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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16answers
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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 ...
36
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 ...
35
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 ...
33
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
22
votes
9answers
3k 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 ...
20
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4answers
3k 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
450 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 ...
17
votes
8answers
889 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 ...
17
votes
9answers
572 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 ...
16
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2answers
3k 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 ...
15
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7answers
862 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 ...
15
votes
5answers
524 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
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5answers
5k 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
5answers
396 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 ...
14
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. ...
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 ...
13
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
12
votes
5answers
433 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 ...
12
votes
7answers
879 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 ...
11
votes
5answers
306 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
2answers
482 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, ...
10
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
672 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
2k 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
3answers
199 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
160 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
865 views

How to manage character arguments / conflict?

I'm a new DM and have just started a 4e game as Play by Post. The game has started with one character (Bob) recruiting in a pub and the first response was from another character (Al) wanting to ...
8
votes
3answers
372 views

How many encounters can you squeeze into a 3 hour slot?

A local game day is coming within the next month and I am planning on running an adventure. The slots are three hours long. Given that time slot I would like to see the players complete the ...
8
votes
5answers
521 views

How to get the most out of an encounter by combining foes

I am an new GM playing DnD-4E and i am looking for advice on how to compose challenging encounters. I have played with my group ~10 times so far and what i really like is to challenge them. Not a TPK ...
8
votes
3answers
582 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
808 views

Do monsters higher or lower level than the PCs play well in combat?

In D&D 4e, an encounter's XP budget suggests one standard monster of the player's level for each party member. Does it work well to spend the XP budget on smaller number of high level opponents, ...
7
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
1k views

How do I make an interesting escape from a fire?

So, the last session I tried to make an encounter where my players had to escape from a burning house. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a boring bunch of pass-or-suck checks. How can I make this ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Adjusting Modules for More Players (D&D 3.5)

I am planning on running a D&D 3.5 campaign soon. I underestimated how many of my friends would be interested, and my group of 4 has quickly turned into a group of 6. I have seen various ...
7
votes
3answers
369 views

Is encounter balancing/creation in 5e different to previous editions?

I have been GMing for a group for a few sessions now and I have had a lot of trouble balancing encounters. I go by the rules that it should be the xp the party needs to level as a "balance" and you ...
7
votes
2answers
272 views

What do you do with a drunken sailor early in the morning?

Seriously though, I need help creating a drinking contest. One of my player's characters has high Endurance and in one of our previous sessions challenged a tavern half full of bad guys to a drinking ...
7
votes
2answers
448 views

How can I make non-violent combat alternatives actually fun and interesting? [closed]

Most of my group and I share a trait: We all hate the idea of monsters who can be talked or negotiated with, it kills the scary, dangerous part of a monster; that combined with the fact I suck at ...
7
votes
2answers
157 views

Best practices for balancing separate enemies in an encounter?

I'd like to run a game where a Mage has killed a necromancer, who has re-animated himself and is after the mage. The mage himself is evil. The necromancer makes up the majority of the session. The ...
7
votes
1answer
458 views

How to balance the numbers and equipment of an encounter in Shadowrun 4E?

I'm having trouble creating NPCs for my game, especially regarding their number and their equipment. Their skill level is ok, but these points are problematic. I know that most of the time, the ...
7
votes
1answer
147 views

Under What Circumstances Do Additional Creatures Add to EL?

Question The Dungeon Master's Guide explains that DMs Do not award XP for creatures that enemies summon or otherwise add to their forces with magic powers. An enemy’s ability to summon or add ...
6
votes
6answers
2k views

How to create a hard challenge for my group?

I did let the PCs of the game I am hosting receive too many treasures, so I would like them to lose at least some (or even all) of them. I thought about a simple ambush somewhere in the woods, where ...
6
votes
4answers
276 views

Balancing encounters for faster feat progression

I'm DMing a group right now in Eberron (so I already have to take Action Points into account for encounter design), and my players, who are fairly new, are super intrigued by all of the interesting ...
6
votes
2answers
280 views

How do you scale up a premade adventure's difficulty when you have additional PCs?

I am going to be running the D&D 4e Redbox premade adventure and a couple other premade adventures for 5 PCs. However at the beginning of the explanation for the adventures they say it is for a ...
6
votes
2answers
253 views

What should be included in a standard 4E D&D encounter? How would this be written in the adventure?

I'm a big D&D fan, but haven't played in ten years or so. The last time I played, it was AD&D 2nd edition. I am trying to write an adventure for a friend, and I'm sort of confused as to what ...
5
votes
6answers
524 views

How do I challenge extremely strong 1st and 3rd level characters?

I've got a very strong group: Lvl 3 two weapon ranger noble drow AC: 26 (10 base + 6 from dex + 10 from armour the armour is an artifact with ...
5
votes
3answers
619 views

How to handle some new NPCs who enter a fight in progress?

I am GMing for the second time in my life, and do not know how to handle this situation: There are 5 PCs who walk through this map. In almost every room there are a couple of NPCs who might or might ...
5
votes
4answers
929 views

How many enemies can one Lvl 1 PC handle?

In the start of my adventure the PCs will not be together. I plan to have all them fight 1-3 encounters alone before finally meeting up. I read in the book about setting encounters but the minimum I ...
5
votes
2answers
188 views

How can I gauge the strength of my PCs in Legend?

I've been trying to run Legend on and off lately, and I find myself faced with a frustration. Though I find the Mook rules easy enough to comprehend, I can't seem to create appropriate challenges for ...
5
votes
5answers
204 views

How can I run a 5 character adventure with fewer players?

So, looking to run a D&D 4e adventure with some of my friends, but we've only got the four of us — myself and three players. The adventure I want to run, named the Slaying Stone, recommends ...