Now that we’ve touched on stunts, lets look at some ways to keep combat interesting. A common pitfall is that combat can degenerate into a series of basic attacks that can start to feel like a grind if it drags out long enough.
Earlier editions handle this by having relatively quick combats and encouraging stunts.
3rd edition could fall into this pattern relatively easily as it was often a good idea for weapon users to optimize a single maneuver or small set of actions. However, this optimization could make the target action so superior to it’s alternatives that the character would be stuck repeating that action indefinitely and loose out on a wider variety of attacks.
4th edition uses daily and encounter powers to help mix things up. This does ensure more diversity than stunting alone does, but it can still lead to a grind once those resources are depleted.
The following approaches may help keep combat from devolving into a grind. Feel free to suggest more.
- Limit Duration: The longer a battle goes on for, the more likely it is that actions will start repeating and that feeling of sameness sets in.
- Fit Duration to Importance: Not all combats need to be the same length. It’s alright to have small skirmishes to help establish something. By the same token, it fine to have climactic battles take a bit longer than standard fights, provided the longer battle has a bit of variety.
- Add Change Ups: For longer combats, add events that change how the fight operates. This can include revealing a trap or new threat, making a revelation (possibly changing the fight to a skill challenge), boss transformations, ect.. The Angry GM has an interesting set of posts on how to handle something like this in 4E.
- Add Unexpected Events: I’m not talking about making things suddenly change for no apparent reason. However, having enemies do something suprising or having an unexpected effect to a player’s actions can help mix things up.
- Add Intentional Events: Giving the players resources to let them do something special can help vary things, especially if that resource is renewed regularly. This tactic is exemplified by encounter powers in 4E.
Next time I’ll take a look how some of these principles could be applied to the Fighter.