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How can I help combat be more diverse? I'm a player, but I'm open to suggesting things to my DM.

We are a party of 5th-level PCs. What we run into is the classic tactical situation every time: the barbarian and cleric tank, and the ranger (me) and wizard sit back and plink away or get in melee and are, well, making death saves. Another thing that happens is the wizard spell-shaping and just fireballing everything, unless he's in melee combat and trying to just kite and run.

Do I just try and get the DM to throw in more opposing mages and such? I wanna use my ranger kit but still have threats/challenges.

Another way to phrase my problem would be: how to engage more classes in combat?

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Tactical Combat requires a challenge. Challenge in D&D combat is going to come from groups of different enemies, environmental challenges, and other activities going on during the combat.

Fighting a bunch of goblins isn't that hard.

Fighting a bunch of goblins, some with swords, some with bows, backed up by some giant rat skirmishers and supported by a goblin spellcaster is hard.

Fighting that same bunch of goblins in the middle of a burning building while the rogue is picking the lock chaining a hostage to the wall is really, really hard. Also, fun.

As a player, you can't really do much about this as it is the DM who sets these scenes. You have to encourage your DM to spice up combat. In particular, if combats seem to be too easy, the DM shouldn't add more powerful monsters or more of the same monsters - they should add more types of monsters. Adding skirmish fighters (foes who attack one target then dart away to choose another target - something wolves and giant rats are excellent at) will significantly increase the challenge. Melee fighters should always be backed up with ranged fighters (either weapons or spells). A 5th level party should be facing foes using sleep and command and charm magic.

Having tasks that must be done while combat is raging will certainly require tactics, especially if tradeoffs have to be made. Does the rogue spend a few rounds picking the locks or spend the time fighting? If they pick the locks then they can get the hostage before the fire gets worse, but for those rounds the rogue isn't killing enemies. The DM should be forcing the players to make hard choices.

Encourage your DM to read AngryGM's articles on running kickass combats. Part 1, part 2, part 3.

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Adding variety to my campaign is important to me as a DM. I want each live session to be unique in some way. Lucky for me, I have a group of enthusiastic players who are willing to be frank with me as we plan out a long (two consecutive years now) campaign.

Here are a few ideas from my campaign to yours that you might discuss with your group.

Setting

The setting for your campaign can make a huge impact on what you do. We use the massive metropolitan setting of Ptolus. In one place we have dungeons to crawl, manors to infiltrate, mountains to climb, seas to sail, and skies to fly. We love it. Regardless of whether you use a commercial setting, encourage your DM to switch up the terrain at least every other game to keep things fresh.

Confronting the crew of an opposing airship 400 feet apart and 1,000 feet in the air makes for a very different game than a "typical" dungeon crawl, and invites different tactics. Seeking diversity ensures that every character has a moment to shine.

Complex encounters

There is already some great advice here on this subject. Variety in the tactics of your foes, coupled with non-combat challenges during an encounter give more characters a chance to shine. This takes preparation. Preparation takes time. But if your DM is willing to invest it, the payoffs are sweet.

Buy things

I thought I was an imaginative DM. Then I met the incredible writing of Monte Cook and learned I merely had delusions of adequacy. I'll tell you, whether it's a few bucks on a single module or an entire campaign setting, the ideas that come from 3rd-party publications pay off long after the material is exhausted. If you don't do this already, consider offering to buy a module and loan it to your DM.

Preparation

As a DM, I'll grossly understate my involvement to say that prepping for our game takes A LOT of time. Making a great game with interesting tactical situations usually does. If your DM also hosts the game, offer to take that off his or her hands to buy more time to prepare. The gesture will be appreciated and the games would likely benefit.

Patience

Sometimes, every last person at the table has put time, heart, and soul into things and the game still falls flat. It is always a good idea to be patient, grateful, and understanding if a session or two don't meet our expectations. Be open with your DM about the things you enjoy, and in time things will perk up.

Cheers!

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem is that this does not, in general, offer much advice on actually producing a tactical encounter. It suggests putting preparation time in for encounters, and to pick a setting that allows for complex tactical environments. Both are great points! The rest, however, don't seem to provide any advice on making combat tactical, just on creating variety and keeping things interesting, which is a good thing, but isn't what the question is about. (I can't tell if "buy things" is meant to produce variety, or if you're recommending published adventures as a good source of tactical combat.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 24 '15 at 6:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alas, since the edition is 5E, I thought it inappropriate to be specific, since my setting is a painfully hand-upgraded 3.0 setting; hardly the kind of advice I thought fair. As a player, the OP is not designing encounters, so I focused on things to discuss with the DM rather than encounter design technique. I appreciate your feedback, and I'll leave up the post, as I consider it on topic and sincere. Thanks for the tips, and regards. \$\endgroup\$ – kbrimington Feb 24 '15 at 7:00
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A combat is (almost) never only a combat.

If the players are confronting a bunch of monsters and nothing more, front to front, then the numbers speak, better numbers, better combat result.

The setting of the combat should bring some fun and tactics for the group with the upper hand (monsters or players), so try to include some extra stuff into play, some examples:

Ambush: If your players have a front and rear line, maybe the monsters could try to hide so some of them can attack the rear line (healers, casters). The first maneuver for a bunch of lesser creatures could be split the party so they can bring down healers/casters first while the others try to get into the combat to save his comrades.

A missing attack never vanishes into thin air: Where did that fireball hit? And the arrow? The barbarian swinging the axe? Maybe a column is hit and it crumbles splitting the party and blocking the healer's path and line of sight, maybe the fireball ignites the room, maybe the lost arrow activates a panel with a trap. This is specially useful when your players roll a natural 1, and since the fumble rules are non-existent get creative!

Furniture attacks: I think I saw on the D&D 4ed some rules to use scenery in some ways, like a brazier in the middle of the room, let's say that you can make a STR check to knock it over and make an area attack (DEX save, half damage and stuff). The lamp in the ceiling? Hell yeah! Let your ranger notice with a perception test that he can shoot the lamp and it will crush enemies behind (again DEX save, damage and maybe stunned or restrained on a failed save)

Weather and nature: Some classes like druids could get some advantage, bonus damage or higher DC saves for his attacks if the weather or the setting is appropiate. Maybe its raining, lets boost that Thunderwave!! An enemy walking on a puddle? Lightstrike his ass!!! He is now vulnerable and takes double damage. With some minor spells that can create water or obstacles you can get creative and boost other attacks, reward the creativity and show some!

Minions! Attack! Im right behind you!: Also on D&D 4ed there was a feature I liked a bit, the use of minions of 1hp (lets say 10 hp), his stats should be challenging in bonus attack and AC, but they go down on a single, maybe two hits. This is a good way of boosting your final evil magician mastermind, as he uses his reserves of infinite invocable minions to block line of sight, movement and making the PC's wasting their attacks on them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There are more examples, the fight on a bridge that is collapsing, trying to climb while under fire (arrows, rocks), somekind of mobile surface, fighting on flooded tunel with creatures that move quickly between your legs, unreachable targets like a bunch of archers on a cliff... \$\endgroup\$ – Corven Dallas Feb 24 '15 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent suggestions. I've been considering such things this week in preparation for my first session as a DM which will also include some new players... It'll hopefully be a hilariously awesome clusterfrig. I have no idea what kind of characters the new players are going to make but I want to prep encounters ahead of time, so I'm generating done tactically flexible battlemaps and preparing to swap, add or remove combatants on scene to balance combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Asher Feb 22 '18 at 16:43

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