Dungeons & Dragons Online

Tips on incentivizing my players to think outside the box in combat?

(Naira, Vincent, Perses and Urgabulg, please don’t read this if you are lurking around here!)

Hi everyone! I‘m the DM for my local friend group and I‘m really grateful to play with.

The TLDR of my situation is basically this: Every combat encounter evolves into my players just standing in place and wailing on the enemies and I’m looking for tips to “spice things up”, so to speak. This might be a part of a larger issue where my players always try to ask me directly whether to talk or fight their way out of situations.

I’ve tried using the enemies and their lair directly to offer more options in combat, but they never really “took the bait”.

For example, their last fight against and illusory mage. The fight took place in a warped room where the battlefield looped in every direction, like a warped mirror, so the players could basically exit the left side and come back in on the right side. The battlefield also had differing heights so that you could push off enemies and get a jump on them.

Also, the mage had “resurrected” ghosts of the characters’ pasts to fight them. So, the manifested ghost of an assassin that the parties’ sorcerer had killed made it pretty clear that her expressed goal was to take revenge on the sorcerer. She even had a special cursed dagger that did slightly more damage to the sorcerer.

I had hoped that with the clear intention the players would work together to take down the thread, but instead they attacked whichever enemy was closest to them and so the assassin just kept slashing the sorcerer who just stood there and cast fire bolt on a barbarian ghost on the other side of the battlefield. Of course, after a few rounds the assassin stabbed the sorcerer to death. Our cleric was too far for healing spells.

Now, I had given my sorcerer a magical item that could rewind a turn for them but they forgot, so I sighed and made the item activate on its own with the player death, reviving them.

Now I’m the end the party won but the spirits were pretty low. My players gave me the feedback that the fight felt unfairly stacked against them, and I’ll try to keep that in mind.

But that’s basically where I feel I come short as a DM (or one of the things, but practice makes perfect), I just don’t think I managed to make combat engaging for them. I tried battles in mine-cart chases, fighting in dwarves ruins where bombs were dispensed like bowling balls they could roll, inflammable enemies and terrain, and giving out inspiration points for strategizing in combat but it doesn’t seem to really work.

I’d say that most of these problems also apply to role play for my group but I don’t wanna force my players to role play more when that’s outside of their comfort zone, if that makes sense. Fun is still the top priority.

Maybe I’m not using enemies right? Maybe they should strategize more, or have clearly defined goals besides “kill the party”? I don’t know, I just want my players to have fun, so that’s why I’m here.

Maybe my players just want to play as vanilla as possible and I need to give up on going as complicated as possible. I guess just cause I love to scheme doesn’t mean they do too.

So, I’d really appreciate any feedback or ideas on strategies you guys make combat fun and interesting! Thanks a bunch!

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