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Game Master Tips With Matt Mercer – Encounter Building!

Building compelling encounters is one of the cornerstones of good RPG storytelling. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind when you’re ready to terrorize — ahem, challenge — your friends.

  1. While creating your foes, consider which region, location, and setting which the encounter takes place. Different kinds of creatures live in different environments, so don’t forget to vary your enemies.
  2. Always keep in mind how challenging you want the encounter to be. Is it a quick scuffle, a series of small rapid encounters, or a big confrontation with a crazy looking dude with spikes for eyebrows?
  3. If you need help with balancing, check resources such as the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, or the website Kobold Fight Club. Even the best Game Masters need a little help once in awhile.
  4. Feel free to customize your creatures to fit your own unique vision and story. Resources are great, but you can treat them more as guidelines if you’re going for something specific.
  5. Write down any notes of your creatures’ special abilities or defenses. It’s generally terrible for everyone if you forget about those things in the heat of battle.
  6. Battlefields can be as important as the enemies themselves. Not all fights need a map but get creative with your terrain and surroundings. Elements like traps or NPCs can add a lot to a fight.
  7. It’s viable for smarter foes to flee if they’re losing a battle. You can always stage their amazing comeback later in the campaign.
  8. Diplomacy is also viable: not all fights need to end in bloodshed.
  9. Not all fights are meant to be won. It’s okay to design fights that are unwinnable if it’s part of your story: just make sure that your more stubborn players don’t hang around and get wiped out. A helpful hint or two goes a long way.

Of course, these are just the basic tips written out in a handy list format. If you need more detail, check out the video above with Critical Role’s illustrious DM, Matt Mercer.

We’ll have more Game Master Tips every Friday, so stay tuned!!

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