1d12 Most Common Encounter Mistakes
1d12 Most Common Encounter Mistakes
I don’t generally dwell on the negative. We’re here to have fun at every game, after all. However, sometimes it’s great to review a list of gotchas and see if any resonate. If some do, we can then take action to fix. So today I have 1d12 mistakes for us to consider in no particular order as we prep and run our encounters.
1. Poor Teamwork
Our encounter design might be awesome, but if it’s challenging and players do not help each other out, it could end in disaster. Many game systems promote lack of teamwork. Individual initiative, for example, prompts players to think just about their character and options when it’s their turn.
2. Technical Difficulties
This is top of mind for me right now as I try GMing with Foundry for a new campaign. From internet connection to audio to character controls to GM features, there’s a lot that can go wrong with the tech in an encounter.
I assert this is the root cause of most game table issues. Things like differing expectations, bad behavior goes unchecked, and poor descriptions can derail an encounter.
4. Poor Planning
While we should expect players to meet us halfway in terms of making things fun and being imaginative, poor encounter design makes this a tougher task for them. Things like uninteresting choices and boring stakes top my list here.
5. Overpowered Foes
Pet NPCs, over-protecting villains, or misjudging difficulty levels can lead to untimely character ends and a frustrating experience for the players.
6. Underpowered Foes
On the other end of the Goldilocks spectrum, too many easy encounters cause boredom and lack of engagement. Why bother trying when it’s easy peasy?
7. Poor Pacing
Poorly paced encounter cause whiplash or yawns. When encounters end too fast or drag on, players lose interest. You might lose interest too. For example, combats that grind to Hit Point Zero, or conflicts that only need one roll to resolve.
8. Rules Disagreements
If you have different interpretations of the rules than your players, gameplay breaks down and potential social conflict emerges. Likewise, handwaving something a player was counting on can nerf character actions.
9. Poor Roleplaying
If the GM or players are not good at roleplaying, it can detract from the experience and make the encounter feel flat. I don’t mean funny voices or acting here. It’s things like naming your character Bob, not envisioning encounters well and taking unconstructive (or destructive) actions, or not echoing back in-character the play or roleplay of others.
If there are distractions in the gaming environment (such as loud noises, phones chiming, or non-gamers), it can take away from the immersion of the encounter. Dim lighting, uncomfortable seating, and insufficient space can also become distracting.
11. Unforeseen Consequences
When players turn left at Albuquerque and we do not anticipate that, it can lead to unintended consequences that derail our encounter. Likewise, during prep, we tend to only focus on our most desired outcomes, and fail to consider player perspectives and thinking.
12. Lack of Clear Objectives
When we or the party fail to set good encounter stakes and have no clarity around what those stakes are, the game devolves into confusion and repetitive gameplay. It’s also important the we understand why we GM and love it so much, so we can avoid burnout.
What are the biggest encounter mistakes you’ve seen hit the table? Hit this forum thread and let me know.
Have more fun at every game!