Thursday, March 11, 2010

GM Mentoring: Thirteen In-Combat Goals...

Good Morning, All:

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine in regards to improving his 4E combat experience as a GM. He wanted to enhance the sense of risk that his players experienced when their characters entered into combat, but also wanted to avoid taking them out in the process. Over the course of our discussion, I offered him the suggestion of using in-combat goals to heighten the players' investment in the combat. He asked for some suggestions. I provided him with a small list and we went on to explore another thread of the same conversation. However, the idea of in-combat goals struck me as a good topic for a post, and so I thought I'd take the opportunity to bring it up here and share my thoughts with you.

Most of us share the common experience of engaging in RPG combat scenes with at least the one goal of "kill all the monsters." Done in excess, this can lead to a sense of blandness in regards to combat scenarios, as they become a simple series of attrition-based encounters, with only the special abilities of a particular monster giving any significant flavor to an encounter. Let's face it: that can get boring fast.

One way to move beyond the attrition-based "kill them all" encounters is to make use of in-combat goals. These are goals that the party is attempting to perform over the course of the encounter, which gives them something to focus on besides simply killing their foes. As a GM, I would encourage you to implement at least one in-combat goal per three encounters, if not more frequently, simply to challenge both yourself and your players. Here are some examples of in-combat goals for your consideration:
  1. The party must rescue a prisoner from the midst of the enemy.
  2. The party must obtain an item currently in possession of the enemy, without damaging the item.
  3. The party must reach an item before their enemy does.
  4. The party must reach an incapacitated NPC before their enemy does.
  5. The party comes upon a battle between two different factions, and must either choose sides or suffer from assaults by both factions.
  6. The party must rescue a prisoner trapped in the midst of a fight between two warring factions.
  7. The party must obtain an item currently located in the midst of a fight between two warring factions.
  8. The party must traverse hazardous terrain while fighting off their enemy.
  9. The party must complete some action (such as a ritual, etc.) while fighting off their enemy.
  10. The party must traverse hazardous terrain to reach their enemy and prevent them from completing some action.
  11. The party must defeat their enemy without killing them. The enemy may or may not be limited in the same manner.
  12. Early in the combat, the party becomes separated into smaller groups (by collapsing floors, closing doors, solid fog, lava flows, mudslides, etc.) and must find a way to deal with their immediate threats and then reunite.
  13. A more powerful (or more numerous) enemy enters the combat midway through, prompting the party and their enemy to work together to take down the new combatant before turning their attention back to one another.

These suggested in-combat goals are purposefully left in general terms, so that it is easier for GMs to implement them. So, having read these, what others would you add, that aren't covered by the above suggestions?

Hope This Helps,


James said...

Some great ideas there.

Have you considered compiling your GM advice posts into some kind of pdf?

Flynn said...

At some point, when I have enough of these posts completed, I probably will put them together into a PDF of some kind. I'm also working some of these posts into the Referee's Guide, where I feel it appropriate to do so.

Thanks for the Suggestion,