14 October 2020

Terrain Actions: Plains

Now, I love combat encounters in D&D 5e. I actively enjoy running fights (in moderation) in my games. Even if it can sometimes take 20 minutes to get through 6 agonising seconds of actual fighting, it is an integral part of the game, and one a lot of players/DM’s enjoy. Sometimes, however, they can fall flat.

Say you have an amazing monster for the party to battle, but it’s by itself, and doesn’t have legendary actions. Say it’s also not in its lair. What do you do? Let the party wail on it 4/5 times for every singly turn it gets, and not fight back? No! This is where using terrain actions comes into it!

A Terrain action is like a lair action in 5e, but can happen anywhere in the world! Rather than the monster getting a special bonus move, created by being on its home turf, the environment itself actually becomes an integral part of the battle. The bulette, digging holes through the ground, is a threat, but what about its tunnels? Surely some of them will be close to the surface? Surely some of them will collapse, if under stress? This is exactly what I included in my Bulette Ambush encounter, in my Waterfall Battlemap post.

I like to use Terrain Actions in a lot of my combats, as I feel they add an extra layer to the gameplay. I treat terrain actions as a separate action each round of combat, occurring (normally) on initiative count 20 (losing any ties). When using them, be sure to do so sparingly, however, as they can bog down the game if used all the time, and could become predictable. You want to use them as a nice surprise to keep your players on their toes.

In the following list (and in other lists, coming in the next few weeks), I hope to provide you with a selection of different terrain actions you can include in your games! These will each be aimed specifically for certain regions and areas within the game world, like this one, being designed for:

The Plains

So what do I mean by plains? Typically, the idea of open fields, strewn with flowers and sparse trees, comes to mind. That is one of the options. When I say plains, however, I am basically meaning any terrain that has a mostly flat area (fields, meadows, roads/paths, anything really), that isn’t overly hilly or rocky. Plains maps can contain a small amount of water, a wooded area, or even a small cliff face, as long as that isn’t its defining feature. I’m really using it as a cover-all term for “Misc. Grasslands”.

1. Collapsing Tunnels

Are the party fighting some kind of underground/tunneling monster? Are there rumours of some underground/seismic activity in the area? Are you just an evil DM who wants to make your party suffer for no reason? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, then this may be the Terrain Action for you!

With Collapsing Tunnels, every round (on initiative count 20) a subterranean tunnel collapses underneath the stress of a creature standing on top of it. When it does so, ask any player (that is in a reasonable position on the map) to make a dex save. If they pass, they fall into the hole, but remain upright and safe. If, however, they fail; they take 1d6 bludgeoning damage, and fall prone. What’s the DC for the save? I’ll leave that for you to decide (based on the level/skill of your party), so good luck, and have fun!.

2. Thunderstorm

In the midst of the battle, whilst the rain pours down across the faces of the hardened warriors, that most unpredictable of weathers clashes down onto the battlefield. The paladin, in full plate armour, and holding his longsword aloft, is basically a giant lightning rod at this point, let’s be honest. Every round, on initiative count 20, a bolt of lightning will strike the field. If you want to challenge your party, then have it be AOE; it clashes down, and all creatures within 5 (or 10, if you’re really mean) feet of where it hits have to make dex saves. On a pass, they take half damage, on a fail, they takes number of d6’s of lightning damage (ask yourself how many is too many. Then add one more).

If you want to play into realism a little more, have lightning strike a random creature (roll a dice or something, I don’t care how you pick), that is holding/wearing something metal. When the lightning hits, have them roll a con save, taking full damage on a fail, and half on a success (for damage, please see above comment about d6’s).

If you really want to have fun, try using a combination of the two (picking one each round).

3. Windy Day

The high winds on the battlefield batter and beat against the party every round, billowing down on the field of combat. On initiative count 20, the wind affects any/everything it can. Creatures of size category tiny (or smaller) might be forced to make a strength save, or be pushed 5 ft. in a certain direction. Spells such as Fog Cloud will be dispersed. Are there any untethered items on the battlefield? They will also be blown away by the wind! Good luck to the archer trying to find their arrows after this mess.

If the party is fighting in an area where there is a camp set up, maybe the fire is blown out first, followed by the tents becoming untethered and flying across the map. Maybe blowing in the way of a character? Maybe blowing directly into a character, causing them to save, or be knocked prone? I will leave this one almost entirely up to your imagination, so go wild!

4. Earthquake

Quite simple, this one. The ground begins to shake. Every turn, on initiative count 20, the shaking of the ground causes any/all creatures that are not currently flying to make str/con saves, or fall prone. Maybe, to add an extra layer of devastation, a fissure will open up after a certain number of rounds, ultimately changing the battlefield, and potentially even causing a couple of creatures/characters to make a dex save, or begin to fall? There are a lot of potential ways to use an earthquake in your combat encounters, but make sure it fits. A lot of the time, an earthquake will just feel like the DM is being unfair, so make sure it’s properly telegraphed in advance, or at least allude to being an area of seismic interest.

5. Blinding Sunlight

The sun is shining far too brightly down on the plains today. Maybe the fighter's sword caught the sun's rays at the wrong angle? Maybe the fully plate covered paladin is standing in a (literal) hot-spot? Either way, the light has caught something at the right (or wrong) angle, and has just shone directly into a character's eyes! For the sake of fairness, you can’t just have this happen to the party. I would suggest rolling a die of some kind, to determine where the sun is currently reflecting to/from.

Every round, on initiative count 20, a bright reflection of the sun shines into a creature or characters eye. The creature/character in question must make a save (I would personally get them to make a perception check, varying DC based on level, but others might prefer a Con save, or something to that effect), to avoid being partially blinded for one turn. They can still move as normal, but receive disadvantage on all attack rolls, and wisdom (perception) checks that rely on sight, until their next turn.

I’m sure there are tonnes more ideas for terrain actions for Plains settings, but 5 is enough for today! I really hope you enjoy using some of them in your combats, and hope to hear some amazing stories of how they played in your games.(I’ll admit, Plains was the hardest of these to write. They’re just so… Plain.)

No comments:

Post a Comment