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What do you get when you have combat veterans playing in your game?

Written by Expy - Published on January 14, 2009

This is a guest post by Scott D. Sveter – Thanks Scott!

Q. What do you get when you have combat veterans playing in your game?

A. MOD-T (Military Operations on Dungeon Terrain)

A couple of months ago I had the great fortune to run a game with some fellow veterans. Thing were going great. Character generation was cool; we had one of each core class and so on. The baddies were chilling inside the room behind a closed door. The rogue checked the door and gave the all clear. This is when everything clicked; the party set up a four man stack in the passage and the thief opened the door. It was beautiful; the first fighter went into the room pushing hard to the left, the second to the right, the ranger and cleric taking the center positions. The four drow warriors inside were blasted and sliced to bits in inside of 2 rounds. Flawless victory!

The keys to their success were not that they were way cool or powerful but the tactics are combat proven and sound. The party discussed how they were going to enter the room right before breaking the door. The rogue checked the door for traps; he also listened and unlocked the door. On a count he opened the door and the assault force entered clearing the room of nastiness.

Entering and clearing a room may sound complicated but it really isn’t. The important thing to remember is that not all monsters will go down on the first hit, but a well prepared plan of attack can put the hurt on them.

The breaching method goes in a simple logical order. It’s important to remember to use your element of surprise to gain a numerical and maneuver advantage over the room occupants.

What follows is an easy step by step method to do this:


Plan the entry and clearance of a room beforehand. It is often necessary to plan such assaults on the fly, so keep in mind a few key points: who will get the door open and how, who enters the room and in what order, and who will stay outside to cover the entry team.

Step 2

Breech the door to the room. You can breech a door by kicking it down, knocking it down with a sledge hammer, blowing it up with a spell. Ideally, you will only use as much force as is necessary to breech a door.

Step 3

Tell the number one person to enter the door with her weapon at eye level, both of her eyes opened. Be prepared to attack. She will move with her back against the wall looking across the room and look for bad guys.

Step 4

Have your number two person enter and go the opposite way through the door he will take up the secondary point of dominance and will cover all of the room you couldn’t see in your sweep.

Step 5

Any other teammates now enter, and without getting into anyone else’s line of fire, they move along the wall and take up spots equidistant from the number one and two man.


The one man asks if everyone is up. Members of the team will respond in the affirmative if they are certain their sector is clear. If there are more doors to other rooms in the building the leaders will now plan an action to clear that room.

As you dungeon delvers get better at the basics then tweak your breaching techniques to adjust for changes in room shape, size, or nature of beastie. The addition of arcane and divine power cuts both way so beware.

Last but not least – healing

Lastly the number one guy is usually the one who gets it most often, so show him some love with the healing. They’ll crash doors more confidently knowing you got their back.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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9 Responses to “What do you get when you have combat veterans playing in your game?”
  1. Questing GM says:

    I had always imagine an adventure party in the dungeon can operate very much like a modern day SWAT team and that we could always use a few pointers or two from their tactics.

  2. Viriatha says:

    Combat vets are a real trip as players. They’re best in Cyberpunk type games, I always thought.

  3. AlphaDean says:

    No matter when we play its a blast. I’m a combat vet myself and I’m usually the DM. So its gets to fun when I have my tactically sound kolbolds or my Orc search and destroy forces. My players get nervous if they have to fight Gnolls in tall grass. But as a player boy do I really get to have fun.

    In one game we had an eight man party consisting of two rangers with Heart Bows.
    Two Sorcerers, A rogue, a druid, a cleric and a Barbarian. We were facing 3 Ice Manticores (a creature created for the campaign) The rangers took up crossfire positions and began peppering the beast with arrows. Of course the beast take flight but there is a suprise waiting for them in the form of levitating sorcerers with wands of fire.
    Our rouge laid a fire trap as the magic wielders forced the beast to the ground and the druid changed the rock to mud and that was all the Barbarian needed to make paste of the beast with his great maul…al the while the cleric was bolstering the party with healing, aid, and buffing spells. It was great

  4. TheLemming says:

    Excellent posting, honestly
    while I’ve to admit that I have not special regard for anyone doing military service (or having done so is something I hardly admire…) – it was a clearly constructive posting, and I further have to admit that it was one of the things always amiss at our table – no matter whether Shadowrun or D&D (or something else ) was played, the characters hardly ever talked before entering – and tactics are mostly foreign to them / us.
    Thanks a lot for sharing that one!

  5. anarkeith says:

    I play with a number of former military folks, some of whom have seen combat. They make great team leaders and it is fun as a DM (without combat experience) to watch them solve problems. I have massive respect for them, and I appreciate what they do and have done (even when we disagree about the politics behind it.)

  6. Moki says:

    I suppose using real-world urban combat tactics would make sense in certain situations, but unless your party has some sort of in-game military experience or the characters worked it out as a team beforehand, that sort of thing is awfully OOCly in my opinion. I fear a wizard PC who just randomly knows how to magically set a shape charge to breach a fortified door… “What exactly are they teaching you guys at the Magic Academy?!”

  7. rofl says:

    Well I think it’s safe to assume that most rogues/warriors/wizards/hunters/rangers etc. etc. would have enough combat experience to think this sort of stuff up. While it can be a huge help in many situations, it’s not necessarily the most complex stuff in the world :P

    And yes, I do admit that I might feel that way after watching action movies. But to ignore basic stuff you know like that is even worse than going OOC in my opinion. Making the game fun is what it’s all about!

  8. Ash Freeman says:

    This reminds me of a similar tactic one of my groups worked out, how to control a bottleneck. Instead of tac-sweeping a room, you have your rogue check the door and back up, then let your toughest fighter open it. The stacking is thus: You have your fighter take front with a melee weapon, and position a healer(preferably a Paladin) behind him with a reach weapon like a longspear. Then behind your healer you have your best archer with Precise shot picking off ranged attackers. This is ideal for a 5′ wide hallway. Alternately if there’s at least 15′ of width to work with, you can surround the 5′ in front of the doorway with three different meleers, and let your precise shooters and reach attackers move where it seems best to them. Here the healer is free to move around and take care of those most in need. Works exceptionally well against all kinds of melee attackers, especially the stupid ones who’ll just keep coming and coming.


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