Building an Encounter

I am a new DM (only DMed about 7 sessions) and am wanting to build an encounter from scratch. If the characters are level two I know to stick with enemies that are between levels 1-3 however I am unsure of what the XP per character should be. I am hoping to create a sliding scale for the encounter that I can quickly change on the fly since my table sizes vary from 5 - 10 people and have no back up DM this week.

Two schools of thought. 

1- balance your encounters carefully & stay within the lines. That way, low chance of TPK. 

2- nuts to balance. Whatever is in the encounter is there because it belongs there. You walk into a dragon lair, you get dragons. I don't care if you're level 2. 

If I were you, I'd use a number of monsters equal to the never of party members. + a few for level 1s. - a few for level 3 or 4s. 

And don't sweat it too much. Perfect balance is unachievable. But you'll find the right answer the more you play. This is totally a play style & judgment call

bawylie wrote:

Two schools of thought. 

1- balance your encounters carefully & stay within the lines. That way, low chance of TPK. 

2- nuts to balance. Whatever is in the encounter is there because it belongs there. You walk into a dragon lair, you get dragons. I don't care if you're level 2. 

If I were you, I'd use a number of monsters equal to the never of party members. + a few for level 1s. - a few for level 3 or 4s. 

And don't sweat it too much. Perfect balance is unachievable. But you'll find the right answer the more you play. This is totally a play style & judgment call

I disagree that there's a dichotomy as you put. I err towards the first, and I think the system should cater to that, since it's a lot easier to run a game where you don't care too much about encounter balance in a system that provides reasonably good encounter balance guidelines, than vis versa. But I think it's important to realize that even when you care about balance, there are times when you need to put a dragon in the dragon's lair; just make sure the party knows not to fight it.

I am currently raising funds to run for President in 2016. Too many administrations have overlooked the international menace, that is Carmen Sandiego. I shall devote any and all necessary military resources to bring her to justice.

 My last paragraph is sort of rejecting both schools of thought in favor of play style. 

SublimeBW wrote:

I am a new DM (only DMed about 7 sessions) and am wanting to build an encounter from scratch. If the characters are level two I know to stick with enemies that are between levels 1-3 however I am unsure of what the XP per character should be. I am hoping to create a sliding scale for the encounter that I can quickly change on the fly since my table sizes vary from 5 - 10 people and have no back up DM this week.

The table on page 17 of the DM Guidelines document is exactly the XP per character that is suggested by the rules.

Just keep in mind the monster math is out so following the guidelines will often lead to a cakewalk.

IMO a beginning DM should not be afraid to cheat his @$$ off.

if a fight turns out to be harder then you wanted, make the monsters do something stupid,

'delete' some of their HP, or make them roll badly.

also have some monsters in reserve that may show up later if a fight turns out to be too easy.

 

check out the Homebrew Campaign Setting i'm working on, my customised character sheet for the final package, and a numbered index for all the bestiaries.

It might be better to either

A: Have an escape route from the combat for if its too tough or

B: Tell the players they will need to figure out methods of escaping (probably best to go with A to begin with)

rather than cheat your @$$ off.

If they could escape (even with just one use of their move action or disengage action) but complain when they don't and then happen to die, really either they need to HTFU, or somehow what I think is pretty soft gaming is absolutely hardcore and too tough. Oh, though generally its good if they can maybe get some small reward from combat rather than come away completely empty handed (maybe snatch up coin purse dropped by a slain enemy as they retreat, for example).

Have fun!

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

This is a playtest, so cheating anything off would be counter-productive.  If you follow the guidelines and get cakewalks, just report it as such.  You can always ratchet thing up until they feel about right - then you can report the level of challenge that worked, too, if you find one.

 

Honestly, though, jumping in with the playtest may not be the best introduction.  There are decent introductory kits out there, like the Red Box, and even free ones:

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/QuickStartRules.pdf   

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/H1.pdf   

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/Khybers_Harvest.zip

 

 

 

 

 

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