Fightin' 101




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    Fightin' 101

    There was a TPK in our 3.5 Greyhawk campaign last night. It was a real bummer, but one that might have been avoided. I'm talking with my players about basic combat tactics, and I'd like to share three points with this august body.

    In the early-mid 80's an article appeared in Dragon mag that suggested combat tactics PCs could easily employ. The suggestions were sound, and characters who consistently utilized them had impressive results. The three most important tactics are listed and discussed below.

    Three Simple Tactics
    1) Missile Weapons
    2) Fire Team Support
    3) Concentration of Fire


    Missile Weapons
    Every character should employ a missile weapon, be it a sling, crossbow, hand axe, or javelin. Obviously, missile weapons allow one to damage, and or kill, foes at a distance. Inflicting damage early on means less capable foes once the bad guys do close to melee. Often, damaged foes never close to melee, choosing to fall back. If fighters worry about a missile weapon that will preclude them from quickly donning sword and shield, perhaps a hand axe or javelin would be useful.

    Fire Team Support
    Every character should fight with at least one other PC. The advantages to this are numerous. Characters can fight back to back or maneuver in such a way as to avoid flank attacks. Conversely, a team of warriors can move to flank opponents. They can share weapons and other resources. If a pair of PCs is fighting a single foe, that foe might have to divide his attacks. Fire team members can also concentrate their fire.

    Concentration of Fire
    Never split attacks. Concentrate all attacks on a single foe until that foe is driven off, or dead. A foe with 1 hit point is just as lethal as a foe with 10, so it makes little sense to spread out the damage a party can inflict.

    Used together, the three tactics above ensure more combat capable PCs. A cohesive fire team will employ missile weapons to reduce the combat capability of foes, they will be able to support one another in melee, and they can concentrate their fire to quickly overcome foes.

    This sound okay?

 

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    This sounds incredibly ... modern.

    I'm sure it works, but the feel is all wrong for the pseudo-medieval setting.

    That being said, anyone with a military bent will love it.

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    This sounds incredibly ... modern.
    I don't know if I would consider this modern. It sounds more like common sense to me. If I were personally in a fight of life or death I would make sure there was a friend next to me in order to help out or take some of the attacks away from me. I also wouldn't want to get in close with someone unless I had to, so the missle weapon sounds like common sense. Then again, maybe I don't have any common sense, but think I do.

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    The one that has been pounded into my head is the concentration of fire. In almost every tactical essay I've read, this has been stressed to the extreme.

    Also, I don't think any of the ideas are particularly modern. They are just primarily applicable to small team tactics rather than large forces. And we are used to seeing strike teams in a modern setting.

    Unfortunately, I've never been involved with any group that really took tactics seriously as a whole. At best, the tactics are given lip service or implemented by only part of the group. At worst, discussion of tactics has been scoffed at by the players or the articles termed "metagaming" or "ooc"/"poor RP" and shut down by the DM who would also comment about our tactical ineptitude.

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    Mercule
    At one time my players were strict adherents to the tactics above and I really feel that they were much more lethal. These days, each character wants to "do his own thing" and combat effectiveness had suffered.

    You're right about that Con. of Fire. It's everywhere in military literature.

    I really liked the scene in Gladiator where Maximus and his posse were fighting the chariots in the arena. It showed how tactics applied at even the small unit level could allow a weaker foe to jack up a stronger one.

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    Well... Orcs are nasty!

    And 9 of them against 4 low level characters can easily end this way...

    Bye
    Thanee

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    Christian

    Your points are all right on. I used precisely these tactics when I won the battletech tournement 2 years in a row at a local convention. Battletech is basically a small unit combat game, just as D&D can be at times.

    I have DMed for groups who used good tactics and those who did not. The difference is staggering on what EL's the different groups could routinely take on.

    As far as being out of place, I do not believe so. These characters fight in life and death struggles all the time. I imagine a large part of their discussion around the camp fire and in the tavern center around tactics.
    Tom Christy
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  • #8
    Heh - I've been seriously into Warcraft 3 lately. Yesterday's game I almost yelled out 'focus fire on that Ettin!'

    I think those are excellent tactics. Here's a few other essentials.

    - Damage Reduction! If possible, everyone should have a magic weapon. If you're too low a level, then silver. With revised it's a little different, try to make sure someone has material for the most likely you are to encounter.

    - Distribute healing. The cleric ideally shouldn't have any healing items. distribute the potions evenly, with the front liners getting a couple extra. If you have a paladin, bard, or ranger have them carry any cure wounds wands. You don't want to lose all your healing ability if the cleric falls off a cliff.

    - Sometimes it's better to take out the mooks. My party had a near total party kill. We were about 4-5th level, and faced four ettins and 16 orcs. We focused on the ettins, and dropped one pretty quick. However, the orcs managed to surround the tanks and harass the back line guys. This means that not only were the guys on the ettins getting flanked, but our cleric couldn't get up to heal anyone. Only after my archer started tumbling away and picking off the orcs did it start to turn around. Well, until I blew my tumble check and got 4 AoOs by orcs with greataxes . Oh well, now I have a cool wizard . Focus fire is great, but don't let your tanks get surrounded.

    - For spellcasters, understand the nature of saves. Ideally you should have spells that require both Fort and Will saves. Don't be casting Hold Person on enemy mages, and don't be trying Ray of Enfeeblement on big tanks. In general big melee creatures have good fort and bad will, while spellcasting types have the opposite. And don't bother with ref save direct damage against rogues or monks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddman75
    Well, until I blew my tumble check and got 4 AoOs by orcs with greataxes . Oh well, now I have a cool wizard .
    Ouch!

    And there they say, Tumble is broken...

    Bye
    Thanee

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    This is all good advice. I would like to add two things. One if you have a big enough party like we do six players protect the mage. I play an archer type so now that we have two good frontline fighters is plate I hang back with the mage and use my bow. I have quick draw if I need my short swords and I also wear cat's claw gloves that do damage the same as daggers. I have seen this kind of technigue used against us quite effectively.

    Second don't change a plan at the last minute even if you think you have come up with a brilliant alternative. We almost got TPK one time because one of the players thought he had a better idea when it was his turn to go so he did rejecting the party plan. If the DM had not done some fancy footwork we would all have died.

    If you have the advantage and scouted things out give the mage a chance to get any area spells off. I have played in games where everyone just charges in and makes it impossiable for the mage through any area effect spells that do damge without hurting the other PCs.

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