As a DM, I not only have to run the game for my players, but I also have to expect the unexpected. That’s difficult, though, when you’re not sure what the unexpected will be.
Because it’s all “unexpected” and such.
So, I do my best to prepare for a game, and to know the rules – because I do tend to stick to the rules. But I’m weird, I also love telling a good story, and I love modifying the game and its mechanics if the outcome tells a better story – or if the altered mechanic itself lends to the story in a more interesting way.
If that makes sense.
Here’s an example.
While running the game for my players, the villain grabbed an NPC to use as a human shield. The players still wanted to target the villain with their ranged and melee attacks.
Now, my first thought was to just assign disadvantage to these attack rolls, since it’d be much harder to hit the villain. Or even to say “well, you don’t have a good line-of-sight” to target them.
But then I thought…well, what if they shoot their bow, and – because he’s so hard to hit right now – they accidentally hit the NPC? I wanted the stakes to be very high in this encounter, with a clear understanding that lives were on the line.
So – right there at the table – I thought up a “human shield” mechanic. Here it is:
Players roll their attack die twice – though this is neither “advantage” or “disadvantage.” If both rolls, with their normally added bonuses, would hit the target’s AC, then their attack hits the target.
If only one roll hits the target’s AC, but the other does not, then the human shield is hit and takes the damage.
If neither rolls hit the target’s AC, then it’s a whiff and the attack hits neither.
That’s what I was using in the encounter, and it worked really well. The human shield was hit a lot – and I felt that that was okay because it was realistic. If you’re trying to hit someone standing directly behind someone else, you’re going to hit the front person a heckuvalot more than the intended target.
You can even add to this.
If one of the attack rolls is a natural 20, but the other misses the target’s AC, then you hit the target anyways with the crit damage and ignore the missed roll.
If BOTH attack rolls are natural 20s – you lucky bastard – then not only do you hit the intended target with the crit damage, but you also free the human shield from their grasp automatically.
Certain Feats like Sharpshooter and Spell Sniper would ignore the mechanic, because they can target creatures while ignoring half and three-quarters cover.
So I feel like that’s a fun mechanic that isn’t really handled in the DMG or anything, and I wanted to share it. Feel free to use it if you want, or share in the comments below if you’ve done something similar, or how you ran a hostage situation like this.
Next time, I’ll talk about a custom Chase grid that I created for an older – somewhat railroady campaign that I ran. I really liked it, and it used a chase mechanic that I found online somewhere. Some of my players still talk about it to this day.
Until then – Well Met!