Giving A Win
I run hard games, or so I am told. I run difficult encounters that challenge my players, forcing them to give their all and, hopefully, think creatively. These were the sorts of adventures that I was shown when I first got into gaming and they have always been the sorts of games I run. I have enjoyed them and seeing as how I have been running games for the same people for what is now almost a full decade, I know that I am doing something right. However, I am told that these sorts of games can be a little imposing for new players, which has led me to rethink my strategy for encounter building.
Over all, these games are meant to be fun. For some players, complex battles and facing down against insurmountable odds is fun. For others, it can be exhausting. Realizing this, I have begun to try and include the occasional easy encounter in my games. Easy encounters are encounters ā be they combat or not ā in which the player characters have the advantage and can reliably overcome the challenge without any severe loss of resources. These sorts of encounters are not meant to be challenging, but simply to be fun. They allow players to feel awesome, to test new abilities and tactics without any real fear of what failure might mean, and simply just to show off. They are an ego boost, pure and simple, and sometimes that can be exactly what players need.
As a Gamemaster, it can be easy to lose sight of what is fun for your players vs. what is fun for you. For you, running weak enemies that your players will just stomp all over is not all that fun. It can even be frustrating at times, but for players these sorts of battles allow them to feel like the epic heroes of legend that they trying to be. As a Gamemaster, you might be afraid to run encounters like these for fear of your players getting too powerful too quickly, especially in a level up based game where every encounter grants that all-so precious experience needed for your players to level up. Weak encounters should not generate too much experience, so you should not have any real worry about them leveling faster than you anticipate.
Building appropriately difficult challenges for a tabletop role-playing game can be very difficult, and there are always many variables to consider. On top of everything else, the dice provide a unpredictable variable that can be difficult to accommodate for. Encounters you thought to be difficult might suddenly turn either easy or impossible based on the luck of the roll, and the same is true for those you thought would be easy. Keep this in mind when developing your encounters. Do not rely on either you or your players getting average rolls. Expect there to be a swing session to session, if not encounter to encounter.
Though everyone will differ, I think a good ratio of encounters is two easy encounters per two or three average/challenging encounters per single difficult/boss encounter. This allows you to spread out the difficulty of encounters, which gives your players a lot of variety in the game, which most players will appreciate. Give them an easy win once and a while. They will be grateful for it. Just do not do this too often.
After all, we do not want our players going soft, do we?
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
Image Credit: Thinkstock