How do you narrate combat?

When narrating combat, do you guys say how much damage an opponent takes, thus allowing the players to figure out the defense score of the opponent, or do you just say when they hit and do damage? Or some other way of narrating? What works the best for your players?

Depends on the game, and also where you are playing it. I pretty much use Roll20 as all mine are people far away from each other, and I use health bars over the NPCs most of the time.

I have no problem with the players knowing the defenses of the creatures after a few swings, it’s something you’d figure out anyways in combat more or less. So, in other words, I don’t try to keep it a secret.

I typically narrate it not as actual damage though, and more as Stress, Tiring out, Straining to move out of the way of a blow. It typically isn’t a real “hit” until someone is dropped to 0. Before that, you are burning through stamina to not take a bad hit (unless it is Lethal Strike). This also depends a bit on the campaign too, but is more in line with what HP actually is. HP is just another Defense stat that is consumable.

“Your attack causes them to have to strain just enough for a grimace to appear on their face as they dodge it”

“The rock golem looks down at the chipped piece of its flesh from your attack, its eyes narrowing as it looks back up at you”

“The rock golem roars out, the sound of rocks smashing against each other, as your blow causes them to stagger some, more of their rock form falling around them”

“The bandit huffs and puffs, favoring their back a little from the strain to avoid your attack. Looking quite worn down.”

1 Like

Great suggestions! I’ll try to show the monster’s HP by narrating it, I think that way sounds the best.

I won’t say how much damage they take but will give an indication of how powerful a blow it was. I am not so good at describing it like this:

But this is something I would like to work on. Currently my head is kind of set so that damage means you’ve been hit and wounded, I guess this comes from how it tends to work in most videogames and LARP. So I will be like “the punch connects but he seems unfazed” for low damage or “his head snaps to the side a the punch connects, he staggers and spits out blood” for a more damaging attack.

However I would also say it depends on the setting you are going for. If it’s a super gritty and realistic setting then you can’t take many actual hits before being close to death, whereas in more super-powered games (I have most experience with running superhero games (though not yet in Open Legend) so my narration tends to lead towards superhero movie style) I think it can make sense to have each hit be a solid impact, the character can just take more of it.

I also like to try and make the action feel quite dynamic. If the player doesn’t describe how they go about making their attack for instance, I will also try and either encourage them to describe how it looks (generally if it is a powerful finishing blow) or describe how their attack looks. It is also fun to use the environment for flavour as it helps everyone be more immersed I think.

This has become a bit of a long post, but I think there is a lot to be said on this topic, because combat is often an important part of a game and it can get a bit dull if people are not careful.