The Dynamic Encounter

Posted on July 2, 2012 by

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It can be difficult to create an active boss encounter for your adventure. Any seasoned DM will tell you that players can be stubborn, occasionally even aggressively boring. Ranged characters find a safe spot to post up and snipe from, melee characters run to the enemy and wail away on them, and both types of characters are loaded up with all sorts of tricks to make this strategy effective and rewarding. It is time to bring an end to this, to make the players think about more than which ability to use next.

Getting the players to use their move actions can be hard, and getting them to pay attention to the battlefield while also prerolling their next attack can be even harder. A good trick for keeping your players moving is pairing incentives, two opposite rewards or threats that force the characters to make choices between two opposing actions.

A good example of this is threat zones. Saying that the front half of the room (where the enemy is primarily located) is engulfed by a fiery damage dealing aura is great, but when the back half of the room is covered in vents that randomly vent flames, it creates a very difficult scenario. Now the players must decide between the consistent damage of an aura and the intermittent (but higher) damage of the vents. If these vents fire in a particular order, players are further encouraged to figure that out in order to remain in relative safety.

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A similar dynamic can be created by pairing threats that require players to move. If the room gradually fills with acid over the course of a few rounds, the players are forced to group up on any high ground that might be available. Coupled with an enemy that uses area attacks, the heroes are put in serious danger and forced to spread out when the acid begins to ebb, lest they be blown to pieces all at once.

Perhaps the most fantastic way to keep players moving is to drastically change or destroy the environment as the encounter goes on. A high speed fighting escape, a collapsing temple, even a dimension-warping wizard, there are lots of ways to keep your combat from becoming stale.

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Posted in: Gamecraft