Like the good host of a banquet party, whose table fare is filled with a variety of tasty treats, a game master should be giving the PCs plenty to sink their teeth into.
So in building encounters, pick adversaries with the strengths of the player characters in mind.
Such encounters should still be challenging — no one enjoys a pushover. But when players get to use those abilities that are part of their characters’ specialities, you’ll see smiles break out on the faces gathered at your table.
How do you feed the brawny hand-to-hand combatants, or at least, those that prefer close-in melee fighting? Use hefty foes.
These can be plodders, slow-moving heavy hitters or agile, close-in strikers.
Fantasy: Ogres, minotaurs and giant-kind are good plodders. Salamanders (most serpentines, really), big cats, winter wolves and hell hounds serve as strikers.
Whenever distance is a factor, archers and those that use firearms step to the front.
While any foe could be shot at from long range, adversaries who are mobile with a narrow profile test the ranged combatant’s targeting and hard chargers that absorb damage their repeated accuracy.
Fantasy: Many aerialists fit the mobile description, including dragons and wyverns, winged devils and fiends, and perytons. The hard-chargers include stampeding rhinos, mammoths, and bulettes, worgs and rothÃ©.
Adversaries that put difficult terrain to their advantage or have multiple appendages are a good fit for agile, nimble attackers.
Fantasy: Carrion crawlers, chuul, marilith, chain devils, hydras and octopuses all fit the bill, as do spiders and their climbing kin (such as ettercaps) and kenku.
You can never throw enough undead on characters of faith, who draw power from good-aligned powers. But the supernatural need not be the only unnerving entities out there. Aberrations of all sorts challenge the foundational reality of faith-based characters; anything that makes you cry out: “This can’t be happening!”
Fantasy: So along with the wights, werewolves, vampires and mummies, consider creatures that warp reality and sensibilities, such as aboleths, grells, and mind-flayers.
Spellcasters and scientists
It takes magic to fight magic, as the saying goes. The same goes for technologists. Things of manufacture and making, especially large numbers of them, put both types to the test.
Fantasy: Consider animated armor, elementals, galeb duhrs, gargoyles, golems, modrons, clockworks and shield guardians. Â
Any suggestions on adding to this list, either by PC category or by adversarial type? Add them below:
there is an obvious ‘popular generic fantasy RPG’ tone to this one, so its probably worth stating that looking ahead to higher level abilities is a good plan. An NPC bad guy the party can’t touch right now is OK, if you know that at level six (for example) two of the party will gain access to something the NPC can not face up to. suddenly the tables turn in the PCs favour!
Its often these things that get overlooked, yet when put in place by the GM add so much value to the game. The key is finding the ‘correct adversaries’ in the ‘correct place’. I once played in a game where we encountered a storm giant in a dungeon corridor, which was unfortunate because a:) it was a corridor with a 10 foot ceiling, and b:) The party was predominantly made up of 4th level characters. Yes we did try to sneak away, but sadly the GM was intent on a TPK setup so we all perished miserably . We joke about how we were all killed by a storm giant on his hands and knees 😉
Sounds like on his face!