Before combat is started, have you checked the monster’s reaction to the adventurers? The other two important issues are where the characters are physically standing and whether or not they are surprised by the attack.
Tell your Dungeon Master where everyone is as they move. This will determine who is in range of which attacks. If no marching order is established, the DM should make a call for one to be established BEFORE combat is started. Characters who are not in the front of the marching order cannot be engaged with close range weapons, but can be hit with throw or range weapons. Letting your DM know if you want to stand at range can also be helpful. Characters at range can throw / shoot ranged weapons but cannot attack or be attacked by a melee weapon.
Before combat begins, make sure to make a Surprise Check. To make this check compare the party’s highest notice vs d20 + the monster’s stealth or wisdom bonus. Whom ever had the higher result can either make a surprise attack or choose to evade the combat all together.
Surprise attacks are made for all player characters before combat begins and all rolls are made with Advantage. The group who lost the surprise cannot retaliate.
Surprising party can choose to evade rather than fight as they haven’t been noticed yet. Whether this is hiding in a room until the monsters pass or just going around a monster area, there is good roleplaying opportunities here.
Evading or Sneaking characters move at only 1/10 of their current speed. Ex: An unencumbered human normally moves at 120ft/round, but a sneaking human would only move 12ft/round – factor in encumbrance and it drops to 6ft/round.
If the party wants to surprise monsters, we call that Ambush. To ambush roll d20 and add the lowest Wisdom modifier in the party to establish the party’s hide DC. DM roll d20 – equal or greater than the party DC means the ambush fails. If successful the party gets one round of attacks without the DM taking any actions.
- Declare Actions (some things are very fast or slow and may modify initiative)
- Roll Initiative (d20 highest goes first)
- One action taken (Move, Spell, Shoot Arrow, Hack with Sword, etc)
- Resolve Damage (if necessary)
- Optional: Spend a Heroic Point to gain an additional action
- Check Morale (continue fighting, flee or surrender are options here)
- Repeat Steps 1 – 6
This is very important as some actions can be interrupted. Spell casters cannot complete spells if they take damage.
Everyone rolls d20 and add any bonuses noted in races, classes or monsters. Player’s roll individually, whereas the DM rolls for each combat group (i.e.: Group of Goblins would be one and the Dragon would be another – this is at the DM’s discretion).
Combat goes from the highest roll to the lowest.
Initiative is rolled for each round of combat.
To attack, a player rolls d20, adds any bonuses they get from their Strength if it’s a melee weapon or Dexterity if it’s a ranged weapon. Compare that roll to the Armor Class of the target of your attack. A tie or greater than an Armor Class is a hit. Note: A successful spell will always hit their intended target automatically.
The two numbers listed as range for a weapon represent:
- The max distance used without penalty
- The max distance possible.
Penalties are -2 for each additional short distance.
For Example: A cross bow has a range of 80/320.
- From 0-80 feet there is no attack penalty.
- From 80-160 attack rolls are at -2
- From 160-240 attack rolls are at -4
- From 240-320 attack rolls are at -6
- 320+ no attack is possible
Each weapon has a damage listed. Roll the dice listed, and if you have any bonuses to damage, like Strength or a Magical Sword, etc. then add that to the total number. If you roll a Natural 20, roll for damage once, add all bonuses, then double the final result.
Check Morale (DC 20 vs Wisdom / Morale)
When a creature or player drops below 50% of their hit points they must make a morale check (DC 20 vs d20 + morale or wisdom bonus) or become broken. If the last attack was with a natural 20, then the check is made with Disadvantage.
Broken combatants have two options:
1. Flee the combat. Move away from combat at double normal movement speed. If a player character (or monster) has a ranged weapon readied in hand, they can make one attack against the fleeing monster.
2. Surrender the combat. Literally throw down their arms and plead for their lives.
Example: A goblin is hit for 4 damage. The DM rolls d20 (5) plus the Goblin Morale (+5) Fail! The goblin takes off running at twice its normal rate. The player shoots an arrow at the fleeing goblin, killing it with ease.
Example: A brigand has been epically wounded with a critical strike. Rather than continue and die, he throws down his sword and offers important information to the party in exchange for his life.
Special Combat Moves and Actions
As a melee attack, you may attempt to disarm your opponent. You and the defender make opposed attack rolls. If you beat the defender, the defender is disarmed. If you attempted the disarm action unarmed, you now have the weapon. If you were armed, the defender’s weapon is on the ground in the defender’s square. If you fail on the disarm attempt, the defender may immediately attack with Advantage. Note: The wielder of a two-handed weapon on a disarm attempt gets a +4 bonus on this roll.
As a melee attack, and with two free hands, you may attempt to grapple your opponent. You and the defender make opposed attack rolls. If you beat the defender, the defender is GRAPPLED and loses their next attack. If the defender wins, the grapple is unsuccessful. The only action a GRAPPLED monster / character can do as their next action is to try and break the grapple by making another opposed roll. If the one initiating the grapple beats the opposed roll by 5 or more, then the person being grappled becomes PINNED. Pinned combatants can be easily immobilized by using rope or other restraints.
Thrown Weapons: A spear, dagger, or hand axe may be either thrown or held. They are good weapons to use when the monsters are nearby, as the character can use any thrown weapon in hand-to-hand combat. If the weapon is not thrown, Strength bonuses are used instead of Dexterity, and no adjustments are made for Range or Cover. A dagger or hand axe may be thrown at an opponent within range. Each spins in the air striking with the blade forward.
A spear is a long shaft of wood or metal with a sharp tip, and can be thrown straight at an opponent. It has the best range of any thrown missile.
Throwing other items, like rocks or furniture, go about 20 feet plus your strength bonus, minus 1 foot per pound and do 1 damage per pound
This is water which has been specially prepared by a Cleric for use against Undead creatures. It can be used by any character. Holy Water must be kept in small, specially prepared glass bottles (known as vials) for it to remain Holy. The effect of one vial of Holy Water on an Undead creature is 1d8 points of damage. For it to cause damage, it must successfully strike the target, thus breaking the vial. It may either be thrown (using missile fire rules) or used hand-to-hand (using normal combat rules.
Oil is carried in small bottles (known as Flasks), and is often thrown as missiles. It may also be spread on a floor. In either case, it will be slippery but not dangerous until it is lit by flame.
One flask of oil will make a pool 3’ in diameter, which will burn out in one turn if lit. Burning oil will cause 1d8 points of damage per round to victims in the flames, including any creature trying to cross a pool of burning oil. Oil thrown at a creature will either miss (forming a pool where it falls) or hit. If it hits, it will drip off in a few rounds; if lit, the victim will take damage for 2 rounds at most.
Oil may be lit with any flame, such as a torch. If a torch is thrown at a creature, another Hit Roll must be made, but the creature’s normal AC is not used; the target of any thrown torch is treated as AC 10, regardless of the actual Armor Class of the target (but the roll is adjusted as explained below).
As with Holy Water, oil may be used either as a missile or in hand-to-hand combat.
Thieves and Halflings are weak in toe-to-toe hacking matches, but they are masters of the knife in the back. When attacking someone by surprise and from behind, a thief attacks with Advantage and greatly increases the amount of damage his blow causes.
To use this ability, the character must be behind his victim and be hidden. Opponents in battle will often notice a character trying to maneuver behind them and the first rule of fighting is to never turn your back on an enemy! However, someone who isn’t expecting to be attacked (a friend or ally, perhaps) can be caught unaware even if he knows the thief is behind him.
The multiplier given in each character type, applies to the amount of damage before modifiers for Strength or weapon bonuses are added. The weapon’s standard damage is multiplied by the value given and then strength and magical weapon bonuses are added.
Backstabbing limitations. First, the damage multiplier applies only to the first attack made by the thief, even if multiple attacks are possible. Once a blow is struck, the initial surprise advantage effect is lost. Second, the thief cannot use it on every creature. The victim must be generally humanoid. The victim must also have a definable back (which leaves out most slimes, jellies, oozes, and the like). Finally, the character has to be able to reach a significant target area. To backstab a giant, the character would have to be standing on a ledge or window balcony. Backstabbing him in the ankle just isn’t going to be as effective.
Special Attack Conditions
Many monsters (and spells) have Special Attacks, which are mentioned in the descriptions. A character or monster can usually avoid the effects of a Special Attack if a Saving DC is successfully made (although Energy Drain has no save). Read the following explanations carefully, and refer to this section whenever Special Attacks are used in a game.
Energy Drain: This is a dangerous attack form, with no Saving DC allowed. If a character is hit by an Energy Drain attack (by a wight, for example), the character loses one Level of Experience! (A monster would lose one Hit Die from this effect.) The Energy Drain removes all the benefits: hit points, spells, and so as soon as it occurs. The victim’s Experience Point total drops to the midpoint of the new level.
A 1st level character hit by an Energy Drain attack is killed. There is normally no way to cure an Energy Drain. The character can only regain the Level through normal adventuring and earning the Experience Points all over again.
Poison: Poison is a danger to all characters. If a character is hit by a poisonous attack (by a snake, for example) and misses the Saving DC vs Constitution, the character will usually die. Individual poisons will have differing effects. See removing poison.
For additional character or monster conditions, check out the master list here.