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.

Below is an excerpt from part 1, Character Creation and Combat Roles:

Understanding Ability Contours

Certain combinations of high scores—what I call “ability contours”—favor certain styles of fighting. You may wish to develop a rough character con­cept ahead of time, decide on a fighting style, then assign ability scores to fit that style. Or you may wish to assign your character’s ability scores, then decide on a class and fighting style that fit those scores. How you develop the concept and stats of your character doesn’t matter. What does matter is that if your character’s ability scores and his or her class and fighting style are at odds, your char­acter won’t be as effective in combat.

The Front Line: Strength + Constitution

The role of front-line characters is to occupy the enemy’s attention by charging them and engaging in melee. The most important ability for this role is Constitution, because this character has to be able to soak up the damage that would kill other characters. But an offensive ability is also import­ant, because if this character can’t do meaningful damage to opponents, he or she can’t hold their attention, and the usual choice of primary offen­sive ability is Strength. Medium and heavy armor benefit front-line fighters the most.

The Shock Attacker: Strength + Dexterity (or just Dexterity)

This is a character whose role is to identify key en­emies and eliminate them quickly by doing large bursts of damage. Shock attackers don’t want to spend time in drawn-out combat. They hit first, hit hard and get out, because their lack of Constitution makes them less able to absorb damage themselves. As a defensive ability, Dexterity is good for avoiding damage, but the longer combat goes on, the more likely an opponent is to land a lucky hit. Stealth is often important for shock attackers, so they benefit most from light or me­dium armor.

The Skirmisher: Dexterity + Constitution

This includes ranged and finesse-weapon melee fighters, durable but also highly mobile, who wear their opponents down by dealing modest but con­sistent damage over time. Skirmishers are suited to drawn-out combat. Finesse weapons tend to do less damage than other melee weapons, but these characters also have more staying power, thanks to their Constitution, so their damage can add up. This doesn’t mean they should gratuitously expose themselves to more attacks, however. In­stead, they should stay on the move, taking their shots when their opponents’ attention is divided. Stealth benefits skirmishers as much as it does shock attackers, so they too should wear light or medium armor.

The Marksman: Dexterity + Wisdom

Unless they’re shock attackers wielding finesse weapons, characters without high Strength or high Constitution should stay out of melee and behind cover as much as possible. The idea behind com­bining Dexterity and Wisdom is to rely on Dexter­ity for both offense and defense (in other words, attacking at range, because the lack of points in Constitution makes this ability contour risky for a finesse melee fighter) and on Wisdom to spot stealthy opponents who are trying to hide. Marks­men should wear the best armor they’re proficient with that doesn’t inhibit their own Stealth. . . .

 

Buy your copy of Live to Tell the Tale at spyandowl.com/live-to-tell-the-tale.

This article has 12 comments

  1. Siloth Reply

    Cannot buy It :(. I’m not form US and no credit card here 🙁

  2. Novice DM Reply

    This is super cool! What an exciting secret project; I’ll definitely take a look, and I think my players will love to have something like this around.

  3. Luke Vafiades Reply

    At the time of writing, Live to Tell the Tale is the best third party 5e supplement I’ve encountered. The writing is clear and succinct. The formatting is clean and easy on the eyes. My players are either new to 5e or new to tabletop gaming, so I find the author’s commentary on 5e’s combat a very helpful aid for ease of entry into the game. I especially like the focus on being effective at one’s role without min/maxing. Furthermore, I believe this supplement has use for DMs as well, providing a better understanding and appreciation of 5e combat. I would definitely recommend this product to novice through intermediate players and DMs. To be honest, even a guy like me who has been playing D&D since the Moldvay Basic Set can find this useful.

  4. Jakob Reply

    Is there any way to do this purchase through paypal, i don’t have a suitable card

    • Jakob Reply

      Or a bank transfer would also work, i both enjoy this blog and would love a way to explain more advanced tactics to my players that they can refer to when they need to .

  5. Pete Reply

    This blog’s amazing. Well thought out, incredibly useful advice for players and GM’s alike.

    Bookmarked !

  6. Scott Reply

    I’m back running D&D games for my old college friends after almost 20 years away.
    Just purchased Live to Tell. What a fantastic book. Exactly the kind of tactical discussion that’s lacking in almost everything I’ve come across so far. Great advice that adds to my already growing appreciation for this system as a whole. Thanks for the clear and concise insights!

  7. thomas Reply

    *Buy this book.*

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a player or a DM, if you’re fresh-faced or a grey-bearded grognard, this is 70 pages of valuable insight into how D&D5e combat works as a system. I’d go so far as to say this is fifth edition’s Missing Manual.

    I could go on and on, but that would just be time wasted that you could spend reading LtTtT.

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