[RPG] How to telegraph that an encounter that was too difficult before is now achievable


Assuming you used the techniques from How can DMs effectively telegraph specific dangers in D&D? and How can I make my PCs flee? to telegraph danger and the need to improve the characters skills/level before they can face the encounter.

How do you show players, without meta-gaming, that they are now ready to face said danger?

There are some examples where the players themselves recognize that they can now circumvent the difficulty of the encounter. For example (in D&D 5e), a Cleric that just learned Greater Restoration, which can cure petrification, will probably get the idea that the Medusa fight is not that dangerous anymore.

Other examples like an Adult Dragon that earlier munched on an adventuring party with magic gear do not have such "triggers". The Dragon is still way bigger than them and the players did not know the exact level of the adventuring party.

Best Answer

Give them a better idea of the threat level

If you are playing a sandbox style game, it is up to the players to determine what level of known risks they wish to face. Thus, you probably do not want to telegraph too strongly that you think they are ready; that decision is up to them. Dice have vagaries and players play with differing levels of tactical skill and system mastery and character optimization. Unless you plan on using a deus ex machina to put your thumb on the scale for one side or the other, you only know how deadly an encounter is meant to be, not how deadly it will actually be. So, in a sandbox style game, let them figure out how much risk to take. Just give them a fair idea of what those risks (and possible rewards) are.

In your dragon example, they can meet someone that can tell them more about that specific dragon's capabilities and thus judge for themselves if they wish to face it. One indirect way to do that is to tell them more about the last adventuring party so they can say "Yes, we are more powerful than that now".

Put the encounter on a timer

One way to encourage the encounter is to do something to make it urgent. If something bad happens if the issue is not resolved within a time limit, they will be much more motivated to find a way to resolve it now. From any but the most ruthless or most dedicated to a "breathing world" GM, this will also be a not-so-subtle but also not meta-gaming signal that the GM thinks the encounter can be resolved within that time period.

Perhaps the dragon is now threatening a town by demanding a major payment of tribute within a week or it will attack. The adventurers now have a deadline to resolve it or the town will be directly harmed. They won't even be able to say that they can get the tribute back from the dragon later when they are yet more powerful, if much of the tribute is in the form of consumables like cattle that will be eaten. Or, if you want to be more cliché, perhaps the demanded tribute includes a hostage.

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