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D&D 5E Interesting Encounter Examples

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
We all know the advice about making better, interesting encounters: avoid solo monsters, use terrain, avoid slogs, etc.

But alot of people need a more "visual" approach to good encounter design. They're more inclined to examples rather than just tips. So, the point of this thread is to talk about encounter designs that make for interesting experiences and a fun challenge for the players. These encounters can be social/exploration as well. Bonus points for detailing how the encounter works and giving real-experience running said encounter.

Combat Encounter: 1 Merrow and 1d4 Kuo-Toa and 1 Sahuagin (Encounter EXP: 1200-1500).

The location is anywhere where the party must traverse a semi-large body of water while on solid ground themselves. Like crossing a low bridge or on a small boat.

The Merrow has the ability to pull individual adventurers into the water with their harpoon. Once they do that, the Kuo-Toa can attempt to restrict the target with their Net attack which auto-restrains. If the Kuo-Toa miss or hasn't had their turn yet, the Sahuagin can still benefit from their Blood Frenzy.

All of these creatures have darkvision (and Kuo-Toa has sunlight sensitivity) so this is best played in the nighttime with either the dim light of a full moon or pitch darkness.

Either way, this encounter is a medium/hard encounter for level 7-8 players.

Exploration Encounter: The party enters a room with various medical supplies strewn about. They can see a few Healer's Kits across the floor. There's also a desk with various articles of research papers written in Elvish and a locked cabinet which can be opened using Thieving Tools with a DC 12 Dexterity Check. Inside the cabinet are spell scrolls for Guidance, Identify, Comprehend Languages, and Unseen Servant. If the party succeeds a DC 15 Perception Check on the desk, they find a paper written in common that reads "The Reagents are fickle...the only combination that proves slightly useful are the purified blood of Naga and Cockatrice. This reaction might be due to the mixture of Copper and Nickel. Must beware not to mix the Tungsten and Adamantine solutions together." The farside of the room holds seven different colored liquids inside of test tubes: Ochre, Ivory, Ebony, Lavender, Emerald, Cyan, and Rosé. Upon inspection, its revealed the liquids are all viscous and smells like metals. These liquids are the blood of different creatures. (Ochre-Tin, Ivory-Silver, Ebony-Tungsten, Lavender-Mithral, Emerald-Copper, Cyan-Adamantine, Rosé-Nickel). If the party mixes the Emerald and Rosé mixture together, they get a potion of Invulnerability. However, mixing the Ebony and Cyan mixture causes an explosion that deals 6d10 Poison damage to each creature in a 20ft radius sphere. Drinking any individual liquid has no effect.

This exploration encounter gives the players a decent reward for thoroughly searching the area but also isn't required for them to interact, though the different test tubes are an immediate attention draw and will likely be interacted with. Smart players might intuit that the test tubes are vials of blood and vigilant players might discover the pages that greatly help them discover the right combination. If the players can't resolve it, they can still have a smaller reward of spell scrolls involving cantrips and 1st-level spells.

Social Encounter: The party must convince a Djinni to allow them usage of his airship for the kingdom's legion to counterattack the cloud giant's empire (Low level parties preferred). The Djinni dislikes perpetuating violence and enjoys peaceful solutions first and foremost. He would prefer the kingdom merely forget the giant's transgression and live peacefully (which the king would find intolerable). The Djinni always has Detect Magic on when having official audiences to guests and will inform the guests of this. He becomes hostile if he detects any magical manipulations, otherwise, he is friendly to those respectful to him.

Here, the party must convince a nonviolent but powerful character to lend aid. Its likely the party aligns with the Djinni, but they must convince him that lending the airship is the best course of action rather than forgiveness, which the Djinni much prefers. The party would need to find clever solutions to bypass his magic wariness or be as convincing as possible. Or they could lie to him and risk betraying a powerful foe. Multiple ways to go about the problem and should be able to be played organically.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Awesome. Do you often post mini-adventures or was it something short-term?
Thanks! I haven't done many in recent years. Like campaign recaps and similar posts, there isn't enough response to them (post, likes, etc.) to make the effort worth my time. There are more likes to be had talking about "metagaming" or Intelligence-5 Sherlock Holmes. Such are the perverse incentives of our times.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Thanks! I haven't done many in recent years. Like campaign recaps and similar posts, there isn't enough response to them (post, likes, etc.) to make the effort worth my time. There are more likes to be had talking about "metagaming" or Intelligence-5 Sherlock Holmes. Such are the perverse incentives of our times.
Its honestly a shame because I believe these resources are far more valuable than most of the debates going on in basically any forum right now.
 

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