One of the many things that shits me about my favourite game and pastime is that combat, arguably the point of a certain type of RPG style, is most often the least fun part for me as the DM. Combat can either be over in a depressing one-shot when they add up all their freaking advantages that I am responsible for giving them, or it can take many many rounds because I needed to boost up the enemy to give them challenge. It devolves into a tedious battle of attrition with the heroic murder-hobos hacking away at the suicidal enemy.
Where’s the fun for me, the other player in the game who has spent hours cooking this dish and then serving it to the gluttonous players?
The responsibility for fixing this is mine of course as the DM. If I just serve up an idiot with hit points standing in the middle of the room, clearly the only thing that can happen is they will throw dice at it.
This is just failure of imagination and common sense. Obviously the monster does not want to die, so why does it just stand there and get pummelled? Why does the orc horde fight to the last toddler? No reason. They wouldn’t.
Heres what I do now. When I identify a monster for a scenario, and place him/her/it in its location, I think about that it is doing there. I assign it a Mission. Each Mission type has a set of doctrinal guidelines. Then when the monster or squad of monsters troop on stage I apply the rules of their Mission. Suddenly the monsters are acting more intelligently to self-preserve, or do more than simply charge. With these guidelines I can play the monsters intelligently without feeling the guilt of using ‘inside knowledge’ to cheat the players.
My Missions are as follows. A Monster can have more than one Mission profile.
|Use flanking forces|
|Use fast movement|
|Close with target quickly and overwealm|
|Fall back if casualties exceed 50%|
|Remain out of combat and shoot|
|Retire out of range when casualty inflicted|
|If detected, flee|
|Remove object then flee, or|
|Plant object then flee|
|Advance towards disturbance|
|Take time to observe enemy|
|Send runners back to report|
|Target magic users|
|Capture & retire if possible|
|Maintain proximity to location|
|Scare intruders, or|
|Capture intruders, or|
|Delay for reinforcements|
|Use terrain to remain hidden|
|Keep in cover|
|Use traps and poisons|
|Use area effect magic|
|Flee if outmatched|
|Use traps to cover retreat|
|Strike only when at Advantage|
|Target strongest to weaken party, or|
|Target weakest for a meal|
|Flee if outmatched|
|Pick on most exposed enemy|
|Attack to subdue, not kill|
|Flee when capture successful|
|Flee if confronted|