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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    I have access to the dm's guide, but in not understanding it very well. In the campaign I have nine players starting at level one(I'm using milestone leveling because keeping track of more numbers would get bad), but I'm not understanding how the whole challenge rating works. Could someone help explain it please. Using 5e
    I probably shouldn't try dming for nine players for the first time(only two of them have played before), but I'm too determined to make this work by now. Any help for designing encounters is helpful
    Last edited by Meepwizard; 2017-11-11 at 02:37 PM.

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Kobold fight club is my best friend. Once I decide on monster style and type I use it to fill in the numbers and then figure out tactics.

    I don't post often enough to link it but a quick Google search should pull it up :)

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Try and subdivide into smaller 'mini-encounters' that encourage your players to split up. For example, a fight with one group of orcs on the ground floor of a large cave, and more orcs shooting bows down from a second level. If half the group goes to engage the archers and the other half stays to fight the melee orcs, you're now essentially running two smaller fights in parallel. It doesn't make stuff any faster, but it can reduce the stress/bookkeeping slightly by shrinking the amount of stuff you need to focus on at one time. As a bonus, it makes each group feel like their actions are slightly more impactful by keeping the spotlight shrunk onto a portion of the party interchangeably.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    I meant that I don't really understand how to use the challenge rating system to create a balanced encounter for the party

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    I meant that I don't really understand how to use the challenge rating system to create a balanced encounter for the party
    The Challenge Rating system is designed around an assumption of 4-6 players. With 9 PCs, that's too much, and CR-appropriate encounters are going to be trivial, while encounters of TOO high of a CR are still going to wipe the floor with them because they're level 1.

    I know this may not seem helpful, but my advice is to split these people into 2 different groups, game on different days, and have a 4 person group and a 5 person group.

    EDIT: Or better yet, get one of them to step up as a DM, and you have 2 4-player groups. CR should work as advertised, then.
    Last edited by RedMage125; 2017-11-11 at 03:17 PM.
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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    First of all, welcome to the craft! Your players are lucky to have you.

    I will say off the bat that the CR system is very, very weak. Often the CR system will give you certain creatures that yes, will last against your PCs attacks, but will one shot your PCs one at a time and the rules are very, very arcane. CR is a rough, rough estimate.

    If a party of 4 faces a creature of X CR at X level, it should be a hard encounter for them. However, as I mentioned, the balance between hard and "instant death" is super thin. Consider the HP of your PCs and the damage the creature can do in 1 round.
    Kobold fight club can give you a good start regarding a rough balance using CR with multiple creatures.
    Given that you have 9, throwing a creature of their CR and a bunch of mooks equal to their CR will likely kill them. Start there and pare down as needed.



    Couple of tips to figure out how not to kill but still challenge your Party.

    1. Waves. Throw X number of creatures at your party with another Y creatures in the wings. At level 1 maybe consider a swarm of goblins and orcs, or some basic guards, skeletons, CR1/2-1/4 mooks with numbers equaling your party. They should wipe them up, letting you throw a second wave at them perhaps before the last of wave 1 dies. The party will panic as another group is coming for them, but will be in controlled amounts of danger as you control the timing

    2. Be patient. It's ok to have a couple of fights that are easier for the PCs as you figure them out, and then hit them with a big guy to end the session. It takes a little more prep (maybe prep 3 statblocks of "bosses" easy, medium, hard), but that way you know you're ready. As you develop the group you'll get the feel of how to challenge them well.

    3. Don't get too focused on just WHAT they fight. Think about HOW the creatures they fight will fight. It can help you end encounters at a proper time (survivors run rather than run through more rounds of mopping up), or create fights where PCs have to burn actions deactivating, searching, or protecting so that they can't just all gang up on whatever creature they face.

    Best of luck man! Let us know how session 1 goes!

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    As a first time DM, it's going to be rough to get a handle on fight balance. But here's the basic premise behind CR:

    A CR 1 monster is an even matchup for 4 1st lvl PCs. Therefore, 2 CR (1/2) monsters is also a fair fight. A CR 2 monster is an even matchup for 4 2nd lvl PCs, and so on.

    Personally, I aim for CR 2 or even CR 3 as a tough fight for 4 1st lvl PCs. But that's because my players are experienced and know a fair number of tricks on how to stay alive.

    In my experience, 4 CR (1/4) is a more difficult fight than a single CR 1 monster because of action economy. Action economy basically means how many actions each side gets to take per round. 4 players vs 1 monster means the players have 4 times as many chances to take down the critter, especially at lower levels. More monsters brings the action economy into better balance, so larger fights should be harder for the players to prevail.

    Assuming your players are new to the game, I'd aim for double a hard encounter as an appropriate level of CR for a fight. However, I'd make sure the largest creature on the field is only a CR 1. So, a sample fight would be 4 orcs (2 CR total) and a spectre (1 CR), for a total of 3 CR. Or 8 goblins (2 CR total) and 1 goblin boss (CR 1).

    I'd stay away from a few, high CR monsters. They're either going to get pounded into mush before they get an action because of action economy (no fun for you), or 1 shot a bunch of PCs, which is not much fun for unprepared players.

    As a side note, make sure you have a timer or something similar to make sure all the players take their rounds decently fast. With 9 players, combat can bog down really fast if everyone doesn't have a plan on what they're going to do on their turn. Tell everyone ahead of time to think about what action they want to take, and give indecisive people 30 secs to make a decision. If they don't, have their character dodge for their action.

    Side side note, if a fight is going too well or too poorly for the players, don't hesitate to tweak the stats behind the scenes (especially for boss monsters!). Your players will never know just how close they were to killing the creature, and the fight will feel a lot more tense with that lack of knowledge. That being said, it can be awesome to let the PCs one shot bosses with a really great roll. Remember, your job as a DM is one part running the game, two parts story telling. Don't feel constrained by the numbers alone!

    Good luck and enjoy!

    @sexyshoeless is dead right about the thin line between a good fight and a TPK. He's got a lot of good points!
    Last edited by NRSASD; 2017-11-11 at 03:37 PM. Reason: extra thoughts and replies

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    I have access to the dm's guide, but in not understanding it very well. In the campaign I have nine players starting at level one(I'm using milestone leveling because keeping track of more numbers would get bad), but I'm not understanding how the whole challenge rating works. Could someone help explain it please. Using 5e
    I probably shouldn't try dming for nine players for the first time(only two of them have played before), but I'm too determined to make this work by now. Any help for designing encounters is helpful
    Well my first question would be: are you sure you'd rather not do two groups, one with 4 players and one with 5, rather than a big one with 9? You could even have both group play the same scenario and see how they handle things differently. Personally, my limit is 6 players, maybe 7 if I force it.

    On the other subject, I'll try to explain the Encounter Building rules the best I can:

    PCs fight monsters, but fighting monsters requires ressources, be they spells, Second Winds, HPs and the like, that PCs will normally spend over the "adventuring day" in order to achieve victory. And if the monster is too strong compared to the PCs or if the PCs' ressources are all depleted , then the PCs can't win.

    As a result, each PC has a kind of "monster budget", aka how strong an encounter they can face, which is calculated on the XPs worth/Channel Rating of the monster in question, so you could call it "XP budget", or "XP Threshold" like the DMG does. In combining all of the PCs' "XP budget", you get the group's total "XP budget", for one encounter.

    Now, the thing is, PCs can handle more easy fights than dangerous ones, logically enough, so depending on how much XP an encounter is worth, it's going to be categorized by difficulty, from Easy to Deadly, and the XP budget calculated around that.

    For exemple, take your 9 players. For one level 1 player, a Medium Encounter represents 50 XPs, while a Deadly Encounter is 100. Which means that for the whole group, a Medium Encounter represents 450 XPs and a Deadly Encounter is 900.

    Now, since each monster has a XP worth, you need to gather enough monsters to meet those 450 XPs, taking into account that how many enemies there is in an encounter is going to give a modifier on the XP worth, if you get what I mean. For exemple, 10 monsters have a x2.5 multiplier to what the monsters would usually be worth (note this is only to calculate the budget, the Encounter isn't going to give more XPs to the PCs if there are more enemies, it's just going to be harder).

    Exemple: your 9 PCs need 900 XPs or more for a Deadly Encounter. One goblin is 50 XPs. Therefore, 9 goblins (450*2.5) would be a Deadly Encounter. Yes, I know 9 goblins can seem underwhelming, but since your guys are lvl 1, those goblins could very well kill one or two of your guys with their shortbow on the first round. Maybe more if they're lucky.

    Normally, you should get 6-8 Medium Encounters per "adventuring day" (aka between two long rests).

    Does this help?
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2017-11-11 at 03:44 PM.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?q

    Have them be a couple of squads of soldiers in the middle of fighting an undead army. Have a commander give them small objectives to do in between waves of skeletons and zombies.

    Waves of enemies is probably gonna be the first few levels worth of fighting. Have a 1 for 1 ratio at first level and put the next wave when the enemies are about half dead. When they reach 5th level you should increase the ratio to 1:4 with the next wave coming only after all of the zombies and skeletons are dead.

    Then you can do a lot of different things because they won’t be immediate danger of dying(usually)

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Thanks for all of the advice! We may end up keeping a campaign journal as we go(hopefully...), and you guys can see the fruits of your advice. So here's what I've gathered, use a CR that's a maximum of the average party level(so only go to CR 1 for my party of one), use the math and xp thresholds to give a judge of whether or not the encounter would kill them, and give the bosses something other than hitting hard or a sack of hit points if I want it to last, since only two of the players have played before I'll tone down the characters until I understand how this works, and how well the party meshes which is fine because I wholly admit that even though I've played that doesn't mean I know a lot about how this works. If you guys are interested I can try keeping a log of each session(how exactly do I do that whole spoiler thing? I have no idea).

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    When I first thought of the campaign I had the idea of having three players, I created nine physical rings irl. Each ring gives the user some thematic power, the pc's would start with one each and go seek the others for plot reasons, I guess it was destiny that I get nine players then. I'll start a new thread detailing sessions, world building, and plot ideas(none of the players have heard of this site just yet). The soon to be born thread's name will be "nine rings to save them all"
    Last edited by Meepwizard; 2017-11-11 at 04:07 PM.

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    I have access to the dm's guide, but in not understanding it very well. In the campaign I have nine players starting at level one(I'm using milestone leveling because keeping track of more numbers would get bad), but I'm not understanding how the whole challenge rating works. Could someone help explain it please.
    Don't feel bad, the reason Kobold Fight Club and Donjon have generators is because the DM's calculations take a bit of work.


    Nine players is a lot, though. If you can split it into two groups of five (so you get to be a player too), that would be ideal.

    If that's impossible, I would recruit an assistant DM and let him operate some of the monsters; seat people around the table in initiative order (whether you pre-roll for it every night, or just go by the initiative modifier and no rolls) so everyone knows "am I next?"; and don't let the players spend time trying to optimize their move. "The monster claws at you and misses. It's your turn, what do you do? Five, four, three, two, one, you take the Dodge action and wait for an opening. Ariella, you're next, what do you do? Five, four, three..." And require the spellcasters to have their spells on cards, or a separate list of spells, or on an app; do not let them flip back and forth in the PHB to look up every spell.
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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    use a CR that's a maximum of the average party level(so only go to CR 1 for my party of one)
    Gods and angels, no, please don't do that.

    You have 9 guys. CR represent "is a fair fight against 4 PCs of this level". If you only use a monster who is of the CR of your group, the monster will get crushed.

    You need to calculate the XP threshold of the encounter when you're building it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    use the math and xp thresholds to give a judge of whether or not the encounter would kill them

    Errr, I'm not sure you got my explanation on the matter, or the purpose of the XP thresholds

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    and give the bosses something other than hitting hard or a sack of hit points if I want it to last
    Eh, solo monster against 9 PCs will be a joke most of the time, even if you gave the boss Lair actions or Legendary actions.


    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    If you guys are interested I can try keeping a log of each session(how exactly do I do that whole spoiler thing? I have no idea).
    Sure, I'll read the first session at least. Spoilers are made by clicking on the spoiler button of the GitP's interface (last pic before the blank square where you write, with "spoil" written on it. I makes two [SPOILER] words appear, the second oone with a / before the "S", and anything that's between the two is put in the spoiler.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meepwizard View Post
    When I first thought of the campaign I had the idea of having three players, I created nine physical rings irl. Each ring gives the user some thematic power, the pc's would start with one each and go seek the others for plot reasons, I guess it was destiny that I get nine players then. I'll start a new thread detailing sessions, world building, and plot ideas(none of the players have heard of this site just yet). The soon to be born thread's name will be "nine rings to save them all"
    Will their first mission be to steal a halfling's magic ring ?
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2017-11-11 at 04:23 PM.

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    It's really just a mini prologue for each charecter explaining where they got the material for their ring, however the particularly stealthy rogue may find his ring on a halfling named "Lilbo Laggins" I'll reread your explanation. I've just never been dm before, player in a campaign of three people, yes. I'll just keep reading until I have a good understanding, again thank you

    I just looked at the links and i think I'll end up using that until I get a hang of what I'm doing
    Last edited by Meepwizard; 2017-11-11 at 04:50 PM.

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Low lvs in 5e are really swingy also. I tend to use mobs with an only 1 damage attack. Usually in the form of small weak but numerous weaklings.like Kolbold welpling; lowly fodder that use the help action to gang up and try to grapple the players. When I have large parties I make. Them work on multiple fronts so it looks like one epic encounter but is really 2 or 3 happening in tangent.
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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Honestly I believe 9 is too much at once even for experienced DMs (you can make it work but it would be a LOT of work and difficult to pull off and I do not think it offers the best experience). I go with the recommendation to split the group into 2 groups and you can run the same adventure for each (if you want you can change the location and NPC/enemies in each just to make it seem unique for each group). This will keep you more fresh and the games will be faster and easier (9 people+ all the enemies you need to run will make combats a bit of a crawl).
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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Do not run a game for 9 people if its your first time.

    But if you must understand how CR works, this is an online tool that will help.

    Do you have any specific issues about CR you're having trouble figuring out?

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    DrowGirl

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Goblins are your friend.

    Or rather, the goblin philosophy, which is that they're the worst at being monsters.

    This is going to borrow from pathfider a bit, specifically their Rise of the Runelords adventure path, but you don't need to know about that.

    Goblins are stupid and disorganized, only slightly more dangerous than a swarm of rats. What this can mean for you, the DM, is that if you throw a bunch of goblins at your players, you can have them pick up some truly less-than-optimal behaviors if they start to overwhelm your characters.

    They might attack randomly, rather than focus on a single target. They might allow themselves to get confused and disrupted, or even Go the Wrong Way. Make them give up their turn bickering, or even attacking each other. if they kill someone, maybe they try to loot them before they're even dead.

    Nine people is an absolutely insane amount of players, and you're going to hate it. A couple of tips, I'd recommend doing away with initiative. If everyone's new, they won't miss it. Just start from one side of the table and go around. (maybe change up which direction you go each encounter, just so the same people aren't going first). Put a time limit on turns- everyone's new, and at level ones there aren't too many options, maybe a generous 15-20 seconds for them to decide what they're going to do.

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    The simple answer is, you don't. Not using the DMG guidelines, anyway. Those are designed for 2-6ish players. In fact, the entire game is designed for 2-6ish players. I've run large games before pre-5e, as large as 12 people. It might be possible to do that 5e, but at a certain point you can't do that effectively without a literal party caller and a secondary DM. Regardless, point is the DMG tables aren't designed to be 'accurate' for that number of players, for what that's worth in the first place. (Opinions vary.)

    I highly recommend breaking the group into two groups, and running twice as many sessions for 1/2 as long. It will almost certainly be more enjoyable for the players, unless they just want to play a table-top mini & battle-mat combat game. Since there aren't many board games that allow that many players and are as simple as 5e, that's a valid desire, don't get me wrong on that or think I'm putting it down as a type of play.

    If you're going to do it, I recommend learning how the DMG tables work, then reducing the multiplied by 2 steps for 9 players. For 6+ you're supposed to reduce by one step, so try one step first, then increase it if it's too easy. Also use lots of enemy monsters, because any small group (or solo) is going to get massacred by action economy.

    Be prepared for fights to last a long time. IMX with 5 players 'Medium' or 'Hard' difficulty combats last 15-20 minutes, and very tactically tough 'Deadly' encounters might take 30 minutes. You're probably going to be looking at at least double that. You're also probably going to have to establish ground rules to make sure players are ready when their turn comes up and don't take a long time. And also figure out how to keep players who aren't taking their turn keep paying attention, to stay engaged. Other wise they're going to get bored.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-11-11 at 11:55 PM.

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sexyshoeless View Post

    If a party of 4 faces a creature of X CR at X level, it should be a hard encounter for them.
    Pretty sure that's not true.

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    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    CR is there only to tell you to not put a monster with a CR gteater than the party's average level in an encounter. You should use XP and the adjusted XP table to decide how many and which monsters to put in one encounter.

    Just remember to not put, for example, a CR 5 threat versus a CR 4 party, even if by XP calculation the encounter should be easy-normal, there's a chance that the monster is too powerful 1 on 1, and could kill a party member easily before succumbing to action economy.
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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    1. Use a timer, even if you split up the party into groups, a timer will save you time. If they cannot decide... they take the dodge action

    2. If you split the party up, have preplanned moment where players shine. For example, a tightrope to cross for the rogue or a door to open for the barbarian

    2A. Now 2 is done get players comfortable with their abilities

    3. Now that players are comfortable, challenge them, mix up the party so they have to figure out how to work with each other

    3A. Now split the party up, where the wizard needs to kick in the door and the fighter has to figure out some religious ritual

    4. Keep the fun, fudge the dice, fudge the monsters.... not all orcs have 11HP, some are hurt

    5. IMO, its about giving players their moment to shine.

    Do not let the "minmaxers" run the show

    Keep up the sense of danger, it just has to be a presence, you don't have to kill them

    For me it is about pacing, you are a playwright

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How exactly does a first time dm(me) build an encounter with nine players?

    For something that large, I suggest miniatures over theater of the mind. I think someone has been selling a paper print and play minatures set that is fairly cheap.....

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