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Imagine this situation, which has happened enough times now that I'm looking for a solution:

The characters are walking down a corridor in their marching order. The corridor is only 5ft wide. Their marching order has the melee characters at the front and the ranged characters at the back. They reach a door to a room and open it. Inside, some skeletons are waiting to attack! Everyone rolls for initiative, and the party does very badly; all the skeletons act first. Skeletons are of course pretty mindless, so they shamble forward and crowd around the door. Now the whole party, all six of them, is stuck in the corridor.

The problems with this are pretty clear. The ranged characters at the back can't see past five other characters to fire at the skeletons. Only the first melee character can attack as the others are stuck behind.

Now this isn't a huge problem with skeletons as they go down so easily, but imagine the same thing with much tougher creatures - it can last a while.

This situation is not much fun. How can I, as the GM, avoid it without having the creatures ignore the party if they win initiative? Alternatively, how can the party deal with the problem quickly, and get everyone into the action?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you DM or player in this situation? put a better way, do you have the option to remove the 5ft corridors? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov May 29 '16 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov I am the DM. I was just thinking as I asked the question that someone might come up with that as an answer. However, there is sometimes good reason for a corridor being 5ft. The corridors in your average house for example are less that 5ft. Make an answer out of that though (and other design ideas), and I'll upvote it as useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas May 29 '16 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't the party actively opening the door get some kind of initiative bonus? They should be expecting trouble, right? Of course, planning to barge through the door as you open it isn't wise, not without taking time to evaluate the tactical situation and layout. Still, it seems unrealistic for the party to be caught totally flat-footed when they open a door, if the creatures on the other side didn't hear them coming. Or did they? I guess that's what "waiting to attack!" means. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes May 30 '16 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a player who was 'stuck in the corridor', I feel like the situation you've presented is slightly misleading. In reality, the room we entered was a small (25x25ft or so, with a few 5x5ft columns) chamber filled with ghouls, a vampire spawn, a vampire, and later several swarms of rats. We did, after a few rounds, manage to get into the room, so there wasn't a problem of being stuck in the corridor. The real problem was that the ranged characters were unable to move into the room without being surrounded by monsters, and so were stuck in the corridor with a limited amount of options. \$\endgroup\$ – Vulpes Inculta May 30 '16 at 8:29
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There are two issues here:

  1. The ranged characters can shoot past any number of other creatures - they just have +2 or +5 to their AC depending on if you rule they have half or three-quarters cover. Of course, many spells do not care about cover at all.

  2. Your players were unimaginative in their choice of tactical options. There are any number of ways to deal with this situation; standing still and hacking away is the most least imaginative of them.

A whole mess of better options are available including:

  • Having someone behind the lead fighter cast Guidance on them every turn.
  • Create space behind the lead character and have them grapple one of their opponents and drag it into that space to be turned into mincemeat from both sides.
  • Retreating back to the previous room so the party controls the choke point.
  • Shoving the creature in front so they can force their way into the room.
  • Rotating the lead character so they can benefit from healing etc. and get rotated back.
  • Using spells that physically move the creatures out of the way.
  • Moving forward into the vacant space when you kill one.
  • Spider Climb or Wildshaping into something with a climb speed and going over everyone's head.
  • Physically climbing over the top.
  • Teleport, Dimension Door, etc.
  • And so on and so forth.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ You might rule that they have full cover (e.g. if the ranged characters reasonably could not see them at all). It seems to me that firing past five other party members would be rather difficult, unless they all agreed to step to one side of the corridor. Also, the door is probably narrower than 5ft. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas May 29 '16 at 8:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this covers what I was going to post, essentially: It isn't the DM's job to make the players play strategically. You can hint directly or even toss in a combat with kobolds or goblins who are clever enough to maneuver to teach a thing or two. \$\endgroup\$ – The Nate May 29 '16 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of your suggestions are good ones, but Guidance only applies to ability checks, a distinct category in 5e that doesn't include attack rolls or saving throws. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec May 30 '16 at 3:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thank you for the insult to our intelligence. However, you were not in the session, and so how would you know your generic would apply? I was able to prove why all of your suggestions would have been useless in the situation at hand, and Ladifas' only disagreement with me was that I may have misinterpreted the use of point #2. I would also like to point out that the real problem was that the ranged characters could not enter the room without being next to monsters, and they could not fire through the monsters at all, as our DM ruled that any monster standing behind another has full cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Vulpes Inculta May 30 '16 at 8:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VulpesInculta I apologise for my thoughtless slight, I have amended my answer. I was not there and I do not know which options were available. Some do depend on particular classes or levels but many do not, additionally, the list is not intended to be comprehensive, merely illustrative of the fact that there is more than one way to kill a cat, or a skeleton. Your DMs word is, of course, law but your DM was wrong - the rules clearly indicate that one creature gives half cover (+2 AC) and after that he could rule however he chooses. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M May 30 '16 at 9:52
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The simplest answer here is to stop using so many 5 foot corridors. They might have their uses realistically, and indeed you may want to force your players into this kind of situation where they are vulnerable from time to time, but if this is really a problem for your party, stop subjecting them to it. There's almost no reason you need to use so many and your world's verisimilitude is not in danger here, especially if you can find a good reason for it. A good reason could be the presence of any large-sized creature. They can't move through a 5 foot corridor, so a larger 10 foot corridor would make sense.

As Dale M pointed out, if your players are getting stuck, they're not doing the smartest thing they can do. For one, they can move through each other's squares as long as they don't land there and the only person in danger would be whoever is in front to take the attack of opportunity from the skeleton. Yes, a tactical retreat into an open area, if that's truly what they want: a better way to fight skeletons. The hallway could work equally well for them if they reverse the situation on the other end.

Suffice it to say, it's out of your hands unless you straight up tell them how to play. You can teach them a lesson, but I'm not in favor of punishing the party any further than they might be punishing themselves here. Surely these corridors, if they are such a problem, are the topic of discussion amongst the party? I believe in any group's ability to overcome these obstacles. Give them time! And if they don't care, then it isn't actually a problem. It might bother you, but if it doesn't bother your players, then it's not worth fussing over.

In the mean time, if you want to stop the party from getting stuck, stop creating areas where they can get stuck.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's no need to "straight up tell them how to play" - just set up a situation where the roles are reversed --- mobs in the corridor and the players in the room --- and play the mobs "right". The players will probably get the right idea for next time once they've been bullrushed out of the way once or twice. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Anderson May 30 '16 at 3:33

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