Dungeon Master's Guide 5e

(Joyce) #1
:ncrease the difficulty of the encounter by one step
":-a m easy to medium, for example) if the characters

  • 2.·;e a drawback that their enemies don't. Reduce the
    _ -culty by one step if the characters have a benefit that
    -eir enemies don't. Any additional benefit or drawback
    : .:-hes the encounter one step in the appropriate
    : :-ection. If the characters have both a benefit and a
    ::-aw back, the two cancel each other out.

    • it uational drawbacks include the following:
      ~he whole party is surprised, and the enemy isn't.
      ~he enemy has cover, and the party doesn't.
      ~he characters are unable to see the enemy.
      -he characters are taking damage every round from
      some environmental effect or magical source, and the
      enemy isn't.
      The characters are hanging from a rope, in the midst
      of scaling a sheer wall or cliff, stuck to the floor, or oth-
      erwise in a situation that greatly hinders their mobility
      or makes them sitting ducks.
      it uational benefits are similar to drawbacks except
      '-ar they benefit the characters instead of the enemy.

:-3e following features can add more fun and suspense
a combat encounter:
Terrain features that pose inherent risks to both the
characters and their enemies, such as a frayed rope
bridge and pools of green slime
Terrain features that provide a change of elevation,
uch as pits, stacks of empty crates, ledges,
a nd balconies
Features that either inspire or force characters and
their enemies to move around, such as chandeliers,
kegs of gunpowder or oil, and whirling blade traps
Enemies in hard-to-reach locations or defensive
positions, so that characters who normally attack at
ra nge are forced to move around the battlefield
Different types of monsters working together


.~s characters explore a wilderness area or dungeon
om plex, they are bound to encounter the unexpected.
i<.andom encounters are a way to deliver the unexpected.
:hey are usually presented in the form of a table. When
a random encounter occurs, you roll a die and consult
<he table to determine what the party encounters.
Some players and DMs view random encounters in an
adventure as time-wasters, yet well-designed random
encounters can serve a variety of useful purposes:

Create urgency. Adventurers don't tend to dawdle
if the threat of random encounters is hanging over
their heads. Wanting to avoid wandering monsters
creates a strong incentive to look for a safe place to
rest. (Rolling dice behind the DM screen can often
accomplish this even without an actual encounter.)
Establish atmosphere. The appearance of
thematically linked creatures as random encounters
helps to create a consistent tone and atmosphere
for an adventure. For example, an encounter table

filled with bats, wraiths, giant spiders, and zombies
cr eates a sense of horror, and tells the adventurers to
prepare for battle with even more powerful creatures
of the night.
Drain character resources. Random encounters can
drain the party's hit points and spell slots, leaving the
adventurers feeling underpowered and vulnerable.
This creates tension, as players are forced to make
decisions based on the fact that their characters aren't
at full strength.
Provide assistance. Some random encounters can
benefit the characters instead of hindering or harming
them. Helpful creatures or NPCs might provide the
adventurers with useful information or assistance
when they need it most.
Add interest. Random encounters can reveal details
about your world. They can foreshadow danger or
provide hints that will help the adventurers prepare
for the encounters to come.

  • Reinforce campaign themes. Random encounters
    can remind the players of the major themes of the
    campaign. For example, if your campaign features an
    ongoing war between two nations, you might design
    random encounter tables to reinforce the ever-present
    nature of the conflict. In friendly territory, your tables
    might include bedraggled troops returning from bat-
    tle, refugees fleeing invading forces, heavily guarded
    caravans full of weapons, and lone messengers on
    horseback riding for the front lines. While charac-
    ters are in hostile territory, the tables might include
    battlefields littered with the recently slain, armies of
    evil humanoids on the march, and improvised gib-
    bets holding the bodies of deserters who tried to flee
    the conflict.
    Random encounters should never be tiresome to you
    or your players. You don't want the players to feel as if
    they aren't making progress because another random
    encounter brings their progress to a halt whenever they
    try to move forward. Likewise, you don't want to spend
    time distracted by random encounters that add nothing
    to the adventure narrative or that interfere with the
    overall pace you're trying to set.
    Not every DM likes to use random encounters. You
    might find that they distract from your game or are
    otherwise causing more trouble than you want. If
    random encounters don't work for you, don't use them.

Because you want random encounters to build on the
intended narrative of a game session, not compete with
it, you should choose the placement of those encounters
carefully. Think about a random encounter under any of
the following circumstances:
The players are getting off track and slowing
down the game.
The characters stop for a short or long rest.

  • The characters are undertaking a long,
    uneventful journey.
    The characters draw attention to themselves when
    they should be keeping a low profile.

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