“Oh, it’s my turn? Okay, I guess I’ll attack with my short sword.”
“That’s a… 22, not a natural 20 though. Does that hit?”
“Yes, that would hit.”
“Great, okay. The damage is… 7. That’s my turn then.”
When players are in combat, it can become very easy to get trapped in the motions of combat, and forget that these are characters who, if they were actual people, wouldn’t just be standing in one spot and swinging a sword with no other movement or attempt to try to do anything else.
If you’re a player, think about what your character would do in the heat of the moment, and work that into your character’s turn in combat. For example, if your character is very acrobatic, use the space around them to parkour to another space in the room when using their movement – or even to take their attack! If the enemy is high in the air, use something in the room to potentially jump off of to reach them if the character doesn’t have a ranged weapon.
Combat RP is so important for good, involved combat. Are the battles you’ve seen in movies or elsewhere full of people standing still and just swinging their sword? Not particularly. Move your character’s feet. Spin around when attacking. Add some kind of drama to your character’s turn.
If you’re the GM of a game, encourage this in your players. Ask them to describe what their attacks or movements look like. The more opportunities they get to do it, the more likely they are to get into it. Combat can get clunky without allowing players to dive into their characters in this way. Try not to allow yourself to get too bogged down in the mechanics of the game. Remember, these characters are meant to be heroes (in most cases). Let them act like it. If the game mechanics don’t support what they want to do, keep in mind that most of these movements will be purely cosmetic in nature, and don’t necessarily have to affect the actual rules of the game. If someone wants to take a 5 foot step, but do a handspring to get there, why can’t they? It’s still only going to be a movement if they aren’t doing it in an attempt to dodge an attack.
It makes combat fun and exciting – it can really allow players to get into the fight, and can help the players better understand their characters and the characters around them by how they roleplay a combat scenario. It’s a hard skill to develop, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of “I swing my sword. I swing my sword again.” if you don’t have a group of players that are willing to experiment with that as well. But it is worth discussing with your table.
There was a great conversation I got to participate in during a recent episode of Tales from the Tavern. Bodhi, of Homie and the Dude, made some incredibly great points that put some regular rules into context (such as the jump height for most character races). We’d love to know your thoughts on how you work RP in combat (or don’t!) at your tables. Leave us a comment below with your thoughts!