D&D 5E Special Combat Setups you have found particularly effective


So while its fine to just have two balls of enemies knock out each other here and there, memorable combats are often about neat setups and special tactics. So tell us about some of the combat setups that you found creating really interesting combats, perhaps even very deadly ones!

My most recent one, that turned out to be very engaging for the party:

The party heads down a very narrow corridor that has a waterfall of antimagic water (strips the spell buffs off someone, it also serves to stop the undead, a barrier to prevent their exit). It leads into a 30 by 30 ft room. The corners of the room each have a wight (with chainmail so AC 16). In the middle of the room is a circle of dark skulls, and a coffin in the middle (containing a Vampire Spawn). On the far side is a locked door, above the door is a grate leading to a narrow (air vent like) tunnel, containing a Spirit Naga.
  • The Anti-magic water stripped off one of the players Enhance Ability buffs, the rest of the group used blankets and other equipment to make it through without issue.
  • The Dark Skulls act on Initiative 20. They release a pulse up to 40 feet away (aka just outside the room). People that fail a Str Save DC 13 are pulled in 10 feet. This yoinked the scout who had just opened the door into the room (I find its good to prevent the party from using doorways to funnel monsters). Further, the Dark Skull deal 1d8 necrotic damage to anyone in their area, and heals any undead the same amount. The skulls can be disabled like a trap using thieves tools, or religion to purify them.
  • The spirit naga pops in its head on its initiative, casts a spell, and then pulls back up into the safety of the tunnel.

This turned into a hell of a fight for the party. The cleric managed to turn 3 of the wights who ran back into the antimagic water, which took them out. However, the vampire got a hold of the scout and started biting into them. Several of the party did not have magic weapons, and so the vampire resistance + normal healing + skull healing made it quite durable. The naga dominated the barbarian, who then started beating into the rogue. The bard managed to disable the skulls using religion, just as the naga came down a second time, casting a 5th level sleep spell, which dropped the bard (would have gotten the rogue as well if they were not an elf). The scout slipped out of the vampire's grasp and moves back to use arrows, but the vampire decides to move onto the unconscious bard and rip into them! The bard is nearly killed, but awakes, and gets the vampire with a Tasha's hideous laughter. The barbarian takes some damage and finally awakens from the dominate, and tries to get the naga through the grate, and the naga retreats with dimension door (to another section of the tunnel).

The party finishes the last wight, and beats on teh vampire. The barbarian than grapples the vamp and pulls her under the water. The vampire takes 20 acid damage from the "running water vulnerability", and is eventually killed.

The party then heads to another very narrow corridor, with another grate. As expected, the naga drops down. The barbarian races ahead to try and grab the naga, but the naga goes first and manages to get off a lightning bolt. In the narrow corridor, everyone has disadvantage on reflex saves and everyone takes the bolt, leaving them reeling. The barbarian does manage to grapple the naga, and they get some hits in, but the naga d doors once again, battered but alive. The party now heads into the final area of the dungeon, swearing vengeance on the naga (who is now enemy number 1)!

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Patron Badass
A super simple one:

A few mummies and a hard-hitter like a Lich.

Have the mummies gang up on a PC and reduce their HP, then blast them with a Finger of Death, turning them into a zombie.

Or if the lich has the opportunity, Power Word Stun a PC then have the mummies gang up.

It emphasizes the importance of getting rid of the mummies first. At that level, it's not difficult but you'd need to have a head for tactics to recognize the usefulness of getting rid of the mob.


I used a bunch of skeletons and a gelatinous cube. The cube did not bother the skeletons unless they walked into it. It was attracted to the warm bodies of the PCs and the skeletons were just guarding the access to the tomb.


I'm the Straw Man in your argument
Thouls and bearded devils. Two monsters with some complex abilities and defenses. This fight threw the group into fits trying to figure them out; but after retreating and doing some game planning, they managed to best them. ( They held a choke point with two tanks up front, archer used magic arrows, the spellcasters went nova.)



Floating down a river split up on two flat boats, the party enters a part of the river where it gets very misty/foggy. The rive slows down a little and deepens on either side of the small island in the middle of the river. It is a densely forested area here. The PC at the front of the first boat failed their Perception check as they see a lot of droplets of water floating in mid-air...suspended. Right as the boat travels into the area where the droplets are suspended, the first PC hits the webs and is stuck. All of the water droplets were condensation collected on the webs that stretch from both banks to the center island.

4x Giant Spiders
1x Ettercap

Waiting to ambush anything that comes across the area get webbed up and taken to the Island for feeding. The Ettercap will wait for someone to be left alone and will stealth over and web them into submission. Challenges are the water itself, the webs, and there are two NPCs guiding the boats down the river. Not to mention the poison as well.

The ambient mood and scene setting were the most fun in this encounter, as the party never saw it coming with the mystery of the floating water droplets and creepy mist.



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Those things are brutal without foreknowledge.

My favorite combat setup that I ever ran was a cambion in a hook shaped hallway ending in a small room with a fire pit. The hallway was accessed by a portal and every turn the players needed to make a Wis save or become frightened. The DC started at 1 and went up by 1 each round they were in the area. The cambion is CR 5 and the party were five level 3s. With action economy the players should be able to handle it as they'd only encountered one combat before this that day.

The fear effect hit two players before it even got to DC 3 and the cambion succeeded on enthralling the fighter. The fighter then crit the heck out of the paladin and everyone else was missing their attacks due to disadvantage from being frightened except the wizard. It was chaos. Some quick thinking by the wizard and timely saves against the fear effect gave the players the win by the skin of their teeth. It is still one of the most discussed encounters on my group.



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That's the tweet.

Yeah, in my recent campaign that thing (with a pair of bruiser minions) at 5th level killed one character, dropped another and had the rest of the group in single digit hit points. They can be brutal.

Interesting fight we had was a doppelganger hiding in a 10' pool of murky water. Narrow 3 foot wide walkway around it meant everyone was in single file. Doppelganger pulled one PC under in the pool and took its shape. Party couldn't tell who was who and it managed to pull another PC in by "asking" for help to escape from the water. Easy to make a more dangerous encounter if there's something else in the water to deal with the pulled in PCs (octopus, kelpie, shark, etc.) while the doppelganger goes fishing for more PCs.


Patron Badass
Another terrifying creature is the Shambling Mound. Fun fact, escaping the mound's grapple doesn't stop its engulf effect. It also isn't in full cover like a swallow attack, which could be good or bad depending.

This led to a pretty devastating combination with Vine Blights (thematic as well) where they can use their entangling plants ability to restrain their enemy and the Mound engulfs them. Vine Blights are surprisingly cheap encounter EXP wise, so you can fit about 1-2 of them before it gets to deadly for an average level 5 party.

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