It is said that no plan survives contact with the enemy and that might be true. However, without a plan your party won’t likely survive contact with the enemy. The party that plans ahead, very often comes out ahead.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is a great place to find pearls of wisdom regarding warfare. His wisdom has been used by both military and business leaders. Let’s take a look at a few of his quotes and see how they can apply in a gaming context to allow your party to not only survive, but thrive during combat.
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
Knowledge checks are free actions and you either know the monsters weakness or you don’t. Training in the appropriate knowledge skill gives the party access to the vulnerabilities and resistances, along with any special attacks. Knowing how your enemy will attack you, allows you to prepare the appropriate defenses.
If you’re fighting a group of Drow assassins who favour poison attacks, having the appropriate potion of resistance on hand will go a long way in surviving the encounter.
Just as you need to know your enemies abilities, you need to have a strong grasp of your own abilities and the synergies that you share with your party members. Having half the party charge into melee before the Wizard can cast a spell that dazes the enemy isn’t wise. Know your enemy, know yourself.
All warfare is based on deception.
Stealth is a wonderful tool. Granted only certain classes excel at it, but doesn’t mean the party can’t use other tools of deception to their advantage. Let the enemy think you are in one place and then attack from another. Use terrain and zones to control your opponents movement. Does one of the PCs have a high fire resistance? Have them advance, get surrounded and then drop a fireball on that location.
Perhaps you wear Summoning Armour and always start combat without the armour on, lulling your foes into a false sense of superiority. When they engage to melee, you summon your armour and proceed to eliminate your foes.
You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your defence if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
Taking short and extended rests are critical in 4e. Of equal importance is where you take those rests. If you aren’t sure about that, read what Chatty DM has to say about the subject. Just because you’ve cleared half a dungeon, doesn’t mean that the area is safe. Dungeon’s are alive, monsters have friends too and they might take offense that you killed off theirs.
So when resting, especially for those required extended rests, make sure you pick somewhere you can defend. Perhaps look into magic items or rituals that can assist in providing safe locations to rest.
Just as you’ll want to defend your area of rest, you’ll want to attack your enemy when they least expect it. Are your expected foe’s nocturnal, attack during the day. Do they make use of certain types of terrain, find a way to change things up.
What other pieces of advice do you have for not only surviving combat, but eliminating the enemy in such a way as to trivialize the encounter?