Picture by Wolferey
In the last DM Dilemma, we looked at ways to handle PC death in your game. But what if you have the opposite problem? What if your PCs are just too tough for everything you throw at them? Without an element of challenge, D&D can get pretty boring. So, here are a few things you can do to keep those buff PCs awake, alert, and mindful of their own mortality.
Use Traps and Hazards
Some say that having a really tough party is a blessing in disguise, because the DM gets to do cool stuff that would leave a lesser party dead in the dirt. So don’t look at your party’s badassery as an affront to your DMing; look at it as an opportunity to do things like swing a pendulum through the fray, or place the battlefield on a bridge over a pit of bubbling lava. Use fantastic terrains to trip the party up and slow them down on their way into battle. Go on, the PCs can take it! This is your chance to use epic environments to tenderize the party before, during, or after their combats.
Spare No One
Does your group have strikers who stand smugly in the back and blast away at enemies without ever putting themselves in danger? You can wipe the smiles off their faces with some well-placed strikers of your own. Concealed ranged attackers can be like snipers, picking off the party’s spellcasters one by one. If your party is heavy on healing, give them monsters, traps or hazards that do area damage. The cleric won’t be so complacent when everyone gets hurt at the same time.
Send In the Swarms
It doesn’t matter if these are actual swarming creatures, or just a swarm of minions desperate to get in one good slash before they die. The goal is to chip away at the party’s powers and hit points before the PCs reach the strikers who are dishing out the heavy damage. Like area attacks, a tidal wave of minions or swarms will soften up the group before they face off against the real challenge.
Adjust the Difficulty
Encounter levels are guidelines. If your party has learned to strategize well, they can easily romp through encounters of the recommended level. To give them a tougher time, add to the number of monsters or simply pit them against foes a few levels higher than they’re used to. Until you get a feel for the appropriate encounter level, give the party an out in case things get really deadly.
Killing Doesn’t Solve Everything
Sure, your party can trounce the meanest bugbear in the cave – but can they negotiate with him? If your party uses brute force to solve every problem, change up the encounter’s victory condition. Maybe they have to get information, make a deal, or even enter into a strange alliance with the foe. Let the PCs flex those Diplomacy muscles for a change.
Have you had to ramp up your game to suit a stronger-than-normal party? What did you do to bring the pain?