• COMING SOON! -- Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition! Level up your 5E game! The standalone advanced 5E tabletop RPG adds depth and diversity to the game you love!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

Level Up (A5E) Deadlier combat


log in or register to remove this ad

Giauz

Explorer
What if we are all focusing on the wrong thing? We could make combat extremely deadly in a number of ways. The problem is that would mean our PCs are dead as random orc #5 (rest their beautiful soul). Maybe instead of worrying about making combat too deadly, we need faster character creation and easier segue into a new branch of the story ala A Song of Ice and Fire series.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
On the issue of the yo-yo healing, some have suggested exhaustion levels when it happens, or long-term lingering injuries, or similar mechanics.

The main issue with those mechanics are that they're long term, and generally outside the scope of the immediate fight. They're also things that you can address "later". Most of the time they have limited, if any, effect on the ongoing fight.

I think a more immediate penalty would be more useful, and it has to be easily inserted into the existing 5E mechanics. Combat is the thing that is most easily slowed down and made worse by extra mechanics.

So the simple problem is: If a character drops to 0 HP, and is healed before his next turn, within the current combat system there is almost no downside. The only loss was the action of the player who healed the downed fighter, and that's something the healer was probably going to do anyway. Some classes can even do that as a bonus action, which means it doesn't really interrupt them at all.

The main issue on the fighter side is that when the fighter drops to 0, it doesn't happen on his turn; it's some sort of enemy attack. Assuming the healer heals him at the next available opportunity, about half the time it will get him back on his feet before his next turn, and half the time he'll lose one turn waiting for the heal.

So the yo-yo effect is most prominent when the fighter is downed, and then healed, between two adjacent turns, and when the healer doesn't have to spend any effort (action time) restoring the fighter to active ability. The fighter loses no combat time, and the healer loses no significant action time.

From that perspective, you want to penalize either the fighter's combat time, or the healer's action time. Changing the healer's action time is undesirable, as there are so many different ways to heal. Changing the fighter's combat time, however, is much easier. It's also more in line with players' expectations, as seen in the suggestions for exhaustion and the like.

So, from that perspective, I'd propose an extremely simple change that doesn't add new mechanics, and doesn't slow down combat: [[ If you are cured back up from 0 HP into the positives, you are stunned for 1 round. ]] The shock of being knocked out and being brought back from the brink of death is not so easily shaken off.

That means you're guaranteed the loss of one action round (aside from any rounds you were sitting at 0 HP), and can't just continue to attack uninterrupted. It also puts you in a vulnerable state during that time (attackers have advantage, you auto-fail Str and Dex saves, you can't move or act), which should certainly be the case after being taken down. It makes a party's position shakier when trying to recover from a dangerous situation.

This would not be a change to make things deadlier directly, but it's designed to address the issue that there is no consequence for dropping to 0 HP. So it prevents the most extreme form of yo-yo'ing, hopefully reducing the amount of aggravation it causes, and dialing back the need to kill characters just to prevent it.

Not sure if that's exactly the right solution, but good thought process.
 

What if we are all focusing on the wrong thing? We could make combat extremely deadly in a number of ways. The problem is that would mean our PCs are dead as random orc #5 (rest their beautiful soul). Maybe instead of worrying about making combat too deadly, we need faster character creation and easier segue into a new branch of the story ala A Song of Ice and Fire series.
No. We already have an example of that in the form of dcc funnels. everyone starts a tomb of horrors grade adventure or so with 4+ level zero PCs & some random items & grinds their way through doing anything they can imagine running around for dear life. Put in perspective, here is a tool that will let you generate up to fifty dcc characters in one go. It's a lot of fun & gets better with alchohol but after the funnel your supposed to use your surviving character & continue adventuring from level 1 on even if the rest of the party is still each sporting 6 hp across 4 characters. There's no concern about the lethality because anything is probably lethal.
 

Giauz

Explorer
No. We already have an example of that in the form of dcc funnels. everyone starts a tomb of horrors grade adventure or so with 4+ level zero PCs & some random items & grinds their way through doing anything they can imagine running around for dear life. Put in perspective, here is a tool that will let you generate up to fifty dcc characters in one go. It's a lot of fun & gets better with alchohol but after the funnel your supposed to use your surviving character & continue adventuring from level 1 on even if the rest of the party is still each sporting 6 hp across 4 characters. There's no concern about the lethality because anything is probably lethal.
Oh, I didn't know about any of that. Back to the drawing board!
 

Oh, I didn't know about any of that. Back to the drawing board!
Yea, It's not so much a matter of actually being deadly, as the fact that it could be & that hp attrition is risky enough that you wince at it. Think of it like playing an FPS game with cheat codes. DCC is the super extreme nightmare setting with no cheat codes. in 3.5 depending on your level & party makeup it was easy/medium/hard & like a 10 or 20 charge wand of cure lesser wounds the party lucked into is sparingly using for the last 3-4 levels of adventuring when it's a real emergency with every use being a bit of a wince because you didn't know if you'd get another. In 5e it's on easy & the cheat code is kinda like "being killed causes you to lose one action & return with 1hp" + "return to full hp & ammo any time you exit combat"+aimbot. In the first few you had to think when a tough fight started & needed to be on your toes because you felt the pain & worried when you flubbed it.... in that last one you have to muster the monumental effort of not falling asleep or getting distracted on another screen for too long.
 

Giauz

Explorer
Yea, It's not so much a matter of actually being deadly, as the fact that it could be & that hp attrition is risky enough that you wince at it. Think of it like playing an FPS game with cheat codes. DCC is the super extreme nightmare setting with no cheat codes. in 3.5 depending on your level & party makeup it was easy/medium/hard & like a 10 or 20 charge wand of cure lesser wounds the party lucked into is sparingly using for the last 3-4 levels of adventuring when it's a real emergency with every use being a bit of a wince because you didn't know if you'd get another. In 5e it's on easy & the cheat code is kinda like "being killed causes you to lose one action & return with 1hp" + "return to full hp & ammo any time you exit combat"+aimbot. In the first few you had to think when a tough fight started & needed to be on your toes because you felt the pain & worried when you flubbed it.... in that last one you have to muster the monumental effort of not falling asleep or getting distracted on another screen for too long.
Raises hand My DM at the local comic book shop/Adventurers' League has gotten us to concede many fights as 9th level PC in Tomb of Annihilation. Many a time have we had to roll up new PCs, but then again he's an experienced DM and we are all relatively new to D&D. What could make my experience more universal?
 

Raises hand My DM at the local comic book shop/Adventurers' League has gotten us to concede many fights as 9th level PC in Tomb of Annihilation. Many a time have we had to roll up new PCs, but then again he's an experienced DM and we are all relatively new to D&D. What could make my experience more universal?
1598063482827.png

It's great that wotc decided to use ravenloft csmpaign setting level environmental hostility like
1598063660969.png
but needing to crank the dial up to that level of environmental hostility is a symptom of the problem where so many problems surface from modifying rests that there aren't many other viable solutions that don't cause more problems than a simple "rests now work like so" can handle without a bunch of specific nonrest rules baked in as things are written.
 


clsawyer0328

Villager
I’ve Thoughts shoot this long and hard; here’s what I’ve implemented at my table:


“Disabled, Dying, Death

When you fall to 0 hp, you do not fall unconscious. Instead, you are Disabled. While Disabled, your speed is halved and you can take either a Standard Action or a Quick Action on your turn. If you take your Attack Action, cast a Spell, or do any other strenuous activity (as determined by the DM), you fall Unconscious at the end of your turn and are Dying. If you take any damage while you are Disabled, you immediately fall Unconscious and are Dying.

Dying

At the start of your turn while Dying, you have to make a Death Saving Throw. You do not add any modifier to this roll, except what may be given by magic or some other source such as Bardic Inspiration. On a roll of 10 to 19, nothing happens. On a roll of 9 or below, you take a point of Exhaustion; or two if you roll a 1. On a roll of 20 or above, you are Stable and can spend a Hit Die, regaining consciousness if you do so. If you do not spend a Hit Die, you become Stable, but nothing else happens. If you take any damage while you are Dying, you suffer a Level of Exhaustion, or two if from a Critical Hit.”

This integrates Exhaustion and Hit Dice better into the game. It also creates a state where players know that they’re in danger. Now, instead of the Cleric having to save their Bonus Action for Healing Word, the other characters have a signal that lets them know that they need to play defensively. The Disabled Condition also allows the characters to take whatever actions they can to heal themselves with no issue; it only imposes penalties on offense. Even so, there is still the chance that the PC can have a heroic last stand. The Fighter can decide to hooks the bridge while everyone else flees, taking their Attack Action and Action Surge to do as much damage as possible knowing that they’ll start Dying at the end of their turn.

I also combine this with a rule that allows the players to heal themselves thru Healing Surges or Bonus Action Health Potions, so that they have some stuff they can do when separated from the healer or when there is no main healer.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I’ve Thoughts shoot this long and hard; here’s what I’ve implemented at my table:


“Disabled, Dying, Death

When you fall to 0 hp, you do not fall unconscious. Instead, you are Disabled. While Disabled, your speed is halved and you can take either a Standard Action or a Quick Action on your turn. If you take your Attack Action, cast a Spell, or do any other strenuous activity (as determined by the DM), you fall Unconscious at the end of your turn and are Dying. If you take any damage while you are Disabled, you immediately fall Unconscious and are Dying.

Dying

At the start of your turn while Dying, you have to make a Death Saving Throw. You do not add any modifier to this roll, except what may be given by magic or some other source such as Bardic Inspiration. On a roll of 10 to 19, nothing happens. On a roll of 9 or below, you take a point of Exhaustion; or two if you roll a 1. On a roll of 20 or above, you are Stable and can spend a Hit Die, regaining consciousness if you do so. If you do not spend a Hit Die, you become Stable, but nothing else happens. If you take any damage while you are Dying, you suffer a Level of Exhaustion, or two if from a Critical Hit.”

This integrates Exhaustion and Hit Dice better into the game. It also creates a state where players know that they’re in danger. Now, instead of the Cleric having to save their Bonus Action for Healing Word, the other characters have a signal that lets them know that they need to play defensively. The Disabled Condition also allows the characters to take whatever actions they can to heal themselves with no issue; it only imposes penalties on offense. Even so, there is still the chance that the PC can have a heroic last stand. The Fighter can decide to hooks the bridge while everyone else flees, taking their Attack Action and Action Surge to do as much damage as possible knowing that they’ll start Dying at the end of their turn.

I also combine this with a rule that allows the players to heal themselves thru Healing Surges or Bonus Action Health Potions, so that they have some stuff they can do when separated from the healer or when there is no main healer.

I see what you are trying to accomplish, but the things you want to let the player do for themselves at 0 hp they could currently do when they're close to 0 hp, if they thought they needed to. It's not that players aren't smart enough to know when they're in the danger zone, it's that the danger zone isn't really all that dangerous. If falling to 0 carried more consequences than it does now, players would take defensive actions before reaching 0.
 

5e removed natural armor? Not according to many monster Armor Class entries...
I’ve Thoughts shoot this long and hard; here’s what I’ve implemented at my table:


“Disabled, Dying, Death

When you fall to 0 hp, you do not fall unconscious. Instead, you are Disabled. While Disabled, your speed is halved and you can take either a Standard Action or a Quick Action on your turn. If you take your Attack Action, cast a Spell, or do any other strenuous activity (as determined by the DM), you fall Unconscious at the end of your turn and are Dying. If you take any damage while you are Disabled, you immediately fall Unconscious and are Dying.

Dying

At the start of your turn while Dying, you have to make a Death Saving Throw. You do not add any modifier to this roll, except what may be given by magic or some other source such as Bardic Inspiration. On a roll of 10 to 19, nothing happens. On a roll of 9 or below, you take a point of Exhaustion; or two if you roll a 1. On a roll of 20 or above, you are Stable and can spend a Hit Die, regaining consciousness if you do so. If you do not spend a Hit Die, you become Stable, but nothing else happens. If you take any damage while you are Dying, you suffer a Level of Exhaustion, or two if from a Critical Hit.”

This integrates Exhaustion and Hit Dice better into the game. It also creates a state where players know that they’re in danger. Now, instead of the Cleric having to save their Bonus Action for Healing Word, the other characters have a signal that lets them know that they need to play defensively. The Disabled Condition also allows the characters to take whatever actions they can to heal themselves with no issue; it only imposes penalties on offense. Even so, there is still the chance that the PC can have a heroic last stand. The Fighter can decide to hooks the bridge while everyone else flees, taking their Attack Action and Action Surge to do as much damage as possible knowing that they’ll start Dying at the end of their turn.

I also combine this with a rule that allows the players to heal themselves thru Healing Surges or Bonus Action Health Potions, so that they have some stuff they can do when separated from the healer or when there is no main healer.
Elfcrusher nailed it, but layers are smart enough to know that the CR9 dragon in the spoiler probably needs an 11 or better to hit them by the time they are low on health & 15/75hp has a great chance of both surviving one claw or bite & soaking 40+ damage from the breath or they would have done something other than hold their ground & go all out. The player could absolutely do something to "save" themselves from being in a state of "dying", it's just that the system actually incentiveizes them not to waste any resources trying whatever that something would have been
1598127221431.png
 


clsawyer0328

Villager
I see what you are trying to accomplish, but the things you want to let the player do for themselves at 0 hp they could currently do when they're close to 0 hp, if they thought they needed to. It's not that players aren't smart enough to know when they're in the danger zone, it's that the danger zone isn't really all that dangerous. If falling to 0 carried more consequences than it does now, players would take defensive actions before reaching 0.

I agree, which is why they suffer Disadvantage when Dying. This also serves as a buffer, a “blinking red health” notification.
 

I agree, which is why they suffer Disadvantage when Dying. This also serves as a buffer, a “blinking red health” notification.
just using averages, a 10th level barbarian with +4 con bonus is going to have around 115hp. Using that example of the cr9 dragon earlier that could be a 40+ point "buffer" Even for a high level barbarian that's a huge amount that works out to around a free 8th level casting of false life the party can't even cast once let alone on everyone in the party multiple times per rest. That's lightyears past "buffer"
 
Last edited:

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I agree, which is why they suffer Disadvantage when Dying. This also serves as a buffer, a “blinking red health” notification.

I guess what I’m not understanding is why you think a blinking warning light is needed. Everybody knows how close to zero they are.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
I see what you are trying to accomplish, but the things you want to let the player do for themselves at 0 hp they could currently do when they're close to 0 hp, if they thought they needed to. It's not that players aren't smart enough to know when they're in the danger zone, it's that the danger zone isn't really all that dangerous. If falling to 0 carried more consequences than it does now, players would take defensive actions before reaching 0.
On this subject, I've been thinking about turn-based RPG's and how they handle death. It actually is not difficult to resurrect someone in those games, either. There's phoenix downs and revives and life potions and they're all relatively easy to get around low-mid level (where the equivalent 5e game finds this problem).

Why are those games still difficult? Well, I think it's because even with an easy way to revive, it becomes a death spiral regardless. If a character dies, the healer must use their turn to rez the companion, essentially reducing the number of available actions for the round or reducing DPT (Damage per Turn). If the healer goes down, things get sticky almost immediately.

The most deadly attacks are always AoE attacks because if multiple people go down, it's unlikely that the player could bring them all back in one action without using an extremely rare resource.

Deadlier combat may just be as simple as targetting the healer and including more AoE attacks to your enemy's arsenal.
 

On this subject, I've been thinking about turn-based RPG's and how they handle death. It actually is not difficult to resurrect someone in those games, either. There's phoenix downs and revives and life potions and they're all relatively easy to get around low-mid level (where the equivalent 5e game finds this problem).

Why are those games still difficult? Well, I think it's because even with an easy way to revive, it becomes a death spiral regardless. If a character dies, the healer must use their turn to rez the companion, essentially reducing the number of available actions for the round or reducing DPT (Damage per Turn). If the healer goes down, things get sticky almost immediately.

The most deadly attacks are always AoE attacks because if multiple people go down, it's unlikely that the player could bring them all back in one action without using an extremely rare resource.

Deadlier combat may just be as simple as targetting the healer and including more AoE attacks to your enemy's arsenal.
in combat healing in those games is extremely good... Close to prenerf healing spirit levels of good. Not only that, you mention phoenix down used in finalfantasy games. I may have missed the last couple, but those tend to be pretty rare and extremely rare if you can get them. That style is how it worked in previous editions as described in my post earlier up thread here & the included link it points to with the detailed breakdown here.

Here are some quotes from those two posts... 1:"A big part of why combat in older versions felt more deadly was because recovering was either going to demolish your piggybank restocking that bag of recovery stuff you slowly filled through all these levels of adventuring or it's going to take so long you really need to go back to town " & 2:"In practice everyone would look at how much hp they were down & if it was really bad they'd probably go back to a town or somewhere safe so the casters with heal spells & abilities could safely dump all of their spell slots leaving them in an effectively helpless condition but if not too bad they might spend whatever heals they have left over & rest while eating the attrition or proceeding to use some consumable resources like potions/scrolls/wand charges". They moved away from the model you cite & that's part of the problem. With that said, in combat healing is pretty boring as a PC, you can do it sometimes... but it's not something particularly fun for anyone but the guy chewing through heals to keep being a badass.

Edit: AOE attacks just really are not that dangerous unless everyone is low. Tossing out a fireball might get a wince or two across the group, but5e is designed around the assumption that you start every fight with full health... tossing out the third or fourth fireball in a fight for the the 3rdfight in a row is going to give off some serious "killer GM" vibes & justifiably bring up "so I think gmbob is angry at us, is anyone thinking of starting a game or willing to gm?" between games the next time that happens in the session
 
Last edited:

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
in combat healing in those games is extremely good... Close to prenerf healing spirit levels of good. Not only that, you mention phoenix down used in finalfantasy games. I may have missed the last couple, but those tend to be pretty rare and extremely rare if you can get them. That style is how it worked in previous editions as described in my post earlier up thread here & the included link it points to with the detailed breakdown here.

Here are some quotes from those two posts... 1:"A big part of why combat in older versions felt more deadly was because recovering was either going to demolish your piggybank restocking that bag of recovery stuff you slowly filled through all these levels of adventuring or it's going to take so long you really need to go back to town " & 2:"In practice everyone would look at how much hp they were down & if it was really bad they'd probably go back to a town or somewhere safe so the casters with heal spells & abilities could safely dump all of their spell slots leaving them in an effectively helpless condition but if not too bad they might spend whatever heals they have left over & rest while eating the attrition or proceeding to use some consumable resources like potions/scrolls/wand charges". They moved away from the model you cite & that's part of the problem. With that said, in combat healing is pretty boring as a PC, you can do it sometimes... but it's not something particularly fun for anyone but the guy chewing through heals to keep being a badass.
A secret to turn-based RPG's is that healing, as an isolated action, sucks no matter how much it heals (even full health heals).

How good healing is depends less on the absolute numbers and more of the relative numbers. For example, a character that has 10hp that gets healed for 10hp has gotten 100% HP back. A character with 20HP that gets healed for 10 HP only gets 50% HP back.

What's more important, though, is the target's effective HP. It's basically having the defensive stats of the target put into effect. The real HP of, say, a mage and brawler might be the same, but the effective HP of the brawler might be higher due to his defenses. This matters because healing (usually) doesn't take defensive stats into consideration from the target. It's either a base number, determined by the caster's stats, or a percentage of HP from the target (which only accounts for the real HP).

To keep it brief, healing the brawler with the same spell is more effective than healing the mage or even the healer themselves.

Healing, by itself, can be effective in D&D. From levels 1&2, a healer can recover an average of 7.5 HP which is close to maximum for certain 1st-level character and over half for most characters in-general. Your spell slots are low, though, and it's hard to manage them already.

In D&D 5e, being a dedicated healer that wants to keep people from going down almost requires you to go life cleric. Life cleric has many good things going for it. It turns cure wounds from 7.5 health to 11.5 which is plenty to top off all but the highest HP classes at 1st level. By 2nd level, they earn an extremely rare and coveted short-rest heal. Having a life cleric means that you can top off on health without spending HD or spell slots (this is extremely good).

Beacon of hope is good. Not in-combat while you might need concentration, but out-of-combat it can turn a simple second-level cure wounds to have 25 HP of healing, which is pretty great, actually. It also gives advantage to death saves, so if you're dedicated to being a healing type during combat, you have all the necessary tools. Most clerics perfer running around with spirit guardians, though. And I get the appeal of that. Personally, being a life cleric means I should focus on healing more (which I do enjoy doing).
Edit: AOE attacks just really are not that dangerous unless everyone is low. Tossing out a fireball might get a wince or two across the group, but5e is designed around the assumption that you start every fight with full health... tossing out the third or fourth fireball in a fight for the the 3rdfight in a row is going to give off some serious "killer GM" vibes & justifiably bring up "so I think gmbob is angry at us, is anyone thinking of starting a game or willing to gm?" between games the next time that happens in the session
Well, it's not about the AoE attacks in isolation. The point is to have multiple casualties at once so that the healer can't bring back multiple people up at once.

There's a couple of things to this.

1. Deadlier combat will always have a "killer GM" vibe no matter how well you think you'll hide it.

2. It's rare for a monster to have consecutive AoE's without them being limited. They're usually either on a recharge or a slot budget or a limited per day budget. The only monster I can think of is pit fiend and if you're fighting a pit fiend and fireball spam is actually hurting your team, you've got bigger concerns.

What a DM should do is play the game as normal (mostly attack rolls) until the characters with heals and/or the character with low defenses are relatively low on health. Then, they bring out the AoE's. The exception is recharge enemies, who should actually have their AoE spammed as much as possible since it can't recharge unless it's used and their recharge is their strongest ability.
 

What a DM should do is play the game as normal (mostly attack rolls) until the characters with heals and/or the character with low defenses are relatively low on health. Then, they bring out the AoE's. The exception is recharge enemies, who should actually have their AoE spammed as much as possible since it can't recharge unless it's used and their recharge is their strongest ability.
Almost every GM I have ever seen does this to a degree. But they really go for the cinematic more than anything else. This becomes as large of a problem as "the killer GM." Botched rolls, reducing the opponent's hit points, suddenly having the super smart villain do something not too bright, watching a truly evil creature have the ability to squash all the death saves on a character and not doing it. We've all seen it.
In the end, there is a balance. The GM's that can prep with a great combat that is 80/20 (80% chance the players win, 20% chance the opponents win) has done their work diligently. It's not easy to do, but it makes for the most memorable boss encounters for me, as opposed to the creature going strong and then after it drops two characters, suddenly someone gets a killing blow. But that is the game. Choose consistent cinematic and the players begin to understand they are not going to die unless it is, well, cinematic. Choose the path of not budging, and you are going to have dead characters... a lot of dead characters, and sometimes for silly reasons. Choose to make a bunch of fights 95/5, and then the boss fight 80/20, you will have to do a lot of work as GM.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top