July 18, 2008

Encounter Design

So I mentioned the difference between 4E NPC/Monster and PC design yesterday, and today I'm going to talk about 4E encounter design.

First of all, throwing together or adjusting an encounter to smaller/larger groups is easy with a simple XP per player "budget" for each encounter level. If you need adjust an encounter to your group size, you just add or remove monsters to fit the budget.

The harder part comes in if your group doesn't have an "ideal" makeup - which is to say, it doesn't have all four of the Leader, Defender, Striker, and Controller roles covered. Then you might have to adjust the kind of monsters you use (if using a published adventure). There are suggestions for how to handle this, and it basically boils down to this:

  • If you're missing a leader the team will hurt in terms of bonuses, but you can give out healing potions to compensate for the healing.
  • If you're missing a defender, your leaders are probably going to need to step up to the front lines. You may also need to limit the number of "brute" and "soldier" monsters that you put in your encounters because the party is less able to deal with the threats they represent.
  • If you're missing a striker, you don't actually have to do much. Your party may need to retrain themselves so that they focus more on damage output though.
  • If you're missing a controller, you may wish to use fewer minions in your encounter due to your lack of AoE. It can be partially made up for by a Fighter with Cleave or a Dragonborn character that can take being in the front lines (they have a breath attack they can use each encounter).
And that's a glimpse in to 4E encounter design.