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Player Advice: Principles of Adventuring

Charge! Hack! Maim! Kill! Sadly, for many adventuring groups this is pretty much the extent of their tactical planning. Such groups charge into the dungeon with little thought for tactics, planning or other considerations. Most such groups are doomed.


(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])

You really don’t want to be one of those groups. A little bit of forethought and planning can turn a potentially disastrous foray into a stunning triumph.

I remember repeatedly reading pages 107 – 109 of the AD&D Player’s Handbook almost thirty years ago in an attempt to occasionally survive an adventure. Over almost thirty years of game play I’ve learnt a fair amount about how to survive a dungeon crawl, but this learning has been pretty haphazard and hard to codify.

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about the principles of successful adventuring and how to provide a general structure to enhance the chances of a successful delve (or whatever). Luckily, there is a lot of help out there! Some of the best principles I’ve found come from the British Army. Obviously, these must be modified – designed as they are for a large, modern fighting force. Even with this caveat, though, they are a fantastic resource for adventurers (in any game or genre) to draw upon.

  • Selection and Maintenance of the Goal: A single, unambiguous goal is the keystone of a successful foray. Selection and maintenance of the goal is the master principle of adventuring. Do not get side-tracked or distracted; that way, disaster lies.

  • Maintenance of Morale: Morale is a positive state of mind derived from inspired leadership, a sense of shared purpose and values, well being, perception of group worth and cohesion. A party with high morale succeeds where others fail.

  • Offensive Action: Offensive action is the practical way in which a group of adventurers seek to gain advantage, sustain momentum and seize the initiative.

  • Security: Security is the provision and maintenance of an operating environment that affords the necessary freedom of action, to achieve the objective.

  • Surprise: Surprise is the consequence of shock and confusion induced by the deliberate or incidental introduction of the unexpected to the enemy.

  • Concentration of Force: This could also be called, “Don’t split the party.” Concentration of force involves the decisive, synchronised application of superior fighting power to achieve success.

  • Economy of Effort: Economy of effort is the judicious exploitation of the party’s resources including manpower, material and time to achieve the objective. Use just enough of your resources to achieve your objective.

  • Flexibility: Flexibility – the ability to change readily to meet new circumstances – comprises agility, responsiveness, resilience, acuity and adaptability.

  • Cooperation: Cooperation entails the incorporation of teamwork and a sharing of dangers, burdens, risks and opportunities. Every member of the group should participate equally taking into account his abilities, skills and gear.

  • Sustainability: To sustain a force to generate the means by which its fighting power and freedom of action are maintained. Make sure you are properly equipped.

So there you have it. If you follow the ten principles listed above you will immeasurably improve your chances of a successful adventure.

Have I missed a blindingly obvious principle? Do you plan your adventures differently? Let me know, in the comments below.

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Less technical but I find it effective...

1) Kill the caster: if a group of enemies includes a caster, priority 1 is to gank that caster. Casters can completely alter the course of a combat with battlefield control, also they tend to go down quickly since as a general rule they are squishy.

2) Summons: cheap expendable reinforcements can alter the course of a battle. Even low level summons can flank, protect your caster by creating a speed bump for enemies ect. Summons are very effective.

3) Clerics learn selective channel: Healing in combat is generally considered less effective then dealing daage, unless of course you can heal everyone and not the bad guys...

4) Diversify your target saves: If its big and mean it has a good fort save, if its sneaky and small good reflex, if it casts good will save.

5) Don't take low percentage shots: Don't try maneuvers you haven't specialized in unless the enemy is particularly underpowered at last in dungeons its better to conserve resources.

Re: Less technical but I find it effective...

I totally agree with #1. Always kill the caster. You could also add to that list

6) Focus your fire. Take out enemies one at a time.

This is actually a pretty good idea for an article. Mind if I steal it?

Re: Less technical but I find it effective...

Agree with focused fire, I'd add to that...

7) Caster first, weaker monsters next if enemy has numbers.

8) Be mindful of action economy and spacing.

9) Take Quickdraw if you use weapons. Switching weapons as a FREE Action means you can switch between a ranged, reach and close range weapon as often as needed. Thus you can fire a bow then switch to spear for the rest of the round taking an attacks of op that become available, switch back to bow or to a short range weapon if someone closed.

I don't mind...

7) You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

8) You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Yes, I use Country Music Lyrics for D&D tactics.

I'm looking forward to your Coward of the County inspired tactics.


9) But you coulda heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked
the door. OR You fight the battles that need fighting.

An apt line to describe the sha'ir in my Al-Qadim campaign. He's not a coward, per se, but when he does wade into melee, it's because The Fit Has Surely Hit The Shan. And when he delivers the death blow to the Big Bad, it is EPIC.

I love my players.

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