PDA

View Full Version : [3.5] Fighting Multiple Opponents

Tacoma
2008-12-12, 03:10 PM
Fighting multiple opponents requires its own set of fighting skills. Maneuverability is much more important, since once you are between two opponents you're basically always getting hit from behind. If you get mobbed, you're screwed.

I'm sure there's some mathematical way to describe the situation. But it's grim. Something like for the fighting value of one opponent vs you, the opponent's fighting value is normal. But add an identical copy of the opponent, and their combined fighting value is greater than twice the value of one opponent alone. And that added value for greater numbers increases faster than linear but not as fast as exponential.

Maybe you could say that rather than existing flanking rules, if one person is attacked in melee by two people at once, both gain +2 to hit regardless of position. If a third joins them, all gain an additional +3 to hit. If a fourth joins, all gain an additonal +4 to hit. So by the time you have four combatants, they're all gaining +9 to hit you.

Yes, it really is that difficult to defend against multiple opponents in reality.

But a feat would reduce the number of people fighting you by one for purposes of the fomula above. So two people gain no bonus, three gain +2 each, and four gain a total of +5 each. The feat can be taken again in Epic, the second feat offering the same effect but they stack.

Or a PrC Crowd Fighter where at 1, 4, 7, and 10 you get a -1 effective opponent (so you can fight 4 with no penalty at 10th level, or 5 and they all get +2 to hit you, etc).

Anyone you attack counts as someone who you are attacking. Anyone attacking you counts as someone attacking you. This seems trivial, but imagine a messy combat where everyone is filtered in throughout everyone else. What matters is not who is near whom, but who is attacking whom that round.

A weakness: So this might require either initiative by group (where each side rolls init and everyone on that side acts at the same time) and/or declaration of actions at the start of the round. Both are something 3E players aren't used to.

In mass combat, we change from talking about a single combatant as our most granular unit to a group of combatants as the most granular unit. A group attacks another group. If two groups attack one group, they could use the same rule system.

This works as a kind of passive "aid another" in the sense that having friends around helps you.

Thoughts?

SurlySeraph
2008-12-12, 03:23 PM
In my opinion, your numbers are a bit high, though not far off. There needs to be an upper limit to outnumbering bonuses; otherwise, small and tiny creatures can swarm and obliterate larger targets. This is bad for the PCs because they tend to fight outnumbered (except against BBEGs and such), and is especially bad for the already-weak frontliner classes, since they'll be surrounded an awful lot more than the casters will be.
Besides, making numbers so effective isn't so great for heroic fantasy. It improves the simulation, but when being surrounded by orcs is a death sentence, it really detracts from the heroic feel.

Tacoma
2008-12-12, 03:36 PM
In my opinion, your numbers are a bit high, though not far off. There needs to be an upper limit to outnumbering bonuses; otherwise, small and tiny creatures can swarm and obliterate larger targets. This is bad for the PCs because they tend to fight outnumbered (except against BBEGs and such), and is especially bad for the already-weak frontliner classes, since they'll be surrounded an awful lot more than the casters will be.
Besides, making numbers so effective isn't so great for heroic fantasy. It improves the simulation, but when being surrounded by orcs is a death sentence, it really detracts from the heroic feel.

Note that a swarm of pixies attacking you is incredibly difficult to fend off.

Yes the PCs tend to fight larger numbers of weaker enemies. This is how it should be. But the PCs can also always summon a bunch of mooks or something to even the numbers though it won't always even the total fighting value.

Casters should be surrounded more often. This follows from the Shark in the Desert principle: where would you rather fight the shark, in the ocean or in the desert? You never fight according to the rules your opponent wants. So if you're running a bunch of ogres and the caster hangs back while the tanks roll up, what do you do? Run past and kill the caster of course.

And being surrounded isn't a death sentence. It makes a mob of weaker monsters able to actually hit a high-AC character, which is their goal anyway. In D&D as it stands, if a single monster can't hit you then 100 creatures will also be unable to hit you even if they all pile on together. Of course only 8 can attack at once unless they have reach, but still.

So say the progression is instead simply +2 per extra creature in the fight rather than some cumulative amount, so eight combatants would each get +14 to hit.

Take the example of a character who completely outmatches his foes: an 8th level fighter being attacked by 8 standard orcs. Previously the DM wouldn't even run this fight, saying the Fighter mopped the floor with the orcs. While they now can hit him sometimes, he just has to survive until his turn when he either Whirlwinds them, Cleave-chains them, or outright kills two if he doesn't have anything worthwhile. Admittedly this rule makes these orcs a huge pain because now they can actually hit him. But he should still be able to survive the fight.

The problem is that in the source material, all our movies and books, enemies tend to hang back and attack one by one. But in the video games and tabletop games, enemies attack normally and so the game has to dumb crowd fighting down or else it can't replicate the source material. I suppose the game isn't trying for realism or verisimilitude at all - it's just trying to let you play Conan or Star Wars.

And if that's cool with you, then stick with the flanking rules. These might be more complex for no real gain in play value. In which case they're not worth it.

Keld Denar
2008-12-12, 03:42 PM
If done right, your wizard, cleric, and bard should be crowd controlling your opposition through the utilization of walls, fogs, and mass disables. The goal is to deliver your foes to your melee meatgrinder 1 at a time, prone, stunned, blinded, and drooling on themselves.

Though not every party has this role covered, not does everyone in this role perform it as effectively as they often should.

I think your idea is realistic, especially in a fantasy literature/movie point of view. In books like Tolkein and movies like, say...13th Warrior, the heros are a pillar of power, cleaving foes 2-3 at a time, but in the face of truely horrifying numbers, eventually the defender gets worn down, surrounded to where he can't keep his guard up, and killed.

While rather realistic, it also creates a large number of extra confusion to what can be an already confusing melee. I can tell you, DMing a couple dozen orcs is pretty tough, and sometimes its hard to remember if a particular unit has already moved or attacked, let alone how many have already attacked a given PC in a round, ESPECIALLY if the orcs have multiple attacks. All the d20 rolls tend to blur together after the 2nd round or so.

In conclusion, neat idea, but short of being used in a computer simulation where countless rules can be calculated in a heartbeat, its right up there with keeping track of armor damage and when you have to take care of your bodily functions. It doesn't add enough to the game to be worth the effort.

EDIT:
There is a feat in Complete Warrior, I believe, called Swarmfighting, which GIVES everyone who takes it similar bonuses to what you discribed. That way, creatures that often fight in swams like Kobalds get the bonus, but things that don't often won't have that kind of math to worry about.

Also, for a swarm of pixies, you could easily create a creature "Pixie Swarm" with mechanics similar to existing swarms with similar strengths and vulnerabilities. Swarms always hit, because there are too many of them to defend against, but their damage tends to be low because of that, depending on CR.

Sstoopidtallkid
2008-12-12, 03:44 PM
Casters should be surrounded more often. This follows from the Shark in the Desert principle: where would you rather fight the shark, in the ocean or in the desert? You never fight according to the rules your opponent wants. So if you're running a bunch of ogres and the caster hangs back while the tanks roll up, what do you do? Run past and kill the caster of course. The issue is reaching the Caster. Ogres are CR 3 non-advanced. For a party to be facing more than 1 or 2, they'll probably have access to 3rd level spells. Grease/Fly/Stinking Cloud/Slow all mean the Ogres are likely not facing the caster at all, let alone ganging up on him.

Eldariel
2008-12-12, 03:49 PM
If you rework the Standard Action Attacks, it's still doable. You can still fight those Orcs, just, being surrounded by them is bad playing and should be punished. Also, you can still survive, it just means that you might actually take damage beyond level ~6 or so. The very first encounter I played in D&D 3.5 involved level 3 characters and about 30 Goblins. After we had killed them all without taking a point of damage (we had a Druid - Entangle FTW), I went kinda "man, this game sucks". You aren't supposed to be able to shrug at a 10 times larger group of anything, no matter how heroic. Of course, in this game, levels are more important than numbers (two levels = needs twice the lower level opponents to really do anything even by CR guidelines, which vastly overestimate masses), but still, fighting surrounded by 9 Orcs should mean that you can't block all their axes and someone catches you in the back, other one in the forehead and so on, while you're able to parry maybe 7 of the 9 in a round.

I think, rules as follows would be good:
-Being flanked from two polarly opposite sides gives +2 (as per normal). Having an additional flanker on the two other sides each gives +1 (so +4 total if you have one opponent in all 4 directions). Easy to keep track of, helps in simulating mass combat and means, mobs can mean trouble.

Additionally, to make being outnumbered in and of itself a bad idea:
-All opponents get +1 for each ally threatening the target.

That would mean that being surrounded at 4 points would mean +7 to attacks (+4 from flanking, +3 from excess opponents). Seems fair to me. If those are low-level mooks, they aren't gonna last, and if they're equally leveled opponents, being surrounded by 4 of them SHOULD screw you up like hell.

Then, fix standard action attacks (allow Full Attack -1 attacks on a standard action, for example), fix AC a bit (give all classes some natural AC progression by levels; say, +1 per 3 levels, or different progressions for different classes if you feel like bothering), remove defensive spellcasting (it's cheating), make 5' steps provoke and you've got a fairly functional melee system.

Draz74
2008-12-12, 04:00 PM
remove defensive spellcasting (it's cheating), make 5' steps provoke and you've got a fairly functional melee system.

In my own little set of houserules, Defensive Casting is still available. But only if you take a feat for it.

Easiest thing to do? Change the Combat Casting feat so it allows defensive casting, instead of giving a Concentration bonus. It's not like anyone took it for that reason, anyway (once they realized that Skill Focus: Concentration would be better).

I'd probably still up the DC's for Defensive Casting, though.

Eldariel
2008-12-12, 04:06 PM
I'd probably still up the DC's for Defensive Casting, though.

That's what I thought at first too, but then I realized that there's no need for Defensive Casting in the first place. In fact, the lack of it is a very important part of keeping casters and non-casters in balance. Right now, nobody without Mage Slayer actually matters even if they get next to the caster. The caster can always make the DC and cast regardless; readied actions mean that the melee fighter gives up his full attack and most of his damage while at it, and the caster probably STILL makes the DC.

In AD&D, there was no defensive casting. There was also no concentration-check - if you took damage while casting, your spell failed. The addition of Concentration is plenty to get spells off while under attack. There's absolutely no need for defensive casting. As long as it's a set DC, it's either useless or too easy to make, as the skill goes up by levels while the DC doesn't.

Draz74
2008-12-12, 04:40 PM
That's what I thought at first too, but then I realized that there's no need for Defensive Casting in the first place. In fact, the lack of it is a very important part of keeping casters and non-casters in balance. Right now, nobody without Mage Slayer actually matters even if they get next to the caster. The caster can always make the DC and cast regardless; readied actions mean that the melee fighter gives up his full attack and most of his damage while at it, and the caster probably STILL makes the DC.

In AD&D, there was no defensive casting. There was also no concentration-check - if you took damage while casting, your spell failed. The addition of Concentration is plenty to get spells off while under attack. There's absolutely no need for defensive casting. As long as it's a set DC, it's either useless or too easy to make, as the skill goes up by levels while the DC doesn't.

Well, frankly, the way I set things out, I'd still laugh at any caster who took the Combat Casting feat, just because it's so rarely needed, and feats are important.

Though making 5-foot-steps provoke opportunity attacks would change that, I suppose.

Eldariel
2008-12-12, 04:49 PM
Well, frankly, the way I set things out, I'd still laugh at any caster who took the Combat Casting feat, just because it's so rarely needed, and feats are important.

Though making 5-foot-steps provoke opportunity attacks would change that, I suppose.

Mostly, I find that Defensive Casting is a buff casters don't need. I don't see a single reason for its inclusion:
-Casters aren't weak.
-Taking damage does not stop you from casting a spell.
-For it to matter, you need to be threatened by an opponent, which in and of itself is quite easy to avoid by a caster.
-There's logically no reason for you to be able to protect yourself while casting a spell. What are you gonna do, move your hands in a pattern to cover your body, and hope your opponent doesn't just cut your hand off?

The other weird AoO-rule is that for some reason, drawing a weapon doesn't provoke an AoO. How the hell do you protect yourself while drawing a weapon?

Tacoma
2008-12-12, 05:13 PM
The issue is reaching the Caster. Ogres are CR 3 non-advanced. For a party to be facing more than 1 or 2, they'll probably have access to 3rd level spells. Grease/Fly/Stinking Cloud/Slow all mean the Ogres are likely not facing the caster at all, let alone ganging up on him.

I get that Wizards are powerful. But mostly they can't adventure all day with Fly or Invisibility up. When they enter the fight, they tend to have long-duration buffs on but not short ones.

And since the Ogres can Run up in the first round, it really comes down to who gets Initiative. If the Ogres go first, they are at the caster which causes a lot of problems for him. If they go after the caster, you might as well stop rolling dice. Just check to see if something stumbles across the encamped party post-fight (again, rolling Initiative to see if the Wizard gets to a safe casting point before the monsters act) and keep marching. Just hand them the treasure list and continue in this manner until you reach the next boss fight.

I think the issue is just that the CR given doesn't represent a challenge for well-designed characters but it is correct for characters who are simple and Core and players who aren't very experienced. So the DM needs to design more difficult encounters of the same CR and also bump the opposition (thereby bumping CR) if the players are experienced.

Given this good DMing style, it's feasible that the Ogres have a higher chance of surprising the party via tactics or equipment, and so get their movement done in the flatfoot round to close to the Wizard reliably. Or that the Ogres attacking the party are slightly tougher (say CR 4 and appropriate stats) which honestly doesn't change much against the Wizard but it helps.

He's give out more treasure and XP according to the CR 4 opposition of course. Which means the characters advance faster, eliminating the need for random encounters that just slow down the game anyway.

EDIT: Also, given that everyone in the world knows a Wizard is a guy in robes hanging out in the back, and everyone knows a Wizard is like a Win card, everyone would either attack Wizards in preferance to all other targets or flee/surrender immediately.

I know I'd personally look at the situation with jealousy, anger, and fear toward the Wizard. One might even call my outlook Anti-Wizard unless I was myself a Wizard. But regardless one less Wizard in the world makes the world a safer and better place, ya know?

Eldariel
2008-12-12, 05:19 PM
Given this good DMing style, it's feasible that the Ogres have a higher chance of surprising the party via tactics or equipment, and so get their movement done in the flatfoot round to close to the Wizard reliably. Or that the Ogres attacking the party are slightly tougher (say CR 4 and appropriate stats) which honestly doesn't change much against the Wizard but it helps.

Ogres alone are too stupid for that, without at least one paragon among them with higher Int/Wis, or some leader who's taught them tactics (I'd imagine, an ogre would naturally just trust in its larger size and assume to simply smash smaller opponents through superior strength and endurance, rather than stalking, hunting or trapping them).

More reasonably, just treat them as base CR 2s (basically all Giants, and in general, physically tough foes, in MM are over-CRd; no way is the Tarrasque as tough as older Dragons, and no way is a Fire Giant, who a level 10 Fighter with just equipment can solo easily, a CR 10 encounter) and have your average Ogre have few levels in a class or another/allies to cover their weaknesses and they'll be far more interesting opponents. Overall, intelligent opponents should generally have at least one class level (replacing their last point of racial HD) unless they're actually children or something.

Tacoma
2008-12-12, 05:47 PM
Ogres alone are too stupid for that, without at least one paragon among them with higher Int/Wis, or some leader who's taught them tactics (I'd imagine, an ogre would naturally just trust in its larger size and assume to simply smash smaller opponents through superior strength and endurance, rather than stalking, hunting or trapping them).

I'd suggest that the Ogres stupid enough to not recognize a Wizard (and certainly many monsters cannot recognize a Wizard in time, like Oozes and Animals and mindless Undead and Constructs) would have already died as a result. After all, every adventuring party has one, right? And these Ogres came from some larger group of Ogres with cultural traditions and wise men, right? Now truly unintelligent creatures as I mentioned might just have not met a Wizard yet. But it seems like any creature who cannot speak Common is pretty much going to die the first time it encounters a Wizard. So maybe the only way the Ogre tribe knows about them is from the occasional Ogre witnessing a complete massacre through the weird-colored smoke.

"If you see a dude skulking in the back, run up and kill him first" isn't too far out of line for an IN 6.

Eldariel
2008-12-12, 07:10 PM
I didn't refer to that - I referred to the ambushes and the like; "advanced" tactics. Ogres and their Int 6 makes them about as smart as your average idiot. Asking a bunch of idiots to device combat strategy, especially when they're fully capable of just mauling most their opponents simply through simple rush at them, isn't like to have them suggest a variety of ambushing/decoy/mislead tactics to you.

That said, depending on how common Wizards, Sorcerers and the like are in the given world and the given part of the world, it may very well be possible that the Ogres have simply not met a spellcaster before, and even if they have, it's fully possible that they're completely incapable of connecting the dots between feeling sleepy/seeing colours and that "guy with a stupid hat waving his arms and speaking funny".

Crow
2008-12-12, 08:02 PM
Take the example of a character who completely outmatches his foes: an 8th level fighter being attacked by 8 standard orcs. Previously the DM wouldn't even run this fight, saying the Fighter mopped the floor with the orcs. While they now can hit him sometimes, he just has to survive until his turn when he either Whirlwinds them, Cleave-chains them, or outright kills two if he doesn't have anything worthwhile. Admittedly this rule makes these orcs a huge pain because now they can actually hit him. But he should still be able to survive the fight.

An eight-level fighter can also dual-wield to potentially kill 4 orcs before any cleaving takes effect.

If you receive multiple attacks, you can resolve the first attack before you begin the second. You can take the 5 foot step during, before, or after these attacks.

Also, I don't see what's wrong with the bad guys using aid another to reflect outnumbering the PC. It works pretty well if you actually use it.