DM Thoughts 20 : E for Environment!
SWORDS CUT, ARROWS STICK, MAGIC VAPORIZES. BUT WHAT ABOUT CHAIRS, FLOUR, AND BOTTLES?
As requested by all-the-drow, today will be discussing the use of the environment in an encounter.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with environmental attacks, essentially it would mean using the items and objects in an encounter to attack an opponent, it can be utilized by the player or the npc’s.
This could be anything from attacking someone with a chair in a bar fight, perhaps tossing some flour in an enemies face, or impaling someone on a spike.
Before even thinking about encouraging environment attacks, make sure to let your party know what objects are in the room, and by all means- mark them on the battle grid! This makes them easier for the players to see!
Okay, so before we figure out the versatility of environmental attacks, let’s identify the mechanics.
Alright, so I have come up with a bit of a formula for some of the following items, which you will be able to implement in the form of these items, or with the same template and different objects.
(As a foreword note: we will be using many examples of environmental weaponry, attacks, and strategies in the form of the traditional “tavern brawl” scenario)
-Chair/Table Leg/Broom = A Blunt Weapon, such as a mace, but downgrade the hit die by one (i.e. d8 > d6). Other variants on this improvised weapons could be a large stick, a brick, a smaller character, or more.
-Bottle = Dagger. A bottle and a dagger should deal the same amount of damage, as well as any other broken glass or basic sharp objects; such as shards, swordfish, sharp branches, stalagmites, etc.
-Shields? Improvised shields should serve as light shields, they could be anything from tables and bookshelves to boards of shipwood and barrel tops.
-Slamming: Perhaps your player wants to slam their foes head into a wall, I would do it as follows; d4 on thin wooden wall, d6 on thick wooden wall, d8 on stone wall, and d10/12 on a hard stone wall.
-Additional Effects? Flour could possibly be used as a blinding agent, while any liquid, from water to mead, could be used
Use & Encouragement
Any DM or GM worth their salt can put the environment into place, however, it takes a bit more skill to actually get your party to use it.
One way to get your party to use it, is actually by getting their adversaries to do so. If the barbarian see’s that the orcs are beating people over the head with chairs and using tables as shields, then you can bet that bloodrager is gonna pick up a table and hurl it across the room into two minions.
You could also give the party conventional bonuses when using the items, this could be as simple as “adding a +1 to improvised attacks” to coming up with a plausible explanation, such as making the tavern an area in which these improvised attacks receive bonuses.
Also, if items stand out, they could be amazing. This could be the massive boiling pot of stew with a putrescent stench in the northeastern corner of the inn, or perhaps the table filled with dishes and glass (describe something such as that followed by a statement such as, “It looks like it could be used to inflict some serious damage”, if you are desperate for environmental attacks).
One sure fire way to convince your party to use the environment is to take away their gear and spells.
Now, as a good DM, you realize that you can’t just say that they have misplaced their gear and spells, no… it has to be plausible.
A good way to do this is to tell the party that it would be best not to kill anyone in the room, while it is still cool to maim or injure them. This way they will not wish to use their sharp swords and destructive spells, they will resort to something that can demobilize opponents. Perhaps this is just during a minor conflict amongst drunken patrons, or the party is trying to capture an adversary without actually slaying them.
Environment could also play a key part in the traditional prison break scenario, for the party is already deprived of their weapons, and now they seek new items to damage the guards or distract them. In a dungeon like this, however, it would also be good for the party to be able to find their gear again before exiting, or actually upon the exit.
Thanks for being patient with everything, I know the posts have been a bit more brief lately, but I have been swamped between the tabletop and my personal life; but trust me, this Summer will yield in many more posts, along with new categories.
Tune in next time where I will be discussing my current party in the Aervos Campaign!
-A, a humble Dungeon Master