Monster encounter, improvement suggestions


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As part of my campaign, my players have to retrieve an ancient hammer from a monsters cave (think pit of sarlac from SW return of the jedi). Here are the monsters they will encounter:

Sand Bobbit Worm (Boss). 5❤s Attacks, Bite D8, Tentacles, save vs. Dex or STR if fail imobilized, next round automatically hits bite + ultimate effort (2-20 damage) Alt attack: 1st round and each d4 timer: summon minions D12 scarabs.

Scarab (minions) 1hp Attack: weapon effort Alt attack 3 or more scarabs on same character: Swarm: roll once for swarm, hit = ultimate.

The four player party all have 2❤s and are well geared so they have had some easy encounters. Is what I have designed above too easy or too hard? Any and all suggestions are welcome.


Impossible for us and unlikely for you to answer.

We can’t answer because we don’t know your players, their gear, their playstyle, their luck, the map, the environment etc. etc.

Unlikely to answer for you because it all comes down how the game is played during that session. Maybe players will get extremely lucky or unlucky, maybe one of them will find an unanticipated use of a gear that will change the tide of the encounter. Who knows?

Your only bet is to watch the encounter closely and make any adjustments right there. “Ooh, you damaged the boss enough so it can spawn only D6 scarabs from now on. Well done!”

Alternatively, or in addition to this, you can prepare some small encounters in case they lose the fight and the boss worm drags them to its cave (they will be alive but maybe they lose some random gear along the way).

Moral of the story is, you can’t really know whether an encounter will be too easy or too hard most of the time. Encounter difficulty depends on too many factors. The only thing you can do is to prepare solutions beforehand. This includes “buffing” the boss and/or the encounter in case it becomes too easy like saying “You can see that the boss worm is fighting for its life; it is going to spawn an additional D6 scarabs from now on!” This works both ways as you can see.

Don’t try to buff every easy encounter though, because a) that is a dick move and b) players love to beat stuff up. Give them the opportunity whenever you can.

I like your mechanics by the way. Bosses that spawn minions is a classic. :+1:t2:


Change the D12 scarabs to 2D6: more chance that 6-7 will spawn, according to the maths. It’ll avoid a single scarab spawning, or two, too often! :smiley:


For even less swing, one can use 3D4, or for the extreme case, 6D2 lol.


Ah! Yes, I forgot to ask: what does the battlefield for this encounter look like? :smiley:


The Bobbit and Scarabs are on the GM layer. The Bobbit is an ambush predator.


Thanks Khan, those suggestions actually help.


Absolutely! But according to the maths, from what I understood, there are more combinations for 6-7 possible on 2D6. So there is more chance it’ll fall on those numbers! :grin:


Dice Gods are fickle…I’d just have a set number of scarab swarms every D4 timer to complicate things.

Everything else seems fine!

Depending on damage…big bad would last 3 roundish…scarabs need to lead/lure/push to big bad???

So it should be done in 5 rounds one way or another!!


As @Khan correctly intuited, there are too many variables at play here to diagnose whether the groups (PCs and monsters are evenly matched) just given the info we have. But it’s funny, I was just having this conversation with a buddy of mine, and below is the summary of my advice.

A good dipstick for you will be to look at the ODDS for the player side and the DM side, and then try to bring those closer to 50/50 across both sides. Why? Because evenly matched battles get epic quickly, as the tide swings back and forth. Also, when the odds are closer to even, then it tends to work out if the dice suddenly get hot or cold for one side.

What’s a quick way to measure this factor? Look at the primary stats for your players. In our group, our tank has +2, our healer has +5, our rogue has +3, and our scout has +4. Adding those up gives you 14. If you take 14 divided by 4, you get 3.5. If you consider that rolling a 10 on a D20 is a break even point, then a good break even point for those bonuses is 13 or 14. That means a good Target for the encounter is 13 or 14, as the PCs will have a 50/50 chance to hit.

In terms of the enemies, let’s look at player Defense/AC. Here, our group has 16, 11, 12, and 12 defenses, respectively. That total is 50. If you take 50 / 4, you get 12.5. So, 13, which means a good bonus for the enemies to hit is +3 (10+3=13). This means the monster odds to hit on a d20 are closer to 50/50.

What this simple analysis tells me is that I should run a 13 target with enemies that have +3 bonuses to-hit most of the time. Obviously, this changes as the players get better stat bonuses and armor.

Next, I consider player versus monster numbers. If I have four players, then four monsters is a good ballpark.

And then I consider monster health. If the players have two hearts each, then the monsters can have two hearts each.

And finally, damage. If the players are rolling D6s, then the monsters can roll D6s.

However, you obviously will want more variety, so what I recommend is keeping the odds even (in our example, Target 13 with +3 to-hit bonus for the baddies), but then tuning your dials for enemy number, health, and damage. Less monsters, more health and damage. More monsters, less health and damage. And remember that a glass canon or two is always terrifying (and awesome).

Obviously, these are all ballparks. If you run a baseline one encounter with the odds and strengths even, and your players crush through it, then adjust a dial up by one. If they barely survive, tone it down the next encounter.

But my key advice is to keep the ODDS close to even and keep your eye on this rudder. Where you run into trouble is: low player odds and high enemy odds (high target and high enemy to-hit bonus). Because if the DM’s dice suddenly get hot, and the players’ dice suddenly go cold in that scenario, you don’t have any wiggle room for the players to overcome your encounter.