So, I have taken a group of folks under my wing concerning Dragons. And Dungeons that accompany them. One might even join the two into Dungeons and Dragons. Hey, that’s a catchy name!
I ran them through their first encounter three weeks back, and at that time put together a combat primer to cover the fundamentals. I’ve included it below:
Well, we got through our first combat encounter, and it went pretty smoothly for a group of mostly first timers! Everyone did well and everyone survived.
To add to this, I wanted to go over a couple things about combat in 4th edition so as to set expectations now that a taste has been given for how it works.
1.) Taking Hits Is Normal – I didn’t see evidence of this problem around the table last night, which is good. I’m guilty of this problem myself, so it’s an easy one to address and good to get out there before ingrained gaming behavior takes root. When you fight, be ready to take damage. That goes for squishy types too. Everyone is gonna be a little worse for wear after a scuffle and it’s what healing surges and potions are for.
2.) Hitting Zero Hit Points Is More Common Than You Think – Paladins, I hate to tell you this, but… you are not immortal. Even the most sturdy tank takes damage. And eventually, tanks go down for the count and take an involuntary nap. Our Pally of Bahamut in my group, Dirk Fantastic, once went down to zero hit points three times in a single encounter (and was raised by the self-serving Tiefling, Void [yours truly], two out of three times). Death saves are not as hard as you think. You’ve got a 55% chance of staving off death over three separate rolls. Chances are, you’ll make it – numbers are on your side.
3.) Save Your Daily For When It Counts – We had good examples of this last night. When you have to lay the smack down take a look around and ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’ For instance, last night, Titanius took a look around and said ‘this is it, I’m gonna rage’. But, looking at the situation, it would have put a low AC Barbarian, also bloodied, through two opportunity attacks for the goal of putting himself in a potential flanking situation. This would have opened you up to a rather nasty aspect of Dolgrims that you didn’t know about as well (they do an extra D6 damage if they flank you). When Renglief stepped in and shot his daily power into the room, he knocked off two bad guys, allowing you to mop up the one target remaining. It offered a more significant tactical advantage, saving the group and shifting the balance.
4.) Remember Your Roles and Play To Their Strengths – In the first game, everyone wants to fight, and that’s common. I’m guilty of this in MMOs (if I have a power that does damage, why am I not using it?!) but it’s best to curb if you can. When all you have is a mace, everything else looks like… something you hit with a mace. But, remember – controllers control (Renglief), tanks tank (Kava and Petrorage) and healers heal (Mortanius). Put yourself in the best position to do what you do and leave the damage dealing to the strikers (Titanius and Sashimi). Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a secondary role, and that’s normal too, but when you find yourself in that position, try to get back to the standard footing as fast as you can.
5.) Protect Thy Squishies – There’s a ball joke in here I won’t make, so let’s move past that. Squishies are players that only wear cloth and they typically don’t get a lot of hit points. They also are almost always your artillery guys as well. When you move into a room or an area, consider coverage. You have two tanks (Kava and Petrorage), so leaving a Tank with the squishies (Renglief and Sashimi) for coverage if possible/advantageous and sending a Tank to the fray with your Striker (Titanius) in a confined area is almost always a good thing.
6.) Maximum Advantage – As we saw last night, there were a couple of folks having a bit of a time struggling to hit. This comes from two basic fundamentals in last night’s game: flanking and targeting. Flanking is the most advantageous melee scenario and is something to shoot for as frequently as you can if you’re a melee fighter. It offers you a plus two bonus, which helps more than you think. Getting into position is difficult sometimes, but when Titanius rages, he can move two squares to get behind an enemy, which is awesome if the pally comes in behind him to flank and mark. Targeting came into play with your Invoker as Renglief’s sun strike wasn’t doing much good because it targeted a defense score that was high. When he dropped his daily, he targeted will – something Dolgrims didn’t have a lot of (three points lower than their AC or ref) and it pounded the crap out of two out of three of them. Moral of that story is if one thing isn’t working, diversify. Find something else to target that might work easier.
This is only a small slice of combat techniques, but they are the most basic. We can go over more and I’m happy to field questions on the topics at hand, so have at, and happy dungeoneering!