Combat Role
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Basic Information

A Combat Role is a definition of what a character does during a battle, fight scene, or military engagement. I don't mean what they do at a random specific moment, but rather the general niche they try to fill, their part of the overall strategy, etc.

Combat Roles

NPC-Only Combat Roles

Sources

Bibliography
3. RPG: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition addresses this concept directly, though the list above doesn't make use of the terms they coined. D&D, in turn, largely stole the concept from various MMORPG communities.
4. Years of gaming experience.

Game and Story Use

  • Knowing what your characters' Combat Role is will help you maximize your tactics and perform more consistently in battle. Knowing the combat roles of your entire Adventuring Party will help coordinate that team into an effective fighting force. It'll save player character lives, and kill monsters dead.
  • Likewise, if the GM puts some thought towards varying / mixing up the Combat Roles of the NPCs, it can make those fight scenes a lot more engaging and interesting, instead of being just another redundant slugfest.
    • Not to mention, having an idea how the monsters will fight is another way to adjust the difficulty rating of an encounter. Two different bands of orcs with the same numbers, weapons, and hit points can play out very differently. If one is a cohesive unit that supports each other, picks out specific targets, and makes use of terrain, they may be much more deadly than the group that just kinda randomly charges in.
  • Of course, for some players, this sort of metagame analysis just spoils the magic. The Method Actor and Narrativist types might not want to analyze tactics at all, because the Role-Playing aspect is much more important to them than the Game aspect. Pushing too hard on this can actually diminish their fun. If that's the case with your group, either learn to live with mildly suboptimal tactics, or figure out a way to have strategy discussions in-character.
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