Encounter Design

Parlay?I wanted to write a little bit about what is going on “behind the scenes” when I am drafting up an encounter. My intent ts to clarify my thinking on the power levels I have in mind for the current campaign. It should also help clear up any misunderstandings about the intended power level of the Feats and Traits. This is not a thesis on how I design encounters. It should also be noted that this is “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules“.


Extras: These are actors that have average Traits and no Feats. They cannot use Stamina to soak lethal damage and round down for DV calculations. They should only be a threat to PCs in large numbers or a well coordinated attack. Out of combat it should be a simple matter to influence such actors. It should be noted, however, that their equipment or access to resources is a factor of their background, not their ‘threat level’.

Regulars: Actors with above average traits but no Feats. They cannot use Stamina to soak lethal damage and round down for DV calculations. Such actors represent skilled warriors or influential non-combatants. They may pose a threat to a lone PC but not to a group as a whole. Influencing such actors outside of combat should be possible without use of Feats for a skilled character.

Monsters: Actors with average to superhuman traits, that may also have access to Feats to represent special abilities. They do not use Stamina to soak lethal damage and round down for DV, but they may have higher than normal DV or Soak values to represent innate toughness or aptitude. A party should be able to defeat such monsters without difficulty if using Feats.

Challenges: Non-heroic challenges are those that can be solved or bypassed without the use of Feats, assuming a degree of competence in the required field is present.


Regulars: Heroic regulars will have above average Traits and may have access to a limited array of Feats. They can use Stamina to soak lethal damage and round up for DV. Such actors may be a match one-on-one for a PC and should certainly pose a threat in numbers. Given my thematic assumptions such actors are uncommon and would probably only be encountered in static roles (guards, nobility, or clergy for example). Influencing such actors should require use of Feats.

Leads: Heroic leads are the principle antagonists of a story. Their Traits may surpass those of a PC and they will almost certainly have access to an array of Feats. It is entirely possible that an Heroic Lead is more than a match for any given PC and may require a coordinated effort to defeat or influence. They are the Battlemasters, BBEGs and heroes of legend. As such, their presence in the campaign is limited.

Monsters: These actors possess Feats to represent special abilities and will have a range of Traits – from competent to superhuman – to represent innate toughness and aptitudes. Such a challenge could represent the alpha of a group of lesser monsters, or it could be the ultimate adversary to a chronicle. While their actual ‘threat level’ will vary these actors should certainly require Feats to overcome.

Challenges: Heroic challenges require Feats or superhuman Traits to solve or bypass.

Putting It Together

Generally speaking, I am asking myself two questions: Is this encounter heroic, and can it be solved by a single protagonist? I’ll take a few examples from the current campaign.

1. The jungle, while not a set-piece encounter, has required a degree of competence to traverse safely. This is a non-heroic challenge.

2. The stranglethorn. This encounter is a non-heroic monster/challenge.

3. Approaching the Cree nest safely was a heroic challenge. Inside the nest the party faced a low-grade heroic monster and several non-heroic monsters.

4. Keeping the Lady Luck balanced while retrieving the fire cask did not fit into any of these categories – which was intentional.


~ by occam99 on August 7, 2012.

4 Responses to “Encounter Design”

  1. Makes sence to me…

    I think we were particularily lucky in our encounter last night (inside the Cree nest). It could have quite easily have gone horribily wrong for the party. The number of attacks that just missed the PC’s while our attacks were above average in success…

    I hope that what may have seemed to be a “fairly easy” encounter does not make you overestimate the “average” ability of the party…


  2. Don’t worry too much…it is early days yet and I’m still sort of feeling my way with regards to the party’s power level. Part of writing this post was to help prevent myself from making knee jerk reactions to things.

  3. It will be interesting to see how we handle things when already low on heroic reserves. So far all fights have been started at full health and close to max HR.

  4. Yep…that is one of the things I had in mind when I was creating my systems – that players must be thinking of the long haul. Managing Heroic Reserves/Willpower/Health etc is a part of playing one’s character.

    “Do I spend my limited resources now to keep everyone’s health topped up, or do I allow minor injuries to be untended so I have something left for an unexpected obstacle?”, for example.

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