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(D&D) Introducing late night fighting

I like not using miniatures for D&D, I’d rather keep the imaginations centered in “first person” mode.

We have pages and pages of house rules for who can hit who, who can shoot who, who do the monsters attack etc etc.

I tried to condense it to a two page PDF document, with one side relevant for the heroes and the other side more relevant for monsters.

The volley rounds and the front rank / back rank stuff is inspired by (and greatly expanded from) the fantastic The One Ring RPG. Light increasing your reaction speed came from Veins of the Earth. The Targets in Areas of Effect formula came from D&D’s own beautiful DMG. The monsters having a target preference, and the idea that the most dangerous monster gets first pick among the most hated foes came from Dragon Union. Dragon Union is a little bit different because in that game there can only be one of each character and there’s a draft process. In 5e obviously there can be an all fighter party or whatever and that’s cool.

Here is the contents of that PDF (abbreviated as it is from our longer house rule documents).

Volley Rounds

Before mêlée, there might be some rounds for shooting, Barkskin etc.

Everyone can shoot everyone! But, some weapons only work the last volley round or the last couple of volley rounds.

For example, darts and daggers only work the very last volley round.

As a formula, it’s the weapon’s or spell’s distance in feet divided by 60, rounded up. Note it by your attacks so you have it.

(Or just chill because usually there’s just one volley round anyway unless you’re doing an outdoors campaign.)

How many rounds?

Terrain Number of volleys
Arctic, desert, farmland, or grassland 6d6/6
Forest, swamp, or woodland 2d8/6
Hills, or wasteland 2d10/6
Jungle 2d6/6
Mountains 4d10/6
Dungeon 1

Round down!

The rounds tick down as long as at least one side wants to close in and there are no ravines or similar in the way.

Spatial Predicates

Front rank, back rank and aerial.

The default position is front rank. Shooting is at disadv, can’t sneak or hide, can be in mêlée groups, can be shot.

If you are guarded, or can Levitate or similar ability, you can be back rank. Can shoot, can sneak or hide, cannot be mêlée engaged, can be shot. (You can be guarded if there are less than two monsters per hero, and then either at least two front rank heroes guarding you, or at least three front rank heroes marking each monster.)

If multiple people fight over guarded spaces, neither gets it. You need willing guards in front of you.

If you have full flight, you can be aerial. Can shoot, can be in mêlée groups with other other aerials, can go down to front rank at will.

Conjured beings (such as woodland beings or elementals) can be in the three predicates as usual, but even when they are front rank they do not contribute to the amount of guarded spaces available.

Mêlée Groups

When you’re close up & fighting someone you’re in a mêlée group with them.

Leaving it (such as going to another mêlée group, or going back rank, or going aerial) might trigger opportunity attacks.

Switching between mêlée groups is fine if you’re unencombered; otherwise it takes two rounds or some ability that lets you dash or similar.

Targets in AoE

How many?

x/5, cone/10, line/30 ← round up
±1d3 in weird situations


If you target someone in a mêlée group, you need to target everyone in that group before selecting new targets from another group.

(You don’t to select everyone in the last group.)
(Disengaged creatures count as “everyone in their group”)

Who shot first?

Initiative order isn’t important as long as everyone gets an action every round. Except for when you would actually kill your enemy before they hit you… for those situations:


An attack where you have longer reach than your opponent is a “reach attack”.

Monster’s Target Selection

First, one monster per front rank hero, as far as supplies last. The most dangerous monsters select first, and they select the most hated heroes first.

If there are more monsters left, the rest can stay back and shoot, or they can keep on piling on in mêlée; two more monsters per front rank hero.

3:1 if same size category
2:1 if larger on smaller
5:1 if smaller on larger

If there are still more monsters left, keep piling on; five more monsters per front rank hero.

If there are still more left after everyone front rank hero has eight monsters, the rest can all go on their most hated hero.

The ones who are back and shooting can all shoot at the most hated hero.

Monster’s Target Preference

From top to bottom:

Annoying gnats!
DM can choose freely whether to attack or ignore conjured beings.
I got this Agathys
Prioritize ranged attacks vs Armor of Agathys
Opportunistic Strikers
DIE BACKSTABBER! More than one? Then Sneak Attack→Hex→Hunter’s Mark→other similar abilities.
Gimli at Wimbledon
Attack dwarves if they made a weapon attack last round.
Punish the weak
Attack hero where you have the advantage and/or they have disadvantage.
A Drop for A Drop
Attack a non-hobbit that dealt damage last round.
Stick Like Glue
Attack the same target (if non-hobbit) that you attacked last round.
Everyday Fighting
Attack a non-hobbit.
Final resort
Only if there is no non-hobbit target left, go for a hobbit.
FINAL final resort
Only as a last resort do mêlée vs Armor of Agathys.

But which non-hobbit?

From top to bottom:

But which non-hobbit fighter, then?

In that case, the DM can choose! I like to go for NPCs since they stay down. PCs, well, they usually roll up a new dork.