RPG Blog Carnival April 2015 – The Combat Experience

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallIn April 2015, the RPG Blog Carnival rolls into RPG Alchemy. The topic for this month is: ����The Combat Experience����. Anything related to the combat experience in your roleplaying games is fair game! Exciting combat is an integral part of gaming. Many gaming systems and settings lend themselves very well to dynamic, engaging, and fun combat. I want to hear about your experiences as both a gamemaster and player regarding combat in your roleplaying games!

Nearly every gamer has a fond memory of some crazy thing that happened while their character was battling against the forces of evil. Or, they suffered an incredible setback and maybe even perished due to an unlucky dice roll. Some of us have mechanically mastered combat in a specific system, while other have mastered the art of dynamic story-telling and creating roleplaying sessions that feel like action movies!

black-dragon-combat– How does combat play out with your gaming group and favorite roleplaying games?

– What tips or tricks do you have for other gamemasters and players on creating a great combat experience?

– What are pitfalls that you����ve fallen into in the past when it comes to combat in gaming?

– Which game systems do you think have the best (and worst) combat systems?

– What was the best combat play experience you����ve ever had in a roleplaying session?

The submission period for this month����s topic runs from April 1st to April 30th. Please leave a comment in this post when you����ve written up an entry on the topic. Multiple entries are allowed (and even encouraged!). Once the month is over, I will gather up all of the submissions in a wrap-up post for everyone to read. Enjoy!

About Samuel Van Der Wall

Sam has been roleplaying since he first encountered Battletech 1st Edition. It was initially the tactical play that drew him in, but eventually he expanded into the roleplaying game portion and it was a done deal from there. His favorite game is Shadowrun, but he����s also a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeon World, Numenera, Star Wars, Warhammer, and many other roleplaying games. He����s a huge fan of Fantasy Flight Games and numerous other gaming companies and publishers. He prefers playing over game mastering. He likes creating one character, building on that character, integrating it into the story, and seeing how it develops over a campaign. He����s not afraid of character death because it����s often memorable and builds the story! If he had a specialty, it would be that he����s really into helping other players draw out storylines in their own characters and further their own goals. He����s never had the privilege of attending a gaming related convention, but hopes to attend two next year.


  1. I think one of the best ways to keep combat exciting is to have a “combat twist” in at least half, if not two thirds ,of your battle encounters. All too often I see a battle is set up with one side versus the other. Then they charge together and clash until a victor. Just beating on each other until one or the other drops. Just adding a little something can really mix these battles up.

    Here is a short list of “combat twists” to keep fighting fun.
    Reinforcements Arrive/Staggered Enemy Entrance (Turn easy fight into hard fight)
    Enemies Flee (Cowardly)
    Easily Surrender
    Trap in Battlefield (Pit, blades, explosives, acid)
    Terrain Changes or Discovery Even small holes, tunnels, or other obstructions can spice it up.
    Enemies don’t care about hitting other enemies.
    One mean bad guy turning on another. (Gaining station or rank)
    Environmental Changes – Storm Begins, Smoke or Fog rolls in
    Split the Party – Tree falls, chasm opens, or water washes through area.

    This is just a handful of examples that can make even a boring routine fight, tons of fun! This is all encounter type modifications. This doesn’t even touch all the cool things you can do with creature and enemy surprises.

    • Great point. I think my GM is the master of adding reinforcements!

      But yes, definitely not making it a red vs blue beat down fest is key. I was definitely guilty of that with D&D 4e as a GM, as I didn’t want to venture too far outside of their mechanical boundries. Then I realized I needed to loosen things up and make combat harder (or easier) by adding different obstacles, surprises, turning points, etc.
      Samuel Van Der Wall recently posted…This Week In Roleplaying – March 27th, 2015My Profile

  2. My general goal when putting together a combat encounter is to have no more than 60% of the encounter be about mechanics and at least 40% to be about other elements in order to keep it interesting. These days it’s more like 50/50.
    John Lewis recently posted…This Week In Roleplaying – March 27th, 2015My Profile

  3. Need posts on combat? Here’s mine at, Worlds of Adventure. You can find the post under “If You Think You Understand Combat. (No link, sorry, you security system insists in throwing a tizzy whenever I toss in a url.) I know not everybody’s going to like it, but I figured it needed to be said. Hope you get more.BTW,

  4. BTW, the upper level domain is “net”, not “com”

  5. It’s a bit of a tangent but I’m musing about the role of initiative in combat and comparing and contrasting different systems. You can find my post on the Arcane Game Lore blog (arcanegamelore.com).
    Tom Stephens recently posted…April RPG Blog Carnival ���� The Combat Experience ���� InitiativeMy Profile

    • Great topic. I replied over at your blog. My general feeling is that I don’t like overly complicated initiative systems. I think initiative should help the flow of combat (or whatever else you’re doing). But if it slows down or complicates the game, that’s too much for my personal tastes.
      Samuel Van Der Wall recently posted…Digital Tabletop ToolsMy Profile

  6. Hey Sam, great topic! Here’s my entry for this month. A few tips (some old hat, others a little new) for improving combat in your game to keep things from getting stale.
    James Introcaso recently posted…Spice Up Your CombatMy Profile

  7. I’ve got my submission for this month’s blog carnival up, but i suspect I’m going to do a few different posts on this general subject over the next few days.

    Black Campbell recently posted…RPG Blog Carnival, April 2015: The Combat ExperienceMy Profile

  8. Made my first attempt at an RPG Blog Carnival post, in which I have a bit of a ramble about my pet peeves in handling combat.
    Rob recently posted…[Rob’s Rambles] My Combat PeevesMy Profile

  9. Thanks for hosting this month. =)

    I’ve posted an article up at Houserule.com about encounter-specific mechanics, my experiences with them, and their role in tabletop RPGs.

    I don’t seem to have permissions to post links, but it’s the most recent article on the site.


    • @ Jeff D – Got it, thanks Jeff! As several have already mentioned, most aren’t able to link in the comments. I’m sure it’s a WordPress thing and I’m working on fixing that. I’ve got your entry of “The Combat Experience – Encounter Mechanics”. Thanks so much!
      Samuel Van Der Wall recently posted…Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 1My Profile

  10. Have you tried running combats without the grid? Especially for quick fights and mook fights that don’t need all the detail and game time?

    Here’s my entry for the RPG Blog Carnival.
    Switching From the Grid: Mapless Combat

  11. Taking a look at mass combat for RPGs here –

    All the best,
    Mark CMG

  12. Mark CMG Got it, thanks Mark.�� I agree that most RPGs don’t really focus on large-scalle combat, but rather on a scale that is conducive specifically to the party members.�� Usually any rules for large-scale combat are an afterthought by developers.�� They are rarely built into the product from Day 1.

  13. JamesIntrocaso says:

    @Samuel Van Der Wall So I wrote two more articles on this theme… some easy-to-use hazards for combat��http://worldbuilderblog.me/2015/04/14/simple-hazards and a different way of using a battlemat��http://worldbuilderblog.me/2015/04/23/flip-the-mat/

  14. JamesIntrocaso I think that makes you the official post leader so far then, James!�� Great additions.

  15. JamesIntrocaso says:

    Samuel Van Der Wall��I play to win. Thank you for hosting!

  16. PhilNicholls says:

    Hi Sam,

    I have posted a contribution at Tales of a GM about narrative combat:


    As this is the style of game, and thus combat, that I run, I felt this was the best way to contribute to your great choice of topic.

    Thanks for hosting.

  17. mythusmage says:

    Just replaced the old post with a new one. You can find it at:


    No, I don’t follow doctrine where RPGs are concerned.

  18. Thanks for an interesting topic and hosting this month.

    Sorry for being late to this months carnival, looks like I bit off more than I could chew this month :-)
    General_Tangent recently posted…30 Day D&D Challenge – Day 6My Profile

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