View Full Version : Help keep repetitive encounters interesting

2011-12-01, 07:06 PM
Some basic background info here. The PCs home nation is under siege by a large army from the northern desert. They have been asked to travel to the desert and raid the food stores of the attacking nation in order to get them to give up the attack and return home to defend their food.

The attacking nation is made up of seven united clans and there are seven large villages (the PC's won't need to attack them all in order to draw back the army, but they probably will attack 3-4). I want to make sure these attacks aren't completely repetitive as this part of the campaign will likely take 3 or 4 sessions. The party will be traveling underground with trained ankheg's if that makes a difference at all.

There is not a huge military force in the desert at the moment because most able bodied soldiers are attack the PC's home country. The dessert people are fluffed a little bit after the mongols but with a more deserty flair. They make use of horses and sword sages quite frequently.

Any ideas to make each raid feel different and unique would be greatly appreciated!

2011-12-01, 07:23 PM
Introduce the bandits on a "basic" raid, they should be a challenging fight on their own, but remember to throw something nifty in, like there's some sort of Sarlacc pit nearby that one of the raiders falls into and as the fight progresses the other raiders try to push the PCs in.

Or maybe they attack from the high ground... or something more setting neutral.

Give the second raid big and scary. If you've got spellcasters in your setting, bring out a couple, and have them pull out a large beast or something similar that some of the bandits have been taming, possible a flying mount or something.

Session three should have an encounter that is completely unrelated to the bandits instead of repeating them, sort of as a break the calm as the badits seem to be figuring out that the PCs are too much of a hassle.

Session four, Bandit leader or whatnot shows up in person, all his best men are there. Lots of enemies that can stand up to the PCs pretty well, then halfway through the fight the Prince calls everyone off, and challanges who he sees as the champion of the PCs (pick the front liner with the most remaining HP) to a noble duel. If any of the other PCs try to interrupt, or the PC refuses, the fight continues as normal (decided whether or not the Prince wants to get involved).

But what do I know...

2011-12-01, 07:24 PM
First 1 or 2 shouldn't even really be encounters necessarily. So long as the party doesn't completely go off course, they can probably do a few hits before the enemy even knows what's happening. The second or third could be a hurried defense of a few alerted individuals trying to fend them off, and the third or fourth could appear to be another poorly defended one, but actually be a full on ambush against the party.

2011-12-01, 10:18 PM
If there are several locations the PCs are going to hit, you give each location a completely different setup.

Maybe one depot is just a little encampment in a swamp that makes for slow moement across the squishy gound and with a basic defense but a person they recently caught sneaking around trying to steal food.

One could be set in a cave and guarded by a brutish creature and a master and a couple of flunkies who keep the thing in line when supplies are delivered or withdrawn.

One could be an actual fenced stockade that's well guarded and houses a small contingent of troops and a magic using captain in charge of the place.

2011-12-03, 08:20 AM
Certainly, as others have said, the defenders in each village can be different enough to make each encounter feel different.

One additional thought: maybe, by the time they get to village four, people from village one have decided to negotiate for, or, if necessary, take supplies from village four as well. So, you end up with, potentially, a three-way fight, since the village 1 faction can either help the village 4 defenders OR harry both sides or neither waiting until they can take the supplies after the defenders and your PCs have beaten each other to a pulp. Depending on how the fight goes and the cleverness of the PCs, it can also help foment dissent between the seven tribes.

2011-12-03, 09:36 AM
The first few encounters could be with just two or three nomads. Their aim is to evade the PCs and report the parties presence. So we start with a game of clobber the scouts. Don't over do this, but eventually some of the scouts will get away.
Then the nomads send a small scouting group - something like a dozen mooks. But do add some low level casters for variety, and have a couple of troup types - archers, charges etc. This is just a test of strength.
Next comes the sneaky scouts in the night. Their aim is to reduce the mobility of the party - so they try to kill the ankhegs etc.
By now the Nomads will have assembled a larger force. These will not attack at first, ideally not even for a couple of days. These will shadow the party, gaining further re-inforcements all the time. Its important that the PCs get to find out that they are out there. The PCs have a chance to make a spoiling attack - but only if they are pro-active; do not prompt them for this. After 2-3 days the Nomads make a dawn attack.

2011-12-03, 10:08 AM
Are the desert clans distinguished by anything other than name? Geography, philosophy, religion, relative wealth, whatever? Breaking down differences in strategy and tactics by clan not only allows you to vary encounters, it allows the players to learn and adjust their tactics for future encounters.

Different clans might use different steeds. One clan might have horses, one might have camels, one might have elephants, one might have axe-beaks, one might have six-legged lizards, one might even have giant eagles.

If they use trained animals or monsters in warfare, each clan might have a unique or favored beast. Dogs, lions, giant lizards, rust monsters, whatever.

Different attitudes about combat might also distinguish between clans, and therefor encounters. If one clan fights to the last man, and one clan withdraws en masse when half their fighters are killed, and one clan withdraws individually when each fighter reaches half hit points, then your players will learn to use different strategies and tactics with each clan, and when they fight mixed forces they will select targets differently as well.

Wealth may factor into who does the fighting in/for each clan. A poor clan might train everyone who is strong enough to lift a weapon to fight. A wealthier clan might train men to fight, while women fight only to protect the children. A very wealth clan might hire mercenaries to do all of their fighting for them. Or something completely different. The point is, how much money they have factors into how they fight.

There may also be tactical differences. One clan may rely on large numbers for victory, to compensate for light armor and weapons. One clan may favor small units with heavy armor and two-handed weapons. Another clan may use small stealthy units with exotic weapons. This is not to say that a clan can't change its tactics to fit various situations, but at least nodding to different combat styles does allow the DM to make similar encounters different.


Another standby in mixing things up is to create a situation in which your party has to temporarily join forces with the enemy to fight an even bigger threat. It could by a marauding dragon, or invading forces from the wild lands, or whatever.