5E Conundrum: Ranged attack sequence/cover bonus for players

vlysses

Explorer
Interesting how even after 20 years of playing RPGs, new basic rule questions crop up...:

So the PC group gets into a fight with a bunch of bugbears and goblins in a long 10 foot wide tunnel with corners etc, where it's more advantageous for the goblins to shoot their short bows than go melee straight away.

The monsters are initially all bunched up in adjacent squares. So the way I played them was that one by one they moved closer to their target and after their movement, they fired their arrow. Moving them individually, created straight lines of sight to the first PC target, enabling some of the goblins to shoot without incurring penalties for covering each other's lines of sight. In other words, I was able to have direct lines of sight for MORE than just the first two goblins.

The players protested, saying that given the monsters all move on the same initiative, I should assume they move at the same time, therefore I should give the players partial cover against everyone except the first two goblins. Or I should roll initiative for each monster individually because then more would be in the way of others etc... 🤦‍♂️

Not sure if I'm making myself clear, I tried to google this, but it's quite specific... What do you all say?

Thx!
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
There's no simple answer. For sake of simplicity, most people (myself included) have monsters go on one initiative.

During team monster's turn I do have individual monsters take their complete turn, which includes all movement and attacks. They can still ready actions just like PCs. That does mean that team monster can sometimes be a bit more coordinated than the PCs.

In addition, I don't generally have more than 4-6 monsters go at once. I break them down by type and then group them if there are more than 6.

I know there are other initiative options, such as having 1 initiative per side and let people decide what order they want to go in, but I generally don't have a problem.
 
There are by-products of the turn-based system that can be either beneficial or detrimental. But it's impossible to play a game where real-time is truly simulated, and even systems which aren't strictly turn-based (e.g. with a declaration phase before a resolution phase) will have their own by-products. As long as things work the same way for PCs and monsters, the game will be fair.

In this case, same initiative still means each monster gets a separate turn by RAW, just like the PCs do. It might be interesting to house rule something different in case of a tie, but if you haven't already taken such house rule in place I'd stick with the default.
 

Dausuul

Legend
You're right, they're wrong. Each goblin takes its turn separately. Rolling initiative as a group works the same as if the goblins had all just happened to roll the same number on the d20.

Ask the players if they would like you to enforce similar rules when two of them happen to roll the same initiative. (Except, maybe don't do that, because they might say yes and then you've opened a horrendous can of worms. D&D is really, really not set up for simultaneous turns.)
 

Helldritch

Adventurer
Moving them individually, created straight lines of sight to the first PC target, enabling some of the goblins to shoot without incurring penalties for covering each other's lines of sight. In other words, I was able to have direct lines of sight for MORE than just the first two goblins.
????
I was under the impression that these penalties only applied IF an ally was in hand to hand with your target. Did I get it wrong?

Example: A1 is in hand to hand with B1. A2 wants to shoot B1 then a cover penalty applies. If A2 wants to shoot B2 10 feet further than B1 then no cover penalty should apply.
Do I get it wrong?
Edit: Added my example.
 

Arvok

Explorer
You're doing it right. The monster are basically doing an Australian Peel (technically an Australian Peel on a two-man front). The only issue might be if you don't allow the players the same opportunity if the tables are turned. If they are fighting a BBEG and want to use the same tactic, you have to let them if you're going to be fair (they could all declare they're going to act in concert on the lowest PC's initiative roll or they just choose a player to roll for the whole group).

They do have a minor legitimate gripe in the matter of fairness because they are more likely to face hordes of weaker creatures and benefit less from the tactic, but that really won't matter once they get access to fireball et al.
 

vlysses

Explorer
????
I was under the impression that these penalties only applied IF an ally was in hand to hand with your target. Did I get it wrong?

Example: A1 is in hand to hand with B1. A2 wants to shoot B1 then a cover penalty applies. If A2 wants to shoot B2 10 feet further than B1 then no cover penalty should apply.
Do I get it wrong?
Edit: Added my example.
yeah, my understanding is that RAW in 5e there is no penalty just for shooting into melee (that's probably 3.5 muscle memory), but there is a penalty if there is no clear line of sight. ie, if there is a melee happening in front of your target, the target gets partial cover (normally +2 to AC)
 

Helldritch

Adventurer
Ok... So in my example. Would attacking B2 be done with the penalty or not? There is a melee going on right in front of it.

And what about B1. There is an obstructed line of sight. That much is clear from my POV but by RAW is there a penalty?
 

vlysses

Explorer
You're doing it right. The monster are basically doing an Australian Peel (technically an Australian Peel on a two-man front). The only issue might be if you don't allow the players the same opportunity if the tables are turned. If they are fighting a BBEG and want to use the same tactic, you have to let them if you're going to be fair (they could all declare they're going to act in concert on the lowest PC's initiative roll or they just choose a player to roll for the whole group).

They do have a minor legitimate gripe in the matter of fairness because they are more likely to face hordes of weaker creatures and benefit less from the tactic, but that really won't matter once they get access to fireball et al.
they already have access to fireball!!! :ROFLMAO:💥

and yes, well, in principle they have had the same situation as the monsters, when it's the monsters' turn, they all act one after another, therefore when it's the players turn, they just act according to their Initiative, but equally, one after the other...
 

vlysses

Explorer
Ok... So in my example. Would attacking B2 be done with the penalty or not? There is a melee going on right in front of it.

And what about B1. There is an obstructed line of sight. That much is clear from my POV but by RAW is there a penalty?
you simply draw a line from your shooter to the target - if it passes through any friend or foe, the target gets +2 to AC...

so yes, B2 gets +2 to AC bc of cover
 
You're right, they're wrong. Each goblin takes its turn separately. Rolling initiative as a group works the same as if the goblins had all just happened to roll the same number on the d20.

Ask the players if they would like you to enforce similar rules when two of them happen to roll the same initiative. (Except, maybe don't do that, because they might say yes and then you've opened a horrendous can of worms. D&D is really, really not set up for simultaneous turns.)
It may actually be interesting, and since I saw the demo of BG3, I can totally imagine how a group of allies sharing the turn makes them MORE powerful.

So if I were his players, I would be careful what we ask... all enemy archers sharing the turns means they can optimize better.
 

groody

Villager
I‘m one of the players. In my opinion, the issue is not with the individual moves but with the fact that a joint initiative roll for all monsters increases variance of the game, which always - while superficially fair as the same is applied to players and monsters - favors monsters.

Sure players enjoy if the monsters roll low on and then they all get fried in a fireball before they ever get to shoot. It also sure sucks from the player perspective if the monsters roll high and turn the wizard into a pincushion so that he cannot fireball them. If a PC dies, that is much worse than having a victory without getting hit at all is good.

That group of monsters acts only for a single encounter. For the PCs the game is a long chain of encounters. 5e tends to favor a gradual wearing down of player resources with each encounter, increasing predictability and reducing variance. I believe this is also the reason why 5e does not as a default have instant kill critical hits - they increase variance, which while superficially fair is deadlier for the PCs who have lots of encounters.

In my view, the GM should break up the monsters into a few logical groups if possible, each with their own initiative. One for the bugbears, one for the goblins coming from one side, and one for those from the other side. That seems a fair balance between management overhead and outlier reduction.

Enough lecturing. My Wizard has some goblins to fry.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
I always roll individual initiative for all of the NPCs and have them go on their turn rather than do group initiative to avoid any possibility of either a TPK or a total NPC kill.

That having been said, even if you use group initiative for the NPCs, every NPC will have a different reaction time, so individually moving/shooting by them is totally fine.

You did it right. If your players continue to complain, go to group initiative for them as well. You'll quickly prove your point when they all want to individually act on the same spot in the initiative order.

In order for things to go smoothly the PCs and NPCs have to be using the same rules...
 

Saelorn

Hero
The rules in the game are an imperfect reflection of how the game world really works. Most of the time, the rules are close enough for our purposes, given certain assumptions. The DM exists to adjudicate corner cases, when those assumptions may no longer hold.

There are certain assumptions about what combat is supposed to involve, which allow us to use discrete turns in order to resolve actions, and that's why the rules tell us there's no cover penalty in this case. However, I would expect a reasonable DM to rule that those assumptions no longer hold here, at least as far as determining cover is involved; for much the same reason that the peasant rail-gun doesn't actually work. It has nothing to do with simultaneous initiative, and everything to do with the six-second combat round.

I could also understand if a reasonable DM just runs with the rules as they are written in this case, though, for simplicity.
 

Advertisement

Top