In a previous packet, we pitted five level 1 characters (dwarven fighter, elven archer, human wizard, human cleric, halfling rogue) against one troll. They killed it easily. Repeatedly.
This packet, we tried this again. The elven archer was replaced with a monk. Otherwise same lineup. We tried one troll, which died quickly (3 rounds), and then we tried two trolls, which died almost as quickly: 4 rounds.
In testing, the main issues seemed to be: - Low monster HP. The first troll was down by round 2, finished off by a Burning Hands from the wizard; the second troll fell at the beginning of round 4. - Low monster AC. The PCs are almost guaranteed to hit an AC11 monster. - Low-ish monster to-hit. +6 seems respectable, but is it for an L5 monster? PCs at that level would have between +8 and +9 to hit (+4/5 from stat, likely +1 from item, +3 from level). If the troll lasted longer, that might not have been an issue. It had a hard time touching the monk or dwarf (both 18 AC), and when it died and its companion went after the "squishies", it missed the rogue (AC 14) twice, hit the wizard (AC 11) once, and then it died.
No PC died. Not even the wizard, who took one hit before the remaining troll went down. Because it was all over in 4 rounds, the trolls didn't really get a chance to swipe at people a lot. The second troll did save against Command, improbably, but fell prey to the monk's Stunning Blow.
Somewhere deep in the monster math, there's a disconnect. A party of L1s stumbling into a troll lair and disturbing two trolls should have exactly two likely outcomes: Run like hell (double-move) and get away from those trolls, hoping they don't catch up - or TPK. That, instead, the party delivers a resounding beat-down, is bizarre.
The troll's re-gen was lowered to 5 because in play testing at Wizards, 10 for a pack of trolls was too much, so we are told. While that may hold for a pack of trolls - we haven't tested that - I can say that the 5 regen on two trolls barely registered. The monk does 2d6+10 damage each turn (Flurry of Blows), add to that the dwarven fighter with 1d10+4, the rogue with 1d6+4 (sling), the wizard with his ray of frost 1d10 and the cleric with his lance of faith 2d6, and individual trolls die very, very quickly.
"If they hit!", I hear you cry. Well, PCs have between +5 and +6 to hit, so with an AC 11, you do the math. They'll hit about 70% of the time, so that's 70% of that damage going through, on average.
Overall, I'll agree. In the latest packet, to-hit bonus from level was lowered for players - a lvl1 Fighter now gets a +1 from his class, instead of the massive +3 they got in last packet. The monk appears to be a prime target for a nerfbat swing anyway, but otherwise monsters are indeed squishy. AC11 for a troll is below pathetic. I find the troll having a hard time hitting the fighter as being logical. After all, a heavily-armored fighter is supposed to be a hard target.
Bear in mind that while a troll is listed as level 5, its xp value rates it as something less of a tough target for a group of four 3rd-level PCs (check the table in the DM Guidelines document), so it is possible for a group of five 1st-level PCs to defeat a single troll. Two trolls, however, should have ripped right through the group.
While checking out the DM Guidelines document, I noticed that in the version found in the latest packet, it mentions that an encounter might be more difficult than indicated if it includes a large number of monsters. In contrast, the version in the earlier playtest packet mentioned a "single monster limit." Apparently, a single monster (or an encounter with fewer monsters than the number of PCs) must be of a level way higher than the PCs' to pose a serious threat any more... Fascinating. D&D almost always featured epic battles of PCs against extremely powerful solo monsters (hence the inclusion of the word "Dragons" in the game's name). A possible switch in focus to monster groups as the apex of encounter difficulty is going to be a lot more fundamental that it seems...
For giggles, we re-tried with tweaked trolls. "Now longer-lasting! The most durable troll yet!" And yep, when the trolls don't fold faster than a Chinese laundry, their ability to hit often enough tells, and PCs start dieing around round 5 or so. How that is accomplished can be subject to tweaks. Higher AC or higher HP, or a combination of the two.
So what Wizards did with this playpacket is: - Boosted the trolls to-hit a bit, which was needed - Nerfed their staying-power by dropping AC from 14 to 11 while keeping HP the same as before
Taking the XP and encounter building guidelines into account, a level 5 party would find 3 trolls an average encounter, and 5 trolls a tough one.
So is what we're seeing here a side-effect of bounded accuracy? Is it that a level-appropriate tough encounter of 5 trolls needs them to go down this fast, but because of bounded accuracy, that means that a single troll, or two, no longer poses a challenge even to a level 1 group?
Is this by design? An unavoidable side effect of design?
lok, I think you're on to something. Because of bounded accuracy, single monsters indeed don't pose much of a challenge any more. That said, the math's still off. I bet you that 3 trolls are not a "normal" encounter for these PCs at level 5, but instead a "cake walk". In a normal encounter, I expect that the PCs will be somewhat pressed. In a tough encounter (5 trolls), I expect them to be hard-pressed and use up all of their resources, and need to be working as a team to avoid PC death.
This is indeed a fundamental change. I am so used to the idea of "two trolls will just mop the floor with a party of foolhardy low levels" that I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that, maybe, trolls aren't that tough unless they are encountered en masse.
I still think AC 11 is pathetically low, and gut feeling, I'd give them 50% more HP on top of an AC14 to make them feel like a troll.
I think it's bounded accuracy in conjunction with increased PC damage (especially at higher levels), that makes single monsters not to pose a threat. Not only is a monster's attack not guaranteed to hit even a 1st-level PC, but the damage output of a party now can generally down a monster of even higher level within a single round.
Besides the effort required of the DM now (you'd have to manage more monsters in every fight, if you want fights to be interesting), we have to consider how monster "ecology" changes. In the old days, a single troll roaming the woods struck fear in villagers and adventurers alike, because it was indeed a formidable opponent to low-level PCs. That also meant that said troll could afford to live alone in a cave in the woods - few things posed a threat to its existence. But if lone trolls are no longer a threat, does it mean that from now on trolls will adopt a tribal lifestyle? And what about monsters of lower intelligence, that are unlikely to live in groups, like manticores? Are they suddenly considered endangered species, since it is now far easier to hunt them down and kill them?
WoTc is zeroing in on numbers, but as everyone has pointed out, they are not there yet. I agree with the lot of you. AC 11 for a troll seems too low, and if PCs are going to dish out so much damage, monsters will need to have more hit points. Personally, I think PC damage output should be cut back some how. I don't like how they get combat expertise and monsters don't (but if monsters had combat expertise it would be too unwieldy and mega dangerous).
I'm thinking that combats that pit equal number of PCs against an equal number of equally leveled foes the combat could run about 3-4 rounds long. (Average Encounter)
An easier encounter could last 1-2 rounds.
A difficult encounter could run about 5-12 rounds...depending.
If they can work out these numbers, D&DNext combats will give everyone what they want...quick combats for story driven parts of the adventure, average encounters to deplete PC resources, and longer more difficult combats to let players play more tactically. I like the mixed bag approach.
Trolls have an incredibly powerful ability that is easily overcome if you are prepared. That makes it tough to balance them. Trolls in 2nd edition were the same way where they awarded several times as much experience as monsters of the same level and power, provided you could overcome the regeneration. And that is fine, it is a reward to the party for being prepared. But trolls should never be used as the litmus test for how strong monsters are at that level.
Trolls have an incredibly powerful ability that is easily overcome if you are prepared. That makes it tough to balance them.
Yeah, I was curious about this, since I didn't see it mentioned in the OP: how much fire and/or acid damage did the party have? Do you see similar results with monsters of comparable XP value but without a powerful mechanic like that?
I get that bounded accuracy is meant to keep some of the numbers down, but it's pretty obvious they're still fine tuning it. They seem to be doing pretty well on the player side, but it could use some adjusting on the monster side. Dragons, trolls, everything could use a small boost to AC and HP, just to help them equal out to their Challenge Rating (which it still is, whatever they actually call it). If a Troll is supposed to be a lvl 5 encounter, it should give a challege to a party of lvl 1 PCs. Lvl 1 PCs have a total attack of +4, generally, with a total damage ranging from 1d10 (5.5) for wizards to 1d8 + 3 + 1d6 (11) for martial classes. Realistically, they should be able to hit it about 50% of the time, and deal serious damage to it only on crits. For a lvl 1 encounter, they should be able to hit the same 50%, maybe a little better, but they don't need to crit to make it mad, or even kill it out right.
You know, I've gotten annoyed with writing all that to make my point, so I'm just going to simplify it. Equal level encounters should more about tactics, on both sides, than raw power. Encounters like a troll to lvl 1 PCs, the troll should come close to mowing over them via sheer power. So give the troll fast healing 10/fire and acid, an AC of 14 or 15, and raise their HP a little, and they'll feel as powerful as trolls should.
Up until this point I had my reservations about increasing monster hit points, because it meant more HD, but I just realized a monster's HD have thus far had zero game use (A good night's sleep works miracles...). No spell, ability, or effect depends on a monster's HD, and no combat value or character aspect (feats, skills, atk bonus) gets calculated off them. So apparently, increasing monster hit points is simple and easy.
OTOH, with monster hit points at their current values, combat feels a lot more realistic. One or two solid blows can down a minotaur now, which makes sense. A well-placed hit should have an effect on any kind of target. Glancing blows would be another matter, of course.
I think what monsters need is defense options. Preferably as static as possible (i.e. few actions or dice rolls), but otherwise a monster supposed to be tough should be tougher than the average character. Perhaps if a monster's tough hide gave it more than AC, and less than full resistance... How about having monsters reduce damage by a die roll? All weapon damage would be affected for sure, and depending on the monster, perhaps some other damage types as well. The idea is not mine, comes from Alternity (why did Wizards discontinue one of the best sci-fi systems ever?), where armors reduced damage by a die roll.
For example, for out troll test subject, let AC and hit points as they are. The troll's tough hide, however, reduces all weapon damage by 1d6. (Assume the troll's hide is only slightly tougher than a cow's hide, the troll mostly relies on its regeneration for survival.) A dragon, otoh, could have a damage reduction of 2d8 or 3d6, and its magic resistance trait could be modified to allow it to apply that DR even against spell damage. Also, critical hits would ignore DR - a critical is by definition a hit placed in a most vulnerable spot, and I'd say "vulnerable" means the monster does not get to apply DR. Introduce a general maneuver that lets PCs attempt a weak spot attack (thus ignoring DR even on a normal hit). I'm thinking something along the lines of "Make an attack at -2. Spend a single martial die to halve a monster's DR against your attack, or spend two dice to ignore it. Spend an extra die to negate the attack penalty."
A similar approach might be applicable to PCs wearing heavy armors (e.g. chain 1d4, plate 1d8), but PCs in heavy armor are already difficult enough for monsters to hit as is, so I'm not sure it would really serve a purpose, even though it is a realistic approach.