My sister was a Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanatic back in the day. I’m not a huge fan of TV shows, but this was one I kind of liked, had a few very good episodes. Something that pissed me off, though? Those vampires and demons were fucking imbeciles.
The best tactic Buffy’s enemies have is walking towards her, and engaging in fisticuffs. When it has been proven, time and again, that she can best a vampire at leisure without breaking a sweat. I would argue—that’s her only advantage on vampires.
Were a vampire in Buffy’s universe, even one of the rank-and-file grunts, to exhibit a decent level of intelligence, she’d have the challenge of her life.
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Ok vampires, hear me out.
First of all, you don’t need to breathe, do you? Good. Does she? Yes. Well, then, this is done. Drag her to a lake or something like that, fight her underwater. Drag her to an enclosed space, release a canister of Zyklon-B, or of one of those invisible, smell-less poison gases if you’re feeling like a dick. Heck, fill your lair with poisonous gas—who the hell cares, were you expecting guests? Let’s see her get in.
You’re a demon? Well, even better—are you immune to something? Fire? Do you see in the dark, when she doesn’t? Can you do anything to put yourself at an advantage?
Let’s talk weapons, too. Buffy basically doesn’t use guns, but you don’t have that kind of moral principles, do you? The one time a guy (a human, and a wimpy one at that) actually bothered to bring a gun, he sent Buffy in a coma and killed one of her groupies. Why the fuck are you walking to her fists up? Why don’t you get a fucking Uzi? Why don’t you bury a few mines in your lair?
Speaking of tactics: let’s talk innocents. You don’t give a fuck if a few people’s worth of collateral damage get offed, do you? Kidnap a few children, tell her you’ll filet them if she doesn’t turn herself in / let you drink blood in piece / do something suicidal. Combine with the previous tactics, maybe—lure her in your poison lair, or in a nice gun ambush.
Why didn’t you think of all these things?
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Because it’s their role in the story: most of the times, vampire fights are filler in the show, so these guys just show up to be cannon fodder. It’s ok, if that’s what you’re aiming for.
But if you’re aiming for these confrontations to be memorable, the challenging ones are the ones which make for a better story. When you read about those tactics, weren’t you trying to figure out how the heroes could’ve worked around them? Wouldn’t it be exciting to see how they could overcome them?
This is doubly true for dungeon masters. There’s no excitement in defeating a kobold, but Tucker’s kobolds are legendary.
Small creatures like halflings or goblins can walk over a pit trap designed to fall under the weight of a human. Ambushing archers have no reason to ever not be behind cover, hell they might even be shooting from a slit in a wall. Fiends can teleport and summon, and should do both in order, without hesitation, when things go south.
In the fifth edition, one or two hidden first-level wizards can be a colossal pain in the rear even for high-level parties. Have them wait for the opportunity to cast Chill touch (forbids healing) or Ray of frost (slows movement). Heck, if you feel like a dick have them cast Sleep on wounded targets.
Use environments. Put a chasm in there, and have the enemy try to push players into it with Thunderwave, an Eldrich Blast (with the Repelling blast incantation) or just combat manouvers. Have the dwarves or kobolds drag your party in a low-ceiling environment where they have trouble moving.
If you want to fill some time because you don’t know how to continue the adventure, cannon fodder is fine. But these kind of encounters are the ones my players talk about, the ones they remember.
(Image from Geek and Sundry)