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Questions tagged [encounter-design]

For questions about 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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12
votes
8answers
6k views

Is this homebrew CR 12 monster too difficult an encounter for two level 4 characters?

I'm about to lead a raid into an orc camp for a party of two characters. Both are level 4, one is a bard and the other is a barbarian/warlock multiclass. I found a CR12 homebrew monster, the Orc ...
4
votes
2answers
368 views

Is my DM stacking the odds against us? [closed]

So, I'll set the stage. We're a party of 4, level 8 at the moment, with an allied NPC. In our most recent encounter we went up against: ~20 "minions", (<35 HP, +4 to hit) 1 Winter wolf (75 HP, +5 ...
2
votes
3answers
312 views

How do I design balanced encounters when one PC vastly out-performs the rest of the party?

I'm having some serious balancing issues with my current campaign. Mostly due to the Barbarian. My entire party consists of the Barbarian, a Bard, and a Druid, all recently turned lvl 6. So one ...
5
votes
3answers
504 views

How to balance encounters after the loss of the frontline fighters?

I've been running a pathfinder game for some time. Up until now I think I have done a fairly good job of balancing encounters, the party is about to reach level 7 and there have only been 2 deaths but ...
3
votes
1answer
272 views

How hard is a Deva boss fight for two level 10 characters?

I'm planning a one shot for two level 10 characters and I'd like a challenging boss fight for the end of it. The plan at the moment is that they will fight a corrupted Deva in the tomb of a Beholder ...
35
votes
8answers
8k views

What do I do with a party that is much stronger than their level?

We're playing D&D 5E. The party consists of 5 players, all currently level 11 (however, I've noticed this problem since they were level 8). I've been using the Goblinist random encounter ...
7
votes
2answers
312 views

Picking the right CR for a tier two party's boss encounter?

I am currently writing an adventure for D&D 5e, for character levels anywhere from 5 to 10, and am trying to find the right boss. A Mummy Lord is the perfect monster for the plot, however the CR (...
5
votes
2answers
235 views

Is there a guide on how to create a monster as a solo combat challenge for a PC?

I have read all about how to create an encounter or "boss" monster for a group of PCs to defeat based on challenge rating, but I have not seen any guidance on how to create/modify a monster to make it ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

How can I design a witch (or other enemy) that summons/controls lightning birds at sea to attack the party while hidden on a ship?

The PCs (3 of them, at 3rd level) are on a disabled, abandoned pirate ship at sea in a storm. I want them to have hard encounters that become somewhat predictable and that they can put a stop to, so ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Gold per encounter with looted equipment

Here's my scenario: CR 1 encounter (fast-paced) party is to receive 400 gold for the encounter. If I use, for example, a troglodyte, equipment is listed as 1 club, and 3 javelins for a total equipment ...
3
votes
3answers
236 views

Is it OK to make an encounter too hard for your players? [closed]

My party is very good at combat since they just kill whatever is in front of them that looks at them wrong. I want to try and make an "encounter" that's harder than any fight they've had previously, ...
5
votes
3answers
358 views

How can I help my PCs fight against a Mind Flayer's psionic blast?

I am running a pathfinder campaign for a group of 5 players. I have a half-elf wizard, human druid, dwarf barbarian, halfling bard and half-orc paladin. The party were all level 5 at the time of this ...
18
votes
4answers
2k views

Encounter design and XP thresholds

Our DM gave us what seemed to me to be a very hard encounter so I checked out the DMG to see whats up. Note this was the only encounter of the day and we generally have 1-4 encounters per day. We are ...
28
votes
7answers
7k views

How to make a villain when your PCs are villains?

The main premise of the campaign I am currently DMing is that the PCs need to level up to become powerful enough to take over the world. It's an open world(ish) campaign with a set end goal but no set ...
8
votes
2answers
314 views

How should I balance having Magic Shops in my world?

I want to give my world the presence of magic shops that can be used by players. From this other question: Default 5e assumes that "magic shops" pretty much won't exist, and even goes on to ...
14
votes
3answers
562 views

How can a dance-off be run in 5e as a combat encounter? [closed]

My players will be soon be encountering a fight that will unfold as a dance-off against a group of magical dancers. Ideally, I would like to be able to run the encounter as something that allows the ...
5
votes
4answers
379 views

How can I justify not giving my villain the Wish spell? [closed]

Basically, I have a wizard as a villain who is ambitious, powerful, and has access to nearly unlimited resources. How can I justify giving him any ninth-level spell but not giving him Wish? Or, ...
10
votes
3answers
399 views

Are there rules for shortening the adventuring day and reducing the number encounters without unbalancing them?

The problem In a few groups I'm DMing, sessions last about 3h. During that time, we usually have about half the adventuring's day worth of encounters (so at level 10, about 18k XP out of the 36k XP ...
10
votes
1answer
244 views

Should I adjust the Starting Encounter for Lost Mines of Phandelver for this party?

The Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure is described on its first page as "an adventure for four to five characters of 1st level." However, I will only be running three players through the campaign (or ...
12
votes
1answer
599 views

Do I include animal companions when calculating difficulty of an encounter?

I have a player who is playing a beast master ranger and I was wondering: do I calculate the level of the animal companion when making encounters?
6
votes
0answers
134 views

I'm making a warlock main villain [closed]

If I make a warlock villain, would giving them PC features be unbalancing, for example, pacts and invocations AC 11 HP 115 Str 10 Dex 14 Con 12 Int 14 Wis 16 Cha 20 CR 12 Resistance to damage from ...
3
votes
2answers
139 views

How do I compute an encounter level of monsters with vastly different CR?

In D&D 3.5, how do you add creatures with different CR which are more than 2 CR apart? The table in the DMG 3.5, p. 49, describes how to calculate the encounter level of a mixed pair creatures ...
7
votes
1answer
871 views

Can you just subtract the challenge rating of friendly NPCs?

The party have bitten off more than they can chew and the DM wants to help them out to avoid a likely TPK by adding a friendly NPC to an encounter. Can they get a good sense of how difficult the ...
4
votes
1answer
115 views

How do you calculate CR for running battles?

I am creating an encounter for a game I am DMing and am wondering how you calculate CR for a running battle. What I mean by this is that characters will be fleeing through a zombie infested town, with ...
16
votes
5answers
4k views

What method can I use to design a dungeon difficult enough that the PCs can't make it through without killing them?

The first 'round' of my campaign will end with the deaths (and resurrections) of all of the players. Their role before catastrophe strikes is as teachers in a philanthropically funded school in an ...
10
votes
2answers
382 views

How many encounters can a party handle in a day, without breaks?

I'm currently working on some homebrew for a Starfinder game. I've read the pages 388 to 393 of the core rule book several times, but might just be missing something. It gives details on how to craft ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

How to make a mimic a challenging fight for high level party? [closed]

After posted this question, it turned out that mimics might be weaker than I though first. As said in this linked question, I really like mimics and I'd like to use "a lot" of these (without going ...
7
votes
1answer
3k views

At what level can a party fight a mimic?

I'm actually starting to get into DnD and I may be soon buy the DnD starter set. Mimic is a monster whose concept I love, and I would like to put at least one as soon as possible when I'll DM, even if ...
1
vote
0answers
122 views

Help balancing a dragon fight for an 8th-level party [closed]

When my 5 players go up to 8th level, they will be encountering their first dragon. I need help building an encounter that will feel tense without a TPK. To create a deadly encounter using Kobold ...
71
votes
12answers
9k views

What is the purpose of easy combat scenarios that don't need resource expenditure?

This is something I've been thinking about as a DM in my encounter design: Why have easy/medium/etc combat encounters that don't really require resources to successfully complete? Given the limited ...
6
votes
1answer
248 views

How should I account for traps when calculating the adventuring day budget?

I'm wondering whether a trap should be considered an encounter and how should they be rated in terms of easy/medium/hard/deadly. This is not a question about whether traps should award PCs experience,...
48
votes
6answers
6k views

How can I make my enemies feel real and make combat more engaging?

As a newer DM, I have trouble making some of the more routine combats feel unique or urgent. I believe this is because the enemies my PCs are fighting tend to act like an AI, or just attack until they ...
6
votes
1answer
143 views

How would strategic but non-damaging actions affect monster CR?

I'm in the middle of designing a dungeon with heavy fire and ice elemental themes influencing a lot of undead enemies. I'm relying on CR a lot to rough out encounters, as I don't have a super great ...
11
votes
1answer
301 views

Estimating difficulty of continuous encounters (no short rest / waves of enemies)

For a level 10, 4-player party, the daily difficulty budget is 36k, so they could have 6 encounters of a CR 10 monster. However, I think this assumes they have time to patch up after a battle or even ...
6
votes
3answers
405 views

How to make a “Catch the monster” tabletop encounter properly challenging?

How do I make a DnD 5th edition "Catch the monster" tabletop encounter properly challenging for the PCs? Specifically, what are good ways to thematically prevent a pair of level 6, 5th edition rogues ...
57
votes
6answers
6k views

Handling encounter elements that would realistically cause instant death

Creating an encounter often plays out the same for me: I come up with ideas for making the experience epic, find myself unable to solve the "what if they fail" problem, and then minimize or eliminate ...
0
votes
2answers
469 views

How does one design encounters that accommodate a high burst damage build?

There are some really powerful burst damage builds out there that can pretty easily one shot the biggest threat in the room. As a DM how do I counter high burst damage builds so that the main threat ...
5
votes
0answers
541 views

How can I rig a game where dice will always roll poorly? [closed]

I'm planning an encounter with the owner of a hotel casino who loads his dice, and for this encounter only I want my players to use special dice to roll poorly. If there is no website to purchase ...
1
vote
1answer
195 views

How to create a powerful boss fusion of an artificial dragon and a lich?

I am currently thinking how to build a sheet for a powerful villain in my campaign. This creature was created by an ancient people as a way to control artificial dragons and to kill powerful real ...
59
votes
10answers
11k views

How can I engage players with melee monsters when players keep their distance?

So I am running a campaign as a DM, and one session my players were in a dungeon and spotted a Chuul in a water-filled area. The Chuul stayed deep in the pool, so the characters decided to drain the ...
5
votes
0answers
300 views

Planning a one shot for my group for one of my player's birthday [closed]

So one of my player's birthday is coming up soon and it so happens to fall on the day we usually do our sessions, I was planning on doing a one shot based around her Druid character and all my other ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

How to make monsters level appropriate during a session?

While running dungeon crawls in D&D 5e, I have found that balancing encounters often takes far more prepwork than the storyline does. It's necessary to account for all the exp players may receive ...
2
votes
1answer
134 views

How should I budget encounter XP for a single PC?

In the photo I've shared, it starts the XP budget for a party of 4 PCs. At 1st level, the budget is 400. For 5 PCs it's 500. And 600 XP for 6 PCs. So I guess it's safe to assume that I can divide the ...
21
votes
1answer
12k views

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP?

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP in D&D 5th edition?
-3
votes
2answers
558 views

Are 3 wolves too much of a challenge for a single level 8 monk?

I've never DMed before, and would like to ask any experienced DMs if they think 3 (regular) wolves are too much for a level 8 monk. It's a solo "party" with one Way of the Four Elements monk. He has ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the best number of combat encounters for a 6-player level-3 party in one adventuring day? [closed]

Soon, I'll be hosting a D&D session for six 3rd-level characters, but I was having some difficulty on deciding the amount of encounters. Our sessions typically last 6-8 hours. Everyone has some ...
39
votes
7answers
11k views

How do I deal with a DM that throws encounters at us that are way above the party?

I'm not sure if the question was worded in a coherent way, but I have recently played in a Pathfinder game and a 5e game and both times the DM (same one both times) gave us overpowered encounters. ...
13
votes
13answers
3k views

How to balance combat encounter for magic user group that suddenly can't cast magic? [closed]

My campaign is set on a low-magic setting, meaning magic is not common. Magic users are generally welcome, although at some places they hate magic users. Most (80%) of my players start off as a magic ...
11
votes
2answers
928 views

Should the DCs for skill checks be higher or lower than saves?

I'm homebrewing a rotten, collapsible staircase. I want there to be a Dex check to climb it, but if they fail the check, they can make a save to avoid falling. Should the check or the save be of a ...
5
votes
7answers
2k views

How to use a werewolf as boss for a party of 4 first levels?

Note: First time DM with first time players, using Basic Rules. Story: I am planning a story which involves wolves and werewolves. 4 PCs would investigate an incident in a forest that caused a NPC's ...