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Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Encounter Design / Dynamic Encounters

Opponent Synergy

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 50
Most encounters assume that the PCs’ opponents work together to oppose the PCs, but when groups of foes have been collaborating and fighting together for a long time, they can develop additional strategies. Consider giving each member of these tightly knit teams a reaction triggered by their allies’ abilities, or another benefit they gain based on their allies’ actions. Just as a team of PCs learns how to best position the rogue to flank enemies and minimize the harm they take from the wizard’s fireball spell, NPCs can learn to complement each other’s strategies and avoid interfering with each other. On the opposite end of the spectrum, opponents with poor coordination make the fight much easier for the PCs. Poor coordination between mindless creatures is common, and PCs can use clever tactics to run circles around these foes. When intelligent creatures accidentally (or deliberately) harm each other or pursue conflicting strategies, particularly if they engage in banter with each other as they fight, it can make for an amusing break in the typical rhythm of combat.

When taken to its extreme, synergy can represent the actions of a hive mind or a single massive creature. These synergistic components can be creatures, hazards, or both. For example, instead of representing a kraken the size of a warship as a single foe, you could represent each of its tentacles as an individual opponent. Perhaps the kraken can sacrifice actions it would otherwise use to crush PCs in its maw to use its tentacles more freely. In this case, you could model a field of tentacles as a complex hazard that mainly reacts to the PCs moving within it, but allow the kraken’s head to act with a few tentacles directly.