The Focus Fire Problem

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Focus fire isn't the problem, focus fire is the solution to the problem that monsters and PCs in D&D have huge pools of Hit Points that need to be whittled down to 0 before any of the attacks that hit actually matter.
I don't think it's literally the pool of hit points, per se. Rather, it's the high degree of defenses before the unit targeted, whether PC or monster, can no longer take actions on the battlefield. Those defenses could be a lot of hit points, a high armor class, high saves, lots of STUN with high PD/ED, etc. Pretty much any defense that requires multiple attacks to either ablate those defenses or pierce those defenses with multiple attempts, barring a lucky initial shot.
And, honestly, that's pretty hard to design away, for most RPGs. And that's assuming we even want to do so since a whole lot of people also seem to want to avoid taking out BBEGs with a single shot, so they need some kind of ablative defenses.
If you want to encourage spreading attacks around, give them more effects than plain damage, so that attacking multiple targets can actually be useful in controlling the battlefield.
I think there is some potential here. And I think making sure that all units on the board pose some degree of threat helps as well. Bounded accuracy has been helping me with that because the PC ACs in the groups I'm running for are all in reach for most of their opponents. They don't post strong threats, but they do wear the PCs down and are worth taking out. They also don't necessarily go down in one hit, meaning they can keep the attention of the players longer.
 

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In my games, shooting into melee is done at disadvantage to represent trying to be careful to not hit a friend - and if an ally provides cover, there is a chance of hitting them on a miss. I never considered doing it any other way based on the rules as they exist.
Okay, but that's totally not what the rules say, and if you go watch other people play D&D, you'll see that's not even a slightly common take.

I mean, that's fine, it's your home game, run it how you like, but that's not even hinted at by the rules, I'd suggest.
 

And, honestly, that's pretty hard to design away, for most RPGs. And that's assuming we even want to do so since a whole lot of people also seem to want to avoid taking out BBEGs with a single shot, so they need some kind of ablative defenses.
You're accidentally illustrating the real problem.

Only BBEGs need to not sometimes die in a single round or a single flurry of blows.

Yet D&D 5E applies gigantic amount of HP to all monsters. It doesn't have monsters who have distinctly lower amounts of HP but are still a threat other ways. It doesn't have various different defences you describe. It just has "bags of HP". Even lower-end monsters typically can't be one-shot by higher-end PCs, because they just have so many HP (barring flashy high-level spells).
 


I'd say the "rulings, not rules" philosophy suggests it. ;)
Sure, that's viable, I just think it's a bold ruling, given it's sort of flipping RAI. It also means that, playing tactically, you just get two focus-fire targets instead of one - melee burn-down target, and ranged burn-down. Don't cross the streams.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
You're accidentally illustrating the real problem.

Only BBEGs need to not sometimes die in a single round or a single flurry of blows.

Yet D&D 5E applies gigantic amount of HP to all monsters. It doesn't have monsters who have distinctly lower amounts of HP but are still a threat other ways. It doesn't have various different defences you describe. It just has "bags of HP". Even lower-end monsters typically can't be one-shot by higher-end PCs, because they just have so many HP (barring flashy high-level spells).
But if they can be one-shot, that just defers the focus fire for what? A round? Then it's right back to the focus fire.
Back to the OP, one of the aspects of the superhero genre with characters facing off into individual fights is that most of them don't go down in a single exchange of blows. They tie the various members of the hero team up while BBEG Doctor Apocalypse monologues to the hero who engages him and doesn't get overwhelmed by numbers.
 

I don't want to derail the thread, but I'm curious about these!
  • Bleeding. A creature that is bleeding takes 1d4 piercing damage at the start of each of its turn. This condition ends when the creature regains hit points, or after the listed duration ends.
  • Distracted. A creature that is crippled can only take actions or bonus actions on its turn, and not both. This condition ends when the creature regains hit points, or after the listed duration ends.
  • Disoriented. Can’t make opportunity attacks.
  • Staggered. Creature has -2 to its armor class. This condition ends after an attack hits the creature, or when the listed duration ends.
  • Maimed. Creature lowers its speed by -10 and has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws. This condition ends when the creature regains hit points, or after the listed duration ends.
  • Marked for Death. A creature that is marked for death takes an additional 1d8 force damage the next time the creature that marked it for death hits it with a weapon attack. This condition ends after the bonus damage is dealt, or after the listed duration ends.
  • Provoked The creature has disadvantage on all attacks except the creature that provoked it. The duration depends on the ability that applies it.
  • Weakened. This creature's resistances are removed, and its immunities are treated as resistances. (least fave)
 



Weakened. This creature's resistances are removed, and its immunities are treated as resistances. (least fave)
Least fave? Really? That actually mirrors a ton of fantasy fiction. Just tie the weakening to certain specific substances, places, people, spells.

Generically applying it would be pretty lame I admit unless you had some kind of "Executioner" or "Judge"-themed class.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
"You taught me that wasn't worth it"
This quote caught my attention. If you read @GMforPowergamers's post, his DM conditioned players to focus fire by ensuring that enemies didn't surrender/flee even when critically damaged. There was no benefit "spreading the love" of damage.

So, what about greater use of morale?

D&D provides loose guidance for morale whereas in AD&D it was very mechanical. An enemy might break ranks on taking its very first hit! There was a great incentive in AD&D to tag foes with damage because you were likely to trigger a morale check. D&D leaves it up to the DM, but I can very well see DMs conditioning themselves to encourage focus fire by having combats go to the death.

Yet, not everyone or thing wants to fight to the death. Beasts especially adhere to this. Not every soldier or bandit is a fanatic. Once the ambush fails and the bandits are subject to real harm, why would they fight to the death? Flee and live to fight another day is likely the motto of a robber.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The problem there is that just means any time the PCs are outnumbered (which means, 90% of the time), even if the party divides up, they'll be dealing with loads of monsters getting Focus and nothing they can really do about. Also if it applies to PCs you handed yet another advantage to casters and ranged, who will get it pretty often! I guess you're envisioning an "equal numbers" scenario, but that's actually pretty rare in my experience. It would also be a ton of extra book-keeping.

Conceptually it's not a bad idea to be clear, it just applies poorly to D&D 5E as a generic rule.

I do think there is something in it, like, it would definitely make the game more about spraying around abilities to keep enemies on their toes and so on, I just think it's going to work poorly when most groups are 4-5 PCs, 2-3 of which may be melee, who are often facing 8+ monsters.

Well, what if instead of making it something that every single creature has, it was a special trait, maybe representing increased military training.

Now the mooks outnumber you, but the elites are getting bonuses if you only focus on one elite?

///////////////////////

Also, again as a general statement to the thread. I do think that trying to do this for every single combat is unrealistic. This is best for the occassional more tactically challenging fight.
 

Least fave? Really? That actually mirrors a ton of fantasy fiction. Just tie the weakening to certain specific substances, places, people, spells.

Generically applying it would be pretty lame I admit unless you had some kind of "Executioner" or "Judge"-themed class.
Ya but I mean, maimed just sounds so visceral. Not mechanically, just in name. WEAKENED? Cmon. That fire elemental isn't weakened its...idk...crippled? Dunno.
 

Least fave? Really? That actually mirrors a ton of fantasy fiction. Just tie the weakening to certain specific substances, places, people, spells.

Generically applying it would be pretty lame I admit unless you had some kind of "Executioner" or "Judge"-themed class.
The Shinobi in AiR gets a stronger sneak attakc, but its based on how many conditions the enemy has. So, these are used a lot throughout the book, but especially with the shinobi
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
yeah the HP increase in WotC D*D over TSR is pretty big... I would love to front load more HP but to overall have less over 20 levels if I could... and the same with monsters less hp more cool ways to do things

You know, I get that people say most monsters are just "bags of hit points" but frankly... they kind of have to be.

A 5th level character can put out a minimum of 2d8+8 damage, and I've seen fighters who are 5th level put out 5d8+20. So, between 17 and 42 damage? From one character. Even if you take the low end, if only two of the 4 to 6 players target the same enemy, that is 34 damage on the low end, which means if that enemy is supposed to last at least two rounds, it needs 70 hp.


Sure, you could slash every single enemies hp in half, but that is only going to lead to spreading damage because players will kill their enemies mid-turn and move on. People have trouble keeping a vampire alive in a party with a paladin already, who if boosted by a wizard with haste can drop 3d8+10d8+12 or 70 damage in a single turn. That is a level 5 character dropping a CR 13 creature by 50% of its health in a single turn of combat. And it is burning a lot of resources, but if you are a 5th level character fighting a CR 13 vampire, you'd better be dropping those resources!

So, yeah. Monsters have a lot of HP. They have to have a lot of hp, otherwise they won't survive the first round of combat to actually hit the PCs.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
While I have seen players focus fire and as a player sometimes encouraged it, I personally have not seen it be go-to strategy in any D&D game I've ever run to the degree that I thought something had to be done about it. Though I have to admit, "trying to emulate novels or comics or movies" is never been my primary goal in playing D&D.
I really wish that weren't the goal of so many D&D players (and the designers that cater to them), but it seems that ship has sailed.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Focus fire isn't the problem, focus fire is the solution to the problem that monsters and PCs in D&D have huge pools of Hit Points that need to be whittled down to 0 before any of the attacks that hit actually matter.

If you want to encourage spreading attacks around, give them more effects than plain damage, so that attacking multiple targets can actually be useful in controlling the battlefield.
I don't know...seems like that would require innovative design. You'd have to rewrite the Monster Manual and the classes that don't rely on spellcasting.
 

Mobs of Minions
Each mob starts with a +5 to hit and +5 to damage. The amount of minions in the mob is abstract, but each time the mob takes any damage, it’s bonuses to hit and damage are reduced by 1. The mob dies when reduced to +0.

Couple this with a big bad and the PC’s will find out very quickly that mobs of mooks aren’t to be left alone, especially if there’s 2 or more, thus giving your big bad some much deserved breathing room.
 

ehren37

Legend
I've found solo bosses need about 10hp per party member per level to be worth a damn. So a first level Boss needs 50Hp, a 5th level boss needs 250 hp or so. 5E's monsters are pretty pathetic in general. Looking at you Strahd, you one thump chump.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I mean, the focus-fire behaviour is board game behaviour. It's entirely artificial. Focus fire isn't a real thing in real person-level combat

Yes, it is. You take out the gun emplacement first. Or the tank. Or whatever the largest threat is. And then when everyone else is equal, when your foes are mostly just "they go down if you hit them even once" it's no longer effective to focus fire. But absolutely in any circumstance where multiple hits would be needed to take out the greatest threat, that's what people do.

Sorry, anything you do about this "issue" will feel artificial to me. If it makes sense to gang up on the biggest threat, using the rules to change that won't feel natural to me.
 

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