Dungeons & Dragons 5E: Winning Tactics for Characters and Monsters

There are times when it really helps to have a strategy guide. I remember trying to get through…oh, I don’t know…like every video game ever, and needing the strategy guides (Prima was my choice, until the internets came along). I was just one of those people I guess. Regardless, many roleplaying games don’t specifically set to explain their design assumptions, just design goals or the rules themselves. The rest is up to you.

Here to help with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, however, is a lovely overview of winning tactics from a thread on RPG.Net, written by Ornithopter.

Mom I told you we're playing Dungeons and Dragons!

Gandalf had a mom, too, I’ll bet.

It’s great because it explicitly puts out there what’s implicitly a 5th Edition construct, considering all characters and monsters can split their movement and attack (i.e. move + attack + move), there are no “5-foot” steps, Opportunity Attacks are a Reaction (and most characters only get one), and certain class abilities allow for items to be used as a Bonus Action. These fundamental rules leave a lot of implicit assumptions that we so far haven’t seen spelled out in the published books.

Without further ado, here’s what Ornithopter had to say.

Posted by Ornithopter, 11/12/2014:

People with reach weapons standing behind the meatshield blocking the door get OAs too, making it more punishing to deliberately provoke. (Or, if the meatshield kills the first guy with his OA, the backup with reach weapons can save their OAs for the next one up)

Other creature’s squares count as difficult terrain, so for most humanoids, it’s actually quite difficult to set up a configuration where many opponents can get into and exit a single square chokepoint each round. In general they’ll end each turn very clumped up, making them vulnerable to bursts and blasts.

Caltrops or ball bearings or burning oil dropped in the square or squares in front of the chokepoint make this tactic harder to use as well. Thief or Arcane Trickster Rogues can deploy these kinds of items with only a bonus action.

Spells like grease dropped in front of the door operate similarly.

If you have lots of good ranged attacks in the rest of the party, have the meatshield take the Dodge action. He’ll still get one attack a round (the OA), but all attacks against him will be at Disadvantage, and all his allies will get their full damage output.

From a slightly less rules-mechanics-standpoint, dungeon crawling is an undertaking that requires a lot of logistical planning if you wanna do it right. One of the most important things a party can do is have the right hirelings to shore up some weaknesses (“Don’t have a fighter? Hire a man-at-arms!”) and to carry out some of the more menial tasks like carrying torches or watching the horses at the dungeon’s entrance. Give me your six most essential hirelings for dungeon-crawling is an RPGNet thread that gives a lot of great examples of useful hirelings. Here’s a sample:

  • Man-at-arms or squire: bolsters combat capabilities or carry tower shields.
  • Porter: carries gear, loot, and so on.
  • Torchbearer: carries light sources and doubles as a porter or man-at-arms.
  • Scribe: mapmaker, journal recorder.
  • Sage: folks that know lore and languages can be hella useful in an alien environment!
  • Trap-springer: often an unintelligent creature like a zombie or construct, or a summoned being like an elemental.
  • Radar: the best are small animals such as companions or familiars that can independently scout ahead and have access to special senses.
  • Carpenters: you’d be surprised what you can do when you tear down dungeon walls or build new ones!

What are your favorite tactics in 5th Edition?

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neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He’s been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

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