Tactica Talarius 1 of ?

So in my experience, a lot of gamers have some startling blind spots in their tool kits.

My single biggest peeve is their lack of understanding of fire. I will eventually make a post specifically about that, but for now let me just say that if you stick a rag into a bottle of wine, light the rag, and throw the bottle, you will get a damp and glass shardy stain where it hits and a singed rag. The same with a bottle of standard vodka.  You need an overproof alcohol to make a flaming missile, and you are still better with kerosene or gasoline. I will admit that I have used this to my advantage before, but it wasn’t that I didn’t know that it wouldn’t work. I just knew that my GM didn’t know it wouldn’t work. (You can get both wine and standard proof (80  proof) vodka to burn, but you have to heat them before you can get them to ignite. Your little rag wick won’t do the job.)

But on to today’s actual topic.

How to kill stuff.

Now there are RPGs where there is capability attrition during combat. That means that when you damage an opponent, it gets less capable of damaging you back. I am not talking about those games today except to  say that while the analysis is more complicated, the results are usually the same as they are for standard rpgs.

In most RPGs with a tactical combat system, when a character (PC or NPC) takes damage, they are a little closer to death or non-functionality, but until they actually die, they are just as effective as they are when they are whole. That means that if you have a choice between spreading the party’s damage among multiple enemies and focusing it on a single enemy, you should do the second.

Let’s say you have three opponents, each of which can do one damage a round and each of which take 4 damage before dying. Also, let’s say you have the ability to do 3 damage a round as a party.

If you spread your damage out evenly, it will take 4 rounds to kill your opponents and they will each die in the same round.

That is 4 * 3 = 12 damage before they die.

But let’s see what happens if you focus your damage:

Round 1: opponents do 3 damage, opponent a takes 3 damage.

Round 2: Opponents do 3 damage, opponent a takes 1 damage and dies, opponent b takes 3 damage 2 damage.

Round 3 Opponents do 2 damage, opponent b takes 1 damage and dies, opponent c takes 3 damage. 2 damage and dies, opponent c takes one damage.

Round 4 Opponents do 1 damage, opponent c takes 1 damage 3 damage and dies.

That means that even though the combat takes the same amount of time, your opponents end up doing 3/4ths as much damage (9 points) as they would have if you had spread out your damage. Of course, this is an extreme simplification, but in general, you want to engage a single opponent at a time and you want to take out the opponent with the highest ratio of damage output to hit points possible. Now you won’t always know what that ratio is, so killing the thing that does the most damage or that most effectively decreases your party’s damage output first is a good choice. Of course, anything with the capability of removing a party member from combat for whatever reason should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Sometimes it is hard to remember all of this in the heat of combat, so I have a favorite mnemonic: 3F.

That stands for:

Find.

Fix.

Fuck.

Find is obvious.  As a party, you find your target. Sometimes this is just pointing out a single opponent to take the brunt of the party’s attacks. Some times it means you literally have to figure out where your opponent is hiding before you can fix and fuck them.

Fixing is a little less inherently obvious. What I mean by fix is Fix your target in place. Sometimes this means surrounding them. Some times it means grappling them. Sometimes it just means using powers and features of the environment that make it harder for them to move away. Generally, a less mobile opponent is a less effective opponent. A fixed opponent can’t flee your wrath, nor can it unleas its wrath on your more squishy allies unless they move into its range.

Fuck is the fun part of the fight. It is where you and your friends get to fuck your opponent up. This is where the wizard drops a meteor swarm on your opponent or the rogue carefully arranges herself with a party member on the other side of the opponent so that she can deal her 10d6 extra sneak attack damage. Take out your opponent as quickly as possible while not totally depleting your stock of powerful abilities. Obviously, this is a judgement call and involves resource management, which I will talk about in a later tactica. You want to get everyone to hit your opponent as hard as possible consistent with the threat provided by that opponent. Usually large durable threats should be assigned more of the party’s expendable resources than small fragile threats, though if you can wipe out a lot of weaker opponents in one fell swoop, it may be worth expending a powerful ability.

The last thing for this post is team work. Just like you want to isolate and smash single opponents, you want to stop your opponents from doing the same to you. That means working together to provide mutual support. In D&D 3.5 that was stuff like flanking and aid another. 4th edition is built on the assumption of party synergies in combat to the point that you don’t need to build for them in order to get strongly synergistic bonuses. In 4th edition, a party that works together and supports each other will be easily twice as effective as they were as unvummunicative loaners who won’t rally around the defenders to save their own lives.

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Vostin’s Fang

Eight thousand years ago, the great cavern over the magma sea was nearly featureless. Creatures that fell through the great gate generally then fell several miles to hit the magma. Almost all of them died on impact, their corpses burning to ashes in minutes. The only creatures that survived were those who could fly, who were tiny and immune to heat, and a number of fungi that came through as spores and that settled in parts of the ceiling where sufficient moisture condensed from the steam released by the doom of unfortunate newcommers. The Brass Tower occasionally would capture falling newcommers for use as slave labor, the occasional fire or air elemental, demons, devils, a few tiny fae, some insects and birds, and an array of fungal groves inhabited the cavern. It was in to this situation that the Archmage Vostin stumbled. Several days after his arrival he summoned the first of the floating fungi to act as a place for him to rest and sleep and prepare magic. He spent a decade trying to escape his prison. He worked with every denizen of the cavern and worked incredible magics. He attempted an epic gate spell which opened a permanent  one way gate from the paraelemental plain of ice. While it failed to break the interdiction, it did eventually increase the humidity and encourage the spread of the inverted fungal forest across miles of the cavern’s roof and made life much easier for many creatures that had previously only had a marginal chance at survival. His other great attempt involved a magical construct bound in an elldrich machine he had created. It generated a lance of intense heat as big around as a tent and theoretically of limitless length. He used the disturbance of the great hate as a lens and fired it straight into the ceiling. The beam vaporized rock and bored a hole straight up. This went on for three days while Vostin, well versed in multiversal geography, remained safely off in the distance. Late in the third “day” the sea beneath the machine briefly boiled and the lance of heat and light stabbed up through the floor of the world to destroy the machine. A great whirlpool formed ,  and a week later a magma-fall began from the hole in the top of the world. For months this went on as first a hollow tube and eventually a broad based stalactite of hardened lava formed. The pliable stone fang inflated from the inside until you had the fang, a giant rock toot hanging down more than three miles to just above the surface of the water. The fang enclosed both the great gate and the ice gate, as well as any number of bubble caverns. Vostin used his magic to mold the tongue of rock that now holds the city of sanctuary out of the bare rock, including his tower there. The elemental gate was near the surface, and influx of ice eventually broke through the surface of the fang and began the formation of the rift glacier. The Great Gate itself forced the formation of a bubble of open space in the center of the fang that is to this day the most common place for new comers to show up. Vostin eventually excavated a number of the tunnels that riddle the fang and created one of the winding paths along the outside of the fang that allow travel without having to pass through the caverns. He lived in his tower and began to study in earnest. A community formed around his tower that would eventually be named Sanctuary. Today, the fang a mostly hollow structure that hosts a dozen major civilizations and scores of minor races. Vostin went searching out the hidden corners of the world and one day did not return. Before his dissaperance, there was a thriving ecosystem and a dozen communities up and down the fang.

Na Esad take 2

In the last days of the dawn war, a great power, neither god nor primordial arose out of the outer darkness. It never gave a name and it started destroying things, worlds, planes, gods, primordials, mortals, and anything else it came across. Nearly half of reality was destroyed in its rampages. The gods and the primordials found common ground in the defense against the great destroyer. They lost every stratagem, every battle, a thousand worlds and a thousand planes fell before its onslaught. The gods and primordials gathered together in one last attempt. A third of the massed immortals fell in that fight and they failed to destroy it. They fought it to a stand still and shattered its essence into a hundred pieces that were scattered across the planes by the might of the massed gods and primordials.  No world was untouched by the essence of the Destroyer. The remaining sheafs of reality had gained something new, entropy. Where once there had been only order and chaos, the great beast infused the entire multiverse with a new thing, the eventual end of everything. The order it brought was the order of the still, of the static, and the chaos was that of destruction, the eventual decline into exhaustion. With the apparent costly defeat of their shared nemesis, the battered and broken factions lapsed into an uneasy peace for a thousand years. They toiled on their own projects, trying to undo some of the damaged caused by their war and the great destroyer. They crafted new worlds and repaired some of those shattered in the war. New planes sprung up in the void left by the destroyer and new gods and primordials started to form to fill the gaps left in their numbers. A few tens of thousands of years later, the peace again crumbled and the Dawn War resumed. It was during the resumption of hostilities that the first shard of doom was found. Both sides claim that a member of the other was the first infected, but what is known is that a piece of the shattered entity infected an immortal being and corrupted it, making it a servant of the Destroyer. Through the ensuing centuries, scores of gods and primordials and thousands of lesser beings were infected by fragments of the destroyer. They became more destructive and violent and often came into conflict. When an infected creature killed another infected creature, the loser’s shard was engulfed by the winner’s, bringing more of the creature’s being together in a smaller and smaller number of hosts. Eventually the change in behavior was noticed and a band of primordials and gods who had not yet rejoined the war went to investigate. Eventually, they lost one of their own to the infection, but it allowed them to determine what was going on, and most importantly, how to stop it.  They spent the rest of the Dawn War traveling the multiverse, slaying the hosts of the Great Destroyer, and entrapping the shards in stasis. By the end of the war, they had captured every shard, every piece of the destroyer, and reassembled it into a semblance of its life. Of the initial 100, the survivors numbered fifty seven, and due to their struggles, they were among the most powerful entities in existance. They defeated the reborn Destroyer, this time not shattering it, but isolating various aspects of its power. Most of these they scattered across the desolate and remote parts of the multiverse, to rest until their own entropy dispersed them, but the most dangerous fraction of its power, those which could not be isolated and allowed to decay, they were trapped in specially built items designed to persist as long as the multiverse itself. The greatest of these was a plane in the form of a sphere of rock a hundred miles in diameter. A fraction of the Destroyer’s consciousness and the greater part of its power was trapped in the isolated plane. It was constructed of primal stone and ripped fromt he multiverse in a manner that isolated all methods of leaving it without hindering entry. The only route they could not forbid was death this meant that no matter what happened, that aspect of the great destroyer would be stuck there since it was immortal, incapable of dying and thus incapable of escape. They called it Na Esad, which in the language of the Dawn of the multiverse meant “Stone Trap.”

The surviving hunters of the Destroyer agreed that their guardianship of the Shards of Doom was far more important than factional differences, and when the gods won the Dawn War, they stood together to face down the massed might of the victorious gods. As a coherent group with thousands of years of teamwork pursuing the most dangerous entities in existance, they were able to cow even the massed might of the gods. While it is an open question wether they would have eventually won, none of the war-weary dieties wanted to be the first to fall before a combined force of Gods and Primordials with a specialization in trapping entities beyond reach forever. The Doom Slayers offered a compromise. They would maintain their vigil in perpetuity in exchange for being left alone. Their power would be withheld from the politics of the multiverse, save for when they were directly threatened. Further a threat to one of their number would be considered a threat to all of them.  They arranged to be removed from almost all annals of history, the better to be left to their task undisturbed. And thus they have, forgotten, unmentioned in every pantheon, in every world, even the calm in the Dawn war has fallen from  memory.

Na Esad itself has changed in the intervening millinia. A fraction of the stone in the center was fragmented and then melted. By the time a dead soul fleeing the trap was found and questioned, a great cavern had formed around a sea of lava. It was then that the fire giants were created and given their eternal task of stabalizing the containment from the inside. They began their great work a hundred thousand years before today and finished the construction of the greatest Symbol of Power created in the history of the multiverse. The Giants are the only people living in the Fire Cave who call it Na Essad these days, and they honor their charge to maintain the ward against universal destruction.