When playing RPGS, the gamemaster decides the encounters. What kind of encounters are available to use. I propose there are only really 2 options, but with varying degrees. Much like the burner on a gas stove, the setting is low to high and anything in between, but there are only really 2 directions you can turn the dial. There are only 2 directions you can turn the encounter.
On the lowest setting, set to 1, the encounter is set to “invitation”. With an invitation, there is low risk, low reward, low energy and no conflict.
As the gamemaster increases the turn on the dial, all the way to 10, the dial is set to “challenge” and increases to high risk, high reward, high energy, and all conflict.
To define, encounters of invitation make life easier for the players and encounters of challenge make life more difficult.
Now, in any point in the game/story, the game master assesses the players response and determines where that setting is at. if the setting is higher than 50, the players are engaging in an encounter of challenge. If the setting is lower than 50, the players are experiencing an encounter of invitation.
The skill of being a gamemaster means you now get to decide if the next encounter should be increased with challenge or decreased into an invitation. Having a nasty fight challenge set to 7 means that cranking down the dial to 6 towards invitation means describing the perfect place to take a long rest.
Increasing the challenge would mean having a nasty fight at 7, only to find the challenge increases now with the players chased by nature’s wrath at 8. To use a Tolkien quote, “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
At the end of the day, the game master has two settings – invitation encounters and challenge encounters and must determine when to use them.
I hope these thoughts resonate with you as a gamemaster!
May your story continue.