4e Sample Combat

You know what’s missing from Fourth Edition D&D? A really good blow-by-blow combat example. Let’s fix that, shall we?

First, let’s meet the team. Here’s four fresh 1st level adventurers, all generated as per the PHB – no Background options, and only PHB Feats and Powers (I think). Click their names to download their sheets so you can follow along at home boys ‘n’ girls.

  • Kerbek, Dwarf Fighter clad in Scale Armour with a Heavy Shield and Warhammer
  • Theren, Half-Elf Ranger wielding a Longbow (a Shortsword by his side), wearing Hide Armour
  • Usher, Human Rogue clad in black Leather, a hand crossbow in one hand and a Shortsword in the other
  • Elysian, Halfling Wizard, a wand-wielding pyromaniac clad in red robes

This particular party is light on healing (the Cleric was at home with a cold), but strong on ranged attacks. Should be fun.

The setup is as per page 212 of the DMG. Our lowly band of ‘venturers have entered the dungeon below the ruins of Kobold Hall with the intention of returning the stolen green dragon hide, and possibly mop up a fair few Kobolds into the bargain.

To help you follow along I’ve used Gametable to recreate the map, and I’m paraphrasing from a session a few months ago (from notes), so any errors are bound to be mine. Here’s the setup before combat commences. For the short playtest session itself I didn’t place the monsters until at least one of the heroes could see them. To keep things flowing smoothly we roll attack and damage at the same time. The clatter of all those dice makes a great sound, and it’s always good when a high-damage result comes up alongside a low roll on the d20. A near miss indeed!

DM: (Reading from the DMG) Dominating the room ahead is a long trench filled with a glowing green substance. Beyond the trench, a small, reptilian humanoid stands in a shadowy chamber, gaping at you. It carries a sling, and quickly reaches into a pouch at its belt for a stone. It hisses and shouts, “Intrudersss! Intrudersss!”

Initiative is rolled with group initiative rolled for the Slingers and Skirmishers. The order is Usher, Skirmishers (unseen by the PCs so far), Theren, Elysian, the Slingers then Kerbek.


Usher: Uho. We’d better shut that Kobold up before he brings the whole clan down on us. I’ll move forward quickyly, heft my crossbow with a Sly Flourish and aim for his guts. I’ve got Combat Advantage as he hasn’t acted in combat yet. That’s (rolls dice) 19 to hit, for 18 damage.

DM: Ouch. He’s got a bolt sticking from his stomach and doesn’t look long for this world, already. Usher, from where you’re standing you can see a rusted portcullis. Behind it is another Kobold, maybe more. This one gives a snarling bark and thrusts it’s spear through the portcullis – a warning not to get closer. From behind the wounded Kobold comes two others, both wielding barbed spears (moves figures).

Theren: Better finish off the wounded Kobold before those spear chuckers get near. I line up my bow for a Careful Attack, straight between the eyes! A 16, for 8 damage.

DM: That’s good enough. He’s dead. Way to go, guys! (The Kobold is at -2hp. Unluckiest Kobold ever.)

Theren: Now I’ll move up next to Usher. Second line defense!

DM: Cool. Elysian? The Kobolds are closing in.

Elysian: Pyro Halfling to the rescue! I’ll move behind Usher. Him and Theren are big, so that gives me +2 AC due to Lost in the Crowd. Heh. I’ll use Scorching Burst on those two Kobolds just to let them know who’s boss. 13 and 14 vs. Reflex, 8 damage.

DM: One dodges out the way but the other isn’t so quick. There’s a faint smell of burning lizard in the air, but he’s still standing. From behind the portcullis appears another Kobold with a sling. He moves in front of the spear wielder, and lobs a gluepot through the bars. Theren, 11 vs. Reflexes. If it hits, you’re Immobilized.

Theren: It missed but I’m covered in glue now. Thanks!

Kerbek: My turn? Finally! Why’d we dwarves always have to wait for you impetuous races? Grumble, grumble. I’ll move then charge the nearest Kobold, yelling a Challenge as I go. No Kobold will survive this day! Critical 20! 15 damage. That’s gotta hurt.

DM: Oh, it does. Blood seeps through his tattered armour, but he’s still standing.


Usher: That pool looks suspicious. I’ll move and Trick Strike the Kobold on the opposite side with my Crossbow. A bounced bolt off the wall might push him into it. 18 to hit, 19 damage.

DM: Good thinking. Your bolt ricochets off the wall and hits him square on the side of the head. He’s knocked into the pool where the sludge quickly sucks him under. He’s gone. (Translation: Trick Strike slid him into the pool where he took 9 more damage from the sucking sludge. Unpleasant way to go.)

DM: The spear thrower behind the portcullis slips through the bars then moves behind Kerbek. You’re flanked.

Kerbek: I get an opportunity attack as he comes close. Ah, it’s an 8. I miss. Crap. I’m in trouble.

DM: Oh yes. Flanking plus Mob Attack gives him +3 to hit. That’s +9 in total – hits with 24. d8 + d6 damage – take 10 hits.

Kerbek: Grumble grumble. I’m being beaten up by Kobolds. No fair!

DM: It’s the other Kobold spear-wielder next. Same chance to hit, gets just 11. A miss! He then jumps back on his little Kobold springy legs, away from your Warhammer.

Kerbek: Not so quick. I’ve got my Challenge on you, and that’s just made for smackin’ Kobolds. A hit on 18, 8 damage. (Combat Challenge gives a free basic attack as an immediate interrupt against a Challenged foe who shifts or attacks someone else. Nice, eh?)

DM: He’s dead. Poor guy didn’t even make it to the next square. Two Kobolds left, and they’re looking nervous. The Slinger looks set to make a break for it down the corridor.

Theren: He’ll alert the rest of them! I move then let two arrows at him. Two Fanged Strike, 14 and 17 to hit, 13 and 8 damage if they hit. He’s the one that threw the glue pot at me. I want my revenge.

DM: He’s got cover from the other Kobold in the way so only the second shaft hits. It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow him down. (Translation: A 14 would normally hit, but -2 for cover means it’s a miss. He’s down to 16hp. On his turn he’s going to double-move outta there!)

Elysian: Not if I drop a Flaming Sphere behind him. Bwahahahaha! 16 vs. Reflex, 11 damage if it hits. Total overkill. I love it.

DM: That’s evil. Ok, you’ve blocked his escape route with your use of a Daily Spell. Fear is in his eyes as he turns and drops his sling. In broken Common he says “Surr-end-ah?”

Result: Three Kobolds defeated, one still fighting and one surrendered (he’s the clever one). The heroes have used two Daily abilities (Trick Strike and Flaming Sphere) which is a lot for a first encounter, but they were both pretty creative uses so I’ll toss ’em a few XP in return. Kerbek has lost a third of his Hit Points (down to 20, from 30) but after a short rest and a Healing Surge he’ll be (almost) as good as new. After all, that’s what Fighters are for.

Any questions?

11 Comments on “4e Sample Combat”

  1. If you are really going for a first exposure explanation you might want to fill out the details of the initiative rolls and ordering.

  2. All pretty neat. However, it does seem to show just how long 4e combat really takes. After all, I had to hit “Page Down” 4 times after the first DM comment before I got to the end. Perhaps the reason that such an example was not included in the PHB was because it was deemed to take up too much space…

    But for what it’s worth, I wish my players would talk more like yours and be more creative than “I attack with Sly Flourish. 23 to hit, 7 damage.”

  3. @Dixon Thanks! We’re a pretty cinematic group of players :D

    @drow I’ll try to remember that next time. Spiders it is!

    @dsowa I listed the initiative order here:

    > Initiative is rolled with group initiative rolled for the Slingers and Skirmishers. The order is Usher, Skirmishers (unseen by the PCs so far), Theren, Elysian, the Slingers then Kerbek.

    Didn’t think it necessary to include the dice rolls for this – it’s just highest to lowest.

    @Thunderforge Blame my turgid writing style for that, my friend, plus blow-by-blow combats always take up a lot of space to write out. The example combat in my Moldvay edition classic D&D (page B28, look it up) takes up a whole double-column page – that’s 1/64th of the whole book! In play, this part of the session took 15-20 minutes; about the same length of time it would take in any edition. It felt much quicker in-play though – more dynamic, and certainly easier to GM.

    Thanks, all!

  4. I have to disagree with your assessment of the unluckiest kobold ever. The day I took M20 out for a spin with some friends (we ran Temple of Kthuuk), the PCs were spending a bit too long wandering around an empty room and not going anywhere, so I sent a kobold shaman after them. They heard him comming and waited at the door. As soon as they heard the door handle turn, one pulled the door open to put our kobold face to face with our human ranger wielding a rapier and a hand ax. The kobold lost initiative (as if there was any doubt) and as he opened his mouth to shout a warning, our ranger slashed his throat with a swift cut of her rapier (critical hit) and then buried her ax into his skull (two criticals!) ending his life before he could even breathe. Incidentally, that was also an awesome introduction to M20

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