Not Another Combat!

Here's a way to make combat a little more interesting in your RPGs

Amanda Rosehart

2/4/2022 2 min read

So I’ve been running a Pathfinder campaign for a couple of years now. One issue I’m running into is that combat can be dull. It’s very repetitive and the current players are very powerful, to the point where they can basically kill anything in just a couple of blows. And most of the fights in the adventure path I’m running say that the monsters fight to the death. But how many animals or people do you know that would fight to the death for any reason? Probably not many.

While I was doing some research, one piece of advice stood out to me.

The bad guys should have a goal.

I’ve seen this advice a couple of times from different sources. The key here is that most people have some sort of goal. For some, it’ll be a lifelong dream they’ve been following. For others, it’ll be a basic day-to-day survival instinct. Regardless of the goal, very few creatures are willing to literally die for them. There will be some crazy fanatics that believe in something so much that they will actually fight to the death. Or if magic is involved, then people may act differently than usual. But most of the time, animals want to eat and go home. Minions wanted to be with the big boss because that was the best way to protect themselves, or they were offered something in exchange for their loyalty.

So, if the party comes across something aggressive, take a second to think about how the creature is going to fight. Will it just try to get close enough to steal some food and run off? Will it try to lead players somewhere by having them chase it? Will someone pick a fight because they’re bored or frustrated with their leader and just want something to do? That will change how a fight is played and may make things more interesting and realistic for the players. They may even come up with some really creative solutions that wouldn’t have been possible if you just stuck with the “hit it ‘til it dies” tactic. By figuring out the motivations of the creatures, you may be able to change the feel of the fight, which will change how the player’s react.

Also, don’t be afraid to let the players be creative. There are times when you want to strictly follow the rules. However, if it’s a fight where the outcome doesn’t affect the overall plot, maybe allow the players to bend the rules in order to do something really heroic. You never know which fight will be one that the player’s remember for years to come. Players want to feel epic, and if the rules are getting in the way of that, see if bending the rules would enable the players to do something really unique.

If you’re interested, here are a couple of the sources I’ve found that have a lot of information for RPG players or GMs. (I have no association with them other than I found them useful.)

The Angry GM: Sassy GMing advice.

Ginny Di:

I specifically found her YouTube channel with advice for both GMs and players

Let me know if you’ve tried other methods to make your combats, or sessions in general, more interesting.