New to D&D question

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I am new to D&D and had a basic question about attacks that Monsters make during combat.  I've been looking for clarification in the rules and haven't had a chance to play with a group (numerous reasons as to why I am unable), but have been playing with my kids. 

If the DM roles initiative for a group of monsters together, then they would be lined up potentially 3, 4 or more in a row to attack en masse.  Does the DM arbitrarily decide whether they all gang up on one player or whether they should attack randomly? I wasn't sure how to search for my answer, so if this has been addressed, or is in the rules somewhere, I will be happy to take a look there.
The DM should use Rule -1: Decide whatever is fun for everyone.

It is a game after all 

_insert name here_
The DM should use Rule -1: Decide whatever is fun for everyone.

It is a game after all 

_insert name here_




This is probably the best and most succinct answer you can get

If you want something more than that, than I would say it depends somewhat on the situation.  If one party member charges into the group of enemies, and then all of the enemies go, they are probably going to focus on him.

Also, monsters are going to use tactics that suit their abilities as much as possible.  If there are a bunch of minions that do extra damage when they have combat advantage, then they are going to flank and double team player characters as much as possible.  A pack of wolves is going to use pack hunting tactics. A mindless creature like an ooze will probably just attack the nearest target, or whoever has been hurting it the most.  If an enemy hasn't been able to get through the Paladin's armor, he may target the more squishy looking rogue instead
   More advanced creatures may use more advanced tactics, like trying to target the healer first, or a group of trolls may target the wizard controlling the flaming sphere, etc.
  Don't forget, monsters know every effect they have been put under by the party and vice versa, so they will base tactics based on that.

  But above all, it should be fun for everyone.
Your players should use defensive interrupts. Given their age it'd be perfectly fine to say "you could use this to negate the damage!"

Also some PCs are designed to be beat on, you could beat on that one.

Levels 1-3 are probably the most dangerous in this regard (in 4e) because of unfamiliarity and the lack of powers that interrupt dangerous hits. Just be careful.
I am new to D&D and had a basic question about attacks that Monsters make during combat.  I've been looking for clarification in the rules and haven't had a chance to play with a group (numerous reasons as to why I am unable), but have been playing with my kids. 

If the DM roles initiative for a group of monsters together, then they would be lined up potentially 3, 4 or more in a row to attack en masse.  Does the DM arbitrarily decide whether they all gang up on one player or whether they should attack randomly? I wasn't sure how to search for my answer, so if this has been addressed, or is in the rules somewhere, I will be happy to take a look there.


It is up to the DM.

I know that quite a few DMs, including myself, will have all of the same monsters (i.e. monsters with the same name, like Goblin Archer) go on the same initiative: this typically has to do with cutting down the amount of time the DM needs on his turn.  Instead of having 7 turns for each enemy on the board, he might have only "three" turns, one for the Goblin Sneak, one for the Goblin Barbarian, and "one" for the Goblin Archers.

Some people, however, prefer rolling initiative for each individual creature, which has pros and cons.

Officially, there is no "official way."  The DM decides how they want to do it.  As far as tactics are concerned, it is up to the DM; however, it is considered BadWrong for a DM to have creatures that are not intelligent to be using Super Teamwork Tactics (unless there is a good explanation in-game for the situation).  Most people would be bewildered by a group of frogs using the same type of tactics as a wolf pack.
Salla, on minions: I typically use them as encounter filler. 'I didn't quite fill out the XP budget, not enough room left for a decent near-level monster ... sprinkle in a few minions'. Kind of like monster styrofoam packing peanuts.
Thanks for the quick and great responses, which seem to confirm what I had been thinking.  My kids have been having a lot of fun playing, and wanted to be sure I wasn't straying too far from the rules by not having creatures taking every tactical advantage.  I will examine the creature tactics more.  Thanks.
Officially, there is no "official way."  The DM decides how they want to do it.  As far as tactics are concerned, it is up to the DM; however, it is considered BadWrong for a DM to have creatures that are not intelligent to be using Super Teamwork Tactics (unless there is a good explanation in-game for the situation).  Most people would be bewildered by a group of frogs using the same type of tactics as a wolf pack.

Swarm tactics for a group of individual creatures is also wrong.

For example, if there are five orcs, they can all go on the same initiative - but one (chosen by the DM) takes its turn, then a second takes its turn, then a third, and so on.

They do NOT all five move as one action (or even as five move actions) and then all five attack, and then all five use a minor action.

Why? Well, as one instance, consider opportunity actions. Each creature may (if the situation presents itself) take one opportunity action per turn other than its own. Five orcs taking five move actions in five turns potentially gives any one PC up to five chances at an opportunity attack. Five orcs moving in ONE turn only allows that PC to make a maximum of ONE opportunity attack.

It also affects whether the first orc to move might have flanking at the time he attacks. And there are other ways it shows up.
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Swarm tactics for a group of individual creatures is also wrong.

For example, if there are five orcs, they can all go on the same initiative - but one (chosen by the DM) takes its turn, then a second takes its turn, then a third, and so on.


So if there is group of smart monsters attacking, what is to prevent the first from doing a front attack on a fighter, then the second flank and attack, followed by the third perhaps using a ranged attack on the same PC?  Is this proper play?  Again, as I am new, there may be something significant that I am missing here.   I'm beginning to think it may be more "fair" to roll seperate initaitives for each monster, especially those likely to use tactics.   




     All of the monsters in one group would act on the same initiative count, but each still gets their own individual turn - it isn't all just one massive simultaneous attack. There are any number of ways for the surrounded character to interrupt, escape or otherwise change the situation before all of the monsters get their attack in, even though it's not the character's turn. At the very least, one or more of those monsters moving into flanking position is likely to incur an opportunity attack from the character they're trying to flank.
 As for your question, no, absolutely nothing prevents the monsters from doing exactly what you described, regardless of their initiatives. Even if you rolled all of their initiatives separately, they could all still do exactly that as long as all the monsters acted before the character's turn in the initiative order or all of them went after his turn - and if the player chose not to move his character out of the way on his turn, it woudn't even matter how far apart the monster's turns were. It's certainly smart tactics on the part of the monsters.

     What you may be missing is that the players should be using tactics too - although there may be plenty of opportunities for the monsters to be able to get a character in a flanking situation, and another monster or two may choose to hit the same character with a ranged attack (which doesn't get combat advantage, because he's not flanking), you won't find too many chances to truly surround a single character. The party should be acting in concert to prevent such tactics through intelligent use of positioning and powers that either move the enemy or themselves.
Players have immediate interrupt powers that are used on other people's turns to interrupt attacks. The surrounded character may have a power that lets him shift out of his current position before the monsters get a chance to flank - rogues are notoriously hard to pin down and many of the ranged classes have powers that automatically let them move if someone gets too close. A party with a leader or defender in it may be able to use a power that allows them to switch places with the character, or something similar.
If the character in question is a defender or a monk, getting focus-fired or surrounded isn't a particularly big deal - they both have excellent defences, and many of their class features and/or powers operate on the assumption that they'll have more than one opponent adjacent to them at almost all times during a fight.

    Also, think of the tactical consequences of focusing your fire on one character - if you only attacked one character, that's four other characters who didn't get damaged that turn. And who you haven't bothered to hinder in any way, so that they have a wide range of options in how they want to take advantage of having so many of the enemy clustered around one square. At the very least, melee characters can now move in and flank the monsters with the surrounded character, which is a bad place for your monsters to be if either one of those characters is a defender or striker. Even worse, one character surrounded by three or four of your monsters is the exact area of a burst 1 spell, many of which only effect enemies.
Plus, unless the characters are fairly low on hit points and don't have immediate access to someone with a healing power, it's unlikely that two or three attacks on the same character in one round is actually going to drop them, which is really the whole point of focus fire. It's not exceedingly difficult, through powers or magic items, to go from single digit hit points to not-even-bloodied in a single turn - which means that if the character you focus-fired on wasn't dropped by the attacks, at most you cost them or another party member some actions and a healing surge or two while using up a significantly larger number of action on your side.

   While focus-firing or gang-jumping a single character is certainly an allowed and viable tactic for monsters, it's not necessarily always (or even often) a particularly smart or effective one. (I wouldn't suggest trying it while playing with your kids, but in a regular group it is one option among the many.) Smart monsters who use tactics will most likely realize that focus-firing on one enemy isn't going to be very effective in all situations, and will most likely only use the tactic sparingly.


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Swarm tactics for a group of individual creatures is also wrong.

For example, if there are five orcs, they can all go on the same initiative - but one (chosen by the DM) takes its turn, then a second takes its turn, then a third, and so on.


So if there is group of smart monsters attacking, what is to prevent the first from doing a front attack on a fighter, then the second flank and attack, followed by the third perhaps using a ranged attack on the same PC?  Is this proper play?  Again, as I am new, there may be something significant that I am missing here.   I'm beginning to think it may be more "fair" to roll seperate initaitives for each monster, especially those likely to use tactics.   





Nothing - and, indeed, it may very well be the correct tactic for some monsters to use.  In such cases, it's usually fair to apply it - however, it's worth noting that if you do take a PC down this way, it then becomes fair to go hit soeone else.  Beating unconscious PCs to death is generally frowned upon.

It's also worth noting that the PCs do have ways to combat such tactics - controllers, immediate actions, opportunity attacks, and defenders.
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Swarm tactics for a group of individual creatures is also wrong.

For example, if there are five orcs, they can all go on the same initiative - but one (chosen by the DM) takes its turn, then a second takes its turn, then a third, and so on.


So if there is group of smart monsters attacking, what is to prevent the first from doing a front attack on a fighter, then the second flank and attack, followed by the third perhaps using a ranged attack on the same PC?  Is this proper play?  Again, as I am new, there may be something significant that I am missing here.   I'm beginning to think it may be more "fair" to roll seperate initaitives for each monster, especially those likely to use tactics.   






The monsters could do exactly that and all have separate initiatives or be in the same block.  For example, if you have a fight with a bunch of minions in it, you aren't going to want to roll separate initiave for each minion because it makes the bookkeeping a pain in the butt.  it's possible, but slows things down.   A group of creatures with the "same" initiative still go separately, same as if two players rolled the same initiative and had different modifier or had a roll-off. In our groups we usually track these cases by saying Creature A is on 17.2, Player A is on 17.1 and Creature B is on 17.0.  This also allows for easily shifting initiatives with delayed and readied actions.

  In general, to or three monsters going in a row is not going to bring a PC to 0 HP unless the PC is already injured, or a couple of the monsters crit. As players gain more interrupts and other powers they'll have more defensive options.
Edit: quotes got messed up, fixing as best I can and removing author references...

Swarm tactics for a group of individual creatures is also wrong.

For example, if there are five orcs, they can all go on the same initiative - but one (chosen by the DM) takes its turn, then a second takes its turn, then a third, and so on.

So if there is group of smart monsters attacking, what is to prevent the first from doing a front attack on a fighter, then the second flank and attack, followed by the third perhaps using a ranged attack on the same PC?

Nothing wrong with that.

But note that only half of them can get flanking, and the fighter might get several OAs as they cluster around him - because each orc is moving on its own turn, and the OA is a one-per-turn action.

If they were all to share one turn and each get their full allotment of actions, then all or all-but-one could get flanking, and the fighter would get a maximum of one OA.

I'm beginning to think it may be more "fair" to roll seperate initaitives for each monster, especially those likely to use tactics.   

It would, but it would also be more time-consuming and bothersome. Particularly for minions, who tend to get popped quickly.

It's a tradeoff that the DM has to call on a case-by-case basis - although most quicly form general rules that take care of the large majority of cases.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose