What ho, gentle tabletop role players!
After my last piece on D&D battle cries was decidedly snarky, I thought I’d write this one, offering proof that I’m not merely a cynical crank of a human being.
I am here to offer my axe, assisting you in bring exciting and declarative battle cries to your D&D or Pathfinder games. After all, what could be better than your party’s dwarf yelling the perfect battle cry that forces your foes to cower in fear? Well, rolling a natty 20 is better, but other than that, a good battle cry is the best.
A Nerd’s Guide to D&D Battle Cries
I’m slow on my feet. I think of something clever to say 15 minutes after the fact, and I imagine many gamers are like me. So how do you roleplay clever dialogue and inspiring battle cries if you don’t have the verbal skills of Joss Whedon? Well, a list of one-liners scratched down on the edge of your character sheet will do the trick.
Not only will you be envy or your gaming group, but your DM will know to fear you after hearing the verbal barrage you rain down on the NPC villains. But how do you develop these killer lines?
First, start super simple. While “Get that guy!” and “Try harder!” will elicit eye rolls from fellow players, you have to start somewhere. Then that simple phrase can be expanded into something epic.
Technique 1: Substitute bada@@ sounding synonyms. Rather than getting that “guy,” inspire your comrades in arms to get that ‘no good knave’, ‘flea-bitten pig kisser’, or even ‘dastardly dude.’ That plays.
Technique 2: Metaphors are your friends. Use abstract battle cries that pull from military or animal imagery. Don’t “strike with fury”, instead “strike with the fury of a bear’s swipe.” And mix ’em up! There is no metaphor better than a mixed metaphor.
Technique 3: Clichés are useful. Take a clichéd phrase, but just reword it. “We will end you today” turns into “on this day you will find your end.” Yoda killed it with this technique.
Technique 4: Turn a phrase. Go a little JFK. When he said “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country” he struck on something. This uses the above technique, simply taking it to the next level.
Technique 5: Alliteration. Swords shattering on sturdy shields is better than weapons breaking on shields.
Technique 6: Go Churchill on them. Repeat a phrase with different endings: “United we shall slay their infantry, united we shall slay their bowmen, united we shall slay their commander.”
Technique 7: More repetition. Use sentence beginnings to similar effects. Rally your party to “live as heroes, speak as heroes, act as heroes, and, if they must, die as heroes.”
With techniques clear, the above example goes from “Get that guy!” to “Get that flea-bitten pig kisser! On this day he will find his end, struck down with the fury of a bear’s swipe. His minions will find their swords merely shatter on our stalwart shields, yet united we will slay his swordsmen, we will slay his bowmen, and we will slay…him. For we are heroes! We live as heroes, we speak as heroes, we fight as heroes, and, if we must, we will die as heroes…but let’s not get dramatic.” *wink*
But how about a few more examples? First, let us let loose a few battle cries to signal the start of battle! For these, picture the stalwart and hearty dwarf who serves as the de facto party champion:
- Onward, mongrels; do you want to live forever?
- Cue the bards. With this fight, we’ll win our place in history.
- If we should die, let us die with our axe in hand and courage in our hearts.
- When we meet in hell, we’ll drink together as comrades!
- Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. (I couldn’t resist.)
And what if you have a fallen comrade? Use these battle cries to reenergize your party.
- [Spoken by the cleric.] Stand up! Otherwise, I’m going to trip over you on my way to banish these undead with my mace.
- [Spoken by the cleric.] Get up. I didn’t give you permission to die.
- [Spoken by the cleric.] Get up. Either we all go home, or no one goes home.
- [Spoken by the barbarian.] On your feet. I’m not carrying you out.
- [Spoken by the barbarian.] Giving up so soon? *wink*
- [Spoken by the fighter.] Be strong, comrade. The day is not lost so long as we stand together!
Encouragement is nice, but D&D is not a Montessori preschool. Sometimes the best way to encourage your allies is to demoralize your enemies. Here are some battle cries used to taunt your opponent. [Cues the bards with Vicious Mockery.]
- Please, I’m curious: Did it take practice to be this much of a failure or does it come naturally to you?
- Which limb shall I rend first?
- Let your eyes look their last, as soon your eyes will be food for the crows.
- This is the last time I kill you.
- Might I have the pleasure of your name before I behead you?
- [Spoken by the cleric.] Repent, villain, for this is your final hour.
- [Spoken by the cleric.] Hell hungers…and my mace shall feed it.
- [Spoken by the rogue.] The next time we speak, you will be twitching on my blade.
Shocker, but the internet is full of places to find great insults. Specifically, this reddit thread has some great phrases to use in demoralizing your enemies. And here is a YouTube video of the 100 greatest movie insults of all time. Use ’em and make your D&D play more fun.
Let valor not fail you as you write great D&D battle cries! If you are looking for a broader range of D&D advice, check out the book “Kobold Guide to Combat.” It’s a great book and it inspired much of this article.
And if you want to heckle your gaming group? Look no further than right here.