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General GM's are you bored of your combat and is it because you made it boring?

Puddles

Villager
@Bedrockgames it seems like you have a good grasp on what you enjoy :D (shorter combats), and I’m sure if you play D&D you probably design your combat encounters to meet that goal.

My mind is conjuring up a few thoughts on making a combat encounter both short and tactical, that you might find useful:

In video games (and many other games), positive feedback loops can be incorporated into the mechanics to help a scenario reach a quick conclusion. For example, in games like Call of Duty you often get rewarded with a bonus for a “kill streak”, this might be something small like summoning a drone to scout the area, revealing the map, all the way to bringing down an attack helicopter to unleash a hail of bullets upon the enemy. The point is, it creates a death spiral for the other team that is in this case desirable because it allows one side to reach a decisive victory quickly.

So one idea could be to include something like this in your combats. It could be literally be the kill streak mechanic where you have a list of “Heroic Actions” the players can take. Each time an enemy is slain, the players gain 1 point and each Heroic Action has a requisite number of points to spend on it. The more powerful the ability, the more points it requires.

Where this adds tactics is if each ability has it’s own niche, and players need to debate and decide where and when to spend their points.

If a system like this is too gamey and breaks immersion, another idea is to adopt a simple morale system.

For example, you could give each encounter a morale score, the lower the number the more ill-disciplined the enemies. Then, you could give the players ways to tally points against this score each round. If, in a single round, the moral score is exceeded by the points tallied, the enemy routs and the combat is over. This would encourage players to use shock and awe tactics to try and overcome the enemy in a single round of combat if possible and could be both tactical, short and immersive.

I would keep the moral score of the encounter hidden, but the ways in which points can be accrued, public. Examples include; the players could gain 1 point for surprising the enemy, 1 for each enemy slain, an additional point for each leader or spellcaster slain, 1 for each crit rolled, 1 each time the enemy suffers damage they are vulnerable to, 1 for a successful intimidation, etc etc.

Anyway, I hope these ideas are of any use. :)
 

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For example, you could give each encounter a morale score, the lower the number the more ill-disciplined the enemies. Then, you could give the players ways to tally points against this score each round. If, in a single round, the moral score is exceeded by the points tallied, the enemy routs and the combat is over. This would encourage players to use shock and awe tactics to try and overcome the enemy in a single round of combat if possible and could be both tactical, short and immersive.
I like this idea a lot.

I never understood why 3E dumped Morale. In 2E I used it heavily (I may well be a freak in this, but I saw other DMs use it at least a bit), and it kept combat "honest" in a certain way that was lacking in a lot of 3E and yes, sorry 4E, but also some 4E stuff. DMs can always eyeball it, and a lot do, but some just don't seem to consider it (I have to admit, as a player, I have a habit of saying "wow these guys are some tough cookies!" or similar when some bunch of bandits are standing around to get slaughtered, which has prompted a couple of DMs to clearly think about this, without being too obvious, I think).

I think it does require DMs to design adventures to allow for fleeing enemies though - and just as early MMORPGs all had fleeing enemies, but modern ones don't, because it introduces a lot of complexity, I think few pre-written adventures allow for this.
 

I read through your post but didn't see anything about terrain. Terrain can make all the difference in a battle. Use it to add tactical challenges to the players.
I would like to see a random terrain generator. Any time I plan "interesting" terrain it ends up looking the same. Generals do not normally create terrain, just exploit what's there (well, sometimes they create terrain, especially if they had access to magic, but typically not).
 

Puddles

Villager
I like this idea a lot.

I never understood why 3E dumped Morale. In 2E I used it heavily (I may well be a freak in this, but I saw other DMs use it at least a bit), and it kept combat "honest" in a certain way that was lacking in a lot of 3E and yes, sorry 4E, but also some 4E stuff. DMs can always eyeball it, and a lot do, but some just don't seem to consider it (I have to admit, as a player, I have a habit of saying "wow these guys are some tough cookies!" or similar when some bunch of bandits are standing around to get slaughtered, which has prompted a couple of DMs to clearly think about this, without being too obvious, I think).

I think it does require DMs to design adventures to allow for fleeing enemies though - and just as early MMORPGs all had fleeing enemies, but modern ones don't, because it introduces a lot of complexity, I think few pre-written adventures allow for this.
Yes, the classic problem with morale comes to dungeons, where each time an enemy flees it makes the next encounter harder. One solution is the one Matt Coalville advocates for, which is the number of goblins in the next room never changes. If 2 goblins flee into the next room, the 4 goblins planned to be in it just become 2 old and 2 new.

Otherwise you might want to build upon the rules and say either a.) fleeing goblins don’t automatically rally in the next room, or b.) the presence of terrified goblins actually lowers the morale of the next encounter (which could lead to a snowballing of mass hysteria throughout the dungeon which I find amusing to think about).

Personally, I am like you in that I just eyeball morale and tend to ask myself “Why are they fighting?” at the start of each round to decide if they should stay or if they should go.

It was just an idea really to explore making combats both short and tactical, which I think it would do as having a defined morale system that the players can manipulate gives them agency in combat.
 


I've heard this argument before, and it's one which I feel completely fails to either understand or account for opportunity cost. Anyone touting the Help action as a good idea above about level 5, in combat, using your main Action, is definitely not understanding opportunity cost outside the more niche of a niche situations. It's the True Strike of Actions.
And yet, it works. When you have a lot of trouble hitting an opponent, better have advantage on one character and taking the chance of actually hitting with better chances than to have to characters fail. I have seen character of level 18+ using it exactly because of that. Restraining an opponent might also mean that two or more characters will have advantage on hitting the enemy. Wow... you either self blind yourself on tactical moves or there is something you don't understand in tactics...


This is Nietzschean nonsense. I studied archaeology, and was interested in paleontology, and the idea that only the fittest creatures survive to the oldest ages is absolute gibberish. It's especially not true for intelligent creatures like humans. Dragons don't have a society, but their sheer size and power means they can and will have other creatures do their bidding.
Utter BS arguement. Science proved you wrong. As for dragons not having a society, I recommand you to read The complete book of dragons. There is even a serie of novel set in Mystara about the Draconic society... so yep my point stands.

We're not just talking about "ancient" dragons, either. There's a whole spectrum of dragons, and the general prescriptive advice is to play them all like they're tactical geniuses. Which is just ridiculous. They're people with personalities, flaws, dumb fixed ideas even though they're smart, and so on. Some ancient dragons will be war-scarred veterans you describe. Some will be fat, lazy, and even fading, their best days long past them, even if they're still getting larger like a crocodile. No-one but top-rank adventurers can even challenge an ancient dragon, pretty much. No army can. No single Wizard. Other dragons are unlikely to mess with most dragons, just like most top predators don't fight each other, particularly not to the death - why? Because they might kill/injure themselves in the attack. It's potentially lose/lose. Smaller dragons will simply flee larger ones, because they don't stand a chance. Only extreme circumstances or the Good/Evil thing are ever likely to lead to dragons fighting each other, cool as it may conceptually be. It's even less likely with dragons being intelligent and able to communicate. If some elder wyrm descends on some young dragon and says "give me your stuff", the young one may puff and hiss but unless he's real dumb he's not going to fight. I admit that in some cases time would weed out dragons who were really, really dumb, but not those who were kind of just sorta-dumb.
Exactly, were are talking about those that are surving to ancient status or are on their way. The rest of your aguments are circular logic giving me credits again by trying to minimize the effect.

The dragons you'll have a real problem with are those who actively attack human cities, who hit hard targets, who study those targets, and take them down. They would be an incredible menace. You could build an entire campaign around fighting one of those (and its minions, and dealing with the results of its attacks - they might cause unconnected raiders or unscrupulous nations to war on half-burned cities and so on, or necromancers might be having a field day).
Again, they are the ones that will survive to ancient status (or are on their way). The dumb will die.

But you can't make me believe that's most dragons. It's not most dragons in fiction (Smaug uses no tactics, for example, simply assuming he is so tough he is unstoppable, despite clearly being very intelligent), and it's not most dragons in D&D lore, who are typically slightly cowardly creatures, who hang out in some backwater, and raid lightly-defended or defenceless farmsteads, caravans, and so on.
Never tried to make you believe that. Everyone can make mistakes. Dragons are not coward, they are intelligent creature of raw power. They know that and it can make them make mistakes.

So you think some Lich which has literally been locked in a tomb for 4000 years, going slowly completely and totally insane, is going to be a rational and cunning opponent? I very much doubt it. Older isn't better. Older can mean outdated and stupid. I notice some fantasy authors have some fun with this (Steven Erikson does with Malazan - some ancient stuff is terrifying - but some of it just thinks it's terrifying and is actually a joke). An ancient tomb-lich may well be extremely powerful, but he's also extremely likely to walk face-first into a trap, or fail to understand what a cannon is and why it's a problem that it's pointed at him.

Liches are in fact particularly likely to be smart-but-morons. The trouble is they're so powerful and they have a backup which can be hard/impossible to find - they only had to be clever/sane when they did the phylactery and became a Lich, not after thousands of years of wandering around a tomb mumbling to themselves.
Wow, you need to review what is a Lich and reread. A wizard becomes a Lich to study strange forgotten secrets/lore and to eventually reach godhood. Not every lich succeed. It is a case where many are called, few are chosen... But if a Lich is a morron insane lunatic with no rational, it is far from the lich I have read about. Say hello to Vecna, Acererak, Lizandred and quite a few others.

Ancient dragons will run the gamut too. Some will be basically terrifying gods-on-earth. Some will be Smaug - i.e. foolish, tactic-less, and prone to walk face-first into something which might kill them without even thinking about it.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned though is that ancient dragons and liches will typically be staggeringly familiar with their surroundings (even without magic), and so if met on home terrain, will have some huge advantages even if they don't have a lot of traps (and some bonkers lich probably does have a lot of traps). Hundreds of years will give you something beyond familiarity.
Finaly something rational. On this I agree.
 

I like this idea a lot.

I never understood why 3E dumped Morale. In 2E I used it heavily (I may well be a freak in this, but I saw other DMs use it at least a bit), and it kept combat "honest" in a certain way that was lacking in a lot of 3E and yes, sorry 4E, but also some 4E stuff. DMs can always eyeball it, and a lot do, but some just don't seem to consider it (I have to admit, as a player, I have a habit of saying "wow these guys are some tough cookies!" or similar when some bunch of bandits are standing around to get slaughtered, which has prompted a couple of DMs to clearly think about this, without being too obvious, I think).

I think it does require DMs to design adventures to allow for fleeing enemies though - and just as early MMORPGs all had fleeing enemies, but modern ones don't, because it introduces a lot of complexity, I think few pre-written adventures allow for this.
Fully agree on that. I too, never understood why they left out the morale checks. It was a nice way to help young DM to see that not all fights had to be to the death. It was a good thing and it showed players that sometimes, fleeing is the best solution. When your monsters/enemies tries to flee, it shows that you can try it too.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
I like this idea a lot.

I never understood why 3E dumped Morale. In 2E I used it heavily (I may well be a freak in this, but I saw other DMs use it at least a bit), and it kept combat "honest" in a certain way that was lacking in a lot of 3E and yes, sorry 4E, but also some 4E stuff. DMs can always eyeball it, and a lot do, but some just don't seem to consider it (I have to admit, as a player, I have a habit of saying "wow these guys are some tough cookies!" or similar when some bunch of bandits are standing around to get slaughtered, which has prompted a couple of DMs to clearly think about this, without being too obvious, I think).

I think it does require DMs to design adventures to allow for fleeing enemies though - and just as early MMORPGs all had fleeing enemies, but modern ones don't, because it introduces a lot of complexity, I think few pre-written adventures allow for this.
Morale exists as an optional rule in the DMG.

Involving saves, fleeing and surrenders. It's not truly robust but it does exist in 5e.
 

nevin

Explorer
I like this idea a lot.

I never understood why 3E dumped Morale. In 2E I used it heavily (I may well be a freak in this, but I saw other DMs use it at least a bit), and it kept combat "honest" in a certain way that was lacking in a lot of 3E and yes, sorry 4E, but also some 4E stuff. DMs can always eyeball it, and a lot do, but some just don't seem to consider it (I have to admit, as a player, I have a habit of saying "wow these guys are some tough cookies!" or similar when some bunch of bandits are standing around to get slaughtered, which has prompted a couple of DMs to clearly think about this, without being too obvious, I think).

I think it does require DMs to design adventures to allow for fleeing enemies though - and just as early MMORPGs all had fleeing enemies, but modern ones don't, because it introduces a lot of complexity, I think few pre-written adventures allow for this.
I use fleeing enemies all the time. Most intelligent creatures are going to run if they see that they have no chance. And some encounters like say with smart bandits, may have planned to escape if things go wrong.
 

nevin

Explorer
It did occur to me after I posted that intelligent creatures are not always, sane, or have an intelligence that is similar to what we humans do. A dragon protecting her brood might fight to the death. An intelligent creature may make bad decsions. similar creatures with different circumstances might run away and then harrass the party with surprise attacks or just leave and never be seen again. You can't count on intelligent creatures using thier brains the circumstances of the encounter can change what is rational.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I start character development as a joint act with my party and GM during character generation. Also, we use emails and posts to a private server for all downtime activities. This means that between sessions we still have "play by post" to a degree. What your calling character development is what I am referring to character creation. I just also add character generation to that because I sit down with my D&D books I go through the rules and follow them to make a characters. My definition of character creation is the combination of your character generation and development as one larger idea. I don't separate.
Since you do consider character development as and in game action then knowing this is what I am speaking of means you recognize and are aware this is very much part of the game. As part of the game I consider Character development to be a pillar of D&D of often called the social pillar. The only think I am saying is that combine that with character generation and call it the Character creation pillar. Why? Because I love making characters. I help my friends with their characters if they have issues concerns or complainants. I have a folder with 16 alts maid from different ideas I have had and if my character dies I find one of my idea that I like that I think would be a good fit as a replacement bring them to the table and develop them in game.
Yeah, it sounds like you're adding a fourth pillar here, that being Character Creation; which overlaps with but doesn't completely include the existing Social pillar of in-game interactions.

This fourth pillar of yours also overlaps significantly with another fourth pillar proposed a while back in (an)other thread(s); that being a Downtime pillar.

I guess I see the pillars, in the end, as representing in-fiction play elements rather than out-of-fiction elements; and that's where we're diverging.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I addressed this at length in another post. Dragons are people and should be RP'd as people. People make mistakes, including highly intelligent people. Sometimes they make very bad mistakes in the heat of the moment.
Sometimes, agreed. But not all the time.

It's outright bad RP to continually equate intelligence to brilliant plans or not making mistakes, and it leads to extremely boring sessions if the DM simply sees a monster having INT 15 or more and then RPs it as if it were calm, rational, and always took the best possible decision.
Again true, it would depend on the general modus operandi of the individual creature - some will be more rash than others, regardless of intelligence (or wisdom); others will be more cautious.

That said, the 1e DMG advice "Always give a monster an even break" still applies. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You know I actually agree with you there. I understand what Lanefan means and where he is coming from but despite you and me seeming to disagree with just about everything else... I don't consider excepting boredom as a valid option.
Assuming you mean 'accepting' boredom, here...

One thing to clarify is that player boredom must not be equated with player frustration; and I wonder if some here are doing this.

A dragon strafing the party from a safe distance is going to frustrate the hell out of the players, but I'd be surprised if it actually bored them. And frustrating the players/PCs in different ways is part of the DM's job, isn't it? Further, if I'm frustrating my players the chances are pretty high that I'm not bored. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Again, they are the ones that will survive to ancient status (or are on their way). The dumb will die.
While I more or less agree with you, there do need to be some 'usually' and 'mostly' qualifiers in there to account for the little dog that could.

Look at randomly-generated PCs, for example. Sure, most of the time the cream rises to the top as play goes on but every now and then some low-stat schlub makes a real go of it and lasts every bit as long - or longer - than those with far better stats.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Morale exists as an optional rule in the DMG.

Involving saves, fleeing and surrenders. It's not truly robust but it does exist in 5e.
Putting it in the DMG doesn't help much when it comes to showing players that not all fights have to go to the death and that fleeing is sometimes wise.
 

While I more or less agree with you, there do need to be some 'usually' and 'mostly' qualifiers in there to account for the little dog that could.

Look at randomly-generated PCs, for example. Sure, most of the time the cream rises to the top as play goes on but every now and then some low-stat schlub makes a real go of it and lasts every bit as long - or longer - than those with far better stats.
Yep, sometimes an underdog will be lucky and get to the top. Isn't what luck is for? But most of the time, talents, skill and planning will do a lot more than sheer luck.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
Well I can't say those aren't all solutions to being bored with fights. However the intent of the thread is D.

A. Its D because I don't want my GM who has continued to push through or me as GM to suffer if we can avoid it.
B. Its D because we like 5e as a whole, we have tried other systems but actually this problem of boring combat came up in all of the because of GM/player information disparity and a number of other factors that lead to this exist in other games.
C. Its D because less boring combat or more boring combat means your still not enjoying yourself as GM. Its better to find ways to make combat enjoyable if we can and generally we don't have complaints from the players so players don't want less combat. Making combat enjoyable for the GM so they are as happy to do it as players is more ideal.
D. Trying new techniques one at a time to see what we can do to bring the joy back to the GM will take some time to work out it represents a more univeral fix though it will take time to work out for each GM but even my GM was not aware of the problem before so only now are able to try and address it. I haven't quit a campaign because if it as a GM but I see now that I was on the path to the same thing so this is also a lesson for me as I learn to GM more.
E. Its D because my GM tried that answer first and realized the GM we were playing under was doing the same thing but worse because it was also painful for the players sometimes. He is GMing to be apart of a D&D game where we find these problems fix them and grow instead of putting our heads in the ground. If you have good GM that does not have these issue this is perhaps the second best answer. My GM is actually the on that convinced me to GM a few games so that I could learn and doing so was helping me as a player and a GM... but life happened. Hopefully I will get a chance to GM again but I will only GM for now with people I trust and I don't know enough people that I trust and are willing to play to do that at the moment. This is part of why I am trying to help my GM because I can't GM for him at the moment to lighten his burden.

We do play video games together on the side and we were meeting once a month before but I am still in favor of self improvement over avoidance when possible.

Again. All your answers are functionally correct. I just think D is what I want to keep the thread focused on because its the only suggestion that means facing a problem we discovered with what we love and fixing it so that we love it again. All the rest are technically avoiding the problem instead of fixing it. There are times when that has merit. I just hold that as a last resort.
I am completely with you. And I think it is great you guys are collaborating rather than letting the GM go it alone. Kudos.

And I also hope you get a chance to GM soon. It is fun/magical/beautiful experience.

For now, I hope you guys find what you are looking for. One thing I just thought of was minis and maps. Does your group use them? If not, maybe give it a try. There are plenty of cheap ones out there. If you do, try ditching and running theater of the mind style. That might help things a bit. I would also suggest your GM try creating his own creatures using the MM template. Have him make them spicy. Even thematic. That might help ease the doldrum.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
It did occur to me after I posted that intelligent creatures are not always, sane, or have an intelligence that is similar to what we humans do. A dragon protecting her brood might fight to the death. An intelligent creature may make bad decsions. similar creatures with different circumstances might run away and then harrass the party with surprise attacks or just leave and never be seen again. You can't count on intelligent creatures using thier brains the circumstances of the encounter can change what is rational.
I think the key here is that doing the same one over and over again creates boring repetition and break immersion. Fighting a dumb, insane, or defensive boss makes since along as your not seeing it with every single intelligent boss fight. (Which I have seen at times). There is also no problem with players realizing mid way that this is not a fight they can win because they didn't plan as long as the GM provided a foresight warning and some escapes on the way. I even like the idea of a single one use escape item that teleports them to safety in the later game because then players have a choice... if they choose to fight unprepared to the death its just as dumb as every boss ding the same thing. That item is a gift to the GM to say, "I am giving you this... but that means I am taking off the training wheels and leashes." Making it one use means if they lose it the rule stands and its up to them to try get another means of escape or not moving forward.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
In addition to terrain, particularly dynamic or destructable terrain, i tend to write down monsters default actions. This is their Personal Preservation Plan (PPP). More intelligent creatures are more likely to deviate from the plan than instinctive ones, but I always create it as a backup.

One goblin tribe might be opportunists and their plan might be:
1) attack from a distance, or dodge if in melee
2) run as soon as 3 members are down
3) return later of ambush is a possibility

A group of goblin fanatics with a leader might be:
1) use help action to trip weaker enemies, or grant advantage on attack rolls otherwise
2) protect leader at all costs

The two goblin groups would be quite different, the first quite annoying and harrying, while the second more of a slaughter. As a player, you may not know which one you'll encounter until you're fighting them.

I have made bosses who's PPP is to run away at the first opportunity, using spells and items as necessary. Others to blow themselves up with the party around. Others who debuff the pcs while their minions attack. Others who do nothing but heal their side. Others who have no power but operate devices around the room.

Using different terrain and different tactics are what seem to work for me, although I always have room to improve.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
Putting it in the DMG doesn't help much when it comes to showing players that not all fights have to go to the death and that fleeing is sometimes wise.
Agreed. It with reaction rolls is something I wish was core and in the PHB. It's a great primer for new players to realise there's other in game options rather than fighting to the death each time.
 

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