Gaming My Way

21 Oct

Five Ways to Spice up Battles in Your Roleplaying Games

Sometimes, battles in roleplaying games can just get to be bland after awhile. In order to prevent this, there are quite a few things you can do. Here are a few to get you started.

1) Change the weather. This sounds stupid, but the weather, if described well rather than ignored, can really help set the mood of a battle. Some weather can even effect the battle, such as heavy snow or fog restricting vision, or strong winds making it harder to move or fire arrows at opponents. Guns likely won’t be effected much, but it might be harder to aim with the wind trying to bowl you over. Also, there’s nothing wrong with introducing a cliche in your game once in awhile, such as the thunderstorm to go with entering into the mad wizard’s (or mad scientist’s) evil fortress.

2) Change the location from a flat grid to a location that mixes things up. Volcanoes, rope-bridges over lava, on ice, that kind of thing. Check out some of these suggestions for battle locations you can use in your game. The idea is to avoid the usual two dimensional, steady movement thinking that is common in many battles. If you can slip and slide, fall or push enemies over cliffs, climb, jump, and hide in the middle of battle, it adds more options to combat, and allows your players more room for creativity.

3) Use some enemies that aren’t standard. For example, if you’re using a system like D&D, don’t always use creatures stock from the Monster Manual. Give an occasional stat boost or extra power to a creature in a position of power. If you play World of Darkness, give the enemy vampire a little extra something in the form of a power not commonly seen in a given type of vampire, or change their description in some way. The idea is to make sure your players can’t guess everything based on previous knowledge of the game, which will keep them on their toes in battle, and not making decisions based on what they read about a creature in the book. Even better, create your own monsters once in awhile and fit them into your game world.

4) Create new battle scenarios. Maybe the villain has a hostage, and you can’t just charge right in as is all too common in many rpgs. You might have to negotiate a release first, or find a way to distract him long enough for a sneaky character to sneak up and force a release. Perhaps you’re doing battle in a magically constructed area, and using any kind of area dispelling or Mordenkainen’s disjunction will cause the battle ground to fall apart. Perhaps there’s an antimagic field that covers half the battlefield, which makes positioning even more important, since good positioning could negate all magic used on you.

5) Use and vary tactics. Some creatures are stupid, and for them, charging in waving a club is a valid option. Some creatures are supposed to be highly intelligent, and may have well laid plans. If you use these intelligent creatures often, and play them well, they can provide a much higher level of challenge and engagement. By forcing the players to think, it engages them in the battle more, and makes it less bland all on it’s own. In fact, for the sake of keeping the game interesting, it might be worth it to have dumb creatures use tactics sometimes if it’s an important battle. On the other hand, having a creature stand and fight no matter what can be daunting in it’s own right if players are used to enemies fighting tactically. After all, if it’s still standing and fighting, it must still be feeling good about it’s chances for success, and that can make players nervous sometimes. Also, having an enemy that actually is capable of doing this might force your players to discover new tactics, which can be fun as a variation on the normal battle.

The main point here is to change things around often. Sometimes this can be in little ways, other times it can be in big ways. All the changes create variety, and will keep players more engaged in your game. More engagement can lead to better roleplaying scenarios, and even if it doesn’t, it will keep the game more interesting for everyone involved.

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