D&D 5E Campaign Confounders (idea discussion)

Teneb

Explorer
I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.

I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?

Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle. They would ideally be scalable, e.g. make a DC 10/15/18/20 Athletics check (based on tier) or be hit by a falling rock from the cliffside you're fighting near. That sort of thing. It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party. Oh no, a small child has wandered into the bar fight the party is engaged in; do you keep hitting the orc in front of you in the face and risk the child getting hurt, or rush to rescue the kiddo and risk opportunity attacks?

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
 

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Smackpixi

Adventurer
I dunno man, seems weird you can’t even set up an encounter of archers on a cliff that can’t be hit melee. But, whatever. You’re inventing a big systemic thing to solve nothing. All the confounders by environment you’re imagining could just be tossed up at your convenience in any battle. Not sure what’s fixed here.
 

I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.
my solution sounds insulting... but I mean it with love. My way to stop that (when I care to) is Monkey See Monkey Do...
have your monsters and NPCs move around and use the environment and the players will follow suit... but you have your own idea.
I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?
I like this... there is a game I play called TORG eternity and they basicly do this.
Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle. They would ideally be scalable, e.g. make a DC 10/15/18/20 Athletics check (based on tier) or be hit by a falling rock from the cliffside you're fighting near. That sort of thing. It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party. Oh no, a small child has wandered into the bar fight the party is engaged in; do you keep hitting the orc in front of you in the face and risk the child getting hurt, or rush to rescue the kiddo and risk opportunity attacks?

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
 

cbwjm

Legend
I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?
These encounter cards sound like a great idea for random encounters. Using cards is also a great way to customise the encounters, just shuffle some different cards into the deck to change things up.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.
Look at fencing and boxing. They just sit there trading blows. It's not a failure, but it might be a consequence of your game of choice.

Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle . . . It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party.
You could make this easier with a standard set of generic confounders. Say...

  • Environment causes damage
  • Points of Advantage
  • Time limit or both parties lose/flee
  • A non-combat goal ends the conflict before one/both sides die.

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
I would start simple, just to see if you're creating more problems. Try a new rule: anyone taking damage must end the round in a different square. See how that goes.
 

I understand it can be difficult sometimes to avoid the toe-to-toe slugfests. I think your idea could work, even as just a learning tool for you. If it works you'll eventually be able to do it on the fly so give it a shot.

One thing you could try is using the basic version of Old School Hack arenas. It's a much simpler game, mechanics wise, but it treats each arena as either: tight, hazardous, open, dense, or neutral. 5e doesn't use arenas but you could treat different groupings of squares as part of the same arena. Each arena gives a bonus to certain types of weapons and OSH puts emphasis on moving to other arenas and taking opponents with you if you need to. You can capture this same feel using grappling, pushes, spells, or environmental effects in 5e.

  • Tight: Light weapons take advantage of the limited mobility of narrow areas.
  • Hazardous: Reach weapons take advantage of poor footing and limited visibility.
  • Open: Ranged weapons take advantage of open areas with little to no cover.
  • Dense: Heavy weapons take advantage of crowded areas filled with fiddly and smashable bits that could get in the way.
  • Neutral: Bland or ambiguous areas that don't give a bonus.
Advantage might be too much of a benefit but +X to attack rolls, damage rolls, or something else could work. Versatile weapons could potentially get a benefit in either Tight or Dense areas based on how you're wielding them.

This can also free you up to say "this 20x25 room is filled with tables and benches (Dense). There is a stairwell toward the back in need of repair (Hazardous) and a small corridor leading to a kitchen (Tight)" without needing to draw out each piece of furniture on a map.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, I think the deck of complications things is a neat idea on its own, but I don’t think it’s going to be the solution to the problem you’ve described. In my experience, combats devolve into everyone standing still trading blows when that’s the most effective strategy. And it’s always the most effective strategy when the goal is to kill all the enemies. The more direct solution to your problem would be to insure that the players and the monsters have goals other than defeating their opponents. Combat should be a means to an end. When combat starts, ask yourself what the monsters want out of this encounter - why are they fighting? then play them with the intent of achieving that goal. Likewise, design adventures so that the objective is something other than killing the monsters, and that killing the monsters won’t be the most efficient way to achieve it.
 

Teneb

Explorer
I dunno man, seems weird you can’t even set up an encounter of archers on a cliff that can’t be hit melee. But, whatever. You’re inventing a big systemic thing to solve nothing. All the confounders by environment you’re imagining could just be tossed up at your convenience in any battle. Not sure what’s fixed here.
It's not a matter of "can't", it's that my 10th level party trivializing things like that (ready access to scouting via familiars for example, nearly everyone has a mechanism of getting up that cliff quickly, etc.). However, your idea of "unseen enemy attacks" sounds like a great confounder to add to the list.

I like this... there is a game I play called TORG eternity and they basicly do this.

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out!

You could make this easier with a standard set of generic confounders. Say...

  • Environment causes damage
  • Points of Advantage
  • Time limit or both parties lose/flee
  • A non-combat goal ends the conflict before one/both sides die.


I would start simple, just to see if you're creating more problems. Try a new rule: anyone taking damage must end the round in a different square. See how that goes.

Yes, spot on. I want to add variety and force the party to react to things while not going too far the other direction and overcomplicating combat. I take your point about simplicity, I think I'll try starting with a more generic list along the lines you state and see how it goes. I can always add other, more specific confounders if the system seems to work the way I'd like it to.

I understand it can be difficult sometimes to avoid the toe-to-toe slugfests. I think your idea could work, even as just a learning tool for you. If it works you'll eventually be able to do it on the fly so give it a shot.
  • Tight: Light weapons take advantage of the limited mobility of narrow areas.
  • Hazardous: Reach weapons take advantage of poor footing and limited visibility.
  • Open: Ranged weapons take advantage of open areas with little to no cover.
  • Dense: Heavy weapons take advantage of crowded areas filled with fiddly and smashable bits that could get in the way.
  • Neutral: Bland or ambiguous areas that don't give a bonus.

This is a VERY interesting suggestion, lots of ideas churning in my head based on this.

Thank you everyone, great suggestions and discussion thus far. Appreciate you helping me flesh this idea out!
 

aco175

Legend
I try to focus on every 5th fight to be something. Maybe start on every 10th to get going. Every fight should not be extreme and life or death. I try to use terrain and monster combo to effect such as;

A golem with lightning absorption surrounding by traps that shoot javelins of lightning. Once the players see the javelins healing the golem while damaging them, they change tactics.

A harpy on the other side of a cliff that can call PCs over and maybe falling to their damage/death.

Teleporting circles around the room where monsters can pop out where they want and PCs need to roll 1d6 to random choose until they make a DC15 check.

Have simple fights as well where the player can clean the clock of easy monsters before hitting one to remember.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
lair actions are great and can be used for every encounter. in fact I’d advise mking monsters secondary focus and start with designing the ‘encounter lair’ then add monsters as special effects to the effect. eg archers on a balcony could be goblins archers or a manticore or even a flock of stirges being disturbed

ie
Multiple levels (archers on balconies, treetop attackers, Flyers)
Difficult Terrain (Rocks, bog)
Changing Terrain (Rockfalls, Earthquakes, Collapsing floors)
Visibility (darkness, trees, walls, obscuring fogs, blinding lights)
Hazards (Acid, Falls, Fire, Strong winds, geysers, lightning, animals)
Snares, Knockdowns and Pushback effects (wind blasts, earthquakes)
Minions Reinforcements
 


pogre

Legend
If you are excited about creating the cards and including them in your encounters, I would say go for it.

Your enthusiasm will come through when you use them in the campaign.

If you dread the work of creating the cards - then go with some of the other suggestions and ideas above.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
I've posted this before in response to a similar question (someone else, been too long, gets credit for the original ideas).

(1) Don't make your combats about "fight to the death" and (2) spice monsters up by giving them bonus and reactions. MM monsters by default are boring. One of my favorites is the A5E improved frost giant that, if it knocks you down with its melee attack, can take a bonus action to try and curb stomp you with its boots.

Defend the Innocent
: The enemies aren't focused on the party, they're focused on a defenseless third party that the party needs to intervene and protect.
Stop the Ritual: The party has X turns to stop A Bad Thing from happening.
Achilles' Heel: The enemies are nearly impervious to conventional tactics except for a specific, crippling weakness that the party can exploit.
By The Power of Greyskull: The battle has some kind of power-up that the party can leverage to make an unwinnable fight winnable. Maybe the enemies have powerful, enchanted weapons in their armory and the party can steal them and use them for themselves, allowing you to throw more powerful enemies that the party shouldn't be able to fight at their current level. Maybe there's a magical wellspring that allows the spellcasters to regenerate spell slots, allowing them to cast their highest level spells more times than normal.
(Don't) Kick the Dog: A sympathetic character is fighting for the enemy, maybe mind controlled, maybe it's a misunderstanding, maybe the party just doesn't want to hurt this character, and the party needs to find a non-violent way to take them out of the fight, while they have no problems attacking the party. Crowd control is the key to this battle.
The Floor is Lava: Safe ground to stand on is ever-changing and dangerous. Maybe the ceiling of the ruined temple is collapsing, and each turn some rubble falls on a chunk of the battlefield, with only a round of warning before it does. This forces players who may be content to try and hold a position to move, potentially taking opportunity attacks or losing advantageous positioning.
Hold the Line: The battle is a test of endurance, the party has to survive X rounds against a seemingly overwhelming force before the tides of battle turn in their favor. The more avenues the players have to hold, the more they'll be stretched thin.
They Live: Enemies rise from the dead, have a second wind, or tap into some source of rejuvenation once defeated, and must be defeated again, this time with extra abilities.
Mêlée à Trois: A battle between 3+ equally antagonistic parties where the motivations for everyone involved is "the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy". See Jack Sparrow vs Will Turner vs Commodore Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Prove Your Worth: The battle includes a third party that is judging the players, or that they need to somehow influence to their side. This could be a gladiatorial combat where the group needs to win over the crowd, or maybe a subtrope of the Melee a Trois where the party has found themselves caught between enemies and a group of potential future allies, or maybe the maybe the party has stormed into the throne room to protect the king from his evil vizier and need to fend off the guards long enough to make their case. This is a roleplaying encounter mixed in with combat.
Hot Potato: The battle involves some kind of MacGuffin that can't be held by one person for too many turns and has to be traded off. Maybe the Orb of Baa'dGhai needs to be kept away from the enemies who want to summon the Dark Lord, but every round the players hold onto it they suffer a stacking debuff.
Reinforcements Incoming: Whether it's a Broodmother summoning more whelps, or battalions of soldiers arriving to the battlefield, this is a battle where the number of enemies can become overwhelming if not kept in check, and AOE attacks get an opportunity to shrine.
Enrage Timer: Each turn the enemies become stronger than the previous turn, so a fight that starts easy can quickly become overwhelming if the party tries to hoard their resources.
Romeo and Juliet: Enemies that are linked in some way and must be defeated within X rounds of each other or they will heal their counterpart.
Solve the Puzzle: The Ur-trope, there is some sort of puzzle that has to be solved before the battle can conclude. Maybe the party needs to find a group of hidden runes scattered in different corners of the battlefield to reveal the password to open the door that allows them to escape from a zombie horde.
Team Deathmatch. The outcome involves the survival of a single VIP, whether PC or NPC. Perhaps a barbarian warrior needs to prove that they’re tough enough to remain standing during a battle or a cleric of a light god is channeling the force of their god—the only thing enough to push back the darkness that threatens to consume the entire party. This can be a great way to put the spotlight on a specific character and allow them to shine (sometimes literally).

Capture the Flag—instead of protecting a VIP, you’re fighting over an inanimate McGuffin, like a magic rune or bag of gold. As the MacGuffin trope is an extremely versatile tool in writing, this is an extremely versatile objective in combat design! Maybe once the party defeats the warlord, her underlings will try to grab the body and escape to resurrect her! Maybe the party’s goal is to steal a magic gem that’s guarded by a horde of eternally reanimating skeletons! Maybe the party has reached the end of the dungeon at the same time as a rival adventuring party, with both approaching the artifact contained within from opposite entrances to the final room! Now, in many Capture the Flag combats, battle may eventually degenerate back to a Team Deathmatch state, but simply having an objective can force battles to happen in circumstances that aren’t ideal to either side. Besides, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with Team Deathmatch combat, and the times it doesn’t lead to that can lead to some very hectic chases and clever uses of non-damaging combat abilities.

King of the Hill seeks to control a location. Now, this location can start under the control of either faction or start as initially neutral depending on circumstance, and each situation leads to a very different type of encounter. If the location is initially neutral, this functions like a Capture the Flag scenario where the dominant strategy of ‘just run away’ isn’t possible. If possible, try to make ‘tanky’ characters like paladins and fighters really feel dominant when the battle reaches maturity, but favor speedsters like monks and rogues during the initial phase of battle. You can do this by applying a two turn ‘countdown to victory’ for controlling the location uncontested, and deliberately setting up the scenario so it takes a ‘normal’ character one-and-a-half movements (two turns, with an action left over) to reach the location. This means that fast characters can get in an initial advantage but can’t win the scenario outright. A reasonable scenario like this might be taking a bridge. One side wants to hold it so that it can be destroyed, another side wants to hold it so that an approaching army can cross. A ‘defensive’ King of the Hill might involve the PCs holding a specific door against enemies that want to burst in and assassinate whoever’s inside. An ‘offensive’ King of the Hill might involve the PCs trying to remain inside a ritual circle to disrupt the summoning of a dark god. The potential combinations are nearly endless, just realize that, just like with the Capture the Flag variant, the PCs will come up with all sorts of janky strategies to completely circumvent fighting the encounter. To a certain extent, let them. That’s part of the way that D&D is different from a video game. It’s part of the fun!

Leaving MacGuffins behind, what if enemies didn’t all attack at once? This is Wave Defense, and it’s probably the most common of these suggestions in actual play. Still, I figure it’d be worth mentioning here in part because fighting one big battle is more fun than fighting a bunch of little ones. However, it’s easy to overwhelm PCs though the use of the action economy (a lot of enemies, few PCs). The solution is to throw the enemies at them in waves! This also can make combats last longer than the traditional three round length. That’s not all, however. The ‘alternate objective’ comes in with what I call the ‘Cross the Finish Line’ objective for enemies, which is a classic component of the Wave Defense in other game. Perhaps the party is defending a wall breach against attacking soldiers, or a holy gate against a horde of demons. The enemy can’t attack all at once due to the size of the gap, so they come in waves. Either it’s defeat a certain number of enemies or hold out for a certain amount of time (another alternate combat objective) in order to achieve victory.

Another sort-of alternate combat objective is the Free for All, in which survival is focused on as the goal over body count. Though it’s become popular in the modern consciousness with the Battle Royale genre, the Deathmatch is a long and storied tradition in video games which can be applied to your D&D game with the appropriate level of worldbuilding. A classic of the mega dungeon is the existence of multiple warring factions within the dungeon. Perhaps this comes to a head with a battle between two factions? If either faction wins decisively, it makes the PCs lives much harder, so it falls on the PCs to ensure that any victory is pyrrhic. Perhaps an otherwise normal battle is interrupted by a wandering monster looking for an easy meal? Perhaps the Big Bad’s underling sees the climactic battle with the PCs as the perfect opportunity to betray their boss an eliminate both groups in one fell swoop? The Free for All is the perfect gift for the Diplomacy player in your game group—a challenge in which strategic thinking and diplomacy RP becomes just as essential to winning an encounter as optimal character design and tactical ability!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I GM a group of six level 10 characters, and our combats are pretty dull. Enemies show up, characters close, and then everyone just sits there trading blows. I've tried adding in some environmental factors, interesting scatter terrain, varieties of monsters, etc., but things almost always devolve into PC vs. NPC just hacking away at each other. I fully recognize this as a failure of GMing, but after years of this the things I'm trying are clearly not working.

I was enjoying another hobby, playing the Arkham Horror LCG, when I was struck by inspiration. For those not familiar, in AH the players are racing against time to solve mysteries while being thwarted by the “encounter deck”. These are random cards the players draw that seek to stymie the investigators in several ways, including through introducing more enemies, dealing damage, slowing the investigators down, or messing with action economy. It got me to thinking: could something like this work for D&D?

Here's what I'm envisioning: for each environment, e.g. forest, dungeon, town, create a random table of “confounders” to the battle. By developing this by environment it allows us to make flavorful additions to battle. They would ideally be scalable, e.g. make a DC 10/15/18/20 Athletics check (based on tier) or be hit by a falling rock from the cliffside you're fighting near. That sort of thing. It introduces some randomness but could also generate some interesting decisions for the party. Oh no, a small child has wandered into the bar fight the party is engaged in; do you keep hitting the orc in front of you in the face and risk the child getting hurt, or rush to rescue the kiddo and risk opportunity attacks?

Thoughts on such a system? Does anyone know of something like this that already exists (as it would save me a ton of time from developing my own!)?
I don't think your proposal is necessarily solving your problem.

For example, you mention one of your "Encounter Deck Confounders" being "make an Athletics check or hit by falling rock."

OK, but how does that even address your initial complaint – stagnant combats with a lack of movement?

This is a pretty common design mistake: Thinking that if we throw the kitchen sink of options at a problem, that the problem will somehow be masked or fall by the wayside. Instead it's more like "treating" a specific medical condition with a bunch of "well this might work" that never address the underlying problem.

Instead I'd go back to that original complaint – we have stagnant combats with a lack of movement – and ask "how can I encourage the players to move more?"

Here's an example of applying that to a simple Troll on the Bridge encounter: PCs come to a 40-foot bridge spanning a roaring river chasm. Troll climbs up, slams club, and says in broken Common "i'll eat whoever tries to cross."

Now it's time to interrogate the encounter idea: What encourages the PCs to move? Why not just pincushion the troll with arrows/spells? Or close to melee and carve it up 10th-level PC style? Let's brainstorm...
  • Maybe there's a waterfall or heavy mists or statues acting as cover that prevent a clear shot to the troll?
  • Maybe when the troll slams its club the entire bridge shudders and some stones fall into the river below, hinting that it's an unstable structure?
  • Maybe there are lurking shadows under the bridge hinting that there are more trolls in hiding?
  • Maybe the party needs to rapidly reach the other side before (a) enemies or a hazard catch up to them from behind? (b) the light of the Sidhelein Moon fades and the way into the secret citadel is lost for another month? (c) the curse/disease/poison afflicting one of them reaches its apex and they die or transform before reaching the cure on the other side?
  • Maybe the troll's obscene shouting causes stalactites overhead to rattle in the shadows of the PCs' torchlight, suggesting certain areas of the bridge/surrounds could be struck if the stalactites were to fall?
  • Maybe in framing the scene you describe a NPC get knocked 15 feet through the air by the troll's club, dropping them into the river below, hinting this troll has a special push attack?
 

Teneb

Explorer
@toucanbuzz - this is a great reminder as well that not every combat needs to have a lethal ending or a straightforward goal. I've successfully used some of these, and they definitely work well to spice things up.

I don't think your proposal is necessarily solving your problem.

For example, you mention one of your "Encounter Deck Confounders" being "make an Athletics check or hit by falling rock."

OK, but how does that even address your initial complaint – stagnant combats with a lack of movement?

This is a pretty common design mistake: Thinking that if we throw the kitchen sink of options at a problem, that the problem will somehow be masked or fall by the wayside. Instead it's more like "treating" a specific medical condition with a bunch of "well this might work" that never address the underlying problem.

Instead I'd go back to that original complaint – we have stagnant combats with a lack of movement – and ask "how can I encourage the players to move more?"

Here's an example of applying that to a simple Troll on the Bridge encounter: PCs come to a 40-foot bridge spanning a roaring river chasm. Troll climbs up, slams club, and says in broken Common "i'll eat whoever tries to cross."

Now it's time to interrogate the encounter idea: What encourages the PCs to move? Why not just pincushion the troll with arrows/spells? Or close to melee and carve it up 10th-level PC style? Let's brainstorm...
  • Maybe there's a waterfall or heavy mists or statues acting as cover that prevent a clear shot to the troll?
  • Maybe when the troll slams its club the entire bridge shudders and some stones fall into the river below, hinting that it's an unstable structure?
  • Maybe there are lurking shadows under the bridge hinting that there are more trolls in hiding?
  • Maybe the party needs to rapidly reach the other side before (a) enemies or a hazard catch up to them from behind? (b) the light of the Sidhelein Moon fades and the way into the secret citadel is lost for another month? (c) the curse/disease/poison afflicting one of them reaches its apex and they die or transform before reaching the cure on the other side?
  • Maybe the troll's obscene shouting causes stalactites overhead to rattle in the shadows of the PCs' torchlight, suggesting certain areas of the bridge/surrounds could be struck if the stalactites were to fall?
  • Maybe in framing the scene you describe a NPC get knocked 15 feet through the air by the troll's club, dropping them into the river below, hinting this troll has a special push attack?

It's a fair point, and some of that may come down to me not necessarily articulating my frustration clearly. I don't like it when we just keep going around the table with "I swing, I hit, 10 damage, next". Lack of movement is certainly part of that, but a lot of it is also lack of variety. I fully admit I do not do a good job of "interrogating the encounter idea" as you explain so well, and I like your ideas. I'm starting to realize the issue may be a lack of creativity on my part more than anything - that's probably where the "card" idea came from. I do better if I have some sort of prompt to prime the pump, so to speak.

And on that note, thanks to @GMforPowergamers for the suggestion of the TORG drama deck, this is exactly the type of thing I'm envisioning. The content will of course need to change since the rulesets are completely different, but the flavor of the cards is perfect.
 


jgsugden

Legend
Noble intent, problematic implementation. Randomness is most useful when you have to put something unexpected together quick. However, it won't give you optimal results if you have time to plan.

Instead of going random, add elements to each combat that make sense given the location, time and parties involved in the combat. Figure out what complications will make that combat unique and interesting and then introduce them.

For each combat you run, I suggest you ask the following questions:

1.) What about the environment could be unique in this combat and add some unusual challenges for the PCs.
2.) What are the victory conditions for the PCs? Can it be (and should it be) something other than killing all foes?
3.) Are there nearby entities that would be attracted to the sounds of combat? How long would it take them to arrive? What would they do? What would trigger them being notified?
4.) What do the potential foes want to achieve?

If you ask those four questions when dropping combats into a game it can really improve the quality of the story you're telling via those combats.
 

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