Combat Thesaurus

Let’s face it: combat is the mechanical backbone of most tabletop RPGs. An early tavern brawl often sets the tone for an entire action-packed campaign, while the clash of swords and spells brings all but the dullest chronicles to their thrilling conclusions. Put another way: if the story of a game unfolds in words (which, let’s agree, it does), then combat supplies the punctuation.

Given combat’s significance in most storytelling-based game systems, it’s imperative that the way we envision it in greater detail than “I full-attack before taking a five-foot step”. While your character’s actions in combat may reflect some pretty dramatic internal roleplaying decisions, I’m probably just waiting for my turn while you roll your five or six iterative attacks. Thus, it’s incumbent upon us all—GMs and players alike—to inject combat with some much-needed literary flourish to further bring the game to life…or at least entertain us while the monk finishes up missing with his or her last unarmed strike.

While anyone with a thesaurus and/or access to the internet can do their own damn research to enrich the dynamism of his or her encounters, we’re all busy people with long adventuring days to which we must attend (ugh, grammar). Instead, use this handy list of active verbs—conveniently keyed to the most common damage types in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder—to bring your next cascade of +1 arrows to life.

Though, honestly, why you wouldn’t be using regular arrows with a +1 longbow is beyond me.

Bludgeoning Damage

  • Bash, batter, beat, bludgeon, crack, crush, hammer, knock, pound, pummel, slug, smack, snap

Piercing Damage

  • Bore, drill, gut, impale, incise, perforate, pierce, puncture, penetrate, prick, run through, stab

Slashing Damage

  • Carve, cut, dissect, hack, hew, lacerate, rend, rip, sever, slash, slice, slit, swipe, tear

Acid Damage

  • Boil, bubble, burn, consume, cook, corrode, dissolve, liquefy, oxidize, sizzle, spoil

Cold Damage

  • Benumb, bite, chill, cool, freeze, glaciate, infrigidate, numb, temper

Electricity Damage

  • Boom, crack, crackle, discharge, electrify, electrocute, peal, spark, sparkle, strike, thunder

Fire Damage

  • Blacken, blaze, burn, char, enflame, ignite, incinerate, kindle, roast, scorch, sear, singe, smelt


Mikael has been playing board games for the last two years, tabletop RPGs for the last eight, and has been an on-again, off-again Magic: The Gathering player since the Rath block (don’t ask how long ago that was). He is currently working on his Ph.D. in History, but spends the better part of his time and student loans on gaming. Mikael enjoys designing homebrewed material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and in 2014, he ranked as a Top 16 Finalist in Paizo Publishing’s RPG Superstar Competition. He lives in Southern California where he shares spells with his rabbit familiar, Acorn.

'Combat Thesaurus' has 1 comment

  1. July 10, 2015 @ 11:25 am Davout

    I created an Inspiration Pad 2 file that would randomly select a random word based on the type of attack. Here is what I have for blunt, pierce, and slash. Note, the number in front affected the likely hood that word would be selected.
    Table: CombatDescription_BluntSynonym
    3: bang
    1: barrage
    3: bash
    5: batter
    3: beat
    1: belt
    1: blast
    1: boom
    1: burst
    2: bury
    2: clang
    5: clobber
    3: crack
    3: crash
    5: crush
    1: drive
    3: drub
    2: jar
    1: knock
    1: lambaste
    2: maul
    4: nail
    2: paste
    5: pound
    3: pummel
    3: punish
    1: reverberate
    1: rumble
    2: shatter
    2: shellac
    5: slam
    1: slug
    3: smack
    5: smash
    3: strike
    3: thrash
    3: thump
    1: thunder
    1: thwack
    1: trash
    1: trounce
    2: wallop
    3: whack
    1: wham
    2: work over

    Table: CombatDescription_PiercingSynonym
    3: drill
    3: drive
    3: gore
    3: gouge
    1: jab
    2: jam
    2: lance
    3: pierce
    3: plunge
    1: prick
    1: probe
    3: run
    3: stab
    3: stick
    1: sting
    2: strike
    3: thrust

    Table: CombatDescription_SlashingSynonym
    3: carve
    1: chisel
    3: cleave
    3: cut
    3: gash
    1: gouge
    3: hack
    1: lacerate
    2: plow
    3: rip
    3: shred
    3: slash
    3: slice
    2: slit
    3: split
    2: strike
    3: tear
    2: whack


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