I am the kind of gamer that mostly enjoys the story and I love roleplaying.

However this time I am the Dungeon Master and not a player. How can I encourage my players to roleplay during combat instead of just saying: "I'll use that skill", then rolls the dice, "I deal X damage, and I mark it."

I love imagining how the story flows, but I can't seem to pass it on them.

Any suggestions?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ In-depth narration might help. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2014 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I might sound nitpicky but... usually, the word "combat" is used to reference fighting in D&D, while "battle" is often used to describe large, war-like clashes of forces. While the latter is in no way official, the former is the word used by the books, including the omonymous chapter in the Player's Handbook. I suggest you use a title like "Introducing Roleplay during Combat", so it's immediately clear to everyone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Feb 20, 2014 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel I agree... when I read the title, I assumed it was in the context of a war, not typical PC combat. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2014 at 17:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Closed as dupe. I can merge the answers over to that one if there's general assent. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 20, 2014 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk my answer was more 4e/D&D related, I don't know if it's really valid for the more general question. Better leave it here as long as this question stands. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Feb 20, 2014 at 20:44

2 Answers 2


The very first time I DM'd a D&D 4e game was at a Con and one of the guys had been playing and DMing 4e for a long time. He used to play just like you would like to and I think it's really fun.

The biggest problem with it is that this slows down combat and the game gives you no rewards for doing so.

As a consequence, there's basically two ways you can obtain what you're wishing for:

  1. You tell your players you'd like them to do, and they agree because they like that too. (Their reward comes from getting a nice RP, which they like.)
  2. You bring in mechanical rewards (like a +1 to hit) if they roleplay even during combat. It's still better if they like dragging their encounters a little bit more because of the additional description. Be sure they know of the rewards and of your motives.

Easiest solution for you? Give on-the-spot situational bonuses on the to-hit roll or on damage for a good description (e.g. "I jump off of the hillock and direct a two-handed slam against the Orc's head." "Cool. Roll to attack. You hit him, and +1 damage for a good description. He looks like he's faltering."). Biggest issue with that is that it penalizes players who aren't creative on a spontaneous level and can lead to "I can top that." descriptions that derail the flow of play. One possible solution to that is to only allow one such description in battle, allowing the less improv-happy players to "prepare" such a description in advance. An alternate version is to give some small award after the encounter to everyone who chipped in a good descriptor. Don't make that one a competition though, to avoid the "top that" derailing.

Another potential solution is to raise the general standard of play. Add in your own descriptions to NPC attacks (but don't add the situational bonuses). Those players that you know are good at adding descriptors, encourage them to do so. Often, this causes the other players to step up their game. This is the gentler solution.

Lastly, especially if some players are having issues at coming up with ideas, consider a short workshop session where players chime in on good descriptions based on a general scenario or an image. It helps if you have good and bad examples from literature, RPG sessions, etc.

Of course, one needs to have the additional disclaimer that this may or may not work for any particular group or players. Some players are happier just saying "I roll to do a Standard attack" and forcing them to do otherwise will just cause stress for them, which can lead to stress for you. Consider how much stress you'll take either way and weigh that in your decision.


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