Designing challenging and engaging situations in which player characters come into contact (and often conflict with) NPCs, monsters, or other potential opponents.

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53
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17answers
11k views

How do I challenge my PCs who fight every battle like Mongol horse archers?

In my last few game sessions, my players have begun adopting a strategy which is working wonders in the campaign we are playing. In this Planescape campaign, we are on the Outlands, which has a lot of ...
39
votes
5answers
2k views

How do I make engaging Man vs Wild encounters that aren't excercises in rolling dice?

I like wilderness adventures. My earliest games as a player (in AD&D 2e) featured wilderness adventures, and I really enjoyed them. I try to use them in my games (We're playing Pathfinder right ...
37
votes
7answers
3k views

What do you do when a player intimidates your campaign boss to surrender?

So my players recently fought a big bad campaign boss. The (custom made) boss was a kind of solo beserker king, and the encounter difficulty was designed to be fairly moderate until the boss became ...
37
votes
8answers
2k views

What ways are there to anger the PC's without angering the players?

Since I got so many good ideas on my last question, here's part 2: What ways are there to really anger my PC's -- give them that sense of unbridled rage and fury -- without pissing the players off ...
35
votes
5answers
2k views

How can we make overcoming a language problem interesting?

I am currently involved in a game of Fate Accelerated, and one of our goals is learning the system and experimenting with it. In this game, two characters may have a language barrier to overcome. One ...
33
votes
10answers
8k views

Way to prevent teleportation

My party (average level 10) just had a pre-boss fight. That was an opportunity for me to make them spend some of their resources, because they thought that was actually the big bad boss fight. So we ...
26
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10answers
3k views

Should I scale the difficulty after the party recruits a boss?

A year ago or so, I was DMing a DnD4e campaign in which the leader of the players' party (Sariel) managed to convince a powerful (6 levels higher) adversary (Pieter) to join them temporarily; their ...
22
votes
3answers
4k views

My PCs are too strong for a published adventure. How can I fix the content so it isn't trivial?

This is my first time DMing a D&D game and I'm learning as I go. I'm running Tyranny of Dragons, and here's my situation: Through a series of lucky events and other phenomena, the party is one ...
21
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2answers
555 views

Tarrasque: Rush & Jump Skill Interaction

Background I am having a little trouble wrapping my brain around the Jump skill. I want to plan a battle with my players and the Tarrasque; two of them have the ability to fly - and it does not. I ...
20
votes
4answers
4k views

What encounter features make low CR enemies challenging?

I'm planning an encounter where a mid level party would be assaulted by a a large number of lower level characters. We've all read Tucker's Kobolds, but what makes this kind of encounter actually ...
20
votes
4answers
600 views

How to run an encounter where PCs have different observations of the same events?

Some of the discussion in this question got me to thinking about an encounter design that sounded fun but I couldn't figure out an elegant way to pull it off: In some situation where one or more PCs ...
18
votes
8answers
1k views

My necromancer keeps dying (and can't raise himself)!

Sometimes in the course of running an adventure you will run into an encounter that calls for a summoner to bring on a horde of undead (often minions). I have a simple problem: My summoners die in ...
18
votes
9answers
725 views

What ways are there to convey loneliness and betrayal in an encounter?

A little background: I am designing a campaign that largely takes place in the mind of a twisted wizard. The wizard was shunned and exiled from his home due to a physical disfigurement, and after a ...
17
votes
9answers
3k views

Should encounters be adjusted to a full-magic party?

I am still a new GM and I am building a session for 3 first-time players. After discussing the game, rules and setting, all of them are interested in playing magic characters (Draconic Sorcerer, Druid ...
17
votes
1answer
492 views

How to set up a battle with a God?

I have a campaign (D&D 2nd Edition) that has been running on and off for about 22 years (real life). Characters have finally reached super-high levels (some are 30, multi-classes are lower). I'm ...
16
votes
11answers
5k views

Creating an easily-defeatable dragon

For the group I am GMing I am in need of a blue dragon which should be defeatable by a group of six PCs having levels 3-4. The classes of my PCs are barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, rogue and witch. ...
16
votes
7answers
976 views

As a DM, how to save a creature from being killed by players and not be cheap?

If you put a creature you want to use at a later date in an encounter, how could I save that creature near the end of the battle without sounding cheaty. E.g. The evil mage has only 1 hit point left ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

How can I create reasonably challenging encounters for large groups?

I'm running a 5e campaign that has become quite successful to the point that everyone wants in and I have 6-8 players at my table every other week. It's awesome, but I'm having troubles with creating ...
16
votes
2answers
4k views

Creating solo monsters

One thing I haven't found in 4th edition online is a plethora of solo monsters. The idea of these fights are fascinating! Sadly though, all the products in 4th focus on multiple opponent fights (with ...
16
votes
5answers
6k views

How can I create an introductory D&D encounter intended for teaching the rules?

For my next D&D campaign, I want to introduce the players to the ruleset by having them play through a sample combat encounter. All of them have prior RPG experience, but they haven't played any ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

How do you handle combat in Pathfinder when there are too many foes to even count?

I have offered to take a turn at running a game for our group. I have a story that I think they will find interesting, mechanics to cope with the fact that some players sometimes just don't show up ...
15
votes
5answers
681 views

As a GM, what aids could I use to create adventure scenes on the spot?

As a GM, many a time I run into a situation that I know nothing of, am not prepared about, and need something, NOW! Maybe it is a freeform adventure and plot was not prepared, maybe I prepared some ...
15
votes
5answers
554 views

How to abstract a trial?

A session I am writing for my gaming group will take the characters through a murder trial. One of the players is the accused, and he and his companions will need to build a case and defend themselves....
14
votes
5answers
1k views

How can I dissuade my players from attacking a deadly foe who isn't meant to be attacked? [duplicate]

I will be taking over as DM of our group in a few weeks. Our party right now has a large number of magic items, and while I don't have a problem balancing that, I would rather replace lesser ones ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Do different monsters cooperate? Do I need to justify it when they do?

I'm new to GMing, and am having difficulty with understanding how often different types of monsters interact cooperatively (so to speak). In keeping with trying to give my PC's variety, and to also ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Defending a house against demons

I'm a fairly rookie GM and I'm running a campaign in which the characters are going to eventually become a group of professional monster hunters. We are at present low level we are starting off with ...
14
votes
4answers
322 views

Should I adjust encounter challenge for PCs with damage immunities?

Recently, two of my PCs became afflicted with lycanthropy (of the wererat variety). According to the Monster Manual, characters with lycanthropy acquire the damage immunities of their respective ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

How can I make simple tasks more challenging without involving combat?

I want to delay my players for one session while we wait for the last player to become available. My plan is to send them to a wise old man (aka crazy hermit) for advice, and then to delay them for ...
13
votes
3answers
814 views

Would motivating a Stout Pacifist to join a war be a Compel or Invoke?

Assume the following situation: The player wants to convince an NPC to help them in battle. However, the NPC has the aspect "Stout Pacifist" and would rather avoid being dragged into a war. This ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

My players almost die in my encounters every time. Does this mean my encounters are too hard?

I'm running my first campaign with three friends. This is the first time any of us have done any table-top role-playing. I'm working the party through the H1: Keep on the Shadowfell campaign using ...
13
votes
7answers
3k views

How can I design encounters that appeal more to stealth based characters and are fun for me to run?

I'm currently running a levels 1 to 20 campaign with my friends, and one of them is a Ninja (Pathfinder's class using the Basic Rogue Template). Functionally it's pretty much the same, and the thing ...
13
votes
4answers
26k views

Does the Challenge Rating of a monster assume a party or a single PC?

I'm reading through the new DM D&D Basic Rules, but I'm confused about the challenge rating of a monster. Does the challenge rating assume a single PC or a group of PC's? As a CR3 a challenge for ...
13
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7answers
1k views

How do you kidnap a PC?

Here's where my group is currently at: We are reaching the end of a campaign and we are going to be switching GM's. I have been playing a (secretly) evil Psion who has plans to betray the party ...
12
votes
5answers
522 views

How can I balance an enemy that my players might encounter at different levels?

My story revolves around 8 angels that my players must defeat. The thing is I want them to look for them in no particular order. How can I balance an enemy easily in advance, since they may encounter ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Can players handle Deadly encounters if they don't engage in any other danger?

The DMG suggests that Player Characters are generally going to be able to handle about 6 encounters between long rests; the difficulty comes from the cumulative strain of multiple consecutive ...
11
votes
5answers
395 views

How to simulate distraction during battle without actually distracting the players?

Here's my situation. In an encounter I have coming up next week, an epic aerial battle between an Angel and a powerful necromancer rages overhead a group of low-level PC's. Attempting to assist in ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

How to make combat more tactical?

How can I help combat be more diverse? I'm a player, but I'm open to suggesting things to my DM. We are a party of 5th-level PCs. What we run into is the classic tactical situation every time: the ...
11
votes
2answers
706 views

Reducing a monster below CR 1

There are many instances in Pathfinder and other 3.5 based systems when you might need to reduce a monster below 1 or 1/2. For example, if I'm using a CR 1/2 monster from a 3.5 source in Pathfinder, I'...
10
votes
6answers
748 views

How to keep the group engaged when the party is split?

I recently pitched a game to my group, to which they were receptive. However they pointed out some problems I would have to solve before the game started. The Pitch The game is set in the near-...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Would an Ettin and Otyugh live in the same area?

According to the 3.5 monster manual - Ettins like to establish their lairs in remote, rocky areas. They dwell in dark, underground caves that stink of decaying food and offal. They tolerate ...
10
votes
4answers
4k views

Why don't players get extra xp for large encounters?

Based on the table Encounter XP Multipliers from the Basic Rules' DM section, Page 57, when you're building encounters in 5E, you include an XP modifier depending on the number of creatures your PCs ...
10
votes
3answers
500 views

How can I avoid making extended/prolonged encounters boring?

I have run this campaign for just over a year. Many encounters later, I have come to one snag; If I run an encounter that lasts for more than a few rounds, I lose all my flair. I just resort to "hit" ...
10
votes
5answers
548 views

What would be the CR of a battle where PCs have to fight their duplicates?

Imagine a situation where PCs meet some magical, evil duplicates of themselves. The duplicates are exact copies of the PCs (stats, equipment, spells, feats and so on). Therefore, I suppose that the ...
10
votes
3answers
486 views

How do I make Puzzle Bosses more interesting than a Knowledge Check or tedious pre-research?

Puzzle bosses — those with hidden weaknesses to discover and exploit — have been a recurring problem no matter the system we use. As a GM, I've never been able to wrap my head around how ...
10
votes
2answers
875 views

How do I scale an encounter to a larger party?

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 ...
10
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3answers
4k views

How can I tune encounter difficulty appropriately in D&D Essentials?

Two of my friends and I recently played our very first game of D&D using the Essentials kit. I DM'd, getting them through the Red Box create-your-own character story. It was all good fun, they ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Would a fight against a higher level minion work out well or badly?

I have a level 8 party in a thieves guild/pirate campaign and I was wondering how it would play out if I gave them a high level minion like a level 11 "Ogre Thug" or a level 15 "Grimlock Minion", both ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

Determining “level” of an NPC ally for purpose of budgeting encounter XP

Hypothetical party: 1st level human wizard (PC) 3x guard NPC 1x acolyte NPC This is the player's first time, and it's a solo campaign. The first mini-adventure involves recovering the cargo of a ...
9
votes
3answers
294 views

Train chase sequence

In my next session, I want my players to have a chase sequence followed by a battle on board a moving train. They'll be chasing Githyanki, so their mage hand, jump, and misty step spells will all ...
9
votes
1answer
172 views

Do I need both DMG1 and 2 to create adventures?

I'm working on my first custom campaign for my players and I am wondering if I should read both DMG1 and 2 or if it's possible to just use DMG2 as a guideline. I have previously run modules out of ...