Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
TOP 5 WAYS TO USE ENCOUNTERS
TO BUILD A COMPELLING CAMPAIGN
Encounters are like pieces of a grand jigsaw puzzle that you
build with your players over time into a story. Imagine
then, if some of the pieces didn't fit? What if some of the
pieces were missing entirely? How would your puzzle turn out
if all the pieces were round? Or how strong would the puzzle
be if all the pieces were square?
To thoroughly kill this poor puzzle metaphor now, I believe
our job as game masters is to give our players a complete
set of well-fitting, high quality, very colourful, very
interesting pieces so that they may build a wondrous and
If we liken encounters to puzzle pieces then, an encounter's
purpose is equivalent to a puzzle piece's shape. Here are
five ways to make the most interesting and best possible
1. Plot development. Have the encounter move the story
forward. Not only from your perspective as the GM, but also
from your players' perspectives. They must *feel* that
something was accomplished and that they have moved closer
towards their goal.
2. World development. Use the encounter to explore a
significant aspect of the characters' world--either on a
local or global level. Over a period of time your world will
come alive for you and your players by consistently turning
over rocks and exploring what's underneath during
3. Character development. Focus the encounter on one or more
characters so that the players learn more about them, or so
that the character(s) improve in some way.
4. NPC development. Not all encounters concerning the bad
guys need involve combat or narrow escapes. How about a
visit with the evil wizard's mom? Seriously though, you can
use encounters to reveal motivations, histories, weaknesses
and other interesting stuff about the characters' allies and
5. Break the mood. "When you see 'em yawn make'em roll
initiative" I always say! It's good to break things up for
variety's sake. If you're playing a serious story, try an
encounter about compassion. For combat intensive sessions
try some dry-witted parley with a few friendly NPCs.
6. Try making some encounters fulfill more than one purpose.
That will help build a truly exciting puzzle!
Have more fun at every game!