How to choose who the monsters attack!
Ever have this come up? After the Ogre drops the Fighter, it now has a choice. It can attack they dropped Joe the dying Fighter, Steve the Ranger, or the Al the Priest. The GM rolls a die to choose between them. Might as well make it random. After all, the GM does not want to be seen as being personal.
Anyone who has been reading my blog knows I am against random choices when there is a better way.
During session preparation, the GM could assign the creatures a simple Tactical Style. Then when the monsters have a choice between the PCs, the GM uses the Tactical Style. Now it isn’t personal. It is how they fight! The creature must choose Steve the Ranger, it is the only logical choice for it.
I have seen questions posted about the tactics of monsters. I remember Mike Mearls saying in a podcast that WOTC had considered a tactics section in the 5e Monster Manual. I think a lot of GM would have benefited from including that information. Too bad.
Since they didn’t do it, it is up to the GM. But here is the simple trick to help get you started.
When I am designing races, I give them all a tactical combat style. This simple style makes the monsters play differently.
Here is a list of just some of the styles that can be used.
- Macho: Focus on the big and mighty.
- Cowardly: Focus on the smallest.
- Man-to-Man: 1 to 1 combat, extras tend to watch.
- Reactive: No plan, attack whom ever attacks you.
- Teamwork: They will focus on taking down the heroes using complex tactics.
- Vindictive: Attack the one that hurt you the most.
- Relentless: Keep attacking the same target no matter what!
- Racist: There are some racist they will focus on even if tactically it isn’t sound.
How I use these style in play?
Imagine a party of 4 is traveling and get ambushed by 6 creatures. How does the DM assign the attacks? Some would do 1 each and roll a die for the extras. Instead, think about their tactics.
- Macho Trolls: 2 on each of the mightiest PCs, ignore the others.
- Cowardly Goblins, 2-3 on each of the weakest looking PC. Ignore fighters.
- Man-to-Man Orcs, 1 each and 2 in reserves cheering them on and waiting to help.
- Reactive: 1 each and 2 randomly placed. Then as the PCs attack them, they counterattack each round. Switching targets often.
- Teamwork Hobgoblins: 3 on the healer. A couple screening off the PC.
- Vindictive Bugbears: 2 on the front guys and 1 each. But anyone doing well gets extra on them. Make a critical hit, next round 1 of the Bugbears move against you.
- Relentless Zombies: Whoever is in front gets extras, no changes or adjustments.
- Racist Drow: 3 on each of the Fey, the others I might do randomly.
All of this can be to degrees as well. If you decide it is mild, then this is how they start the fight, or if they drop a PC how they determine their next target. If they are radical then forget all reason, they follow this approach. Even if it is a wrong tactic!
By having the enemies making choices of this nature, they are less random. They have their tactics and will make decisions base on them. During a campaign, the Heroes can use this information against the villains. They can come up with their own tactics depending on who they fight.
Also, do not forget you can mix them. There is no reason you cannot have Macho and Relentless, Teamwork and Racist, or Vindictive and Cowardly.
I hope this helps some GM in their play. I would love to hear from readers on styles they use!