As a DM, your main duty is to ensure that your players enjoy the game. This enjoyment can be achieved several ways, whether it be through story,combat, or character interaction. Today we’ll be focusing on the combat side of things. We’re going to take a look at tailoring a combat encounter to your players’ strengths and weaknesses.
The main goal of combat encounters is to make them hard enough to test your players, but not so hard that you frustrate them. There are a multitude of levers you can pull to tweak the fight, one of which is playing to your players’ strengths. When you’re planning your next fight, consider what your players are good at. Do they put out a lot of damage in a short time? Throw a monster their way that needs to be dispatched quickly. Can they deal damage in wide areas well? Then throw a horde of enemies their way. The examples are as varied as your players are. By playing to your players’ strengths, you can increase the difficulty in other areas. You can create terrain that is difficult to fight in, add more enemies, or add some other threat to the encounter.
You can also tweak encounters the opposite direction, using your players’ weaknesses to make the fight harder. Did your party forget a healer? Throw some damage over time in to put pressure on your players. Are your players mostly melee characters? Add in some flying enemies and watch them try to figure out how to get them down to hit them. By giving your players trouble with their weaknesses you are showcasing them, but you are also giving them an opportunity to overcome those weaknesses by using their strengths. This leads to an interesting dynamic that both tests your players and lets them showcase what makes their characters great. If they can overcome great odds, then they will come out feeling great about themselves. Just make sure to add in ways out of the fight, or else it may become too frustrating and just frustrate your players. It’s a fine line, one that I’ve crossed several times, but with practice you get a feel for how to handle it.
By tailoring fights to your players you are molding the game to highlight them. This is a lot of fun for players, as they want to be the heroes of the story. They want to face trials and overcome them, winning in the end. And as the DM, when your players winand have fun, so do you. And while you are all winning, be sure to keep those dice rolling high!