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Related: How can I make an engagement with a high-level monster fun for my party?

For clarification; by "fun" I mean make the encounter challenging, yet not deadly, and not feel like a "rinse-and-repeat" of the same actions for an extended period of time.

As a player, I have been in a few games that involved a "gauntlet-like" fight - an encounter that consisted of fighting for a long period of time (upward of 7 rounds). These fights were fun, because they required the use of almost our entire arsenal of abilities, and health.

I want to design a similar fight for my game, where the players need to make their way through an area, while having to fight their way through multiple encounters. The issue is that if I were to simply keep replacing low-level enemies as they move forward, it would get pretty boring, pretty quick, but if I use too few, they won't even appear to be any kind of threat, and the party can just continue on, with the enemies nipping at their heels, providing no real threat.

In this particular fight I was in, there were also terrain challenges: climbing, the threat of falling, as the option to interact with the terrain to cut off the enemies. This provided some variation to the encounter, which really drew me into the whole event.

What things do I need to take into account when constructing an engagement that is intended to endure for a long duration (7-10 rounds), against an (apparent) ongoing horde of enemies, with the intention of not killing the party*?


*As a standard example, a party of four x fifth level characters

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closed as too broad by nvoigt, Thomas Jacobs, minnmass, KorvinStarmast, Mindwin Aug 10 '17 at 14:30

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you be more specific? What problems did you encounter when you tried? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 10 '17 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt right now this is just theory, but in planning my main issue is that if I make the enemies low level, they'll provide no threat to the party, so they could all but ignore the enemies, and if I make them an even challenge, by the end of the encounter then chance of death is a lot higher. The goal is to make it a long, yet engaging fight, for the party to feel like they might die, but without any real threat (other than bad dice rolls), but still have it so that it doesn't feel like it's a rinse-and-repeat kind of fight. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Aug 10 '17 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you add some specifics about your party and size? Upwards of 7 turns doesn't seem too exotic to me. With my group that happens if they simply roll bad for a turn or two. Do you use terrain and cover normally? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 10 '17 at 10:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ 7 rounds is considered long now? Unless you had specified it I would have only advised on 20+ rounds engagements. \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. Aug 10 '17 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ 7 rounds is considered long, at least in 5e. The DMGs' guidance on monster creation assumes a 3-round encounter, and from experience, most combats usually end in the 3rd or 4th round, unless bad rolls on both sides are involved. The game Ben was talking about lasted 8 rounds, spanning ~1.5 hours of combat, and only 2 players \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Aug 11 '17 at 0:32
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I would solve this using the same method that was presented as an answer to the related question, which is doing the fight in varying stages. You might have to homebrew some of the opponents, but the goal would be to do a wave-based encounter similar to how many video games handle it. Particularly, MMORPGs are often known to have areas like this.

The basic plan is to have a number of similar, but varied opponents, or issues (since the gauntlet doesn't actually have to be of physical enemies to fight), and to thrown them at the party in waves that slowly progress through the possible options.

You might start with basic low CR fodder type creatures, then progress to a smaller number of slightly harder ones but perhaps these feature some type of resistance, then do something of similar CR to the second set, but with different resistances, then maybe a combination of the previous two, then mix it up with one of the previous sets and a new type that has another preferred counter, then mix them up again but this time throw in a battlefield that acts as an encounter as well like geysers or fog or acid pools. The key for me here if I was designing this would be to keep the CR down on all of these creatures. Because there is going to be some mystery about them, it is reasonable to assume that it might take the party a round or two to figure out how to deal with them.

I would be sure to telegraph weaknesses and resistances here pretty early on if what I created was particularly nasty, since my goal with a fight like this would be resource attrition and a gauntlet-type feel as opposed to actually slaughtering the party.

For a longer encounter, or if the creatures you use end up weaker than anticipated, perhaps do two waves of each set of creatures. Also, as with the weaknesses and resistances, be sure the party has an idea of what they are up against before they start. Give them some sort of idea that resource management is going to be particularly important and that they might need to be ready to think and adapt.

Last note, it might not be a good idea to have an encounter like this as a bottleneck to your campaign the first time you put a party up against one. Something like this can easily TPK a less tactical group. But if you're playing with a group who really like combat and might also be video gamers, then this will probably go over rather well.

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