View Full Version : descriptions of combat

2008-03-07, 11:30 PM
hey guys, by the way I am amazed at the speed of some replies, any who...

when my players are in combat they usually expect some description of what is going on other than the standard you hit, you miss, you take 5 damage,etc... and when i do use descriptions I run out of them faster than _________ (fill in
something that runs out fast here)

so my question is there a generator of some sort that i could use to give me a boat load of descriptions.

2008-03-07, 11:45 PM
I don't know of any, but you could ask them how they are hitting. They are standing in place, moving left and right, jumping and hitting, etc. Your descriptions should be the result of their actions.

2008-03-07, 11:58 PM
have them come up with the descriptions.

2008-03-08, 12:14 AM
I second the above. Perhaps you could give out little bits of XP to encourage them. It's like training a dog.

2008-03-08, 12:47 AM
I like to give out especially maiming descriptions occasionally. For instance, if someone rolls max damage with their longsword for maybe 12 damage total, I might say that they hacked the Hobgoblin's arm clean off. Does the Hobgoblin still have HP left? Yes. Is it in the rules that they can do that? No. But at the end of the day, that Hobgoblin is gonna be dead no matter how you spin it, and the PCs will probably enjoy some extra viscera every now and again. Dismembering the mook is a lot more badass than "You poke him. You poke him. You poke him. He's dead."

Though, don't overdo it. For one, it'd lose its meaning after a while, and for two, they might start wondering why your big important reoccurring villain isn't losing limbs left and right when they roll well.

Miles Invictus
2008-03-08, 01:36 AM
Save your descriptions for significant events.

2008-03-08, 01:44 AM
I've always, as a DM, narrated the overall effect of each turn, whether it's an expert flourish or a overpowered swing that thunks into a tree trunk without hitting it's target.

I think it's just a need to make combat more than a mechanical exercise, a player's damage may be random according to the dice but there are always reasons for it being high or low that can be inserted.

2008-03-08, 10:53 AM
A rogue confirms a critical fumble for near-maximum damage...
He dashes in from the flank, a blur of weathered black leather. Shortsword a streak of silver, he Krei lunges for the gap in the knight's armour, right at the neck.

His blow falls short, however, and skids off the rim of the ironclad warrior's tower shield. Carried by his momentum, Krei's arm bangs painfully against the shield and his nerveless fingers fumble their hold on the hilt and it goes flying into the air, its silvered blade scintillating in the noontide sun.

Mud flies and falls as the ragged rogue stumbles and falls headlong into the mud of the battlefield. Just as he tries to stand, a thunderbolt of steel falls from the heavens and slams into his chest, pinning him to the ground.

The opalstone pommel of the shortsword quivers with the dying breath of its ill-fated wielder. The bloodstained blade meanwhile reflects dully the design on the bottom of the knight's shield... an omega...

2008-03-08, 11:33 AM
one of the people who DM's for me describes every single attack in excruciating detail. most of them are people getting dismembered, or trying to hold in their organs while you chop off their head. im normally a pretty bloodthirsty person (dont take that the wrong way), but these descriptions sicken even me. its one of the main reasons i dont like playing under him. so if youre going to do descriptions, make them vivid, but not overly disgusting.

2008-03-08, 02:28 PM
For inspiration I suggest looking into the critical hit table from either MERP or Rolemaster.

My group does some description but in the interest of speeding things along, only get into the gruesome details for a kill or a crit.

2008-03-08, 02:46 PM
Well, I usually don't have problems with descriptions, to me they're very sense of RPG - what's the point of doing 35 damage to something on 3th level with awesome spear thrust, if GM won't describe it tasty?

However there are always some problems. Aside from evasion in small room without nothing to hide, and other very ocasional things.

I mean crossbows for example. As everyone knows thanks to their ultimately poor design they do rather low damage on low levels and completely ridiculously low damage on high level

And now my player rolls 3 on heavycross damage. Ok I once describe that heavy bolts flies trough air with dangerous speed. Hobgoblin is however quick, or maybe just lucky, bolt only scratches his arm... But how long sratches can happen? Sometimes it had to be direct hit. And I won't tell anything about bolt right trough the chest, if crbow have only about 10 damage (maybe 11 - 13) to deal.

2008-03-08, 05:54 PM
One thing you can do to describe misses is to make a list of all of the different kinds of AC bonus the target has, and let the die roll determine which of those bonuses actually made the difference. I would do it in this order:

Base 10
Luck bonus
Size bonus
Insight/Monk bonuses
Dex/Dodge bonuses
Deflection bonus
Shield bonus
Defending weapon, fighting defensively, and Combat Expertise bonuses
Armor bonus
Natural armor bonus

So, for example, if we have a target that has bonuses of +1 Luck, +1 Size, +3 Dex, +5 Deflection, +4 Armor, +2 Natural Armor:

An attack roll of less than 10 fails due to your own ineptness with your weapon: "You try to swing at the kobold, but you misestimate the balance of your weapon, and you swing wide".

An attack roll of 10 (or a natural 1, regardless of the total roll) fails due to luck: "As you swing at the kobold, you step on a loose bit of gravel, and in regaining your balance, your attack is lost".

An attack roll of 11 fails due to size: "Your sword slices effortlessly through the space where a human's neck would be, right over the kobold's head"

An attack roll of 12-14 fails due to dex: "The kobold nimbly jumps out of the way of your powerful swing".

An attack roll of 15-19 fails due to deflection: "You swing straight and true at the kobold, but as your sword nears its target, an unseen force causes it to veer to the side".

An attack roll of 20-23 fails due to armor: "You manage to get past the kobold's guard, but your sword scrapes harmlessly against the links of his chain shirt".

An attack roll of 24-25 fails due to natural armor: "You manage to slip your sword through a gap in the kobold's armor, but his tough scales turn your blade".

And, of course, a roll of 26 or higher hits (describe the result depending on the damage rolled).

I didn't include bonuses from monk/insight, shield, or defending weapon in this example, but they'd be handled in the same way. Sample descriptions: "Before you can even start your attack, he moves to the side, seemingly knowing where you were going to attack before you did", or "With a resounding clang, your sword crashes against his shield", or "He deftly parries your sword with the blade of his dagger".