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  1. - Top - End - #61
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But, for everyone else, do you feel that having troops die is educational, or no?
    Educational for what:
    Learning how to manipulate the rules of a simulation?
    Learning how to command troops in battle?

    There is a scene in a novel where a character with a military background who reminisces how he taught some academics how to wargame during a space trip and how by the end of the trip he was appalled by their disregard for casualties.

    I have certainly learned how to sacrifice cardboard counters to beat multiple sets of game rules, and in the process not have any emotional attachment to said cardboard counters.
    And I could translate that to having no emotional attachment to a sheet of paper with numbers on it.
    I also happened to learn some tactics along the way.

    But that was me, with several years of wargaming experience, and then another couple of decades while playing D&D before 3E was released and I began encountering large numbers of people without any such bakcground.

    More to the point, could those who cannot learn by having troops die… actually learn? Are there significantly better learning methods to teach those who don't care, or who are inherently tactically inept, than experience?
    Given the number of professionals - doctors, lawyers, and such - I encountered with zero tactical ability, I would have to say "yes", they could actually learn. Just not tactics.
    That also extends to mid-level professionals, craftsmen, and the like.
    All with skills, knowledge, and expertise that would leave me scratching my head, while my tactical acumen, game system knowledge, personal library, and such left them awed.

    My point is, some people demonstrably *did* learn through meat grinders. So they cannot reasonably be argued to be ineffective at teaching tactics through experience.
    No one said it is not ineffective.
    People are just noting that many who did had a different entry background to the hobby, that not everyone will enjoy that method, and . . .

    Some people, however, did not learn, as I am all too aware (and my account name is a constant reminder of that fact). Would a significant portion of the set of people who would not learn tactics through experience learn them through other techniques?
    Some people just do not care to learn tactics.
    Or they are just never going to be that competent at tactics.
    Or they do not have the time to invest to learn tactics, particularly in a context of a social gaming environment like an RPGA Living Campaign.
    Or any of a number of other reasons.

    As it goes, I have taught many people a particular group of skills that involve tactics unrelated to gaming.
    A few are exceptional.
    Some are pretty decent.
    Most are barely adequate, including the great majority who just plain quit before getting very far.
    I have employed multiple techniques in teaching them, with anecdotes that would take dozens of post to detail, and among the constants have been:
    You cannot teach someone who does not care to learn;
    Such people can still be quite pleasant to hang out with.

    I am a wargamer.
    I love me some hardcore tactical games with the dice and casualties flying fast and furious.
    I love crushing an opponent at them.
    I love being crushed because I meet someone just plain better than me.
    And I also like hanging out and socializing with people over some role-playing with rules and deaths handwaved with gratuitous abandon in favor of crafting a memorable experience and legendary tales to bore the daylights out of any innocent bystanders with trap into listening to them.
    The two extremes are in no way incompatible for me, and looking at a lot of other replies, in no way incompatible for many people.

  2. - Top - End - #62
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zerryzerry View Post
    A way to help them is to make a kind of "what can you do" reminder on the first page of the charachter's sheet. All my PNGs I gave ready (and are truly a lot) have a bright yellow post-it on it with everything they can do (except spells) to get a quick reference in combat, especially if i have not used that particular PNG in a long time.
    You can adapt this to your players. Get them a post-it with the things they can do, all toghether in a bright, easy accessible place.
    I have been doing something similar recently, both to help a player who has me design his characters for him so he can play different things and expand his role-playing experience, and for two players from a group from 20 years back who wanted to play again.

    I did it slowly, but I have gradually expanded the entries on their character sheets to detail their various options, including spells, so they can more easily recognize their choices.

    It was very time consuming as I made the changes and upgraded things the first time, but once in place, updating from level to level is quite easy, and the players really appreciate having the options presented directly and integrated into the whole character sheet layout.

  3. - Top - End - #63
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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    I'd still like to know what this (undersized) party is fighting, and how those combats go. So far I've heard that the rogue doesn't seek out sneak attacks, and that the wizard prepares blasting spells and forgets they have magic items.

    Neither of those are sufficient evidence to pronounce them horrible dunces who can never learn tactics. Those are perfectly normal and extremely common behaviors to run into*, and the biggest problem I've seen evidence of so far is that they have no meatshield. Which means that of course the druid is going to have be be a tactical god of summoning, because the party is missing a standard role. The role that happens to be the most tactical of the standard low-power party. And walking in with low-power old-school tactics with an undersized party is never going to work. Simple tests where a fighter is standing in front of a zero-op party as expected show that they can win, but take away the fighter and they're obviously screwed.

    It is entirely likely that they would be just fine if they had their fourth member, unless there is some particular boneheadedness the DM has failed to mention so far.

    And I'd still like to know what level this is, as complaints about low level spells do not mesh with a caster that can apparently spam both combat summons and heals, or "mere d8s" not mattering, while if they were high enough level for Greater Invisibility there should be no complaints about failing to sneak attack. It's also required to give actual encounter suggestions. Really, I don't see how the thread is three pages without any serious detail so far.

    *Hell, I had one of those rogues alongside me in a game, and they contributed just fine, even while never using the simple-as-pie feat I suggested (Deadeye Shot) or using Greater Invisibility. Because a few extra d6s from an energized bow does in fact matter, even when my character is slinging auto-60's and the tank is literally invincible. But we had a full party with 50/50 optimizers, not an undersized party with only 1/3 optimizer.


    Another possible "fix" for the rogue is to un-rogue them. Turn them into a Scout, or just swap sneak attack for skirmish. Now you don't even have to teach them how to pop 'n shoot (and once they're regularly triggering skirmish, I expect the next complaint will be that they aren't full-skirmish-attacking). Or Telling Blow and my homebrew feat for "aimed" auto-crits. But I really don't think it's going to matter if they're short a party member and being sent against formula encounters, particularly if those encounters involve magic, leveled NPCs built by the DM, or monsters from later books.
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  4. - Top - End - #64
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    On the subject of "sticky notes with what you can do".

    If I hand a new player a pregen character sheet now, it's a Warblade.
    With the maneuver/stance cards printed out.

    Then I simply recovery slightly.

    "play a card"
    or
    "make a standard attack and get your cards back"

    Everyone picks it up instantly.

  5. - Top - End - #65
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    Given the number of professionals - doctors, lawyers, and such - I encountered with zero tactical ability, I would have to say "yes", they could actually learn. Just not tactics.
    That also extends to mid-level professionals, craftsmen, and the like.
    All with skills, knowledge, and expertise that would leave me scratching my head, while my tactical acumen, game system knowledge, personal library, and such left them awed.
    First things first - yes, I definitively meant "can they learn tactics", not "have they the capacity to learn anything".

    Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, has learned a great many things - *tactics* simply is not among them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    Educational for what:
    Learning how to manipulate the rules of a simulation?
    Learning how to command troops in battle?
    Interesting. I think the scope of my question is limited to the game, although, IIRC, there have been posters who claimed that war games were literally used as instructive war games IRL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    There is a scene in a novel where a character with a military background who reminisces how he taught some academics how to wargame during a space trip and how by the end of the trip he was appalled by their disregard for casualties.

    I have certainly learned how to sacrifice cardboard counters to beat multiple sets of game rules, and in the process not have any emotional attachment to said cardboard counters.
    And I could translate that to having no emotional attachment to a sheet of paper with numbers on it.
    I also happened to learn some tactics along the way.

    But that was me, with several years of wargaming experience, and then another couple of decades while playing D&D before 3E was released and I began encountering large numbers of people without any such bakcground.
    There are decisions which I know in my head / heart are the correct ones. And I hope that I am never asked to make those decisions.

    Senility willing, I may edit this to include a specific movie reference.

    EDIT:
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    In "The Rock", the President orders an attack on a (terrorist-taken) populated area, ordering the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in order to save the lives of millions. Or something like that.

    One of my friends, who watched the movie with me, was upset that the president seemed distraught over this obviously correct choice.

    I commented that I agreed that it was the correct choice, and that I hoped that, were I in such a position, that I would make the same choice. I also hoped that I was never in such a position.

    I further said that, I would not want as leader someone who would make that decision easily, would not want someone who, as you put it, showed a clear "disregard for casualties".


    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    No one said it is not ineffective.
    While I believe this statement to be technically true, I'm curious as to whether it's what you actually meant. I'll agree that I recall no one previously to have explicitly, definitively stated that it was effective

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    People are just noting that many who did had a different entry background to the hobby, that not everyone will enjoy that method, and . . .
    As I recall, there were explicit claims that character death was an ineffective technique, so I do not agree that they were "just" making the lesser claim you ascribe.

    Granted, this particular technique may not be of value to the OP, but it may be of value to other readers with not entirely dissimilar issues.

    Or it may be possible to understand *why* it is an effective technique, and to repurpose certain elements of it into something that *would* motivate the OP's party. For example: defeat, or death of NPCs, clearly caused by failed strategies. If *something* that they care about is on the line, it may provide incentive for them to care.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-03-10 at 03:04 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #66
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Is a DMPC an option? Don't feel the need to force them to play differently if they're having fun doing what they're doing. Just give them a bit of help so they don't die horribly while doing it. Maybe toss a tanky character into the mix to soak up damage for them, or a healbot to help them deal with damage if directing attacks away from the PCs outright seems like it may be cheesing fights a bit too much.
    "Technically correct" is the best kind of correct.

  7. - Top - End - #67
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SirNibbles's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BettaGeorge View Post
    So I'm guessing my main problems are that the wizard player (I've talked to them about this) refuses to prepare spells that don't make them "the hero" (damage spells kill people => good; other spells "only" help your allies => bad) and that I have no idea how to help the rogue player if melee is not an option. (Though I maintain melee is fine even at 8 str – sneak attack makes up for that IMO.)

    (Incidentally, how overpowered is Entangle at low levels? It completely incapacitates large groups of enemies, as no enemy spellcaster will be able to make a DC 20 str check like, ever, and the Concentration check to get off a spell while entangled is ridiculously high.)
    You could have an enemy Wizard (or other caster) using control spells to show how useful they are when they completely stump the players. Even something like a Kobold Sorcerer 1 casting Sticky Floor (Races of the Dragon, page 117) and then attempting to kill the stuck player(s) with smoke or something (see Smoke Effects in the Dungeon Master's Guide, page 304) would teach them a lesson.

  8. - Top - End - #68
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BettaGeorge View Post
    (Filtering out the inane "kill their characters" discussion to find actual responses)

    Yes, we are very much social roleplaying-focused. I wouldn't even be thinking about this if my players hadn't unanimously and explicitly requested that I let them do some good old-fashioned monster bashing in-between all the drama. They want to kick some butts themselves, not have NPCs do it for them. Which has brought me to the question "how to design fun combat encounters for people where ECL is not an indicator for survival chances".

    I do fudge the dice a lot in combat (especially since I am known for my roughly 1-in-5-chance at a crit, no matter whose dice I use), and I sometimes lower a monster's hp during combat when it becomes evident that the players will never survive otherwise. But I don't want my players to feel like I am cheating to keep them alive (which is what I'm doing at the moment), which prompted my search for alternatives.
    Perhaps, rather than having npcs bail them out when they bite off more than they can chew, you have the players be the ones swinging in to rescue npcs that are being overwhelmed by the monsters. That way the monsters are already tenderised, and the players get the satisfaction of being heroic.
    "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."
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  9. - Top - End - #69
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Don't confuse a test with a lesson.

    Having your characters die does not teach tactics any more than getting a failing grade teaches you algebra. It shows that you haven’t learned yet. It gives you data from which you could choose to learn, and it adds to your motivation to learn if you have any. But you can’t learn just from having your characters die, for the same reason you can’t learn from a book, unless you choose to read it.

    In general, the problem isn’t people who cannot learn tactics, but people who do not want to. I have taught fencing, and algebra, and in both cases, the people who learn the least are the ones who do not try to learn, because they don’t want to.

    I have had fencing students who wanted to “fence” – to hold a sword while fighting somebody else – but did not want to learn the stance, the hand positions, the parries, or the attacks. Losing a fencing bout doesn’t teach them anything.

    The solution for this party is to send them challenges that match this party’s ability. That is not simply the abilities that these PCs have, but the actual ability of these PCs as played by these players.

    I recently ran a game for ten-year-old kids. I didn’t run it the same way I would have run it for the same PCs played by my usual group that includes a naval officer, a history teacher, and three excellent SCA melee fighters.

  10. - Top - End - #70
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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    I happen to roll a nat 1 sometimes but that is IF the player seems to even care, if not, I kill and kiss him bye bye but that's just me :)

  11. - Top - End - #71
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    PirateGirl

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Any tips specifically for nudging novice caster players away from direct-damage spells (or at least encouraging them to mix the direct damage with other stuff too?) I'm playing in a campaign now where I've definitely noticed similar behavior to that described here - lots of Magic Missiles, plus other ranged damage spells of questionable utility (especially because the casters aren't good enough to reliably hit things when firing through occupied squares and/or into melee.)

    I certainly threw my fair share of Magic Missile while playing a sorcerer, but tried to have a lot of useful spells to mess people up in other ways too.

  12. - Top - End - #72
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Batcathat's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by RexDart View Post
    Any tips specifically for nudging novice caster players away from direct-damage spells (or at least encouraging them to mix the direct damage with other stuff too?) I'm playing in a campaign now where I've definitely noticed similar behavior to that described here - lots of Magic Missiles, plus other ranged damage spells of questionable utility (especially because the casters aren't good enough to reliably hit things when firing through occupied squares and/or into melee.)

    I certainly threw my fair share of Magic Missile while playing a sorcerer, but tried to have a lot of useful spells to mess people up in other ways too.
    Have you tried just having enemy casters use that kind of spells against the party? Seems like it should demonstrate their usefulness quite effectively.

  13. - Top - End - #73
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    Troacctid's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by RexDart View Post
    Any tips specifically for nudging novice caster players away from direct-damage spells (or at least encouraging them to mix the direct damage with other stuff too?) I'm playing in a campaign now where I've definitely noticed similar behavior to that described here - lots of Magic Missiles, plus other ranged damage spells of questionable utility (especially because the casters aren't good enough to reliably hit things when firing through occupied squares and/or into melee.)

    I certainly threw my fair share of Magic Missile while playing a sorcerer, but tried to have a lot of useful spells to mess people up in other ways too.
    Don't? Direct damage spells are useful and good. Obviously some of them are better than others, but as a category, they're something you absolutely should be preparing.

  14. - Top - End - #74
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named
    *Drinks*




    I would do a mirror match where you demonstrate how much better they could be if they used real tactics - or even send in weaker opponents with some of the same abilities to show them up. Just kicking their butts isn't helpful, but showing them how to kick butt by example is.

  15. - Top - End - #75
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    Kelb_Panthera's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    Don't? Direct damage spells are useful and good. Obviously some of them are better than others, but as a category, they're something you absolutely should be preparing.
    They're something you should have available on demand but, if you're a prepared caster, actually preparing them isn't ideal. Every orb of fire or vampiric touch you have prepared, while it'll certainly help in the inevitable fight, is one less goldilocks spell for weird situations or one less open slot to prepare the same.

    Having a runestaff or domain staff loaded with your staple combat spells is pretty sweet though. A wand or traditional staff with something you like to spam the crap out of, like magic missile, doesn't go terribly amiss either.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThiagoMartell View Post
    Kelb, recently it looks like you're the Avatar of Reason in these forums, man.
    Quote Originally Posted by LTwerewolf View Post
    [...] bringing Kelb in on your side in a rules fight is like bringing Mike Tyson in on your side to fight a toddler. You can, but it's such massive overkill.
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  16. - Top - End - #76
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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unavenger View Post
    *Drinks*
    That's a good drinking game.


    Regarding direct damage spells, I am convinced that they are overused, especially by new players. Our current group wizard thinks Scorching Ray is the Holy Grail of level 2 spells, because it deals 4d6 damage. Nevermind he never hits, and when he does, he might take out one opponent (who only had 6 hp to begin with) before being overrun by the rest.

    Especially if you're a Vancian caster, this is a waste of spell slots. Just get a wand of Magic Missile and save your slots for something useful.

    I agree though that having an enemy caster use "better" spells seems like the best way to teach. One just has to be careful not to accidentally kill the party.

  17. - Top - End - #77
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Multiple calls for Wand of Magic Missile? My tables have declared such to be suboptimal.

    Iirc, wands weigh in at 15*SL*CL GP per charge, and 50 charges when full.

    For 9th level Magic Missile, that's 6,750 GP. For 5d4+5 (average 17.5) damage per standard action.

    And, if that looks good for your table, compare to the efficacy of buying several Pearls of Power.

    I'm not seeing the value in the Wand.

  18. - Top - End - #78
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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Multiple calls for Wand of Magic Missile? My tables have declared such to be suboptimal.

    Iirc, wands weigh in at 15*SL*CL GP per charge, and 50 charges when full.

    For 9th level Magic Missile, that's 6,750 GP. For 5d4+5 (average 17.5) damage per standard action.

    And, if that looks good for your table, compare to the efficacy of buying several Pearls of Power.

    I'm not seeing the value in the Wand.
    The wand is nice at lower levels. Once you can afford it, you're gonna want a staff or something anyway.

  19. - Top - End - #79
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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BettaGeorge View Post
    The wand is nice at lower levels. Once you can afford it, you're gonna want a staff or something anyway.
    It's good if you are in a campaign featuring large numbers of incorporeal creatures, or creatures immune to all elements and high ac. Otherwise, it's useless and there are so many better choices. Now maximized empowered with an addition damage each missle, or adding more missiles however is another story. But you can't get that on a wand.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

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    Kelb_Panthera's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    It's good if you are in a campaign featuring large numbers of incorporeal creatures, or creatures immune to all elements and high ac. Otherwise, it's useless and there are so many better choices. Now maximized empowered with an addition damage each missle, or adding more missiles however is another story. But you can't get that on a wand.
    Yeah you can, it just costs. The wand cost formula is 750 X spell levels X caster level. Extra missiles just means paying double the cost of the wand for each extra missile up to 5 missiles total for 9X the original cost or 6750. Not a great idea unless you're an artificer gearing up a magic missile macross but technically an option for anyone.

    And since people will be curious: Magic Missile Macross is where you take 3 wands of magic missile at CL 9, stuff them in a rod of many wands and use metamagic spell trigger to twin the whole shebang when you activate; releasing 30 missiles at once and burning charges off those wands at an obscene rate. 30d4+30 (about 105 average) guaranteed against anybody not properly shielded is nothing to scoff at. Great mental image too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThiagoMartell View Post
    Kelb, recently it looks like you're the Avatar of Reason in these forums, man.
    Quote Originally Posted by LTwerewolf View Post
    [...] bringing Kelb in on your side in a rules fight is like bringing Mike Tyson in on your side to fight a toddler. You can, but it's such massive overkill.
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  21. - Top - End - #81
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    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Give them a magic item designed to teach them how to fight. Call it the "Orb of Dreams" or something. Basically, if they use it, they go to sleep and their minds wake up inside the orb. Give them the option to change something about themselves: a new spell, a new feat etc. Optionally, this "starting area" might include a helpful NPC that provides advice if asked for it. Then, they fight something. It might be a mirror match where you use smarter tactics, or use different spells, or be some monster. Every encounter will be difficult but beatable if they use good tactics. Each encounter uses different terrain (i.e. dungeon, swamp, arena, town etc.) Each encounter is designed to teach. If they fail and die, they wake up without lasting consequence. If they beat the encounter, they gain some small reward, for example they might be able to retrain a feat or swap out a spell known. Hopefully, over time they'll learn and improve both their tactics and their builds.

  22. - Top - End - #82
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Suppose the question had been, "how do you deal with players who can't RP?"? How would we have tried to solve the problem then? Or "how do we handle players who can't grok THAC0?" - what kinds of responses would that have garnered? Lol, or, to use the pillars, "players who cannot explore"?

    What solutions do we get when we apply those responses back to the issue of combat?

  23. - Top - End - #83
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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: How do you deal with players who suck at combat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Suppose the question had been, "how do you deal with players who can't RP?"? How would we have tried to solve the problem then?
    50% would still have been "kill them off".

    1% would have been snarky suggestions of switching to 4e.

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