Steal my notes Matthew Colville Tactics and Strategy
Encounter Design

Steal my notes Matthew Colville Tactics and Strategy


Different kind of encounters


  • Easy to spot
  • Follow regular route/pattern
  • Players have the opportunity to strategize against the regular route/pattern
  • Fail state: Patrol reports back


  • Hard to spot
  • Look for trouble
  • Mixed unit
  • Scouts can discover the players before the players discover them
  • Fail state: Patrol reports back


  • No need to explain.
  • Like a puzzle/challenge
  • Guards can be fooled.
  • Fail state: Patrol reports back.

(Mini)Boss fight

  • Fail state: Dead

Different kind of bad guys: (10:15)


  • “Meat & potatoes”
  • Medium mobility, high armor, med hp, low damage
  • Goal: Protects other units, make sure the plays have a hard time getting into position
  • Can’t be simply passed by. Provoke attacks of opportunity
  • Example: High armor fighter

Glass cannons/Strikers:

  • Highly mobile (can easily get into position), high damage, low armor, low hp
  • Players can’t focus on 1 problem. Added problem for the players.
  • Example: Rogues & wizards


  • Low mobility, low armor, low hp, (not necessarily high damage)
  • Can hit anybody they want, wherever they are
  • Can be damage or spells rendering a character wounded or useless
  • Can be many characters doing a little damage or 1 doing a lot
  • Artillery has a range of more than 30ft.
  • Artillery is positioned more than 30ft. from the players (Needed to hold them off)
  • Example: Archers, Sorcerer, Shaman, Priests


  • Low mobility, low armor, high hp, high damage
  • Less interesting combo with glass cannon
  • Can be outmanoeuvred unless the infantry pins them


  • High armor, high hp, added resistance.
  • Many different of the above
  • Can act in players turn (Legendary (re)actions)
  • Wide variety of attacks (Ranged/melee)
  • Can handle more than one problem.
  • Taking down the boss collapses the encounter (Critical to design)
    • Necromancer and his skeletons
    • A fallen captain causes his henchmen to make moral check

Added advice on moment & range (17:15)

Advice: The +30ft rule (+6 squares)

Most characters movement
If the players start the need to move to the villain (before he does evil stuff)
If the villain starts he can move up to the squishy character

Advice: Splitting move and fire

Cover becomes important. Move out of cover, shoot and hide behind cover

Advice: Deploying infantry

Close enough to keep the players from getting passed them without triggering an attack of opportunity. Wide enough not to get killed with 1 area of effect spell. Typically 15ft from one to another leaving only 2 squares between them.


Matthew Colville is a DM, writer and founder of MCDM Productions
I referenced Matthew Colville before talking about NPC's. He's an incredible inspiration and influence in my DM/Worldbuilding search, study, adventure...

Author(s): Gregory Vangilbergen - (Updated:Apr 16, 2019)