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emblasochist
06-15-2009, 01:40 PM
So, my PCs had their first combat encounter Friday and I thought that the 29 human rabble I had them face would be a bit of a tough fight, even though they are all minions. The party tore through the gang like a orbital laser through a wet paper towel. I know that part of it had to do with the fact that the mob of people they faced had a combined HP of 29, and defenses that were a bit low on the scale of things, but it really underwhelmed me when the party started watching movie trailers online while they were in the combat. But I've decided that I'm going to make every combat fall into the Hard to Very Hard range, based upon the experience payout tables.

So, tell me, how do you GMs decide when the party's being pampered in their combat encounters and how much do you scale it up when its necessary?

Valdar
06-15-2009, 01:50 PM
I figure level +1 is the bare minimum, and level +2 is about standard.

Minions are freebie xp, particularly with a controller in the party- an all-minion fight will be very short indeed (I've done one all-minion fight- the objective was to kill the minions before they were able to get into position for ritual suicide to summon something actually challenging...)

As the party's moving through the Paragon tier, I'm looking for ways to increase the challenge without making the fights drag on for hours.

Q-man
06-15-2009, 01:57 PM
I've found thats extremely hard to judge. Some encounters I've thought would be a real challenge, like yours seemed it would be, but then the party cut them down with ease.

I've taken to use less minions, and replace a few with enemies with more hit points. I'll choose something a level lower so it doesn't make the encounter too difficult. It just seems that since they take two hits to bring down it really ups the difficulty.

With all the various area attacks that are available cutting through minions just seems a little to easy. Now that may be specific to the tactics being used. One encounter took place through several interconnected rooms of a dungeon, kind of a twisty labyrinth. The combat hit the party from a couple different angles and the space was too tight for area attacks to be very effective. Since I had taken out a chunk of the minions the party was nearly wiped out.

I guess you have to really take a look at the parties tactics and the terrain the fight is in. I'm starting to favor moving fights that don't have a single line of attack. When the party gets spread out or has to deal with flanking attackers they are forced to use tactics more and the fights seem more challenging for them.

That can't work everywhere though, you don't always get twisty terrain to make them work with. So you kinda need a few different gimmicks and tricks to keep the challenge right where you want it.

emblasochist
06-15-2009, 01:57 PM
I figure level +1 is the bare minimum, and level +2 is about standard.

Minions are freebie xp, particularly with a controller in the party- an all-minion fight will be very short indeed (I've done one all-minion fight- the objective was to kill the minions before they were able to get into position for ritual suicide to summon something actually challenging...)

As the party's moving through the Paragon tier, I'm looking for ways to increase the challenge without making the fights drag on for hours.

Damn, I hadn't thought of that. It was a wholesale slaughter, and the PCs really had no chance of loosing unless EVERY roll they made was a BAD roll. I didn't have a specific goal other than the gang to beat them up and steal their gold. That was my fault, I realize now. I guess what I should have done is make it so that if the group were surrounded two men thick they'd lose the encounter, but I didn't have such a plan...

What I planned to do for future fights is to make it so that the exp range is appropriate for about a party 5-6 levels higher because my campaign kind of necessitates a LOT of minions. However, if the exp range is appropriate for a about 5 or more levels higher, and I include more than JUST minions, I think the battles will still have their epic scales that are appropriate for the campaign, but also make it a bit of a challenge, I think.

I guess another thing that made an impact was, like you said, Q-man the terrain and the tactics. The party has a spellsword that was built around the crowd control role, and the terrain was all flat land in an open field. He took out at least 10 of the minions, and that really killed the mood of the fight for me, and for the party.

RoryN
06-15-2009, 02:07 PM
Back in the 2E days, whenever one of us DM'd, we gave our monsters full HP for whatever HD they had, thus making encounters a bit more challenging for the characters (it also saved time rolling HP for them). Sometimes all it took was for a creature to have some sort of minor magical device to make the characters (and players) think twice before entering into battle. Keep 'em guessing, that's what I have done in the past.

templeorder
06-15-2009, 02:32 PM
I've taken out 9th level characters with kobolds - its not HP that matter, its intelligence. This is the problem with some of the later editions of DnD, is the rules are so specific, its easy to fall inside of a box thats hard to get out of. Use your imagination. A mob of 29 people... well, thats pretty much death under normal circumstances in real life. Its really easy for 3-4 of a mob to simply grapple and take a PC down, even in heavy armor. Once down, AoO abound, and with massive bonuses - and the PC's maybe killed a few while it happened. Thats a mob. How smart are the opponents - traps, tricks, coordinated attacks... its easy to turn a easy encounter into a really difficult one if you put some intelligence behind the foes. Use your imagination and style - thats what role-playing is all about, try not to get boxed into the roll-playing part.

As a GM style, i don't like a lot of combat, but i like nearly every combat to represent some level of risk. It makes fight scenes more memorable for me and my players... but thats style. When you learn all the tricks of a system as a savvy GM, you can scale any encounter out to make it harder or easier to fit the current party. But i like 'em tough!

SilenzZzz
06-15-2009, 02:44 PM
last home made one i did ... i had to adjust it on the fly ... almost TPKd the group at the first encounter .. which was 25 goblin minions that were hiding and waiting for them to show up (and the part failed to check all the areas so only knew of 5 of them) ...

i also tend to send in one or three big guys and have the minions fall in behind them for the combat ... which makes a bit more sense to me .. that the weaker ones would follow behind the big guy to back him up ... more then the big guy stand in the back and wait for all of them to get slaughtered first...

the final encounter for that adventure was one boss mob (a frost giant that i had de-leveled down to lvl 3 (part were all lvl1s, 5 of em) .. and two lvl 2 champion type mobs as well that joined in the fight when the boss got bloodied... was an interesting fight .. cleric had to actually back off and focus on healing for the last part of it ... and the two ranged strikers that had moved off to the side to shoot, each got targeted by a champion so it left the defender and cleric to deal with the boss mob ...

Tamburlain
06-15-2009, 02:48 PM
As a rule of thumb I try to make most combat encounters difficult enough so that the players habitually begin to think of alternatives to combat, whenever possible.

templeorder
06-15-2009, 02:53 PM
As a rule of thumb I try to make most combat encounters difficult enough so that the players habitually begin to think of alternatives to combat, whenever possible.

Totally agree - i almost always leave a way for the PC's to walk away, or in at least half the cases, bypass or blow through combat with surprise and advantage. When it does happen, it leaves wounds, used items, shredded armor, and used up characters in its wake. Even with healing, everyone of my players knows that character combat is nasty, and its the last option.

Moritz
06-15-2009, 02:59 PM
They often complained that 'it's too hard', 'the CR is too high'. But the most common result was that they killed the monster(s).

SilenzZzz
06-15-2009, 03:01 PM
i have had more players compliment me afterwards and thank me for making something hard ... because they actually had to take into consideration that they may need to break combat and run to stay alive ... instead of knowing that they were going to win the fight.

emblasochist
06-15-2009, 03:22 PM
Thats the thing though. They had no reason to think that they were going to succeed other than the possibility of thinking he's not gonna tpk us on the first encounter... But it wasn't a president they could count on because we never played before. I have an idea for an encounter that can be totally minion based now. An ancient red dragon's at the end of the map and he's looking for a tasy morsel of people. And there be a wall of 50 dwarves between the party and the safety of the caves of safety. Only, them dwarves aren't taking guests... Queue the music for the party to have to kill the dwarves and get to the caves before the dragon gobbles them up. Now THAT is a difficult encounter... Specially at level 1-3 range. Only, how do I reward exp for that?

John L
06-15-2009, 03:42 PM
Hey, just an idea, but what about mixing a bunch of innocents among the rabble like children who the rabble ignore going after the shiny PCs. Not cool nuking kids unless your party is all evil. Then throw in some distractions like a crazed mom on the side lines screaming "Save my Baby, (in the name of the cleric or paladins god) please save my baby". Then you can add to the excitement by having norms running in and out of the combat trying to grab kids and or "help" the PCs by getting in the way and creating distractions for your Rabble. Nothing quite like being flanked by a three year old crying, " I want my Mommy". I'm not evil, I just GM that way. JohnL

Arkhemedes
06-15-2009, 05:02 PM
I tend to vary the difficulty of encounters a great deal. I don't ever want the players to know that they have to gear up for every battle. I want them to think about when it's a good time to whip out the bad ass spells and such and when to save them for another encounter - not just assume they'll need them every time. Plus I think this approach gives the world a more realistic feel. I have a thing about tailor made dungeons and adventures. Real life just doesn't fall into such neat categories.

Sometimes this strategy catches the players off guard and they get their butts kicked. But I always try to stress to my players to learn as much about their enemy as possible beforehand. Sometimes of course this isn't practical. At other times, however, this approach can backfire. There have been times (too many times) when I'm thinking that the players will stumble blindly into an encounter as they so often do, and I'll be thinking it will be a tough fight for them. Then they end up doing something unexpected, such as magically spying on the enemy or something to that effect, and when I give them an indication that it should be a tough fight, they over do it with their preparations (gulping down potions of giant strength, casting haste, etc.). The next thing I know is that what I had thought would be a tough fight, ends up being a cake-walk.

I guess the moral of the story is that, because I can be so unpredictable, the players also end up being unpredictable. It's definitely a challenge to get the difficulty factor just right enough times to make it feel like a successful game night. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. That's why I often give myself contingencies for encounters. If I feel the battle just isn't tough enough I send in reinforcements, or I will change memorized spells for the opponents in the middle of the fight, or maybe even a magic item will suddenly appear in the pocket of a villain - what ever is needed to give the PCs the appropriate challenge. The same can be done if I've over done it as far as difficulty (which is essentially a mistake on my part and not the player's fault). If this is the case, my monsters may suddenly develop a case of the fumbles or something. As long as the players don't realize what's going on, it works. Some may think this is cheating on the GM's part. But I say nonsense. The players know that they're going through my version of a fantasy world and if I suddenly decide that monkeys can fly then they better start believing monkeys can fly.

As I've stated elsewhere, I believe a GM should be more concerned about providing a good story and a good setting for his players rather than simply trying to make them run the gauntlet of death, because in the end I'm rooting for my player's success. Plus, I hate having to stop in the middle of a night, so that players can make up new characters. It tends to slow down the game way too much and puts a damper on the whole night. Eventually new backgrounds for the new characters have to be made and yada, yada, yada. Frankly, I prefer to keep that kind of thing to a minimum - but that's just me.

korhal23
06-15-2009, 05:02 PM
I like to vary how difficult my fights are. Some of the fights players get into are pushovers. And some individual fights will take a party from freshly rested to damn near dead. I find that you just need to use imagination to make a fight difficult... Making tactically interesting maps is the first step. Slopes, stairs, cover, concealment, dark and light, traps, murderholes, guards logically positioned... these are all important factors. The next part is using effective combinations of mobs. Controllers can really mess up a party's game plan, healers are obvious trouble, snipers can plink off the folks in the back, lurkers can pop up and start backstabbing the crap out of the defender. But also don't have an analog fight. By that I mean don't have several, self-contained rooms where the PCs walk in, slaughter the whole group, and move on to the next room, and everyone fights to the death forever. Have reinforcements show up, have mobs run if the become bloodied and get backup by warning the next room, allies/noncombatants can create a new layer of tension, introduce monster types they haven't seen, and generally never let the players get too comfortable.

On that note, the only time that players should really FEAR a TPK (had they access to your notes) would be during Climax scenes (I organize my campaigns by Campaign, Quest, and Scene from largest to smallest scale, a holdover from my love of Spycraft, and I tend to rate their lethality for my own reference). It comes down to the default feel for fourth edition. Your players are big heroes, not scrub peasants with swords. They should be confident, with the knowledge that they are NOT unbeatable.

You're the DM. You know EXACTLY how the fight is unfolding. You know the lethality of the current scene. The players don't. The key to a well designed encounter is they think they skated by by the skin of the teeth, whether or not that's actually the case.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-15-2009, 05:15 PM
Very hard! Tactical thinking is always required, so if you think hack and slash, you will most surely die. If you endeavor to always find the best positioning, and or force the enemy into the worst positioning, then you have a good chance to come out of it in one piece.

Had a party that got slaughtered. They called it unfair. One even said that after his 10+ years of playing, his assessment was fair. Ha! I laughed in his face. Then i proceeded to tell them step by step of the scenario, why their gaming stupidity ended with a tpk They deserved it, btw. One even did grind his teeth but had to admit my assessment was logical.

In the end, these players started playing smart, and paid attention to their surroundings, and allowed their characters to play their respective class. After a few more sessions, they admitted that my style breathed new life into the game, and boy, let me tell you, these guys were always focused and thinking 3 moves ahead.

They ask me back to Virginia every year to play dnd. They also want their kids to play along with the rest of us, all enjoying a good game of dnd, just like the old days. I promised them in 2010, the game is on. All 6 players have already told their wives to prepare for a few days of hard-core gaming.

Sure, you can sugarcoat adventures to keep players alive, but i have found that being difficult but fair, will create life-long loyal gamers.

emblasochist
06-15-2009, 05:59 PM
Um, if I give the players a scenario where they have to essentially outrun a Big Red into a bunch of caves. And between the party and the caves is a gang of dwarves that are protecting their caves. And what's better than that is the caves lead to the sliver hive. The players will have I think 3 turns to get to the dwarves and two more to get through the dwarves four squares deep. If they don't get through, the character is a eated. And the dragon exudes an aura of anti-magic so they can't teleport either.

The trick will be convincing the group to wait on my campaign and play one of someone else's game while I get a Big Red. Other than that, it'll be a GREAT game night.

Umiushi
06-16-2009, 03:43 AM
So, tell me, how do you GMs decide when the party's being pampered in their combat encounters and how much do you scale it up when its necessary?
It hasn't happened yet, but if the party breezes through an encounter and gets some decent treasure with only their at-will powers, and not spending any healing surges, by 4th edition standards, I'd say they're getting pampered. Any combat that's going to count towards the next milestone has to see the party get scratched up and having to rely on their encounter powers, at least, to get through it.

My tabletop party's second level, and the party in my online game is first level, so my experience may not bear out for the higher levels. I've found that encounters at-level seem to go all over the place, but once I make an encounter even one level higher, it gets pretty easy to start overwhelming the party. At this point in my campaigns, I don't think I'd employ an encounter two or more levels higher unless I gave the enemies a handicap (which would effectively lower the level of the encounter anyway) or was planning to wipe out a few characters from the get-go. So, to go back to your question, I've found that bumping it up a single level is all it takes at this point to make a party sweat. My climax was two levels higher than the party, and one of the players later told me it was one of the scariest encounters in all the time she'd been playing. Well, I think that had more to do with how easy it is to break down doors and walls and stuff, with 4th edition. The enemies get to do it too, don't forget!

I've also found that even at-level encounters are pretty dangerous when any individual enemy's three or more levels higher than the PCs' level. I had two Orc Raiders and an Eye of Gruumsh take on four first level characters. The encounter ended with three of the party members bloodied, and the fourth on his final death save. I'd like to say it was because of my brilliant tactics, but all I did was play it straight and let the orcs' abilities speak for themselves. Later on, I had a less-than first level encounter: a Bloodrager downgraded to level 3, which provided an even match for the party.

A lot of DMs here have talked quite well about tactics and environment. I'd like to mention a third element: information. I don't know what sort of style other people use, but I had an advantage in that no one in the party was relying on the Monster Manual. They barely knew they were fighting orcs, and they certainly didn't know what "sort" of orc each enemy was. The Bloodrager looked like a third Raider. The Eye of Gruumsh wasn't obviously a Controller until he started tossing around spells. In a situation like that, the Bloodrager's special ability, for example, is a deadly surprise for the party that decides they're going to surround her and use melee attacks, a perfectly reasonable tactic when confronted by a single, normal opponent. Even for a party that has memorized the Monster Manual backwards and forwards, if they don't recognize that the orc's a Bloodrager, they're still going to suffer on their first round of engagement.

Therefore, one of the things I do to scale up a challenge is to limit the information the party has, or make it so that they can't rely on their information. One easy example is, since the Monster Manual was kind enough to lay out all the racial abilities in the appendix, to swap around the monster types. It may take a while for a party to realize, even when they do know the books, that they're facing a Gnoll Twilight Incanter and some Elf Dragonshields; and if your world's gnolls have green, rubbery skin, and your elfs are short, bearded fellows with green caps, it's going to get even better.

That being said, I get the feeling I go easier on my parties than a lot of the DMs here. Certainly, a party really shines when they manage to overcome incredible odds by the skin of their teeth. Nothing beats the feeling you get when you stagger out of the dungeon to see first few rays of sunrise, and the combined hit points in your party is a single-digit number. Well, the feeling you get when you see, silhouetted in the sunrise, an old enemy and his henchmen waiting for you, that's pretty unbeatable, too, but that's another story.

Anyway, there's another time a party shines, and that's when they do beat the stuffing out of their foes, with little more than a smile and a quip. Sure it's easy, and it doesn't give that gritty, hard-won feeling that the first example has; but it's still an honest victory, it's good for morale, and I do like to reward the party every now and then by letting them be the heroes they're supposed to be. However, fights like that have to be short. Nobody's smiling when the last minion goes down in round thirteen.

Diverging a little, the point of minions, as opposed to the old, low-CR enemies, is that they're supposed to go down fast! The whole point is that they both go down fast, and they threaten you big-time until they go down. A proper minion should be hitting nearly as well as a regular monster, and do as much damage as the regular monster on a bad day.

Also, at least some of the time, it shouldn't be that easy to tell the minions apart from the regular monsters. The Monster Manual often gives minions their own distinctive equipment, something I like to avoid. The orcs in hide armor with the clubs, they all have one hit point, yeah.

I can't remember who it was, but somebody made a great observation in a post several months ago: a minion isn't a super-weak version of the normal monster; it is the normal monster whom you happened to meet on the worst day of his or her life. Basically, their one hit point represents their cosmic misfortune stemming from the moment they first encountered the party.

Anyway, back encounter challenge: I like to give a mix of hard and "easy" encounters. The hard encounters may outnumber the easy ones, but the easy ones still exist for the party to revel in. Well, that and you never know when the wizard's going to panic and blow her daily spell on the pair of Kobold Minions. :lol:

By the way, you can totally scale up your challenges, if the bad guys aren't necessarily out for blood. Maybe they want to capture the party alive to question them, or ransom them, or sacrifice them. It sure is easy to do non-lethal damage these days, after all. Or you can have an even bigger threat come trundling along, and now the party and their opponents have to work together to keep from being munched by the real encounter! (Or they just have to outrun the slowest fellow, it kind of depends on the situation.) I don't recommend this unless you want to give your players a complex, but you could have the bad guys just bloody everyone in the party and then teleport away, laughing.

Q-man
06-16-2009, 05:56 AM
That's why I often give myself contingencies for encounters. If I feel the battle just isn't tough enough I send in reinforcements, or I will change memorized spells for the opponents in the middle of the fight, or maybe even a magic item will suddenly appear in the pocket of a villain - what ever is needed to give the PCs the appropriate challenge. The same can be done if I've over done it as far as difficulty (which is essentially a mistake on my part and not the player's fault). If this is the case, my monsters may suddenly develop a case of the fumbles or something. As long as the players don't realize what's going on, it works.

I can understand swapping enemy equipment around to adjust the difficulty level, and I've done it myself a few times. I never liked it though, it always felt like cheating. The goal is to tell the story, and killing the PC's really throws off the narrative a bit. So its better to cheat a bit than to ruin the immersion.

I prefer to try and make the monsters react in some way to the combat. As you mentioned have one of them run off to get reinforcements if things are too easy.

I've also had them just plain run away, perhaps the goblins buddy was just cut killed. Make the description sound like he was rather brutally slaughtered in some horrific way, then his friend goes pale and beats feet out of there never to be seen again. That can thin out the numbers a bit to ease the encounter.

Those don't work as well with encounters against undead though, since they don't get frightened.

emblasochist
06-16-2009, 08:53 AM
Well, my concern really was that I made my encounter quite a bit too easy. They walked away from the encounter with 150 xp each party member (level 1 party), and the highest damage done was 7 damage. The party as a whole I think took 11 damage. Of course it had to do with the fact that I had 29 monsters that had 1 hp per monster and their defenses were all lower than all the players defenses, and their attacks did 2 points of damage on a hit. In the future I realize that if I make it so that the enemies have a win condition other than actually killing the party, it'll make the fights more meaningful, but sometimes you still have to scale up the fights so the party doesn't get bored of the fights, especially if they like more combat than roleplay.

Moritz
06-16-2009, 08:56 AM
Sort of reminds me of Subdual Damage... Does anyone use that?

Arkhemedes
06-16-2009, 09:48 AM
Sort of reminds me of Subdual Damage... Does anyone use that?
Yeah, at times you have to if you're intent is to capture the PCs.

emblasochist
06-16-2009, 10:12 AM
Might someone explain this to me? My intent was to figure out ways of creating combat encounters that are more difficult than just hack through the tides of foes. I realized that even a 29 man gang SHOULD be able to kill a party of 5, no matter how few hp each gang member had. And the gang crumpled like cardboard in a tornado. My concern is that if I throw 100 level one minions at them, that might make it difficult, but once the battle's over, they get 2500 experience as a party... Minions seemed like they be an option because it'd be really hard to fight a ton of regular enemies instead of minions, and worse yet, is the fact that experience wouldn't be balanced if I did that. Everyone would level up way too fast if I were to make them standard monsters. And minions go down way too simply it seems. And the problem with doing that is that the nature of the campaign is basically like night of the living dead where they have to fight of armies of monsters to reach their destination and accomplish their goals. So, how do you guys think I should address this?

yukonhorror
06-16-2009, 10:38 AM
I try to mix the challenge, but also the circumstances. Some I try to make an ambush for the players, and some I set up as an ambush ON the players. Some are open field, and some are in very cramped quarters. Some are pure numbers, while others are lower number amount of high level.

I don't think each battle should be a tactical headache, but there should be variety between hard and normal.

The DMG suggests 10 encounters per level, but the level of my encounters makes it constantly 8-9.

Arkhemedes
06-16-2009, 12:07 PM
Might someone explain this to me? My intent was to figure out ways of creating combat encounters that are more difficult than just hack through the tides of foes. I realized that even a 29 man gang SHOULD be able to kill a party of 5, no matter how few hp each gang member had. And the gang crumpled like cardboard in a tornado. My concern is that if I throw 100 level one minions at them, that might make it difficult, but once the battle's over, they get 2500 experience as a party... Minions seemed like they be an option because it'd be really hard to fight a ton of regular enemies instead of minions, and worse yet, is the fact that experience wouldn't be balanced if I did that. Everyone would level up way too fast if I were to make them standard monsters. And minions go down way too simply it seems. And the problem with doing that is that the nature of the campaign is basically like night of the living dead where they have to fight of armies of monsters to reach their destination and accomplish their goals. So, how do you guys think I should address this?
Keep a couple of things in mind here: 29 to 5 might sound like 6 to 1 odds, but when you take into account the armor class, the ability to hit and do damage, and the ability to take damage, this 29 man gang is probably no match for a skilled, well-equipped adventuring party. Another thing to consider is tactics. A mob of people, if they work together, has a much better chance of taking down more skilled opponents if they try over-bearing tactics instead. Given enough people, even the most skilled warriors can be pulled down under the weight of a mob, particularly if there isn't enough room for him to swing his weapon.

Umiushi
06-16-2009, 12:23 PM
Might someone explain this to me? My intent was to figure out ways of creating combat encounters that are more difficult than just hack through the tides of foes. I realized that even a 29 man gang SHOULD be able to kill a party of 5, no matter how few hp each gang member had. And the gang crumpled like cardboard in a tornado. My concern is that if I throw 100 level one minions at them, that might make it difficult, but once the battle's over, they get 2500 experience as a party... Minions seemed like they be an option because it'd be really hard to fight a ton of regular enemies instead of minions, and worse yet, is the fact that experience wouldn't be balanced if I did that. Everyone would level up way too fast if I were to make them standard monsters. And minions go down way too simply it seems. And the problem with doing that is that the nature of the campaign is basically like night of the living dead where they have to fight of armies of monsters to reach their destination and accomplish their goals. So, how do you guys think I should address this?
I'm getting a little confused here. Did you use 29 Human Rabble on a first level party or did you use 29 Rabble with Hangovers on them? At a Dex of 10 and Int of 9, Human Rabble have an AC that should make any 1st level PC jealous, and that's when they're not in armor. They do 4 points of damage on a hit, and attack at +6 vs. AC, which is poor, but not terrible. Did you use their Mob Rule power? Did you flank the PCs? In an open plain, they should be able to move in a way that avoids opportunity attacks. I'm not sure what a spellsword does, but if a single spellsword can shut all of that down, that's an issue in itself.

In any case, if you want a "realistic" gang of 29 that can kill a party of five, never use minions. Make them fight it out with 29 normal types of party level and don't hold back. If by some miracle, the party doesn't lose, then go ahead and give them the XP reward. Unless you've handicapped the enemy, the party will get smashed rather quickly, and if you did handicap the fight, it shouldn't be worth the full amount of XP.

The point of minions is that the party is supposed to tear through them. Normally, in a mixed fight, it's a choice: do you take out all the minions (assuming you can identify them) and let the regular monsters have free rein for the first few rounds, or do you ignore the minions, who have their own fairly dangerous attacks? In an all-minion fight, the question becomes how much damage can they do to the party before they all fall down. As soon as someone starts using Control-type powers, depending on the nature of the mob, they should either break and run (no XP for the party unless the goal was to have them retreat, in which case they get XP commensurate to the challenge, like 10 XP per PC), or have the ones not in melee range spread themselves out. The other goal, which I stated earlier, would be to just use an all-minion fight as a feel-good or tutorial encounter to show off the PC powers, but that sort of encounter shouldn't be worth a lot of XP, if any. Also, as you and others astutely pointed out, it needs to be both interesting and fast.

An adventure or campaign filled with mindless mobs isn't a bad setting, but if the PCs see a street choked with zombies, that's a clue they're supposed to take to the rooftops, the secret passageway, or whatever. If the point is to literally fight through the street, I think you're playing the wrong game. You need to get some kind of tactical combat wargame going. The point of D&D combat is a small group fighting a small group. I believe the minion rule is in part a nod to the occasional small group fighting a large group encounter; as far as I can tell, it's not meant to be habitual.

yukonhorror
06-16-2009, 12:35 PM
I have heard people use a houserule for beefing up minions. Give them a 1/4 or half of what a normal creature of that level would get for hp, but their exp is 1/2 (vs. full or 1/4 for a normal minion) of a creature of that level. I think the guy called them henchmen.

I like the concept, and have been thinking about putting them in my game.

Valdar
06-16-2009, 01:27 PM
How to make minions scary:

Give them ranged attacks, and have them focus fire on a striker or controller for a couple of rounds.

29 mooks with melee attacks fighting for an adjacent space is not all that.

29 mooks with ranged attacks is a firing squad, and should make a defender take notice, and will take down a controller or striker pretty quickly.

Oh, and spread them way out, so they can't be AoEd to death.

emblasochist
06-16-2009, 03:48 PM
Rest assured that my minions will be both ranged and melee peoples. That was one mistake. The other was that I didn't mix in some elites as well. Next time there'll be like 3-4 elites and the rest minions or normals. Makes it a bit more challenging when you have to worry about which guy is slicing you up more...

Tamerath
06-16-2009, 05:25 PM
Don't feel bad at all...I ran into the same problem with minions and I've played for a year and a half solid in 4E. I've found players to be hard to take down...I used an easy encounter 1 time....took all of 5 minutes...hardly pulse pounding adventuring...nowendays I stick to Hard/Very Hard encounters...it has that classic dnd feel where the players actually have to think and survive. I agree with some of these posts as well...using the minions as ranged attackers work really well (especially to a party with limited ranged attacks)...but honestly...I don't find myself using minions as much anymore. I'd rather use a monster 2 levels lower so while they are easily defeated...one hit doesn't end their threat to a party. I also use swarms more than minions...which does about the same but they are "one" threat as opposed to 29+ easy XP targets. Swarms threaten an area around/inside/outside their squares attacking the whole party as well. You can even put like 29 minis down and as hit points get reduced you can reduce the initial size of the swarm. It's easy to overestimate the party though...especially one with a leader class...so don't be afraid to turn up the heat.

templeorder
06-16-2009, 09:25 PM
There's only personal opinions on "minions" and what they are for. If you want to have a pack of 30 to tear through, but keep it balanced, theres a way. First, recognize that any mob of that size will overwhelm a group of 6 (shield wall and a few other tactics withstanding) if they are sifficiently motivated and charging. I have fought a lot in my life, though i am no pro, but fighting multiple opponents is not like the rules make it. If you, like Spock, go "by the book", PC's could tear through them... but thats just a choice - if you want to play like that, thats fine - just be consistent. You got a horde of idiots/zombie - they are not worth much XP. For me, its ALWAYS intelligence that makes an enemy tough. I can take down 14th level characters with orcs if i get warning and a chance to plan. In the scenario you mention in passing - a horde played dumb will run into each other, ruin each other's attacks, and jump randomly from opponent - whatever's nearby. A carefull party, using good tactics and thought could take down a mob like that. But 6 people who separate up and decide to take on 6 is just risky. It may work with zombies, but an angry mob will lose a couple to pull down a PC, hold them, and kill them.

I don't know. Play the horde dumb, grant less XP. Play it smart, grant full. Zombies don't throw bricks, tiles, or bottles as they come either...

Go online and watch video from uprisings and protests - see when and how mobs lose, and when they win - even against a police wall they sometimes do. Thats a great way to judge. If the mob has a competent "leader", that changes everything. The mob can really be a mob, rushing 10 to 1 and ignoring a few while they take down one at a time.

Remember that a mob, not zombies though, is relying on others for support. They may figure to take a little damage but get healed or helped later. Theres a reason they are angry, and they will likely be there long after the PC's move on - they have a base of support in many cases that they can draw strength from. Zombies is whack.

Now i am rambling...12 hour day at work is taking its toll...

SilenzZzz
06-16-2009, 09:54 PM
Minions have to be used a particular way depending on what you are wanting them for ... if it is just the canon fodder .. to make the players wade through them ... then you just send them in 4 to 6 at a time in waves ...

if you want to make them as a roadblock for a little bit .. have 30+ ambush the party ...

if you want to make the players sweat .. let them be the ranged backup for a boss mob ... and have them come into melee when the boss gets bloodied .. or close to dying ... (because at the same time the players will be bloodied as well .. and with 10+ minions hitting at them for 3 to 5 points each successful hit .. that is a dead player quick if healing is not managed correctly ...

Valdar
06-17-2009, 02:54 PM
I've played for a year and a half solid in 4E.

Were you a playtester? The rules haven't been out that long.

Captain_Glycerin
06-17-2009, 11:18 PM
have you considered using the Swarm subtype? Just build your mob as a bunch of Gargantuan (or bigger) swarms (Brute, Controller, or Soldier are good roles for this). Should have just the right level of difficulty to make the party feel challenged.

Tamerath
06-18-2009, 09:04 PM
Were you a playtester? The rules haven't been out that long.

nah, just misspoke...whenever it was first avaliable to the public...June something of last year...

emblasochist
06-19-2009, 10:24 AM
Well, I have an idea for a skill challenge/combat encounter where the players are going toward their quest location which is nearly on the other side of the world and being a party of level 1s, I want it to be a big adventure for them. A lot of the space they will traverse is mountainous and/or desert. As such I have the idea to have them come out from a mountain pass and into a desert area. In the desert there will probably be some standard fare; oases with crocodiles and crazed centaur, a tomb where a lich has taken up residency, sand wurms, scorpions, and I want the end of the desert to come to another mountain pass where a huge waterfall goes into the ocean a few miles away. And on top of that, there are caves behind the waterfalls where nagas or yuan-ti or Azer live, and they won't let the party into the caves without a fight. Add on top of that that in the expanse of desert they were being followed by a hungry Ancient Red Dragon. The goal of the encounter is to have the party get into the safety of the caves before the dragon gobbles them up. So, I am going to have a long play area where the dragon is supposed to chase after them and his only attack will be to swoop in and grab the party for a snack. And once they are within 5 squares of the falls, they have to fight the cave's residents. And if they take too long, the dragon will swoop in and eat everyone outside the falls, party members and enemies alike. Once they are under the falls, they are safe from the dragon, even if they aren't safe from the other enemies.

So, DMs, how would you set this thing up? I'm taking suggestions. What inhabits the caves that would stop the players from getting in? Do I need traps? How much experience should it give them? I've built the premise. Help me figure out HOW to DO it, please.

Umiushi
06-19-2009, 12:02 PM
Is your plan to fit all of this in while they're level one, or that they gain levels during the course of their travels?

emblasochist
06-19-2009, 12:16 PM
Is your plan to fit all of this in while they're level one, or that they gain levels during the course of their travels?

Well, the party is currently level one, half-way through to 2 and they have to get TO the desert. I suspect that they might be somewhere between level 3 and 5 by the time the dragon encounter happens. Once they get into the caves the real adventure starts because the whole plot pretty much takes place within the caves.

Umiushi
06-19-2009, 02:47 PM
I'm sure the others can step up to the plate on this one.

If it were me, I wouldn't be worrying about the tactical details of an encounter that the party will face with completely different powers and equipment than they currently have, to say nothing of an evolved playing style.

If you've already figured out how you're setting up your desert encounters, you're way ahead of me. Unless you've seriously de-leveled them, or handicapped the encounter in some way, sandwurms, a lich, and even a centaur, should be able to eat a party of the levels you described for breakfast. That's where I'd be concentrating my efforts, at the moment.

Soft Serve
06-19-2009, 05:18 PM
You can give them incredibly simple fights and make them LOOK hard just to throw them off.

Like take a human, give him an amazingly well crafted sword, and insanely articulate suit of armor, have everyone in town call him "sir" or "knight: or "almighty PC slayer" then have him throw minions to weaken the PC's and when the fight comes he's really just the equivalent of a villager with a fancy sword, better AC (by like 3-5 pts) and 3X health.

emblasochist
06-19-2009, 07:34 PM
Unless you've seriously de-leveled them, or handicapped the encounter in some way, sandwurms, a lich, and even a centaur, should be able to eat a party of the levels you described for breakfast.

I have deal with this issue, aside from the Ancient Red Dragon because the intention is to make him drive the encounter.


You can give them incredibly simple fights and make them LOOK hard just to throw them off.

I have done that too. I've thrown a mob of 29 human rabble mob members.

emblasochist
06-22-2009, 08:05 AM
So, how would you all do the dragon/Azer encounter? I will delevel an appropriate group of Azer and convert them to minions if necessary, but how many sounds appropriate? Send 3-4 waves of 3-5? And how much exp should the party earn from them? Should the dragon not gobbling them up take part in how much exp they get; if so, how much? Do you think I should allow the pass to get under the waterfall should be too narrow to allow the whole party?

Captain_Glycerin
06-29-2009, 10:21 AM
Ok, using the Wolf Pack formation from the DMG, you start out with 7 skirmishers of lvl n-2 (I think). Trade 1 monster slot for a Lurker trap of about the same level, triggered when 1 of your PCs doesn't advance. With your remaining slots, build a Huge Skirmisher with the Swarm subtype of the appropriate level. Should feature an aura, SA damage, and some way to get Combat Advantage (immobilizing attacks would make sense to me). Make the terrain twisty enough to capitalize on the Swarm Subtype's strengths (squeezing, resistance to targeted attacks, etc.)

emblasochist
06-29-2009, 11:47 AM
Now, is that just the dragon part of the encounter, because I see this kind of as a single event with the tactics of the encounter changing once the players get to the waterfall. I see it as the being chased thing as a first phase where the goal is to get under the falls and the second phase being the actual fight through the Azer into the caves proper, and maybe a bit of the second phase taking place at toward the end of the first phase.

I think I might have to draw a map... Let me get back to you on this.

Captain_Glycerin
07-04-2009, 05:37 PM
That's 6 Huge Skirmisher swarms total. The swarms represent the Azers, while the Lurker trap represents the Red. (they aren't even going to try killing the Red, so why bother pulling out the full stats.) At their level, teleportation shouldn't be an issue, so hosing it has no real benefit (most combat teleport requires line of effect, so twisting terrain would easily take care of that). The waterfall provides concealment, possibly dificult terrain.

WhiskeyFur
07-09-2009, 02:02 PM
My DMing style is a bit different, in that I don't make the encounter levels based off of the player's levels. I base it instead on what's reasonable for that scenario/situation and then they (usually) get the decision to engage or not.

Case in point, the players were scoping out the source of attacks on caravans. Goblins were reported, they knew there was alot of the little buggers around, there was no surprise. Except they didn't know them as goblins. They were described as 'little green skinned demons who shrieked'.

The party did the smart thing in scoping it out first, and saw a good half dozen of the little buggers coming out of a cave. They were all third level or so, but without knowing what they were... that just made them wary.

So instead of hitting them head on, they collapsed the cave and then took out stragglers as they dug themselves out. Once they beat the little snots into oblivion they then realized that they weren't demons, just goblins. The villagers were so afraid of them they made them out to be more then they really were.

An another time they were scoping out a castle (seeing a trend here?) They were suppose to go in, knock out the warlord and hopefully get out alive. But after seeing several black anti-paladins riding through, whom they HAVE met before, decided quickly to back out and seek help. Smart move, the ex-paladins were +4 over their level.

It did cause them to go and seek some new allies though, which was cool. Through them they figured out some alternate targets that they could tackle that would still hurt the warlord pretty bad, and they did have an impact on the game. Maybe not as much as they would have liked, but it allows for other opportunities to come up later on as adventure hooks.

Example... Elf: remember that time we helped you with the warlord? Well we need a little help now...

Avenger
07-10-2009, 05:00 AM
I noticed I really need to up the lvls of my enemies too. I have set up three fights and the team only came in danger of losing because my characters would fight in a very strategic manner. Attacking from all sides, in the players sleep, right after a fight with a group of monsters.

The problem was once the players had the situation figured out they would win easily.

So next time we play when im going to finish my campaign (someone else dm's every campaign.) I am going to up the lvles of everything by 2-3 and hope that makes a difference.

Soft Serve
07-10-2009, 12:10 PM
I noticed I really need to up the lvls of my enemies too. I have set up three fights and the team only came in danger of losing because my characters would fight in a very strategic manner. Attacking from all sides, in the players sleep, right after a fight with a group of monsters.

The problem was once the players had the situation figured out they would win easily.

So next time we play when im going to finish my campaign (someone else dm's every campaign.) I am going to up the lvles of everything by 2-3 and hope that makes a difference.


It will make a difference for sure.

By about 2-3 levels...:D

Don't forget giving them beefy items (to use, and so the players have something to take at the end of the fight.)

Avenger
07-11-2009, 02:17 AM
Well the reason I didn't do that so much this time is because the last guy who dm'ed gave us waaaay too much stuff to fast. I mean without going into how it happened magic items LITERALY fell from the sky. So a few of us agreed we should go without them for a while but im slowly bring them back in.

korhal23
07-11-2009, 10:01 AM
Magic items in use by NPCs revert to normal items unless the GM specifically doesn't want it to. So that awesome +3 PC Slayer Icy Thunder Ultra Mace, upon killing the NPC holding it, just becomes a mace.

Magic items are prominent in 4E, moreso than ever before. It's still possible to overload the players, easily in fact. But the world you're playing in and the saturation of magic items, or the lack of magic items in said world, is really what should be your guide.

If you've played older editions of D&D, you just have to shake older notions of treasure distribution... 4E is a higher powered game than any other edition. For better or worse, that also means that typically there's more magic items than ever before too.

DMMike
07-11-2009, 05:31 PM
My combat encounters tend to be moderately difficult, since most enemies are smart enough to avoid fights that they obviously can't win. Exceptions to this would be...
Undead,
Vermin in their lairs, and
warriors who outnumber the PCs, but underestimate their powers.

The trick is to keep the PCs fighting, since they would tend to avoid fights if every one meant a decent chance of meeting a deity. So most fights should be on the easier side (or at least include a means for escape), some should be challenging, and the fewest should be nearly overpowering.

Of course, I love to throw in the enemy that's several levels too challenging, just so the PCs don't get big heads. :yield:

Avenger
07-12-2009, 01:50 AM
Magic items in use by NPCs revert to normal items unless the GM specifically doesn't want it to. So that awesome +3 PC Slayer Icy Thunder Ultra Mace, upon killing the NPC holding it, just becomes a mace.

Magic items are prominent in 4E, moreso than ever before. It's still possible to overload the players, easily in fact. But the world you're playing in and the saturation of magic items, or the lack of magic items in said world, is really what should be your guide.

If you've played older editions of D&D, you just have to shake older notions of treasure distribution... 4E is a higher powered game than any other edition. For better or worse, that also means that typically there's more magic items than ever before too.

Thanks fir that. Your right. And I first started playing 2ed and just started playing again recently after years of absense with these guys who play 3.5. Before you had to STRUGGLE for magic items where now they are like a recipt from a battle. Ok I think I know how I am going to fix things. Time to bring out the +5 PC slaying greatswords that turn into daggers after battle. Im sure my players appreciate your help. ^_^

Farcaster
07-12-2009, 08:00 AM
In my 4e games, I never found minions to be worth the experience they consumed. I would pepper them in various encounters though, particularly when, as mentioned, the terrain would allow me to place them on the board in such a way as they weren't all obliterated in the first round or two by the controller (and fighter for that matter). I would be very wary however of trying to use them anymore than occasionally. I certainly wouldn't try to use them as the main staple in my encounters. If you would like that feel of having a mob of things on the board as the norm, I'd consider looking into the swarm rules and making custom swarms.

emblasochist
07-12-2009, 12:23 PM
In my 4e games, I never found minions to be worth the experience they consumed. I would pepper them in various encounters though, particularly when, as mentioned, the terrain would allow me to place them on the board in such a way as they weren't all obliterated in the first round or two by the controller (and fighter for that matter). I would be very wary however of trying to use them anymore than occasionally. I certainly wouldn't try to use them as the main staple in my encounters. If you would like that feel of having a mob of things on the board as the norm, I'd consider looking into the swarm rules and making custom swarms.

The problem with mechanically doing that is that the creatures are supposed to each have a different feel. I'm not sure whether you've played Magic, Farcaster, but Slivers are serpentine monsters that are generally pretty weak on their own, but get really really painful if they amass numbers. Flavorwise they are nearly the same size as a PC, so it makes little sense, as far as I can tell to make them a swarm, especially since it fails to preserve the mechanics my players and I are trying to pull from Magic.

I think what I mght try to do is build encounters that don't factor into the equation the experience of minions and preserve the general suggestions for the combat encounters in terms of experience. That can inherently make a lot of combat encounters ridiculously difficult, I understand, but what I will try is to build a few sample encounters and have the players run through them and see how difficult they are, and scale the rest accordingly. More specifically, what I probably will do is add another set of experience to every combat encounter after a certain point in the plot and say that my minion experience total must be less than half the suggested experience for this encounter and pick the minions as appropriate. I realize that that still gives me 10 minions in addition to a given encounter, but it might be able to mitigate some of party's controller's overpoweredness. He's a swordmage and he has currently killed the highest number of monsters. His damage output FAR outdoes the party's 2 strikers and defenders.

Valdar
07-12-2009, 01:37 PM
In my 4e games, I never found minions to be worth the experience they consumed.

Yeah, they tend to vanish pretty quickly.

I'm currently using them a lot to make the fights shorter. They are a challenge, but they're a short challenge, and they're all gone within a couple of rounds.

WhiskeyFur
07-13-2009, 10:50 AM
Magic items in use by NPCs revert to normal items unless the GM specifically doesn't want it to.

What?! That make no bloody sense at all.

Soft Serve
07-13-2009, 11:08 AM
What?! That make no bloody sense at all.

I was thinking that...but then I realized it was a joke. :laugh:

korhal23
07-13-2009, 11:46 AM
It's not a joke. Monsters have a base positive modifier to attacks and AC and whatnot based on their level. So any bonuses and whatnot are basically just flavor text that can easily be taken away. Perhaps the weapon was bound to the NPC in some way, and only he could use its magic... it's basically a built in mechanic for making more memorable NPCs without swamping your players under truckloads of gear.

emblasochist
07-13-2009, 12:01 PM
Oops. Korhal beat me to it...

Valdar
07-13-2009, 01:33 PM
It's not new to 4e. Earlier editions had Drow weapons that would turn to dust in sunlight so the PCs couldn't use them.

Come to think of it, I really should have asked if the Daylight spell would do that in the middle of a fight...

Soft Serve
07-13-2009, 03:56 PM
It's not new to 4e. Earlier editions had Drow weapons that would turn to dust in sunlight so the PCs couldn't use them.

Come to think of it, I really should have asked if the Daylight spell would do that in the middle of a fight...

Ok that seems a bit cheap to say "Your enemy has this massive piece of treasure. Once you touch it it stops working. Happy hunting."

And I don't think it would Valdar. If the weapon itself is magical it should have some kind of resistance to that sort of thing.

emblasochist
07-13-2009, 04:35 PM
The OP is hijacking his own thread to stop this bullsiht and get it back on topic. How would you guys actually run an encounter with a ton of monsters in 4th edition and make it meaningful to the party; not just being steamrolled over by the party? Additionally, how would you handle a low heroic tier party being chased by an ancient red dragon toward a rocky mountainous pass where they will fight their way into the caves where they are safe from the dragon? I want to run that encounter because all the encounters the party has played as of yet have been complete busts to both myself as a DM and the party. I want them to feel like combat is engaging, and I want the dragon chase thing to feel like a skill challenge against time and then they get into combat with a TON of humanoids that don't want them in their caves.

korhal23
07-13-2009, 05:26 PM
First off, the most important part is to play the monster roles properly and effectively. Have artillery avoid all close range combat whenever possible, have controllers hiding and popping out and placing spells in the most effective locations, have soldiers and brutes holding the PCs back from getting to anyone weaker than themselves, do what you can to set up lurkers for sneak attacks, etc.
Secondly, you need to make interesting battle maps. If the PCs and the monsters meet in some big open area, fine. But more than likely that isn't the case. If the PCs have attacked the creature's home, said creature probably has it set up to be defensible (provided they are sentient obviously). This means traps are in order, cover should be set up for effective use by NPCs, etc.
Make smart use of cover and concealment, and have the enemies try to force players onto traps. Employ flanking when you can, and always try to use monster special abilities as much as you can.

As for the dragon, obviously an ancient red dragon would obliterate a low level party, probably in a round or less. So you have to tone him way down. I would probably treat him as a trap rather than a monster, as the players would have precisely zero chance of killing him. Your best bet is to have the creatures that the PCs are fighting be minions mostly, as anything more than that will take too long to fight, and the dragon would surely destroy them. Combine melee minions with ranged minions, and perhaps have a normal mob controller or two out there. Make the ranged minions and the controller hard to reach... put them up on ledges and out of the way, and spread them out. Use the melee minions so that the players can't just run full speed the whole way without fighting unless they want to take tons of opportunity attacks. Have corners the PCs can't see around, but have NPCs waiting with Readied actions, firing at whoever comes around the corner, instantly.

Every round, roll a d6, divide the result by two, then add 1. This will give you a result of 2-4, which is the number of squares the dragon (flying overhead) advances. Most of the dragon's time should be spent lazily flying above, confident his minions will stop the PCs, and taunting them. If he catches up to a PC, have him act as a trap and deal, say, 3d6 or 4d6 damage to them. Not a whole lot, but enough to keep them moving, and scary if you give him a good enough attack bonus that missing will be rare... +12 or so. If they get far enough ahead, have him fly 1d8+1 to catch up and apply the pressure again. If the map is about 100-150 squares long, that should be more than sufficient. However, the encounter may end up too easy, even still, depending on the dice. If the players are in too good of shape at the end of it, have the dragon rouse an Elite or two inside the cave for them to fight. In fact, make it two or three elites, and then you have the chance to create a Quirky Miniboss Squad that can be a recurring set of enemies.

That's what I'd do anyway.

Captain_Glycerin
07-13-2009, 09:24 PM
Magic items are prominent in 4E, moreso than ever before.
I'm inclined to disagree, on the basis that 1: higher level characters begin play with 3 major magic items and a grab bag of lesser items, and 2: the party is only supposed to recieve 10 parcels of treasure per level of adventuring, of which only half is innately magical. I believe the game is more dependant on the judicious use of limited class and race-based resources than magical items.

korhal23
07-13-2009, 09:53 PM
Actually that's a fair point. Now, I don't Monty Haul my players, but I do tend to bring out a few more magic items than that. Magic items are still extremely prominent, though, and as for higher level characters starting with only 3, (weapon, armor, and a slot of your choosing) is not a bad place to be. Plus, beyond the first two or three levels, almost all the money they earn in the other treasure parcels is going towards magic items almost invariably. Magic items are there to provide an edge, not be the be-all-end-all, and the main brunt of your abilities comes from your race and class powers, supplemented by your item dailies (though with an Artificer around, magic items come even more into focus, as Artificers can recharge item dailies).

So yes, you're right... almost.

Grimwell
07-14-2009, 12:10 AM
Less debate, more suggestions please!

Grandore The Giant Killer
07-14-2009, 03:02 AM
Well my DM would whip out all his Monster Manuals and set them stacked beside his chair and if he wants a battle but not sure with what he'll turn to you and say.

"Ok roll a D6 to determine which manual."

1: MM 1
2: MM 2
3: MM 3
4: MM4
5: MM 5
6: Either MM 4.0 1 or MM 4.0 2 If you land on 6 he'll then tell you to roll a D4. Evens MM1 Odds MM 2

He'll then tell you to roll a random bunch of dice like 1D100 1D20 and 1 D10 to determine what page in the book. Now granted there are times we landed on a page and the DM took one look at us and was like "Um yeah either reroll those dice or your gonna die I can guarantee that right now."

My DM Is fair when it comes to encounters. HOWEVER you have to factor in the stupidity level of some players. I mean come on if you see a dragon roaming around you're obviously not going to come up and pick a fight with it. If you do then you deserve to die.

emblasochist
07-14-2009, 08:49 AM
First off, the most important part is to play the monster roles properly and effectively. Have artillery avoid all close range combat whenever possible, have controllers hiding and popping out and placing spells in the most effective locations, have soldiers and brutes holding the PCs back from getting to anyone weaker than themselves, do what you can to set up lurkers for sneak attacks, etc.
Secondly, you need to make interesting battle maps. If the PCs and the monsters meet in some big open area, fine. But more than likely that isn't the case. If the PCs have attacked the creature's home, said creature probably has it set up to be defensible (provided they are sentient obviously). This means traps are in order, cover should be set up for effective use by NPCs, etc.
Make smart use of cover and concealment, and have the enemies try to force players onto traps. Employ flanking when you can, and always try to use monster special abilities as much as you can.

As for the dragon, obviously an ancient red dragon would obliterate a low level party, probably in a round or less. So you have to tone him way down. I would probably treat him as a trap rather than a monster, as the players would have precisely zero chance of killing him. Your best bet is to have the creatures that the PCs are fighting be minions mostly, as anything more than that will take too long to fight, and the dragon would surely destroy them. Combine melee minions with ranged minions, and perhaps have a normal mob controller or two out there. Make the ranged minions and the controller hard to reach... put them up on ledges and out of the way, and spread them out. Use the melee minions so that the players can't just run full speed the whole way without fighting unless they want to take tons of opportunity attacks. Have corners the PCs can't see around, but have NPCs waiting with Readied actions, firing at whoever comes around the corner, instantly.

Every round, roll a d6, divide the result by two, then add 1. This will give you a result of 2-4, which is the number of squares the dragon (flying overhead) advances. Most of the dragon's time should be spent lazily flying above, confident his minions will stop the PCs, and taunting them. If he catches up to a PC, have him act as a trap and deal, say, 3d6 or 4d6 damage to them. Not a whole lot, but enough to keep them moving, and scary if you give him a good enough attack bonus that missing will be rare... +12 or so. If they get far enough ahead, have him fly 1d8+1 to catch up and apply the pressure again. If the map is about 100-150 squares long, that should be more than sufficient. However, the encounter may end up too easy, even still, depending on the dice. If the players are in too good of shape at the end of it, have the dragon rouse an Elite or two inside the cave for them to fight. In fact, make it two or three elites, and then you have the chance to create a Quirky Miniboss Squad that can be a recurring set of enemies.

That's what I'd do anyway.

My goal is to have the dragon not care about the azer or whatever lives in the caves. They fled to the security of the caves to save their tribe so to speak from being dragon food. So they're hostile to the players and they ignore the dragon because under the waterfalls they are safe from the dragon, the dragon's hostile to everyone it can get to (mostly the party but if the cave dwellers get out of their safety zone, he'll go for them too) and the PCs hopefully are just trying to get into the caves for safety. That said, the cave dwellers don't like outsiders and when they hear the dragon's roar, they know that its time to defend their home from something or someone. I do however like the dragon's call being a signal for elites to rough up the party a bit. I do really like your idea. It makes the issue much easier. I might up the dice to make them certain not to fight the dragon... Thanks!

Soft Serve
07-14-2009, 09:39 PM
Theres so much text and hatred I'm scared to read it all.

Just throw some impossibly hard crap at your party. Nothing is too small. Now when it becomes obvious they're going to lose, give them an easy way out. Running, a trap, an item, a coupon from Chuck Norris, whatever. This way if they do actually kill the monster then they've got a bar set for you to break, and if not then you know what is too much.

Now use this encounter as a bar. Either as too much, just right, or too little. And from this encounter base the rest of your encounters.

Don't forget to make some situationally difficult. Like on a raft in the middle of the ocean being thrashed around by Dire Sharks. While attacking the Dire Sharks in a normal 1v1 platform-pool fight could have been easy, give them nagatives for being thrown around on the vicious ocean.

WhiskeyFur
07-15-2009, 02:34 PM
... a coupon from Chuck Norris ...

That's too much. Suppose to give the players an escape, not someone that can beat the entire encounter with just his pinky.

Soft Serve
07-15-2009, 02:37 PM
That's too much. Suppose to give the players an escape, not someone that can beat the entire encounter with just his pinky.

pfft, yeah like he would use his pinky. Please he only saves that for slaying hordes of Ancient Gold Dragons.

Avenger
07-19-2009, 11:35 AM
Me again. Well I just got back from Dm'ing again and this time the players were complaining its too hard because one of them got dropped to -6 (didn't die, they got to him in time.) and most of the team was dropped to about the 10 points or less range INCLUDING the wizard. Well then mayb she shoulden't have flow ove the gate to cast those rainbow blasts and ended up landing over there where one of the stray fighters at full hp could get to her.

WELL SORRY but you failed to take that guard out silently and he alerted the camp. Thats what a guard in a watch tower would do if some huge half orc tries to get the drop on him but can't get his hand over the guys mouth to keep him quiet. Lets not forget that we ALREADY know this guys are very very good at what they do. that how they get by on having only a low number of people.

One of the players didn't complain until after the battle when they went to the treasure room and there was a mind effecting gem that had them attacking each other to try and posses it. What? You don't think a bandit leader who we have already determind is VERY SMART will leave some sort of traps on his tresure so that even his own men don't get any without his go ahead?

Im sorry but thats the game guys, if theres no fear of death then theres no challenge and honestly no point to play. we are all attached to our characters but if you think you were just going to rip through an entire bandit camp when your out numbered 3 to 1 and they have (OMG say it aint so) THEIR OWN SPELL CASTERS! who starts casting spells to take out our wizard. Sorry again but thats a wizard being smart, who ever would have thought of that. Honestly I made it easier then I orginally intended.

Sorry guys but im steamed from it. :mad: Hell you think I like rolling attacks for the whole camp at once? I was hoping you would take them out in their sleep too. I didn't even really get to add the story elements that I wanted because the leader is not going to just sit and wait in his hut when he knows theres a battle going on at his front gates. Ruined it for me too.

Now that I think about it. Sorry to you guys but I take back my sorry's to them. I mean really did I do something wrong? :confused:
--- Merged from Double Post ---
Sorry for all the spelling errors. I have my keyboard on my lap some sometimes the wireless set up dosen't pick up every button press and I am really really sleepy.

korhal23
07-19-2009, 01:24 PM
Sounds like you played it right and they are whiners.

Soft Serve
07-19-2009, 03:48 PM
You could show them how much worse it could be.

...have a rogue come steal their treasure. :D

Grimwell
07-21-2009, 11:02 PM
I'd play in your game. ;)

Valdar
07-22-2009, 12:51 PM
Now that I think about it. Sorry to you guys but I take back my sorry's to them. I mean really did I do something wrong?

Realism in a game is a slider that moves around a lot over the course of a session. If the party is thinking the slider is in a different place than you do, I'd give them hints rather than letting them get themselves slaughtered.

A lot of modules and computer games lull the players into thinking that no creature can perceive anything more than 50' or so away. If they're acting like this in your game, then I would think it's appropriate to mention that the guard that the half-orc is targeting is not out of earshot of other guards, and he will probably scream if you can't drop him in one hit. If they do it anyway, let them have it. The characters live in the world, and the players don't- the characters would know about stuff that the players don't, so hints to that effect aren't unrealistic.

Of course, people still do stupid things even knowing the consequences, so one hint should be enough.

Avenger
07-22-2009, 08:43 PM
Realism in a game is a slider that moves around a lot over the course of a session. If the party is thinking the slider is in a different place than you do, I'd give them hints rather than letting them get themselves slaughtered.

A lot of modules and computer games lull the players into thinking that no creature can perceive anything more than 50' or so away. If they're acting like this in your game, then I would think it's appropriate to mention that the guard that the half-orc is targeting is not out of earshot of other guards, and he will probably scream if you can't drop him in one hit. If they do it anyway, let them have it. The characters live in the world, and the players don't- the characters would know about stuff that the players don't, so hints to that effect aren't unrealistic.

Of course, people still do stupid things even knowing the consequences, so one hint should be enough.

They did know. They failed the roll. multipule times. Everytime they failed I checked to see how loud the scream for help was on a percentage die. (coulden't ring the bell because he was grappling) eventually I rolled the 100 and BOOM here comes the camp.

korhal23
07-22-2009, 08:57 PM
Yeah, what Valdar said. You played it right, so rest easy in that knowledge.

One thing many new players don't know or appreciate, especially people who play lots of video games (I do too, so, ya know, whatever) is that you sometimes have to run away. This is foreign to most video gamers because in a video game you just reload and try again from the last checkpoint, or run back to your body or something. Death in P&P games can be a lot bigger of a deal (depending on the game system) and needs to be something they're conscious of.

I'd suggest, since this was one of your first games, to undo the events that lead up to the attack, and basically reload the game so to speak... they'll learn their lesson, and be less dumb about it next time.
Off the top of my head, try this hook on for size:
Open the new session with a wizard scrying into... whatever he scrys into (kinda like the Palantirs in Lord of the Rings). Have him viewing the events that occured last game. Then have him look up and address the party, who are gathered before him. The wizard tells them that this is what their destiny holds for them: an immensely unheroic death at the hands of some half-orcs... then he can go into a little talk about how the future is uncertain and fate is not set in stone, etc. Then have him send them on a series of tests to train.... you can create all kinds of interesting scenarios under the guise of this wizard's training... have his training go a session or two, then ship them out (again) on the original campaign, better prepared in character and out.

Avenger
07-22-2009, 10:28 PM
I'd suggest, since this was one of your first games, to undo the events that lead up to the attack, and basically reload the game so to speak... they'll learn their lesson, and be less dumb about it next time.
Off the top of my head, try this hook on for size:
Open the new session with a wizard scrying into... whatever he scrys into (kinda like the Palantirs in Lord of the Rings). Have him viewing the events that occured last game. Then have him look up and address the party, who are gathered before him. The wizard tells them that this is what their destiny holds for them: an immensely unheroic death at the hands of some half-orcs... then he can go into a little talk about how the future is uncertain and fate is not set in stone, etc. Then have him send them on a series of tests to train.... you can create all kinds of interesting scenarios under the guise of this wizard's training... have his training go a session or two, then ship them out (again) on the original campaign, better prepared in character and out.

Well I don't think they want to do that since they did survive and win. It was just very very close. Oh and they fought no half orcs, just a bunch of fighters, a few rangers, a ogre barbarian, a bard and a Half Cleric half Barbarian with a ring that reenergized him into a half man half dragon. thats not even all I had planned.

Valdar
07-23-2009, 01:39 PM
They did know. They failed the roll. multipule times.

Sounds like you have a party that has no interest in being sneaky or clever- they just want to kick ass.

I'm not sure what I'd recommend in this situation, but your players aren't going to change. You're looking for complex characters that can make tactical decisions, and they're looking for things to beat on. Personally, I wouldn't bother wasting time coming up with a complex game for them- either run something beer-and-pretzelsesque, or find something else to do while hanging out with them. Trying to turn them into thinking players isn't going to work.

Soft Serve
07-23-2009, 04:18 PM
Sounds like you have a party that has no interest in being sneaky or clever- they just want to kick ass.

I'm not sure what I'd recommend in this situation, but your players aren't going to change. You're looking for complex characters that can make tactical decisions, and they're looking for things to beat on. Personally, I wouldn't bother wasting time coming up with a complex game for them- either run something beer-and-pretzelsesque, or find something else to do while hanging out with them. Trying to turn them into thinking players isn't going to work.


lol. The kind of people who, when presented with a puzzle, will slam the hell out of it with a warhammer as opposed to moving the three levers in the correct position? I love those guys, but I've never had an entire party of them. Good luck.

Avenger
07-24-2009, 02:39 AM
Now to be honest thats not true. They tried the sneaky way. The monk climbed one guard tower and took out the guard in silence, The half orc the was flow up by the wizard coulden't however and thats when the plan fell apart. Hell they spent most of an hour just trying to think of different options on how to sneak in. I made it difficult.

My complaint was how they *****ed and moaned about how many guys they had to fight after that. thats the way the ball bounces.

Skunkape
07-24-2009, 07:17 AM
I try to make sure my players understand that my world does not scale the difficulty factor as they advance in level. With the encounters I plan them to interact with in combat, I try and make sure they are challenging, but won't generally kill the party. Course, there's always the possiblity that they'll do something wrong and get killed anyway. But they know that there are somethings in my game world that they're not supposed to fight with.

For the most part, they've always done the right thing, and there have been times when one or more of them have gotten really close to dying, which helps increase the tension level of the game and make it exciting, but I try and make sure not to set up an encounter that will party kill them and not give them some kind of way out.

Ishcumbeebeeda
07-28-2009, 01:20 PM
Plus, I hate having to stop in the middle of a night, so that players can make up new characters. It tends to slow down the game way too much and puts a damper on the whole night. Eventually new backgrounds for the new characters have to be made and yada, yada, yada. Frankly, I prefer to keep that kind of thing to a minimum - but that's just me.

That's why, as a player, I always have a backup character or 3 (or 3 dozen) on hand. Just in case. But, then again, I really like making characters. I do it just for fun, so.... And I totally agree that a DM should concern him/herself more with the story than anything else. Personally I love a fight that's just a bit out of my comfort zone. Keeps me thinking. Though, a lot of times it really depends on the DM's choice of tactics. The last time I was playing 4e I was a Wizard and in one fight that was basically kobolds (I think. Might have been goblins or something...) running in from every doorway I wound up just standing behind the tank casting magic missle a thousand times. Got kinda boring for me, but it seemed like the best option given the enemy's tactics, or lack thereof.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
07-28-2009, 01:37 PM
Another 'wake up call' i like to pull on my players is the near TPK's. Have everyone make two to three characters--and play them--then have something bad happen near the beginning of the adventure, or throughout the adventure. Long story short: many deaths and fear amongst the gaming group. This also sets the bar on just what the players can expect in my game.

It's hard to explain on this site, but if a couple of rules are followed, this method or variation thereof can add a very memorable scenario in the early stages of a long campaign. Good stuff.