Monster XP vx. 'Encounter'

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Hey everyone.  My player group got together for our first session yesterday, with me as the DM.  The purpose of the session was to get a feel for the mechanics of the game.  This way I would have a better idea of how to DM the group once our regular campaign starts.

We had a Warlock, Wizard, Fighter and Barbarian.  The Rogue was not present for our play test.

I am confused as the DM on how to most make an encounter challenging.  My understanding from the book is that a base team of 5 level 1 characters should have battle mobs or a combo of mobs/traps worth 500xp.  Now, is that 500xp for EACH encounter or 500xp over the entire session?

What I did was send them into an old abandoned castle where they were looking for treasure.  In the first room they took on a spider (125xp).  It was way too easy and I could see that 500xp spread over the castle was going to be a breeze.  So I had them encounter another spider on the way up from the basement (250 total xp now).  Next room they encountered three minion kobolds (75xp) and a 'boss' type for 125xp (450 total xp now).  They still were not showing any signs of battle wear.  Next room was another three minions and a boss for 200xp (650 total xp).  I decided to add a surprise ambush behind a door that duplicated this last encounter for so another 200xp (850 total now).

At this point I am trying to determine why it is so easy for them.  I am guessing that it must be 500xp per encounter and not for the whole session.  And they would get there short rest in between and be able to use their healing surges.  Is this right?

As a side note, because it was so easy for them I ran down to my DDI account and printed off a level 4 boss kobold worth 350xp alone and through him into the end of the last encounter so they could not rest.  Fighter was incapped at one point but saved.  Others were on their last breaths but the Barbarian managed to crit on his last attack and took down the boss.

How do make an encounter/session challenging based on D&D's xp per encouter/session guidelines.

Thanks fellow DM's.
I am confused as the DM on how to most make an encounter challenging.  My understanding from the book is that a base team of 5 level 1 characters should have battle mobs or a combo of mobs/traps worth 500xp.  Now, is that 500xp for EACH encounter or 500xp over the entire session?

500 for each encounter (100 per character), with a short rest between each encounter.

About 5 encounters (or 2500 XP, 500 per character) per extended rest.

2 extended rests (10 enounters, 5000  XP, 1000 per character XP) per level.

How many per session depends on how long you play.  It takes roughly 1 real world hour per encounter.  It should go faster as you get used to it.

Of course, that's just a guidline.  You can adjust as needed.  Having a spider or 2 randomly placed can give good flavor, if not a challenge.  
Or perhaps they kill one spider, and some guards comes in wondering what the noise was all about before they finish resting.
Or perhaps you do less encounters in a day, but they are a bit tougher.
Or perhaps you do more encounters, but a few are weak.

Don't forget that roleplaying* is an "enounter" too.  You get the same XP for convincing the kobolds to release their captive as you do killing all the kobolds and freeing the captive, or sneaking around the kobolds to free the captive.

*With the cavat that drinking beer and trying to pick up the local taven wench isn't worth XP.  It may be fun, but it's not XP.

As a side note, because it was so easy for them I ran down to my DDI account and printed off a level 4 boss kobold worth 350xp alone and through him into the end of the last encounter so they could not rest.  Fighter was incapped at one point but saved.  Others were on their last breaths but the Barbarian managed to crit on his last attack and took down the boss.

Generally...  it's better for them to face a lvl 1 solo then a level 4 normal.

Yes, it's a little counter intuitive, but you want to stick close to their level, and adjust other things (minons, normal, elite, solo), or perhaps add traps and terrain (also worth XP).

Like if you had a reoccuring oger villian...
At level 1, the oger would be a lvl 1 solo.
At level 5, the oger would be a lvl 5 elite.
At level 10, the oger would be a lvl 10 normal.
And at level 15, the oger would be a lvl 15 minon. 

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

If you spend your XP budget; 500xp worth of monsters for a party worth 500xp, you will get an average to easy difficulty fight.

If I was creating one night's worth of level 1 encounters, it might go something like this:

1.  Easy fight ~ 400 xp worth of monsters, but lots of minions in that mix.
2.  Tougher fight ~ 600 xp worth of monsters, less than 5 of them total.
3.  Non combat encounter, maybe a roleplaying one that furthers the plot.
4.  Quick average fight ~ 500 xp worth of monsters, perhaps 3 level 3s.
5.  Non combat encounter, some kind of trap or skill challenge, worth about 500 xp reward.
6.  Tough fight ~ 750 xp worth of monsters.   The players can use their dailies and should prevail just fine.   For players learning the game, you (the DM) might want to hint that this would be a good time to use dailies.
7.  Extended rest.

Also, include a variety in the locales.   Even if they all take place in a dungeon, mix in large rooms with small, few obstacles with lots, no room hazards with some, etc.  
Now, toss in a bit more stuff; maybe a surprise attack, or have some mobs not arrive until after a round has ended, have the terrain become a threat during a fight, that sort of thing.

Best of luck.
Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback.
Just bear in mind that even if you get the "budget" right, it's not an exact science. Easy encounters can become hard, and hard encounters can become easy, with the flip of a single die, or less.

Terrain does not count against your XP budget. Giving your monsters advantageous terrain and then adjusting the amount of use the make of it is a handy way to make encounters harder or easier, as you need. Alternate goals are another good way: if the monsters are pasting the PCs, then they will naturally give more thought to their actual task, whatever it was they'd be doing if the PCs hadn't come by.

Don't count on your players to press on to the end without an extended rest. I don't recommend actively preventing their rest, but you're well within your rights to put time pressure on them. If they're invading a location and rest right before what they guess is the final encounter, then let them, but inform them that the evil plan, or whatever will succeed or take a large step toward success. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, tough as they are, probably would have liked to rest as they chased the uruk-hai who had captured Merry and Pippin, but they knew they would certainly fail if they did.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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