Chris Heard, of the wonderful, actual play Icosahedrophilia podcast, and I were talking via twitter the other day on ways a DM can help his players, and he suggested somebody should write a blog post about it. So I did. Sometimes there are things your players may forget to do that you can remind them of, in order to benefit their party. This is especially useful if you are running a party full of newbie players, as sometimes the amount of options available to them can be overwhelming. The ones I point out specifically here are due to my past experience with my party, and some suggestions from the D&D community on Twitter.
I start with this one because it’s what started the conversation the other day that led to this post. You can find it on page 284 0f the Player’s Handbook. If a character takes 2 identical move actions twice in a row on the same turn, he has double moved. A double move allows the PC to add the two speeds together of the movement he repeated, and take it as one long move. This may allow him to get out of a sticky situation through difficult terrain, for example, as it grants them more movement through it when the moves are combined into 1. My players have never taken advantage of the double move. Never, ever. I have to remedy this myself, as up until recently I was confused by it. They thought if they took 2 move actions, they had to be the same type of move. Silly us.
Good role-playing opportunities can come out of intimidating bloodied opponents in battle. It can also cut out some of the grind towards the end of a battle. If the party bloodies up a Bugbear leader, surrounded by his minions, they can intimidate him into surrendering and thus ending the fight, while perhaps learning some information from him in the process. Remember, they still get the XP even if they didn’t kill him. Find the rules for Intimidate on page 186 of the Player’s Handbook.
Another useful skill, as once per encounter a player can grant himself combat advantage versus an enemy by bluffing and feinting. The skill can also be used to hide during combat. Find these rules on page 183 of the Player’s Handbook.
Heal is one of those skills that when used in battle can be very much a game changer. A PC can make Heal checks to administer first aid and grant his companion the use of second wind, without that character spending an action, or rolling a saving throw right then and there, or at a +2 at the end of his or her turn. Very, very useful stuff, that at least my players never take advantage of. That’s in page 185 of the Player’s Handbook.
Not Just Using Powers
There are tons of stuff the PC’s can do during a battle that aren’t just “I use Twin Strike… okay, I use Twin Strike again”. The Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 introduced terrain powers, (the hanging chandelier and the table full of chemicals that can be flipped over are two examples), and page 42 of the DMG gives you a guideline for when your players want to do things out of the ordinary. Remind them of what they can do: “Bob the Cleric, you can pull down the tapestry if you want, it’ll slow the Bugbear a bit if you do…”
Remind players that when they first meet an unknown monster, that they can attempt knowledge checks to see if their characters know anything about the creature. Sometimes players will just be so eager to roll initiative that they won’t take in the flavor of the scene and the encounter. Slow them down… “guys, want to see what you know about these floating round creatures with multiple eyes stalks?” Also, as they explore dungeons and the underground, remind them that dungeoneering checks would aid them as they make their way about.
It’s been my experience that rituals are a bit underused, at least at my table. Encourage your ritual casters to find appropriate rituals for certain situations, they may not even know that certain rituals exists, so you may want to have a cheat list of rituals handy for when you are creating treasure parcels, and place some scrolls around that may come in handy in situations that you can anticipate will come up in your game.
As you can tell, there are many ways you can help out your players at the table. Reminding them of their options should not be seen as hand holding, but rather, collaboration, which after all, is part of what the game is about. Don’t they help you with some of the bookkeeping too?
This list is obviously not complete, so if I missed something, why don’t you leave it in the comment section below and share with other readers.