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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25
votes
3answers
28k 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 ...
24
votes
6answers
15k 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 ...
40
votes
11answers
23k 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 ...
35
votes
2answers
404k 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
1k views

How to keep the group engaged when the party is split?

I recently pitched a game to my group, to which they were receptive. However they pointed out some problems I would have to solve before the game started. The Pitch The game is set in the near-...
26
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5answers
14k 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 ...
18
votes
4answers
3k views

How does the summoning ability affect the encounter difficulty?

The Drow Mage (CR 7) has the Action Summon Demon (1/day), which allows him to summon a shadow demon (CR 4). Is the shadow demon already included in the CR of the Drow Mage, or do I have to count the ...
30
votes
8answers
54k views

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

One of the Fighters in my party has an AC of 21 at level 5. He wears chainmail which gives an AC of 16, has the Defense Fighting Style which gives a +1 to AC when wearing armor, and a +2 shield (found ...
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 ...
22
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 ...
16
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5answers
1k views

As a GM, what aids could I use to create adventure scenes on the spot?

As a GM, many a time I run into a situation that I know nothing of, am not prepared about, and need something, NOW! Maybe it is a freeform adventure and plot was not prepared, maybe I prepared some ...
19
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3answers
10k 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 ...
17
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5answers
7k views

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

Related: How can I make a multiple engagement encounter 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
648 views

Under What Circumstances Do Additional Creatures Add to EL?

Question The Dungeon Master's Guide explains that DMs Do not award XP for creatures that enemies summon or otherwise add to their forces with magic powers. An enemy’s ability to summon or add these ...
11
votes
3answers
646 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 ...
31
votes
14answers
36k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
855 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 ...
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/...
31
votes
4answers
24k 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
7k views

Are the rules in the DMG for calculating encounter difficulty inaccurate? [closed]

I recently DM'd a module. It seems the characters were easily able to get through encounters that the DMG considered “Deadly,” even without factoring in the “encounter multipliers” for multiple ...
10
votes
3answers
4k views

Train chase sequence

In my next session, I want my players to have a chase sequence followed by a battle on board a moving train. They'll be chasing Githyanki, so their mage hand, jump, and misty step spells will all ...
5
votes
3answers
8k views

How do I balance an encounter for my party?

I'm currently DMing some games in the D&D 4e Adventure Series. We started with H1, Keep on the Shadowfell, and we're just about to start H2, Thunderspide labyrinth. I have six players who are all ...
40
votes
7answers
14k 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. ...
11
votes
3answers
79k views

What is the CR/XP-Character Level relationship for opponents?

I can't seem to find information in the Monster Manual for how to design an opponent with class levels of an appropriate challenge for my 7th-level party. Perhaps this appears in the DMG? I want to ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

How can I tune encounter difficulty appropriately in D&D Essentials?

Two of my friends and I recently played our very first game of D&D using the Essentials kit. I DM'd, getting them through the Red Box create-your-own character story. It was all good fun, they ...
19
votes
6answers
21k views

How can a party defend against the Nightmare Haunting action of a Night Hag?

This question was asked previously with respect to D&D 3.5: What are the ways that a CR-appropriate party can stop a Night Hag's dream haunting? There are some interesting answers there, but ...
7
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3answers
2k views

How to handle some new NPCs who enter a fight in progress?

I am GMing for the second time in my life, and do not know how to handle this situation: There are 5 PCs who walk through this map. In almost every room there are a couple of NPCs who might or might ...
75
votes
12answers
10k 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 ...
31
votes
4answers
13k 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 ...
50
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
19
votes
3answers
14k views

How to make combat more tactical?

How can I help combat be more diverse? I'm a player, but I'm open to suggesting things to my DM. We are a party of 5th-level PCs. What we run into is the classic tactical situation every time: the ...
22
votes
1answer
35k views

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP?

What's the difference between XP and adjusted XP in D&D 5th edition?
15
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3answers
3k views

How can I quickly adjust encounters for variable party sizes?

Problem I'm running a campaign with 6 players, but they can't always show up1. That, by itself, would not be a problem, if I knew how many would come with enough time to prepare for it. The thing is: ...
18
votes
5answers
8k views

How can I create an introductory D&D encounter intended for teaching the rules?

For my next D&D campaign, I want to introduce the players to the ruleset by having them play through a sample combat encounter. All of them have prior RPG experience, but they haven't played any ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

How do I handle the encounter difficulty for a three-sided battle?

I'm running my first real campaign. The idea I have for the first dungeon involves the PCs coming upon two sides already engaged in combat. One side is losing and weaker than the other, though not in ...
24
votes
7answers
13k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
12k 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
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 ...
16
votes
2answers
5k views

How do the PCs' magic items factor into challenge ratings?

Everyone knows that a CR 10 monster is meant to be a perfectly balanced challenge for a party of four 10th level PCs. But does that mean it's balanced for a party of four PCs with no magically ...
12
votes
5answers
5k views

How can I make combat retain challenge and balance without hit points?

Question Our group finds that combat takes too long, and part of this is down to HP grinding. At first we thought it might be due to too many dice rolls, but that's not the problem; the problem is ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

How many enemies will challenge my party of four 1st-level characters, but not result in certain death?

I was asked to DM for a one-shot with people wanting to try and learn the game. I have created a not-too-complicated world in which they can run around and interact with its inhabitants. The problem ...
23
votes
8answers
4k 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 ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

How can I dissuade my players from attacking a deadly foe who isn't meant to be attacked? [duplicate]

I will be taking over as DM of our group in a few weeks. Our party right now has a large number of magic items, and while I don't have a problem balancing that, I would rather replace lesser ones ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is the XP awarded from an encounter the sum of monster XP values and not Adjusted XP? [closed]

The Dungeon Master's Guide presents guidelines for gauging encounter difficulty based on the Adjusted XP of monsters faced. The Adjusted XP is the sum of the monsters' experience values, modified by a ...
7
votes
1answer
570 views

How is treasure determined randomly for CR 21 or higher creatures?

The Magic Item Compendium says Step 1: Roll on Table A-1: Treasure, using the monster's CR to determine which row you will use. (265) Table A-1: Treasure only goes to Challenge Rating 20. The six ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

Adjusting Modules for More Players

I am planning on running a D&D 3.5 campaign soon. I underestimated how many of my friends would be interested, and my group of 4 has quickly turned into a group of 6. I have seen various ...
24
votes
6answers
54k 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 ...
56
votes
13answers
14k 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 ...
69
votes
18answers
19k 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 ...
49
votes
16answers
11k 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 ...