D&D 5E Campaign Confounders (idea discussion)

Teneb

Explorer
I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.

I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?

Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle. They would ideally be scalable, e.g. make a DC 10/15/18/20 Athletics check (based on tier) or be hit by a falling rock from the cliffside you're fighting near. That sort of thing. It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party. Oh no, a small child has wandered into the bar fight the party is engaged in; do you keep hitting the orc in front of you in the face and risk the child getting hurt, or rush to rescue the kiddo and risk opportunity attacks?

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I dunno man, seems weird you can’t even set up an encounter of archers on a cliff that can’t be hit melee. But, whatever. You’re inventing a big systemic thing to solve nothing. All the confounders by environment you’re imagining could just be tossed up at your convenience in any battle. Not sure what’s fixed here.
 

I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.
my solution sounds insulting... but I mean it with love. My way to stop that (when I care to) is Monkey See Monkey Do...
have your monsters and NPCs move around and use the environment and the players will follow suit... but you have your own idea.
I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?
I like this... there is a game I play called TORG eternity and they basicly do this.
Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle. They would ideally be scalable, e.g. make a DC 10/15/18/20 Athletics check (based on tier) or be hit by a falling rock from the cliffside you're fighting near. That sort of thing. It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party. Oh no, a small child has wandered into the bar fight the party is engaged in; do you keep hitting the orc in front of you in the face and risk the child getting hurt, or rush to rescue the kiddo and risk opportunity attacks?

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?
These encounter cards sound like a great idea for random encounters. Using cards is also a great way to customise the encounters, just shuffle some different cards into the deck to change things up.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.
Look at fencing and boxing. They just sit there trading blows. It's not a failure, but it might be a consequence of your game of choice.

Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle . . . It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party.
You could make this easier with a standard set of generic confounders. Say...

  • Environment causes damage
  • Points of Advantage
  • Time limit or both parties lose/flee
  • A non-combat goal ends the conflict before one/both sides die.

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
I would start simple, just to see if you're creating more problems. Try a new rule: anyone taking damage must end the round in a different square. See how that goes.
 

I understand it can be difficult sometimes to avoid the toe-to-toe slugfests. I think your idea could work, even as just a learning tool for you. If it works you'll eventually be able to do it on the fly so give it a shot.

One thing you could try is using the basic version of Old School Hack arenas. It's a much simpler game, mechanics wise, but it treats each arena as either: tight, hazardous, open, dense, or neutral. 5e doesn't use arenas but you could treat different groupings of squares as part of the same arena. Each arena gives a bonus to certain types of weapons and OSH puts emphasis on moving to other arenas and taking opponents with you if you need to. You can capture this same feel using grappling, pushes, spells, or environmental effects in 5e.

  • Tight: Light weapons take advantage of the limited mobility of narrow areas.
  • Hazardous: Reach weapons take advantage of poor footing and limited visibility.
  • Open: Ranged weapons take advantage of open areas with little to no cover.
  • Dense: Heavy weapons take advantage of crowded areas filled with fiddly and smashable bits that could get in the way.
  • Neutral: Bland or ambiguous areas that don't give a bonus.
Advantage might be too much of a benefit but +X to attack rolls, damage rolls, or something else could work. Versatile weapons could potentially get a benefit in either Tight or Dense areas based on how you're wielding them.

This can also free you up to say "this 20x25 room is filled with tables and benches (Dense). There is a stairwell toward the back in need of repair (Hazardous) and a small corridor leading to a kitchen (Tight)" without needing to draw out each piece of furniture on a map.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, I think the deck of complications things is a neat idea on its own, but I don’t think it’s going to be the solution to the problem you’ve described. In my experience, combats devolve into everyone standing still trading blows when that’s the most effective strategy. And it’s always the most effective strategy when the goal is to kill all the enemies. The more direct solution to your problem would be to insure that the players and the monsters have goals other than defeating their opponents. Combat should be a means to an end. When combat starts, ask yourself what the monsters want out of this encounter - why are they fighting? then play them with the intent of achieving that goal. Likewise, design adventures so that the objective is something other than killing the monsters, and that killing the monsters won’t be the most efficient way to achieve it.
 

Teneb

Explorer
I dunno man, seems weird you can’t even set up an encounter of archers on a cliff that can’t be hit melee. But, whatever. You’re inventing a big systemic thing to solve nothing. All the confounders by environment you’re imagining could just be tossed up at your convenience in any battle. Not sure what’s fixed here.
It's not a matter of "can't", it's that my 10th level party trivializing things like that (ready access to scouting via familiars for example, nearly everyone has a mechanism of getting up that cliff quickly, etc.). However, your idea of "unseen enemy attacks" sounds like a great confounder to add to the list.

I like this... there is a game I play called TORG eternity and they basicly do this.

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out!

You could make this easier with a standard set of generic confounders. Say...

  • Environment causes damage
  • Points of Advantage
  • Time limit or both parties lose/flee
  • A non-combat goal ends the conflict before one/both sides die.


I would start simple, just to see if you're creating more problems. Try a new rule: anyone taking damage must end the round in a different square. See how that goes.

Yes, spot on. I want to add variety and force the party to react to things while not going too far the other direction and overcomplicating combat. I take your point about simplicity, I think I'll try starting with a more generic list along the lines you state and see how it goes. I can always add other, more specific confounders if the system seems to work the way I'd like it to.

I understand it can be difficult sometimes to avoid the toe-to-toe slugfests. I think your idea could work, even as just a learning tool for you. If it works you'll eventually be able to do it on the fly so give it a shot.
  • Tight: Light weapons take advantage of the limited mobility of narrow areas.
  • Hazardous: Reach weapons take advantage of poor footing and limited visibility.
  • Open: Ranged weapons take advantage of open areas with little to no cover.
  • Dense: Heavy weapons take advantage of crowded areas filled with fiddly and smashable bits that could get in the way.
  • Neutral: Bland or ambiguous areas that don't give a bonus.

This is a VERY interesting suggestion, lots of ideas churning in my head based on this.

Thank you everyone, great suggestions and discussion thus far. Appreciate you helping me flesh this idea out!
 

aco175

Legend
I try to focus on every 5th fight to be something. Maybe start on every 10th to get going. Every fight should not be extreme and life or death. I try to use terrain and monster combo to effect such as;

A golem with lightning absorption surrounding by traps that shoot javelins of lightning. Once the players see the javelins healing the golem while damaging them, they change tactics.

A harpy on the other side of a cliff that can call PCs over and maybe falling to their damage/death.

Teleporting circles around the room where monsters can pop out where they want and PCs need to roll 1d6 to random choose until they make a DC15 check.

Have simple fights as well where the player can clean the clock of easy monsters before hitting one to remember.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
lair actions are great and can be used for every encounter. in fact I’d advise mking monsters secondary focus and start with designing the ‘encounter lair’ then add monsters as special effects to the effect. eg archers on a balcony could be goblins archers or a manticore or even a flock of stirges being disturbed

ie
Multiple levels (archers on balconies, treetop attackers, Flyers)
Difficult Terrain (Rocks, bog)
Changing Terrain (Rockfalls, Earthquakes, Collapsing floors)
Visibility (darkness, trees, walls, obscuring fogs, blinding lights)
Hazards (Acid, Falls, Fire, Strong winds, geysers, lightning, animals)
Snares, Knockdowns and Pushback effects (wind blasts, earthquakes)
Minions Reinforcements
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top