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I have a group that wound up being larger than I expected for my DnD Campaign. It is Dark Sun and I am keeping things gritty and dangerous. However, since I normally have 7 players, I find that combats are much nastier than expected. When I run them I feel like some of that is my players choices, but some of a it definitely is in the encounter construction. I would like to fix the issues on my end and let them suffer their own learning curve.

My question is: As I scale up encounters from the 5 player encounter to a 7 player encounter, what should I avoid? Are there combinations or creature-type distributions that get too skewed at the 7 player mark?

Important notes: I have a range of experience in my group (very to none). All the characters are well made and the group dynamic is solid. They are still level 1 at this point, getting close to level 2.

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This is pretty much the same as an answer I gave last year.

You should add 2 standard level appropriate monsters, or you can replace either or both standard monsters with 4+ minions each.

I would recommend adding monsters from the following groups:

  • minions - With 7 characters, unless the party is very low level, they probably have access to many powers that can affect many monsters at once (bursts/blasts/AoE's). When in doubt add minions, particularly minions whose level is 1 under the party. You can add a lot of those guys and let the party go to town on 'em.
  • skirmishers - can generally move and keep the battlefield fluid, threaten the back lines
  • brute - high damage, but low defenses. These will keep combat fast and exciting
  • lurker - Keep the back line of the party really nervous

And not recommend adding these too often:

  • controller - tend to apply deleterious status effects and/or restrict movement. Too many of those aren't fun
  • soldier - these guys are a pain to deal with. Too many can bog down combat
  • elite - an extra elite added to a crucial encounter will challenge the party. Just don't do it all the time.

These should almost never be added:

  • solo - Instead of an extra solo, beef up the one you have a little bit, or just add a few regular monsters.
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Minions are more lethal with more characters. It's strange, but deadly. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 24 '11 at 7:04
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Although i dont play DnD of any sort any more, the answer to this is always pretty much the same.

Make the opponents tougher (better armor, more resilience), add some spice in (like the "lurker" mentioned above... ambush can really take the wind out of a strong PC), and personally, if its appropriate, throw in one-use items like potions and scrolls, or charged minor items.

It also depends on the style of play. If you are highly mechanics driven, a bunch of low level types are not much of a challenge in many situations... but if you look at it realistically, and from a story angle... a lot of low powered minions call haul down a tank, hold them down while others find chinks in the armor! Specific effects such as gas which slows, etc. can also help even the playing field. And of course, the old Grimtooth method - traps! Soften up the PC's with traps. I once beat a party of 7-10th level characters with goblins... using tactics, surprise, traps, control of light and dark, some places where the PC's could not fit in with heavy armor... you gotta get creative!

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I don't think making opponents tougher is a good idea in 4e. Combat tends to get too long and grindy anyway - its much better to add a few more minions or artillery monsters that cause damage but are fast and easy to kill. –  Mala May 2 '12 at 23:16
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