Improving your D&D experience. For Dungeons and Dragons Players and DMs.
This is the second article in a series of D&D combat related articles. Check out part one: Speeding Up Combat of 4th Edition
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You’re DMing and the players are in the middle of combat. Players are rolling dice and something comes up that prompts someone to tell an out of game joke. Then things derail into more jokes and stories and before you know it, it’s 2AM and it’s time to end the session. Sensing some déjà vu? I’ll be the first to say that there’s nothing wrong with this scenario. If everyone’s having fun then that's all that matters right? There are however groups that would prefer to actually stay focused on the game so I've got a few handy tricks for DMs to help engage players during combat (I originally posted this in a forum as advice but it seemed worthwhile enough to post here and spread the love).
Whether it's intelligent creatures being condescending to the party in a fight or creatures making snarls and mad lunges toward their characters, they pretty much have to pay attention. This gets them invested in the encounter.
Add in-depth descriptions to get their imagination running.
"The beast's rotten teeth tear into your flesh. Your blood begins to run down your arm."
3) Shock value!
If the fight opens up with an explosion (metaphorically although literally works too) or something dramatic happens a few turns in, they'll be all ears.
Adding cryptic events or clues to something much larger, whether it be in or out of an encounter, will definitely get them curious.
If they're not actively paying attention and it's their turn then simply ask them, "What is Melira doing?" You want to make sure to use their character's name in most instances to keep them in character and bring focus back to the game.
This is Kylak signing out for now but you can look forward to this combat series continuing in the future.