We've finally had a few chances to sit down and play D&D lately - life has been getting in the way for both of us playing. Ravi's classes are working towards graduation (You can do it, sis!!) and DM and my weekends have been mostly preoccupied. However, two of our friends have been able to make trips down to visit us on Sundays, and we've happily pulled out the dice for a new game the past two times they've made it here.
The game, run by our friend Matt, is more focused on large-scale battles than D&D usually is, usually us versus three to ten enemies harder than us and a dozen to twenty smaller, easier enemies. We've had to focus much more on strategy and conservation than with a normal dungeon crawl. After two sets of long combat sequences (3 to 6 fights each) and one gained level, we were given the option to pick a goal: kill the hobgoblin king, take out a well of demons, go kick someone out of our territory, or stay there in case of attacks on the city. We chose to go after the hobgoblin king; we had already seen him at least once, but he ran away. So, off we went. We arrive relatively unscathed and find ourselves facing a dozen or so hobgoblins and ogres, with an ettin (a two-headed ogre) behind us. Roll for initiative, right?
Have you ever heard the concept "Walk like you know exactly what you're doing"? Meaning, look like you belong and you can go anywhere. Rather than draw our weapons and fight, we rolled Bluff checks. And rolled Bluff checks. And rolled more Bluff checks. We bluffed and argued our way right through the gates. Do you remember how Han and Luke found Leia without being caught in Star Wars IV: A New Hope? They marched Chewbacca down the halls like stormtroopers escorting a prisoner and killed the guards in the prison itself? Yeah, we did that with DM's Warforged. We avoided probably an hour or two realtime of large combat, broke two other humans out of the prison to help us, and got the jump on about 7 hobgoblins before they knew what hit them. In the end, we got our man with relative ease thanks to a very high summoning scroll Bryan, our other player, had just bought.
It's odd to think about strategy in D&D. It's usually so easy to just kick down the door and barge in. You don't NEED to consider alternatives. But there really are plenty of other ways to use your skills: bluff, intimidate, and diplomacy combined with known languages all allow different forms of negotiation with an enemy (provided they're not mindless. Don't try to negotiate with a zombie. It won't end well for you.) Hide and move silently can help you skirt around a group of enemies, as can climb and some cheap climbing tools. These are all good tactics to consider using when there's the possibility of avoiding a fight. Will you get the experience you would have from straight-up fighting? Not always. That depends on the DM. But if you're low on HP, badly outmatched, or just don't feel like fighting, try a different tactic. You don't always have to kick down the door.