Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sometimes my combats are too boring, just a bunch of dice rolls. I want my fightings to be fast and various. Often is all about "you See the enemy, roll the dice a few Times, go on". This takes too time and is uninteresting. I'd like to make fights were the PCs actually interact and fight like in a movie scene, while often it's bland and just dice-rolling. Any ideas?

share|improve this question

closed as unclear what you're asking by BESW, Lord_Gareth, Zachiel, Phil, mxyzplk Mar 18 at 0:11

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

"Brutal" and "cinematic" don't really have established RPG-specific meanings. Could you please provide some objective criteria, or give examples of systems that accomplish what you want, or describe conflicts which would meet your expectations? –  BESW Mar 17 at 21:07
Check out this question about speeding up combat; it's 3.5, but Pathfinder is close enough that I suspect it makes no difference. If those answers are useful, remove the "fast-paced" bit from this question. If not, please provide more detail so that answers to this question don't cover the same ground (making them useless to you). –  BESW Mar 17 at 21:10
It's still pretty vague--I understand the problem, but we still don't know what "cinematic" and "exciting" looks like for you so any advice would be random guessing. Again, look at the "speeding up combat" question I linked above and clarify what you want that it doesn't answer. And then look at this question about making fights more interesting, and specify what its answers aren't helping you with. –  BESW Mar 17 at 21:37
I think this could be a really good Q&A for this site if you expand on your requirements a little. Even an example of what you want it to be like vs what it turns out like would be useful. –  mxyzplk Mar 18 at 0:12
Also, related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/25731/… rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/975/… rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/16577/… - figure out what makes your question different and then say it. –  mxyzplk Mar 18 at 0:12

3 Answers 3

Make your encounters more of a puzzle that needs to be solved than a nail that needs to be hit with a hammer.

Use monsters that will be difficult (but not impossible) for your PCs to defeat, and then set up the 'arena' in a way that the combatants can either use to their advantage or is dangerous to them.

A group I was in once faced an enemy much too strong for us, but we managed to pin him under some falling sand (we were in a dwarven manufactory of some sort) in order to damage him. Another personal example is a monster that was weakened by light, so we had one character standing with a mirror within a pillar of light coming from the ceiling while we attempted to keep the monster in the reflected beam so we could hurt it.

Perhaps there are archers on a rise above where the main party is fighting, and the rogue must find a way to reach them and remove them as a threat while the fighter stays behind to engage the main enemy? Don't be afraid to split the party during a fight so they can't just gang up on one enemy.

You just have to be creative. With infinite possibilities I can't possibly outline all of them here. Traps and other mechanisms, hazardous terrain, and other interactive elements go a long way into spicing up your encounters.

And don't forget: NPCs that are smart enough may use the terrain to their advantage as well. Don't let your PCs be the only ones to take advantage of any tricks.

share|improve this answer
Wouldn't this tend to make fights either last longer (as the party has to figure out a way to deal with the threat which isn't readily connected to their characters' primary combat features), or make it less exciting by having fights frustratingly difficult? "Run away or die unless you can figure out the fight's gimmick" isn't especially interesting in Pathfinder. –  BESW Mar 17 at 23:01
Requiring a little ingenuity of the players I think is much more interesting than encouraging them to min-max because all their doing is rolling dice. Encounters may last a little longer, but is that necessarily a bad thing? What's the difference between a long conversation (read: social encounter) and a fun puzzle? Don't deny your PCs victory, just make them search for a way to achieve it. –  Jason_c_o Mar 17 at 23:14
True. But I think the central problem to the question isn't the long encounter time, its how interesting the encounters are (and how they just boil down to dice rolls). A long encounter wouldn't seem so long if it were fun and involved more than dice rolls. If anything, this should almost be two different questions. –  Jason_c_o Mar 17 at 23:20
Then you should help the OP revise his question, in the process finding out whether your guess about his true intent is correct, rather than answering only the question you think he meant to ask. If that's too much, then at least pay lip service to the speed-of-combat issue in your answer by explaining why you're choosing not to address it. (If the question were split into two posts, they'd likely be closed as duplicates of this one and this one, thus the fact they were asked together is crucial.) –  BESW Mar 17 at 23:26
I agree with BESW, when a question is unclear, leaping in with an answer premature. –  mxyzplk Mar 18 at 0:19

If you want your players to become creative in a fight, such as by taking advantage of terrain (or create terrain advantage by fireballing the brush behind which the enemy is taking cover), or by pulling tricks on the enemy, you need to provide them with two things: material and example.

Players need material: "You are in a nondescript alley and find yourself surrounded by giant rats. Roll for initiative" doesn't give them anything to work with. "You stumble out of the tavern, comfortably drunk, and a few steps down the next alley that leads toward the harbor between abandoned-looking warehouses, the bard starts chatting up one of the statues of the local goddess that seem to be quite randomly distributed around the city. This one isn't in a particularly nice location, its hips barely rise above the empty crates and rotten fruit that lines both sides of the alley, with the occasional wooden beams thrown into the mix. As you try to pull the bard away from his first successful conquest of the night, you turn to find your way blocked by several giant rats who have not forgotten your attack on their home. Roll for initiative" - here, you have environment to work with.

Players also need examples: If rolling for attack and damage is all they've ever done for combat, they won't be able to make fantastic narratives out of the blue. Show them how the enemy uses the surroundings to their advantage, how they feint, and how they move from one combat area to another, where they hope to have better chance at beating the party. If the enemies make use of their advantages, you will be able to stat them out with fewer hitpoints - they won't need to be able to survive lots and lots of tedious hits to make combat both challenging and interesting.

share|improve this answer

If you want a more cinematic game, my first thought was "switch to a more narrative-driven rules system, something like Dungeon World". But since the OP is tagged Pathfinder, I'll assume you don't want to switch systems. So my second suggestion is to borrow elements from movies. One biggie is the environment itself, or what Hollywood would call the "set".

Fill your set with lots of details, and use those details in the scene to break up the back-and-forth dice rolling. Here are some examples off the top of my head, but every situation is different (or it should be!) and therefore each set presents different opportunities to make the environment part of the scene. Think of Captain Jack Sparrow...

  • The enemy dives for cover behind the desk; you cannot see him clearly anymore, what do you do?
  • The enemy jumps down hard on the floorboard, the other end comes loose and shoots up under your feet. Make a roll to avoid falling over while the enemy gets one free round to attack from range.
  • The enemy pushes over the stack of barrels, which all tumble rapidly in your direction. Make a roll to dodge them or jump over them. Meanwhile the enemy gets to a better position.
  • The enemy grabs a rope and swings to the other end of the room; you have one chance to hit a moving target or he'll be out the door.
  • The enemy's backup dudes are breaking up into small groups and taking offensive positions throughout the cavern. Does the party break up too, or do you all stay focused on the main enemy?
  • The cavern is filled with bubbling mudpits: Each mudpit has a 30% chance of bursting a hot bubble of slippery ooze every round; if you are within 10' of a burst you have to make a roll to remain standing. The enemy has mastered the timing of the mudpit bursts and need make no such rolls.

You get the idea. Make the set part of the action. Let your PCs use the set as well. You can get a lot of interesting moves just by thinking about it for a minute.

share|improve this answer
While the general idea is sound, wouldn't a lot of these examples result in increasing the combat time by adding extra rolls and introducing new rules/triggers to track? The question is about speeding things up too, and I don't see how this answer is addressing that. –  BESW Mar 17 at 23:13
This doesn't seem to do much other than add more narrative to the actual dice rolls and does nothing to actually mix up the encounters. –  Jason_c_o Mar 17 at 23:16
The OP says "more interesting," so I am addressing the title question. The OP says "fast and various" but that does not necessarily mean that they want combat to be over quickly. Judging from the rest of the post, the word "fast" seems to have more to do with excitement than duration. I'm not here to argue in comments, I'm here to submit my answer and let the system do its thing. If it stinks, it sinks. :-) –  As If Mar 17 at 23:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.