Advice on running multiple enemies with the 3-action system


Advice


I've been a long time 1e GM, and moving to 2e has been great in many ways. One double edged sword I've been struggling with however has been running multiple enemies in combat. While the 3 action system opens up a lot of interesting things with monsters and npcs in combat, I'm finding it really difficult to run them efficiently.

In 1e I would usually be able to deal with an individual enemy's turn by going "what is the main thing they'll attempt this turn". Now I feel a lot greater cognitive load having to execute 3 actions for every monster. This is not such a problem with one or two enemies, but I often run games with 5 or 6 players, to which I usually increase the minion count. Even with 4 enemies, that's 12 actions I need to calculate, and I'm finding it's really bogging things down on my turn.

So does anyone have any advice or tips on running multiple baddies smoothly? Thanks!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I personally find it easier in 2E since most monsters don't have 16 different things they can do but 1 is better than the rest. 2E monsters usually have a clear strategy based on the actions they have whether is it if they land an attack they get a new action or the likes and failing that if it is APL+ they move if needed and attack twice. If they are APL- they move attack move. If you end up with a 3rd action left over see what skill they are trained in and use one of them or in the case of multiple foes set them up to help an ally. If for some reason you have 2 actions left on a bad use the ready action to effectively give that monster an AoO


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The primary mission is still the same:
What is the main thing they will attempt this turn?
Generally this is a Strike, often using a move to close or flank.
Not so different than PF1.
If a caster, move & cast or cast & move, again like PF1 though cast & add Shield Cantrip is a good option too.

Many creatures will have a shtick they try to perform, like Hyenas who want to Knockdown an opponent, and if that opponent is already prone, they want to Drag that opponent, preferably to where several Hyenas can threaten them. Complicated, but they'll burn up their actions fast.

So what to do with any extra actions?
Often, a second attack is worthwhile. Even if unlikely, enough swings adds up and a hit usually does enough to matter.

Now for that worthless third swing (or second swing vs. heroes w/ high ACs), there are several options (if there's not already one in their build).
1. Intimidate. No MAP, no harm trying. Lots of heroes in the party means lots of opportunities. I used this as a default in the playtest to good effect (though the final version's been lessened).
2. Spring Attack. Move/Strike/Move. Making your better opponent use actions moving (especially if they want to Raise Shield) is a good tactic. And in moving, they may open up opportunities to flank them or get to squishies.
3. Raise Shield. Equip shields. It doesn't just give them a bonus to h.p. vs. their tough opponents, but if using a one-handed weapon they won't get as large an irregular damage spike if they do crit or consistently get lucky.
4. Feint first. Again, no harm trying if they do have Deception.
5. Take Cover. Or make cover for that matter.

So really there's not much more to PF2>PF1 than figuring out those third-action actions, hopefully beforehand.

One tactical note is that Stride/Stride/Strike can carry them a long way, either to get to the back of the party or in reverse to string along the party, perhaps to swarm whoever gets baited away or left behind.


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You may try rolling separate initiatives.

This spreads out your actions and can avoid tons of first round actions before the PCs can act.


These are all great thoughts and suggestions. Will definitely help with how I think about using the actions moving forward. Thanks everyone!


I always do seperate initiatives in any edition (as it makes the game more exciting as there isn't a 4 turn gap where X player doesn't care what is going on because it isn't their turn and it isn't the monsters turn) and it fixes action economy issues like the party wiping out half the monsters before they can act.

This also helps space out your cognitive load and keeps everyone engaged as the GM isn't having one turn that lasts 20 minutes.

Generally I like to think about what the npc would do in this situation. If they are an orc, it is probably run towards the enemy and hit them repeatedly, in which case it is almost always move/strike/strike or strike/strike/strike. Goblins are likely to always be move/strike/move, unless they are in melee range at the start of their turn, in which case it it strike/strike/move. (Or strike/move/move if the PC is particularly scary).

Wolves are wild animals, and unless they are tamed pet guard wolves, they will try and defend their territory or hunt something to eat if they are desperately hungry enough to attack people, and won't stick around in a situation that will get them killed. They hunt as a pack, so will try and pick off the weakest looking prey by flanking and tripping them, and will always move away from danger with their third action, and if one or two of them die, will probably try and flee the battle unless they have overwhelming numerical superiority.

The only other real rule is that creatures with 2 different melee attacks will usually do their first strike with their best weapon, then any subsequent strikes with their best agile weapon.

Usually if you have a vague idea of the personality/capabilities of the creatures (goblins are sneaky and cowardly, orcs are brutal and brave and strong in melee, wolves are animals that just want food and to protect their territory, and hunt as a pack, etc) then the course of action of each individual creature is usually pretty obvious.

Sovereign Court

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I generally aim to spread out my enemy initiatives so that I have three teams of enemies ("Boss", "Lieutenant/Bodyguard" and "Mooks/Minions"). Having all enemies on one initiative is too swingy; either they suddenly swarm a PC and drop him from full to nothing, or they get swarmed by the PCs. More interleaved initiative works better.

Another thing that helps me a lot is that I have numbered pawn bases, so I can easily decide in which standard order I'm processing monster turns and track damage per monster. For example, the boss gets pawn base 1, the lieutenant(s) get 2 and 3, and the mooks get 4-7. When the lieutenants' initiative comes up, I execute #2's turn and then #3's turn.


Ascalaphus wrote:


Another thing that helps me a lot is that I have numbered pawn bases, so I can easily decide in which standard order I'm processing monster turns and track damage per monster. For example, the boss gets pawn base 1, the lieutenant(s) get 2 and 3, and the mooks get 4-7. When the lieutenants' initiative comes up, I execute #2's turn and then #3's turn.

Now that's a awesome idea, i will try it this Saturday on my 3rd Session of Age of Ashes!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I usually do monster initiative in groups. For example if I have 7 goblins (one leader/hero, 2 archers and 4 melee minions) I might roll 3 separate initiatives, especially if those three groups have a different intiative bonus.

Making groups speeds things up, I think, and keeps down the clutter of having 7 different initiatives to keep track of.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I do seperate initiatives but roll once for each "group" of enemy and then use a standardized method to generate initiatives from there without rolling lots.

E.G I roll a 12 for a group of +10 initiative enemies. I put one at 22, then one at 20, then 24, then 18 etc. Capping out at whatever + would be higher than a roll can achieve.

Sovereign Court

Wheldrake wrote:

I usually do monster initiative in groups. For example if I have 7 goblins (one leader/hero, 2 archers and 4 melee minions) I might roll 3 separate initiatives, especially if those three groups have a different intiative bonus.

Making groups speeds things up, I think, and keeps down the clutter of having 7 different initiatives to keep track of.

Yeah I find 3 groups of enemies to be about the sweet spot. On the one hand that keeps them separated enough that they won't all together overwhelm someone. On the other hand it doesn't send the administrative burden through the roof.

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