Encounter Triangles – A New Design Tool For Your Gm Toolbox

I am at the front of the line and step forward to order my burger. I ask by number because that seems most efficient. “I’ll have a #4 and coffee, please.”

And the person at the register asks, “Do you want cheese on that?”

Heck yeah I want cheese! A burger without cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, and mustard is naked. And boring.

It’s like that with my encounters now. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been running D&D for so long and things get repetitive. Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of the many dynamics happening in scenes now from reading great fiction, studying as I watch the best-rated shows on Netflix, or digesting so much GM advice.

What I like now are encounters with more than one interesting aspect. Used to be I was satisfied with a monster and some treasure. But not these days. I want my cheese and pickles too.

So I’ve come up with a draft of a technique I’m calling Encounter Triangles. Here’s the gist of it. Let me know what you think.

Encounter Triangles 

I want at least three cool things happening in every encounter. More is ok, but three is minimum.

Imagine a triangle:

Encounter Triangle

Left is Who

This encounter ingredient covers who’s in the scene. NPCs, monsters, foes. Could be friends in trouble, enemies to fight, or neutrals to parley with.

The question you want to answer in this corner is, who or what is here, why are they interesting, and why will the players care?

Right is Location

This ingredient asks, why is this place interesting to the players? Could be hazards, traps, mysteries, or wonders. Anything you can add to spruce up the place.

Bottom is Plot

Your main plot, a side-plot involving a player, a new plot. What advances the story in the encounter?

I believe if you add something interesting for each corner your encounter will be quite interesting.

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