Do you go to the dungeon?

DM philosophy and rules

When you come up with puzzles for the game Zendo, the goal isn't to beat the players. The goal is to make a challenge for them that is lagom difficult.

But when you are running that puzzle in Zendo, you can't then be in the mindset of changing the rule in order to accomodate the players. You need to stick with the game as it is.

I try to bring that philosophy to D&D. I use completely different brains when I write dungeons (now we're running a pre-made dungeon though, Tomb of Annihilation right now) and when I am running them. That's rule number one for me. The "prepping" hat and the "running" hat.

I've tried to kept the House Rules document to the player side of things. I also make rules for myself as DM, I think the game becomes better if the DM follows rules.

For the conversational initiative I use cards to keep track of who has acted. For resolving social situations without skill rolls I use rules from an expansion to Hillfolk. And for searching for traps and treasure without rolls. I'm also working on, and using, rules for who the monsters can attack and who they want to attack. These rules are "invisible" but they are there, under the hood.

Etc etc

Different dungeons also have different rules, like how often monsters appear etc etc.

some monster thinking rules

I accidentally put these rules in the player side but that was dumb. they belong here

focus fire / "ganging up"

Monsters now have some restrictions in what mêlée groups they can form.

  • Not too many monsters for each front-rank PC in a group
  • Swarm keyworded monsters can freely ignore that. Swarm just went from being pointless to being one of the most dangerous abilities of all time
  • Ranged and reach (having longer reach than the PCs) attacks is a way for them to deal damage – including using focus fire – without having to be part of the mêlée group. With reach they can even set up OA glue without being part of the mêlée group

"Not too many monsters...?" wtf?

So the rule is at least one monster per front-rank PC.

The rest can hang back freely and shoot – Yes that means it's easier for the monsters to go backrank than it is for PCs. Backrank works differently for monsters & PCs especially when it comes to timing.

And then there can be no more than three (five if the monsters are smaller than the PCs, two if they are bigger than the PCs) mêlée monsters per PC, until there is. If there is overflow even beyond that, the limit jumps up the PHB limits (so 8, for medium on medium with 5' reach).

So let's say there are 7 monsters and two PCs.

They can not split 7-0 or even 6-1. If they all want to go mêlée, the worst they can do is 4-3. The first three dangerous monsters go after their most targeted PC, then the next three dangerous monster goes after the second most dangerous PC, then the last monster is free again to go after the most targeted PC again. 3 goes after A, 3 goes after B, and the last goes after A again. Or, they can set one monster on each and leave five in the back rank to shoot.

(And a thousand monsters can split up 997-3.)

A big mêlée group

But if the front rank PCs join up in each other's mêlée groups they make themselves even more vulnerable. If two front rank PCs are in the same mêlée group there can be six monsters in that group! Stabbing freely at their hated foe♥

And three if nine and so on! The big cloud of battle is dangerous

Large mêlée groups are risky in that way. They are also beneficial for the PCs in case they have Healing Spirit, Fireball, Fire Elemental and so on.