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I have a party of six level 9 characters that probably do about 100 DPR (probability weighted). this was based on fully estimating actual DPR at level 7 and swagging the increases since then, but its fairly close. Most of the party is melee, so there are limited focus fire opportunities, and as such encounters tend to run long. The players are pretty happy taking skill focus feats over damage feats, and making similar non-charop tradeoffs, even when presented with suggestions on how to tweak their DPR.
I'm going to try the doubling damage and halving hitpoints thing, but I kind of wonder if there is some other mechanical shift I should make. Obviously a party of three cleric|rangers and three lazylords would do double the damage my guys could drop - should there be a different gearing on encounter toughness? I don't want to reduce the exp / session. I've tried to move to having half of total exp come from non-combat, but I want to target having encounters that last ~5 rounds, and with six PCs at level 9 800 HP is not unusual...
You could also try replacing some of the standard monsters with groups of minions, so damage isn't as important. Maybe use lower level encounters. Level -1, maybe?
Though the fact they all prefer melee might make minions more of a hassle than help.
I think you've got the right idea with making a lot of the EXP coming from non-combat sources. If the group prefer taking skill focuses, it's a good idea to gear the game towards skills. Catering to the party's strengths rather than punishing them for their weaknesses is the approach I usually encourage.
Monsters and Encounters of the level of the character are not meant for optimized characters, my group is not min/maxed at all, but are very well build character with awesome group tactics and synergy, i send stuff 3 or 4 levels higher than themat around 1.3 standard monster per character (in full party of 6, i have a budget of 8 standards)
This isn't a MMORPG dungeon raiding, where the encounters are tunned for min/max in mind
Just use lots of minions with a single standard or elite as a leader. These sorts of combats can be fun even if they are techinically a cakewalk (although minion artillery is often a big threat).
Thanks for the ideas. I'll try halving hitpoints and doubling damage, and then try swapping out half the standards for minions. I won't do both at once!
. I want to try to stick with the same XP budget, and avoid technically softening the encounters, but I do want to try to get to a 5 round mean encounter, and 800 hit point encounters with 100 DPR is a recipe for boredom. These guys have been playing the characters since level 1, so I don't think party synergies will change unless they find some new strategies in Paragon (always possible).
Another thing is giving them extra feats that they have to choose for combat purposes. Allowing them storyline stuff to train with a master weaponsfighter to get one of a short list of feats that are all Optimized feats. This way your players feel like they have a choice and aren't missing out on that +2 arcana feat they really wanted. Granted thats more of a long-term fix than a quick one but it can help especially progressing into Paragon. Don't feel worried about giving your players extra stuff (give them extra items / extra feats / access to boons) when they are not concerned about optimizing. You will have a lot more free-reign to be able to give them randomly strong stuff if you know nobody is going to scour the internet for a way to make it give them +30 to damage rolls.
Edit: Another thing with the minions is you can swap out "2 hit" minions for normal minions at a rate of 2 "2 hitters" to 3 normals. 2 hit minions do a very small dice roll of damage and take 2 hits to kill unless a single hit is big enough to turn them into mash (set the threshold for 20-25 at that level depending on party make-up).
I'd throw in more environmental hazards as well NPCs plotting different things as well as making lower level monsters monologue a bit more There's a sense of accomplishment offing a lippy goblin.
The DMG classification was meant for optimised Parties. So if the Party is non optimised, consider how long you want the fight to last, and adjust accordingly.
at 100 DPR Probability-adjusted, and assuming you don't want combat to last over 6 rounds, you can use 500 HP as a measurement (ie 5 rounds, with 1 round leeway for divided fire and other things that result in Players not attacking)
With 6 Party members, each Standard Monster should have about 83 HP. That comes to about a Lv 7 Standard Monster.
You can try using Lv 9 Brutes with somewhat lower NAD defenses and about 100 HP. The damage is high to keep the threat, but the defenses are low.
1-2 Artillery / Lurkers are also a good option, as they have Low HP. Artillery may be difficult to reach for a Melee heavy party though, and their poor Optimisation probably means the Artillery will be hitting often. And if you don't attack with them to try to avoid a TPK, well, it seems weird.
If you want to moderate the flow of the game so as to prevent unexpected TPKs, Lurkers might be better. Stick to Melee Lurkers so your Party has the chance to get rid of them. Be prepared for swingy combat though, as Brutes lay out high damage and Lurkers can do so as well.
Most Lurkers have a "disappear until 1 round later" so you can use those mechanisms to prevent the Lurkers from attacking every round. They are also very handy to end Grind, as usually after most of the other Monsters are dead, Lurkers should simply run away.
Without turning to Minions since someone already suggested that, here are some house-rule possibilities.
a) Run with Lv 9-10 Monsters, reduce all their Defenses by 2 and their HP by 2 per Level (ie 18). Award XP normally
b) Select a Damage threshold. You are a hardworking enough DM to get 100 DPR I guess, so aim for a high damage value that a Striker has about 25% of attaining. Run with Lv 9-10 Mooks (Creatures with normal Defenses) that have that number of HP, so 1 hit from a non-Striker bloodies it, and a Striker has a 20-30% chance of killing it outright.
Each Mook has an XP Budget equal to HALF that of a Standard monster.
If you wish to keep threat high, each Mook should do the normal amount of damage for a Standard Monster. This means the fight is more dangerous at the beginning but easier later on, as all of them hit hard and there are many of them.
If you wish to keep threat moderate, each Mook does about 20-30% less damage than a Standard Creature. At Level 9 that translates to roughly 4-5 less points of damage per Hit.
You can use the Low Dmg expression in this incredibly useful DM Sheet : slyflourish.com/master_dm_sheet.pdf
For the house-rule possibilities, try out at Level 9-10 first, if the play goes smoothly you can gradually increase the Level.
Hope this helps.
My suggestion is since i understand you want to raise the damage of your party and are good levels ,to make a mission that you will give them weapons that do extra damage.Like +1d6 fire/ice/poison etc.This depends on you and your imagination .I did that to my party and now they are having great fun since there is no wizard in party for high damage .Try to make it balanced though and not op damage.Even and extra 1d4 damage or an belt that gives strength will be great.
Try throwing something at them beyond 1. kill monsters, 2. go on to next encounter.
Last weekend, I ran an encounter based on the first idea in this thread. My players went in with guns blazing...and quickly realized that wasn't going to work. Their burst area attacks seemed to work but then nothing else did. After a few rounds they finally got it when the warlock had a burst zone that was damaging them and noticed one of the enemies made it a point to keep his leg out of that zone (and I made the tatoos glow slightly when they were hurt).
Other times I've thrown encounters at the players where they are against overwhelming odds. Sometimes it's a crumbling city, sometimes it's an enemy they cannot beat. They can try to brute it out, but they will lose.
I've had other enemies that only drained healing surges until the players were out and in that case, it started dealing damage based on their healing surge values. The players learned very quickly to take these quys *very* seriously (they would actually avoid entire regions of the world if they could when they knew these guys were there even though they were near epic level). The tank could no longer rely on his huge number of HP and using like 4 healing surges in a round, he had to use a different strategy.
Another fun enemy I've used is the Pain Wisp. Hitting these things heals them, using divine or healing spells hurts them. Hit them too much and they release at that healing into devastating burst attacks.
Point is, instead of trying hard to unbalance and then rebalance everything by giving them huge number damage but decreased hit points, just try some different encounter types with them.
Trying to get the damage expressions right is only worth it if you enjoy that kind of thing, because it's very unlikely to pay off without a lot of tweaking.
It's not necessary to kill all of the monsters in an encounter in order to succeed, unless that's the only way the DM planned on the PCs succeeding. Furthermore, it's not necessary for the PCs to succeed, unless not succeeding means that the game grinds to a halt. Movies and books are full of examples in which the heroes did not kill everything and still won, even if the enemies didn't surrender or retreat. They're also full of examples in which the heroes lost, even if they didn't die, retreat or surrender, and the adventure continues from there.
My group is always pressed to end encounters quickly, due to real world time constraints. In the past several sessions, they have not bothered to kill everything in the encounter, and have still succeeded.
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