It is impossible to defeat an army of goblins in
5 rounds. It takes at least 6 rounds.
They’re called role-playing games but for most of us the fun part is killing stuff. Why else would computer games like World of Warcraft get millions of players? Because they got rid of most of the role-playing and kept all the monster bashing.
Fights break out all the time in the world of Dungeons & Dragons but they never last long – about 5 rounds according to this article about the monster creation process. The article mentions a concept that some DMs use intuitively – the threshold. The threshold is the moment in combat when the monster changes its strategy. When it’s almost dead, a monster will attempt to flee, go berserk, dance a polka, whatever. Makes sense. But Wizards proposes abilities tailored around the threshold. I think it’s a good idea and it should keep players on their toes.
18 ways to make fights last longer
Anyhow, 5 rounds for an entire combat is not nearly enough. So here is 18 ways to increase combat duration in your D&D campaign:
- Fudge monster hit points. If the PCs are nowhere near death adding a bunch of hit points to the opponent will make things interesting.
- Low monster damage. If the PCs don’t take much damage they can fight longer. This is great in combination with tip #3.
- Don’t give the PCs any – or weak – offensive magic item. If they can’t deal a lot of damage the fights will last much longer.
- High monster AC. It is much more rewarding – and much longer – to kill a creature you can barely hit.
- High PC AC. This works for the PCs too. If you want them to fight for a long time you’ve got to keep them alive.
- Easy way to hide but no way to run. The monsters have an easily accessible place t0 hide and regroup but no place to run. The PCs can also have a similar resource. Kind of a reciprocal ambush situation.
- Reinforcements. Let the enemy come in waves. The PCs don’t face much risk when they face only a handful of weak opponents at once but the monsters just keep coming.
- Feeble mobs. If you have a bunch of high-level characters in the party, let them have fun and slay an insane amount of mindless zombies. Always fun.
- Fort siege. Set up a siege with attacks coming from infantry, siege towers, catapults, tunnels under the walls, flying mounts, you name it. Just keep it coming.
- Army fight. This could be part of a fort siege. The PCs take part in a chaotic melee outside the castle walls.
- Regenerating monsters. Aren’t trolls great?
- The monster cannot be killed. Give a usually easy opponent an immunity to your party’s main strengths. It’s not nice but your PCs don’t need to know they didn’t stand a chance! Be careful not to kill your whole party.
- Summon more monsters. Let the enemy summon monsters halfway through the fight (that’s a threshold ability!).
- Mirror image. I still remember the first mage I faced in my very first game as a player. I still hate that spell to this day.
- Split the party. They can still be on the same map, all fighting at once, but unable to collaborate. That could possibly reduce their fighting skills enormously.
- Allow easy healing for PCs. Potions, hidden cleric backup, band-aids for the PCs so they can take on a tough opponent or a large number of enemies and take a lot of damage without dying.
- Time stop. If a wizard anywhere in the world casts time stop, your fight just got a little longer!
- Improvize. This is essential and could / should be combined with any technique you choose to use.
Let me know if this stuff works for you or if you have fought epic battles before. 10 rounds? Easy. 25 rounds? I don’t think I’ve ever managed 25. 50 rounds? Any comments, suggestions and stories are welcome.