Dungeons & Dragons Game Mastering

Borrowing Good Ideas

As part of my efforts to make combat in my D&D 4E campaign more exciting and memorable (Cinematic Combat), I’ve been going through my library of gaming books and keeping an eye out for good ideas from other gamers.  I’ll be borrowing and building on some of these concepts, but others are just good ideas that work towards the same goals.

Let me know if you’ve seen other blogs or sites discussing similar ideas that I’ve missed.


A special class of monsters pioneered by @gamefiend, worldbreakers are solo monsters that are designed to have a power that lets them alter the battlefield and open up the use of additional powers.  These monsters are great for memorable fights thanks to their ability to keep the battle dynamic.  For more info on them, head to At-Will.

Do Something Cool/Think outside the Box

Last week, @charlesmryan shared this great power card that fits nicely with my goal of encouraging and rewarding creativity.  For another take on the same idea, check out @pdunwin‘s version here.

Terrain Powers

Introduced in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, terrain powers are special powers tied to a piece of terrain on the battlefield.  Any character or monster can make use of a terrain power, so they work towards a few of my cinematic combat goals by providing more options to players and making the battlefield more dynamic.  The DMG2 section on terrain powers is pretty brief, but the basic idea is easily expanded.

Alternate Goals in Combat

This post by @theweem has a good selection of ideas for alternate goals in combat that can be used to make encounters more interesting than just having the players try to kill all of the monsters.

Passive Everything

@neogrognard makes an argument for using passive skill mechanics for far more than Perception here.  While this isn’t directly related to cinematic combat, I suggest using the idea for skill checks related to revealing information about enemies and the battlefield.  I think it offers a reward for players whose characters have appropriate skills without requiring the player to think of making a roll.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

One reply on “Borrowing Good Ideas”

Thanks for the shout-out, and to the link to The Weem’s site.

It takes a little more work, but just shaking up the normal 2D environment can bring out some cinematic flair in people. In a play-by-post game I’m running, I turned a rectangular room 90 degrees to make it a well, and added some platforms. If you want them to move around much you’ll probably find you need to make some allowances on the jumping rules because it’s very difficult to jump any appreciable height in D&D, unless one is a monk. In general, it’s probably a good idea to make anything you want the players to do a lot of into a Moderate check for their level.

Taking cinematic actions with one’s monsters is also probably a good way to get the PCs into the act. Take those high-HP Monster Manual 1 monsters and have them leap over chasms and flip down ledges to get at the PCs.

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