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June 27 2017

Narrating Combat in D&D


Combat descriptions are always difficult to come up with on the fly. Here is a guide with some tips and tricks to make your combat more interesting and dramatic!


image credit: Michael Komarck

Hit Points

When a creature or player gets hit by an attack, think about the situation surrounding the attack. Has the creature already taken damage? Figure out how much damage is being dealt before describing the attack. Is it a lot of damage or a little? How tough is the defender? is it merely a pinprick to them or a grievous wound? No matter how you slice it, hits always come back to one thing: Hit Points.

So something important that you should know about Hit Points: just because you subtracted “Hit Points” and they took “damage” doesn’t necessarily mean you actually drew blood. Most people always default to “you stab them in the face/chest/neck.” Well that’s a pretty gruesome and very lethal hit. Most creatures would probably just flat-out die from that. This isn’t a Tom & Jerry cartoon where creatures squash and stretch to absorb the damage.

To help ease into a creature’s eventual demise over a large span of Hit Points, try describing nonlethal ways that creatures and players “take damage.“ Have each attack wear down the creature. Only draw blood when a player lands multiple blows or rolled a high attack or damage roll (basically when the player feels good about their attack) or when they fall below half hit points. That’s why we use the term “bloodied,” after all! Here are some examples of some pre-bloodied attacks:

  • Your deft swordplay is wearing out the defender as they struggle to parry your strikes!
  • The creature is backed into a corner, its options for defenses running thin!
  • Their weapon is buffeted by your blows and knocked away. Now’s your chance!
  • The horseman is knocked from their mount, leaving them battered and bruised as they roll back to their feet!
  • Your ambush forces the orc to deflect your dagger with their bare hand to save itself. It yowls in pain!
  • Your mace clobbers the knight upside its head, dazing them as a metallic sound reverberates through their helmet! Backpedal in confusion.
  • The wizard wrinkles their brow as they deflect your attack with a hasty shield, this one weaker than the last. Their concentration seems to be failing!

Once a creature is bloodied, then you can start with the more lethal attacks. Save the head, neck, chest, and femoral artery hits for when the creature is about to die. But by all means, stab them in the kidneys, flay some muscle from their arm, chop off one of their antennae or extra limbs. Don’t be afraid to impart status debuffs for certain hits (even if the attack wasn’t necessarily a crit). For instance, if they take a leg wound they might have slightly reduced speed as they limp around the battlefield. Perhaps you cut off their hand or shot out an eye, rendering the part useless until they receive magical healing. Here are a list of almost-lethal places where I like to describe hits that works for most humanoids:

Hit Table (1d10):

  • 1: Eyes: blind them for 1 round if just one eye, or permanently if both.
  • 2: Ears: deafen them for 1 round if just one ear, or permanently if both.
  • 3: Hand/Fingers: deny them the use of that hand. If they wield a two-handed weapon, they do so with disadvantage.
  • 4: Arms: if just a wound, give them -1 to attacks with that arm. If the limb is chopped off, obviously they can’t use it.
  • 5: Legs: half their speed. Reduce their speed to 5 ft. if the limb is chopped clean off.
  • 6: Belly: reduce their speed by 5 ft. and give them the Poisoned condition.
  • 7: Lower Back: no major negative impact, but they shouldn’t lift any heavy objects for 6-8 weeks.
  • 8: Side Torso: no major negative impact, but they should definitely have that looked at for internal damage.
  • 9: Shoulder: no major negative impact. Make sure they wear a sling so it heals properly.
  • 0: Butt: hilarity ensues. They can’t sit down without immense pain.


Yes, it’s really fun to hit with an attack and roll high damage dice, but people oftentimes will remember a great missed attack just as fondly. In fact, a DM that doesn’t describe a miss could risk making that player feel left out or frustrated if they miss often. So make the misses memorable and dramatic.

Keep in mind what sort of weapon they were using when they missed, or what sort of things in the environment maybe got hit instead. Heck, maybe a miss might help their situation if they break something that puts them on the advantage! Maybe they hit a support beam instead of the gnoll. You have them roll for damage, and it’s a huge amount! The support beam snaps and rocks from the old mine start to cave in a 20 ft. radius! Have everyone roll DEX saves!

Something like that works especially well on a critical failure. Always describe a critical failure in a special way, maybe imposing a debuff on the person who missed or changing the situation somehow. A comical gaffe is always welcome here, as well.

Critical Miss Ideas:

  • Attacker strikes a nearby object instead
  • Attacker’s weapon becomes damaged or broken (unless it’s a magical item)
  • Attacker’s weapon becomes stuck or disabled for their next turn (maybe a sword stuck in a log or a jammed crossbow)
  • Defender knocks the weapons from the attacker’s grasp
  • Attacker accidentally strikes themselves for half the normal damage
  • Defender rolls out of the way, repositioning themselves behind the attacker.


Accentuate the creature’s personality by characterizing HOW they perform certain actions. A duelist might stab precisely for your thigh, but an ogre might swing a club clumsily. This can lead to comical gaffes, like the duelist yelling “ha-HA! …oh?” as their sword slips past you and they fall on their face, despite you just calling their strike precise. The ogre can easily miss their swing and because of the clumsiness you described causing them to follow through and spin around, getting dizzy and confused for a turn.

Consider how the creature is reacting to their current Hit Point status. Do they clutch at their wound? Do they punch their wound and roar at their attacker? Are they unphased by their wound like an undead? Are they on the ground writhing in pain?

Diving into the character of an enemy will help you guide both their combat decisions and how you narrate the action. Here are some common fighting personality tropes:

  • Cocky: A cocky creature is fearless, but to an extent where they may make mistakes. They will also likely taunt their enemies.
  • Clumsy: Big, dumb creatures or drunken brawlers will not pay any heed to their surroundings, maybe even be easier to fall prone or fall for combat tricks.
  • Stoic: A stoic creature is likely able to notice everything in combat as they approach the battle logically and without emotion. Think highly-trained warriors like knights or samurai.
  • Fearful: A fearful attacker is actively trying to get away from or avoid combat.
  • Fearless: A fearless creature is what you typically see of a heroic attacker.
  • Gleeful: A gleeful attacker delights in violence and will do whatever they can to cause pain.
  • Angry: An angry attacker will fight recklessly without regard to their surroundings.
  • Hungry: A hungry creature is looking for a meal. If they get seriously hurt, they will likely just leave to find easier prey.
  • Confused: A confused creature will be on the defensive. It wasn’t planning on fighting today.


Use the environment to guide combat. Even if your players aren’t clever enough to utilize the environment, that doesn’t exclude the enemies! And hey, if players witness what the enemies are doing, maybe they will learn to follow suit or just be inspired to fight more creatively. I actually had an NPC fighting alongside the players one time. They went into a cave with some bugbears around a smoldering campfire. He first kicked some of the embers up into one of the bugbears’ eyes, blinding them for a turn. Then he kicked a bugbear over a log and face-first into the fire. The other players were simply on autoattack mode, but were thankful for the debuffs provided by the creative use of environment.

I can’t really provide a complete list for this, as there are nigh-infinite combinations of generic objects that can be used to gain an upper-hand, but here is a link to one of my older posts about using environmental factors in combat!

For more content on narrating spellcasting in combat, check out this post!





someone created a random generator that creates randomized inspirational quotes overlaid on random images in a soothing fashion and each and every image is comic gold

it’s pretty much the best thing ever and here are some of my favorites so far

so good

I’m getting this one made into a motivational poster for my home office


The first two I generated:


my kink is when an npc gives you a side quest but you already completed it without the prompt so you can immediately turn it in for a reward


It’s Harry Potter day catch me blasting hedwig’s theme for the next 10 hours

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found batman forever on my front lawn

there are some dvds in the ditch at the end of my front lawn

could these be the missing batman films?

no, it’s superman 3 and 4

theyre both superman 3 and 4

the plot thickens




i neglected to mention it in the original post, but the original dvd case i found only contained 1 dvd that included the films batman forever and batman and robin while the other 2 movies in the series batman and batman returns were missing

this morning i saw something in front of my neghbours house across the street from me

it was what looked like a dvd

again i thought

maybe its the missing batman films

or maybe its 3 dvds


its 3 more copies of batman forever/batman and robin



no idea what this movie even fucking is

blu-ray this time? fancy.

what are these supposed to be


well ive been meaning to see rogue one sometime

wonder if theyll still work




i should probably be dating each update to this but i guess the original reblogs have their dates included

perhaps i could analyze the data and find a pattern

for now i have 2 more superman quadrilogies

interestingly enough inside one of the superman movie cases was actually 3 dvds


there was another copy of superman ¾

if you recall in a previous update i had already found 3 discs of superman ¾

the count has gone up to 6 superman ¾ discs while only just today finding 2 superman ½ discs

who owns these dvds all in bulk

why are they being separated only to be disposed of in pairs or threes in front of my house

im sorry this has been such an obscenely long post but i have a feeling its only going to get longer from here on out

June 15 2017


male country artists: i love my truck and my beers

female country artists: i am going to kill my husband

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if a woman behaved like this she would be blacklisted for her entire career

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Shark Culling Laws Poster

Designed by Matteo Musci

that is a great-ass design

for an

Just when they thought it was safe to exist in the water.

June 14 2017

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Then stop fucking cancelling your best shows and renewing your shitty ones

i am literally paying your ass directly netflix this is not fucking hard to figure out

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Schrödinger’s boys


What about cracking open a cold milkshake

As we all know, the milkshake brings the boys to the yard. The presence of the boys is a prerequisite for the cracking open of a cold one, but cold ones do not have any inherent boy-attracting abilities. Milkshakes, however, do. All else being equal, the boys would proceed to the milkshake yard. While it is possible to announce the presence of cold ones in the hope of attracting some boys, the pull of the milkshake is much more powerful by comparison.

none of this matters if they’re not back in town though

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A beginner’s guide t

For their birthday last year, bought eggs from the horrors of World War II.

Learn or do something and people and made by some work right.

i didnt even realize this was a bot post and i forreal thought i was having an aneurysm 

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Oh, nonsense. This is nothing compared to the twig of ‘93.

When I was a kid I laughed at this, but now as an adult who works in the public, I can assure you people are exactly like this.

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Hi guys!! Pre-orders are currently open on a limited run of “Will Check” and “Frick” hard enamel pins. There’s also a BUY 2, GET A 3rd FREE sale on all prints in my shop. *Please note* that shipment of print orders may be delayed until the second week of July, depending on travel and stock availability.

I’m gearing up for an eye surgery that’ll take me out of work for a week or two in July, so any support or signal boosting is hugely appreciated!!

Find my shop here:

Thanks for taking a look!

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just gonna leave this here…

it was never really about health



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I have this huge, ex-military biker guy neighbour who is like 80% handlebar moustache and has a ponytail halfway to his ass and him and all his huge biker guy friends all have tiny dogs and special, motorcycle safe seats for them on their bikes and my favourite things is when they all come roaring in on their bikes and take their tiny dogs out of their little studded leather safety carriers there is this loud cacophony of kissy sounds and full blown baby voices like “was that fun sweetie” and “who’s my handsome boy”

is this a gang of hagrids


once a boy let me borrow his jacket and after i gave it back i heard him gushing to his friends bc it smelled like me

nice to know boys do that too

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