Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why so close?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that D&D characters stand too close to each other?

Time after time over the years players act like their characters are moving in tight certain formations that never vary (except of course for when they are grabbing some loot "secretly").  It gets sillier in the wilderness when parties with some on foot and others on horseback of all different sizes, background, and encumbrance all keep close together in a fixed formation.

Has everyone forgotten about flaming oil, sleep spells, fireballs, Lighting bolts, web spells and the like? The closely spaced "special ops" marching in fixed position is asking for a TPK.

Space the party out and it should be darned rare for any of the attacks mentioned  above to ever catch more than say 2 or 3 characters. Real world military forces space folks out so a single grenade, mortar, land-mine, or machine gun doesn't ruin everyone's day.

So should DMs reinforce sane behavior by pointing out the folly of the players ways or TPK adventuring parties until folks catch on?


  1. I've never actually had a party that stayed close together. Strange . . . I didn't know people did that.

  2. Well, in a dungeon, light is a factor. The longer the marching file, the more people have to hold a torch instead of a weapon or shield. And arguably the chance of a fire ball (or whatever) TPK is balanced by the chance that multiple monsters will rush out and pick off the first guy (or the last) without the others being near enough to respond. Of course I haven't play-tested this. Just thinking...

  3. That's why you hire torch-bearers. They're cheap.

    Somewhere along the line, players lost the knowledge of how to think tactically. Hirelings are important, because they free up the PCs and henchmen to do what they need to be doing. Keeping a dispersed formation is important (remember that a Sleep spell in AD&D - a 1st level MU spell - will immediately KO 4-16 1st level characters or 2-8 2nd levels with no save - but only if they are all within a 3"/30' diameter; if you have even one person outside of that, there's a chance to get out of the situation alive because MUs are fragile, but if everyone stays within 30' of everyone else a 1st level MU opponent makes an automatic TPK, or at least a total party capture). Hire spear-bearers, hire torch-bearers, hire just plain bearers to carry treasure and supplies. Also, remember that each hireling is one more person that a Sleep spell has to cover, making it possible for your PCs to be among the unaffected. That allows the players to bunch up a bit more, if necessary, too. There are many options available.

  4. In the 'old days' (ad&d) we routinely moved in 'fireball formation' - spread out do that a fireball couldn't hit more than 1 or 2 of us. Srill doesnt change the unrealistically precise formations.

    I've been tempted to base position on the conversations at the table...
    The players start talking about what thay that day, their characters move bit closer to each other. Alternately one could base the acuracy of the fjormation on a die roll of some sort-,roll well and you are where you are supposed to be when it goes down. Roll poorly and you are out of position.

    1. I've noticed some folks that seem to "teleport" to where the action is as well if they see advantage in it. I keep a rough marching order usually and folks end up positioned based on that and their exposition prior to the need for tactical resolution.