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So I am a new DM and I am running a campaign in Curse of Strahd. I have a PC that is doing a long range build and has picked the Aarakocra race and I want to build encounters that will threaten him as well as the other 5 in the party. I would appreciate any advice that you could give me!

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First, a note on dealing with the Aarokocra - don't do the following tips in every fight. Every player wants the chance to shine so let them have it. The ability to fly around the battlefield unimpeded is a lot of fun so remember to sometimes let them do just that. Create scenarios where their ability to fly is instrumental to a quick, clean victory. But don't over do it. The other players need their moments too!

My party that I DM for include an Aarakocra and the best tips I can give are:

Ranged enemies

Obviously enemies that can shoot arrows, slings, spells, etc at this PC should feature in most battles. This isn't unfair at all as any well rounded group of adventurers have the ability to do ranged attacks so their opponents would be just as well prepared.

Special anti-flying tactics or equipment

Include more unusual weapons such as nets and bolos or harpoons with ropes attached (the last two are homebrew options) to be used to bring the Aarokocra down to earth. Getting tangled in something and falling out of the sky removes their advantage pretty quickly and makes them feel far more vulnerable.

Spells

There are some great spells that can control or alter the Aarokocra's ability to fight. Command, Hypnotic Pattern, Enemies Abound, Thorn Whip (short range), etc can all affect how they participant in the battle.

Flying enemies

Throw in Wyverns, Gargoyles, Imps, anything that can fly to neutralise them and give them some opponents that will focus solely on them.

Environment

Where the battle takes place is very important. Inside buildings, low caverns, in forest or jungle with a low canopy. Simply restrict their ability to get high above the fight.

I haven't found that having a flying character in the team breaks anything, somethings have to change of course, but it is simply a chance to be more inventive with the adventures you come up with.

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You don't need to do anything

If all of your players could fly then you would need to build your encounters accordingly. If you only have one flying player then they will naturally balance out. The key advantages of flying are:

  • Increased mobility
  • Getting around cover
  • Avoiding melee with grounded enemies

Increased mobility is helpful but, unless your challenges are built around enemies being high up or far away, it won't make encounters unchallenging.

Getting around cover is useful but also primarily just makes the archer's regular damage easier to obtain. A similar effect can be achieved by positioning on the ground and with the Sharpshooter feat.

Avoiding melee is already what ranged combatants are trying to do, your player will just not need to rely on effective tanks keeping the melee enemies engaged.

Being able to freely avoid melee combat with grounded enemies can be very powerful but only if the character doesn't care that much about what happens on the ground. Your player's character could likely solo a Tarrasque at level 1 given a couple of hours but not before the Tarrasque destroys several cities.

What will happen if the Aarakocra manages to completely avoid being attacked is the enemies will target the allies on the ground. It is all well and good to be flying in the sky but it is less pleasant when the werewolf is eating your friend. What the player will likely realize is that their HP is a resource and if they never use any of it they will make encounters more difficult for the rest of the party. This will incentivise them to come down from the sky and engage in melee or allow themselves to be attacked.

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