Playing in a High Level game is different to playing in a Low or Medium Level game, as discussed elsewhere. One of the obvious differences is in the skills, spells and combat abilities of the participants. This means that the style of combat at High Level is different from other levels and that different tactics must be employed to gain an edge. This article is a short summary of the High Level tactics used in my campaign. It is RuneQuest oriented and is rules-heavy but should give people ideas of how to defeat those large foes at the end of the scenario.
When fighting multiple creatures, concentrate attacks on the weakest, then when that one is dead move to the next weakest, then the next weakest. That way, you are not wasting your attacks on opponents that will take a long time to defeat.
Where possible, attack a foe more than once. If it can parry it may try to split a parry and possibly fail. When attacking an opponent from behind or from the side, use two attack options and do not bother to parry or dodge. Gang up on opponents if you have numeric superiority as one of your attacks may be unparried.
When fighting a single large foe with multiple attacks, gang up on it. The foe will normally attack each opponent once, thus allowing for a good parry chance. If the foe decides to concentrate attacks on a single opponent, that opponent should either try to parry the early attacks possibly with two split weapons and hope that it will be killed before the later attacks come in, or he should dodge all attacks and hope for the best, in either case he should use two defensive combat options and both parry and dodge. The other PCs should use two attack combat options in this case and attack all-out. Any GM worth his salt will allow people to intelligently state their intent depending on what the foe is doing, as long as it is obvious.
Don't worry when attacking a foe that does a large amount of damage - armour and a successful parry will reduce damage to survivable amounts. Iron armour or weapons absorb much more damage. Even if damage gets through armour and weapons, rely on the 70% natural defence of being hit in a non-vital location, High Level PCs should be able to heal damage almost immediately, either using an allied or bound spirit.
When fighting a foe with a Sweep attack, try to Dodge rather than Parry. Even if you successfully parry, the knockback will normally take you out of the combat for that round. Also, Sweep attacks are usually at low percentages and do a lot of damage, so they are easily dodged but can still do damage when parried. Of course, use Great Parry against a Sweep attack where possible as this will stop the Sweep dead and will protect other combatants. It can be useful to attack the weapon used in a Sweep attack as that will stop the attacks if broken.
Where possible, especially against dumb opponents, delay attacks or strike at a specific location. This is particularly effective against creatures with specific vulnerable locations or strange locations such as Vampires, other Undead and Hydras.
Use every terrain advantage possible. Attack from the side or behind, attack with height advantage, attack a foe if he is on the ground. These percentage bonuses are cumulative and can give a real advantage.
Against highly armoured opponents, if a weapon impales then leave it stuck in and keep on pressing hard. According to my rules the damage done will be normal damage each round, according to the normal rules, this will do an extra 1D6 damage each round. In either case the damage done is direct, ignoring any armour, and cannot be healed until the weapon is removed. Removing the weapon takes a combat action and involves a STR vs STR roll or an attack on the weapon. If a vital location has been struck, this means that non-removal of the weapon spells eventual death, otherwise eventual disability. If the foe decides to attack the person with the impaling weapon then other combatants can double attack.
Remember that most intelligent foes are more powerful defensively than offensively and most dumb foes are more powerful offensively than defensively. In either case, cutting down their defensive capabilities drastically increases the chances of survival.
At High Level it is generally acceptable to sacrifice a party member to destroy a major foe. Play the percentages. Use Divine Intervention to bring back party members, especially if Rune Lords are available. Remember than even slain PCs can normally be brought back to the Temple for Resurrection. Combat is a team effort, it is usually unlikely that a single PC is capable of defeating the most powerful foe so the PCs must work together.
Where available, use weapon enhancing magic for offence. Such spells include Crush, Slash, True Weapon, Bladesharp, Bludgeon and Ironhand. Don't be sparing with these magic against powerful opponents. These spells will have an effect for a long period of time, usually for the duration of a combat.
Try to improve attack percentages rather than simply damage where possible. Crushes/slashes/impales do more damage on the whole than damage-enhancing spells. However, high-stacking of damage causing spells will eventually outweigh the extra damage done by special hits. Where possible combine the two - use the Crush spell or Truesword and Bladesharp. Use True Axe rather than a few points of Slash, but use high levels of Slash rather than True Axe.
Where you think that a foe cannot easily attack you, use Fanaticism or Berserker if available. The improved attack chance greatly outweighs the disadvantages. Always cast it with a low POW spirit so that it can be easily dispelled later if necessary.
Protection-style spells are generally more effective than Shimmer-style spells. The main exception is when stacking Shimmer-style spells such as Shimmer, Face Chaos and Shield of Darkness, these are particularly effective against large creatures with many attacks and low attack chances and allow the user to use Fanaticism or Berserker with impunity.
Avoid using ranged magic where possible, unless the foe is of inferior POW/MPs. These are rarely effective as most foes are of high POW and few spells have any effect if POW is not overcome. However, when a foe is of low POW or MPs a Sever Spirit or Turn Undead can turn the battle.
RQ2 Multispelled Disruption spells can be effective as they cost a maximum of 4 MP and can do a substantial amount of damage.
When casting spells at an opponent with Shield or Countermagic, try to cast spells simultaneously with others so that the Countermagic is overcome, since Countermagic defends against the total MPs of the spells cast at it on a SR by SR basis. If the GM does not allow simultaneous spells to overcome Countermagic then back the spell with extra MPs to punch through the Countermagic.
Against magic-rich opponents, cast multiple Dispel Magic, Dismiss Magic or Neutralise Magic spells at them. Target Defensive spells first, then offensive spells. If the GM allows it, specify classes of spells to Dispel first, for instance armour-improving spells, parrying magic, weapons-enhancing spells and so on, otherwise specify Shield or Great Parry before weapon-enhancing spells. It is easier to kill a for who has no defensive magic than to be killed by an opponent with a lot of offensive magic.
Sometimes, Fanaticism is a better spell to cast at a foe than Demoralise. If the spell has an effect it will ensure that the foe cannot parry and is at reduced Dodge for at least one round and is liable to be killed or disabled and cannot heal himself. He is also not likely to have a second weapon ready to attack with and so will waste his second attack and be forced to dodge at half chance. Don't forget that most people are stronger defensively than offensively, so cancelling out the defensive capabilities is more effective than cancelling out the offensive capabilities.
Where possible, use Multimissiled missiles against a foe. Even if normal or special hits bounce, the chance of achieving a critical hit is increased by using more missiles each round. This may disable or even kill heavily armoured or magically weak foes. Try to cast the Multimissile spells using bound or allied spirits so that they are prepared at the start of the round and there is no SR delay.
Only use Speedart when increased percentages are important or when the foe can only be damaged by magic or Runic weapons, unless the Speedart is used in a massive Combine spell. Multimissile is generally more effective. Use Firearrow when using non-Runic missiles and when fighting foes that can only be damaged by magic or runic weapons.
When facing missile fire, use Lightwall or Darkwall to prevent the foes from seeing you. Remember that Darkwall blocks Darksense as well as visual senses. Fix Darkness or Summon Shadow are also effective, except against foes that can see in the Darkness.
When fighting a Hydra, delay to the body wherever possible otherwise more heads will sprout. Parry using Great Parry or expect your parrying weapon to dissolve in the acidic poison. Stack up on Hydra Venom Antidote if expecting to fight a Hydra and always keep a few vials on hand just in case one shows up. Use Seal Wound if available as this will stop heads from regrowing. Some GMs allow CounterChaos to stop the heads regrowing, but I would not. Try not to attack Hydras fanatically as you cannot delay attacks or aim for locations and will only make things worse if you strike heads. Of course, attacking a Hydra from behind will mean that heads will not be struck (roll 1D10 not 1D20 for location) and Fanaticism can be used with impunity, until it turns around.
Always think about the tactics that you will be using. Change the tactics depending on the foes to fight. Always try to reduce the number of foes as much as possible. Above all, remember that intelligent foes may be using the same tactics against you, so be very careful.
I hope that these tactical notes help you in your combats at High Level. Although combat is not the most important part of High Level gaming, it still is important and should be made as non-lethal as possible by using these simple tactics.