Strangely enough, the GM’s role is strikingly similar to that of a professional wrestling promoter, especially the person responsible for booking the matches.
You want to see the Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg “the Hammer” Valentine take on the Hart Foundation of Bret “the Hitman” Hart, Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and their manager, the man on the megaphone, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart?
(I believe I have just dated myself with this reference …. Uhm, shall we continue?)
Well, the booker makes that happen, along with the creative team that crafts a storyline that builds the rivalry toward the big tag-team extravaganza.
In many ways, the role of the DM is very similar. Want to see how a bugbear with a flaming sword stands up to the PCs? Well, as the DM, you make that happen.
So, if you’ve hit the wall trying to stage engaging, interesting encounters, just grab your list of monsters, imagine it’s your stable of wrestling talent — and see which matchups excite you the most.
Think about the adventuring party’s strengths and weaknesses, and what kind of match you want this to be. Do you want the PCs to squash their opponents, pick accordingly. Do you want an even matchup? Look for monsters of the equivalent power level. Do you want to send the PCs packin’? Nothing like a dragon to bring the house down.
Thinking about the four or five encounters like a wrestling show can be constructive. Gimmick matches are nothing more than rooms with lethal traps. Run-ins — where a wrestler tries to interfere in another match — are great ways to add a monster in the middle of a combat sequence. And a handicap match — that’s just like when the terrain favors one of the combatants almost unfairly.
And if you insist on throwing some divas into your GMing Stew — well, there’s always a lamia, medusa or harpy in the grab bag.
Take a moment to plot your night’s adventure as if it were the lineup for a wrestling show — and you just might find out if your party is worthy of claiming that championship belt.