Updated: Jul 2, 2019
As we gather around the table anxiously awaiting the customary greeting of “you all meet at the inn” we scour the pages of our character sheets, making sure that arrows are stocked, magic weapons are ready, and dice have been blessed; don’t ask, it’s a thing, I swear. Each player has his own custom method for prep, either through rules lawyering the other players, or planning their next skill choices for that orgasmic moment of leveling up. This, of course, happens most with users of magic I’ve noticed. I can hardly blame them, being able to launch weapons of pure energy is quite the rush when one gets that critical D20 roll.
One thing I’ve made note of and what we will be exploring a little bit in this week’s blog is the lack of pre-game strategy planning. Now some of you are groaning. How can you plan if you don’t know what the adventure is going to be? Well, let’s be real. Certain things are constant in these types of games: there will be a primary goal, and there will be enemies to block the way.
If you are with the same gaming group every session, you should have learned enough about your comrades to plan combat strategy effectively. Fighters always in the front lines while rangers and clerics provide backup. Wizards, of course, are effectively based on the path they take. I’ve seen plenty of magic users that shred berserkers in close quarter combat, for example. The important thing is that everyone has a sweet spot in the party, and that should be decided ahead of time to speed game sessions and to make combat more about the action than planning.
There are, of course, specific scenarios that warrant on-the-fly decisions but insofar that it serves the Dudgeon Master’s (DM) story. Thieves, bards, and monks tend to be characters of great support in this area as they often fulfill needs that most other classes cannot.
I bring up strategy because it’s an almost forgotten part of adventure RPGs since the resurgence of miniature wargames. Games like Dungeons & Dragons have grown their lore and setting so much that some of the core tenets of the game have been rejected in favor of dramatic storytelling and dynamic characters. None of this is a bad thing, though.
Most will forget that TSR once stood for Tactical Studies Rules, and those early games were more like wargames with a plot behind it to move the combat forward. In today’s RPG world, it’s mostly the reverse, and as such, I believe it’s slowed things down a bit. So as players and Game Masters, let’s take a deep breath, work together, and plan ahead. There is more story to unfold if we can tackle the challenges more efficiently. It’s still a wargame at its core, so be ready to win.