member, 1 post
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 18:21
Need Encounter Building Assistance
I don't need a DM/GM for my game, but from one GM to another, I could really use some help developing more difficult and in-depth encounters for my players.

I've got a D&D/Pathfinder game with characters who are now levels 10-12 and they are REALLY well optimized. I'm having a really hard time challenging them. I've read tons of articles on adding class levels, changing terrain, multiple waves of enemies, bosses with underlings, and the like. Unfortunately I'm having a hard time pulling all that together.

If you really enjoy building fights, would you be interesting in collaborating with me?

Help me design evil NPCs to throw against my players?

Help me build battle fields on, or just give me the ideas and I'll make them.

Any assistance will be greatly appreciated!

Maybe we could even make a new thread with all the tips, NPCs, maps, etc. to aid others?
Wait... something like that doesn't already exist does it?!
 member, 163 posts
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 19:27
Need Encounter Building Assistance
I think this should be over on GPIA.

Are you playing it out on RPOL, or is it all playing out on Roll20?

Are you wanting people to simply help you crowdsource ideas for challenges and building the NPCs, or will they get to actually control the NPCs, make their rolls, choose their tactics, etc?
 member, 813 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 19:49
Need Encounter Building Assistance
I'd be interested in discussing it with you, but it sounds like the main thing you need is alternate goals. If the only way for the PCs to lose is for them to die, and the main way for them to win is for them them to kill everything, then the monsters are set up to lose, and probably lose pretty easily. So, change the victory conditions, for the PCs and the opposition.

Contact me to discuss further what I mean.
 member, 13 posts
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 20:23
Need Encounter Building Assistance
If your PCs are just killing things too quickly you can add a couple more enemies to each encounter, buff their health by a bit (doesn't even need to be quantified, just decide it takes another attack or two to kill rather than adding a flat 100 hp or something), if a PC likes to lock down big enemies in a grapple or some other saving throw ability just buff the NPC saving throw, one thing I do is add Pack Tactics to like every minion creature to increase their lethality if the PCs get swarmed. You may not need to use all the tips in one encounter, try them out and see if they help.
 subscriber, 135 posts
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 20:55
Need Encounter Building Assistance
Iíll echo engineís comments.  Pull them in different directions.  A dynamic encounter that doesnít involve destroying everything in sight can be fun.

Maybe the MacGuffin needs to be placed in such-and-such location?

Cool, only problem is there are 39 monsters between them and the goal ... the encounter just became about more than squishing enemies.  Itís about mobility. Can they thread the needle?  Sure, youíll eventually win against the monsters ... but what happens if they slow you down too much?

Maybe the temple sinks?  Put them on a clock. Total domination is easy when the tempo is irrelevant.  Itís a lot harder when you have to jump through someone elseís hoops and only have X rounds.

And maybe introduce conflicting (or at least separate) goals that divide their attention?

Well, sure, the temple is slowly sinking into the swamp, replacing the idol would probably stop that, but if you focus your attention on that ... whoís going to save the princess? You know, the one on the other side of the chamber that the necromancer has trussed up on the altar.  You guys can do one or the other ... unless you wanted to split up and try both?

 Either way .... the 39 salivating horror-beasts are closing in. Clocks ticking. Actions?

I would also keep them tired between encounters.  I think too often, players show up fully charged, fully rested for the big fight.  Wear them down a bit.  Make them burn some daily powers just fighting their way to the inner sanctum or whatever.  One facet of D&D games is about resource allocation after all. If they burn too quick, too bright ... the back end becomes more of a challenge.
 member, 814 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 21:58
Need Encounter Building Assistance
In reply to Ski-Bird (msg # 5):

Exactly. Have some ways to fail that can't be rectified with some healing spells or a night's rest. Put in situations from which no more than a partial victory is going to be possible.

Movies, stories and many other games demonstrate this kind of thing. I don't recommend pulling the rug out from underneath them, and I don't recommend making damage dealing entirely ineffective, but killing everything should be neither necessary nor sufficient.

Do this for the monsters too. Not all of them are going to willingly keep trying to kill the PCs when that doesn't seem possible. What will they try to accomplish instead? What is something they can accomplish, despite dying?

I also recommend asking your players for suggestions. If they want to be challenged they'll give you ideas that they won't then short circuit with their foreknowledge. If they don't want to be challenged, then that's good to know before putting a lot of thought into this.
 member, 207 posts
 Momento Mori
Mon 11 Jan 2021
at 23:07
Need Encounter Building Assistance
I use countdown timers (professor dungeon craft) in all my games. I put them on the table a lot of the times and donít say what they are for. The players have quickly come to realize that the bad thing will happen in 6 somethings. Sometimes itís 6 rounds. Sometimes itís 6 dice rolls, or hits, etc. sometimes I just roll it out there and let them tell me what itís for. Turns out they think Iím way more devious than I actually am. Itís meta for sure, but it rapidly takes the focus away from smash and stab and instead makes the players work that mush between their ears.

The scariest thing they hear at the table is, ďI donít know, John, what do you think itís for?Ē

When I ran D20 games on another site, I used a system for combat very similar to Runehammerís 5e Hardcore Mode. Which basically boils combat down in to a shorter event. In my opinion, after level 10 the RAW for any D&D game is broken.

I guess my totally rambling point is that, yes, I agree with engine above and the encounters need different goals and obstacles. It also works well for me to force a party split. Give them two, or three goals that are all happening at the ďsame timeĒ and require them to tackle the issues concurrently. Otherwise, the baddy wins and the Princess gets it.
 member, 815 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Tue 12 Jan 2021
at 17:00
Need Encounter Building Assistance
Thanks for the shouts. It's nice to know I'm not the only one advocating alternate goals.

I agree this should be moved to Advice.

Timers are good and they don't have to be meta, as long as there's a set up of something plausible that the PCs can't necessarily do anything about. This could be the arrival of overwhelming reinforcements, for example, though in a high-level D&D games that might not be plausible. There might not be any plausible inevitability in such a game. But explosions, collapses, storms, fires, etc. can result in countdowns.