How to initiate combat!?!

7 posts / 0 new
Last post
I am running a D&D 4E game for the first time and here are a few problems I have run into...

I have a simple ambush setup for the characters, archers hidden behind boulders and soldiers hiding in an overgrown ditch on the other side of the road. Archers are ordered to fire as soon as the PC's are in position.

The PCs passive perception fails to notice the ambush. However, the Barbarian and Wizard have "Alertness: cannot be surprised". Everyone rolls initiative... NPCs roll poorly.

The Barbarian goes first and charges for the boulders.  I ask why and he says "You made us roll!"
The Wizard Fireballs the brush at the side of the road.  I ask why and she says "You made us roll!"

Neither character knows of any threat why would they get to act first?

The way I see it (I am a long time 2nd Edition player/DM)
The Archers are initiating the combat from a distance and initiative is rolled after a hail of arrows! 

I have a similar issue in a dungeon.
The PCs are walking down a long hall with a light. The Duergar Scout sees them from a distance.
The PCs have already been in several fights in the area thus I do not consider them surprised but the Duergar is invisible. When initiative is rolled duergar goes last. I was planning to shoot the party from a distance with his crossbow but by the time he gets to act half the party ran past him.

Another time they rolled a flaming sphere down the hall!
Because I made them roll initiative and they went first.
Neither character knows of any threat why would they get to act first?

You can realize you are under attack without seeing the enemy or being aware of their location (maybe they heard a twang, a rustle in the bushes, or a wispered "Now!"). Barbarian and Rangers tend to pretty much have 'spidey sense' anyways.

The way I see it... The Archers are initiating the combat from a distance and initiative is rolled after a hail of arrows!.

"Then we will fight in the shade!"

The Duergar Scout sees them from a distance. The PCs have already been in several fights in the area thus I do not consider them surprised

They can still be surprised if they are unaware of the foe (unless they still in init order from the current encounter, in which case the Duergar should probably have a readied action).

The players are metagaming, all not being suprised means is that they get their standard action in the surprise round, and that they don't grant combat advantage. Frankly they should have used their action to make active perception checks or ready.

It's bad roleplaying too.

The way I've dealt with it over the years is to use traps so the players that charge forward get hit by traps, and the attacks have no real use against them. Or I place a npc that's attached to a quest award in the area with the attackers that way the PC's kill the NPC and lose the XP and then tell the PC's what happened.

Another trick is to have them roll initiative in a room. The room is set up with a lot of hiding spots and cover. When the players enter have them trigger a magical alarm that will alert the guards in another room to come and attack several rounds later. When the players start blasting off attacks I'll start checking a stat block and ask if it has an effect on a miss. Everytime they look for something I'll say, you don't sense anything. Make sure the emphasis is on the players thinking they can't find an invisible attacker. After they waste their good attacks through metagaming, and traps bring in the actual encounter without giving them a short rest.

I haven't had a metagaming group in a awhile but I also use to make the worst of them roll iniative everytime they entered a room so that I knew who was doing what in the room and in what order. It slowed down the fun a lot and most of the group decided to stop metagaming so that everything wasn't micromanaged.

Another tactic is to give out a XP bonus for good RPing and give it to the people who didn't metagame.

Or you could talk to them and explain that they are ruining your fun by metagaming and that one of them will need to DM for the group because you won't do it if they keep metagaming.

I'm sure someone else will have a better idea.
"Never Give Up! Never Give In! Never Walk Away! Always Fighting!"
Those were perfectly acceptable in-character actions for characters that sense danger but don't see any targets. Of course the more effective option is probably just to delay until the enemies go and THEN come back in and attack once you know where they are...
The players are metagaming, all not being suprised means is that they get their standard action in the surprise round, and that they don't grant combat advantage. Frankly they should have used their action to make active perception checks or ready.

It's bad roleplaying too.



It's not metagaming at all. The players are aware that they have entered combat, exactly how is a roleplaying decision. When you realize that you are under attack, but are not sure where the opponent actually is, attacking the most likely place of concealment is not a bad call. If you really wanted the archers to go first, give them a slight boost to initiative when you're drafting the encounter.

The Barbarian and the Wizard burned a feat so that they could do exactly what they just did. If you are going to negate that advantage in any way, give them back a feat.

Well, I just noticed that the Rules Compendium says that you only roll initiative in combat encounters...

So most of what I said above is wrong.

 I personally still think it's a bit metagaming and that if you want to curb it a bit throw traps in the hallways and use innocents in the areas where they are likely to drop a blind burst.

"Never Give Up! Never Give In! Never Walk Away! Always Fighting!"
Remember that all actions being taken in one round are all happening simultaneously in "real time", despite being in a particular order in this turn-based game.
From a story perspective, the fact that the characters got to act first in the ambush just means that your bad guys didn't pull off the ambush as well as they thought they did... Somebody's foot slipped when they jumped out and the party heard the pebbles scattering, or somebody spooked a bird or squirrel that ran across the path, or one of the archers was dumb enough to yell "fire!" before they all loosed their arrows. Whether through sharp senses, quick reflexes or Spider-sense, the two characters with Alertness reacted just that much faster than the ambushers were expecting to.
If the archers were behind boulders then they either had to pop up to shoot over them, exposing themselves, or they had to use indirect fire - actual archery as practiced by the troops of the middle ages, which means that the party saw the flight of arrows come arching up over the boulders before raining down on their heads. The barbarian sees the archers pop up or sees the arrows coming at him and immediately charges - but unless he's within one turn's movement distance of them he's still eating an attack before he gets to hit back, which still perfectly represents getting ambushed.
As far as the wizard casting fireball, he starts casting the spell (probably intending to aim it at the archers) and then sees the enemies in the ditch preparing to climb out and attack, so he aims it at them instead...

As for the Duergar, Invisible is not Hidden - by RAW, the party knows where he is as soon as they roll initiative. Being invisible doesn't mean they don't know he's there, it just gives him a -5 penalty to hit him.
 You should have rolled a stealth check for the duergar before the combat started. A passive Perception check vs the duergar's stealth roll would have determined whether or not the party discovered him and whether or not there was a surprise round. You could also have decided that the duergar had a readied action prepared to fire when the party discovered him, which would have allowed him to get in the first attack regardless of his initiative roll.
Plus, in a situation like this, it wouldn't be amiss for a DM to decide that being invisible and hidden would give the duergar a situational bonus to his initiative roll since the combat started by the party having to react to his first shot.

Re: rolling the flaming sphere down the corridor to check for enemies - this is just good tactics, even though it's using a daily spell, although it's entirely possible for it to backfire on them as well, since there may be something in a room or side corridor that sees their giant ball of fire roll past and comes to investigate.

 On a general note, if you want your bad guys to get in the first attack during an ambush, you can have them take a ready action to attack when the party comes within a certain distance, performs a certain action, when they spot the bad guy, etc., (As in the case of the duergar) or you can just set up the first attack from the ambushers as a trap and then roll initiative for the fight when they set off the trap (Such as when the archers ambushed the party).

 Just remember that both the wizard and the ranger specifically spent character resources on always being able to act in the surprise round - this doesn't always mean they'll act first in the surprise round, but they do get to act, so don't go too overboard on trying to counter them for the sake of "realism"...

Show

I am the Magic Man.

(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

 

I am the Lawnmower Man.

(I AM GOD HERE!)

 

I am the Skull God.

(Koo Koo Ka Choo)

 

There are reasons they call me Mad...

Sign In to post comments