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View Full Version : Encounters: Original vs. Rational



Valdar
07-29-2008, 03:28 PM
In designing combat and other encounters for my game, I'm trying to keep them original, but the scope of the game calls for more encounters than would fit within a sensible plot, so the adventure starts to look "gamist", with other elements being woven into the plot to justify different sorts of monsters or challenges (A pessimistic title for this thread would be "contrived vs. redundant".) So, from the perspective of suspension of disbelief vs. variety in a game, what would annoy you more in a game, when cleaning out a kobold warren:

"What, kobolds again?"

or

"What the heck is an ochre jelly doing here?"

Published adventures seem to strike a balance- interesting stuff here and there, but you will occasionally run into wave after wave of the same thing.

I suppose taking a different loadout of mobs (soldiers vs. brutes, controllers vs. artillery), or add different tactical challenges or plot reasons for the encounter might work, or would that still just look like more of the same?

Maelstrom
07-29-2008, 04:57 PM
Personally, I prefer original.

I also believe that you can still have a kobold warren (according to the example given) with just kobolds and assorted pets without falling into redundancy.

Occassional stand up, standard encounters are probably inevitable. They serve as a bridge between encounters where the players have to spend a lot of time and thought on how to beat the challenge. The players probably will enjoy having a mix, with the challenging unique encounters there to put them on edge, and the more mundane encounters allowing them and their characters to shine. Its these mundane encounters that give the characters a good gauge of how their power has improved from level to level.

Varying the encounters with traps, interesting opponents, hostages to rescue, veiled messages, negotiations, hazards to pass, mysterious magic, and mundane areas (such as barraks and mess halls) all can be done with a single race or monster type in each case, but each can be original and memorable.

If the game becomes a proverbial grind, where monsters are there just for the players to get to the next level, and I think you've lost some of the elements that make D&D great.

I also think that if you have one encounter work particularly well, recycling it at a later time with a slight twist makes dungeon design a little easier, and yet it provides another look at a provocative encounter that players remember.

Ramzei
07-29-2008, 05:24 PM
Another option is a mix of both. Say you are encountering a band of goblins every time. Throw something else in as well. If the adventure is based upon having to kill said goblins... throw in some giant spiders (or whatever) with them. Whether you take out some of the goblins is up to you, and what the party can handle. But adding a little spice is never a bad thing.

Farcaster
07-29-2008, 05:50 PM
You could also mix things up a bit by adding templates or classes to your opponents to create a greater mix of roles.

Valdar
07-29-2008, 07:14 PM
If the game becomes a proverbial grind, where monsters are there just for the players to get to the next level, and I think you've lost some of the elements that make D&D great.


Absolutely. And worse yet, a game that's a grind will quickly bore me to tears, even if the players are having the time of their lives.

I think from what I'm hearing, I can actually back off on the originality/contrivedness of the encounters from what I've been doing, and settle into a more themed series of encounters. Might as well let the party use the knowledge of the custom monsters they come across, even if it means fighting more of the same (with a different tactical or template loadout...)

ithil
07-29-2008, 08:19 PM
In the game I played two weeks ago, I hit five kobold encounters in a row. There was variation in the terrain and lighting, the monster types, the templates (dramatically), the tactics, and the treasure. It was immersive and it didn't feel repetitive in the least.

ronpyatt
07-30-2008, 08:39 AM
In the game I played two weeks ago, I hit five kobold encounters in a row. There was variation in the terrain and lighting, the monster types, the templates (dramatically), the tactics, and the treasure. It was immersive and it didn't feel repetitive in the least.
I'm going to have to second that. It's very engaging. We're having a blast. There is enough variety in each general monster type to keep plenty of players guessing. The DMG suggests changing up the monster's a bit, give them special characteristics that make them stand out from their crowd. This adds so much flavor it will burn your tongue.
Hazards and traps make great encounters or additions to encounters.

If your plot requires fewer monster varieties, try to make the combat encounters fewer and/or larger or higher level, or if you're willing to zip through levels quickly then double XP rewards to get the PC's to the next level of tougher encounters.

DMMike
07-30-2008, 04:45 PM
Valdar - The "kobolds again" concern of the players probably comes from the knowledge that each kobold encountered is going to act in the exact same way. So make sure the kobold warren has commanders, shamans, and saboteurs who each use different skills and tactics. The ochre jelly can even be a new tactic - the kobolds were storing it in a huge pot for a special occasion.

Let the adventure play itself out logically and economically, and that should minimize contrived and redundant concerns.