…and the players look at you expectantly. What do you do?
Here’s a few notes to help you run that first combat.
- Roll Initiative (d20 + Dexterity modifier). Rolling once for each group of monsters makes the combat much easier. All four kobolds act on the same initiative number, one after another. Write down the order of initiative rolls from highest to lowest.
- Each combatant acts in initiative order. On its turn, it can move and take one action (typically an attack). Movement may happen before or after (or both before and after) the attack.
- Repeat step 2 until only one side is left.
Who Attacks Whom?
This is easy if you’re using miniatures. Move the miniatures to indicate which foe is attacking which character. If you’re using a grid, remember that one square on the grid is 5 feet. Most foes move 30 feet – 6 squares on the grid.
If you’re not using miniatures (Theatre of the Mind), you can use this simple technique:
- Each player tells you whether their character is in the front line or the back line.
- Only characters in the front line can attack or be attacked by melee attacks.
- Everyone else needs to use ranged attacks (spells, bows, etc.)
- Do the same for the monsters.
- Pair off the frontline monsters against the frontline characters, with any unpaired combatants attacking in a 2-to-1 (or better) situation.
- Re-pair them as they die or retreat.
- Once all of the front line is gone, the back line becomes the new front line and can be attacked in melee.
How many monsters do my spells affect?
Miniatures – as the battlefield dictates.
Theatre of the Mind – 15 ft. cone (burning hands): 2 foes. 15 ft. cube (thunderwave): 3 foes. 20 ft. sphere (sleep): 4 foes. (See DMG page 249 for a better understanding of this).
Do I hit?
The attack roll is 1d20 + attack bonus. If it equals or exceeds the target’s Armour Class, you hit. The damage is determined by weapon or attack type.
Some creature attacks and spells require a saving throw to avoid instead. Again, roll 1d20 + saving throw bonus. If it equals or exceeds the Difficulty Class (DC) of the save, you succeed. The ability description will tell you what happens on a success or failure; some spells have an effect even if the saving throw is made.
When do the monsters die?
Monsters die immediately that their hit points reach 0 hit points. Characters continue to live (unless they take a LOT of damage).
When will a character die?
Each round a character is at 0 hit points, that character makes a Death Save: a d20 roll. On a 20, they heal to 1 hit point and may take the rest of their turn as normal. On a 9 or less, they fail the save. On a natural 1, it counts as 2 failed saves. Once a character fails 3 times, that character is dead. Once a character succeeds 3 times, the character is stable and doesn’t need to make saves again – unless they take damage.
If a character is on 0 hit points, it’s a good idea for the rest of the characters to heal them, or flee with the body.
What happens if the monsters start losing?
Monsters may run or surrender if they think they’re going to lose. If you want to roll to determine if they do, roll a d20 when monsters lose their first ally, or half of them are killed. On a 10 or less, they disengage and run for their lives. If they have nowhere to run, they surrender.
What happens if the player characters start losing?
Suggest to your players that running may be a good idea. For your first combat, monsters won’t follow (they’re afraid of dying as well!)
Note that the Disengage action allows a character to get out of melee without being attacked. If Disengage is not used, a character in melee will be attacked by the monster they were fighting. (Only one attack, and it uses the monster’s reaction – see Opportunity Attacks in the PHB).
Need more help? Ask a question!