Last session, my D&D party had a great RP-driven evening, having just survived a huge throwdown with a fiend-controlled Arch-druid, a humongo spider, and a zillion spiderlings.
That fight is what I wanted to talk about today. I really like 5e’s Legendary action system. I think it’s a great way to address the primacy of action economy in the game.
What’s an action economy?
It’s the idea that in a tactical combat game, having more actions is a huge advantage. In earlier versions of D&D, a 5-person party vs. a dragon instantly had the advantage if the dragon only got one action per round, even if they got claw/claw/bite.
In the recent X-Com games, you want to get the upgrade that lets you bring a fifth squad member into missions as soon as possible, as it gives you more actions per turn. Having a fifth person is an advantage aside from that, but what I want to focus on right now is the actions. Who has them, how many, and when?
In this case, the spider got a Legendary Action (mostly webbing and biting) and the Lair Actions involved birthing new spiders to throw at us (ala spawning mobs/adds in a raid).
The Legendary/Lair Actions made the combat feel much less in our control, systematized the rate of new monsters coming in, and made the boss feel like a Boss.
The last boss we fought before the spider was a powerful necromancer who had been built up over several sessions as A Big Deal. But then, our party totally overwhelmed him, esp. thanks to our Smite-tastic vengeance Paladin and having several spell-casters who could counter-spell and use Dispel Magic. Even with undead minions around, the necromancer just didn’t have the opportunity to really put the pressure on us or keep away from our DPS. Legendary Actions would have changed that a lot. They become less special if every notable enemy has them, but maybe that’s okay?
The Ruler Reactions in the X-Com 2 expansion are a similar system, whereby the Ruler characters (special unique bosses) get a Ruler Reaction after every one of your characters acts. This means they can move around, punish characters that move out into the open, etc. Being able to interrupt and/or act out of turn is a *huge* tactical asset in turn-based games. The Chosen characters in the War of the Chosen expansion don’t get Ruler Reactions, but they do have a large # of actions per turn, allowing them to move in, attack, and then retreat to cover, etc. Some of your characters get similar bonus actions, especially the Skirmisher. Having all of those active at once could get tricky, but it re-shapes the flow of play, making it far less a game of big chunks of “my turn, their turn” and much more of a fast-paced thrust/parry/riposte kind of game.
Anyone else been playing D&D with Legendary/Lair Actions or have stories of Rulers/Chosen from X-Com to share? Or other games that use the same kind of systems?