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The Comprehensive Guide to Alternate Goals in Combat

by Svendj

Different goals you can include in combat besides just killing monsters.

What? Why would I want to do that?

Failure should always be an option in combat. However, it should not result in a plotstopper like the deaths of all the players. That's not fun for anyone. If you instead make the combat about something besides killing all the monsters, like saving an NPC from getting killed, it not only challenges the players to approach combat tactics differently, but you also introduce interesting ways to fail. For example, all the monsters may be dead, but so is the NPC because the players didn't protect her properly.
This can take the story in an unexpected direction, which is good. It also challenges players to use their powers, items and skills in ways they had never imagined before. Lastly, it challenges you to really think about the motivations of your monsters apart from "adventurers = food and gold".

Below you find the list of different goals you can insert in your combats.

Prevent enemies from killing the NPC

Basics: the players need to stop the enemies from killing an important NPC.

Set-ups: the NPC can be travelling with the players, travelling on his own or already be in the clutches of the enemies. It can be one NPC or multiple NPCs.

Progression: the enemies try to reach the NPC or try to prevent the players from reaching her. The NPC can usually take one or two hits before she dies.

Success: the players get the NPC to safety by killing all the monsters or moving the NPC off the map. The NPC is grateful and shares valuable items or information with them, or agrees to cooperate with their outrageous plan.

Failure: the enemies kill the NPC and run or try to slaughter the players as well. Alternatively, the death could trigger a catastrophic event. The players need to find another way to fulfill the goal they needed the NPC for, or save the world from the catastrophy that the enemies have unleashed.

Risks: don't let the NPC die too easily, give the players a chance to succeed. But don't be afraid to kill her either when it's obvious the players are failing the goal.

 

Prevent Enemies from Kidnapping the NPC

Basics: the players need to stop the enemies from kidnapping and escaping with an important NPC.

Set-ups: the NPC can be travelling with the players or travelling on his own. It can be one NPC or multiple NPCs.

Progression: the enemies try to reach the NPC and try to prevent the players from reaching her. When the enemies have reached the NPC, they try to grab her and move away with her. This can be on foot, through the air, by teleporting, or through a portal.

Success: the players save the NPC by killing the enemies or moving the NPC off the map. The NPC is grateful and shares valuable items or information with them, or agrees to cooperate with their outrageous plan.

Failure: the enemies get away with the NPC. The players need to find another way to fulfill the goal they needed the NPC for, or rescue the NPC from the enemies' lair.

Risks: don't let the enemies reach and get away with the NPC too easily, give the players a chance to succeed.

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