Want to shake things up: Doorways, Scouting, Caution

jayoungr

Adventurer
So there are certain things that always happen in my games, and for good reason: they benefit the PCs. But the sheer predictability of them is making me want to scream, and I'm just wondering if anyone here has advice on how to shake things up a bit.

1. Fighting from the doorway. It never fails. There might be five monsters in a 30 x 30 room, but what will happen is that the PCs will open the door and never actually enter until all the monsters are dead. If they're high enough level, they'll chuck fireballs into the room until the monsters die. If not, they'll stand in the doorway and do other ranged attacks, forcing the monsters to come to them and try to fight while the PCs hold the strategic chokepoint. Bodies pile up in the doorway.

Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?

2. Scouting. Any time the PCs come to a new location, they won't venture in as a group. They'll summon a familiar or, barring that, send the stealthiest group member on ahead to scout the place out. Again, I know why they do this, but I feel like it leads to the Shadowrun "decker problem," where I'm running a longish section of the game for just one player. Yeah, the players chose to do it, but pretty often it seems like the rest of the group just checks out and makes dice stacks while the scout player does his/her thing. I'd rather have everyone engaged!

The common suggestion to deal with this problem is to have something attack the scout, but I feel like that's a tool that should be used sparingly. Does anyone know any other way to discourage this from happening?

3. Caution. I recently ran a dungeon crawl for a group of very experienced players, and I just felt like it was their goal to interact with the dungeon as little as possible. These were high-level characters (a party of six PCs at level 13), with a ton of tools to deal with anything that happened, and I don't have PC permadeath at my table anyway unless the player wants it; but they touched nothing unless they absolutely must, and tried not to even enter rooms. Their ideal way of handling the place was never to touch anything except with mage hand or by having a summoned earth elemental bring it to them. They also sent the elemental first into every room and corridor to see if anything attacked it or any traps went off. Again, I understand why they do this, but I feel like it leads to a less fun experience for them as well as for me.

I asked a similar question last fall about an environment that wasn't even a dangerous dungeon. There, most of the answers focused on telegraphing safety. But I think this is just a deeply engrained habit for this group, so in this specific case, I think just countering their go-to solutions will have to be enough. Can anyone suggest reasons why a character might have to do a task / retrieve an item / open a door personally instead of using mage hand or a summoned creature to do it?

IMPORTANT: I'm not asking any of these questions because I want to screw over my players, or because I think they're too good at handling my challenges. I'm asking because I think these habits, sensible though they are, are getting in the way of fun and engagement for all of us. I am hoping to get both them and me out of a rut, so I can create better challenges and more memorable adventures.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
1. Fighting from the doorway.
Have the bad guys use the same tactics. if the bad guys are hurling missiles at the PCs, they may feel forced to close in on the monsters. This is not to screw them over, but what's tactically wise for the PCs is tactically wise for their opponents.

Alternatively - a complex with wide entrances. Or a complex that doesn't have many doors, so the PCs cannot set up around the door, throw it open, and surprise the bad guys. Or, if a room has more than one entrance, if the PCs hold one defensively, have monsters go around and hit them from the side or behind.

2. Scouting.
One solution to this scouting problem is time pressure. Another is, as before, let the bad guys have *effective* lookouts, and capture the scout. When their frequent scouting turns into occasional rescue missions, they'll think twice about splitting the party. Or, if you don't want to attack the scout, if the lookout notes the scout, waits for them to leave, and then the enemy quickly rearranges themselves in good defensive posture, you may also fix your problem 1 :) Or, attack the party while they are sitting on their hands waiting for the scout - see how well they do without the scout's support.

Yet another, in some circumstances - changing terrain. If the terrain changes behind the scout, they cannot find their way back and will have quite a panic. Or if it changes after they return to the party, the scouting simply isn't very valuable.


3. Caution.
Time pressure can help with this as well - don't give them unlimited time to muck about not touching things.

In general, players do these things because they have (for good reason or not) decided that they help aid survival. Make that assumption questionable.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So there are certain things that always happen in my games, and for good reason: they benefit the PCs. But the sheer predictability of them is making me want to scream, and I'm just wondering if anyone here has advice on how to shake things up a bit.

1. Fighting from the doorway. It never fails. There might be five monsters in a 30 x 30 room, but what will happen is that the PCs will open the door and never actually enter until all the monsters are dead. If they're high enough level, they'll chuck fireballs into the room until the monsters die. If not, they'll stand in the doorway and do other ranged attacks, forcing the monsters to come to them and try to fight while the PCs hold the strategic chokepoint. Bodies pile up in the doorway.

Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?
Door/choke point battles are classic D&D. A good solid door in a dungeon is really valuable tactically when you think about it. If you're a monster faction in a dungeon, you want control over those doors.

One way to deal with this is to make it so the door isn't the only way into or out of an area. If there's another door or a hallway that allows the monsters to move around to the other side of the PCs, it takes away the tactical value of the door. Secret doors are good for this too.

Another option is to create a big incentive to go into the room while the battle is raging. That could mean beneficial terrain that helps the PCs or terrain that greatly empowers the enemies' ranged attacks or defenses. A disincentive might also work, such as a trap or other effect around the door that makes staying there costly.

2. Scouting. Any time the PCs come to a new location, they won't venture in as a group. They'll summon a familiar or, barring that, send the stealthiest group member on ahead to scout the place out. Again, I know why they do this, but I feel like it leads to the Shadowrun "decker problem," where I'm running a longish section of the game for just one player. Yeah, the players chose to do it, but pretty often it seems like the rest of the group just checks out and makes dice stacks while the scout player does his/her thing. I'd rather have everyone engaged!

The common suggestion to deal with this problem is to have something attack the scout, but I feel like that's a tool that should be used sparingly. Does anyone know any other way to discourage this from happening?
I've seen this happen once or twice. Luckily I use Roll20 for both in-person and online games so I can actually set the familiar's or scout's vision to "all players" so that everyone can see what's going on. That makes it a bit more engaging even if it's just the one PC that is actually in the spotlight. But really I just talk to the players about this and say that this isn't a good way of managing spotlight and that they should consider doing this sparingly for the sake of everyone's play experience.

But also, kill that scout, man, when it makes sense to.

3. Caution. I recently ran a dungeon crawl for a group of very experienced players, and I just felt like it was their goal to interact with the dungeon as little as possible. These were high-level characters (a party of six PCs at level 13), with a ton of tools to deal with anything that happened; but they touched nothing unless they absolutely must, and tried not to even enter rooms. Their ideal way of handling the place was never to touch anything except with mage hand or by having a summoned earth elemental bring it to them. They also sent the elemental first into every room and corridor to see if anything attacked it or any traps went off. Again, I understand why they do this, but I feel like it leads to a less fun experience for them as well as for me.

I asked a similar question last fall about an environment that wasn't even a dangerous dungeon. There, most of the answers focused on telegraphing safety. But I think this is just a deeply engrained habit for this group, so in this specific case, I think just countering their go-to solutions will have to be enough. Can anyone suggest reasons why a character might have to do a task / retrieve an item / open a door personally instead of using mage hand or a summoned creature to do it?
You're probably correct that this is a deeply ingrained habit. That is often my experience with certain players. Building up trust is really the only way forward in my view and that includes telegraphing threats to show you're not putting "gotchas" in front of them. It's also okay in my view to challenge their standard operating procedure from time to time: Objects of interest are too heavy for mage hand. Anti-magic fields or whatever prevent the summoned creature from getting close to the object of interest. And so on.

This is worth a conversation with the players to find out the root cause before implementing any specific change in the game in my opinion.
 

Satyrn

Villager
1. Fighting from the doorway. It never fails. There might be five monsters in a 30 x 30 room, but what will happen is that the PCs will open the door and never actually enter until all the monsters are dead. If they're high enough level, they'll chuck fireballs into the room until the monsters die. If not, they'll stand in the doorway and do other ranged attacks, forcing the monsters to come to them and try to fight while the PCs hold the strategic chokepoint. Bodies pile up in the doorway.

Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?
In designing my megadungeon, I've been using "an area" (instead of "room") as the basic unit of dungeon layout. At its most basic, an area is a small cluster of rooms with one "encounter" spread throughout. When the encounter involves monsters, for example, the monsters are unlikely to be just in the first room the players enter. So the fireball will clear one room, but alert the other monsters in the other rooms, and they'll wait for a good opportunity to counterattack.

This has helped me make the dungeon react to the players more effectively, because I can figure out more readily what the consequences might be if the players are involved in a fight in one "quarter" of the "area," whether that's reinforcements storming in or circling round to flank, an ambush getting set up, or whatever.
 
1. Fighting from the doorway.

Introduce the dreaded double-door! Twice as hard to guard! Also, there's no real reason for intelligent creatures to stand in the line of fire of the door and just die. Have them move out of the room to the next room, or take cover behind tables, columns, whatever. Maybe give them abilities or weapons that are disastrous for PC's standing in a group (like a grenade). But again, intelligent creatures wouldn't really all line up to die. One caster with some good AoE attacks can make grouping up by the door a bad idea. Also, perhaps something that draws at least one PC into the room? A grapple-hook or spell that moves a PC into the room so that the others have to enter or watch their compatriot die.

3. Caution.

This is a problem in my game, where the players always use a familiar, detect magic, search for traps, listen at doors, etc constantly to the point that getting through the Thieve's Guild headquarters took far, far longer than it should. What I've done since is try to be more descriptive of stuff that is obviously mundane (no need to spend a lot of time eavesdropping on the bathroom door) and to add a time-crunch (roaming monsters, someone in distress, etc).
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Doors, scouting, caution...

A lot comes down to how rich the scenario is. I rarely have "monsters in rooms" and instead have places where monsters live or work. So, these six or seven caves/huts/structures have these guys around and in various activities but any choke points are already a part of the day-to-day. A party stopping at the door likely finds an enemy not rushing up, being happy to let them stay immobile while other things happen and gather or the enemy flees.

In some cases, those choke points may be reasonable places for traps that are sprung from the inside. Finally, those choke points may make certain magics easy to split the party, with barriers. Heck, just drop a fog cloud to blind the rear half of their group.

Scouting

Lean into it. I dont make it easy and my monsters take reasonable precautions - "no, he is not just assuming the stray cat walking around the vault area is a normal cat. This is a world where every first level wizard and second level druid can make a cat not be a cat."

But, when they mind their p'sand q's and get a good scout in, fantastic. It let's me show them a lot of the map, a lot of the open stuff tight off and them plan it out. That is great by me. More time for the "doing stuff about it".

Dont get bogged down by room to room sneaking, step-by-step scouting - get to a DC and skill check and then into info dump.

Caution

If they are not touching or interacting with stuff, you haven't given them enough of a reason to do so. If they are used to a "treasure room" or haul at the end, then mostly the stuff along the way is often seen as distraction.

On the other hand, if you show that that stuff they bypass is often "the treasure and often clues etc - ie stuff that matters - then hey, guess what, they will start paying more attention to it.

But... each of these need to be shown first when it doesnt hurt. Dont Spring a new presentation on thrm willy nilly after teaching them it's fine to walk past or fight in doorways.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
So there are certain things that always happen in my games, and for good reason: they benefit the PCs. But the sheer predictability of them is making me want to scream, and I'm just wondering if anyone here has advice on how to shake things up a bit.

1. Fighting from the doorway. It never fails. There might be five monsters in a 30 x 30 room, but what will happen is that the PCs will open the door and never actually enter until all the monsters are dead. If they're high enough level, they'll chuck fireballs into the room until the monsters die. If not, they'll stand in the doorway and do other ranged attacks, forcing the monsters to come to them and try to fight while the PCs hold the strategic chokepoint. Bodies pile up in the doorway.

Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?
1. Phasing monsters such as phase spiders - party sets up position outside the room expecting their usual success. Instead the monsters charge through the walls - from behind the party.

2. Hostage situation: Party can't afford to wait outside.

3. Ritual completion - essentially the time pressure suggestion from above, no time to wait on the monsters.

2. Scouting. Any time the PCs come to a new location, they won't venture in as a group. They'll summon a familiar or, barring that, send the stealthiest group member on ahead to scout the place out. Again, I know why they do this, but I feel like it leads to the Shadowrun "decker problem," where I'm running a longish section of the game for just one player. Yeah, the players chose to do it, but pretty often it seems like the rest of the group just checks out and makes dice stacks while the scout player does his/her thing. I'd rather have everyone engaged!

The common suggestion to deal with this problem is to have something attack the scout, but I feel like that's a tool that should be used sparingly. Does anyone know any other way to discourage this from happening?
Don't attack the scout! A scout that gets attacked and/or doesn't come back has done his job - he found danger.

I agree with either 1) attack the party as they are waiting for the scout or 2) hide from the scout because they knew he was coming.

Alternatively, scout finds the bandit camp - hand the bandit's sheets to the rest of the party and have them try to catch/take out the scout. Kind of mean, but can be fun if used sparingly.

3. Caution. I recently ran a dungeon crawl for a group of very experienced players, and I just felt like it was their goal to interact with the dungeon as little as possible. These were high-level characters (a party of six PCs at level 13), with a ton of tools to deal with anything that happened, and I don't have PC permadeath at my table anyway unless the player wants it; but they touched nothing unless they absolutely must, and tried not to even enter rooms. Their ideal way of handling the place was never to touch anything except with mage hand or by having a summoned earth elemental bring it to them. They also sent the elemental first into every room and corridor to see if anything attacked it or any traps went off. Again, I understand why they do this, but I feel like it leads to a less fun experience for them as well as for me.
1) If the players are enjoying themselves - maybe do nothing? Fun is fun.

2) Otherwise show the benefits of interacting more with the dungeon - don't have the treasure be at the end - have it be scattered among the stuff the group has to interact with along the way.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?
(1) Have reinforcements arrive halfway through the battle. And if you want the party to move in response, then make the reinforcements worse than whatever is inside the room. Or make the "reinforcements" a trap of some kind, like a rolling boulder or one of those spinning-blade things from Labyrinth -- something the party has to avoid.

(2) Put a prisoner in the room, within plain sight of the doorway. No more fireballs. And put a timed execution device (a swinging blade? Guillotine?) over the prisoner. If someone doesn't rush in within 3 rounds and disable it, then the prisoner dies.

3. Caution. I recently ran a dungeon crawl for a group of very experienced players, and I just felt like it was their goal to interact with the dungeon as little as possible.
Add lots of treasure to the dungeon. Brilliant gemstones hidden under overturned mugs. Caches of gold hidden behind hanging portraits. That's how you reward players for interacting. First, though, you have to let your players know that these things are there to find, which can be done a couple of different ways:

(1) Drop hints. In the tavern, the players learn that a magic dagger is hidden somewhere in the dungeon vestibule. It was used in the Mad Priest's sacrificial rituals and was said to transfer the life-force of its victims to its wielder.

(2) Show them what they missed after the fact. Have another adventuring party pass through the dungeon a week after the PCs left. Now the whole town is talking about the amazing horde of treasure the second party found. They needed a whole team of donkeys and wagons to cart it away. Now the fighter has bought the old mansion on the hill, the wizard has unlocked the secrets of the planes, and the rogue has made enough gold to build his own gambling den. "Damn," your players say, "that could have been us..."
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Some good advice already, I've just adding a couple of thoughts.

Fighting from the doorway
Why assume there's only one door into a room? Make multiple doors, and have 1 or two monsters engage while the others flank.

In addition, have the monsters in the room call for reinforcements. Blow a bugle, have a gong, a big red button, whatever you want.

As others have said, vary your encounters and the goals of the encounters.

Why are the walls thin? Stone walls could easily be a couple of feet thick, unless you're directly behind the meat shield you can't see into the room much less see to cast a spell into the room.

Bull rush the blocker into the hall or pull them into the room.

Scouting
Familiars are easy to kill. Send out a spider? Gee, that's too bad the spiders that live there are quite territorial and your familiar is an intruder. Have small predators crawling the halls that scurry out of the way of real threats but think that kitty cat is a nice little snack. The owl flies into webs.

Send out the rogue? Gets too far ahead and they get cut off. Have doors or curtains in the way so they can't just stealth everywhere, enforce the "you can only hide if you are not clearly seen".

Caution
No risk, no reward. They have to interact to get anywhere. This includes even getting past the first handful of rooms. Set up minor mysteries/riddles along the line of escape rooms. Trap them in rooms if necessary.

Good luck!
 
1. Fighting from the doorway. Of course it makes a ton of sense tactically, but I've gotten super-bored with every single combat going this way. I'd like to find a way to have any other configuration for the battle: either somehow get the PCs to actually enter the room, or ... I dunno, get the monsters into the hallway somehow?
Well, y'can run something other than a dungeon or other building, get outdoors for a bit, do a running battle rather than a static one, even. The 'room' can be a cavern with with a large opening rather than a doorway - or the door can just be really big. The room can have another exit that connects up to the corridor, so the inhabitants can flank the party. The room can have copious excellent cover for the enemy, who are mostly ranged combatants, but for one really tough melee monster who stands in the doorway. The enemy caster can drop a nasty cloud of something in the hallway.

2. Scouting. Any time the PCs come to a new location, they won't venture in as a group. They'll summon a familiar or, barring that, send the stealthiest group member on ahead to scout the place out. Does anyone know any other way to discourage this from happening?
Determine ahead of time if you're going to have enemies placed alert/perceptive enough to spot & attack the scout. If so, gank the scout. If not, prep a simple map of the area with notation of what the scout finds, and, when they declare their scouting, just hand it to them.

3. Caution. I recently ran a dungeon crawl for a group of very experienced players, and I just felt like it was their goal to interact with the dungeon as little as possible.
Yep. Dungeons are bad places where every little thing is just their to screw with you. If experienced adventurers could just nuke the site from orbit, they would, every time.

Can anyone suggest reasons why a character might have to do a task / retrieve an item / open a door personally instead of using mage hand or a summoned creature to do it?
Lots. It could dispel the summoned creature or mage hand. It could self destruct. It could be 'claimed' irrevocably by the first creature to touch it. Or, the 'curse' or trap or whatever they're trying to avoid could flow 'through' the magic of the mage hand or the link between summoner and summoned creature and zap him, anyway.
And, none of those will be a shock to your experienced players, either.

IMPORTANT: I'm not asking any of these questions because I want to screw over my players, or because I think they're too good at handling my challenges. I'm asking because I think these habits, sensible though they are, are getting in the way of fun and engagement for all of us. I am hoping to get both them and me out of a rut, so I can create better challenges and more memorable adventures.
If these are experienced players who have been playing this way for a long time, and they're still playing, /they do find it fun/ and you should probably just roll with it, and make every dungeon a horrible place where every little thing is just their to screw with them.

OTOH, if they just find their caution unnecessary time & time & time & again, they might actually get 'bored' with your 'too easy' campaign.

::shrug::


Now, if /you're/ bored with it all, you might start a game with newbie players, and condition them differently, or you might run something other than D&D. Chances are a number of your players are just itching to play something else - problem is each one'll likely want a different something else, and you'll have a long discussion and end up playing D&D anyway.

::double::shrug::

g'luck
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
And put a timed execution device (a swinging blade? Guillotine?) over the prisoner. If someone doesn't rush in within 3 rounds and disable it, then the prisoner dies.
That's a great idea, but ... mage hand. (Sigh)

Add lots of treasure to the dungeon. Brilliant gemstones hidden under overturned mugs. Caches of gold hidden behind hanging portraits. That's how you reward players for interacting.
Again, mage hand. And there was actually quite a bit of treasure in the last dungeon that the PCs voluntarily passed up just because they were afraid it might be trapped or cursed.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
That's a great idea, but ... mage hand. (Sigh)
Require a cord to be cut or lock to be picked. Arcane trickster can pull that off, but not any old wizard.

Require more than a 10 pound lift, that'll foil mage hand.


Again, mage hand. And there was actually quite a bit of treasure in the last dungeon that the PCs voluntarily passed up just because they were afraid it might be trapped or cursed.
Well, then they didn't get the treasure, that's its own consequence no?

Have them need to find something specific and small, while knowing only the general location add a time constraint to force more reckless behavior than normal.

Then surprise them by not having anything bad happen.
 
That's a great idea, but ... mage hand. (Sigh)
It's actually pretty limited. No fine manipulation (it's tied down), inflicting damage (to disengage trap, break glass), very weak (it's too heavy). And, to just be really heavy-mage-handed about it, have magic fizzle or using magic of any kind on the subject set off the trap/curse/whatever they're trying to avoid.

Again, mage hand. And there was actually quite a bit of treasure in the last dungeon that the PCs voluntarily passed up just because they were afraid it might be trapped or cursed.
By the standard's they're probably accustomed to, that's a win in your column.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
1. Fighting from the doorway.
Why do the monsters fight? Intelligent ones should run and get reinforcements until the entire complex is aware of the PCs presence, where they can attack with overwhelming numbers. My players regularly attack fleeing enemies to keep them from warning others.


2. Scouting.
This can actually be done quite well, keeping the whole group engaged, if handled properly by both you and the group. If they send in a scout, describe everything to them and the group at the same time. When a decision point must be made, such as a room, encounter, or an intersection, the scout should return to the party, who moves together up to the decision point to make the decision together without you re-describing everything. While technically only 1 PC is "active," unless they get ambushed (which is REALLY bad for the scout), it's not really any different than you describing everything for the group. They explore the important parts together, but the scout gets to make use of their stealthy abilities.

3. Caution.
This is really group dependent, and I'll admit old school gamers like me are a bit on the paranoid side. Earlier editions were fraught with insta-death traps, and that can be a hard habit to break. Some players that are used to newer editions often charge straight in, throwing caution to the wind, because they expect the encounters to be balanced. Best solution is to talk to the group in session 0 to discuss which style of game you want to play; heroic fantasy or gritty realism. In a heroic fantasy game, players are more likely to build brash characters, or foolish ones that make poor choices due to a flaw.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Require more than a 10 pound lift, that'll foil mage hand.
Did that in the last adventure; they sent the earth elemental after it.

Well, then they didn't get the treasure, that's its own consequence no?
Yeah, but then it makes me wonder about the point of going to the trouble of placing and learning the treasure at all. Why even have a dungeon if the players are going to go out of their way to do as little of it as they can? It's discouraging for me, and probably not as rewarding for them as a place they'd actually engage with would be.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Are the players having fun? Because this is sounding like a job. Definitely seems like things have devolved into dysfunction. I don’t think there are long term in-game fixes until you can address the reasons why the players are so gun shy. Did they get gotcha’d a bunch in some past campaign?
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Did that in the last adventure; they sent the earth elemental after it.
Sounds like you have resourceful and well prepared players, though extremely risk averse.

The trick then is to reward them to be less risk averse. If that doesn't work, well either accept the play style or air out your frustration to them.


Yeah, but then it makes me wonder about the point of going to the trouble of placing and learning the treasure at all. Why even have a dungeon if the players are going to go out of their way to do as little of it as they can? It's discouraging for me, and probably not as rewarding for them as a place they'd actually engage with would be.
In game: have the party encounter creatures with very specific immunities. When the group can't damage them (they should have retreat options etc. available) make sure someone remembers the group of dead bodies that went untouched that had the very items necessary.

Out of game: maybe air your frustration out to the group? Let them know that it's rough designing all of these dungeon scenarios when they refuse to engage with them.
 

S'mon

Legend
I think the solution is just to not have a lot of "small monster group sitting in room waiting to die" encounters. They don't make a lot of sense. If the monsters are in a room with only one exit it's because they feel safe, so there must be other allied monsters nearby. I agree with [MENTION=6801204]Satyrn[/MENTION] that it's best to treat the encounter area as a small group of rooms with allied monsters spread throughout it. This often results in corridor-based battles with monsters coming out of rooms, PCs trying to hold multiple choke points, etc.

Battles outside or in large caverns & halls are also good and play very differently.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Again, mage hand. And there was actually quite a bit of treasure in the last dungeon that the PCs voluntarily passed up just because they were afraid it might be trapped or cursed.
Mage hand allows you to move things you can see. It does not enable search from 20 feet away. If they are close enough to see things, they are close enough to be hit by traps when the mage hand sets them off.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Are the players having fun?
I think they are; I think I'm the main one who's getting frustrated here. But I think the players would be having more fun actually doing things rather than avoiding them, or if combats aren't all the same--and that would also be more fun for me.

Did they get gotcha’d a bunch in some past campaign?
Not in anything I've run for them. But the core of this particular group all go back to 1st ed., so maybe they were traumatized by the Tomb of Horrors at a young age.

They only get ultra-cautious when they're in heavy exploration situations (dungeons being an example). But I don't want to have to avoid dungeons altogether.

I think the solution is just to not have a lot of "small monster group sitting in room waiting to die" encounters. They don't make a lot of sense.
You'd be surprised how many rooms like that are on pre-made maps, though. And even if there's another exit, the party has a lot of ways to lock down monster movement (Evard's black tentacles, hold monster, crown of madness...).

Battles outside or in large caverns & halls are also good and play very differently.
Not for my groups (I regularly run for two groups that both have the same issues). They use the exact same tactics for caverns and halls: stand in the doorway to the hall or at the mouth of the small passageway that opens into the cavern, and attack from there. Cover means nothing when they have so many spells that ignore it.
 
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