Over the course of Handbook history, we’ve explored a number of variations on this theme. With a little help from Monk we learned about improvised weapons. Thanks to Fighter, we’ve experience the magic of beating a motherfucker with another motherfucker. And today, we come full circle as Barbarian bludgeons poor Jeremy the dracolich with his own femur. I can only assume that our dearly departed dragon deserves it for reasons.

These kinds of maneuvers—hurling the goblin at its buddies; clubbing an ankylosaurus with its own tail—are important for two reasons. Firstly, they’re hilarious when they work, and even more so when they fail. But second (and likely more important) is the chemistry that happens when character engages environment. When you prop open the monster’s mouth with a bone or hurl your adoptive brother at the baddies, you’re interacting with the world beyond your character sheet. Because let’s face it: when you have a complex suite of abilities laser-printed in ink, it can be awfully difficult to remember that you’ve got options outside your base mechanics. Those moments might be hard to adjudicate, but I think that they’re worth encouraging.

Case in point, my Crimson Throne players recently took a little rowboat ride. It was a subterranean lake, and they were desperately trying to make it to shore before being swept over a waterfall. To make matters worse, there was a nearby islet in the lake with “a single glass statue of a beautiful woman standing atop a platform, one leg poised before the other as if she were preparing a running leap into the water.” When the inevitable happened, the party quickly discovered that they were at a severe disadvantage fighting a water walking glass golem from a tippy little rowboat. In consequence, the group’s caster hit our barbarian with enlarge person.

“Can you touch bottom now?” shouted the caster. “Great! Now drag the boat to shore.”

It was a solid plan. However, it came with one glaring weakness.

“Seeing the caster spider-climbing on the nearby wall, the golem ignores the figures struggling in the boat to go mage hunting.”

It was a suitably dramatic “oh shit” moment for the exposed cabalist, who thought he was well away from danger.

“Quick!” he says, “You’ve got an opportunity attack. Drop her before she gets to me!”

“Bruh,” says the barbarian. “What am I supposed to attack her with? In case you forgot, my hands are kind of full of boat.”

Sometimes, GMs get handed a straight line. And when your enlarged barbarian complains that the he can’t hit the monster because he’s busy carrying a boat, it is incumbent on you to remind your players of all their options.

The ensuing boat-based critical hit didn’t fell the creature, but it was instrumental in avoiding the TPK in a very tough encounter. Plus I got to ask the boat’s passengers to make low(ish) Reflex saves to maintain their footing, which was pure implausible fun.

All I’m really saying here is to pay attention to the world around you. Dropping chandeliers, triggering mechanical devices, and even something as simple as bracing the crushing trap with random garbage can all be useful actions. Much like staring at a dracolich’s femur and seeing a great club, it just takes a little imagination.

Question of the day then! When have you used a bit of dungeon dressing to your advantage? Was it a triggered landslide? Jury-rigged cover in a gun fight? Or did you simply beat your enemy with its own damn self? Tell us all about your most unconventional environmental maneuvers down in the comments!


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