• Justin Handlin

Running D&D Combat



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Crit Academy discusses running combat in your Dungeons and Dragons games. We focus on tips and tricks for getting the most out of your combat. Combat is by far the structured format of the game. We walk through the process, rules and examples of how combat is run. We discuss getting the most out of your roleplayer experience by flavoring your actions during combat, this will overall enhance your fun during your D&D game. Don't worry about sounding ridiculous. In stage acting their is a rule. Until you get to the point, until your actions feel ridiculous, you don't look natural.


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Character Concept:

When thinking of a backstory for your wizard, consider how they managed to afford their

arcane tuition. Perhaps they still owe a lot of money to their kingdom or to a patron who

holds it over them. Do they intend to pay back the money, or will they just stay away long

enough for their benefactor to forget?


Do you still owe the Academy hundreds of gold pieces for all that time you spent slaving

over scrolls and manuscripts? Do you feel like you wasted your time staring at those dusty

pages with nothing to show for it but debt? Well, you’re not alone. There are hundreds of

other wizards just like you. You’ve spent years poring over tomes, taking tests, and completing challenges, and for what?! Just to be stuck for the rest of your life, paying them as a thank you? Pfft. Forget that!


Obviously you need to start figuring things out on your own. You may end up blowing up

and losing a few limbs, but it’s better than being a financial slave to the kingdom! It’s robbery! You’ll end up having to take to adventuring to make the money to pay them back, or else you’d be avoiding harassment from the kingdom’s officials.


All wizards do it: they say they’re out for adventure and to learn new things. We know

they’re just running from their kingdoms so they don’t have to pay the bill.


Encounter Concept:

The players have been traveling along the road, and they encounter a family whose wagon

wheel has broken leaving them stranded miles from the nearest crossroads. When the players stop to help (or just stop to trade information), WHAM! The “family” turns out to be a group of highwaymen who set up an ambush to separate travelers from their money.


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Magic Item:

The Power Pole

This staff has four charges. Charges replenish after a short rest. This staff, upon spending a

charge, will grow double in length giving the weapon the reach property. The staff, once

extended, will return to its original length at the end of your combat turn. When used out of

combat, the staff will remain extended for one minute. This staff is activated upon calling out

its command word. Attacking with the extended staff requires the wielder to use two hands.


As DM you might even allow it to extend to greater distances, allowing players to span a pit or activate traps from the other side of the room. Players can come up with all sorts of uses for an item like this.


DM Tip:

Who's that Monster?

Imagine this: the players are on an expedition to chart an unexplored region of the jungle. On the way they pass a cave, and they decide to check inside for a possible shelter against the rain. The DM tells the players to roll for initiative, and when the first round begins, the players hear, “You hear a noise from the shadows, and the Medusa hiding behind a corner pulls out a bow and fires at you!” One player might immediately perk up and say, “Oh, a Medusa? They can petrify you with their gaze, so I’m going to close my eyes and attack blindly.”


In this scenario, several mistakes were made. If the players have never encountered a specific

monster and/or they have no reason to know what the monster is, then saying the name

of the monster (as it appears in the Monster Manual) can be a mistake. It’ll clue experienced

players into recalling information that they might not have in-game. Even if the player is trying not to metagame.


Instead, don’t refer to monsters by their names unless the characters have a way of

knowing what they are. Try referring to them by their appearances. A Medusa might be “a

scaly-skinned woman with snakes slithering around her face.” Trolls might be “rubberskinned

giants with nasty claws.” If a stalagmite whips out a tentacle to attack a player, calling it a Roper will probably clue in savvy players to start attacking the stalagmite. If you just say

that a tentacle whips out to attack, the players might make think there’s a monster hiding

behind it. If a doppelganger had taken the place of an NPC, you surely wouldn’t start off the

session by saying, “The doppelganger walks up and speaks to you,” would you? Of course not! You’d play on the knowledge that the characters have so that the players might not suspect anything until it’s too late.


Player Tip: Don't be a Dick!

Describe Character Actions

“I move here, I attack.”

“I cast Magic Missile. Eight damage.”

“I’ll make an Athletics check to climb the wall.”

All of these are perfectly acceptable ways of playing the game, but they’re not very

interesting. As a player, you have an entire world in your mind that you can use to enrich

your game play. Think of the earlier examples, but imagine if they sounded like this instead:


“I run around the enemy and duck under their blade by sliding across the floor. As I slide past, I stab my rapier at their side, aiming for the spot where their armor connects under their arm.”


“I chant my magic words and whip my hands out in front of me. Three glowing skulls of arcane energy erupt from my fingertips, streaking across the room. They split

apart to strike the ogre from every direction.”

While some people might think those are a bit wordy, anyone can agree that those sound more exciting than simply saying, “I attack”. Some DMs might even give players Inspiration

for coming up with interesting descriptions for their abilities.


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