Live to Tell the Tale: An Introduction to Combat Tactics for D&D Players

In writing this blog, I’ve unleashed a wave of clever, highly evolved monsters upon the D&D world. It’s only fair that I now give players the tools they need to fight back . . . and live.

Live to Tell the Tale: An Introduction to Combat Tactics for Dungeons and Dragons Players is a 67-page e-book that examines combat roles, class features, party composition, positioning, debilitating conditions, attacking combinations, action economy, and the ever-important consideration of the best ways to run away. If you’re a beginning D&D player unsure what to do when you get into a fight, this e-book will point you in the right direction; if you’re an intermediate player, it will help you win more and die less. If you’re a dungeon master with a group of new players, buy a copy and share it with them. Although it’s a PDF download, it’s formatted to be printed as a booklet, if you care to do that. (In Adobe Reader’s Print menu, under Page Sizing and Handling, select Booklet.)

One thing I want to be clear about: This is not a book about how to create a fully optimized character from square one. Just the opposite. “Real roleplayers” are my people. If you want to create an idiot savant sorcerer, a half-orc cleric/bard or a gnome ranger, I wholeheartedly support that. Do what you love. But, that being said, if you love that character, you need to keep him or her alive!

Here’s the secret: Viability doesn’t depend on stats. It depends on behavior. That’s what this book is about: how to get the most from your creation in combat, so that he or she lives long enough to retire and tell boring stories about the old days. (more…)

Sorry I’ve Been AWOL

Hey, readers! It’s been a little dead here lately, what with my picking up some paying work that took priority, and also the fact that I’m working on a side project that I think many of you will enjoy. I’ve been getting your requests, and they’re all going in the pipe, even if I haven’t acknowledged them yet. More is on the way, I promise.

Volo Has Landed

What’s this under the tree? A Guide to Monsters? O, frabjous day! It’s gonna take me a couple of days to survey what’s on offer here (oh, goody . . . the flail snail is back), but look forward to some new monster tactics analyses along with some reexamining of previous analyses in light of new information.

In the meantime, I’m still working on myconids. Stay tuned.

The Monster Is in Another Dungeon

To everyone anticipating a new post today, my apologies. I write these articles in advance, and this week my heart just wasn’t in it, and I ran out of material to post. I’ll be back on Monday with the next installment in the series on fiends.

A Note on Darkvision

When I first started running a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I took for granted that darkvision (and its predecessors and analogues, such as “infravision” in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, “low-light vision” in Shadowrun and “night vision” in GURPS) improved a character’s or creature’s ability to see in both dim light and darkness. Then, while writing the first article for this blog, I inadvertently led myself astray by relying on the incomplete description of darkvision on pages 183–85 of the 5E Players’ Handbook, which seems to imply that it improves a character’s or creature’s ability to see only in total darkness. As both the PH chapter 2 race descriptions and the 5E Monster Manual introduction make clear, darkvision lets a character or creature see in dim light as if it were bright light (i.e., no penalty to Perception) and in darkness as if it were dim light (i.e., disadvantage on visual Perception checks, but not blinded). Thanks to Hemlock on the EN World forum for setting me straight.

Anytime a creature has darkvision, the natural implication is that it’s predominantly, if not exclusively, nocturnal or subterranean. In the case of monsters living aboveground, you can assume that they’ll prefer to attack at night, although they may sometimes move about during the day. However, unless there’s a reason to think of them as exclusively nocturnal (or if it serves the campaign to have the player characters stumble upon them while they’re sleeping), if a group of PCs encounters them, they’ll be awake and alert.

Click to reveal spoilers from The Lost Mine of Phandelver.

The Lost Mine of Phandelver begins with a goblin ambush: Two horses lie dead on the road, and while the PCs investigate, four goblins attack them from out of the woods. In all likelihood, this discovery takes place during the day. Goblins have darkvision. There’s not necessarily any contradiction here. While goblins may be more active at night and may prefer to fight at night, the travelers they enjoy waylaying move during the day. Therefore, if they want to carry out a successful ambush, it’s got to happen during the day.


In other words, darkvision doesn’t rule out the possibility of daylight activity. It simply tells us when and where a monster will fight, given the choice. If there’s some other situational factor that justifies a daylight encounter, of course it can happen in daylight. Otherwise, every aboveground D&D campaign would be a succession of discoveries of groups of snoozing monsters, which the PCs could either easily circumvent or slaughter in their sleep.