What’s up everyone,
I wanted to take a few moments if I could and discuss a problem that – at one point or another – every GM has experienced. What happens when the group you run changes in Challenge Rating? Do you continue with the material knowing full well that the PCs will die, or do you alter it accordingly? How do you do that?
Being a DM requires flexibility. It’s mandatory. From players who up and quit in the middle of a campaign to one that is sick; you won’t have a consistent group every time. How can a GM be able to plan and plot for that kind of thing? Is there any real way to get past this hurdle without creating a TPK (total party kill) situation? Do you ‘softball’ the main villain fight because the one player who never shows finally arrives?
I have struggled with this issue off and on for years. I have created a few tricks that I use for these sorts of situations and I’d like to share them with you. They don’t really require too much planning and, with the right ideas, you can make sure you hit that CR right every time.
One tactic I use is this – I create the adventure for the CR of the whole party, but I allow a couple of pieces designed for effortless removal should this sort of situation arrive. For instance, my player group decided to attack a marauding pack of thieves that were preying on a trade route.
I designed the encounter for my whole group, but a last minute phone call came through letting me know that I was a player down. To offset this issue, I removed one of the casters and one of the warriors from the fight roster. This diminishing firepower lowered the overall CR and allowed a challenging but rewarding combat.
Here’s a tricky situation. You design a main boss fight with a single big bad guy. You have him adjusted for your party. Suddenly, in walks Jimmy. Jimmy’s been gone for 4 sessions and said he couldn’t play anymore so you ruled him out. Wanting to be a gracious GM, you let him sit in and belly up to the table. What can you do?
Just like the last tip, you can have a couple of ‘pocket aces’ if you will and have that main bad guy have a few henchmen of his own. Suddenly the CR is ramped up and once again the fight is hard, but ultimately winnable.
Now, what to do if the dice are not falling the player’s way? You don’t want to seem like you are purposefully killing your group. You don’t want to show that you are taking pity on the PCs – that often makes the group feel like they aren’t any good. This one is a little more difficult. What I do is I reduce the number of consumable magic items available to the bad guys. Fighters with two healing potions suddenly have only one. Perhaps a weapon the big bad guy has is dealing damage to him while he uses it. Or, for a quick and dirty solution, simply reduce the hit points of the big bad guy.
I hope these tips serve you well, fellow GMs. Remember, it’s not us against them. It’s everyone for fun! Keep rolling friends!