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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    So that's a variant human level 8 Fighter, and a level 8 Rogue? Given one has Dual Wielder Feat plus a 20 Str, and the other a 20 Dex.

    edit: oh, okay, (good) rolled stats instead of standard array. In that case, you're on your own for balancing.
    So I am paying for my lack of vision in giving the PCs my "Heroic Array", 18 16 14 12 10 8?

    EDIT: Obvious fixes for that, post hoc, are max HP for monsters, maybe AC boosts....
    Last edited by johnbragg; 2018-01-02 at 11:25 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #32
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Ah. A little 4E-ish, but I see. MEta-meta-gaming, that would mean a lot more resource tracking between infrequent game sessions--if we don't play for a month or more, I'm much more likely to call a long rest and have everyone start fresh. And then we plow through 2-3 fights, the PCs really aren't worn down, but the players are done after 4-5 hours.

    (Maybe 3E is more adapted to our situation--I can totally deal with the party nova'ing an encounter that the party barely gets through, then pulls back to heal up before we play again in a month or two. Meaningful attrition is harder to manage with an irregular game).
    If you start each game session by giving them free long rests, of course they're going to steamroll most things.

    A key part of 5e is that encounters cost ressources (or have a chance to, at least). Just keep track of people's ressources between sessions and you should have a much easier time making encounters challenging.


    Or you need to up most if not all of the 3-4 encounters of a session to Hard level minimum.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Would it be fair to prevent the party from taking a Long Rest inside the dungeon?

    They find themselves unable to sleep restfully--their dreams are haunted by nightmares, their sleep is regularly disrupted by eerie screaming that a decent Perception or Insight roll reveals to be non-mundane. Maybe throw in a trivial midnight encounter with a rat or spider swarm.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Would it be fair to prevent the party from taking a Long Rest inside the dungeon?
    Sure, as long as the dungeon is designed with that intent. Just require a nice warm bed at a safe inn to gain the benefits of a Long Rest. Gaining X amount of spells and HP after 8 hours of sleep is completely arbitrary anyways, and only made for game purposes.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    I was looking through the first level spells--I gave my Mormesk the Wight hellish rebuke, grease, silent image, burning hands, command and dissonant whispers. But the party waxed him in 2-3 rounds, so he just got off Grease (druid fell down, everyone else saved) and a hellish rebuke.
    You can change the save DC for the spells too. Even just upping the DC by +1 can make a difference. Another option for spells that allow multiple saves (Hold Person and the like), is to give them different DC's for the initial versus the ongoing saves. So the initial save DC is higher, and thus more difficult, but the ongoing save is lower, meaning the PCs won't be out of the fight for good.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    The module is throwing out a lot of low AC opponents, and everyone's to-hit is at least +6, so almost everything hits.
    Low AC is good, actually, especially for a party with a lot of new players. Never hitting anything is frustrating and not fun. Hitting something a whole bunch of times (because you gave it max HP), on the other hand, is a lot of fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Would it be fair to prevent the party from taking a Long Rest inside the dungeon?

    They find themselves unable to sleep restfully--their dreams are haunted by nightmares, their sleep is regularly disrupted by eerie screaming that a decent Perception or Insight roll reveals to be non-mundane. Maybe throw in a trivial midnight encounter with a rat or spider swarm.
    Absolutely. All of those things, plus wandering monsters, would make taking a long rest much more sporadic.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    So I am paying for my lack of vision in giving the PCs my "Heroic Array", 18 16 14 12 10 8?

    EDIT: Obvious fixes for that, post hoc, are max HP for monsters, maybe AC boosts....
    Yes, you're definitely paying for an additional +4 total bonus to the highest 3 stats.

    And yes, you can counter adjust for that by upping difficulty. There's various ways to do that, from changing creature stats, to changing total adjusted XP for individual encounters, to raising the amount expected in an adventuring day (ie between each long rest).

    High Stats are one problem, but the other is too much resting, even beyond their raised stats. It almost always is a core issue when people are finding 5e too easy. If you're going to do the absolute minimum number of encounters, 3 encounters with a short rest between each, and a long rest after all three, then each of the three should be either a single Deadly encounter. Or you can do it as chained (ie as soon as one ends the next begins, reinforcements arrive or whatever) 2 Medium encounters between each short rest.

    Running a solo Medium encounter and then a Long Rest isn't going to cut it. Running a Deadly encounter then a Long rest isn't going to work. Running a 3x Deadly encounter and Long Rest probably won't work either, because that's the recipe for a possible TPK.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Would it be fair to prevent the party from taking a Long Rest inside the dungeon?

    They find themselves unable to sleep restfully--their dreams are haunted by nightmares, their sleep is regularly disrupted by eerie screaming that a decent Perception or Insight roll reveals to be non-mundane. Maybe throw in a trivial midnight encounter with a rat or spider swarm.
    Doesn't LMOP have a wandering encounter table for the dungeon? If you're rolling every hour, or whatever is recommended in the module, there's no way they can long rest. Even if they are holed up in a room - try sleeping with ghouls moaning and clawing at your door. Doesn't seem very restful to me - and those ghouls will figure out a way through if you just sleep eight hours and ignore them.

    I agree with you that the final dungeon in that module felt a little "meh" to our group, too. But there was challenge there.

    On a side note, I think the wraith and the spectator weren't put there to be a challenging combat encounter, per se. I think they are there for the social interaction and exposition opportunity.

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Armored Walrus View Post
    Doesn't LMOP have a wandering encounter table for the dungeon? If you're rolling every hour, or whatever is recommended in the module, there's no way they can long rest. Even if they are holed up in a room - try sleeping with ghouls moaning and clawing at your door. Doesn't seem very restful to me - and those ghouls will figure out a way through if you just sleep eight hours and ignore them.
    There is a wandering monster table. I tend to avoid randomized encounters--when I do apparently random encounters, it's usually to illustrate to the players something about the place they're in. And this is exactly that kind of encounter. Spiders have reported the party's presence to the Black Spider, and on top of that the chamber that held the Wight for centuries is poisoned by evil and misery.

    I agree with you that the final dungeon in that module felt a little "meh" to our group, too. But there was challenge there.

    On a side note, I think the wraith and the spectator weren't put there to be a challenging combat encounter, per se. I think they are there for the social interaction and exposition opportunity.
    Yeah, but 9 year olds want to kill things. I froze time for Mormesk to monologue, and threaten the players and their Black Spider master (as far as Mormesk knew/assumed) and the players answered "Okay, we'll kill him too."

    EDIT: Major lesson learned: My problem is not increasing the encounter difficulty, it's allowing the players to rest too easily. And just by adding elements that prevent them from resting will help to create the sense of hazard that has been missing.
    Last edited by johnbragg; 2018-01-02 at 02:50 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    I'm DM'ing for my family right now, and my kids are steamrollering Lost Mines of Phandelver, even with putting zero real thought into tactics and forgetting the Fighter's special abilities most of the time. I'm handicapped by the fact that a pair of 9 year olds are NOT going to handle a TPK in a mature fashion. (Eldest daughter, 12 years old, already doesn't want to game with the 9 year olds.) So I may not be able to take the risks you sometimes need to take to learn from failure.
    Spare the TPK, spoil the child. That's what I always say. My father used to TPK me all the time and I turned out all right with only a small amount of counseling needed.

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Want your kids to get used to dying? Old school platformers, can't beat em.

    Or Dark Souls, but that's just mean.
    Roll for it
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  11. - Top - End - #41
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    I have question does your players find the adventure too easy too or are they have fun killing monsters easily? If it's the later let them slaughter monsters for now. Many players (specially younger ones) enjoy simple things like killing stuff, interest in role playing come later.

  12. - Top - End - #42
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    My solutions to this problem are several.

    1) Create additional objectives that can be failed without killing the party, make them achievable, but make them more difficult than simply surviving the encounter.
    Use people's bond and ideal for this. If a character believes in protecting the innocent, put innocent lives at risk and make it hard (but not impossible) to save them. Make additional treasure available to a greedy character, but put it at risk of being destroyed or removed to a different location.

    2) Create consequences for failure that aren't simply death. Not every fight should be a struggle for basic survival, and my monsters often try to capture / rob player character's who fall in combat, rather than immediately eating them or some such.
    There should be exceptions to this rule though, obviously. Sometimes the party really is fighting for their lives.
    And try not to use too much "deus ex machina," or scenes where the party is saved at the last minute by the intervention of outside forces. When the DM is the only one who can defeat his own encounter, that's not D&D, it's public masturbation.

    3) Have encounters happen in waves, each one representing a small challenge with minor consequences, each one encouraging the group to expend a small amount of resources, and without time to rest in between. It's especially nasty if you space out some larger challenges so they show up more than 1 minute apart. It's also often a good idea to let the party know that other threats are coming ahead of time.

    Have guards raise the alarm in round 1, and then in round 4 have a few more guards show up, and after another minute, have a few more guards show up with the big-tough-guard (miniboss) in tow. Between these waves, describe distant sounds like shouting and rattling of swords coming closer each round, building suspense and a sense of urgency but also allowing the party to prepare.
    This allows spells with a duration of 1 minute to burn out, incentivizes players not to burn everything in round 1 to quickly finish the encounter, and challenges them to efficiently expend resources, including HP.

    Just a few ideas I use.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirGraystone View Post
    I have question does your players find the adventure too easy too or are they have fun killing monsters easily? If it's the later let them slaughter monsters for now. Many players (specially younger ones) enjoy simple things like killing stuff, interest in role playing come later.
    They were a little underwhelmed when the big fearsome Wight went down in 2 rounds, having barely laid a hand on the party. They learned the meaning of "anticlimax", although I missed the chance to teach them the word.

  14. - Top - End - #44
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    EDIT: Major lesson learned: My problem is not increasing the encounter difficulty, it's allowing the players to rest too easily. And just by adding elements that prevent them from resting will help to create the sense of hazard that has been missing.
    This seems to be the common theme whenever a 5e DM has an issue with the difficulty level of 5e. Easy long rests drastically increase the power level of characters.

    Also, there's not necessarily anything wrong with spending a session letting your kids steamroll everything you put in front of them, too. That's a different kind of fun. ;)

  15. - Top - End - #45
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    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    If you feel like changing the module up a bit, you could add low level illusionists in. I tend to find that a good illusion can make challenges more difficult. The illusionist could pretend to summon some big monster to distract the players while something or make it seem like the area is trapped or even hide a real trap. In combat, illusions are usually enough to disorient players without making other things significantly deadlier.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    They were a little underwhelmed when the big fearsome Wight went down in 2 rounds, having barely laid a hand on the party. They learned the meaning of "anticlimax", although I missed the chance to teach them the word.
    I ran an encounter with an ogre against level 2 characters and the ogre missed all his attacks so it died without hurting anyone that happen. But to balance encounters sometime, what i do is put 3 wights instead of 1 in the encounter but have only one 1 wight coming out of darkness and attack first, then when it's almost dead, having the 2nd wight come out, and depending on how easy or hard the fight is add or remove the 3rd wight to the battle.
    Last edited by SirGraystone; 2018-01-03 at 03:57 PM.

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    Want your kids to get used to dying? Old school platformers, can't beat em.

    Or Dark Souls, but that's just mean.
    Ghosts 'n Goblins is far, far meaner than Dark Souls could hope to be.
    Avatar credit to Shades of Gray

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    The best way is to keep a couple of monsters off screen and have them join mid way if it looks like the pcs are dominating.

    On the other hand if monsters are critting and things go pear shaped, you donít have to add them in.

    I think thatís a good way of avoiding anticlimactic TPKs.

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scripten View Post
    Ghosts 'n Goblins is far, far meaner than Dark Souls could hope to be.
    Never could make it past the third major stage.

    It would be easier if the jumping wasnít so clunky, but still incredibly hard.

  20. - Top - End - #50
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Ok, the next fight is the Spectator, CR 3, 700 XP. Using this online encounter calculator, that's an Easy encounter, which they've been walking over.

    Adding mooks would help balance the action economy. There's a 300 xp gap to make it a Medium encounter. Throwing in 6 goblins would make it Deadly, which they may not be ready for after a steady diet of easy wins. 2 goblins make it a Hard encounter, which is probably where I want to be.

    I looked around for a low-CR construct (beholders are Aberrations, they should be accompanied by abnormal phenomena, not just more goblins) and found Flying Swords, same CR as goblins but AC 17, 17 hp. And it's really easy to put 5-10 swords on the floor of the room.

    I'm also seeing Swarms on the fractional CR lists. So the dark elf BBEG definitely gets a Spider Swarm or two added to his fight.

    What are some other options for low-CR mooks, if I don't want to just use vanilla goblins and orcs and skeletons and zombies? In 3rd edition I could easily just slap a template on a humanoid and have fire goblins running around, or whatever template matches the theme. I have no idea how to do that in 5th without screwing with the CR math. (It would screw with the CR math in 3rd too, but my XP system lets me manage that--the encounter was Easy, Medium or Hard depending on how close I came to dropping a party member/TPK, get 5/10/20% of XP for next level.)

    Flying Swords (or other weapons) are a cool option. Swarms are a nice challenge.

    Could I slap templates on fractional-CR mooks without unbalancing things? (I know templates aren't the same, but you know what I mean.)
    Step 1. Make the creature Immune to its own damage type, Vulnerable to an opposing type?
    Step 2. MAke the creature Resistant to B/S/P damage, and take away something from the base creature to balance?

  21. - Top - End - #51
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    What are some other options for low-CR mooks, if I don't want to just use vanilla goblins and orcs and skeletons and zombies? In 3rd edition I could easily just slap a template on a humanoid and have fire goblins running around, or whatever template matches the theme. I have no idea how to do that in 5th without screwing with the CR math. (It would screw with the CR math in 3rd too, but my XP system lets me manage that--the encounter was Easy, Medium or Hard depending on how close I came to dropping a party member/TPK, get 5/10/20% of XP for next level.)
    Well, you could add some Lava Mephits or Magmins, if you wanted fire-themed beings. Or you could use any kind of Mephits.

    Or you could take goblins and just add "can create fire", which would most likely only add 1d6 to their damage output. Which would at best make them slightly closer to CR 1/2

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Flying Swords (or other weapons) are a cool option. Swarms are a nice challenge.
    Indeed

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    Could I slap templates on fractional-CR mooks without unbalancing things? (I know templates aren't the same, but you know what I mean.)
    Step 1. Make the creature Immune to its own damage type, Vulnerable to an opposing type?
    Step 2. MAke the creature Resistant to B/S/P damage, and take away something from the base creature to balance?
    You could, but following the monster creation/modification guidelines are probably for the best.

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Flumph

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    So I am paying for my lack of vision in giving the PCs my "Heroic Array", 18 16 14 12 10 8?

    EDIT: Obvious fixes for that, post hoc, are max HP for monsters, maybe AC boosts....
    I've had DMs from 2e all the way to PF give extra stats and then wonder why it was so easy for us. But sounds like you have some creative solutions for it.

  23. - Top - End - #53
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Ok, so we ran the session last night. Started with a random nighttime encounter, I rolled stirges, which I didn't have a convincing explanation for how they got in the door (plus the players already killed them, and I believe in some amount of dungeon ecology--things shouldn't respawn as soon as you leave the room, as a rule). So I threw a swarm of spiders at them. Players stomped it, spiders ended up doing 1 hit for 5 points of damage, which the long rest wiped out.

    As the players were preparing to unbar the door to the room they long-rested in, they heard 4 ghouls scratching at the door and moaning. Players dispatched them without much difficulty (Encounter calculator says it should be Hard encounter. Wasn't, but some of that was nobody failing the DC 10 Constitution save, or being not-an-elf.)

    Next up was the Spectator (upped to max HP) (CR 3), supported by two Flying Swords. (CR 1/2). Calculator called this a Hard encounter. It was a significant fight--the players took some damage, had to actually use some spells rather than cantripping their way through, used a Bonus Action.

    Max HP and throwing in mooks helped a lot. Thanks everyone, and I'll try to keep everyone posted.

  24. - Top - End - #54
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Against 3x4th level characters:

    Swarm of Spiders is not a challenge. (100/3 = 33 XP vs Easy threshold 125)

    4 Ghouls is a Medium encounter. (800/3 = 267 vs Medium threshold of 250 XP)

    Cr 3 spectator + 2 CR 1/2 flying swords is a Deadly encounter. (1800/3 = 600 vs Deadly threshold 500 XP)

    I don't know what calculator you're using, but it's not working.

    Compared to an adventuring day, they should be able to handle another 800 XP of encounters each, or 2400 total, before taking a Long rest. Or basically, the ghouls encounter and the spectator encounter all over again. (With short rest in between.)

  25. - Top - End - #55
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    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Against 3x4th level characters:

    Swarm of Spiders is not a challenge. (100/3 = 33 XP vs Easy threshold 125)
    Yeah, that was just a random encounter. (Sort of--the table encounter didn't make sense, so I substituted). TIL that random encounters don't do anything to disrupt Long Rests, they just mean the party needs 10 hours instead of 8.

    BTW, it's 4 x 4th level characters.

    4 Ghouls is a Medium encounter. (800/3 = 267 vs Medium threshold of 250 XP)

    Cr 3 spectator + 2 CR 1/2 flying swords is a Deadly encounter. (1800/3 = 600 vs Deadly threshold 500 XP)

    I don't know what calculator you're using, but it's not working.
    http://dhmstark.co.uk/rpgs/encounter-calculator-5th/

    Having 4 PCs drops the ghoul encounter to 200 XP each, an Easy encounter--which fits what happened at the table.

    1800/4 = 450 XP each. Not a cakewalk, but no real danger of dropping a PC.


    Compared to an adventuring day, they should be able to handle another 800 XP of encounters each, or 2400 total, before taking a Long rest. Or basically, the ghouls encounter and the spectator encounter all over again. (With short rest in between.)
    That fits with what happened. Vs the spectator, the party used some spells, took some damage.
    Last edited by johnbragg; 2018-01-14 at 12:35 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #56
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    Default Re: How to upgrade encounters in 5E without chancing TPK.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbragg View Post
    BTW, it's 4 x 4th level characters.
    Okay cool. I went back to your OP ... and totally misread it then.


    That fits with what happened. Vs the spectator, the party used some spells, took some damage.
    In that case they should be able to handle around another 1700-675= call it 1000 XP of encounters each before a long rest. I would wouldn't duplicate encounters, but two more of the spectator difficulty and one more of the ghoul difficulty, with short rests between each spectator-level difficulty, should push their limits a bit.

    They don't have to do much before resting, obviously. But I've found the DMG guidelines to be about the minimum for parties pushing themselves. IMX real danger territory is usually about 1-1/3 * the adventuring day. Roughly 9 Medium, 6 Hard, or a 4th Deadly battle.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-14 at 12:51 PM.

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