New DM tips

Hey Veeky Forums, I've recently started running a D&D game for some friends but I've never done anything like this before so I thought id make a dm advice thread in the hopes that myself and others can improve themselves for the benefit of the players who have to watch us find our footing.

The most glaring issue im having is combat. As soon as a fight breaks out progress slows to a crawl, and I can see that my players lose interest. Some of this can be attributed to everyone being new, but I get the sense im doing something wrong. Would lowering enemy hp from the MM help with this?

General tips and pitfalls welcome too.

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It's most probably the game. Seriously. Most older games are just slow as fuck during combat.

Turn limits keep players on their toes. Give each player 30 seconds to choose their action or else they skip it.

Yeah I've been hounding them to be quick with their turns and they're considerably less indecisive each week. I will probably enforce a turn timer though as it seems and effective solution.

What game system are you playing?

My main fear though is that im just not making combat interesting. I do my best with being descriptive, but im not too sure how else to make fights interesting.

D&D 5e. Running the adventurers league season 3 stuff and just changing things around to make it a more coherent story .

Do you go rules lite. rules heavy, or somewhere in between?

>What game system are you playing?
>OP literally says it as the ninth word of his post.

And they say Veeky Forums is the smartest board.

Closer to lite I would say

>And they say Veeky Forums is the smartest board.
We are. You're now aware that /pol/ is the single most heavily trafficked board on the site, and that the smartest board isn't all that high of a hurdle.

because 3.5 and 5 play exactly the same

for me rule 1 of DMing is to always remember that you are you are having a running race with a 3 year old.
you want them to think you're trying to win, that you're 'just' pulling ahead, but darn! they overtook you and won.
if you get what I'm saying

I halved the health and upped the damage of most monsters, making fights short but incredibly lethal. I also tend to send them up against 1 or 2 big monsters instead of a load of mooks.
but as rule if we go 2 or more seasons without anyone getting a crippling injury they'll start moaning that it's too easy. your group may feel different.

eg: last session they fought and killed a wraith. by getting the Druid to cast heat metal on the paladins armour and having him stand inside it, when he ran out of smites and the thing was still kicking. this did however knock the paladin into the red, but he made the save and came out of it with some cool scars.

Ah, yes I get you. Good analogy.
And yeah, less hp and more damage is something I'll try out tommorow when I run our weekly game to see how it goes.

In terms of maps for combat do you have any suggestions. Should I just throw any old functional mess together with some cover thrown here and there generally? For tommorows session I have a big arena drawn up with various trick ladders, towers and other obstacles. Depending on how that goes will probably determine the frequency at which i decide to put real effort into a map.

>for me rule 1 of DMing is to always remember that you are you are having a running race with a 3 year old.
>you want them to think you're trying to win, that you're 'just' pulling ahead, but darn! they overtook you and won.

Then the players eventually notice, and then realize they don't have to put as much effort in. I played a Pathfinder game once where I deliberately played a lazy gunslinger who didn't give a fuck. The GM was annoyed, but still carried me through the adventure path without a word, and I got the same XP as everyone else. Didn't even have to lift a finger apart from "attack/roll dice."

Always give the players the impression that they're being challenged during combat or other danger-scenarios. Don't force them into bullshit or unfair scenarios, but make sure they feel that pressure from time to time. It encourages your players and makes them more enthusiastic to push against the odds if there's something difficult in the way. And when they do overcome it, they'll get a great feeling of satisfaction.

Rule #1 for combat

Making combats specifically against what your players are best at is inherently asshole-ish. If a player revolves their entire character around a specific thing, don't go out of your way to make that thing shittier, just because it is strong. They wont have fun while you do it.

I played a summon based druid in dnd 3.5. It was low levels so I didn't have a lot of spells or wildshape yet, but my spells were fairly powerful for my level. The DM threw lots of enemies that could grapple me down against me, and I was mostly ineffective against that.

Summoning was also very powerful in low levels, and the DM realized this, so whenever I summoned, I would have to use a move action to command only one animal at a time. The other animals would "act naturally" which means cower in fear of my enemies, doing nothing.

If you screw your players over because you think they are too powerful, they will NOT have a good time. EVER.

Rule #2 extends from this rule.
Have combat where everyone can shine every once in a while. If the players feel useful, they feel good about themselves, so they have fun.

One player is good at tripping, making him impossible to fight in a 1v1 situation, when the enemy is a medium sized melee character. Put a large "Boss" character that is hard to trip, but surround him with easy to trip mooks. Give your player something to do, even when he is being countered. The party will appreciate the player and understand his contribution to the combat.

Rule #3
Don't have too much bland, "everyone is on equal ground, just beat at each other" type combat.
Have high grounds, low grounds, difficult terrain, cover, etc. Guerrilla warfare is much more fun than marching two armies against each other face to face.

Flying enemies with aerial cover they cant reach under.

Set a timer. If they won't choose their action within like 3 minutes or less then just have them do a basic action they choose as their standard beforehand. Everyone should be planning their turn BEFORE THEIR FUCKING TURN as everyone else makes their own. As things play out they modify and alter their plan, but it should remain easily adaptable to a few minute time limit. An encounter in D&D taking more than an hour or so for less than 5 rounds is proof that something's going wrong I've found, haven't worked out the timing for other games to that level, though.

Not sure why everyone is giving you advice on how speed up combat and all of that when it seems like the most obvious problem is that your players aren't into combat all that much in the first place.

I'm pretty confident that the problem you've got is that your players are not that familiar with the system and they want to do combat perfectly, i.e take no hits and kill everything as effectively as they can. In order to do this they spend a lot of time discussing what actions they should take, where they should move etc. right? So the combat takes forever and when its not their turn they kind of just stand there and if the player contributes its along the lines of "uhh if I stand here I can block the door and attack that orc and then John can lay on hands Phil without getting opportunity attacks", when what you'd prefer is 'Arrgh I charge at the doorway and slash at the orc while yelling out at Sir Orbudsman "I'll hold em off yer just get that Wizard on his feet"' or whatever, right?

Well for starters you might want to consider that your players are not interested in a combat game, and more interested in a strategist game. I'm not saying break out Risk or anything, what I mean is that your players want to sit down and make plans to achieve some goal. I've DMed a group who were offhandedly given a deserted island as a quest reward and they pretty much dropped everything to work out how they can form a commercial enterprise and turn the island into a revenue generator. Maybe that's what your party wants instead of combat, it might be worth retooling your campaign to be less focused on combat and more on other things to overcome.

Say for example they want to go explore a dungeon and get the legendary chalice or whatever, well how about instead of having 5 fights in the dungeon just outside of two you have 2 but put the dungeon up on widows peak, a dangerous mountain where to just march up will surely cause their deaths. If they want to climb the mountain they'll need to come up with a plan on how to get there. Give them different avenues, maybe a wizard has a scroll of teleportation and he might trade it for some promises of loot, maybe some dwarves are planning to scour the mountain looking for mineral veins and they might be willing to help them climb, maybe some locals know and easier route.

So instead of spending time coming up with the same old combat strategies live a 5 v 1 game of 40k, your players are coming up with unique plans and strategies every session.

But if you still want a combat focused games here's some stuff you can do to make it more exciting.

-Get rid of the battle map and narrate the combat if you can. This way the players don't get bogged down in the minutiae of the rules and will react more like they are in a real fight.
-let enemies run away when it's obvious that they've lost the fight. Why would a couple of goblins hold their ground after a dozen of their fellows have fallen? Mopping up weak enemies is boring.
-Give every player a focus in combat. Give them something to do (which doesn't always have to be attacking). Door to unlock, scrolls to decipher, heavy things to push out of the way.
-Don't be afraid to box the players in. When their backs are against the wall the fight gets a lot more intense.
-Mix up the terrain and the features of the combat. Put in traps, cover, weather, civilians.


So you just sat there doing nothing?

-When it's a players turn don't say 'Okay Jim, your turn', put some effort into it and make it more dramatic and say something like "the kobold's blade drips with your blood as it cackles it's heinous laugh at your wounding. The arrows from up on the ridge continue to rain
down around you and in the corner of your vision you see your friend the bard has been knocked down. What do you do?"
-Make the combat important the plot. Don't make the majority of combat just some bad guys hanging around in a dungeon. Give them a reason to be where they are and give them a reason to be killed. Those goblins, they're not encounter #3 with 100 gold pieces and longsword +1 for a reward, they're the goblins who raided the town last night and killed the party's horse while they were off meeting the king. Those orcs are part of Red Claw's army and they have knowledge of a secret route through the mountains and must be stopped before they return to their liege. Those kobold's are part of a cult who stole an inert dragon egg for the grand wizard etc etc.
-Make combat threatening and dangerous. It's a fine line between being too hard and just right and it takes practice and knowledge of the rules but it should be something you try to improve all the time.
-Start combat off differently. Not all fights are going to be a room with bad guys on one side and the party on the other. use ambushes, attacks from behind, reinforcements coming in from the sides/behind, have trusted people betray the party, have flying enemies swoop down, things like that.

But like I said before, maybe consider how much combat your game has and if it really needs that much.

Three kinds of gamemasters video

30 seconds is downright evil. Try 3 minutes instead. It's a tad bit more forgiving. I'm fucking old, user. It takes me that long to decide how much creamer I want in my coffee. Be reasonable, man!
mfw I have to make up my mind quick and I'm playing a caster

>Implying the answer isn't always GREASE

>My main fear though is that im just not making combat interesting. I do my best with being descriptive, but im not too sure how else to make fights interesting.
Give the enemies at least one note personalities.
Five goblins, one is brave, one is timid, one is stupid, two are buddies.
Flavor their actions with these traits.
Put almost no effort into this, like maybe five seconds of thought per enemy.
But when you mentally refer to them as Brave, Timid, Stupid, Bud, & Bro, instead of Goblin 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5, it can really make for more interesting actions.

Also, remember to use the environment, tables, furniture, rocks, trees, water, etc.

Several things can be done. If the game is slowing down because of game mechanics (too many enemies, rolling too often), move them as groups and use averages for certain effects (damage over time, aura damage).

If the game is slowing down because the players take forever, use an action-reaction method of describing turns.

>action reaction
When it's a players turn, tell them what's going on.
>You just saw Azrat light the minotaur on fire, meanwhile two beastmen are advancing towards you with their weapons ready.

Instead of saying
>Azrat is done. Alright, Wesker it's your turn.

This way, the player is drawn into the moment and is often more inclined to act swiftly. The beastmen are advancing towards me? I better jump up besides Azrat and ready an action to attack the first bastard to get within range.

If you foresee yourself getting angry with someone or falling out with them due to their behavior when playing. Kick them imediately while you're still calm and coherent, don't let problem players fester.

Also, don't make the enemies fight to the bitter end. A sapient being tries to flee or surrender when it's hurt enough, and only mindless creatures like undead or golems should stand their ground until the last hit point. In OD&D the monsters had to make morale checks to see if they break and flee when they lost half their hit points or half of their group was dead, for example.

This is all great stuff guys. Feeling a lot better about running tonight's game, thanks!