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I am running my first campaign of D&D 5e. We have been playing for two years and I have maybe been a bit too generous with my players.

We play with a projector and MapTool, so the players can see the room where the monsters are as soon as one of them enters the room.

I have two players who are playing a hiding game with me. Both casters, a druid and a wizard, are pretty fragile, so they plan their attacks to enter the room, do their attack and then have enough movement left to leave the room. They wait outside for their next turn, and do it again. Since they see the movement in the room, they can do it, and I can't tell them to forget what they see.

How do I deal with these players' tactic?

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    \$\begingroup\$ These are two separate questions - you should probably split them out. Also, the first one about high AC players has already been answered here: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/93567/… \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Dec 12 '17 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Christoph I removed the chatty edit/summary. You're free to not accept an answer, if you don't find one more useful than the others, but the chattiness doesn't improve the question. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Dec 12 '17 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Although that might not feel like an answer, any attempt to help solve the problem in a Q needs to go through the answer posts. Comments are only for community management needs; it's also unfair to pin one's answer to the top of the page by using a comment to answer. (See this FAQ for more.) Please use only answer posts for answering. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '17 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the issue really that they apply a boring but effective tactic (which is legitimate)? The real issue is -- from what I understand -- they exploit knowledge that their characters do not have. As I understand it, someone (not them) enters the room, so you project it onto the wall, which they obviously see. Then, they announce all their moves based on that information which, actually, they don't have from their character's point of view. That's something I'd have an issue with. \$\endgroup\$ – Damon Dec 15 '17 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Damon you're right the issue is indeed meta gaming and not the tactics. Maybe I should point that out in the question... \$\endgroup\$ – Christoph Dec 15 '17 at 8:53

11 Answers 11

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Doorway dodging is a valid tactic and comes up a lot in computer games; dragging everyone in the room into a small spot where they can be burned down in a hail of AoE (Area of effect) damage works.

I have a few ways this can be dealt with:

Close the door

This works best for boss fights since it will get old fast but the door closes automatically, the first time one player gets trapped outside the fight they will learn.

Run away

Creatures in the room back off into the next room

Hide

Creatures hide behind things during their turn so when the doorway people come in they have no targets.

Ready actions

Creatures can or stay near the door and ready an action to attack as soon as someone comes through the door.

Match the tactics

Creatures can use the same tactics as the players. Have them spend one turn getting close to the door, then they can dodge in and out just like the players. If the creatures outnumber the players then you have some dodging in and out, and other readying actions as a trap for when the players do it.

Change the environment

More drastically you can change the environments you scripts to not have so many rooms or doorways.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 13 '17 at 14:16
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  1. Allow your players to use these tactics. It's entirely legitimate for player characters to take advantage of mobility and cover, and if your players enjoy the game this way, you've succeeded in the primary job of a Dungeon Master, which is to keep the players happy.
  2. Allow opponents to use cover tactics. If the PCs can take cover, so can opponents. Place furniture in the room so that the spellcasters don't have line of effect from the doorway. Even partial cover is useful: half cover grants +2 to AC and Dexterity saving throws, three-quarters cover grants +5 to the same. Moving around the cover negates it, but requires you to enter the room. This forces spellcasters to choose between playing it safe and fighting effectively.
  3. Have opponents chase the PCs. If the druid won't come to the fight, have the fight come to the druid. A large number of enemies can simply move past the party members. The party's fighter can only make one opportunity attack per round, and intelligent and brave enemies may take that calculated risk if they consider the spellcasters to be the greater threat.
  4. Occasionally use opponents who hard counter their tactics. It's generally considered poor form to always nerf a PC's ability, but here are a few tactics opponents might use:
    1. Throw smoke at the doorway to conceal people inside from people outside.
    2. Use magic to turn the doorway area into mud or other difficult terrain, slowing anyone who tries to move in it.
    3. Clever and stealthy opponents may set an ambush so that the PCs are attacked from both sides.
    4. Readied attacks, as mentioned before, negate the benefit of taking cover on your own turn.
    5. Roll a barrel in front of the door during the fight so it can't be easily opened. Bonus points if they do this and then remember that the door opens outward.
    6. Cast an arcane lock spell on the door so the spellcasters are delayed by having to knock the door down.
    7. Blow the door off its hinges with a fireball, ballista, thrown boulder or similar effect. On subsequent rounds, cast area effect spells or throw alchemist's fire into the room beyond.
    8. Pour oil under the door and set it alight.
    9. An enemy with darkvision might put out all the lights in the room, making it difficult for anyone outside the room to target anyone inside.
    10. Door mimic.
  5. Not every fight happens near a door. Consider open archways with no door, long corridors, wide rooms, and wilderness encounters. The door may be non-solid, such as a portcullis or partially broken door.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your #10 is easily the best option: Players like to stay near the door? Make a door that eats players! \$\endgroup\$ – lucasvw Dec 13 '17 at 14:49
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The problem isn't that your players have found an exploit to trivialize the game.

The problem is that your tactically-minded players have already found an optimal strategy that works for every encounter, so they are likely to lose interest.

Don't punish your players by forcing them to abandon their strategy - reward them by presenting new tactically interesting situations

Their strategy works well because it keeps the ranged characters out of danger while they are still fully effective on offense. To create an interesting choice for the players, you can either add an element of danger to the hallway, or add a desirable objective in the room. This gives them a meaningful choice - Is it safer to stay outside or come in? Will I be more effective on offense if I come inside? Which is more important to me?

Sample dangers could include:

  1. Monsters coming up from behind
    • Fight in the hall? OK, but you'll draw attention from the monsters in the next room too...
  2. Persistent environmental effects
    • Stormy weather, excessive heat from lava flows, noxious gasses, steam vents, etc.
  3. Hostile AoE
    • Put a patch of Grease in the doorway, and the wizard might think twice about running over it every turn.
    • Or less subtly, a Cloudkill is a pretty strong incentive to get moving!

Positive incentives to enter the room require a bit more creativity. This could be as simple as overcoming the monsters' own fortifications/cover, or taking advantage of beneficial terrain or features inside the room, like a healing spring or font of arcane power.

Not every encounter needs to start with the party opening a door

Rather than populating rooms with punching bags, plan for tense situations that could escalate into violence, such as an unfriendly negotiation or the exploration of a haunted crypt.

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  1. One thing you can do is have hidden monsters. Very high stealth rolls or or that was simply out of their field of vision. Perhaps behind them (such as in a hall that was hidden, or on the ceiling, lying in wait) and waiting for the perfect time to strike.

  2. Traps are a great way to catch them off guard. A falling portcullis that splits the casters in the hallway and the fighter and cleric into the main room with two different sets of monsters for them to face could cause more challenge for both groups. Magical traps of some kind can also turn the tides.

  3. You can always make the creatures have a bit of Damage Resistance, magic Resistance, or spell resistance. All creatures can be slightly different. I mean, not all people are the same. So the same should apply to your creatures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since sundering isn't a thing in 5e, can you explain how you've implemented it and how it's been received in your games that use it? Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 12 '17 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I already done some hidden monsters attacking the wizard who is most time the last in walking order. I always get the "Sure you do that!" reaction when they haven't spotted the monster, even when they weren't searching for one. I get the players, they don't want to make perception checks in each hall since it slows the game. Believe me, when ever one caster is in the room they are the main target, which again leads them to flee at first chance. \$\endgroup\$ – Christoph Dec 12 '17 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer needs to be cut down to reflect the cut down question. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Dec 12 '17 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I've somewhat carried over the sundering mechanics in other games I have played (Pathfinder mostly). Armor has HP and conditions. Set amounts for certain armor, and it can be healed with mending. Them being rusted gives it a -1 to its total AC given to a character, and at half HP for the armor it only gives half its normal ac to a character. It having magical properties increased the HP of the armor as well. Players received it well, saying it felt more challenging, but I have had some say it is a bit too harsh at first. \$\endgroup\$ – Voxus Dec 12 '17 at 16:46
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A few things I have to suggest are repeats, but there are some new ones to justify a post:

  • Don't forget that people count as cover. The people popping in and out of the room may have to contend with their allies' presence providing unintentional cover to the enemies if attack rolls need to be made.
  • Give enemies Advantage when it makes sense to do so. Creature abilities like pack tactics, attacking from hiding, an ally casting Faerie Fire, terrain situations that justify it (attacking from a high point), etc. are all instances where enemies can gain advantage to help overcome high ACs.
  • Spells! I think DMs sometimes forget that not all enemies need to be mindless meat sacks engaging in blunt force diplomacy. Try to have your monster groups include at least 1 or 2 spell casters that can provide additional support to the enemies either in spells requiring saves or buff spells. The MM can be a bit thin on competent spellcasters, but if you need a goblin shaman, just reskin the Acolyte or Cult Fanatic and off you go.
  • Traps! Your group seems to be missing a dedicated trap monkey. Perhaps your playstyle is to not penalize the group for that omission and so you've minimized traps, but what you could do is have levers within the room that activate traps in the hall. For example, the walls outside the door in a goblin cave have hidden holes which shoot out darts that someone inside can activate if the spoken password isn't correct.
  • Close the door is perhaps the most obvious option, but is more likely to devoid into a comedy routine with people opening and closing the door unless the door locks. If you want to make it more dramatic, consider having a large brute type close the door and block it from opening again with his body. Now the people outside have a means to open it, but it comes in the form of a difficult strength check or they may have to nuke the door itself.
  • Readied actions, particular those that can force someone to stop can help mitigate players constantly popping in and out. You can't run back out if you get grabbed, afflicted by a Hold Person, or some other effect that tanks your speed from a readied action. This can be a reasonable tactic for an intelligent enemy since a Wizard sticking their head in to nuke you regularly is a pretty big threat that you and your allies might want to eliminate.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the idea of a Brute holding the door. If they are big enough, they may not even need to spend their action to hold it closed (only fair since opening a door in 5e costs so little). They could just stand in front of the door (if it opens in) while they fight back. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Dec 12 '17 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickBrown the most practical way to handle a closed door blocked by a character is using the Shove rules. The monster closes the door and stands in front of it, in order to open the door, the Druid or Wizard would need to successfully shove the character blocking the door, thereby pushing him 5' and allowing the door to be opened. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Dec 12 '17 at 20:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ So does this require the monster to be actively spending their Action every turn, or can they manage to fight at the same time? \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Dec 12 '17 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ They don't have to spend their Action holding the door, they can fight as well, but they just can't move. Even that's not exactly accurate, because of the way turn order works, the creature could start it's turn blocking the door with their body, move to attack someone, and then return to the door. This would likely provoke an AoO from the character they moved to attack, but it would probably be worth it to impede the Druid and the Wizard. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Dec 12 '17 at 20:51
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More Ideas:

Pincer: Let's say you have a high HP monster in a small room that has a narrow hallway leading up to it. HAve your PC's grind happily on the monster, then have a different monster sneak up behind and attack the weak casters, preferably with grapples or something that prevents their movement.

Indiana Jones: Keeping the small room/narrow hallway model, have them play a round or two, then throw down a giant rolling boulder or gelatinous cube or wall of stone/ice/fire/toxic gas coming at them. Enter the room or die kind of thing.

Go 3D: Going from one room to another implies a horizontal floor. Have the next room be accessed only through a shaft that goes DOWN. Even if they can fly, that will take a spell most likely. Mind you, this will give them even more advantage to just chuck spell effects down

Time: IF you notice this tactic generates long boring fights, then add a time element. A lit fuse, a spell effect designed to go off in a certain amount of time, dying NPC they need to save yada yada.

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For players moving in and out of a room, they are well within the rules to do so, however, there are ways around that. One method is to place the other party members in situations that require their direct intervention, lest they be overwhelmed. Additionally, read up on 'Ready Actions' in the PHB, as monsters can use those just like players do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thx I will try to add your suggestion in my next story. \$\endgroup\$ – Christoph Dec 12 '17 at 15:55
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There a plenty of good suggestions here, so I'll make a comment on what I had seen happening at my table.

I began using tactics like those suggested here, and at first my players became even more cautious about poking around doors. At first, this lead to these ridiculous standoffs, with both sides waiting for the other to come around the corner. When you hold actions, hide, or make the doorway tough to traverse, it can lead to neither party wanting to take the risk of acting first.

When this happens, I often break into more role-playing. The enemies will taunt the player characters, hurling insults, and saying whatever nasty things I can think of. Having 3 smelly goblinoids making jokes at the PC's expense is at least an entertaining way to pass a dead round (and helped me as the DM release some of frustration at my players). It can even make some players take a risky option just to rub it in the enemy's face.

The other is to have those in the room call for help. Bang shields, shout, or smash furniture against the walls to get the attention of a patrol or allies in the room over.

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If I understand this right, the problem is that the players know exactly where to target their spells while the characters might not necessarily. Because otherwise it sounds like a perfectly valid tactic.

Just because the player knows exactly where they are doesn't mean the character does. An attack could take a second or two longer while the character has to look and aim, especially if the enemy inside the room has moved (even if the player knows exactly where they moved to).

If this is the case, then they have to poke their head around the door for a second to get a view of what's going on before they can fire off their attack. At this time, an enemy could take the opportunity to take a shot at them.

If you roll a better initiative than someone, don't the rules allow you to "hold" your attack for a bit longer while you wait for your enemy to do something? The enemies can do this too! Besides, what's to stop an enemy wizard casting a fireball through the doorway, frying anyone hiding around the corner?

But overall I don't see the problem with the good guys using such sneaky tactics, but the bad guys should do it too!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You got the problem right. The players may know the location of all enemies but not the characters. My players can't separate that two facts, this is also why Meta Gaming is a problem in our group. I had to kill one joke they where pulling on me all the time by opening the door, making an attack, closing the door again and be happy. So i decided that opening a door during combat takes an action and the problem was gone. \$\endgroup\$ – Christoph Dec 14 '17 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Christoph - that's the job, don't be afraid to tell them it'll take their characters a bit of time to figure out what's going on, and stuff can happen during this time, even if the players know it straight off. \$\endgroup\$ – colmde Dec 14 '17 at 15:48
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One thing I used to do to my players when I ran a Bushido campaign, was to tell the players that as the door opens, their only communication would be 1 word each.

After that, they separately write what their PC will try to do and where it will go. I'd generally give them 30 seconds to write their instructions. Then when they have finished, the instructions are carried out in initiative order.

This stopped a range of choreographing and enabled PCs to get in each others ways and suffer from "friendly fire" etc.

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Why do your monsters stay in one place?

Put yourself in the mind of a monster. (Or the mindless reflex movements, if it's a gelatinous cube. Whatever.) Someone opens the door to where you're living, hurts you, and jumps back through the door.

Suppose you're not an intelligent monster. If you're badly hurt, you'll run away if there's a way out, or at least hide behind something to stop it happening again. If you're not badly hurt, or if you're cornered with no way out, you'll charge straight for them and either try to kill them or at least try to get past them to run away.

Or suppose you're intelligent. Again, you may run or hide if you're badly injured, or you may charge for the door if you're a bit of a nutjob. Or if you're smarter, you may run for the side of the room, so that it takes more PC movement to get you.

What you absolutely will not do is stand in one place like a statue! Unless you are a statue, or a tree, or something like that of course,

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protected by doppelgreener Dec 15 '17 at 12:23

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