Some Assembly Required

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Dungeon Magazine #208: Some Assembly Required (A D&D adventure for characters of level 1-3.)

This is my first time playing an adventure from the magazine and I'm not sure how to scale it for my party.  The party consists of 5 level 1 players.  The first encounter reads Combat Encounter Level 1 (500XP).  The second encounter reads Combat Encounter Level 2-3 (600-800XP)  The tenth encounter reads Combat Encounter Level 5 (1,200XP)  What am I supposed to do with that? 
Five level ones running through a published adventure for levels 1-3, where most published adventurers are geared towards five characters... Sounds about right to me.

About all I can say is to try and come up with alternative combat options so that the players have other ways to win and lose aside from battle.

Happy Gaming
So you don't think the second and tenth encounter will be too difficult for them as is?  The tenth encounter has them fighting a level 6 elite brute, a level 5 controller, two level 2 soldiers, and ten level 1 minion skirmishers.  I dunno.  That seems a bit much for five level 1 PCs.
The second is fine.
The 10th is probably a little tough, but if you track XP they may actually hit level 2 before then.
Also, (i haven't looked at the module) but i'm guess that the last one has something inconsequential you can pull out to make it easier (some minions, or maybe if there are like 3 archers/soldiers you can reduce it to 1-2). But i'm guessing that the last encounter is meant to be hard, and level +4 is tough, but not outside the realm of possibility.
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
Most PCs level up after 8 or so encounters around their level. Just by the second encounter's XP value, they should be gaining more than enough XP by the time they get to the tenth encounter, so their levels should be more encompassing of the listed difficulty. Especially if they've been given a few magic items along the road in addition. If you're not using XP to track levels, consider leveling them up about 4-6 encounters in.

Combat is not as brutal as it seems on paper, even in heroic, so long as the party is well built. With no information about the party aside from the numbers (which match up with base assumptions about prefab adventures in general anyways) there's nothing else we could even offer to improve the adventure for you. A race/class list would help draw ideas about how good/bad their chances are against the adventure.

Also, remember to level up/down the monsters using the easy level adjustment math when in doubt.
I think it's really a matter of playing it out and seeing how well they do. You can always adjust it as you go, by adding or subtracting enemies. I just ran my second session last night and my players came across a basilisk (level 12) and they managed to dispatch it without dying. But that was probably hard enough for them. They were all level 1 and there was 6 of them. 
Sometimes, your players can surprise you (BEST part about D&D).  I had a fledgling group fight a Bullette/Land Shark in a dream sequence.  I fully expected them to lose, considering the level gap.  They actually won.  Not by a huge margin, but they won.  Another time, I statted a custom character, with the help of the Monster Builder, as a solo for a group of six.  The campaign went way crazy, and two players took him down by themselves - quite handily.

Like suggested up above, I say go for it.  You can make enemies run away, make unexpected NPC's show up to help, or decide to alter the monsters' stats on the fly.  If they're just not hitting, lower defenses or come up with a way to give a bonus to the players.  And, it's not like they're the ones tracking hit points.  Oops!  Forgot that monster's turn this round - oh well.

Lastly, it really rocks amazingly hard if the players can use something on the map to their advantage.  Falling pillars, abandoned siege weapons, etc.
I think it's really a matter of playing it out and seeing how well they do. You can always adjust it as you go, by adding or subtracting enemies. I just ran my second session last night and my players came across a basilisk (level 12) and they managed to dispatch it without dying. But that was probably hard enough for them. They were all level 1 and there was 6 of them. 




Not to discredit this, but iirc you are playing 3.5. And there is a big difference in scaling between the to two editions. In 4e, a level 12 critter has a 26 AC, and your standard level 1 char has between +4 and +7 to hit (which means most of them would need a nat 20 just to hit the critter).
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 think I understand.  I thought the adventure was for characters between levels 1 and 3.  But really it's to take players from level 1 to level 3?
I think I understand.  I thought the adventure was for characters between levels 1 and 3.  But really it's to take players from level 1 to level 3?


A little bit of both   There's a window with your challenges.  Players don't have to be a precise level.  We've often started out at level 2 because we had a smaller group, or we just plain felt like it.
I think it's really a matter of playing it out and seeing how well they do. You can always adjust it as you go, by adding or subtracting enemies. I just ran my second session last night and my players came across a basilisk (level 12) and they managed to dispatch it without dying. But that was probably hard enough for them. They were all level 1 and there was 6 of them. 




Not to discredit this, but iirc you are playing 3.5. And there is a big difference in scaling between the to two editions. In 4e, a level 12 critter has a 26 AC, and your standard level 1 char has between +4 and +7 to hit (which means most of them would need a nat 20 just to hit the critter).

I'm playing in 4e and yes they had to roll quite high, they could target reflex however which was a bit lower and easier to hit. They also had other powers that helped. The wizard crit a couple of times which definitely was a bonus. 
I stand corrected!

That's some good rolling for your party then! 
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
If they are still level 1 by the last fight, I might simply lower the defences of some of the end mobs.

The amount you can go over budget and still give a party a reasonable chance varies a lot with level in 4e.

For instance, for five levels ones (budget 500), you can throw encounters in the 1-3 range at them.  A level four or five would be tougher fights, but still possible.

However, when they get to level 15, don't even think of wasting their time with a level 15 encounter, it'll be dull and a slaughterfest.

Here's a rough scale, made up on the spot by me with experience backing me up.
This assumes average skilled players, not new ones nor uber vets.

Party Level     Encounter Level    Difficulty
       1                    1                   Easy
       1                   2-3                Normal
       1                   4-5                 Hard
       5                   5-6                 Easy
       5                   7-8                Normal
       5                   9-10               Hard
       15                 15-18              Easy
       15                 19-20             Normal
       15                 21-22              Hard

Of course, there's other factors, like terrain advantage, cover, etc.  But hopefully this helps.

It was mentioned somewhat before, but to flesh it out a bit...Remember that in order for the PCs to "Win" that doesn't always mean "Destroy every enemy in sight".

For that last encouter, if they defeat the BBEG in the room then you could have all the minions flee in terror because the Bossman is dead.

Or you could come up with other methods to win like all they have to do is get to an item that the BBEG is guarding and escape with it, or something else of from your own imagination.  The possibilities can be endless here.