Live to Tell the Tale: An Introduction to Combat Tactics for Dungeons and Dragons Players, Second Edition

The Second Edition of Live to Tell the Tale is on sale now!

Now including information on class archetypes from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, a new section on managing resources between rests, and a looser, easier-to-read layout!

In writing this blog, I’ve unleashed a wave of clever, highly evolved monsters upon the D&D world. It’s only fair that I now give players the tools they need to fight back . . . and live.

Live to Tell the Tale: An Introduction to Combat Tactics for Dungeons and Dragons Players is a 77-page e-book that examines combat roles, class features, party composition, positioning, debilitating conditions, attacking combinations, action economy, and the ever-important consideration of the best ways to run away. If you’re a beginning D&D player unsure what to do when you get into a fight, this e-book will point you in the right direction; if you’re an intermediate player, it will help you win more and die less. If you’re a dungeon master with a group of new players, buy a copy and share it with them. Although it’s a PDF download, it’s formatted to be printed as a booklet, if you care to do that. (In Adobe Reader’s Print menu, under Page Sizing and Handling, select Booklet.)

One thing I want to be clear about: This is not a book about how to create a fully optimized character from square one. Just the opposite. “Real roleplayers” are my people. If you want to create an idiot savant sorcerer, a half-orc cleric/bard or a gnome ranger, I wholeheartedly support that. Do what you love. But, that being said, if you love that character, you need to keep him or her alive!

Here’s the secret: Viability doesn’t depend on stats. It depends on behavior. That’s what this book is about: how to get the most from your creation in combat, so that he or she lives long enough to retire and tell boring stories about the old days.

Below is an excerpt from part 1, Character Creation and Combat Roles:

Understanding Ability Contours

Certain combinations of high scores—what I call “ability contours”—favor certain styles of fighting. You may wish to develop a rough character con­cept ahead of time, decide on a fighting style, then assign ability scores to fit that style. Or you may wish to assign your character’s ability scores, then decide on a class and fighting style that fit those scores. How you develop the concept and stats of your character doesn’t matter. What does matter is that if your character’s ability scores and his or her class and fighting style are at odds, your char­acter won’t be as effective in combat.

The Front Line: Strength + Constitution

The role of front-line characters is to occupy the enemy’s attention by charging them and engaging in melee. The most important ability for this role is Constitution, because this character has to be able to soak up the damage that would kill other characters. But an offensive ability is also import­ant, because if this character can’t do meaningful damage to opponents, he or she can’t hold their attention, and the usual choice of primary offen­sive ability is Strength. Medium and heavy armor benefit front-line fighters the most.

The Shock Attacker: Strength + Dexterity (or just Dexterity)

This is a character whose role is to identify key en­emies and eliminate them quickly by doing large bursts of damage. Shock attackers don’t want to spend time in drawn-out combat. They hit first, hit hard and get out, because their lack of Constitution makes them less able to absorb damage themselves. As a defensive ability, Dexterity is good for avoiding damage, but the longer combat goes on, the more likely an opponent is to land a lucky hit. Stealth is often important for shock attackers, so they benefit most from light or me­dium armor.

The Skirmisher: Dexterity + Constitution

This includes ranged and finesse-weapon melee fighters, durable but also highly mobile, who wear their opponents down by dealing modest but con­sistent damage over time. Skirmishers are suited to drawn-out combat. Finesse weapons tend to do less damage than other melee weapons, but these characters also have more staying power, thanks to their Constitution, so their damage can add up. This doesn’t mean they should gratuitously expose themselves to more attacks, however. In­stead, they should stay on the move, taking their shots when their opponents’ attention is divided. Stealth benefits skirmishers as much as it does shock attackers, so they too should wear light or medium armor.

The Marksman: Dexterity + Wisdom

Unless they’re shock attackers wielding finesse weapons, characters without high Strength or high Constitution should stay out of melee and behind cover as much as possible. The idea behind com­bining Dexterity and Wisdom is to rely on Dexter­ity for both offense and defense (in other words, attacking at range, because the lack of points in Constitution makes this ability contour risky for a finesse melee fighter) and on Wisdom to spot stealthy opponents who are trying to hide. Marks­men should wear the best armor they’re proficient with that doesn’t inhibit their own Stealth. . . .


Buy your copy of Live to Tell the Tale at



In early copies of the second edition, on page 58, Ami Toros the bard and Clifford Toros the cleric are identified as being represented on battle diagrams by the mace icon and the lyre icon. It should be the other way around. This error is fixed in current copies.

11 thoughts on “Live to Tell the Tale: An Introduction to Combat Tactics for Dungeons and Dragons Players, Second Edition

  1. As someone who purchased the original book, this edition was worth the upgrade. The layout looks extremely professional (and makes it easier to read!) and I’m glad to see the integration of the Xanathar’s content.

  2. Hey,

    I’d really like to purchase this, but sadly it seems this requires a creditcard, which I don’t have. Would it be possible to allow payment via something like PayPal so people can pay if they don’t have a creditcard?

  3. I came across this website searching for monster combat strategies. What I found was amazing. After binging on various different monster types I decided to purchase “Live to Tell the Tale.” I could not put this book down! Easy read. The writing just flows. Content is amazing. Must read for 5th edition enthusiasts.

  4. Great book!! I absolutely love the time and effort put into it. And it’s definitely helped my players live a little bit more, since I use most of your monster tactics too.

    There is one small change I would make, however. In the “Classes and Roles” section for the Barbarian, you write “Your primary offensive ability should always be Strength, because the damage bonus conferred by the Rage feature doesn’t apply to finesse or ranged weapons.” The first part is fine. I agree that Barbarians should always make Strength a priority. The second part, unfortunately, is not accurate. Rage only specifies that you use strength for your attack, and Finesse weapons specify that you may choose to use Strength or Dex. In this way, a Barbarian/Rogue using a rapier with strength for rage damage and sneak attack is quite formidable. That being said, since the guide will likely be used mostly by new(er) players, as written it prevents adding confusion.

    In any case, thank you for such an excellent resource!

  5. The tweet you linked to that explains why you don’t do business with PayPal has been deleted. Also may I ask why you don’t have this book available as a Kindle book?

  6. Hey Keith, I’m also interested in purchasing your e-book. However, the product is labelled as “not available any more” when I follow the link. Any chance it will be available any soon?

      1. Ah it’s due to the Fully Revised New Edition coming in June 2020 😉
        Well that’s still a while to go, but happens to be around my birthday, so you can guess what will be on my wishlist!

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