BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

D&D: If It’s a Fight You Want, Here’s How to Start One

4 Minute Read
Sep 12 2023

Because sometimes “them’s fightin’ words” isn’t enough, here are some of the best ways to start a fight in D&D.

Dungeons & Dragons might seem like it’s a game all about meandering through a renaissance faire of a town, moving from shop to shop looking for interesting items sold by vaguely “fantasy” weirdos, or running an inn for wayward monsters you’ve “adopted” with your found family of lovable misfits, but did you know at the heart of it, the world’s most popular RPG is also a combat-focused game?

It might seem shocking, but there are times you’ll want to actually use the rules of D&D 5th Edition to start a fight. When that happens, what do you do? Just stand there and roll initiative because the DM said so? Not if we can help it. Here are the best ways to start a fight.

Set Something on Fire Beforehand

Once initiative is rolled, the rules of the game swim into sharp focus and immediately impose restrictions on what you can and can’t do and how long you have to act. If you know a fight is coming, take advantage of the fact that you can’t make attacks until you roll initiative. Find the nearest flammable object and set it ablaze.

The fight is sure to go your way now that the main table in the inn is on fire. Or that wagon that was passing by. Use the smoke, confusion, and panic caused by your in-game arson to get an advantage when it comes time to roll some D&D dice.


In the days of early D&D, 1st and 2nd editions, there was a philosophy that if you got caught flat-footed by a monster, something had gone wrong. It was all about stacking the odds in your favor.

Monsters that got the drop on you were much deadlier. Which is why you had so many backpacks full of spikes and ten-foot poles.


Carry this wisdom forward, and wait in ambush for your enemies. When you know a fight is around the corner, get your party hiding, and then make an attack from a position of surprise. If you’re hidden you won’t have to worry about the enemies beating your initiative score, they won’t be able to see you so you’ll still have advantage.

Stay Focused – Kill an Enemy

The best way to start a fight is to end the first round with at least one of your opponents on the ground. The best way to ensure that happens is to focus all of your spells and attacks on one target. You don’t necessarily have to pick the biggest, meanest enemy. They might be able to stay up.

But decide which target you will pour your ire into as a group. And then follow through with the plan. If you kill your first target, move on to the next.

Secure the Exits

When you’re going to start a fight, someone may want to run. And depending on how the fight’s going, you might want to enable that or shut it down. One of the best things you can do is move to secure whatever exits you can think of.

Obviously, if you’re fighting in an open field or natural environment, this can be tougher. But if you can move to block the exits, then you can either pin your enemies in or set yourselves up for a hasty retreat if you need to.


Set Up a Choke Point, Fall Back to It

Okay, you can’t always control every fight. But you can find a choke point—a place where only one or two enemies can reach you—and start the fight by moving to that point. Make your opponents work that much harder to get to you and you’ll win the day.

Happy adventuring

Author: J.R. Zambrano
  • D&D: The 'Unearthed Arcana' Playtest 7 Barbarian is Wild and Wooden