Playing Diablo style hack and slash D&D

hack and slash D&D

I know I said in the murder hobos article that there are better games to play than the Diablo style hack and slash D&D, but some people love this type of game.

Good hack and slash D&D involves tactics, good environments, descriptors, resource management, and a cause. Diablo D&D can be very enjoyable and challenging.

Have you ever been in a group that just wanted to play hack and slash D&D, when you did not?

Have you ever wondered why people still resort to playing hack and slash D&D?

Well my friend, today I am going to give you many of the main reasons why hack and slash D&D exists, even if it isn’t the main strength of Dungeons and Dragons.

Why you should play hack and slash D&D

Hack and slash D&D helps us improve in many ways as stated below, but that is not the main reason why you should play. Instead, hack and slash D&D is meant for those of us who are tired of subjective reasons.

Many people don’t like roleplay since they are either forced to do what the dungeon master wants, or they have to do something they are not good at. If you are great at basketball but are told instead that we are playing baseball which you suck at, you wouldn’t be too thrilled to play would you? Would you be more excited if you were asked to play a fun game with your friends thinking it was basketball, and then later found out it was baseball?

Many people introduced to the hobby are like this. They come from different backgrounds where they only slay monsters in video games or play wargames like Warhammer. Their thing is combat, and that is what they want to do.

But why would they play Dungeons and Dragons instead of just playing those other games? There are many other reasons like constant progress, playing with friends, crafting new situations they can’t find anywhere else, and having a purpose to the bloodshed.

But why not just play normal Dungeons and Dragons? Well, let’s look at the normal Dungeon and Dragon’s game from these people’s point of view.

Typical combat

Have you ever played with a normal dungeon master who just didn’t provide a challenge? Let’s call him Gary. Gary tried time and time again to enthrall your party a great story, combat, and everything else from a module

Gary chose to use a module because it is the best for beginning dungeon masters, and the world was all laid out for him. The NPCs were already created and had an in-depth background so the RP was okay, but the combat was lackluster.

Every session the number of people changed from 3, to 4, to 6, to 5, and so on. Gary’s combats were either far too hard or far too easy. Maybe 1 in 10 combats were good, but he was just following the module and doing what it wanted.

Gary was at a loss on how to make combat interesting, and your group was bored.

This is common in many games. Combat suffers, and the dungeon master tends to focus on roleplay, story, or the environment before combat. Combat takes up ⅓ to ½ of normal sessions and is a big part of the game.

Open your eyes!

In typical Dungeons and Dragons combat is boring. People see the stat blocks and just want to throw them at the players. In a hack and slash D&D game, the dungeon master becomes more focused on how to carry out combat.

You see, Dungeons and Dragons is at its core a combat system. Don’t believe me? Look at the basic rules. Most of the rules cover classes, spells, items, and situations where combat is important. Yes, there is a combat section, but the whole system is based around combat!

If you look at spells most of them are usable in combat or have combat applications. If you look at items the most important and looked at items are combat-based. Why is min-maxing a thing? Because combat is always going to happen in Dungeons and Dragons! Unless you have a pure RP group which is a whole different story.

But now that your eyes are opened, and you see how vital combat is to Dungeons and Dragons lets get into why hack and slash D&D is a great way to play!

Crafting situations

Most dungeon masters just go into the basics of combat. Fight this stat block and use your numbers vs their numbers. This is a terrible way to do combat, but it is the most common way people use combat. This is why combat is boring.

What if you looked at roleplay in this way? You are after all merely pitting your rolls and numbers vs their rolls and numbers in the end. Nothing is different at its core. Roleplay advocates always talk about how you are able to include more into roleplay. There is backstory, dynamically changing situations, and anything can happen!

The same goes for well-done combat. Everything should matter when combat is done properly, and combat should never be just shaken off. If you think about combat this way, you start to craft situations where players are extremely invested.

Fighting for something

When players fight, they should be fighting for something. Many people disregard constant combat, but what if you are always fighting for something? Let’s use an example.

You are trying to stop the big bad guy from unleashing his army onto your village. Most likely this big bad guy has minions that your players must fight. But why must your players fight the minions? Most dungeon masters just throw monsters at the players and force them to fight or die. That is surprisingly boring. Instead, make them fight for something.

Your players need to get to the big bad guy right? Why not make there be some obstacles in order to get to him. Make monsters guard one of three keys that they need in order to progress to the next level. Very simple design, but also viable with a group that just wants to fight and get loot. Make it clear that if they are spotted a whole army will come down and kill your players.

Now the players have to completely kill the enemies that they are fighting, and they have to be careful of patrols. Patrols now have a purpose, and if a monster tries to run for it when things get bad this adds some tension to the combat while also reminding players to play smart.

Dungeon design

Dungeons and Dragons has the name ‘dungeons’ in it. You might want to invest in improving your dungeon making skills since this is the part of the title that players will encounter more. I hinted at a simple dungeon design earlier, but you can do better than that. Doing a hack and slash D&D game lets your players delve into more dungeons helping you improve your dungeon making skills.

But what do dungeons do for the players? Will your players improve in these tight spaces? Of course, your players will! If you are stuck in a tight space with your backs against the walls, you will most certainly improve! But how will your players improve?

Your players will develop critical thinking. This will allow them to adapt, change, and make crazy decisions that break the game. This will help your players grow and evolve in many other ways.

Can use tactics

You know how when your typical player gets into an impossible fight they whine and complain to the dungeon master? Not your group! Your group has developed critical thinking in combat and is forced to make an insane creative decision that is somewhat effective. When facing an impossible foe your group will say ‘bring it on’ instead of ‘DM, this is too hard!’

You can use tactics with your monsters, and make a truly difficult boss. You can’t normally try these things in a usual Dungeons and Dragons group since they will just die. Remember, most normal groups are there to have fun and just be incompetent fools. Your group has a purpose and knows what they want to do.

This lets you as a dungeon master be creative. You can try and craft interesting and difficult situations. You can do amazing things with this group in combat, and most of all you will not be bored! Most dungeon masters take a lazy approach to standard combat because it bores them. When you use tactics and other important factors you will not be bored which will make the game more fun for yourself and everyone else.

Dedicated players

Do you remember how I stated that these players will have a purpose? Many Dungeons and Dragons groups for sessions don’t have an overarching goal. Your hack and slash D&D game will. In having a goal, your players will be more excited and always try to figure out how best to accomplish their given task.

Transitioning skills

Most of us play video games or board games. I would be hard-pressed to find a Dungeons and Dragons player who did not play one of these two types of games. Therefore we have acquired skills from these games and have an understanding of games from these two sources. Both of these types of games involve combat. Video games generally involve more combat, but both have a heavy investment in combat.

While transitioning from video or board games to Dungeons and Dragons players know and understand combat. Don’t throw that gift away. Make your players use what they have learned, and they will feel a connection to Dungeons and Dragons. This is why hack and slash D&D games are a great way to introduce some friends to our game, making hack and slash D&D a gateway game into Dungeons and Dragons.

Aside from just being a gateway, your players improve their combat skills. Players are able to go back to video or board games and do even better because of the skills that they acquired in a hack and slash D&D campaign.

What about other Dungeons and Dragons games? Most at least have some combat, and the skills that they learn here are transferable to other Dungeons and Dragons games. These skills can improve those games and help the dungeon master improve that game!

Gaining skills

While hack and slash D&D is a gateway game for other gamers, it also can give your players skills that they never had before. Remember how we talked about improving critical thinking? Most hack and slash D&D games have a little bit of role play and traps as well.

There might not be a lot, but your players will have to interact with others. Here they will gain basic roleplay skills that can be carried over into other games. In addition, you can give your players a follower. This follower can be a double agent of sorts.

If you want to make your players gain some roleplay skills, then you should give your parties’ follower a personality. With this personality, he/she should interact with the players and make interactions more human. Eventually, the players should grow attached to this follower and talk to him/her as a person. Your players have now gained roleplay skills.

Traps are even easier. Your players will try through critical thinking to find ways in order to disable traps by blocking the arrow slot, plugging up holes, etc. This is all because of resource management.

Resource management

The game of Dungeons and Dragons is a resource management game. If at the end of the day you have 60 hp and I have 1 hp, the odds are not in my favor. Hp is not the only resource that needs to be conserved. Potions, spell slots, and other items are all important resources.

These are important aspects to any game and are easily understandable, but still, provide a challenge. When should I use that potion? Can I get away with conserving this resource? It is all a gamble.

Now I do not want you to gamble your hard earned money, but there is always a thrill when you put something on the line. Can you not use the fireball and save it for something else? You should use it now, you need it now, but saving it for something better is risky since something better might not come along. Is that risk worth it? No one knows at the moment, (except the dungeon master) and that is what makes it exciting!


There are many good things that can come out of hack and slash D&D games. You can gain skills, develop your players, and help them transition to Dungeons and Dragons after coming in from different games.

Normal Dungeons and Dragons games are not for everyone. Sometimes dungeon masters neglect combat even though it is an important part of the game. Sometimes players want to do what they are good at. Either way, there are those that prefer pure combat in Dungeons and Dragons to roleplay, and we should respect that.

Hack and slash D&D games are not bad Dungeons and Dragons games. But what do you think? Have I convinced you on the merits of hack and slash games, or do you still have doubts? Do you disagree and still think that hack and slash games have no place in Dungeons and Dragons?

Lastly, if you want to support the blog you can get stuff for it! We offer The Cube as a custom add on to your game and our affiliates. At Dice Envy they offer well made and cool looking dice and Dungeon Vault helps to help give you extra tools to make your campaign even better! I prefer to use my dice from Dice Evy since they are actually balanced and love to use the tools from Dungeon Vault.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *