Reach out and Play 9: Combat Posting pt. 3

Reactive posts

Not only does the story benefit from vivid descriptions of combat actions, it is also enhanced by equally descriptive reactions. A hit that drops a player down to a couple hit points, should feel different from a blow that barely does any damage, to the reader.

When posting your attack include a reaction to the hit you received the last turn after your last post. This gives a dynamic continuity to the flow of combat.


Tannek is in combat with a monk and took 3 points of damage last round. Not a large amount of damage considering he has 30 hit points. Making his next attack include a reactionary post would look something like this:

Tannek grins, a tiny trickle of blood running down the corner of his mouth. After all his bluster, the fool considered that to be a hit? His grip tightening on his axe he let out an actual chuckle as he steps forward and swings down hard, showing the dancing fool what a hit with a real weapon feels like.

Greataxe/Weapon focus: 1d20 + 7 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 7 + 1 = 25 
Magic/Weapon specialization: 1d12 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 5 + 2 = 15

If Tannek had instead taken a solid critical hit that dealt 20 points of damage from the same opponent, it might look something more like this:

The taste of vomit in his mouth pales in comparison to the grinding agony of his lower ribs with every breath. It was hard to wrap his head around how anyone could hit that hard with just their fist. The pain mixes with a touch of panic at the realization that there was no way he could take another hit like that. Summoning up everything he had left, turning the pain into rage, the fighter hurls himself at his opponent, bringing his axe down in a desperate strike.

Greataxe/Weapon focus: 1d20 + 7 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 7 + 1 = 25 
Magic/Weapon specialization: 1d12 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 5 + 2 = 15

In both cases, Tannek takes a hit and retaliates. The damage he deals is the same. Yet the sense of who has the upper hand in the fight, and the grasp of the stakes is quite different, is quite different, and based solely on the reactionary aspect of the post. This isn’t limited to just responding to a hit either. If the enemy’s attack is a miss, your next attack can easily include phrases like, “nimbly sidestepping the blow” or “just managing to get her shield up in time” to make the flow of combat more dynamic than simply roll…..hit,…….roll……miss.

Magical Combat

As familiar as magic is to us as players, we sometimes forget that magic, especially battle magic, is supposed to be both spectacular and devastating. When describing spellcasting in combat try to consider what it would really look like to take hold of the forces around you and wreak havoc on your enemies.

There are a few things to consider when describing magic in combat, the first is the act of spellcasting itself. A good guide to what elements are incorporated into the casting of a spell would be the Components line of the spell entry. Verbal, somatic, material, special focus, each gives you information on what someone around the spellcaster sees or hears while the magic is being invoked.

The second element is the visual of the spell effect, what actually happens once the spell is cast and what it looks, sounds and feels like (though the latter would be more reactionary).

Some spells make this easy, providing a basic description of the spells visual or sensory effects in the description, while others are vague and somewhat open to interpretation. Let’s take a basic low-level staple. Burning hands.

The spell description is pretty straightforward, stating that a cone of flame is shot from the caster’s fingertips. Provides a basic framework and indicates somatic and verbal components. Turning that information into a dynamic combat post involves describing those elements to capture the action.


As the goblins continue to charge down the hall, weapons swinging wildly, their malicious laughter and chants of violence filling the air, Merzhan begins a chant of his own, his hands quickly flashing through an intricate series of gestures as a red nimbus builds around them. Moments before the lead goblin would hit him, he completes the spell, the completion of the chant drowned out by the roar of the flames jetting forward from his outstretched hands, a cone of fire washing over the enemies as their screams take on a completely different pitch.

Burning Hands: 3d4 ⇒ (1, 3, 4) = 8 
DC 16 Reflex save for half damage

For spells with less of an overt visual, the description needs to convey that powerful magic is occurring despite what any not be visible to most people.


Merzhan’s eyes lock onto the approaching fighter. Calling upon the magic pulsing within him, the sorcerer feels the raw power flowing, rising, waiting for him to give it form. Eyes glowing with power, he utters a single word. One that reverberates with undeniable authority; a command that must be followed. ” KNEEL!”

Cast Command, (Fall: On its turn, the subject falls to the ground and remains prone for 1 round. It may act normally while prone but takes any appropriate penalties.) DC 18 Will save to ignore.

In this case, since the spell isn’t inherently visual, we describe the forceful manner in which the command word hammers at the opponent’s will, describing the sort of reverberating echo you might hear in a movie. Since even silent spellcasting usually has some outward manifestation of magic, we use a staple, glowing eyes to signal the arrival of magical power to the scene. While we vary slightly from the exact text of the command spell, we specify what effect of the spell is intended, to make it clear to the GM.

We’ll continue with magic in our next installment, including defensive and beneficial spellcasting as well as posting for both successful and failed saving throws.

About markt

Mark has been playing RPG's for over 25 years, the last 10 primarily online. A veteran of countless Play by Post games, he is also a content creator for OGN and an RPG Superstar alumni.

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