I've been planning encounters that come in two parts or have reinforcements recently, and it occurs to me that reinforcements don't have the same effect on an encounter as if they were there from the beginning.

How can I adjust for the reinforcements, to make an encounter as difficult as if all enemies were present at the beginning?


  • A fight includes a "generator" that spawns one creature (CR = APL - 1) per round.
  • A fight on an open battlefield: the party mixes up with the scout group, while a squad of elite troops approaches.
  • A party attacks a Drow Lady with her bodyguard, and three rounds later her palace guards arrive.
  • An invisible wizard waits three rounds to see if his minions can take the party without his assistance then begins withering the party with fireballs.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused on the tagging. Is this for 3.5, pathfinder, or system agnostic? \$\endgroup\$
    – corsiKa
    Jun 24, 2011 at 2:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Total Questions that are about "d20 games derived from D&D 3.x" don't have a convenient single tag, so they usually get tagged with both [pathfinder] and [dnd-3.5e]. [system-agnostic] doesn't fit because the concept of encounters is particular to a certain kind of game, and furthermore balancing them system-agnostically is a nonsensical idea. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 24, 2011 at 3:15
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Pathfinder is a spinoff of the D&D 3.5 rules set. Most rules issues that apply to Pathfinder also apply to 3.5, and vice versa with a few notable exceptions. \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Jun 24, 2011 at 4:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain what effect the reinforcements have that is different if they were there from the beginning? Would hidden creatures already there count as reinforcements? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jun 24, 2011 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob if the hidden creatures did not act for some portion of the encounter, then yes they would. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Jun 24, 2011 at 12:12

1 Answer 1


The landscape is your ally, GM

Placement of the players can mean a lot to the difficulty of the scenario. If the archers and spellcasters have taken safehaven in the back, have your reinforcements sneak up behind them and launch a charge to the weakest.

If your enemies are known as planar creatures or strong spellcasters, have the reinforcements "warp in" in tough spots or positions where they cut the player party in half, obscuring line of sight, and such.

Players often plan their strategies based on their enemies position. With a reinforcement correctly timed, you can be even STRONGER than you were if you had all the units placed from the start.

Quick examples:

  • As an escort quest, the players push their escortee backwards, towards squishy spellcasters and healers, while the strong-arms are dealing with trouble up front. Launch a second strike from behind or the sides, targeting their escortee, forcing the spellcasters to take physical defense.
  • Create an encounter with bait. Some weak creatures are taunting the players, and characters with Charge or similar abilities rush to take them out. While this is happening, a swarm of burrowed creatures emerge from the ground, one or two adjacent to each player character.
  • Thrid party combat. If the players are fighting some monsters to gain a treasure, maybe introduce a third party who are equally interested in the treasure, and will attack both monsters and players if they have to. But why should they fight, when they can just shoot some nasty spells at the players, and wait till they are out of the picture.. Or even better, buff the monsters ;)
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site @NilsMunch. Great first answer! Pretty much exactly what I was typing, so +1 from me. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpatchery
    Jun 24, 2011 at 12:01

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