View Full Version : Challenging Player tactics

2008-01-22, 11:11 PM
This coming weekend my DM will be out of town. He suggested that the players get together and challenge each other, each player presenting a situation that the rest need to work through to learn how to work better together. I'm somewhat stumped as what to do; I could throw together a monster that could kill them hands down (most are green players and I've some game time under my belt), but this seems fruitless. I thought about running them through the Tomb of Horrors, but I don't think I'll have the time to do so and reap any tactical benefits that I think it would give. Therefore, I'm a bit at a loss as to how to challenge them. I could set them against a wizard villian, since we have next to no experience as a group fighting magic users, but this doesn't seem to be important for a while (the DM has let it drop that magic user villians are a ways off.) Frankly, I don't think that we have a tactics problem, aside from everyone saying we have a tactics problem. The worst problem seems to be that people aren't willing to leave the roles they want to play (we have a player that favors rogue or rogue multiclassing every time he rolls up a new character when we desperately need something that deals massive damage.) How can I challenge them without either killing them flat out or doing something that isn't really relevant?

Party Make-up:

1 5th-lvl Swashbuckler/1st-lvl Rogue

1 2nd-lvl Rogue/4th-lvl Fighter (our best damage dealer)

1 6th-lvl Sorcerer

1 6th-lvl Cleric (me, vow of peace, etc. going for Radiant Servant of Pelor)

1 2nd-lvl Wizard/3rd-lvl Rogue (new character)

1 5th-lvl Bard (new character, completely green player)

2008-01-22, 11:49 PM
You don't necessarily need to do something particularly challenging, just something they haven't seen before. Here are a couple favorites that I've thrown at players:

Orcs kidnap someone, flee on river raft. One player jumped on to the raft, the others fought the orcs left on the shore. This led to the group splitting and the raft floating off towards a cliche waterfall. In general, splitting up the group like this forces them to come up with new tactics.

I had a chase scene through a mine. In addition to various athletics checks, the players had to deal with an enemy who had a variety of tricks up his sleeve. Obscuring mist at a fork in the road, missing scaffolding boards, and finally a swan boat feather token down the mountain for his getaway. This one had a lot of chasms to jump and ropes to climb. Some characters made it up easily but the others needed help. The group had to not only pass each challenge, but they had to figure out if it was worth ditching slower members to keep up.

Most recently, I had a hundred kobolds attack the players. The kobolds were after a 7 year old boy who the PCs defended in an abandoned tower. The tower had 3 different layers. The game started with the players defending the outer wall, so the kobolds used spider climb to get around. Then the PCs holed up in the tower, with the mages on top using a ballista and firing off spells. Fog cloud made them move inside. Eventually shatter took out some of the windows so the kobolds could get in.

There's a common theme in these scenarios. Two actually. The first is that the group has to split up. Everyone knows what to do in a mage, tank, rogue, healer party. But if you go mage/tank and rogue/healer suddenly each player has new tasks. They have to adapt. The other thing that was going on in each of these is that setting changed. The first one took place all along a river. The next was a wild ride through a mountain. In each case I never stopped drawing on the battlemap. The last one started out with the PCs blocking a number of choke points and as they got overrun the relevant portion of the map shrunk. It's all about putting your players in situations they haven't seen before so that they have to think. And as soon as they figure out what to do, shake it up a little. This reflects my motto in GMing: Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question.

2008-01-23, 12:14 AM
Don't forget classic dead by dawn. Chase your PC's into a tavern, give them a day to build what defenses they can then throw unending zombie swarms at them during the night.

At six level is is acutally spot on, because the magic users have to save up their spells for when it's needed, and if they fail to come up with several backup plans they end up as zombie food. Toss in Shadows and a Necromancer for added fun since walls and barriers won't stop them near as easy as massive undead hordes.

Defending someplace for X time, or it's reverse assaulting a stronghold with a set-time limit can lead parties to work much better togther.

2008-01-23, 01:03 AM
I like both of these options. On the one hand, splitting them up sounds like a good idea. Our leader would have difficulties without the input of a few other players he relies on heavily and most of the players start panicking if I'm not around with healing spells (thanks to them playing a number of MMOs.) I could design a dungeon scenario that revolved around a trap that divides the party. I also like the second suggestion because the party seems to blow through resources per day (i.e. spells) way too quickly. I also like it, admittedly, because I greatly enjoy the Zombie Apocalypse setting elsewhere on this forum. I would be tempted to try to run them through an rapid version of that setting, but I would worry that it would take too much of the night (supposedly, everyone will have a scenario to put the others through.)

2008-01-23, 10:24 AM
Have the party face a group of lower-level NPC's that themselves use effective tactics.

Example: You field a group of Elven Scouts against the heroes. The scouts use longbows, attempt to maintain distance (using their superior speed), and use available cover. Once they identify a spellcaster, one of their number readies his attack actions to interrupt, and so on. Mind that the Longbow doesn't have a range of 100 - it has a range increment of 100. It can be fired from 2000 feet away (though 200-400 is a more reasonable combat range).

2008-01-23, 10:38 AM
For something simple and fast drop a berserk clay golem on them. Put them in a small town and let them try to stop it.

Make sure you read the DR rules and construct traits first. Don't describe it as a golem right off the bat, make them figure it out. And don't tell them it's weaknesses, at best a 25 knowledge arcane or bardic check would give them a decent description but no specifics.

The big benefit here is that they don't have a straight up tank to soak hits and deal heavy damage every round and it's immune to most damaging spells. Since it is normally a CR 10 encounter you could probably knock off half it's hit points and/or play up it's zero intelligence score. It should be rather battered from the combat that drove it berserk anyways. A really creative party would probably lure it to a pit or well and drop it in, or collapse a burning building on top of it.

How much of a problem it is will also depend on how close to core you're playing. The Spell Compendium has lots of no-SR damage spells in it, that's probably the worst offender but unless the sorcerer and bard are heavy into Sonic Orb type spells it won't be too bad. And in that case just make sure the thing has enough HP left to drain out the spells and still be dangerous.

2008-01-23, 10:39 AM
In my experience, I've found that the best way to show a group how they need to work together is to throw that group against themselves. I'd suggest "dopplegangers" of each character, exactly. For a bit of an extra challenge, throw a few more hit-points, a different feat, or just do what you think would have made any certain character a bit more optimal. They'll want to go after the look alikes of themselves, just like the Ninja Turtles always did. Unless there are some good/bad luck rolls going around, the battle will be pretty even until somebody figures out that they need to gang up on them, or mix things up.

Yep, mirrors are always a good way to look at yourself.

2008-01-23, 11:15 AM
Frankly, I don't think that we have a tactics problem, aside from everyone saying we have a tactics problem. The worst problem seems to be that people aren't willing to leave the roles they want to play (we have a player that favors rogue or rogue multiclassing every time he rolls up a new character when we desperately need something that deals massive damage.) How can I challenge them without either killing them flat out or doing something that isn't really relevant?

Sounds simple enough to me.

Create a challenging encounter for a group of your party's level and composition.

Before you start playing, redistribute the players' character sheets. As best you can, make sure they are all playing characters that are well outside their normal comfort zones.

The idea, here, is that they will hopefully discover how characters of other classes can assist characters of their preferred classes, or vice versa. "You want your regular character to do well? See what you can do with this character to help them."

Maybe that will give them some ideas on teamwork.

2008-01-23, 02:37 PM
Anything that changes the objective of combat from "kill the monster before it kills you" to something else is sufficient to mix things up. Ideas:
-Defense, Blackadder's zombie scenario is in this category. Have them prepare for a massive attack that they know is coming and withstand it for a prolonged period of time rather than have any hope of defeating it.
-Protection, Telok Clay Golem is certainly a danger to all the townsfolk. The sooner you destroy it the less people are hurt. If you can convince the masses of commoners to come to your aide, you have a power ally.
-Rescue. Someone is being held hostage or being executed, so your goal is first to free the captive than to defeat them monsters with them making it out a live. I had an NPC friend of their being drawn and quarters by horseback bandits when the PCs arrived. They had to stop the horses or cut the chains before the bandits pulled their friend apart. A princess in a cage or a noble with a knife to his throat works wonders too.
-Command. You receive the aid of twenty some soldiers about two or three levels lower whom you have to use effectively to defeat your foe, while sustaining minimal casualties.
-Tasks. The monster is either defeated or seriously weakened by performing some task while it is attacking you. Destroy the "power orbs" to shut off the nigh invulnerable golem. Kill the flagbearer to break troop moral. Set up the traps to spring a net on the owlbear that we want captured alive.
-Hazards. The terrain is dangerous and the monster uses it to its advantage. A classic battledome with traps that the rogue easily avoids. A snow monste taking full advantage of the snow cover and the slipper mountain slope. Tucker's Kobolds (http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/).