Impossible Situations are Great


The most recently finished arc of my campaign pitted my players and their characters against multiple impossible situations. Each scenario was highly successful. They raised the stakes, challenged both players and PC's, deeply impacted the story, and grew the lore of my world and the PC's connection to it. DM's who balance encounters via the Dungeon Master's Guide tenets will rarely commit this action, and I think their games will suffer. Why? Impossible situations are great.

Miraculously, my group of level six adventurers defeated a crazed ancient gold dragon. Of course, they didn't do it alone. Alongside allies they won over: a small circle of powerful druids, an airship armed with elemental and infernal power, and an archdevil inhabiting a white dragon wyrmling's body, they survived.

Against all odds, my disparate party of level seven companions overcame the horrors of an Unholy Avenger of Orcus. This was possible due to expert planning and a terribly risky and sacrificial maneuver: all but one member of the group delved below to free a trapped elder emerald dragon, while the one left behind distracted the single-minded entity of death and gluttony.

In both situations, they were plausible given the events that led to them. And they were likely impossible to win in scenarios. However, the party were victorious in both, victorious, but not without some semblance of defeat.

The gold dragon's corpse was taken by an archdevil, as was the poor white dragon wyrmling. They'll probably show up later.

The Unholy Avenger may have been defeated, but the elder emerald dragon slaughtered all life in his realm, both allies and enemies of the party, and started a process of renewal that required the party to depart at once.

The costs mattered to the group, but didn't deter their enjoyment of the epic events or slow down their progress in the story. They could have ran. They could have tried a different idea. But, in the end, their plan worked and they were thrilled. 

The moment the gold dragon shattered and icy chunks vanished to the Hells, vocal chords were tested. 

When the group emerged from beneath the swamp to see their emerald dragon ally strangling a horde of undead and a gargantuan black dragon skeleton, they were floored.

My world is filled to the brim with high magic and formidable beings. At every opportunity, I strive to make my players epic characters in a grand realm, and when they're intertwined in these impossible encounters, I almost always succeed.

Even if I commonly succeed, failure is a possible outcome in an impossible situation. Remember that. Know if you're about to pit your fifth level group against an epic level slaad, death and defeat is one of the likely outcomes.

However, if they succeed and emerge from this impossible situation victorious, that victory will be all the sweeter. And they'll search for wilder and more epic situations.

When they do, continue to innovate, continue to create, and continue to deliver excellent and exhilarating encounters to your players.

More RJD20

First time reading RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, and join the discussion in the comments below.

Consider picking up my first supplement, Villain Backgrounds Volume I on the Dungeon Masters Guild. It helps fund D&D supplements of the future.

Check out the sidebar to discover any other realms in which RJD20 exists.
Provide any feedback or inquiries to @RJD20Writes on Twitter or rjd20writes@gmail.com via email.

Comments

Popular Articles

How to Begin a D&D Campaign

How to Play an Archfey in D&D

My Take on Matthew Colville’s 5E Action Oriented Monsters

3 Ways a Home Base in D&D Will Improve Your Campaign

How to Keep Track of Your D&D Campaign