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Building RPG Encounters! (Game Master Tips)

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Come hither as Matt Mercer tells you how to be a better GM / DM. Today’s episode shows you how to build engaging encounters: everything from enemy creation and difficulty level to shaping battlefield terrain. For more on RPGs, go to http://bit.ly/GS_RPG Visit us on http://geekandsundry.com Subscribe to Geek and Sundry: http://goo.gl/B62jl Join our community at: http://geekandsundry.com/community Twitter: http://twitter.com/geekandsundry Facebook: http://facebook.com/geekandsundry Instagram: http://instagram.com/geekandsundry Google+: https://plus.google.com/+GeekandSundry/
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Text Comments (508)
GrimIsTheReaper (5 days ago)
I run every fight on Deadly...it hasn't stopped them yet
Jessica Brown (7 days ago)
I have 9 players.....
Launchpad McQuack (8 days ago)
0:27 1:30
BoneyBackRivers (22 days ago)
I try to do the diplomacy during some fights lol
Alexandr Boev (26 days ago)
Привет всем русскоговорящим! Ребята, если для Вас трудно принимать информацию на британском, то могу дать подсказку, что на канале Living Room Studio кушать хороший перевод видео G&S с Мэтом. Удачи на полях схваток, игроки! Спасибо создателям за творение настолько полных и увлекательных видео! Thank you!
Dealwithit Chicken (1 month ago)
I was playing with some friends on a game we'd created, they were all level 10-15 and the boss was level 300. I strongly advised they leave, and all but one did, our bard. Bards in this game are mostly supports so I got a surprise when he used paralysis and undead songs, both of which I had previously stated this boss to be weak to, stopping it from fighting back and beating it to death. I had to pretty much rewrite the story on the spot...
Tianna Oleson (7 days ago)
HOW WAS IT LEVEL 300? THAT IS DISTURBING AND AMAZING,
Alternate Account (1 month ago)
I made my group face a powerful creature but we’re supposed to flee however despite me even saying they should run they attacked it into tpk regardless “for the memes” and that’s when I learned to never assume your player are going to do something even a simple OBVIOUS task
redviper163 (1 month ago)
I once put cell from dbz in my game
Mega Nerd (1 month ago)
Since most of my players are pretty new(im new too). To help them imagine i just use the world of Skyrim. Like my players are setting up a skooma house in Bleak Fall Barrows. Yep. Skooma dealers their skooma dealers. Now i under stand tge struggles of your players almost making you lose your shit.
GabrielMajere (1 month ago)
I especially loved the part about making monsters more difficult. One of my favorite memes, because I was doing it before it was a meme, said "Just because other DMs don't give goblins class levels doesn't mean I won't." I still laugh about the first time my players, all 5th level characters, met a group of goblins who were also all 5th level. :D
Jesse Inman (1 month ago)
This reminded me of a one-shot I was running with a group that their first instinct whenever an encounter started was to just shoot all of their arrows at the weaker creatures so that the party of 4 level 6 players only had to focus on the toughest creature and one of the rooms they went into had a wall of magic fire bisecting the room this torched all of their arrows and they all found different ways to over come it. One doused himself in water and jumped through. Another tried using gust of wind and others simplely tried to douse the flames but they all took something different from the encounter other than maybe I should shoot first ask questions later.
Brian Wilkerson (1 month ago)
Lots of useful stuff. I try to keep environmental stuff in mind, like the weather or topography (that is, when I write; I don't play as often as I'd like) but it slips my mind.  Thanks Dungeon Master Mercer.
Dakota Frerking (1 month ago)
Hears space marines, FOR THE EMPEROR
Your Geek Fix (2 months ago)
Dungeon Master or Mercer? You decide!
D3vitron (2 months ago)
“Short” video series
MeeesterBond17 (2 months ago)
Thanks Matt! Wish I'd had the foresight to watch this before making my first one-shot... I now know that a Marilith and a Lvl 5 Cleric isn't a fun encounter against a party of 5 when everyone's only level 6...
Jaron Chandler (2 months ago)
Matt Mercer is a treasure
kaɠamɩŋҽ ɾɩŋ (2 months ago)
Putang ina mo bakit mo ko tumingin sa akin ng mukha ko 😂😂😂😂
Tony B (2 months ago)
In the kobold example, you could give them class levels on top of their base abilities couldn’t you? Same for goblins or other intelligent monsters?
M. A. Packer (2 months ago)
I just dump, like, 50 orcs on my players everywhere they go. Sometimes I'll get a little crazy and send 55 orcs after them. It's good times
Ville Moilanen (2 months ago)
So what campaign are your running at this time Matt? Your game "master" tips are shit. So basic as to be non sequiturs. Watch this channel for better input on games and gamemastery -
ImmortalPersona (2 months ago)
I get the feeling that when matt orgasms, he yells "CRITICAL HIT"
JustinInExile (3 months ago)
04:39 10x04 Allip battle 05:57 Thordak and now Lorenzo
Gage Riley (3 months ago)
So my friend has been running a small campaign for us for a little while. He had us fight a watered down revenant in the first few sessions. The revenant was guarding Golden Lions totems. Ever since I took them the revenant has been chasing me down to get them back. But he makes it a lot of fun by flavoring it pretty heavily. We could be anywhere in the world, locked in a jail cell, fighting a boss, walking in town, or even competing in a tournament, but if you hear him start playing "Big Iron" by Marty Robins you know the revenant will be there. Hes an Arizona ranger with a colt 45. It has to be the highlight of the campaign. Anyone reading this, if you DM, make your enemies memorable.
Tyler Javier (3 months ago)
Chromgratulations on the great video!
Travis Marshall Signo (3 months ago)
He reminds me of that dude from Icarly
Krishna B (3 months ago)
There is a website called goblinist, that comes up with encounters. You can tell the website how hard it should be, the levels of the players, and the terrain.
Caleb Kopp (4 months ago)
My first campaign I had a bunch of monsters with a total CR of 1... against 3 level one people....we kinda died.
Ethan Marston-Terry (4 months ago)
Anyone know what this song is from I love it!
Apocalypse Gaming (4 months ago)
The first rule in kobold fight club is don’t talk about kobold fight club
JKoby99 (4 months ago)
Does somone know the background music in this video?
XOXheartAmy (4 months ago)
Random Player: Let's try to get out of this diplomatically Bard: You got it! *rolls seduction*
Draco Dovakiin (5 months ago)
"Fight on, my murder hobos" --Matt Mercer Best line ever
Manicies (5 months ago)
I'm remembering one time, my DM heavily nerfed a kraken to give us an interesting encounter on a boatride...what he wasn't expecting was us to harvest the leather and make really broken armour really early on in the campaign x'D
J D (5 months ago)
Going to build a campaign now. Keep talking Matt. These are all good sculpting tools..
Septlaxer Gaming (5 months ago)
"dont be afraid of letting situations defuse" does my friend seducing a corrupt head guardsman and sleeping with him to incriminate him count?
I'm currently running a kobold-heavy campaing (one of the side-plots is the kobold-invasion) and I'm making a lot of fun kobolds (warchiefs, wizard kobolds, regenerating kobolds, mutated and so on). The combinations - are indeed limitless. One of the funnest kobold units I've made so far - a four kobold party, riding a war elephant in armor. All four kobolds on the top - have artificer rifles (for 2d6 damage) and this unit - makes 4 attacks in one turn + an extra 2d10 damage from elephants tusk attack (though there is a dex save to see, if you dodged one of the tusks; otherwise, you are also pushed back 5f from the attack). So yes, DO create your monsters. Create undead, that is not classified as undead, make a whole society around them. Make fat and lazy elves, make pacifist thielfings, make a paladin order of drow elves, who fight for valor and glory of Lolth, go wild! It's a lot of fun, once you figure out how to balance your imagination with core rulebook. And DO adjust your monsters during the fight; this way, you can save monsters and have them ready for your next campaing with a better understanding, when to use them :D
Rob Lundy (6 months ago)
Matt.. I wanna know what your conditioner is
Nik Porto (6 months ago)
I like the guide so far, I'm gonna torture my players so good in my first time as a DM ;)
Ellariel (6 months ago)
I've been playing out of the abyss recently and when the demogorgon showed up, we were all very much trying to flee the second it showed its face. ... Still TPK'd us, though.
Alanna Woolsey (6 months ago)
"fight on, my murder hobos"
jason schofield (6 months ago)
I ran a suppose to lose fight once, i had 2 pcs as investigators checking out a space hulk to retreive an artifact after communcations failed, they made their way to a ratunda where they were about 8 cultists and a greater deamon of tzneetch, after about 8 rounds of fighting throwing weed bombs (hallucinogen grenades) and setting up turrets things were looking bad the 2 pcs (assassin and tech priest) the assassin was unconscious and on fire just one move from safety while the tech preist sacrificed his robotic arm to keep the aggro. Things looked bad but then they got insane, as a dm i never fudge the dice and unless its a lich or similar everything has a health bar, the tech preist decided he would do a suicide run to save the assassin, putting himself in absolute danger. Three suicide runs larer he had pretty much single handedly killed the thing. Then using his cloak put out the assassin and reconstructed her damaged organs with bits of scrap and the turret laying around she still has bits of space hulk in her character to this day xD after that whenever there is a hard fight our tech priest shouts suicide run and moves to the worst possible position with tactical advantage and by the luck of the dice alone always comes out okay xD my friend playing assassin was pregnant at the time and the next day we went to get snacks and she passed out in poundland (she and her son were okay) and it became known as the time i made her passout in poundland for all time
Jarrett Parr (6 months ago)
Yes let’s just say it’s short
Ethan Griffin (7 months ago)
Quick Q for anyone with an A: I'm working on making a siege encounter for a campaign I'm still hammering out, and a friend suggested that since the players would be attacking, it would be really cool to have the players use the Tarrasque to assault the fortress in question. What would be the best way to pull it off? Maybe the players have to bargain with a mage who found a way to control the beast with a spell?
Torrey Herbers (7 months ago)
I just wanted to say to Matthew Mercer that you are the greatest Dungeon Master that I have ever come across. I have been playing for nearly twenty years, and DMing for 15.I have have some very good DMs and some horrible ones, but I have never seen one with such a talent as yours. If you're ever in Big Rapids (Michigan), you have an honorary standing invitation to my table. Thank you for your contributions, and never give up.
Bonan The Barbarian (7 months ago)
“It’s more difficult with 6-8 players” I HAVE A PARTY OF 9!!!
Another filthy spy main (8 months ago)
me and my friends were playing d&d I was gm and at the start of the game they had to hide from a dragon instead they played punches.
JKAzrael247 (8 months ago)
*rolls his d100 dice* 71 You encounter a complicated Boardroom meeting with a hot and stuffy air conditioning system roll a -30 toughness test to not be bored by this encounter.
AllFenom (8 months ago)
Hey thanks for the tips Mccree! or should I say... Jesse.
Ivan Albertti (8 months ago)
my dream it's to be mastered by this guy
kaylyn Braga (8 months ago)
The furniture tip is really a good thing to point out. Atm i have my players at an inn after nightfall and there was a surprise attack of zombies that were instructed to destroy the inns and shops Furniture is a good tool to throw and manuevor around
Andy Wenderson (8 months ago)
Need translate to Russian:3
Adventures & Hobbies (8 months ago)
I always tend to under do or over do the encounters sometimes, but i have learned to adjust on the fly.
Everett Columbus (8 months ago)
So for a villain I'm considering creating a character sheet for them, is that a good idea?
Everett Columbus (8 months ago)
I'm now considering making the demon villain a bard and he and his friends never get up front just hang in the back conjuring other creatures with mandolins and bison horns
amethyst48 (8 months ago)
As someone who has been playing since late 1974, I agree with damn near everything you have said here. I actually love another rpg better, I think it allows more of the very things you have discussed here. But since this is D&D, we will stay with that. I alter creatures all the time the few times I get to play any more. I sometimes will pull my books going back to the very 1st set- one of my favorites is The Temple of the Frog from the original Blackmoor book. I took that and have enlarged it, expanded it and more. Now assuming I ever get a group again, The Temple can handle incursions from characters level 5-15+. You mentioned kobolds, remember they are a race, they can have characters as well. For your villages, add a village champion who is a fighter, or a wizard. Maybe he or she is a multi-class. Maybe they have a shrine or a temple of sorts and a cleric with a couples acolytes and 2-4 fighters who guard the shrine. Maybe your local orcs like raiding the kobolds, so they have a militia which will respond quickly. They could use it against your characters. It becomes character vs character there. Maybe your tribe of lizardfolk, have a young dragon they worship, or even a big one for your high-level campaigns. There is no end. I have all the old AD&D adventures and love to alter them, both for my D&D games and my other RPGs. I also use modules from those games and have them converted to D&D stats. I have run a Middle Earth campaign before. Btw I did not let the characters play the Fellowship, but the ring quests during the 3rd Age was not the only thing happening. The Battle of Pelennor was not the only major battle that occurred during the war for the ring- Erebor and Dale also fought a major series of battles and ended up taking refuge in the mountain and were under siege by the forces of Sauron and when he fell, they broke. You can also run in another age if you know the books and stories ( I happen to be a bit of a Tolkien fanatic, I wrote papers on it during Junior high, high school, and my first college.). There are other book series that make for great gaming ideas. Take your favorite, spend some time on it. My oldest son loves running his campaign in the world based on the Eregon books Most of the people he plays with love being evil, I play with himseparetely and I am good. He plays on letting us bump uglies one day, his group of friends vs me. I have the experience, they have the numbers, I'll win, we have a bet going. He tells me nothing about his other groups' characters, and he has only told them that I am an elf (ask me about the creative use of a Tenser's Disc sometime lol). I also, when DMing, will listen to my players talk, and have created future adventures based of their characters families, or their past or even something they talked about "might be cool" if it fits. I just discovered ya'll's videos yesterday and have watched a crapload of them. Your group so reminds me of my first real group except you don't have 1-2 super annoying people who send most of the group into convulsions but they are not disruptive enough to ask them to leave.
BlackGate Fox (9 months ago)
You are a god, thanks for the tips
PixelPen Nanos (9 months ago)
Anyone out there and listening? I need a monster that I can have my players fight in their first session- there are four of them, playing a rogue, a barbarian, a druid and a cleric, all at level two. None of them have ever played before and I don't want a first - session TPK. Please help.
White Wolf (9 months ago)
Well one way I do my games which are really fun is open world with a huge world that I’ve made with full lore that all my games are on and the story ends when the player dies and for quest there smaller side quest then there’s story quest which last 3-4 game sessions that are true and sad and very experiencing and in depth that attaches the player to others and makes Death fell tough to deal with and that’s the basics
Maddy Leaman (9 months ago)
I could see the op enemy for the future being good for a case where the enemy's goal isn't so much 'kill pcs' as it is 'do something and swat away pcs if they try to interfere'. For example, the main bad comes into town and, with the pcs in range, plans to kill the king. This makes it so that, should the players try and interfere, the baddie can just slam jam them without needed to off them all, then, once the king is dead, he can just gtfo. You could characterize the villain as an Agent 47 type, willing to kill anyone if necessary, but would prefer to only have to kill their target.
Strawberry Smalls (9 months ago)
Has Matt ever used his Mccree voice during a session of criticle role?
GhostMas7er (9 months ago)
It is actually pretty "fun" to watch your greedy party try and try to kill that big bad, that was meant for them to run away from. I gave them 5 different ways to run away from the before mentioned big bad, but nooo... they wanted to kill it while it is "helpless" sooo they ended up all dead.
The Gooseman (9 months ago)
its high noon
Davx (9 months ago)
Matt. You may no clue how much this helps us DMs
dont mind me im out (9 months ago)
Tips for translating a game like shin megami tensei into and?
Disapoint - (9 months ago)
*fight on my murder hobos*
Hades Eye (9 months ago)
There is no balance in nature. Sometimes players have to use their brains and let it go or use environment to defeat enemy. Before you start running a campaing inform your players that they need to think or they will die. Fighting dragon head to head like in D&D? No way. Use spells or black powder to trap that big lizard in his cave that is located under the lake. Drown that son of a reptile. Else? Die! But they have to come up with this idea by their own. If your players don't use their brains then where's the whole fun about making good stories. Is rolling dice to often fun? A snow giant in a big city? Why not. He was fighting with some other adventurers when their mage used a portal and that bastard is falling 'from heaven' straight to the center of market square in time of town's anniversary festival. Being creative is a part of the fun for Game Masters. For me "Dungeon Master' means someone who uses books too often. Who is doing stuff same way others did before him. So where's the fun? Also for players.
FlyingMollyWhop (10 months ago)
The best remedy for learning to DM is baptism by fire. Get in there, run a pre-generated adventure or two, then run a randomly made encounter. Trust me! You’re players will challenge you. I find the more I plan, the less my material is useful. The players will always do the weirdest and least expected things. Lol
Walter Ingle (10 months ago)
cf. 2nd edition AD&D "Dragon Mountain" regarding lvl 10 players fighting Kobolds. Traps, overrun grappling (some of those rules entered into 3 and 3.5ed). Handful of Kobolds had a class. And that boxed set was just CHOCK FULL of wonderful maps and goodies.
Sunflower Prince (10 months ago)
I like to research mythological creatures from cultures around the world, and customize them into my game
C Vernon (10 months ago)
I just had a major struggle along these lines. A group of 8 that were scattered about, they hadn't formed a group yet, and they were placed into the city center with the rest of the populace. Hundreds of guards, a giant execution platform in the middle with 50 falsely accused individuals awaiting death and powerful opponents up top. Apparently I did a bad job of indicating where they should be going (to save the innocents atop the dias) and one of the Fighters in the group decided to go off by himself scaling one of the five story buildings. This ended up generating two points of conflict - the city center and building roof top - and I decided not to have the crowd interact to keep my sanity. The plan was for them to be captured and then dropped down a hidden shaft from the central platform. Without the crowd, this took FOREVER and I just figured out that crowd assistance would have made this go significantly faster. Get enough people on top and even a Barbarian dwarf isn't moving anywhere.
Sal Gulisano (10 months ago)
I think that it would be fun to show what kind of DM I am by making the first encounter enemy a nilbog with a couple goblins
Cookooloo (11 months ago)
Already knew about Kobolds & Catacombs.
Pistachi0 (11 months ago)
IT'S MCCREE
Timothy Whitney (11 months ago)
Matt, you rock! The tips are great! I have been DMing for 1 year now and love it! I appreciate your wisdom and stories of experience to help us newer DMs. Thanks man! I am gonna try and run an evil 1-shot sessions soon!!!
Outlastingeveryone2244 (11 months ago)
I cant help but adore the term "murder hobo"
BackToKia (11 months ago)
I never thought I'd watch McCree teach me how to be a GM, I swear I can't stop loving this guy
Tyler Knox01 (11 months ago)
love his shirt
SRNF (11 months ago)
I enjoy killing the party as the GM.....I enjoy a full wipe quite a lot.
Félix Normandin (1 year ago)
Thanks Mcree !
Sujeeva Wimalatunga (1 year ago)
helpful
Lonely Secundus (1 year ago)
I once had a Remorhaze run away after swallowing me. My fellow adventurers couldn't do anything, and I was restrained. I managed to escape using the razor blade I hide in my collar.
Vini Ziello (1 year ago)
As I am a new DM and I use a somewhat-original system based on D&D, we operate by measuring the overall strength using "overall points" so my players are around 30 points strong and always try to fight my 60 points mobs hahahaha it's very funny when I make the enemy say "run away maggots" and my players being like "never, for Honor" and blah blah blah haha
DotCD (1 year ago)
I tried DM'ing once, 3/4 of the party died in a bar fight where they were all drunk.
Edward Olson (1 year ago)
Would you say that 5 players require a map?
T Fritag (1 year ago)
Hey Geek & Sundry people, pretty sure you'll never see this, but... I just wanted to be able to caption your videos to Brazillian Portuguese so I can show them to my friends. If there is somehow, a way to activate subtitle contributions or something, please do. There is no real good content about D&D in portuguese, so having your videos subtitled to our languaged would be nice.
Julius Bryan Siason (1 year ago)
That kobold site is invaluable
Blobster Hop (1 year ago)
i just found out this is mcree
Eemi Seppälä (1 year ago)
My villain was born from level 2 Goblin warrior that survived but was hit in the head with shuriken and players nicknamed him shuriken head.
Jim Pyre (1 year ago)
These are really well done. Thanks!
SweeZZy (1 year ago)
It's high noon
Winston (1 year ago)
Its HHHIGGGGGH NOOOOON
sami hamdan (1 year ago)
He is really good!
narlee 23 (1 year ago)
ok I need to know where to get those wall lights
ThePirateShpe e (1 year ago)
Tiamat, the rainbow tastes you.
Cpt. Jak (1 year ago)
Help me! I am a lost mature player..looking for a RPG family..:(
Jim Robinson (1 year ago)
I love that he said you don't need a battle map. I'm about a run my first game with 3 friends and I'm trying to get prepared the best I can. While still grabbing their interest.
What about urban encounters in post apocalyptic enviroment?
Sniping Citrus (1 year ago)
If anyone wants to play a tabletop roleplay, please consider joining our Discord group: Midnight RPG https://discord.gg/2GdaKW8
bbullock (1 year ago)
You know, I've been playing RPGs for around 37 years, and running games for 32. I've been playing with mechanics and designing games for 28 years... ...and I still find advice like this immensely useful. Thanks, Matt!
DevilJinKazama (1 year ago)
"Not all battles can be won" Yeah. I wish one of the DMs I played a game with didn't make the VERY FIRST fight of the game one we were supposed to flee from. Yes, she knew we were both brand new players that had never played D&D before. No, she didn't drop hints that we should flee, other than throwing more monsters at us when we downed one. That game died at the end of the first session.

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