• Justin Handlin

Fight Like a...

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Listen: Episode 156: Fight like a...

Watch: We apologize, due to some sort of glitch with our recording software, only the audio survived.

Today we are joined by Alan McCoy to discuss is ongoing "Fight like a..." series. A regular series focused on helping Dungeon Masters get the most out of their Dungeons and Dragons monsters from both a narrative and combat perspective.

Crit Nation, thanks for joining us today here at the “Crit Academy” studios where everything is made up and your rolls don’t matter. Yup, that’s right; your rolls are like a monster without interesting fighting styles.

Segment 2: Crit Nation Feedback: Let’s talk about Blank! (Answer questions!)

DC Comics is making a Dungeons and Dragons setting from dark fantasy series “The Last God”!

Give Away: Loresmyth: Modular Dungeon Tiles - Arcania

Modular dungeon tiles are an easy way to create your own beautiful digital maps. The Arcania lets you make dark, shadowy dungeon map, rich with the fumes of arcane secrets.

Winner: jdchrisman

Didn’t win? Np, head to www.critacademy.com/loresmyth a free set of digital terrain and much more.

Segment 3: Main Topic: Fight like a… with Alan McCoy

Follow Alan's Facebook Group: Dungeons & Dragons: Fundamentals

Alan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do in the realm of DnD?

Alan:"I started playing the game in February of 1981, with the Blue Box Holmes rules, It was really confusing back then because TSR, the company that became Wizards of the Coast was trying to market both the Basic D&D game and the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game at the same time. I gravitated immediately to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and have been playing ever since.

Currently, I run an online campaign on Discord, and a facebook play by post game, both utilize the Forgotten Realms setting circa 1260 DR. I find that the setting is far more friendly to my game and my needs if I don’t have to worry about this or that novel.

In my hometown, I’m part of a West Marches Style campaign, I have DMed there, but mostly take the opportunity to play the game.

My current project is my Facebook Group Dungeons and Dragons: Fundamentals and as part of that, my various essays on a lot of game related topics to assist newer players and DMs in running their games, but also the Fight like a Monster Essays that have been so popular. "

What is your most memorable D&D moment?

A: "While there have been tons of memorable moment the one that stands out to me the most right now is watching the joy and wonder of the brand new players in my Facebook play by post game, they’re really getting into the RP and they are fast becoming real friends even though they live here there and everywhere. I get a lot of enjoyment out of facilitating that interaction."

Do you have any moment where you failed as a DM/Player?

A: How long is your show.? My biggest regret as a DM and a Player was in 2005. The group had gotten far too large for my home, and we even outgrew the local gaming store. One of the players was a local business owner and offered a meeting room. All Great so far, however as I was no longer primary host,

Players with a number of habits that many of us found objectionable were coming to the game. I found it difficult to turn away people from a table I didn’t OWN. I eventually realized that I was gaming with people I would have otherwise gone to great lengths to avoid, and I was subjecting my friends that I did want to run with…. To this situation as well. A little adjustment, a smaller table…. A better game."

Can you tell us about the Dungeons and Dragons: Fundamentals facebook group you run?

A: "Dungeons and Dragons Fundamentals was founded because I came to realise there was a real need for a place to teach and support new players. I saw several good attempts at this, but the moderators and administration were unwilling to take a solid stance against the ONLINE TROLLS that seem to enjoy taunting instead of teaching. Advertisers, Trolls and Meme Central. Content was the one thing they just didn’t offer, at least not in any organized fashion. I’ve tried to basically index the Fundamentals Group from the very start. If you have a question you can probably find some answers and then make an informed discussion. My Moderators and I are very strict about behavior…. People need to be comfortable enough to ask questions."

Tell us about your “Fight like a…” series and how it came to be?

A: "A question received on another Facebook group was asked about Mimics and how they would fight, how could you recognize one and so forth.

A lot of the responders were directing to ‘The Monsters Know” website and blog run by Keith Ammann. I have a lot of respect for Keith and his work, but I realized that I disagreed with him. He focuses on what the can do. Ability A plus Ability B and so on

I wanted to talk about that, but I also wanted to talk about the PERSONALITY of the MIMIC, most of this information was spread out over so many editions that it would be difficult for the average person to figure out. Monsters are more than their Stat Block, they are creatures that want to survive and thrive. I wrote the first one, and people liked it...so I wrote more...kinda got hooked on it."

Do you have a favorite monster you’ve written about?

The Bone Devil. This was my first attempt at a major monster with significant power. When I finished the piece I felt a real sense of pride. I think it clearly communicates the personality of the Devil, what it is trying to accomplish and the fact that it is trying to kill you just as much as you’re trying to kill it.

Why is it your favorite?

Can you walk us through the process of development?

A: "Before I begin a new Essay, I make it a point to reread pages 4 to 11 of the Monster Manual, This reminds me that the actions available to Character are also available to Monsters, Next I read the ENTIRE ENTRY for the Monster in question. If it has subtypes, or leaders, I read those as well. I continue to read and study the creature until I have a solid idea of the racial personality. For Example, Orcs being Brutes, Goblins being sneaky and preferring to stay at range, and Hobgoblins being a military force on the move."

Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: "Once I began the project I realized there were some monsters that just had to be done, each of the major humanoids for example, Goblin, Orc, Kobold, Hobgoblin, Gnoll. Others have caught my eye and I said, that one would be cool to do. A lot of my essays are answers to specific requests, for example the Genies...doing the genies properly required me to also do the Elementals. So that one was a pretty involved project."

What kind of challenges did run into?

"One that surprised me the most was both the popularity of the essays and the negative feedback I received from several of them. I’ve had players who have sent me Facebook Messages complaining that their DM had used such and such a monster WRONG (ie my way) and their character had died. Called me a lot of choice names."

How did you overcome those challenges?

"I pretty much just stopped reading my critics. I make it a point to not respond to Facebook Messenger when sent an unsolicited message.

Though in simple fairness I did do a fairly long Essay and posted it as a PDF on my Facebook group that I called “Fight like an Adventurer” to give some guidance for players when your DM is playing smarter."

Do you have a favorite resource that you use when creating your “Fight like a…” series?

"My Number one resource is the Monster Manual. I’ve dug into the earlier editions of the Monster Manuals when necessary, but I’ve made it a point to avoid Setting Specific monsters, I’m trying to make sure my information is good information for as many games as possible."

Any new secret projects coming up that you can give the listeners a little taste of?

"I wouldn’t necessarily call it a secret, but I am currently contemplating a series of essays on the strange environments that adventurers could find themselves in. First on my list is UNDERWATER. I think that the rules given in the PHB and DMG are sadly lacking, little more than you will drown down there.

Attempting to give the underwater environment a more of a feeling of being in a strange new place without violating the simplicity of rules that characterise 5E is going to be a real challenge."

Follow Alan's Facebook Group: Dungeons & Dragons: Fundamentals

Give Away: Jeff Stevens: Villains and Lairs II!

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Winner: Muskypimp47

Didn’t win? Np, head to www.critacademy.com/jeffstevens to get V&L’s 3 Free

Segment 4: Unearthed Tips and Tricks! (We give you creative content for your next adventure)

Character Concept:

The Spotter

One of the things I talked about in my “Fight Like an Adventurer” essay was a need for the group to sit down and make sure you’ve created a team that can stand up to a variety of encounters and respond to a variety of threats.

I decided to create Sniper/Observer in the best traditions of classic D&D

I have a High Elf Ranger/Rogue. I choose to use a High Elf for the bonus to intelligence, and his expertise in investigation and Perception. I also wanted the bonus cantrip from the very start, specifically I choose the Dancing Lights Cantrip.

With my high perception and investigation I spot just about anything moving on the battlefield, I use my Dancing Lights that can move independently, to mark the enemy, changing the color of the light ball if necessary to inform my party of anything nasty I’ve noticed.

Meanwhile I can use my SNEAK attack to assassinate, since I can Assassinate on targets that haven’t taken an attack in combat yet, and Dread Ambusher adds an additional +2 to my Initiative, I stay ahead of just about everyone.

With Ranger I went Gloom Stalker, giving me 90 foot darkvision, extra attack

In short, I observe everyone and everything, I inform my party via dancing lights to reveal the hidden enemy, I shoot first and considering it’s at Gloomstalker 2d8 + Sneak attack +3d6 I hit pretty hard...TWICE and then disappear, cunning action HIDE.

Monster Variant:

Kobold Blue Wyrmpriest

Origin: Cult Fanatic

A Wyrmpriest is a leader among kobolds. One that constantly supports and reinforces their underlings faith in their patron. It leads their contingent as not only a battlefield commander, but also their spiritual leader. Their magical support can reinforce their allies and lay waste to their foes.

Each wyrmpriest is different in that the elemental form of its it attacks is based on the type of dragon the wyrmpriest servers or reveres. For example, a kobold wyrmpriest working for a blue dragons deals lightning damage with its energy orb attack.

New Feature

Lighting Breath (Recharge 6). The wyrmpriest exhales a destructive force of lightning in a 5 by 30 ft. line. Each creature in the area must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Replace: Sacred flame with shocking grasp and inflict wounds with chromatic orb(only use lightning element)



The small but heavily fortified town of Weywood has recently been under attack by fiends. The town has been put on lock down and messengers sent to seek out adventurers to help end the assault. Under Weywood’s Baroness Ells Smylne, ( LG female halfling noble), nobody who enters the town is allowed to leave without her permission for their own protection.

The characters arrive to see a near endless corpses outside the town’s walls. While it appears to mostly be demons. There is an extensive amount of casualties from the city militia as well as civilians. While the adventurers are dealing with the demon threat, a kidnapped guard returns. Unbeknownst to anyone, he has been infected with a sewer plague or some other disease.

Magic Item:

Amulet of Aranea

Wondrous, rare

This amulet releases a slight dark light that helps ward of the effects of poisons and diseases while wearing this spider-shaped talisman. It stores the energy allowing it to be released at a time of the wearer’s choosing.

You can use your reaction when you are hit with an attack that deals poison damage The amulet draws some of the debilitating effects of poisons from your body, lessening its effects on you and storing it for your next melee attack.You have resistance to poison damage until the start of your next turn. Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 2d6 poison damage and must succeed a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. This effect cannot be used again until the next dawn.

Dungeon Master Tip:

Random Encounters Reinforce Campaign Themes

Random encounters and by extension, small quest hooks, can remind the players of the major themes of the campaign. Keep in mind, these encounters don’t have to be combat encounters. For example, if your campaign features an ongoing war between two nations, you might design random encounter tables to reinforce the ever-present nature of the conflict. In friendly territory, your tables might include bedraggled troops returning from battle, refugees fleeing invading forces, heavily guarded caravans full of weapons, and lone messengers on horseback riding for the front lines. While characters are in hostile territory, the tables might include battlefields littered with the recently slain, armies of evil humanoids on the march, and improvised gibbets holding the bodies of deserters who tried to flee the conflict.

Player Tip: Don’t be a Dick

Change the conditions of an encounter.

Example: kobayashi maru in Star Trek

For example, if enemies are expecting you, find a way to flush or lure them from their defensible area.

PC’s set up camp just outside of the enemies camp, to lure them out.

Extreme example.

If an enemy takes a person hostage to use as leverage, and you know the cleric can resurrect ppl. Consider just killing that person, to get rid of the enemies leverage, and resurrect them afterwards.

Closing: Please join us on our next episode we will discuss Adaptable NPC’s

If you have any feedback, unearthed tips and tricks or topics you would like us to discuss, please send them to us. You can email them to us at critacademy@gmail.com or find us on twitter and facebook @critacademy.

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