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Can monsters in Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 share turns?

In the first encounter of the Dungeons and Dragons 4e Redbox it states that you should make one initiative roll for the two goblins and one for the two wolves. Then under tactics it says that the wolves should move in and attempt to flank, attack, then move away. This seems to state that they should be taking a turn as if they were two parts of one monster (like a monster split in half that gets two move actions, two standard actions, two minor actions), however when I look at their shared stat block there is nothing, other than the "2 wolves" part of the stat block, that indicates they should be moving simultaneously. Later in the book there is a stat block that says "8 Goblins" for example; should I move those 8 monsters all at the same time as well?

When I say "move at the same time" I mean, move both of them, then attack with both of them, then use their special shift to shift them away (4 spaces each). If the 8 monsters later on are moved in this manner that would allow me to move all 8 of them completely surrounding my PCs and then attack as one.

This makes sense in "real life" terms, but in game turns this gives NPCs an unfair advantage over PCs. Why couldn't my PCs all move at the same time to all get into position and then all attack at the same time?

I feel like I am missing something here and am pretty confused.

My question is multi-part:

  • Do I move these wolves at the same time and then attack at the same time (after each has moved)?
  • How do I know if monsters are supposed to behave in this manner (Is the key just that if they share a stat block they move as one and that this stat block sharing isn't just to save space as I assumed?)?
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Just on the point of the PC question--the PCs /can/ do that, in fact. If they're willing to delay or ready actions, they can all go on the same initiative. Usually it's more effective to stay near where you currently are in initiative, to get attacks off before certain monsters, but a clumped initiative party can do just the same as monsters when it comes to positioning and then attacking via readied actions. One other key--because this uses readied actions, anything that prevents the second character/monster from getting into position...prevents the action unless another takes its place. –  Brisbe42 Nov 15 '10 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The mechanics are spelled out in the DMG. They end up working like this:

  • The first monster moves.
  • The first monster readies an action to attack when the second monster is in position (this is a standard action).
  • The second monster moves.
  • The second monster attacks.
  • The first monster resolves its readied action.

This allows any group of monsters to move and attack as one, as long as they are willing to share an initiative number. Most DMs use this sort of tactics to make managing large groups of the same monster easier. Worth noting is that player characters can use these tactics as well.

The extra minor action for each wolf at the end is probably "cheating" a bit. Mostly it's just done to make combat a bit smoother, and compensate for the limited tactics allowed to NPCs.

You can find this information on page 38 of the DMG:

Roll once for each distinct kind of monster in the encounter.

[...]

Monsters can also ready within their turn without shifting their place in the initiative order. For example, the orc raiders can both move into a flanking position and then both attack with combat advantage. Technically, the first one to move would have to ready its attack until the other one moved into position, but it all works out the same in the end.

To answer your specific questions:

Do I move these wolves at the same time and then attack at the same time (after each has moved)?

Yes.

How do I know if monsters are supposed to behave in this manor (Is the key just that if they share a stat block they move as one and that this stat block sharing isn't just to save space as I assumed?)?

In general, creatures of the same type share an initiative. However, this isn't a hard and fast rule... It's there to make it more convenient for DMs to manage large swarms of monsters.

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I guess I should read the 4e DMG! –  C. Ross Nov 13 '10 at 14:57

I don't know that it is stated in the rules that monsters share turns, but itis fairly common for DM's to run many monster's turns together. I've certainly been doing this for years, as has every DM I've ever had.

The most common reason this is done is for speed and simplicity. It takes more time and more intellectual effort to keep track of 8 (or 2) individual initiatives.

As to your two questions

  • You can do whatever you prefer. If it behooves you (as in this case, feel free to move all, attack all, minor all). This also tends to be faster.
  • Whichever you prefer. Use as many or as few separate monster groups as you like. You're the DM, you run the game. Usually it will be in your best interest to run them as a group.

As a side note, we run player groups this way as well, with three or four players going on the same initiative. For large groups it works quite well.

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