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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.

71
votes
12answers
8k 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 ...
66
votes
18answers
16k views

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 ...
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 ...
58
votes
6answers
9k views

How do I keep presenting progressively more challenging encounters to my PCs without making them think that the world is gaining Levels as they are?

So, obviously during first encounters a DM usually makes PCs fight small goblin groups, giant spiders, blink dogs, etc... but how should the DM keep up the challenge for higher level PCs without ...
57
votes
13answers
13k views

How to challenge a pacifist party

Ok, so the title is a bit of hyperbole. But my party has recently been using persuasion abilities (backed with RP) to turn otherwise combat encounters into social ones. To be clear, I have nothing ...
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 ...
49
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 ...
46
votes
16answers
10k views

How can a boss enemy prevent being the most obvious target?

So you built up your last few sessions for that epic encounter with the generic-jerk-boss-that-kills-puppies. Both PCs and the boss are fully prepared for the inevitable combat, with the latter having ...
42
votes
5answers
3k views

How do I make engaging Man vs Wild encounters that aren't excercises in rolling dice?

I like wilderness adventures. My earliest games as a player (in AD&D 2e) featured wilderness adventures, and I really enjoyed them. I try to use them in my games (We're playing Pathfinder right ...
39
votes
7answers
4k 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 ...
39
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
38
votes
11answers
15k 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 ...
37
votes
7answers
10k 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. ...
37
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 ...
35
votes
9answers
8k views

Players better at dealing damage than taking damage

I'm currently DM'ing a high powered D&D 3.5 game with 4 PCs (Wizard, Druid, Rogue/Assassin and Bard) and a DMPC (Minotaur Barbarian) at ECL 11. My concern is that whenever I try to create a ...
31
votes
4answers
16k views

My PCs are too strong for a published adventure. How can I fix the content so it isn't trivial?

This is my first time DMing a D&D game and I'm learning as I go. I'm running Tyranny of Dragons, and here's my situation: Through a series of lucky events and other phenomena, the party is one ...
30
votes
14answers
29k views

How do I design exciting, fun boss fights for my players?

So I've DM'd three separate games, of which one that I'm largely happy with. However, one consistent problem I run into is designing fun, exciting, and interesting boss fights. I've run into two major ...
30
votes
2answers
260k 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 ...
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 ...
28
votes
10answers
2k views

How do I telegraph the difference between life-hating and faithful-guardian undead at a distance? [closed]

(In my world...) Some undead are raised for evil purposes, and are motivated to extinguish any life they encounter. But some undead were so dedicated/faithful in life that they do not leave their ...
28
votes
10answers
3k views

Should I scale the difficulty after the party recruits a boss?

A year ago or so, I was DMing a DnD4e campaign in which the leader of the players' party (Sariel) managed to convince a powerful (6 levels higher) adversary (Pieter) to join them temporarily; their ...
28
votes
6answers
23k views

How can I create reasonably challenging encounters for large groups?

I'm running a 5e campaign that has become quite successful to the point that everyone wants in and I have 6-8 players at my table every other week. It's awesome, but I'm having troubles with creating ...
28
votes
4answers
3k views

How do I telegraph that an encounter that was too difficult before is now achievable?

Assuming you used the techniques from How can DMs effectively telegraph specific dangers in D&D? and How can I make my PCs flee? to telegraph danger and the need to improve the characters skills/...
26
votes
8answers
19k views

How can I keep repeated arena combat from getting boring?

In a campaign world I am creating, I want the characters to be given a plot hook to start into the primary campaign at about level 5, but since some of the players are new, I think it would still be ...
26
votes
4answers
4k views

How much more dangerous is an encounter with the PCs outnumbered and how do I balance around it?

I want to build an encounter after defeating the "boss" of the dungeon that the PCs are currently in, where the skeletons in the crypts they had previously passed through begin to rise from their ...
25
votes
8answers
27k views

How does a DM deal with a PC with an abnormally high Armor Class?

One of the Fighters in my party, who is level 5, has an AC of 21. He wears chainmail (AC: 16), has the Defense Fighting Style which gives a +1 to AC when wearing armor, and a +2 shield (found in an ...
25
votes
4answers
8k views

How can I make combat challenging, without simply making it take longer?

My players and I like to have fewer, harder combat encounters, as we'd rather be roleplaying than working through combats that we know the PCs will win. It seems hard to arrange for this in 5e. I ...
24
votes
6answers
48k views

How do I build interesting dungeons? [closed]

I'm a new GM and I need to undestand how to build enjoyable locations. I don't get how to build interesting dungeons. For example, I need to explore a castle. But a castle is not as complicated as ...
24
votes
3answers
12k views

What standard party size is D&D 5e designed for?

4th edition Dungeons & Dragons had a standard party size of 5 players. I can't seem to find an equivalent definition of what the standard party size is in 5th edition. The tables in the DMG ...
23
votes
7answers
10k views

Depowering a high AC PC without killing the rest of the group

I am a relativly new DM and we are playing Pathfinder. We are playing a pre-made adventure, Rise of the Runelords. My group consists of a Bard, a Sorcerer an Alchemist and a Knight on Level 7. Problem ...
23
votes
5answers
11k 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 ...
23
votes
2answers
23k views

Why are all of the encounters in the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign Hard or Deadly?

Even with 5 players assumed, the adventure seems quite brutal. Could someone please explain why the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign has so many deadly encounters? Some examples: The very first ...
22
votes
9answers
994 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
8k views

When does an encounter go from “deadly” to “instant death”?

The encounter table in the DMG has 4 listed difficulties; "easy", "medium", "hard" and "deadly". Because the difficulty is set based on the last threshold you passed, there is also an implicit 5th ...
22
votes
3answers
14k views

If I design a PC for use as an NPC, how much XP should he give when killed?

As part of an early quest, my PCs are likely to face off against a wizard. The problem here is that the stat block for Mage NPCs listed in the Basic Rules has a Challenge Rating of 6, while the PCs ...
22
votes
2answers
904 views

Tarrasque: Rush & Jump Skill Interaction

Background I am having a little trouble wrapping my brain around the Jump skill. I want to plan a battle with my players and the Tarrasque; two of them have the ability to fly - and it does not. I ...
21
votes
9answers
8k views

Should encounters be adjusted to a full-magic party?

I am still a new GM and I am building a session for three first-time players. After discussing the game, rules and setting, all of them are interested in playing magic characters (Draconic Sorcerer, ...
21
votes
5answers
3k views

How can I create encounters that encourage players to use non-Attack actions?

In D&D 5e, the players have lots of actions they can take within combat encounters besides attacking. I'm trying to figure out how to encourage them to use a greater variety of actions, especially ...
21
votes
6answers
8k views

Determining “level” of an NPC ally for purpose of budgeting encounter XP

Hypothetical party: 1st level human wizard (PC) 3x guard NPC 1x acolyte NPC This is the player's first time, and it's a solo campaign. The first mini-adventure involves recovering the cargo of a ...
21
votes
4answers
793 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 ...
20
votes
8answers
3k views

How do I balance combat encounters for an unequipped group?

There are a number of ways for a group to end up under the power of an enemy or adversary. If the group survives such a situation at all, it seems very reasonable to expect said enemy to imprison the ...
20
votes
3answers
7k views

How do I design an assassination mission, that is a challenge for the rogue, but not impossible for the other party members and requires teamwork? [closed]

My level 11 rogue/assassin player talked to me after our most recent session, because he feels that he cannot play the character as he planned him to be. He wants to use his rogue abilities and sneak ...
20
votes
4answers
6k 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
1answer
7k views

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP?

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP in D&D 5th edition?
19
votes
6answers
25k views

Do 5th-edition D&D PCs consistently outmatch level-appropriate encounters?

I have a group of PCs that started at level 1. The group varies in size between 6-8 PCs and they have a good spread of classes (healer, tanks, damage dealers, 2 arcane casters). They are level 5 ...
19
votes
3answers
9k views

Is the first encounter of the starter set really “deadly”?

Reading the DMG I'm confused by the encounter difficulty chart. It seems straight forward, but upon really testing it I've found that according to the chart, the very first encounter in Lost Mines of ...
18
votes
3answers
7k views

Typically, how many combat encounters should a low-level party have before they are expected to take a long rest?

I'm trying to improve the pacing of my encounter design. (I suspect that I've been making them too easy for my players, or that I haven't been paying close enough attention to how many resources they ...
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 ...
18
votes
9answers
3k views

Make NPCs hard to interrogate

So my ~11th level party is going to be interrogating a prisoner (demon, if it makes any difference) to try to get them to reveal their master's evil plan. They'll be doing this in the prison where the ...
18
votes
8answers
1k 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 ...