing. One round where everyone was waiting and the frontline combattants were dodging each other. We all had a good laugh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    4) I reserve feats and other options for special NPCs. Monsters usually do fine without boosts.
    Same here, usualy. But for groups with 5 or 6 PCs it can be mandatory to add a wee bit of power to solo bosses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    5) Intelligence is once more the rule of the day. If the monster is smart and can physically use a magic item, they totally do! I actually remember people complaining about Sunder in 3E, because you were blowing up your loot
    I remember that one. A staff of power was destroyed this way. The look on the mage's face. The look... ho god. And the argument between the two players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    6) I may not have the monsters chase after the PCs, but I always have them react to the invasion. PCs dumb enough to rest in the lair are attacked without mercy. Traps and ambushes will be set, if possible, and if there is enough duress, the monsters will flee the lair (with their treasure and whatever else the players wanted).
    That is an other excellent way to do it. Leaving with your treasure is sure to make players do some angry faces at me. I'll keep my smart phone on camera to immortalize their face. I should've included that possibility. Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    7) I'm a bit iffy on this one, because the NPC has to know about the players. Either they needed to ruin a plan once without locating and killing the NPC, or the PCs have to be so famous that the NPC would be afraid that they'd hunt him down. Once they've drawn the attention of a powerful spellcaster, however, all bets are off!
    Fully agree with you. It becomes especially important if said caster escapes. The caster will want revenge and will take steps to learn all he can about the pc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    8) 5E is still new enough that I've yet to feel the need to do this, even in a group with 3 other DMs. They may have good ideas about the monster, but very few players attempt to memorize the MM (I did know one once that did this in 3E for all 5 MMs). If the players deliberatly try something from a meta-game prospective, I require an Intelligence check (Nature, Arcana, or whatever seems most appropriate) or the action is disallowed. Thankfully I play with mature players that don't do this.
    You would be surprise to see my groups then. In both group, 6 players. There are 6 PHB in one group and 7 in the other. One group has one DM as a player, the other have 2. Out of twelve players, 5 have the MM without being DM themselves (they found it in PDF format somewhere, but that is not my cup of tea. I prefer to buy what I have.) They may not memorize the MM at full but they still have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    9) As with 7, I'm iffy on this one. The players are not the only powerful force in my campaign world (and in fact, are just now starting to get into "name level" recognition), and it seems unjustified to have things react unless it makes sense for them to do so. Of course, I'll have NPCs react based on stereotypes (I just had a drow prisoner laugh at the intimidation check of our high elf, because "surface elves are too soft for real torture").
    At which point do you think players will be recognized? To me, it could be as soon as 3rd level (we save the village and everyone knows it) to level 9 or 10 (we were low profile, but our successes finaly caught up with us.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroiken View Post
    10) I've used thieves in the past, but I find it to be obnoxious nowadays. I have had PCs roll Wisdom/Perception while in town, relieving them of some coin on bad rolls, but not to remove anything specific.
    Agreed that this should not be used often. It should only be done to introduce an adventure (as I did with the efreet), or to remove a too powerful object that the yound DM created and did not anticipated the full disruptive power it could have. Every DM can fall in that pit trap. And yet, it should still be possible to get the item back with a lot of work from the players.

    Any other tricks out there that are used to good effects with players?

  8. #8
    @Shasarak

    Simple.

    A group gets in a cave. Dozens of monsters are dead. Who did that?
    Same group find out that the PCs are suddenly flinging gold and jewels around as if it was nothing.
    Were they the ones? At the inn, the players will inevitably tell of their deeds, willingly or not.
    A bard might be there, hearing the whole story.

    A few times like this, and the underworld will finaly knows.

    Or...

    The big bad black knight comes back to see how his orc horde is growing. He comes at the cavern only to find out that all his precious little bastards are dead. Who did this? They took all the loot the orcs were supposed to give to him. These do gooders stole from him. They will pay dearly for that. The big bad black knight has allies. One of them is a cleric of the god (put whatever the name you want in here) and he will do the divinations to know who did that.

    Or
    Luckily, Bruknak took time to quaff the potion of invisibility and had the wits to stay hidden. The human/elf/dwarf group has slain every single goblins they could get their filthy hands on. Bruknak is lucky to be alive. The great chief of the hobgoblin army must be warned. Bruknark waits until the big uglies are away to sneak out and run to warn the great Ulubru the merciless. These humans will learn that you do not attack goblins with impunity...
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Rampant View Post
    My concern over monsters attacking in the night is mainly that I don't want to TPK my party, and interrupting their (system mandated, basically) rest makes that more likely.
    As I said limit yourself to 6-8 encounters. If they already have that amount, they should have a peaceful rest (unless they did something stupid like stirring up a nest and leaving without covering their traces.)

    Enforcing the 6-8 encounters a day really make that edition shines comparatively to the other. 5ed is really good. I have been DMing for 34 years now and this edition is really good despite some minor quirks. Try it, you will see.

  10. #10
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    Nice list.

    I love #3 (3) Move, shoot, move again to full cover.

    Split move is one of the best improvements in 5e over prior D&D editions.

    Changing monsters is also great, especially for the elites/leaders of the pack.

    Something I like to do as much as possible is to have monsters call for reinforcements, often attacking the party from different directions or from front and behind. They hate it, but it really raises the tension/pressure in combat.

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