Dungeons & Dragons Online

Struggling with encounters? Use Combat Curves!

Content of the article: "Struggling with encounters? Use Combat Curves!"

I've spent a lot of time thinking about D&D 5e from a designer's perspective. I have a background in game design (outside of D&D) and I'm always finding ways to apply what I've learned from that to my games.

Combat Curves are a framework I created that helps bridge the gap between a desired player experience (the ultimate outcome of the encounter) and the actual mechanics and systems you employ. They basically work by comparing 'Intensity' and 'Time' as the axes of a graph, and you map the events of the encounter along that graph. Different graphs create different experiences, as defined by the dynamics (the difference between the highs and lows in the graph).

The basic idea is that you should be thinking as concretely as possible about your vision for your combat encounters, and I wanted to lay out a really usable and actionable method for doing that.

Even if you're not struggling, I think this might be really helpful and result in better encounters!

I've added the link to the playlist below, but first, here's a quick overview of what to expect from it:

  1. Intro. The intro is the overview of the framework I created to make this all work. It goes over some basic design concepts that will help a lot, too! It lays out how using what I call a "Combat Curve" (or "Intensity Curve") to give yourself way more to work with when designing an encounter.
  2. Example curves. The next 5 videos are all just examples of some of the curves that I've been using forever. They're just examples, but they're ones that are tried and true in my games. They exemplify the process step by step, and explain in broad terms what each curve accomplishes.
  3. Create Your Own. The whole point is really to help you improve your own combat, and that means that you should NOT be beholden to my examples (although you can absolutely use them if you want)! This is a little heavier on the design theory stuff, but it walks you through how to create a curve that will help you design pretty much any encounter you can imagine!
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Again, I would go into more depth here, but the videos are really a way better method of explaining this stuff.

Here's the link:

Source: reddit.com

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