Player Advice: More Principles of Successful Adventuring

I have a plan, We rush in and slay them all!” How often has that been heard at your gaming table? But to be successful, adventurers must consider many more factors than simply how to get to the enemy quickest.


By William McAusland
By William McAusland


Since I wrote about the principles of adventuring, I’ve thought some more about how to successfully adventure. Whereas last time, I based my principles on the British army’s principles of warfare, this time I take an look at the United States’ principles of warfare.

  • Objective: Direct every foray toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. While the ultimate purpose of an adventure can widely vary, success is normally gained through the destruction of the enemy’s ability and will to fight.
  • Offensive: Seize, retain and exploit the initiative. Offensive action is the most effective and decisive way to attain an objective. Offensive operations are the means by which an adventuring party seizes and holds the initiative while maintaining freedom of action and achieving decisive results. This is fundamentally true of all adventures (and particularly dungeon crawls).
  • Mass: Mass the effects of overwhelming force at the decisive place and time. Synchronizing all elements of the party where they will have decisive effect on the enemy in a short period of time is to achieve mass. Massing effects, rather than concentrating forces, enables numerically inferior groups to achieve decisive results, while limiting their exposure to enemy attack.
  • Economy of Force: Employ all the group’s available abilities and powers in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum force to secondary efforts. Economy of force is the judicious employment and distribution of forces. No part of the force should be left without purpose. The allocation of available combat power to such tasks as limited attacks, defence, delays, deception or even retrograde operations is measured in order to achieve mass elsewhere at the decisive point and time.
  • Manoeuvre: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power. Manoeuvre is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to gain positional advantage. Effective manoeuvre keeps the enemy off balance and protects the group. It is used to exploit successes, to preserve freedom of action and to reduce vulnerability. It continually poses new problems for the enemy by rendering his actions ineffective, which in turn leads to his defeat.
  • Unity of Effort: For every objective, seek unity of effort. In all types of adventures, employment of a group’s members in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of effort.
  • Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage. Security enhances freedom of action by reducing vulnerability to hostile acts, influence or surprise. Security results from the measures taken to protect the group. Knowledge and understanding of enemy strategy, tactics, doctrine and plans improve the detailed planning of adequate security measures.
  • Surprise: Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. By gaining surprise, adventurers can achieve success well out of proportion to the effort expended. Surprise can be in tempo, size of force, direction or location of main effort or timing. Deception can aid the probability of achieving surprise.
  • Simplicity: Prepare clear, concise and uncomplicated plans to ensure thorough understanding. Simplicity contributes to successful adventures. Simple plans minimize misunderstanding and confusion.

Help Fellow Gamers

So that’s my second take on the principles of adventuring. How does this version stack up against my previous article on the subject? If you have any suggestions about successful adventuring share them in the comments below and help your fellow players adventure more successfully.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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