Test Encounter (template?)

Welcome to 4th Edition. I'm going to give you a real-life example of encounter creation, hopefully after you survive it. Maybe I should put this somewhere more community-based?

Building an Encounter

I want to build an encounter with a band of orcs for my group of 9th-level Player Characters. The two encounter templates (Dungeon Master's Guide page 58) that appeal to me most are Battlefield Control and Commander and Troops. Because the Defenders (Brad and Dave) could easily upset my orc horde in a straight fight, I think I would like to exploit hindering terrain in this encounter, to limit the mobility of all but of my group's Skirmishers (Brian and Bryan). I have selected the Battlefield Control template:

Battlefield Control

One controller monster with several skirmishers of similar level can limit the movement of its enemies without hampering its allies. The controller's ability to hinder enemies heightens the skirmishers' movement advantage. Challenging terrain or hindering terrain in which the monsters can move more easily than the PCs can replace the controller.

  • Easy
    • Controller of level n – 2
    • 6 skirmishers of level n – 4
  • Standard
    • Controller of level n + 1
    • 6 skirmishers of level n – 2
  • Hard
    • Controller of level n + 5
    • 5 skirmishers of level n + 1

Because I have six players, the Standard encounter above will instead be Easy. I will modify the Battlefield Control template to be something closer to the Commander and Troops template, while maintaining the control of the former encounter. I will start with:

  • Level 9 orc encounter
    • 1 controller (level 10)
    • 6 brutes (level 7)

The controller I have selected is the Orc Eye of Gruumsh (Monster Manual page 204). Rather than enhance the mobility of skirmishers, he will enhance the melee effectiveness of the brutes. I will advance him to level 10 to be a sufficient challenge to the PCs. For the six brutes, I have selected Orc Berserkers. I will advance them to level 7.

At this point, I am not convinced of the encounter's melee effectiveness. I think the PCs would rip through this encounter and not give it pause. I have decided to replace two of the skirmishers with an elite brute, the Orc Bloodrager. He is already level 7, so this makes my life easier. The encounter looks like this:

  • Level 9 orc encounter
    • 1 controller (level 10)
    • 1 elite brute (level 7)
    • 4 brutes (level 7)

The reason I initially selected Battlefield Control was to, well, control the battlefield. Though I've now got things locked down on the melee front, I've lost sight of my control angle. I need a way to limit the movement of my PCs without sacrificing any of my ability to deal damage. To deal with this, I've decided to remove one of my brutes and replace him with minions. Conveniently, three level 9 minions (100 XP) can replace one of my level 7 brutes (300 XP), and there is a level 9 minion in the orc section of the Monster Manual. This will also appeal to my Controller (Anthony). Now the encounter looks like this:

  • Level 9 orc encounter
    • 1 controller (level 10)
    • 1 elite brute (level 7)
    • 3 brutes (level 7)
    • 3 minions (level 9)

Now that my encounter looks like it can do what I need it to do, I'll run through several scenarios in my mind, trying to anticipate what the players will do. I don't need to imagine the entire battle, just key moments. For example, the Orc Bloodrager's blood for blood power seems to suggest I should swarm a single character with several orcs and try to keep him bloodied throughout the battle.

However, the player characters would have little trouble focusing on my elite brute and simply overpowering him through sheer damage potential. Instead, he may be more effective employed as a skirmisher. Thanks to the orcs' racial bonus to speed on a charge, he could be a very effective monster to chase down the party's Ranger, keeping the melee pressure on a primarily ranged character, and keeping such a powerful artillery piece from eliminating my ordinary brutes and the controller.

As for the other monsters, I would wade them into melee with the other PCs, ideally overpowering all but the party's Paladin. I intend to keep the Orc Eye of Gruumsh out of melee combat in order to supplement the brutes and minions with his Wrath of Gruumsh aura, and his eye of wrath and swift arm of destruction powers. Because this controller piece can still hold his own in melee and I will run these orcs shamelessly, I'm not above using him to pursue the party's Warlock and putting the fear in him.

Orc Encounter

After I beef it up a bit more, the final encounter looks like this:

Level 9 Encounter (3000 XP)

  • 1 orc eye of gruumsh (level 10 controller)
  • 2 orc bloodragers (level 7 elite brute)
  • 3 orc berserkers (level 7 brute)
  • 4 orc warriors (level 9 minion).

Tactics

The eye of gruumsh provides support to the berserkers and warriors from a safe distance. The orc bloodragers limit the effectiveness of skirmishers, and keep the fight within melee range. The orc berserkers and orc warriors charge any isolated PCs, hoping to encircle or rout them while cutting them off from their artillery pieces. It's unavoidable that the brutes and minions will bunch together, so expect the Wizard to remove all minions on his second turn if left unchecked. Have the minions keep the pressure on him to make him debate the idea.

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