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General Breaking Out of "Default Actions"

AmerginLiath

Explorer
I love this. Using the aspects of the scenery isn't usually encouraged or rewarded often enough.

To me, this is where the 'help' action can shine a bit: "I push the bookshelf over onto the enemy" is a nice description for a 'help' action. No roll needed - unless, of course, there's some kind of interesting consequence for failure. But that chance of failure often discourages players from being creative.
This is where I think environmental design is key. The “I spam X” method is largely an outcome of Black Box Design in encounter layout, versus Puzzle Box Design. The more dynamic the environment, the more objects to be interacted with and ways to move around and behind things, the more different sort of actions that players are going to attempt (as the encounter becomes as much a puzzle to solve as a fight to overcome).

5e’s return to more streamlined and wide-array use of attribute checks makes Weird High Gygaxian Dungeon Rooms far easier to run in many ways than in any previous edition (there’s a more complete and unified system of skills than in AD&D, but a less siloed and assign-every-DC sense than in earlier d20 editions), and there are a lot of costless “at-will” abilities of different sorts (including tool proficiencies of various types) that characters can employ in lieu of standard attacks. But it’s imperative that the players see the opening for the use of such attempts in the space around them (otherwise they’ll default to attack out of the opportunity cost argument if they expect any attempt at interacting with the environment will be for naught).
 

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Sadras

Hero
I ran an encounter recently where various options were available to the PCs.
  • Make an Arcana check (spellcaster) to damage the multi-portal to stop the flow of fiends & Githyanki into a chamber;
  • Damage the enemy force attacking a group of delegates;
  • Damage the enemy force attacking the heroes;
  • Make an Athletics check to prevent damage to the delegates;
  • Make a Religion check (cleric) to begin mass hurting the fiends via divine prayer;

The skill checks involved Degrees of Success, the higher the final tally, the better the result.

Given that this was all online on discord only, we did away with the board and movement. Instead every round each PC could choose to team up with a delegate who would provide them with a specific benefit.
Benefits could include +1 to AC, Sneak Damage, Light spell (fiends cast Darkness), Cure Wounds (1st level), Advantage on a skill check...etc
Saving the delegates was important, nevermind the team-perks they provided above, they also did damage to the enemy force. Less delegates standing = Less damage done to enemy force.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
As a DM?

Your best course of action is to include environmental things in encounters that can be interacted with.
Nice. I especially like the notion of adding this to the list of "manipulate object" options rather than taking your full turn. Optionally, they could be like pushes in that they could replace an extra attack during your attack routine. In my view, anything that can break out of the "full attack every time" mindset can make for more interesting play.
 

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