How do i deal with my players being too strong for their level?

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I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 
I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



Let them enjoy it for a while.

Then, ramp up the combat encounters slightly.

Then, ramp up the out of combat encounters slightly.

From there, gradually increase it until you notice them becoming more fatigued by the encounters than they usually would be. If they start complaining, just let them know that perhaps their stuff is outclassed and it's time to find new gear. If they don't complain, it won't be long until the encounters become normalized for them. And you can go back to attaining balance in a natural manner. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



Let them enjoy it for a while.

Then, ramp up the combat encounters slightly.

Then, ramp up the out of combat encounters slightly.

From there, gradually increase it until you notice them becoming more fatigued by the encounters than they usually would be. If they start complaining, just let them know that perhaps their stuff is outclassed and it's time to find new gear. If they don't complain, it won't be long until the encounters become normalized for them. And you can go back to attaining balance in a natural manner. 




+1, if it's to easy that means you just have to turn up the heat
drop some tougher monsters and skill checks    

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Which edition?

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The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round.

This actually seems to be a common situation in 4e.

Still, nothing wrong with wiping out the party in the 1st round occasionally... as long as the players know this is the new paradigm, and you have a backup plan (like the party being captured).

Thanks! The advice is greatly appreciated Laughing
Thanks! The advice is greatly appreciated 

Try creating encounters that the characters can't win by smashing things. They have to read an obelisk before it sinks into lava in two round. It takes 4 skill checks to accomplish. They need to fight off monsters in the meantime, and their power will help with that, but it won't win the encounter for them. If they lose, they still survive, but with a complication.

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

Don't make the monsters harder. Make the monsters smarter.


Ghosts are relatively easy if they hover around a room and run at the PCs to engage in melee.  They are really hard if they reach out of walls/the floor to swipe at people. 


3.5 imps are pretty easy if they attempt to poison people with their tail. Give them a bow and some poison arrows and they are deadly. (Flight and invisability). In all seriousness, adding "A bunch of dudes with bows in a hard to reach place" makes most encounters tons harder. 


Dragons who stand and fight aren't crazy hard. Dragons who strafe the PCs every couple of hours with their breath weapons and then fly off for days at a time are really hard. 


Monsters should use their powers to compliment one another. If one does electirc damage to anyone who stands next to it, you should pair it with golems that are healed by electric damage.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

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"Your advice is the worst"


Don't make the monsters harder. Make the monsters smarter.


Ghosts are relatively easy if they hover around a room and run at the PCs to engage in melee.  They are really hard if they reach out of walls/the floor to swipe at people. 


3.5 imps are pretty easy if they attempt to poison people with their tail. Give them a bow and some poison arrows and they are deadly. (Flight and invisability). In all seriousness, adding "A bunch of dudes with bows in a hard to reach place" makes most encounters tons harder. 


Dragons who stand and fight aren't crazy hard. Dragons who strafe the PCs every couple of hours with their breath weapons and then fly off for days at a time are really hard. 


Monsters should use their powers to compliment one another. If one does electirc damage to anyone who stands next to it, you should pair it with golems that are healed by electric damage.




I will +1 this. That said, smarter does indeed = harder. Unless your players think like that already.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/

Don't make the monsters harder. Make the monsters smarter.


Ghosts are relatively easy if they hover around a room and run at the PCs to engage in melee.  They are really hard if they reach out of walls/the floor to swipe at people. 


3.5 imps are pretty easy if they attempt to poison people with their tail. Give them a bow and some poison arrows and they are deadly. (Flight and invisability). In all seriousness, adding "A bunch of dudes with bows in a hard to reach place" makes most encounters tons harder. 


Dragons who stand and fight aren't crazy hard. Dragons who strafe the PCs every couple of hours with their breath weapons and then fly off for days at a time are really hard. 


Monsters should use their powers to compliment one another. If one does electirc damage to anyone who stands next to it, you should pair it with golems that are healed by electric damage.




I will +1 this. That said, smarter does indeed = harder. Unless your players think like that already.



Agreed. Also, pair your monsters with terrain features. Got enemies that slide? Give them a pit to slide people into!

I will also suggest - dont use higher level monsters, use more lower level monsters.

Also - think carefully about the types of monsters you use.  If the party is having it easy, look for more 'controller' monsters.  At low levels, a bunch of goblin brutes is a straight forward encounter, but replace one of them with a goblin hexer, and that encounter just got serious.  Artiliery mosters who are spread out and have partial cover can also focus fire on that character that is always hanging out up the back feeling safe while he decimates your monsters.  Now your team better think about how they're going to hold the front line against those brutes while still shutting down the incomming fire.
I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



What edition?
What level?
How many people are in the party? 
What classes does it have?
And what gear did you give them?
 
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'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



What edition?
What level?
How many people are in the party? 
What classes does it have?
And what gear did you give them?
 

Main question... are the players enjoying themselves or are they bored from lack of challenge?

Or are you thinking that if you made things a bit harder it might be more challenging and therefore more enjoyable?

If the magic gear they're using is scrolls and wands and potions, they'll eventually run out... and a single area dispel magic can eliminate a lot of one-use items as well.

 It's really the permanent items that break a game, though. If they earned the magic they got through tough challenges, they're not going to like those things getting stripped, even if it will make for a betterfun game in the long run. I'd straight up ask them if they think they've gotten treasure too easy. A good honest answer from your players will tell you what you wanna know. I had a DM that gave away so much treasure, I felt that if I started digging in the dirt I'd eventually find an artifact. The other players felt the same way, so I told the DM. Lo and behold he said pretty much the same thing you said here. At first he overcorrected, but finally he got a feel for how much was 'just right'. And his game's been better since.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Thanks! The advice is greatly appreciated 

Try creating encounters that the characters can't win by smashing things. They have to read an obelisk before it sinks into lava in two round. It takes 4 skill checks to accomplish. They need to fight off monsters in the meantime, and their power will help with that, but it won't win the encounter for them. If they lose, they still survive, but with a complication.


I like this sinking obelisk idea. YOINK!


I've been doing a desert campaign and there's only so many scorpions, mummies, behirs and sphinxes a group can stand.

Maybe a book of scrolls worth a ton o' money per page... and they encounter gnolls using it for firewood and toilet paper (depending on the level of silly). Or the firewood is being used to sacrifice some innocent soul, making a 3-way choice.

DM: Gnolls. Scrolls. Souls.

Player 1: Kill the gnolls!
Player 2: Save the scrolls!
Player 3: Is she hot?
DM: ...
Player 3: I mean from the fire. How much time do we have? Is she a dwarf, that will help me decide.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Take a look at the opponents you are using.  Are you using the same general type of enemies over.  Do these particular enemies play into the strengths of the characters.  Look at other monsters that you may not be as familiar with.  

Perhaps varying the number of creatures or mixing different opponents together.  Instead of having a homogenous oponent mix unrelated creatures together that have united for whatever reason.  Say some fey creatures who call on the services of dire wolves.  Or a troupe of kobolds with a necromancer in their group who has a small contingent of zombies or skeletons 
I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



What edition?
What level?
How many people are in the party? 
What classes does it have?
And what gear did you give them?
 



4th Edition.
The average party level is 3.
The party size is 5 or 6, depending on who can make it.
Classes: Vampire, Swordmage, Cavalier, Mage and an Artificer.
As for the gear ive given them, for the most part its a few  +1  weapons/armor. The biggest problem being a +1 Orb of Forced movement, giving the mage a lot more control than i was expecting
I'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



What edition?
What level?
How many people are in the party? 
What classes does it have?
And what gear did you give them?
 

Main question... are the players enjoying themselves or are they bored from lack of challenge?

Or are you thinking that if you made things a bit harder it might be more challenging and therefore more enjoyable?

If the magic gear they're using is scrolls and wands and potions, they'll eventually run out... and a single area dispel magic can eliminate a lot of one-use items as well.

 It's really the permanent items that break a game, though. If they earned the magic they got through tough challenges, they're not going to like those things getting stripped, even if it will make for a betterfun game in the long run. I'd straight up ask them if they think they've gotten treasure too easy. A good honest answer from your players will tell you what you wanna know. I had a DM that gave away so much treasure, I felt that if I started digging in the dirt I'd eventually find an artifact. The other players felt the same way, so I told the DM. Lo and behold he said pretty much the same thing you said here. At first he overcorrected, but finally he got a feel for how much was 'just right'. And his game's been better since.



Knowing my players, they enjoy tough encounters and challenges because they get a chance to show off small quirks about their characters. When they overcome the challenges there is always cheering and hugs around the table. When things are easy they feel good, but its never a celebration.


4th Edition.
The average party level is 3.
The party size is 5 or 6, depending on who can make it.
Classes: Vampire, Swordmage, Cavalier, Mage and an Artificer.
As for the gear ive given them, for the most part its a few  +1  weapons/armor. The biggest problem being a +1 Orb of Forced movement, giving the mage a lot more control than i was expecting




None of this is gamebreaking.
The gear is on par with what they should have, (i'm assuming you mean Orb of Forceful Magic)
And 4 of the above classes are considered weak, but they are frontloaded. Meaning, they perfrom very well at low levels, but don't scale well, so they actually become worse as they level.
At your current level, these classes do quite well, and i think you are feeling it, don't worry, they'll outgrow it in a few levels. 

As for the mage...
An enchanter already gets a +2 bonus to the distance they can move peeps, so it's not uncommon that at low level enchanter is already moving things 3-5 spaces.
Orb expertise adds another, taking a superior orb (petrified) also adds another. Top that off with the orb you gave him and that's a total of +5 squares on top of what the power gives you! (and that's all off the top of my head and can be done as early as 2nd level).


The good news is that you aren't to blame here (and neither is the player)!  
The class is specifically designed to function that way since very little of it's powers do actual damage.

So my best advice is to just basically roll with it, and maybe keep a few things in mind (i'm loosely using the word 'slide' to mean all forms of forced movement):
1) Forced movement does not ever provoke opportunity attacks (unless the power specifically says otherwise).
2) Sliding rarely affects ranged enemies. Unless they slide them closer to the party, but really, this only prevents other party members from using a move action, and it is exactly what this kind of mage is supposed to do.
3) Even if a melee enemy is slid far away, they can still move and charge at the party (so the mage basically gave him a +1 to his attack roll!) 
4) A creature slid into hindering terrain gets a saving throw to prevent the movement. So you can't just make him fly off a cliff or fall into a pit, he at least has a 50/50 chance of avoiding it.
5) Most of the time, the enchanter can only 'lock down' one opponent. This basically makes him a ranged defender, and you don't worry when he effectively does his job. Teamwork is a good thing.  
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

Knowing my players, they enjoy tough encounters and challenges because they get a chance to show off small quirks about their characters. When they overcome the challenges there is always cheering and hugs around the table. When things are easy they feel good, but its never a celebration.



Not every encounter needs to be a white-knuckled nail-biter, the important thing is they are having fun either way.
Eventually, you'll get used to being a dm, and get a better feel for what they can handle. And that's when you'll intentionally be designing some things to be harder than others (even adding alternate goals and skill challenges into your fights)!

For now, you are on the right track. But if you are worried, have a quick chat with your players about their expectations; I'll bet you'll find that they are enjoying the easy fights too. But if they want it a bit harder: remind them that you're trying and everyone is learning, patience is going to be the key for a few months, and things may accidentally get a LOT harder before you find the right balance.
If they ask for it, and know there may be mistakes on the way then everything will be fine in the end.

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'm fairly new to DM'ing, and the group I have been playing with seems to have gotten much stronger than what I believe they should be. This is partly my fault for letting a few extra peices of magic gear fall into their hands but I feel like its a bit more serious than that. The party breezes through encounters that should be very challenging for their level. However if I use encounters even higher level than that I risk the party being decimated by the end of the first round. 

Any suggestions? 



What edition?
What level?
How many people are in the party? 
What classes does it have?
And what gear did you give them?
 

Main question... are the players enjoying themselves or are they bored from lack of challenge?

Or are you thinking that if you made things a bit harder it might be more challenging and therefore more enjoyable?

If the magic gear they're using is scrolls and wands and potions, they'll eventually run out... and a single area dispel magic can eliminate a lot of one-use items as well.

 It's really the permanent items that break a game, though. If they earned the magic they got through tough challenges, they're not going to like those things getting stripped, even if it will make for a betterfun game in the long run. I'd straight up ask them if they think they've gotten treasure too easy. A good honest answer from your players will tell you what you wanna know. I had a DM that gave away so much treasure, I felt that if I started digging in the dirt I'd eventually find an artifact. The other players felt the same way, so I told the DM. Lo and behold he said pretty much the same thing you said here. At first he overcorrected, but finally he got a feel for how much was 'just right'. And his game's been better since.



Knowing my players, they enjoy tough encounters and challenges because they get a chance to show off small quirks about their characters. When they overcome the challenges there is always cheering and hugs around the table. When things are easy they feel good, but its never a celebration.

Sounds like you're on the right track, then. They should have enough easy encounters that they feel awesome and enough challenging encounters that they remain interested and have cause for celebration. Assuming you haven't went overboard with magic items, you should be able to give them an occasional challenge that's extremely tough. Don't force it on them, but make it worth their while to overcome the challenge. You might also try having a few more encounters between rest stops on occasion. If they can't re-memorize spells and heal their wounds, they won't be fighting at full strength, and will therefore be challenged by an encounter that might be a breeze at full strength.

I did this once with a party that had been breezing through adventures by having a single encounter, maybe two and then going back to headquarters and healing up.
Unbeknownst to them, the enemies had found their encampment. When they got back, they were given the fight of their life. They squeezed out a victory and as a reward got a major piece of the enemy's arsenal and defeated one of their enemy's most important allies... and some fat XP on top of it. Surviving the encounter, they went back to the Myth-Drannor-like city, breezed through the rest of the adventure up to the final encounter and made it to their main enemies who didn't have their usual guards protecting them this time.

I wouldn't recommend doing that every time the party tries to rent a room at the inn, but sometimes the players should get a chance to see how they react defensively as well as offensively. It gives a different perspective, and presents a different type of challenge. Just be sure to take it into account when you divvy XP, since it is more challenging.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
If it is because of gear then the problem isn't as bad as you would think. They might be more powerful now, but that gear will be outdated as they level, all you have to do is decrease the amount of treasure they get from encounters and in a level or two the problem will have fixed itself.

You can also slowly increase the difficulty of encounters by adding a couple of weaker enemies into the mix and by making the terain favour the enemy more, slowly increasing rather then trying to turn it right up to difficult (and killing them all)

Then again, if everyone dies, it is a good opportunity to reboot the game, but I would look at that as a very last resort.    
I'd encourage having a few skill challenges; try a "normal" skill challenge where a single player rolls to win a single success/fail so each character can theoretically shine ... or more likely the wizard to steal all the rolls and shine. Having a group skill challenge is a way to make sure everyone gets the chance to shine, especially if you ask them what they do, not what they roll (or to justify their role by describing what they are doing in character).
I'd encourage having a few skill challenges; try a "normal" skill challenge where a single player rolls to win a single success/fail so each character can theoretically shine ... or more likely the wizard to steal all the rolls and shine. Having a group skill challenge is a way to make sure everyone gets the chance to shine, especially if you ask them what they do, not what they roll (or to justify their role by describing what they are doing in character).

Good idea. I recommend mixing skills into combat. Give them something they can't just smash. Don't make succeeding at it mandatory, and make failing it (such as by not attemtping it) interesting, and make attempting it cost something, like a standard action, or standing in a risky location for a round.

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