Feedback on Encounter Building in current playtest packet

After playing about 6 sessions of D&DN, and getting to experiment with different encounter difficulties based on the "Building Combat Encounters" table in the DM Guidelines, I feel that the tables are a little off. These characters are all newly created using D&DN, and have played enough to level up to level 2.

For me and the players in my group, the "average" encounters (using monsters with the suggested XP for the current level and number of PCs) seemed far too easy. In average encounters, PCs took very little, and sometimes almost no damage, and monsters often died in 1 hit.

Using the table to make "tough" encounters provided what we felt would be considered average encounters. In the "tough" encounters, nobody ever really felt like there was a chance they could lose, but the enemies weren't push overs either. PCs needed to heal afterward, and monsters lasted longer, but still, this felt more average than "tough."

I've mentioned this before, but I think a lot of it had to do with the MDDs and Parry for the fighters. I know the devs have mentioned that this should be addressed, but I think the encounter building tables could use some adjustment, too.

Now, since I know some people automatically assume that merely stating your opinion means you think it's better than theirs, I will try to pre-emt those posts by saying yes, this is just my opinion. It's not a statement of a factually superior preference. Since it's my opinion (and the opinion of those in my group) I'd like to pass it along to WoTC, which is why I'm posting this here.

If you think the tables are fine as-is, say why. You might even help me change my mind.
Nope, I think you're on the ball. Martial classes kick ass: enemy AC values are low, and player damage is high.

More than XP values, I think the action economy influences difficulty far more. One enemy (even a really strong one) against a party of PCs usually gets wrecked. However, outnumbering the PCs 3-1 or 4-1, even with weak dudes, tends to overwhelm the party more than it should.

This is my experiance with the encounters I have made. This is for straight up fights where terrain and surprise is neutral.

Easy - if players win initiative the monster(s) dont get to act (combat is over after 1 martial players turn)
Average - Monsters get to act once, maybe twice if they are lucky
Hard - Monsters get to act twice, so in effect damage the players once resulting in minimal resource loss (HD/healing spells)
Hard+(outnumber 2-1) - We have combat and action, blows are being delivered back and forth, fun is being had all around, BUT not dangerous.
Hard++ (outnumbered 3-1) - Havnt tried this yet, but would use either this or double XP budget for a boss fight.


So in other words, Yes I agree 100% with you
This is my experiance with the encounters I have made. This is for straight up fights where terrain and surprise is neutral.

Easy - if players win initiative the monster(s) dont get to act (combat is over after 1 martial players turn)
Average - Monsters get to act once, maybe twice if they are lucky
Hard - Monsters get to act twice, so in effect damage the players once resulting in minimal resource loss (HD/healing spells)
Hard+(outnumber 2-1) - We have combat and action, blows are being delivered back and forth, fun is being had all around, BUT not dangerous.
Hard++ (outnumbered 3-1) - Havnt tried this yet, but would use either this or double XP budget for a boss fight.


So in other words, Yes I agree 100% with you



I agree, as well. This continuum from Easy to Hard++ is exactly what I'm experiencing at my table. So I can challenge the players by cranking up the number of creatures they face, but the result is that the characters are showered with XP, and they level too fast. Can't wait for this stuff to be fixed.
You are DM. You dont need double dmg, lower pc dmg, double npc moves etc... If you want stronger encounters ;

use much more npcs
use higher level npcs or add magical items to npcs
use smarter/more strategic npcs
use terrain, siege weapons, aoe spells
For a party of four L2s, a party of 6-7 orcs (below a "tough" encounter) proved to be challenging, particularly when they had to take on four such parties in a row. I think it has a lot to do with the individual monster. These guys were dumb, but they refuse to go down, and they hit like a truck when they do hit.

Certainly, encounter building balance can use a bit more tweaking. It feels like some monsters are squishier than their xp value, and some are tougher.
 
You are DM. You dont need double dmg, lower pc dmg, double npc moves etc... If you want stronger encounters ; use much more npcs use higher level npcs or add magical items to npcs use smarter/more strategic npcs use terrain, siege weapons, aoe spells



Im the DM... why shouldnt I tweak the monsters to suit my needs, and instead only change external factors??? But that has nothing to do with this topic: Are the guidelines outlined in the play package trustworthy as an estimate of how hard an encounter (straight off the block with no tweaking or other external factors) is going to be?
The consensus seems to be no (except for orcs who have also caused the only tpk reported in this forum)
I have been running a campaign from level 1 from about last October. They are now level 4.

One of the things I am seeing as things develop is that, through my experimentation with the bounded accuracy concept, adding many lower level monsters to a combat with the PCs can be very dangerous. At level 3, when up against 15 goblins, it was one of the most dangerous combats we've seen. According to the xp value however, each goblin is only worth 10 xp, and 150 xp total (then split 4 ways) felt significantly low for the challenge they met.

The shear number of combatants can be dangerous since, even at low damage values, there are so many attacks by them per round. As opposed to a 4 v 4 match, most monsters of their level only have 1 or 2 attacks per round, and the PCs can soak them pretty well. When it's a 3 to 1 combat however, you get more attacks, albeit usually at lower damage levels, and therefore a bit better accuracy. Those numbers are leveled out by better armor, etc, but they still pose a threat.

The interesting thing is that there are no negative leveled creatures, so you don't really get to experiment with this until at least level 3. Consider this as you progress and let us know if you get similar results.
I sent a group of three L3s (plus two human warrior NPCs) against 10 lizardmen, expecting a pretty hard fight. It was. They barely survived. The kicker was that the lizardmen each had two attacks (a bite and claw, or two greatclub swings). So essentially the players were dealing with 20 attacks per turn against their measly 5.

Good thing they had an overpowered raging barbarian with damage resistance and cleave, and that I houserule'd the cleric domains to work as words of power (trickery and deception), otherwise they wouldn't have had the staying power to resist all those attacks.
Once WoTC tinkers with and creates a base for all of the monsters (which they really haven't done yet) it will be much easier to calibrate the difficulty levels, but surely PCs should fear being outnumbered.  

I suspect that the idea of Bounded Accuracy (and the idea that even a 1st level monster...in numbers can threaten higher level PCs) will take a bit to get used to, but in many ways it is more realistic (and a lot easier for DMs to modify).   In Old D&D, it was almost comical how a higher level PC could basically wade knee deep in kobolds and be virtually invulnerable.   That's not how D&DNext will be shaping up.   On the other side of the spectrum, with bounded accuracy there will be few monsters (even high level ones) that will seem invulnerable.   PCs will be able to take on a much wider spectrum of monsters at any level.  

What I'm taking away from all of this is that DM and Player satisfaction with easier or more difficult encounters or campaigns in general are primarily subjective value judgments and there really isn't a "correct answer."   Variety is good.   The rules in the game really need to help DMs appeal to player desires to have a gritty, lethal experience or a more heroic fantasy experience.    The standard, out of the box version of the game, will be the default and that may be too easy for many groups, but if WoTC develops monster building with a plan, it will be very easy for DMs to modify.

My hope (when the PC mechanics and the monster mechanics are all sorted out) is that WoTC also provides options/guidelines for DMs so that we can create elite or legendary versions of specific monsters.   Heck, we do it anyway.  WotC might as well publish some standardized guidelines for "turning the dials."


   

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Hey fellow dmfolk, do you use the given number of hp for monsters or their maximum (or do you roll some hd)?
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Hey fellow dmfolk, do you use the given number of hp for monsters or their maximum (or do you roll some hd)?



For most monsters I just use the given HP, but for a leader or unique specimen (sometimes 1 or 2 per encounter) I use max hp and sometimes even give humanoids better armor.

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Hey fellow dmfolk, do you use the given number of hp for monsters or their maximum (or do you roll some hd)?



I like using the dice, so I generally (not always) roll for monster HP as I figure not all monsters (just like not all PCs) should be exactly equal in things related to vitality.
Hey fellow dmfolk, do you use the given number of hp for monsters or their maximum (or do you roll some hd)?



For most monsters I just use the given HP, but for a leader or unique specimen (sometimes 1 or 2 per encounter) I use max hp and sometimes even give humanoids better armor.




I do this. Also give martial bosses MDD and parry.
Back when I was running a weekly Next session I did the same thing, Keendk. I do wonder if for groups who find monsters too easy, would full hp (and double for bbegs?) help? Or is it a lack of improv/cool stuff for badguys to do?
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
The parry seems a big part of the problem, or at least it was for my group. Would more attacks per round for bigger bad guys help somewhat? If you reduce the first hit to zero damage, but only have one reaction to parry with, you can still take serious damage on a second attack. Won't help much if PCs outnumber bad guy by a lot, but maybe would balance things when the numbers are close to even.