GM's Guide to Creating Challenging Encounters


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One thing that I notice creeping up all over the boards are complaints about specific spells, archetypes, feats, you name it. This happens frequently in situations of the classic Final Fantasy boss battle. Often the cries of 'Overpowered' simply aren't true for whatever the culprit may be; the GM simply doesn't know how to properly construct difficult encounters.

I would like to help each and every one of you work on that.

Below you'll find a link to my Guide on the subject, the GM's Guide to Creating Challenging Encounters. You'll learn why the concept of the Boss Monster doesn't work, how the CR system is mathematically designed, and how you can use the power of mathematics to build truly challenging encounters.

As of this original post, the guide is still in-process. I would like to add some art and maybe answer a few more questions in the Summary section. Until I get around to that, I think the guide is functional enough as-is to start benefiting GMs. Also, I will be updating this guide based on the feedback I receive in this thread.

With all of this in mind, please follow This Link to the guide.


Nice guide, well explained and something that all DM's should read through occasionally to remind them what they're doing well or poorly.


Dotting for reading this evening at work.


Dotting for later reading


Great read.

Very small nit-pick. You would say that someone is preparing something in advance not advanced.

It does seem to trail off at the end, but I assume this is because you haven't finished? If not, I would suggest writing a conclusion.

Anyway, good food for thought. Thanks.

Shadow Lodge

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Very nice, and added to the Comprehensive Guide to the Guides.

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Sean Mahoney wrote:

Great read.

Very small nit-pick. You would say that someone is preparing something in advance not advanced.

It does seem to trail off at the end, but I assume this is because you haven't finished? If not, I would suggest writing a conclusion.

Anyway, good food for thought. Thanks.

Thanks for the catch, and yup, not finished. This was about as far as my brain would let me go last night and I plan to go through and clean it up now that my work day is over and I'm rested up.

Broken Zenith wrote:
Very nice, and added to the Comprehensive Guide to the Guides.

Oh wow! Thanks! :D


dotting


Some good stuff there that I hadn't previously considered. Mostly that in order for a fight to actually be challenging that it should +4CR above the party, and anything above that is where it truly starts to be challenging.

You also make a good point about aciton economy which is something I see far too many GMs make a mistake on. A party of 4 can easily take on a single enemy many levels of higher because of action economy, unless its defense are so good that the party simply can't affect it with spells or hit it with weapons which results in TPK.


Dot

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I've cleaned up the Guide a little bit; I've added a better summary, clarified various sections, and fixed up the sections so that things are labelled and easier to find. Later, I want to make a Table of Contents and maybe find some art to add to the guide. I'm not sure how much its needed in the long run, though. I'm trying to inform, not entertain you all with pretty pictures of Valeros in a hot tub. ;-)

Claxon wrote:
Some good stuff there that I hadn't previously considered. Mostly that in order for a fight to actually be challenging that it should +4CR above the party, and anything above that is where it truly starts to be challenging.

Yup! And as I mention in the guide, that number comes from calculating the CR of a party vs. their Average Party Level. An APL 4 Party (a party of four 4th level characters) is actually a CR 8 encounter, which is the party's APL + 4.

Quote:
You also make a good point about aciton economy which is something I see far too many GMs make a mistake on. A party of 4 can easily take on a single enemy many levels of higher because of action economy, unless its defense are so good that the party simply can't affect it with spells or hit it with weapons which results in TPK.

Indeed! Action Economy is one of those player buzz words that gets thrown around a lot on the boards when talking about maximizing DPR (damage per round), but it is a great concept for the GM to understand as well. Basically, if you want to challenge an optimizer, you need to think mathematically like they do.


This guide points out that an APL + 4 encounter is an even match, and says that’s a good challenge for players.

But another way of saying “even match” is “50% chance of a TPK”.

I’d throw a APL + 4 encounter at players as the climax of a campaign, where win or lose the game is over. Hitting them with that kind of firepower every level would result in a game of near-Paranoia lethality.

I like the idea of such a guide, so kudos for undertaking it. I’d like to see much more about creative encounter design and tactics, and less repetition of your points.


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Thank you for showing your work. Your math teacher must have loved you. :)

A very interesting guide and I look forward to more specific examples in future editions. There are all kinds of guides for players, but for GM's the field is pretty sparse. Kudos to you good sir!

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Keep Calm and Carrion wrote:

This guide points out that an APL + 4 encounter is an even match, and says that’s a good challenge for players.

But another way of saying “even match” is “50% chance of a TPK”.

I’d throw a APL + 4 encounter at players as the climax of a campaign, where win or lose the game is over. Hitting them with that kind of firepower every level would result in a game of near-Paranoia lethality.

I like the idea of such a guide, so kudos for undertaking it. I’d like to see much more about creative encounter design and tactics, and less repetition of your points.

Just to make a few points:

I'm a teacher by day and I am quite literally trained to improve knowledge retention in my students. Although you may not enjoy the repetition, I assure you that repeating important points helps many of the Guide's readers connect all of this otherwise sporadic information.

I agree with you when you say that APL + 4 encounters should not be the norm unless you are running a very brutal ship. That said, the Guide is aimed at players who want to build challenging encounters; most players don't need help building the average CR encounters, and some of the points I make can be pulled into average CR encounters as well (especially the XP per Player Chart).

And finally, I never presented this Guide as the GM's Guide to Creative Encounter Design. I understand the want to see a guide that inspires creativity, but I'm going to have to paraphrase Wes and say that anyone can be taught technical design, but no one can teach you how to be creative. If I sat down and listed hundreds of creative encounter ideas, people might use them, but they wouldn't be inspired to become more creative. They'd just be using my creative encounter designs.


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Good guide - my 10p worth:

I use terrain a LOT in encounters, especially climbing (baddie on raised elevation), occasionally swimming (a hag on a crannog for example) and difficult terrain that slows movement - essentially this is relevant to your guide for three reasons:

1. The party and the baddies are only as strong as the force they can bring to bear in an encounter (and hence may be 'sub-optimal' in terms of action economy in an encounter). Baddies can prepare for the pcs - in effect this can add to their action economy by giving them a 'bank' of relevant actions already taken.

2. Related to the above point - pc's movement characteristics are often not the same, some fly, some sink/swim, some can move faster than others, some climb better, etc. The greater the distances involved in the encounter and the more varied the movement challenges the more likely it is that the pcs will be unable to immediately bring their full force (and thence action economy) to bear. Also the more resources movement takes up (time, spells, etc.) the less there is available for combat.

3. A well designed environment can force the pcs to radically change their tactics, e.g. the pcs are fighting in a series of 5' tunnels which inter-branch the pcs can only attack and be attacked from two directions (front and rear) this dictates the maximised action economy of the party (e.g. missile fire will suffer from cover and thence be a less effective option than usual) and also some of the resources the party have to use to be effective (e.g. having to cast light spells, limitations on spells like 'enlarge', etc.)

Over all a good guide - I would add the above points as a primer for DM's to utilise non-magic ways to limit pc action economy however.

Shadow Lodge

This is great, I would love to see a few things:

Building an encounter that is good against a group of 5 or 6 as compared to 4. Such as a paragraph at the end of the dragon encounter assuming 5 players.

Adjusting the game to higher stats, such as a 25 point system or rolled stats.

Finally I note that you have 21 boggards but wouldn't this open up the encounter to a quick end through fireball or similar area of effect?

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@strayshift: The terrain point is a great one. I didn't include it initially because terrain isn't always adjustable in a campaign setting; if your campaign takes place in a rain forest, spontaneously opening it up to a desert to take advantage of that type of terrain doesn't always work. But planning your campaign in a hostile environment will make all of your encounters intrinsically harder. I will see if I can add something later.

@Seriphim: Adding a section that talks about more than four (or even less than four) PCs is a great idea. I'll see if I can put something together soon-ish.

As far as I know, there is no CR adjustment for using a higher point buy or random rolling for stats, so while its a good topic to discuss, its not a topic that I am going to mention in this guide just because there isn't a whole lot of math behind them.

It is highly unlikely that you will ever manage to hit all 21 boggards with a single fireball; the chances become even less likely if the boggards manage to swarm the players. Even if such a situation were possible, one failed concentration check and the boggards could easily disrupt the fireball. A 10th level wizard might have four of five fireballs prepared, perhaps a wand of fireball or a few scrolls, but those are still actions that aren't being directed towards the real threat of the encounter; the dragon. The average 10th level fireball deals 35 points of damage while the average 4th level boggard will probably have a ballpark estimate of 22 hit points. A successful Reflex save will probably keep the boggard in the game, and there's only a 50/50 chance that the wizard will roll high enough to eradicate a good number of boggards anyway.

Don't forget that the dragon has spell resistance at this stage of the game. By throwing more spells at the boggards, the wizard is actually lowering the odds that any one of his spells will penetrate the dragon's spell resistance simply because he'll have fewer resources to throw at it. And let's be honest, how many PCs are going to show up at a dragon's lair with fireballs prepared anyway? No one expects the boggard inquisition!


Thanks for doing this. I didn't find it repetitive in a bad way. You just emphasized the key concepts to keep in mind. Basically think outside the traditional earmarks for difficulty like CR, DPR or hit points and consider things like the number of moves the other "team" gets and/or ways they can prevent the PC's from doing what they want. I also liked ball park quick calculator for challenge rating.

We don't do experience, so that part was of less interest to me, but there are a crap-ton of math-loving purists on the boards who will appreciate that part as well.

I do agree addressing terrain, or even a lack thereof (flying opponents!) is another great way to make an opponent challenging. But overall this was helpful.


I agree with Keep Calm, in that a CR+4 encounter is, by design, 50% chance of a party wipe. If your parties can routinely beat CR+4 monsters, then they're either exceptional players or your DM is bad at tactics. In my playgroup, which was a mix of wargamers, who designed characters to win, and RPers, which were more haphazard and designed characters for coolness factor, we found that CR+2 was a "pull out all the stops and you can win" level of encounter. CR+4 was "pull out all the stops and and you might still all die." Even a CR+1 or CR+2 enconuter can kill a party member if you don't coordinate well, or if you have a couple bad breaks, so blithely saying that you should use CR+4 encounters normally bothers me.

One thing in particular that was addressed peripherally was the encounter composition of the CR+4 encounter. 1 monster of CR+4 vs a CR or CR+1 monster and the balance to CR+4 made up of low-CR trash is wildly different. For one, as Seraphim mentions, one or two fireballs will clear out most of the trash. So basically, the encounter hangs on whether the casters can launch AoEs before they get swarmed, and if they can, it's back down to a CR+1 encounter, which is fine.

On the issue of repetition: if you're delivering training, repetition emphasizes your point. This isn't training though. In this case, repetition makes it seem like you're getting paid by the word and just padding the column, or else you don't have a lot to say and want it to look more substantial than it is.

Sczarni

Good work.

I've been gaming since the late eighties and been a GM for much of hat time. You articulated some things I've been pondering for quite sometime, and you've done it rather succinctly in my opinion. I found the repetition useful as I didn't have to go back and re-read sections.

Thank you.

I look forward to your section on larger parties... It's easy to presume that a party of 5 pc's would be about 20% harder, given they have 20% more actions... Not always the case though. What messes me up is when that 5th player is a "summoner" of some sort.

My group consists of 5 players. 4 of them attend any given week. There are 3 constants and 2 players who seem to have alternate schedules. They happen to be a Wizard and a Druid. When those guys both show up it's not as easy as increasing the difficulty by 20%. Because like you illustrate so well it's the action economy that is the real killer.

When the Druid and Wizard can summon minions to eat actions, it buys them even more time to buff during combat without losing any of their own actions (seemingly)...

It gets incredibly tricky to track so many moving parts, and if I add "actions" to compensate I find the parties success can literally hinge on the roll of the dice...

Any advice on that would be welcomed.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Awesome guide. I was aware of most of the things in it already, but it's great to have it concisely written down.


I look forward to reading this at home since google docs is blocked here at work.

Shadow Lodge

@Alexander Augunas

Great points on the Boggards. I suppose I am just a little biased because I have an AOE wrecking ball in my group for Rise of the Runelords. But that's ok you are still right.

I used a lot of your thoughts when the group fought a single BBEG last night. Didn't add enemies but used a new understanding of action economy to make him a threat that lasted. Thanks!

Looking forward to your thoughts about non-standard parties. :)

@ Krodjin

Just a thought on your summoning issue. Protection from X is a great spell to use against the wizard's summons. Depending on the levels you are playing at Greater dispel magic and control Summoned Creature are both very nice as well.


dot

Silver Crusade

dot.


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This is great more of this is needed


I'd suggest adding a section on enforcing rules. I see a lot of tables let things slide in favor of the players, which makes everything easier.

1. Two hands

Many players are sloppy about what they are carrying. A heavy shield is one hand, a weapon is one hand, spell casting is one hand, and manipulating the environment is one hand.

So, you can't open the door, 5ft step through, and attack with a sword and heavy shield.

2. Actions

Getting stuff out and putting it away takes TIME. Enforce this.

So, you can't draw a potion, move to your comrade, and feed it to them. That's two moves and a standard, more if the potion was in your pack.

3. Conditions

If you are stunned, panicked, or unconcious, you drop your gear.

So, if revived, you can't stand up, pick up your sword, pick up your shield, and move. That's four move actions, or two full turns.


Isn't the shield supposed to stay strapped to your arm?


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So im trying to understand the EXP per player so I use that as an amount per player at table right so if I have 5 players and they are all first level if I want a solid encounter like CR plus 2 I would have 1000 xp to spend in buying enemies is that correct


Matthew Downie wrote:
Isn't the shield supposed to stay strapped to your arm?

I'd allow that, actually, on second thought. Still true for two-weapon fighters, and many wand wielders.

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Joey Virtue wrote:
This is great more of this is needed

What kind of advice would you like to see?

Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

I'd suggest adding a section on enforcing rules. I see a lot of tables let things slide in favor of the players, which makes everything easier.

1. Two hands

Many players are sloppy about what they are carrying. A heavy shield is one hand, a weapon is one hand, spell casting is one hand, and manipulating the environment is one hand.

So, you can't open the door, 5ft step through, and attack with a sword and heavy shield.

2. Actions

Getting stuff out and putting it away takes TIME. Enforce this.

So, you can't draw a potion, move to your comrade, and feed it to them. That's two moves and a standard, more if the potion was in your pack.

3. Conditions

If you are stunned, panicked, or unconcious, you drop your gear.

So, if revived, you can't stand up, pick up your sword, pick up your shield, and move. That's four move actions, or two full turns.

I think a lot of that comes from general lack of player knowledge (including the GM). A section on commonly forgotten rules could definitely be useful. What other sort of rules would you like to see in the guide?

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Joey Virtue wrote:
So im trying to understand the EXP per player so I use that as an amount per player at table right so if I have 5 players and they are all first level if I want a solid encounter like CR plus 2 I would have 1000 xp to spend in buying enemies is that correct

Exactly. You want a Hard Encounter (CR +2), so you use the table and grab the XP Values for each player in the group. You have five 1st level players, so it looks like this:

Player 1 (1st) — 200 xp
Player 2 (1st) — 200 xp
Player 3 (1st) — 200 xp
Player 4 (1st) — 200 xp
Player 5 (1st) — 200 xp

Total: 1,000 XP.

So that means you get to go through and find monsters in your bestiary whose XP totals equals 1,000, and that should be a Challenging encounter for your party. Remember that a "Hard" encounter will only drain about 50% to 75% of the player's resources on average, and with good playing it will be even less. Also remember that resources are EVERYTHING from potions and hit points to daily use abilities and spell slots. And remember you're talking about the party's resources, not everyone's.


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Awesome sauce!

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Side Note: I've finally gotten off my butt and added a section that gives some tips and pointers about using terrain in encounters.


This guide is super helpful if only for the budget calculator.


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You've failed to mention hazards, such as inclement weather, and smart enemies.

Tucker's Kobolds are an example here, but if there's one subtle thing that can really rustle some dungeon diver jimmies, it's a low ceiling. 4 feet high is enough for a Kobold to be comfortable, but almost every humanoid in the medium category is going to be taking the squeezing penalty at all times because of the awkward stance.

Low ceilings, Blizzards, Extreme Heat/Cold, etc, etc. Anything to really ramp up the difficulty. Endure Elements is a potent spell, and control weather is an integral high level spell slot to waste and that's assuming it's even late game.

An example would be, well, a fighter. He's came after your wizard for various reasons, perhaps a bad rumor, or a myriad sense of justice, and he's got Use Magic Device and Knowledge: Arcana trained up. He knows that wizards need somatic components to do their blasting, so if he gets close, he's only going to attack if the tickly fingers of doom start to dance.

And if he's using a bow, he's going to shoot him every time he tries to do something. Very few wizards take the concentration checks, and even fewer expect for someone to get a legitimate drop on them.

Encounters are entirely story inclined, really. It might be an adventure game, but running into a Dragon with 22 Boggards isn't something you just randomly bump into, that's the kind of thing that's plagued the locals for months, stealing away women and shiny things to appease their god. This could be achieved by having the PC's run into a Boggard Ranger 4, and a Druid with Boggard Warriors, not to mention the fact the Dragon "God" is going to have a high level druid as a sort of Shaman.

Preparing encounters isn't so much as having the encounters ready as it is having the quota set. "There's a Dragon here, Cr 10, and his 3 druid shamans that worship him each have their own cavalcade of warriors" and hell, there might even be a champion among them that wins battles over and over again for the dragon's amusement.

On another note, the dragon may have gotten too greedy, and grown fat as all physical probability, reducing it's fly speed and raising it's constitution accordingly, which would actually make it's breathe that much stronger at a cost, keeping the CR the same. He'll lose a bit of dex, but it's all the same in the end.

Little twitches, all the same, you could even have it storm, or monsoon, as is common to swamps. On another note that could even be what they were waiting for, to make a big sacrifice, and it could even be the culminating moment.

That said, I still enjoyed the read. I just prepare my encounters very specifically, haha. Plus it helps to find players that like "General Railroads" the kind of thing where it all leads to the same conclusion, but with multiple paths.

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Duboris wrote:
You've failed to mention hazards, such as inclement weather, and smart enemies.

Just a heads up, using words like, "failed" isn't really a good way to get someone to take your ideas to heart, its inflammatory. Phrases like, "overlooked' or "haven't talked about yet," would have had the same general meaning (i.e. its not in your guide) while not sounding like a personal attack.

Quote:

Tucker's Kobolds are an example here, but if there's one subtle thing that can really rustle some dungeon diver jimmies, it's a low ceiling. 4 feet high is enough for a Kobold to be comfortable, but almost every humanoid in the medium category is going to be taking the squeezing penalty at all times because of the awkward stance.

Low ceilings, Blizzards, Extreme Heat/Cold, etc, etc. Anything to really ramp up the difficulty. Endure Elements is a potent spell, and control weather is an integral high level spell slot to waste and that's assuming it's even late game.

Ah, Tucker's Kobolds. You know, I replicated that scenario once. I had a bunch of goblin alchemists scurring through stone corridors launching bombs at the players. What did I learn from it? It was not a fun encounter for anyone. Actually, I might write about that, the difference between a challenging encounter and a punishing encounter.

The point about low ceilings, however, is a good one. I graze over extreme temperatures a little bit in my Terrain Notes, but I suppose I could expand upon it more.

Quote:

An example would be, well, a fighter. He's came after your wizard for various reasons, perhaps a bad rumor, or a myriad sense of justice, and he's got Use Magic Device and Knowledge: Arcana trained up. He knows that wizards need somatic components to do their blasting, so if he gets close, he's only going to attack if the tickly fingers of doom start to dance.

And if he's using a bow, he's going to shoot him every time he tries to do something. Very few wizards take the concentration checks, and even fewer expect for someone to get a legitimate drop on them.

Spellcraft would probably be a better spell here, but a section on anti-spellcaster tactics could certainly be a good one.

Quote:
Encounters are entirely story inclined ...

That's true, but my guide isn't about how to design a good story. Its about how to build a challenging encounter. A wise man once said that anyone can tell a story, but only some people are authors. The same is true in GMing. Any GM can tell a story, but not every GM is strong at building the encounters to supplement their story. My guide just gives you the tools to make your encounters as memorable as you want them to be.

Quote:
That said, I still enjoyed the read. I just prepare my encounters very specifically, haha. Plus it helps to find players that like "General Railroads" the kind of thing where it all leads to the same conclusion, but with multiple paths.

Now its my turn to shower you with a story. >:)

My GM warned my brother and I that he was going to railroad us when we walked into game one week. I shrugged and my brother sighed. He doesn't like having choices made for him, I was willing to wait and see what our GM was planning.

So we're going about our downtime when a dragon attacks us, destroys one of our buildings, and makes us all look like chumps before murdering one of our NPCs (who gave her life to protect my character, the ruler) and fleeing after our party magus critically hit him for over 40 damage in one swing in anger at my apparent death. (Hint: The NPC was a bard who knocked me out with deeper sleep and then used disguise self to charge into the battle looking like me). As you can imagine, we were both infuriated and immediately tracked the wounded dragon to his lair, ambushed him, and killed him. And we were railroaded into it.

The trick is that a good railroad isn't one that the GM sets you on. A good railroad is one that the GM puts before the players and they willingly follow. Maybe they're motivated by promised of treasure. Of fame or of fortune. Maybe they just want to kill the dragon who made them look like chumps. It doesn't matter, because in the end the players are invested in the story. Even if it was a one-track ride.


Dot.


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So I run Adventure Paths and some modules. Can you give some examples of changing some of the encounters with in APs to make them more challenging just by the numbers.

Thanks in advance


Very nice. Dot.


From your 4v4 section toward the beginning, "Thog, Sabine, Malak, Helga, and Drz’zt" You include 5 villains but later say there are only 4. Just wanted to point that out to avoid confusion for anyone. :)

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Joey Virtue wrote:

So I run Adventure Paths and some modules. Can you give some examples of changing some of the encounters with in APs to make them more challenging just by the numbers.

Thanks in advance

Hrm, okay. I'll see what I can do. I need to finish updating the Weather section so that I am more pleased with it, so I'll add it on my list of things to do.

I own Carrion Crown: The Haunting of Harrowstone, so I'll be using that adventure as my example.

Strannik wrote:
From your 4v4 section toward the beginning, "Thog, Sabine, Malak, Helga, and Drz’zt" You include 5 villains but later say there are only 4. Just wanted to point that out to avoid confusion for anyone. :)

Fixed, dropped poor Malak. Guess I let my Order of the Stick rampant fanboyism flare there. :-)

Contributor

For those of you counting at home, here are the features I'm planning on working on:

— Updating the Terrain section so it is more helpful.
— Possibly expanding Terrain so it includes Weather.
— Section on Punishing Encounters vs. Challenging Encounters.
— Updating the Terrain section to include urban challenges. (Such as low ceilings.)
— Section that gives an example on how to update an existing Adventure Path to become more Challenging.

Anything else you gals and guys would like to see?


Very impressive guide. I like how you explain the maths behind the charts.

Best part is the example and comparaison with the linear guild, makes a lot of senses.
I like the exemple with the dragon fight and i would like to ask you some questions:

You choose a green dragon cr 11 and a lot of cr 4. Lets assume 4 pc: how low is "too low" for cr? I know eventually they will swam and hit the mage and other squishy targets but how can you challenge the melee guy with lots if low cr? Do you have advice like: never go below Level - X or take Y creature type...

+1 for encounter with more than 4 pc.

Very nice work, i was planning my final campaign boss fight (2 dragons) but because of this, i will modify my campaign to split the fight (and I got great idea because of this)


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Dotting for later reading.

I think a good encounter design guide could be the start of a hardcover book!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4

Alexander Augunas wrote:

Ah, Tucker's Kobolds. You know, I replicated that scenario once. I had a bunch of goblin alchemists scurring through stone corridors launching bombs at the players. What did I learn from it? It was not a fun encounter for anyone. Actually, I might write about that, the difference between a challenging encounter and a punishing encounter.

Alexander, nice work on this writeup - The material you mention here would make an excellent addition to your guide. There's a huge difference between a tribe of 21 boggard fighters, and a tribe of 21 boggard alchemists. But it's not a difference that can be shown by the numbers. Numerically, these encounters are the same.

BUT - There's also something to be said for increasing challenge by using variety. While the 21-boggard melee in your example is technically a challenge, it is a pretty uniform one. If four of those boggards are clerics, six are barbarians, eight are spear-hurling fighters placed strategically on the battlefield, and the remaining three are a bard, sorcerer, and druid, you have a much more complex, and greatly more challenging, encounter (particularly with a CR11 green dragon circling overhead)

Also, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the merits of using consumables as a challenge-enhancer. Do your 21-boggards have potions of heroism or speed? How about Invisibility or Silence? It's probably worth the thought exercise to include the use of consumable resources in this discussion.

Thanks, and I'm looking forward to further reading!


These a just my thoughts on the matter so feel free to disregard. For the sake of simplicity I tend to make all of the mooks in an encounter fall into one or two types at most. I would have no problem adding the bard, sorc and druid to the encounter but I would add 2 levels and have them take up the space of 2 mooks instead of just one.

As to minimum level i find that APL-5 is min for melee mooks while even a CR 1 spellcaster can be meaningful in an encounter. This can be greatly magnified if each melee mook gives up a little treasure to by the first level wizard a wand of scorching ray with 3 charges. For the sake of fairness on that note I limit everything to APL-5.

Just remember that a mooks job is not to hurt the party but force the party to focus on them instead of the BBEGs. Even if they never land a blow on the party but they a blaster spends two or three rounds eliminating them and they keep the melee guy away from the BB then they did their job.

I try an make mooks do more then damage since they tend not to hit hard or well. A mook who trips or disarms or shakes the party when successful make them much more difficult to ignore.


Mooks can get in the way, but they can also pile up and use their numbers -- flanking, aid another, low-level bard for +1, low-level cleric for +1, and suddenly an APL-5 minion is swinging like an APL-1 who might well hit. Poisoned weapons (at least for some foes) might also make life more difficult for the players. Nets, reach weapons, and a few other simple tools and tricks can improve chances of achieving something enormously.


You talk about action ecomnony and the table of 4 and how are on a scale or balenced for them. You also talk about wealth by level and it balanced point. But you do not talk about point buy scales and power. The AP are all written for 4 PC with average wealth and 15 point buys. If you play table of 6 and 20 points it will make the game much easyer.

Sczarni

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Alexander Augunas wrote:


I think a lot of that comes from general lack of player knowledge (including the GM). A section on commonly forgotten rules could definitely be useful. What other sort of rules would you like to see in the guide?

Ranged attacks and cover:

Shooting into melee? That's-4
Ally in the way? Now your at -8.

Determining who has cover relative to you is often overlooked by both players and GM's.

Nothing simplifies combat for an Archer more than letting him full attack round after round without taking cover into account.

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