Dungeons & Dragons Game Mastering

Cinematic Combat

One complaint that I’ve heard about Dungeons & Dragons 4E is that it places too much emphasis on well-defined powers which discourages creative tactics and cinematic maneuvers. Because players have a relatively short list of combat options in their powers, they are less likely to try something creative that doesn’t fit one of those options. This can lead to combat feeling repetitive as players pass up potentially cool ideas and instead use the same few tactics in every combat encounter.

Because I somewhat agree with the complaint, I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming about ideas to spice up combat.  Some of that has resulted in posts already (like power recharging and destiny points in D&D), but I’ve got a lot more ideas that I’ve been thinking about using a mix of existing mechanics, ideas from various sites, and homebrew rules.  In order to share those ideas, I’m going to be doing a series of posts aimed at supporting more cinematic combat in D&D 4E.

First off, when I say I want to make combat more cinematic, it means that I want to emulate the best fight scenes from movies, video games, and books in hopes of making combat more exciting and memorable.  Towards that end, I’ve compiled a short list of goals that will be my focus:

  1. Make the battlefield dynamic.
  2. Expand player options.
  3. Include more than just killing.
  4. Encourage and reward creativity.
  5. Make encounters meaningful.

I should have the first couple posts in the series up this week, and more will be coming after the holidays.  I’ll tag each post with Cinematic Combat, so that you can see them all at

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

3 replies on “Cinematic Combat”


Maybe you’ll touch on things like this, but I recommend implementing something along the lines of the Do Something Cool cards I use in my games:

I won’t suggest anything else until read more of your articles. Thanks for bringing this up, though. Having watched just watched a movie with a cool action scene, I’m inspired once again to make my fights more cinematic.

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