Pathfinder: Best Monster Encounter Ideas (15 Great Tips)

Pathfinder 2E has introduced some new monsters and new ways to customize your favorites

Designing your own homebrew game can be hard. One of the hardest tasks can be designing encounters. There are a lot of monsters and a lot of scenarios they can fit in. Finding the right ones for the right time is a GM’s challenge, To give aspiring GMs a springboard, we’ve come up with some ideas for you.


15. Goblins with Extra Spice

The goblin encounter is the world 1-1 of the Pathfinder. The players learn the basic combat mechanics and gain their first victory. Of course, goblins have evolved since the days when they could be treated as punching bags There are goblins, goblin commandos, and goblins that can use magic. In this case, we’re going with goblins, some goblin dogs, and goblin pyro


Your typical scenario for a goblin encounter goes something like this: The city guard is having problems with the goblins harassing caravans or travelers. They are unable to do anything about it because they’re managing the affairs of the town. So they send the nearest people who can wield a sword out to deal with the problem


The thing that makes this encounter fun is that it’s easy. If the party is new or running new characters, they need experience points quickly. If players are running characters they’ve never run before, this is a good place for them to experiment Some goblin-related nonsense is a good introductory quest.




  • Goblins
  • Goblin dogs
  • Goblin Pyros
  • Goblin Commando (optional)

Consider giving goblins class levels like Rogue or Alchemist


14. Religious Differences with Cultists

The world of Pathfinder is full of different religions. Some were created for the setting. Others come from the public domain like the various deities from the Lovecraft mythos. So there are plenty of opportunities for religious arguments. And plenty of opportunities for those arguments to turn into fights. 

Your scenarios for cultists can vary from encounter to encounter because different gods have different domains. Norgerber cultists worship a god dedicated to poisonings, murder, political corruption, and various other types of crime. You’ll find them in criminal hangouts. People who worship Urgathoa, the goddess of disease and undeath, tend to be found in places where the undead hang out. People worshipping Lamashtu the Mother of Monsters can be found among like-minded sentient monsters or hidden in small towns and settlements where infant mortality is a concern. Look at the various religions in the game to decide where and when to use the cultists. 

Your typical cultist scenario starts with the group being tasked with dealing with the cult creating problems in and around town or they have to solve a mystery that leads to the cultists being identified as the cause of the problem.  Norgerber cults might lead to an increase in poisonings. Urgathoa cultists might lead to an increase in zombies and disease outbreaks. Lamashtu cultists will lead to more monster attacks.

The fun of cultist encounters is that there are a variety of scenarios in which they can go. Particularly if you’re trying to run a city-based adventure. There are also a variety of things cultists will do or summon depending on the level. They can have a variety of fighting styles too. Look at the religions in Pathfinder to see which fits your scenario.



  • Clerics or Warpriests of the relevant cult
  • Sorcerers
  • Cultists that can fight on the frontline
  • Rogues, often with weapons that inflict poison or disease
  • Summoned creatures or undead may also make an appearance.


13. Animals with Templates

Animals are another common early-game antagonist. Wolves, bears, rats, and bug swarms are things low-level Pathfinders take on. But there are ways to spice up animal encounters. Add templates. Make a bore into a zombie boar. A wolf can be a demon-tainted fiend wolf. An animal could have wandered from an elemental plane.

In these scenarios, the party can encounter them out in the wild or the city guard can assign the destruction of said tainted or elemental creatures. After all, the locals don’t want zombified creatures roaming around the area. They tend to make more zombies. 

The fun of animals with templates is that they add more challenges to the animal encounters. Templates give monsters unique abilities. As a GM, they’re also a good way to start peeling back the story a bit. If your main plot involves zombies, encountering a pack of zombified animals will be a good way to hint at what’s to come.




  • Any level-appropriate animal with a template.


12. Shining Children

Children are chaotic agents of destruction but they often don’t know any better. Shining Children are also chaotic agents of destruction but unlike regular children, they do know better, have dangerous magic at their disposal, and they don’t care about our conceptions of right and wrong. Particularly when it comes to murder.

Best used for higher-level encounters, Shining Children used to work a lot with ancient people, telling them secrets of the astral plane in exchange for a chance to torment people. Your party may find them in ancient ruins, guarding ancient treasure and waiting for more hapless adventurers to kill with dangerous magic. Other times, they are conjured by people they may or may not be inclined to listen to. 

The fun thing about these encounters is the challenge. If the party gets near them, they could go permanently blind. Though at this level, they should have ways to remove blindness already. Still, it eats a turn. Plus their regular magic is no joke. Add in a wizard that may or may not be able to control it, shenanigans will ensue. Plus, you’ll have an excuse to give out high-l 



  • Shining Child
  • Summoner of some kind (Optional)


11.  Skeletal Champion and Friends

If the goblin encounter is the equivalent of World 1-1, the Skeletal Champion encounter is the party’s first indication that the monsters are getting stronger. Having a high armor class is a problem on its own. But it also has elemental and damage resistances. Add in some other skeletons and you’ll have yourself a decent battle.  

Skeletal Champions usually reside in tombs, crypts, and other places skeletons hang out. Your general scenario for this will be your party getting a higher-level mission after they proved themselves against goblins and lower-level threats. They will be sent to the tomb and encounter a few packs of skeletons before encountering the Champion with some lesser skeletons by his side.

The fun thing about this encounter is the step up. The party has new weapons, abilities, and a general grasp of the combat system. The Skeletal Champion adds new dimensions to combat and gives your party a new opponent to test their abilities on.




  • Skeletal Champion
  • Other lesser skeletons but they should have weapons, armor, and class levels


10. The Angry Mob

Medieval peasants in a fantasy setting aren’t often inclined to wait for a justice or political system to handle affairs. Sometimes they prefer to take matters into their own hands. Often, they’re being manipulated by an external force. But your heroes can’t just massacre an entire village’s worth of people and still be heroic. So they need a way to resolve the dispute without turning the area into a smoking crater. 

The angry mob scenarios take place in towns or cities. What they’re angry at can vary. Sometimes they’re angry at Pathfinders. Sometimes they’re angry at someone the Pathfinders have been tasked to rescue. Often, they’re whipped into a frenzy by a person with high charisma or someone with mind-altering magic. The party has a few options: Run, talk the mob down or find and subdue the instigators without butchering half the town.

The cool thing about these encounters is that they’re intense. It forces the party to put a lot more thought into their actions. They might have to come up with an inventive rescue plan. They might have to work together to identify the instigators. It’ll encourage a lot of teamwork.




  • Angry Mob
  • Someone manipulating the mob that the party can target. These can be charismatic leaders, people with frenzy-inducing spells, or even magical creatures


9. Orc Encampment

While it’s nice to have encounters with non-combat solutions, it’s important to give fighters a place to shine. One such scenario is the destruction of an Orc encampment. In these encounters, diplomacy is not often on the table. While talking can be a thing, most of the time, the party isn’t sent there for a diplomatic meeting. 

Your usual setup is that a local town has been repeatedly attacked by orcs. Having repelled the latest attack, the Pathfinders have been tasked with going to the base and burning it to the ground, often in a literal sense. These encounters have a few phases. First, the party finds a way into the encampment. Usually by stealth, magic, or other trickery. Then, there is an escalating series of encounters with orcs. Some may be generic fighters. Others may have class levels. There are many different kinds of orcs you can have. There may also be traps and trained animals. Then they reach the chief who fights with stronger equipment. Once the chief is beaten, they get the equipment.

The fun of this scenario is that it’s a big series of escalating encounters. First, the infiltration, then the exploration and fighting of the initial orcs. Then the chief and the stronger minions. It’s a great encounter series for parties that like combat. 



  • Orcs
  • Orc Magic Users
  • Optional: Trained animals
  • Orc Chief with stronger equipment


8. Basilisk

A basilisk is one of the more powerful midgame monsters. It’s a great way to show that stakes are being raised. With the ability to permanently turn creatures to stone, it can be an intense encounter. 

Your usual set-up for this encounter can vary. Sometimes the party will encounter them in the wild. But sometimes, they’ll be in an area controlled by more intelligent antagonists as a trap. It is also possible for a basilisk to be controlled by magic. Usually, the area will be wide-open so the party can’t hide from the petrifying gaze.

The excitement in this encounter is the tension. If new players haven’t encountered basilisks, they’re probably going to be terrified by the prospect of permanent petrification Of course, the petrification can be undone with the basilisk’s blood but it’s still a good fake-out.



  • Basilisk
  • Other powerful magic user (optional)


7. Wights and Skeletons

Wights are lower-level undead on paper. However, they have a notorious quirk. They can inflict the drained status, While draining is not as devastating as in 1st edition, it still drains max HP. And the characters who run into this encounter don’t have too much HP to lose. 

This encounter normally takes place in tombs or crypts. The party gets sent there to find some item or rescue somebody. Exploring the tomb, they find various undead.

The thing that makes this encounter interesting is the level drain mechanic. The party has to contend with the skeletons while trying not to get leveled down. If the party does get leveled down, the skeletons get harder to kill.



  • Wights
  • Skeletons


6. Will o’Wisp

The Will o’Wisp is a small but malicious aberration. These monsters have many abilities. They can shoot lightning. They’re largely immune to magic. Most importantly, they can turn invisible at will. 

Will o’Wisps can be found in forests and other places where the Fey like to hang out. Players could encounter them on a journey to the First World. However, to keep the encounter from going on too long, you should leave a scroll of Glitterdust nearby.

What makes the encounter exciting is the fact that nowhere is safe. Getting too bunched up means a lot of people will get hit at once. Players have to contend with the Wisp’s invisibility too. They never know what will happen until they can negate it. 



  • Will o’Wisp


5. Plague Zombie Giant with Other Zombies

On some occasions, bigger is better. If you’re a GM, bigger is better. Players, not so much. There are plenty of giant creatures in Pathfinder, including giants. But why have one regular giant when you can add zombie traits? A big giant plague zombie and some smaller zombies make for a great and disease-filled encounter.

This encounter would take place in an area where there are a lot of diseases spreading. Everything should look like it's rotting. After all, a giant plague zombie spreads disease all around him. The party will be sent to exterminate the giant before its plague spreads. However, they will have to deal with the creatures that it already infected. 

The fun part is the horror and the action of this encounter. This encounter is great for people who like big fights. The possibility of contracting a disease creates tension. Plus, the large size creates an additional hurdle.



  • Giant Plague Zombies
  • Zombies
  • Animals with Zombie Templates


4. Faceless Stalkers

Faceless Stalkers can create encounters with tension and mystery. They can go many ways. You might try to have them ferret out a Faceless Stalker from a village. Since the Stalkers like causing chaos and division and kidnapping the people they impersonate for later consumption, it becomes a race against time to ferret out the stalkers and rescue the victims. 

The party can enter a village and discover something is “off” with some of the villagers. Maybe they’ll be sent there to investigate the possibility and find the culprit. Or they could just walk into a town full of Faceless Stalkers and eventually get into a full trench warfare scenario.

Solving the mystery of who the stalkers are is half the fun. The players have to come up with ways to identify them. Often, they have to be innovative. Identifying spells and things like Circle of Truth may not be able to be used because random people may not like having spells cast on them. So characters with people skills are necessary. The possibility of the Faceless Stalker turning civilians against the players should also be entertained.



  • Faceless Stalkers


3. Yellow Musk Creepers and their Thralls

While Faceless Stalkers impersonate people, Yellow Musk Creepers control them by attracting them with pollen and boring into their skulls until their brains are wiped and they become a thrall. When paired with existing thralls and stronger brutes, this encounter can become dangerous. 

Yellow Musk Creepers are found in forests but the area the creeper operates in is usually covered in pollen and has bodies of dead thralls lying around. As the party gets closer, the forest gets more deteriorated. The party will then have to fight the creeper and all the thralls while trying not to get turned into thralls themselves.

The thing that will make this encounter interesting is all the creeper thralls to fight. Not to mention the possibility of characters being turned into thralls. The fight can become dangerous if a powerful character gets turned into a thrall.



  • Yellow Musk Creeper
  • Yellow Musk Thralls
  • Yellow Musk Brute


2.  Summoner

A fight against any sort of powerful summoner is one of the most dangerous encounters you can create. In addition to having dangerous magic to protect themselves while they summon monsters, they also have the monsters themselves. A high-level summoner can become a one-man army under the right circumstances. 

Your typical powerful summoner is likely a boss encounter. Assuming the party has been discovered, by the time they get to the summoner, he’ll have a decent-sized amount of monsters ready and his defenses up. It can easily turn into a war of attrition since summoners can summon nearly anything.

The fun with this encounter is that the party has multiple objectives. First, they have to deal with the summoned creatures. Second, they have to find a way to disrupt his summonings. Then they have to kill the summoner. Ranged fighters will prove their worth here because they’re the ones most likely to get clean shots at the summoner. Consider using a summoner as an encounter when the party is also using a summoner for maximum craziness.



  • Summoner
  • Anything he can possibly summon. Refer to guides on summoning spells in the rulebook.


1. Dragons and Wyverns

Dragons and a group of smaller wyverns have to go at #1. After all, dragons were the main attraction of the fantasy game that spawned Pathfinder. In fact, for a lot of people new to the game, the first question they ask is when they get to fight a dragon. Well, here’s the encounter that will interest them.


Dragons can either be good or evil. Dragons named after metals are good. Colors, not so much. Often, more megalomaniacal dragons will have lesser wyverns fighting for them on the front lines of the encounter as they may see humans as beneath them. However, when the dragon does become an active force in the fight, it can be devastating. With many ways to attack and many spells, they’re no pushovers. Any victory against a dragon will be well-earned. And because there are so many varieties of dragons, each with its preferred habitat, you can probably fit one anywhere.


There are many reasons this encounter can be interesting. But if I had to pick one, I’d say that it’s interesting because it’s a dragon. Dragons are inherently interesting. Some of the best stories on forums and subreddits are about dragon fights, even if they go wrong. A dragon encounter will test everything players have learned




  • Any Chromatic Dragon 
  • Wyverns of the corresponding type


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As one of North Carolina's numerous rogues, Matt Stafford is always using his stealth and diplomacy skills to get the next scoop.
Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Dragon Quest 11
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stellaris, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,

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