In Avoiding Death, Part 1 we covered these five recommendations for how to avoid needless character death.
- Don’t chase monsters
- Know you character
- Check for traps every time
- Take a short break
- Pay attention
Now we’re going to add five more ideas to the list. Most of these tips rely on you keeping your cool and not doing anything stupid. Sometimes that can be harder than you think.
Here are five more ways to avoid character death.
Get out of the way.
The party quietly crept through the castle hallway. They knew the king’s private bedchamber was just around the next corner. With any luck they could catch him unaware and he wouldn’t have time to prepare adequate defenses. As Ethan the Rogue is about to turn the corner he hears “Get ready, men. They’ll be here any second.” “Damn, how did they know we were coming?” Ethan thought momentarily as he eyed his companions in plate, scale, and chain armor. “Noisy clods!”
Wearing big, bulky armor and carrying a shield gives you a great AC, but the check penalty really kills your Stealth score. Even so, Stealth should not be automatically ruled out. The Fighter, Paladin and Cleric may not be suitable for silent movement but most other classes are. Anyone with a reasonable Dexterity and no armor check penalty can be sneaky. Let them scout ahead before the guy in armor announces your presence. Knowing what lies around the next corner (before it knows you’re there) lets you devise a quick strategy before combat begins.
Sterling the Warlord observes the battlefield and directs his companions. “Braddoc, you and I will move up together with you in the lead and fight the first monster. Ethan, try to get around them and flank with Braddoc.” Ethan sneaks behind the monster and is ready to move in for the kill. Sterling and Braddoc begin moving, but Braddoc suddenly takes a turn to the right and charges a different foe. “Braddoc, where are you going?” Sterling asks. “The big one is going down,” Braddoc says as he charges through the battlefield.
Your movement should make sense. Do you have a power that will benefit an ally adjacent to you or adjacent to the target? Do you get any bonuses (like sneak dice) against an opponent granting combat advantage? Then move to flank. If you can move and gain combat advantage, why wouldn’t you? Take the +2 to hit! Or move so that the party striker can flank more easily. Moving into the right square can make a huge difference to you, the party and the outcome of combat. Try to anticipate where your allies are going to move or just ask them. Work together. Haphazard movement makes things more difficult for everyone, combat takes longer and characters die.
As the giant flying monster lands in front of the party, claws raised and razor sharp teeth ready to bite, it speaks. “This is my forest. Why should I forgive such trespass?” “Charge!” cries Braddoc the Fighter as he runs forth. “I’ll earn lots of XP for this kill,” he thinks as he charges into combat.
Every character has Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate on their character sheet. Combat is not your only option! Many monsters are highly intelligent. Try talking your way out of a problem rather than rushing headlong into combat. A successfully parley will often yield just as much XP as killing the creature.
Dire wolves circle the party, outnumbering the PCs 2-to-1. Each PC moves to attack the nearest wolf. Many wolves are wounded, but none are killed. Now the wolf pack, still boasting its superior numbers moves in for a coordinated attack, killing Nenia the Wizard and Merric the Cleric.
How often does your party split up and take on multiple threats simultaneously rather than focus all your efforts on just one target? As long as a monster has 1 hp it can still attack you, so softening up three at once isn’t as useful as working together to kill one in the first round. Talk to each other and describe what you want to do on your turn so others can go with it. Designate a combat leader and let them direct the party. One vision yields higher efficiency and saves lives.
The kobold horde hesitates before attacking with their superior numbers and overwhelming the PCs. That hesitation is all Braddoc needs. He charges into the mass of kobolds and starts swinging his mighty Battle Axe. “Get out of the way, Braddoc” yells Nenia. “I’m going to drop a fireball on the entire horde.” Braddoc ignores the advice of his companion and keeps swinging away as the kobolds swarm him. “Oh well, I warned him,” Nenia says as she casts Fireball engulfing 10 kobolds and Braddoc.
If your party has ranged attacks or large area spells, then make sure you don’t hinder you party’s ability to use them. Don’t rush needlessly in between two monsters. Tell the party where you’re planning to move and if the Wizard says to wait one round then listen to him. The alternative is that you end up being subjected to the spell just like the monsters.