Impractical Applications: Slogs

One of the things I find most interesting about combat slogs is how utterly different they can be. I’d had three in mind when I was writing this week’s posts about the mechanical and contextual causes of a slog battle; one that was part of a running trend and two that were specific to that particular incident.

The first one I could think of was one of a short sequence that resulted in my group basically switching one game for another. As fights went, it had pretty much everything going against it. The group was coming in tired, it was on the way to something more interesting and appeared to have no relation to anything (it turned out to be a plot hook, but see the final point), the monsters (like just about everything we’d fought) were pretty much nonsentient and thus not very interesting to banter with, it was almost entirely rolls on dice that seemed to hate us, and this was happening on the session on which we were going to be adding new PCs but had not yet done so because we had to finish up a plot point we’d been waiting on for about a year. And it. Took. Forever. At the time, we summed it up as “I did not know fighting for our lives could be so boring.”

Fortunately, I don’t get things like these too often. Most of the time, it’s a GM who doesn’t usually write slogs, but something gets out of his hands. Such was the case for the two fights that inspired the riff to begin with.

In one—it shouldn’t have been a slog. It was interesting, tactics were relevant and not particularly limited, there was an objective beyond survive or die, and overall, it would have been amazing. The one problem was that the guy we were originally supposed to have been fighting was busy trading blows with another NPC, which might not have been a problem if we’d recruited her specifically for the purpose, but as she became effective out of nowhere, it was a bit disappointing. (And then he left before any of us could get a stab in. Figures.)

The other was in a D&D game. The group had, earlier in the day, been in an extremely draining fight involving half a dozen men, a troll, and a whole lot of save or suck which didn’t necessarily get saved; the daily-charge healing items had been used up, only one person really had spells to speak of, and they’d just acquired a ward who needed to be kept well away from any and all of the current round of unknown evil plans the group was prone to foiling. So, of course, the place they were staying in came under attack… from the armies of the next country over? The flight to the ship they had chartered expecting to take it in the morning was tense, and then there was the matter of one small raiding party they needed to keep off of the ship until it was ready to sail off. Good stuff—except that any plot relevance won’t be determined until the next session, two out of three of the spellcasters were down to two or three spells each, if that; the spellthief kept not reaching the enemy casters before something else squished them, the rogue was in terrain such that he could not get a flank to save his life, and the barbarian, despite finally getting to experience the joys of Enlarge Person, got hit with a fatigue effect early on. And it took a while due to frequent misses. Excellent circumstances, but a bogged execution.

1 comment

  1. Realmwright says:

    The final situation sounds like it would be great in a story due to the “reality” of it: characters are worn out and just want to rest and recoop, then they’re attacked and have to flee. The mad dash to the boat is interrupted by more attacks (an army raiding a city will do that every time) and then the boat must be defended in order for the characters to get away. All while being just plain exhausted. Great stuff! It never doesn’t suck when the dice are against you though.

    I feel for you. I’m a storyteller, not a GM. And it still seems odd to me how often those two roles work against each other.

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