blanceing encounters for 3 strikers

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Soon I will start to DM for a group of 3, useing the 4e rule set.  All 3 have choosen to play strikers.  I prefer to be the type of DM that allows the players to play what they want as long as they are haveing fun; even if that means I have to do a bit more work to blance the encounters. 

So how would I go about makeing sure that encounters are balanced for a group of only strikers?  
Soon I will start to DM for a group of 3, useing the 4e rule set.  All 3 have choosen to play strikers.  I prefer to be the type of DM that allows the players to play what they want as long as they are haveing fun; even if that means I have to do a bit more work to blance the encounters.

So how would I go about makeing sure that encounters are balanced for a group of only strikers? 

They should balance themselves, overall. Certain encounters will be harder, certain encounters will be easier.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Centauri is right. For the most part they should be okay, they'll have to sacrifice standard actions for second wind more often than a striker might like, but some encounters they could have beat before the enemy has a chance to really start the fight.
What they said. The increased damage should roughly balance the lack of healing, especially if any of them are Dwarves and can second wind as a minor. Run a couple of on-level encounters and see how it goes. Nothing wrong with them having to run once and a while, or with them mopping the floor w some guys here and there. I think 4e might play best with 3 or 4 players.
don't go too heavy on minions and toss 'em a few potions of healing

make sure they're familiar with how heal checks work
Man, Beldak must be asleep at the switch: Comprehensive Guide to Alternate Goals in Combat.

If the monsters and PCs have better things to do than simply kill each other, balance becomes less of a concern. Damage and death do still happen with alternate goals, but it's not "the point" and when anyone achieves their goal, the scene ends. Maybe the PCs won. Or maybe they lost but survived to continue adventuring in a more dangerous and complicated world because Team Monster achieved its goals.

Ending the scene when the dramatic question is answered will also help strikers because they're not often designed for sticking around for a long slog. When an objective is achieved by one side or the other, you're done. Narrate the wrap-up together.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Thanks for the input guys.  One of the first NPCs that I plan on haveing them meet is a guy who can make potions, that will readily exchange them for herbs things like that.


I have looked through the Guide to Alternate Goals in Combat thread, and I will be useing some of the ideas in there.  My two teenage sons, who realy like to describe killing blows, will be playing, so I have a feeling that they are going to do the best that they can to kill everything that they can.  
The cool thing about alternate goals is that while you do have an objective to complete, you typically don't die for failing to complete it. If it turns out that "fight them" was not the best choice to stop Team Monster from achieving its goals, then the adventure can still continue. In a traditional combat, Team Monster's goal is to kill Team PC and vice versa. Failure there leads to the grave.

In the best setup, an interesting challenge will not have a single solution - it should not suggest one way over another. In many cases, killing the opposition would therefore be a viable solution if your boys can get the job done before the wizard completes his ritual (or whatever). But if they don't they can, perhaps knocking down those arcane pillars will do the trick!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Man, Beldak must be asleep at the switch:

Wow, I miss a thread by 2 hours and one of the board's premiere posters is already saying "What Would Beldak Do?" (I think I have no life )

Anyway, I realize that the popular paradigm on this board is that the players aren't supposed to have opinions about what they want from the game that they're taking time out of their real lives to play, that any player input into making death/failure scenes cooler will result in not having any death/failure scenes, that getting more people involved in surprising each other will mean that nobody gets surprised...

Asking the players about what the DM is traditionally supposed to prepare for them is not laziness in the sense of making the players do your job, it's letting the players express ideas that they might have already. If you don't know exactly what you want to give them, and you think that they might have cool ideas for what they want to be challenged by, then finding excuses to make their suggestions happen is a lot less boring than finding excuses not to.

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Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Don't give the players the alternate goal, give the monsters the alternate goal. The strikers' goal can still be to kill the monsters quickly, but now they have to kill them quickly because the monsters will win in 2 rounds if they don't....

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

After talking with my sons a bit last night, they indicated that they realy do not like the idea that their PCs could die if they fail a quest; so the alternate goals will be used a lot more, even if they think that their success means they kill everything in front of them.  Sometimes they remember that if they leave something alive, that they might be able to question it and get to their goal faster; however I make sure that any info that they can gain this way they can also get another way just as easily and quickly or that it is info that is reinforceing info that they have gained from other scources, so they are never left wondering what they should do next.



In our current campaign my youngest son is playing a halfling, and he kept asking if things were big enough that they could eat his PC.  So the next time they encounter something that we figured was big enough to try to swallow his PC, I had the thing keep biteing at him until it succeded.  But instead of saying that it swallowed him out right, I told him he had a round until the monster swallowed.  This gave his halfling the chance to pull off a pretty awesome move (plenty of bonuses thrown in since he was in its mouth), that resulted him cutting the monsters tounge off and being spit out  coated in some verry foul stuff.  This lead to some fun RP by everyone, as the halfling pretty much refused to take a bath unless forced to by someone else, and no one wanted to get near him to force into some form of water.
how would I go about makeing sure that encounters are balanced for a group of only strikers? 

They should balance themselves, overall.

Agreed.
And let your players figure our resource management for themselves (just be accommodating).

Soon I will start to DM for a group of 3, useing the 4e rule set.  All 3 have choosen to play strikers.  I prefer to be the type of DM that allows the players to play what they want as long as they are haveing fun; even if that means I have to do a bit more work to blance the encounters. 

So how would I go about makeing sure that encounters are balanced for a group of only strikers?  





Insert obligatory comment about using alternate goals... 
But let's face it, not every combat needs to have alternate goals, and even the ones that do need to be balanced enough that the pc's can survive a few rounds. Two suggestions:


First up:
you will need to reduce the number of monsters in the combat, and pay very close attention to their types and how you blend them.
Solo's are straight out. Use monsters that deal low damage, stay away from brutes.
Use small groups of monsters, you want the total to be about the equivalent of 3 standards. Maybe add 1-2 minions but stay away from big groups of them. 

quick examples:
3 standards
1 elite 1 standard
1 elite, 4-5 minions
As i think about this, i think i would use elites frequently (solves the problem of them killing the a standard in the first round, and then have them gang up on numbers 2 and 3)...

 
Second up:
Why aren't you guys using hybrids? For very little cost in damage, you can have a much more robust party...
A fighter|ranger can do as much damage as a normal ranger and can also mark.
Bard|Sorc does as much damage as sorcs, and can debuff and heal
Cleric|anything gives you an encounter heal. (actually fighter|cleric with a gouge and battle cleric's lore is basically a striker with a mark and a heal)... 

FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I don't think I'd use many elites.  I'd go brutes.  much more fun for the players.  Low defenses high HP means the strikers will get to hit more often, but the monsters will be able to take a few solid hits before dropping, and they may get a chance to hit back.  A solid hit from a brute on a squishly striker can raise tension alot.  Mix in a few minions here and there.  Change it up by using some controller and leader monsters.   

I'd make sure they had some decent healing option - potions, items to raise their surge value, items that have a daily heal or let them second wind as a minor like dwarven armor. 


TjD


 
Second up:
Why aren't you guys using hybrids? For very little cost in damage, you can have a much more robust party...
A fighter|ranger can do as much damage as a normal ranger and can also mark.
Bard|Sorc does as much damage as sorcs, and can debuff and heal
Cleric|anything gives you an encounter heal. (actually fighter|cleric with a gouge and battle cleric's lore is basically a striker with a mark and a heal)... 




It is a small family group, my husband and our two sons and myself.  Our sons are still fairly new to gameing, haveing only completed one campaign from level 1 to level 30.  As they are still learning how all the aspects of gameing work, everyone has agreed to no hybrid.  While still trying to keep things simple for them; we still want them to play classess and races that they find appealing.  Our youngest son had tryed to do a hybrid in the last campaign and found it to be to confusing.  My husband is considering creating a second PC, if after a few session they feel like something is missing from the group.


If it makes any diffrence they will be playing a Minotaur Avenger, a Half-Orc Barbarian, and a Changeling Sorcerer.

It is a small family group, my husband and our two sons and myself.  Our sons are still fairly new to gameing, haveing only completed one campaign from level 1 to level 30.  As they are still learning how all the aspects of gameing work, everyone has agreed to no hybrid.  While still trying to keep things simple for them; we still want them to play classess and races that they find appealing.  Our youngest son had tryed to do a hybrid in the last campaign and found it to be to confusing.  My husband is considering creating a second PC, if after a few session they feel like something is missing from the group.


If it makes any diffrence they will be playing a Minotaur Avenger, a Half-Orc Barbarian, and a Changeling Sorcerer.




It's really not that complicated, especially with the characters you already have.
You take 1 at-will from each class, and can take your 1st encounter from either class. Your second encounter has to come from the opposite class. After that you can do whatever you want. Same goes for dailies and utilities.
In other words, at level 6 you will have exactly 1 at will, encounter, daily, and utility from each class.

The only time it's slightly complicated is most striker features will only work with the powers from that class.
And if you have ddi it will calculate all of that for you.

For your party i would highly recommend that the barb go barb|cleric (take battle clerics lore) which will probably bring his AC up as well as give him a heal.
And the sorc go sorc|bard (18's in cha/dex). Spend a feat on hybrid talent: bard armor prof and now your sorc has an 18 AC at level 1 and a heal.
And prolly keep the avenger as is.

If you want i can pm you sample builds and help you guys learn how to use them.
I'm serious, it's not hard and i really think you'll have a better experience overall.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis

It's really not that complicated, especially with the characters you already have.
You take 1 at-will from each class, and can take your 1st encounter from either class. Your second encounter has to come from the opposite class. After that you can do whatever you want. Same goes for dailies and utilities.
In other words, at level 6 you will have exactly 1 at will, encounter, daily, and utility from each class.

The only time it's slightly complicated is most striker features will only work with the powers from that class.
And if you have ddi it will calculate all of that for you.

For your party i would highly recommend that the barb go barb|cleric (take battle clerics lore) which will probably bring his AC up as well as give him a heal.
And the sorc go sorc|bard (18's in cha/dex). Spend a feat on hybrid talent: bard armor prof and now your sorc has an 18 AC at level 1 and a heal.
And prolly keep the avenger as is.

If you want i can pm you sample builds and help you guys learn how to use them.
I'm serious, it's not hard and i really think you'll have a better experience overall.




Thanks for the advice.  I will talk with them, and see how they feel about trying out the hybrids this time around.  Oddly enough the two PC's that you suggested going hybrid, are the two that my sons will be playing.  I know that my husband would not have any issues going hybrid (once he got a hang of all the ins and outs of it), as he has been gaming for 20+ years.  We still have most of his books, and our sons enjoy reading them all and seeing how things have changed from each addition.


Even if they are not keen on the idea, I would still appreciate it if you would pm me with more information about hybrids and how they work.  My husband and I enjoy learning as much as we can about the game.  We both feel that there is always something new to learn; and with two teenage sons, we learn something new everyday.     

When is your first game? 
I'll send you some builds tonight and synopsises tonight.


And if your hubby is willing ot take on hybrids, and doesn't mind mixing it up, i'd suggest hybrid Fighter|Cleric with MC Avenger.
Marks, Heals, Oath of Emnity, and near striker damage.
(I'd still suggest the other 2 hybrid cleric and bard as mentioned, this would give each party member 1 heal per encounter, and allow them to bond a bit by being able to heal each other).
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Bareing any major real life issues, we will have "session 0" this weekend more than likey on Sunday afternoon.  But we are not expecting to actualy start until the 23rd at the earliest, due to when the kids go to summer camp this year.


What you described, about the fighter/cleric with multi-classing Avenger, sounds right up my husband's alley.   So if you have any ideas on how that would look and play out, I would love to hear them.
Our party is:

A Gnome sorc
A Elf Assassin
And a Eladrin Warlock (hex blade)

We have OP`ed them and simplified the chars (new dm & 1 brand new player) also our DM (whos running the best campaign ive played) doesnt do alot of combat we just make sure we get potions in towns etc (where we have spent half the campaign) we have fought a dragon but no dungeons yet!
Bareing any major real life issues, we will have "session 0" this weekend more than likey on Sunday afternoon.  But we are not expecting to actualy start until the 23rd at the earliest, due to when the kids go to summer camp this year.


What you described, about the fighter/cleric with multi-classing Avenger, sounds right up my husband's alley.   So if you have any ideas on how that would look and play out, I would love to hear them.




Typing up a pm now.
You should have it in a few moments. 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I was in a 3 player, all striker party once. We managed just fine by playing a bit toward our secondary roles and taking what healing powers we could from multi-classing or themes.

It can be done, just be careful with the number of minions and left them have several different ways to heal themselves (they should always keep a few potions on hand) 
Well a bit of an update.  My husband who was going to be playing the Minotaur Avenger, thinks that he might want to try a Wilden  Seeker instead.  My oldest son does seem to like the idea of the Sorc/Bard hybrid, so we are looking at that option with him.


They will have access to healing potions.  One of the first NPCs that they will meet will be a guy who will trade healing potions for the herbs needed to make them, and all they will have to do is say that while traveling they collect said herbs.  Possible in exchange for doing a "favor" for said NPC he will teach them how to make their own healing potions.  
 They will have access to healing potions.  One of the first NPCs that they will meet will be a guy who will trade healing potions for the herbs needed to make them, and all they will have to do is say that while traveling they collect said herbs.  Possible in exchange for doing a "favor" for said NPC he will teach them how to make their own healing potions.  



Potions are not the answer here.
Spending a minor action to ready a potion and then a minor action to drink one? Unless they are drinking one every other round they are going to be spending valuable actions just drinking. That makes combat take longer, which means they get hit more often, which means... they need more potions.
Combats will turn into a slog fest and the scales are tipped against the pc's since they will be quickly reduced to at-wills and out of surges.

***

As we've talked about in PM, i seriously think the best thing to do here is have all 3 come in as hybrids.

They will lose very little in terms of damage (some of them gain damage or accuracy).
In all 3 cases they will have a higher AC than if they stayed straight class.
They will also each have a minor action heal for surge+d6, and have at least 1 easy way to grant temps or heal someone without expending surges. 

These tweaks will go a long  way to making them more durable, while maintaining the damage and feel of the original class concepts...
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Place a cleric or paladin npc under your control with the party, to give advice, a nudge when your kids need, guidance and occasional balancing in an encounter your kids are just tactically failing at. Kinda like a beautiful vulnarable yet powerful figure in the group.
A good constant npc that players connect to in group can do wonders, even for hooks and campaign.  Key is to not let players figure her out completely.  They should always be guessing her level and capability as to not rely on tlher constantly, and never a figure who always provides easy solution.
A perfectly managed npc in group  can add wonders.
They will have access to healing potions.  One of the first NPCs that they will meet will be a guy who will trade healing potions for the herbs needed to make them, and all they will have to do is say that while traveling they collect said herbs.  Possible in exchange for doing a "favor" for said NPC he will teach them how to make their own healing potions.  



I suggest using potions that give temporary hit points more often than healing.  They can drink the Vigor pots during short rests and start the next fight with a nice buffer.  They essentially get the same result as if getting hit points from a healing pot without sacrificing the actions to do so.  Between that and a Second Wind, they should be fine.

I'm running Scales of War with three strikers and a controller and they're suffering more from lack of a defender than anything else, so they're burning through healing surges like they're going out of style.  It doesn't help that they spread their DPR and seem to have irritated The Fates in the worst way...I've never seen a group roll so poorly.  I TPK'd them at Mottled Tower, failed saves on Sarshan's Blood Chaos Flare (petrified).

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