Easily Adaptable Encounters

GM Discussion

I've been meaning to post this for a long time, but I think it's still just as relevant today as it was months ago.

Premise: Some encounters lend themselves to capable of challenging "power gamers" without being considered absolutely "deadly" to the least optimized parties (whether through party composition, experience, etc).

What I need from all of you, are some encounters you've actually run, that you feel are good examples of encounters that give the GM the tools they need to dial in the challenge of the encounter to their table's specific interests. What specifically about the encounter(s) makes it possible to be both deadly and average(?) at the same time depending on who shows up at the table?

I'm hoping there's something common in these types of encounters that we can incorporate into more of them going forward.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

First Steps Part II: To Delve the Dungeon Deep:
Maurat Zergo, the ghoul in the 1st real encounter, can be defeated easily if you have her jump down right in front of the party (instead of on top of the rubble pile, which the PC’s can’t charge up, but must climb). Chances are, the PC’s won’t even let her recognize them as Pathfinders and will just attack her (especially because of what Major Colson Maldris said at the festival.) But if they can’t charge her right away, they usually tend to let her talk, as she isn’t being overly aggressive. Of the 6 times I’ve run this, only 1 group killed her at the rubble pile. I provide some interesting encounters when she ambushed them from behind while they were in the middle of the battle with the Blindheim with one group and both groups of Kobolds with the other. So you can make this entire scenario more challenging by having her jump down 5’ to the top of the rubble pile to start the encounter, or easier by having her jump down 20’ to right in front of the PC’s.

Silver Crusade

I am very curious to see what everyone will come up with in this thread.

From my own experience, more as a player than GM, and also from reading the forums, it seems like encounters with a single tough monster are more likely to be outright deadly than encounters with multiple enemies. This is because a single enemy has to be tougher to justify being its own encounter, and that usually means each hit will be more dangerous.

And logically, the multi-enemy fights offer the GM more control over keeping it from being too deadly for an underpowered group. You can have the enemies get in each other's way against a weaker PC party, or work together well against a more optimized group.

Scarab Sages 5/5

any encounter where you can use the PCs strengths against them.
Such as one in which you confuse or dominate one of the PCs. Pick a Max Damage PC and someone is going to die. Pick Job McBardy - with all buffs and no way of causing damage and you get a funny encounter.
(happened to me. The Controller commended my Harlot to attack the nearest friend with my most damaging weapon or spell... My PC spent the first round digging in her backpack to find the dagger she had bought when she was first level (8 levels before), yeah, she has never damaged anything except herself...)


In "The Shadow Attack" encounter in PFS #4-13 The Blakros Matrimony...

At Sub-Tier 6-7, the shadow-possessed human Alistair Fourchek, according to his tactics, "uses its offensive spell-like abilities as long as it can avoid direct contact [with the PCs]." With shadow conjuration and shadow evocation in the 3/day category, GMs have a wide variety of options—and thus a wide range on the lethality meter—to choose from.

I prepped that encounter about six different ways, but wound up only running it at Tier 3-4, where the tactics are different and so it didn't come into play.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

4-04 Storval Stairs

Third encounter can be deadly as hell, or not, depending on the competence level they are run at.

Fourth encounter can be deadly as hell, or not, depending on the tactical choices made.

Both encounters seem intended to be run in full-speed-pitches mode, for the record.

Storming the Diamond Gate
The encounter with Aglorn is pretty tunable.

First Steps 1
Running the personalities in the enemy group properly and taking into account the PCs approach to the fight allows for a lot of tuning.

Golden Serpent
Favored Enemy most-PCs makes for a high degree of tunability. So does the rest of the first fight.

Red Harvest
A lot of tuning possibilities in individual fights.

Quest for Perfection 1
Tuning the last fight based on PC capability is quite possible.

Quest for Perfection 3
Boss fight is quite tunable. Earlier waves also tunable.

Rebel's Ransom
Oh, my. This can be tuned way up or way down, or even subverted by the PCs depending on the way the scenario plays.

I have to go grab stuff to run Masks of the Living God in a couple hours, so I'll see if any others come to mind.

I'll note that ALL of the above can be exceptionally deadly, or not, depending on the tactics the enemies are run at, within the bounds of their written tactics.

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