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5E Agro and Target choices

Xeviat

Adventurer
Hi everyone!

I've been playing a lot of Fire Emblem lately, enjoying having some tactical combat when I can't get to any D&D. One feature in Fire Emblem is that the game shows you percentages and damage when you point over a target. Another feature is that when you go to move a unit, the game shows you what the enemy is likely to do in response.

This allows you to make smart decisions, like sending your lower damage heavy armor character up front to draw attacks, leaving less defensive units back to move in after. This got me thinking: how do you choose targets for your NPCs?

I've always found it curious that D&D hasn't, to my knowledge, made any "agro" mechanics or suggestions on how NPCs and monsters should determine their target selection. Having something, even soft guidelines, even monster by monster, could not only help DMs to feel that they're "playing fair" (perhaps this is my own worry), and also to let players develop a strategic sense.

So what do you think different suggested tactics or target selection should be for different types of encounters? When do you think enemies would focus fire? How do you think they select their targets? This could be monster based (perhaps orcs don't focus fire, they prefer to attack one on one, while hobgoblins and other goblinoids gang up and focus fire lightly armored targets and those with holy symbols first), or it could be intelligence based (though a wolf pack knows to go after the smaller and weaker members of a herd).

It could be situational, such as wild animals behaving differently when hunting for food (go after the weaker looking targets and try to drag them away) vs when defending their territory or young (try to wound and scare away before going for the kill).

If you're playing 4E D&D or with characters with marking mechanics, when do you choose to follow the mark or when do you choose to ignore it?

I'm curious how everyone else does it.
 

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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
If you're playing 4E D&D or with characters with marking mechanics, when do you choose to follow the mark or when do you choose to ignore it?
ummm can I just answer I roleplay it and pretend that is an answer... I do meta more than that though especially if my player likes extra attacks from enemies ignoring the mark., You can also look at there build and tell hey he wants hit bad ass offense angle and play to providing the player that.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
Most intelligent enemies go for the weaker characters who want to stay at range. It just makes sense to me.

Zombies will just attack whomever is closer. Particularly arrogant enemies might try to take on the toughest looking character, etc.

Usually though they go for the easy prey both because they are more likely to succeed but also so they don't die from their attacks.
 

Eltab

Hero
A blog (and now book) "The Monsters Know What They Are Doing" gives you one fellow's analysis. I paged through the book and think other DMs should at least take a look-see at it.

One factor I used when I was DM'ing a Tiamat campaign: do these monsters have a history with the PCs, or is it the first time they met? If they fought before (or belong to an organization whose members would tell each other about the experience) the enemies acted 'smarter' than those who never heard of the PCs before.
For assassination attempts, the enemy collects intelligence on the PCs before the fight ever begins; then he / they do everything you can think of to mess the PCs over and kill them dead.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Generally D&D leaves “aggro” in the sense of enemies prioritizing targets based on their actions up DM discretion. Sometimes modules will give some advice on monster tactics in a particular encounter, but there’s little to nothing in terms of hard mechanics. 4e used marking and various punisher mechanics to kind of approximate the tactical impact of aggro, and I think that approach works better for D&D.
 
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5e doesn't have "aggro" or "taunt" mechanics. The closest that it gets is imposing disadvantage on targets other than you, to encourage enemies to attack you. Even the Compelled Duel spell - Which is the closest thing to a "Taunt" effect (because you need magic to do cool stuff) does not actually restrict the target to just attacking the caster.
It is still very much in the hands of the DM to decide who the monsters attack.

I generally decide who the monsters attack based on their motivation, situation etc.
I have let players use Charisma (Deception or Intimidation usually, sometimes Animal Handling) to encourage opponents to attack specific characters.
 

For me, it depends on the intelligence of the enemy. Low intelligence creatures will simply attack the closest enemy, normally one that attacked/dealt damage to it, and will ignore effects that will damage it (booming blade, opportunity attacks, etc.) or tricks that the PCs have (sentinel, the shield fighting style, etc.). Average intelligence will attack creatures that dealt the most damage to it or an ally, since that's the greatest threat, but they won't ignore obvious mechanics that will harm them or tricks they've already experienced by the characters. Highly intelligent will focus fire, and target enemies that seem either weakest or the most dangerous (usually casters in both cases).
 

Coroc

Hero
....
I generally decide who the monsters attack based on their motivation, situation etc.
I have let players use Charisma (Deception or Intimidation usually, sometimes Animal Handling) to encourage opponents to attack specific characters.
This ^^

You can let pure roleplaying decide what the outcome is, or intimidation or other skills if applicable.

I use the houserule that fighter classes can intimidate using STR instead of CHA, and dwarven fighters can even intimidate with CON as key attribute.
 

S'mon

Legend
Most intelligent enemies go for the weaker characters who want to stay at range. It just makes sense to me.
Generally my monsters go for the squishy looking but dangerous targets first; spellcasters who unleashed powerful effects, healers, and lightly armoured archers are some favourites, along with Rogues & Monks who stick around in melee range. They may ignore someone who looks like a camp follower. They'll target the guy with greatsword & loincloth in preference to the guy with plate sword & shield, which in 5e may be a mistake (unkillable Barbarian & Smitey Paladin). :D
 

Generally my monsters go for the squishy looking but dangerous targets first; spellcasters who unleashed powerful effects, healers, and lightly armoured archers are some favourites, along with Rogues & Monks who stick around in melee range. They may ignore someone who looks like a camp follower. They'll target the guy with greatsword & loincloth in preference to the guy with plate sword & shield, which in 5e may be a mistake (unkillable Barbarian & Smitey Paladin). :D
And this can be played on; I've played a barbarian in 4e who wore wizards' robes and whose staff was ornamented like a wizard's staff but had a very very sharp point, it actually being a greatspear. Meanwhile and entirely independently the wizard (for similar reasons) wore leather armour and carried a sword. NPC surprise was normally brief.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
5e doesn't have "aggro" or "taunt" mechanics. The closest that it gets is imposing disadvantage on targets other than you, to encourage enemies to attack you. Even the Compelled Duel spell - Which is the closest thing to a "Taunt" effect (because you need magic to do cool stuff) does not actually restrict the target to just attacking the caster.
It is still very much in the hands of the DM to decide who the monsters attack.
Even the cavaliers marking is decidedly not psychological because being distracted by the badass is not enough to affect you at all unless he is actually right next to you to reinforce it. Of course the battlemaster can focus fire one enemy into being unable to near him sort of the opposite effect desired ...
 

Reynard

Legend
Generally speaking, humanoid enemies in my games fight smart, choosing targets based on threat potential and using tactics to ensure victory, and attempting a tactical retreat when things go bad. "Monsters" I treat as hungry predators, more likely to down a target and then try and carry it off than move on to another opponent, and fleeing if they get too wounded or swarmed (watch some footage of baboons or hyenas running off big powerful cats like lions or panthers). Intelligent undead usually fight to the death because they are inherently evil and tortured by their state but choose targets based on malice. Demons, devils and other evil extraplanar creatures on the Prime don't fear death and are just horrible, so they inflict maximum shock and fear, usually willing to gang up on a target and coup de grace them if they go down so they can drag the soul back to Hell with them.

Dragons are a tough one for me. They are powerful and intelligent but they also care about their lives and treasure. If given a chance they won't fight the PCs at all but rather use them as pawns. In the case a dragon must fight, it will always focus fire to try and eliminate an enemy every round, usually starting with the biggest threat (which may or may not be the highest damage dealer, depending on the circumstances).
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Player, "But But the monster manual says the magic eater would target wizards first, then magic items. Whimper whine."
Dm, "The wizard is fifty feet up on his broom of A10 war hog! You are prone, five feet from 6 of them and have 30 magic items on your person. And your portable hole so full if you sold the stuff at whole sale you would bankrupt 10 realms, 9 Greyhawks, and 3 darksuns."
****
D&D target selection should always be up to the dm. I know if they introduce common tactics, players would game the system.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I try to play the monsters as NPCs that have goals and motives. As such different creatures will behave differently.
I suppose for example,
The hobgoblins move up as one and methodically engage their enemies. They may not focus fire (or they might if given orders)and might leave an incapacitated foe alone and prioritize one that’s on its feet.
The wolves will attack from the side and back with a few of them bee lining for a particular target to overwhelm and are likely to continue mauling an incapacitated for.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For me how I run monsters depends on the creature, their intelligence and level.

For example, wolves will likely make some feints and then go after the party member that separates from "the herd" or looks obviously weaker. But for the most part they aren't going to be able to tell the difference between a fighter and a caster.

A bear, on the other hand will likely charge whoever is closer, as will several low intelligence monsters such as ogres.

Some monsters are specifically militaristic such as hobgoblins are more likely to employ tactics such as targeting casters as part of their strategy.

Higher level monsters, especially those that either cast or have casters in their ranks will start targeting casters once it's obvious who they are.
 

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