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Oh I’m Sorry, Is It My Turn?

Written by Krystal - Published on February 12, 2010

As a DM that is probably the second worst thing anyone can say to me on their turn. (The first being “…I think I just spilt my drink on your DnD books..” but that’s kind of a worldwide no-no.) Combat sometimes can be so droll! Swing, hit, swing, miss, swing, cast spell, joke for ten minutes, wait for Jake to get back from the bathroom. Huh. We killed it? What does it have on it?

Stop! I have a better way! Let’s spice up combat! How do you do that? Details, details, details! The more details you give someone the more it helps them visualize, the more it helps them get into character. The further you pull a person away from this world, the better the game is! So let’s get ready to ruuummbbllee!

What can I do as a DM to help put more depth into the game?

Add puzzles! Someone is behind a rock and only ducks out to shoot at you, so you have to find a more advantageous spot. High ground, low ground, terrain, allies, put little props here in there such as describing earlier on in the scenario that there was a rope tied to a crate in the air holding it up, and later on (see if your players remember!) maybe the bad guy “conveniently” steps under it, but shh! Don’t give it away entirely, just give hints. The first one to figure it out gets extra experience! Make your players actively LOOK for creative ways to get an extra experience drop, sometimes there is no way, sometimes there is! Be creative, and be discrete! If a person can play more in depth in game, they get more into character.

Another thing you can do is describe certain blows, such as if a npc hit’s a player than describe where it hit, and maybe it chipped the armor. So now they have to get their armor repaired; adding more depth into the game. Or if a player swings at a stone golem with a long sword; long sword has been dented! I mean, what do you have whetstones for it not to use them?

Remember, BE CREATIVE! This is your world!


But, I’m the player. What can I do?

You are an important part of this game, too! As a player, make sure to look for these little hints your DM leaves you, and don’t be afraid to try and out smart your DM! Challenge your DM just as much as he challenges you. If something is too easy, tell him! And make sure to describe what you are doing in enough detail, but not too much. Instead of “I hit it,” and rolling try to find some clever alternatives to just shooting a bow or swinging your sword. Set places on fire, or lighting bolt a pool of water with several bad guys inside of it. Make your DM think, too. They don’t want to just sit around with a pre-made adventure and read out of it, sometimes they need a good challenge to get into the game too!

If you can make your turn exciting, it helps the other players pay more attention as well. Work WITH your party, fight back to back so it’s harder for npc’s to get any bonuses.

These are all a few steps that can help turn based combat or even the whole game a lot better. You’ll get players wandering from the table less, and less multitasking because they will be too involved with their characters actions and mindsets to get into the game.

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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15 Responses to “Oh I’m Sorry, Is It My Turn?”
  1. Yoo-Hoo Tom says:

    Excellent Post. As a DM I see a lot of players that just sit there and wait for me to entertain them. The players I invite back are the one’s who help to create the adventure, and want to have fun. Don’t be afraid to cherry-pick ideas from other genre’s. I ran a 4th ed. one-shot based on a Star Trek episode, and it was a riot.

  2. Good article. It’s important to keep players engaged. You’ve always been able to add descriptiveness and special terrain, but in the transition between 3E and 4E I think some DMs have forgotten how.

    I like that you’re calling this property “depth”. Dim-witted DMs will think this has something to do with pit traps, but they’ll be on the right track. :)

  3. anarkeith says:

    As a DM, make sure your players know when you’ve recognized and rewarded creative play. Right now I’m looking for ways to motivate players to stay involved in combats such that they’re ready to go on their turn, but execute their turns with some creative flair. This is a tough juggling act. I think that’s why it is really important to say “yes” when a player proposes an action, moving the combat along in an heroic fashion is a priority for me.

    A good technique for involving players is to make it personal. If the PC’s opponent can talk, have them dish some trash at the PC (or whatever dialog fits the mob’s objective.) As a player, there’s nothing I like more than trading verbal barbs in combat. Gets me riled up and keeps me involved.

  4. mike says:

    When i call out the current turn, i will say who’s on deck.
    This gives the player plenty of time to review their attacks whats going on, and what they are going to do during their turn.

    I see combats 15 minutes faster when i do this.

  5. Cyric says:

    I think the problem is that (A)D&D uses a lot of hitpoint – so one hit normaly don’t matter. Systems like Warhammer FRPG 2nd are easier to scare players and keep then alert – one good hit can even kill a character whos far beyond being a novice.

    I like your ideas even though it’s allways difficult to make the surroundings matter in a combat situation, even more so to players who do not listen 100%. And those are the players we are talking about…

  6. ColoQ says:

    I fully agree with this article.

    I find terrain to be instrumental in memorable fights. Usually, because I make the jobs harder for PCs. Remember that even animal intelligence level creatures realize that choke points or making the terrain difficult for your opponents is important.

    One other key to this is to go with and reward unexpected modifications to terrain. and surroundings, allow players to think outside the box and have it work. One of my players did “earth to mud” on a support column of an aging church. So I went with it: and allowed the weakened column to create a dramatic roof collapse. The resulting cataclysm dropped the big bad and half of his support crew, but who cares? The druid dropped a church on someone.

  7. Swordgleam says:

    Combat description is a big weakness of mine, and my players have trouble with it, too. One thing that helped a lot is the time I ran a couple of combats (with our regular 4e characters) in Wushu to save some time during a very quick session. We switched back to 4e for the climactic encounter, and the players still described their attacks in awesome detail. It was great.

    Creative tactics, on the other hand, they have no problem with. The just don’t always think their cunning plans all the way through.

  8. mfoux says:

    I remember one particularly fun adventure with my old 2e group. In the final battle of the adventure we encountered the evil wizard atop her tower. As she prepared a spell to either smite us or escape, I told the DM my plan. His eyes widened and the dice started to roll. I won initiative and an attack roll, allowing my minotaur fighter to tackle the wizard full force, knocking her from the side of the tower. I knew I had the hit points to survive the fall, so I intended to hold on to her and deal with her at the bottom if she survived.
    Turns out she had a ring of feather falling and a healthy dose of stone skins cast upon herself. If any of you remember how stone skin worked in 2e (and all the creative ways people used to get around it) you know how fun that could be. The DM ruled that the ring would slow us both as long as I was holding on to her. So as we fell slowly, I horrified my DM as by pummeling the wizard against the side of her own tower, knocking off a stone skin with each attack. By the time I touched down softly she was a bloody pulp.
    Not quite the encounter my DM had in mind, but I sure had fun. That’s the kind of stuff we used to do back in the day.

  9. TheWhite says:

    Great tips here. My latest campaign (I commented on my use of Kobolds as a real threat after the articles about gobbos etc being more than fodder) the first encounter that the players had with the Kobolds was in a room with a lot of stalactites on the ground and the kobolds on a ledge about 25ft off the ground firing down on them. Combined with the kobold sorc casting a ghost sound to give the illusion of backups coming gave the players a hell of a time… they used a combo of concealing mist and ghost sound to escape.

    Combos of old traps and enemies make them new. Ye olde invisible bridge is not interesting. A dire bat is not interesting. An Invisible bridge with a dire bat that attacks when the characters get half way across is fairly fun.

    Going back to the whole idea of describing combat I have found that using descriptions as a reward is good. Basically if my players either find a way to defeat an enemy creatively OR if the manage to roll an epic amount of ending damage they get a descriptor chance. For example instead of “congratulations you critical hit that skeleton for 30 damage, he had 5 hp left, he’s dead” I go more along the lines of
    Me: Well, that attack did about 5 times his HP, how’d you kill him?
    Player: Oh, cool, umm, I slam my maul into his shoulder causing his arm to fly into the air, I catch it in mid-air and use his own arm to knock his head off!
    Everyone at the table laughs and thus epic characters are created.

  10. SSveter says:

    I believe it is also up to the players to use their imaginations to help spice up the combat. The game is about telling a good story and combat which is a part of the the roleplaying experience. This is the part where the players can tell their part of the story.

  11. Noumenon says:

    Are you sure this article was by Yax and not Ripper X? The style just seems similar.

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