5E Where did the 6-8 encounter standard come from?
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  1. #1
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    Where did the 6-8 encounter standard come from?

    I was curious. When 5e was first designed, it went through a lot of playtesting. From all of that work and playtesting, a key balancing assumption formed was 6-8 encounters in a day before a long rest.

    Now I know several people on the forum (including myself) think that number is too high. But clearly it came from somewhere, and a lot of 5e was adjusted in the beginning due to player feedback.

    Was this an area where players generally gave feedback that they did 6-8 encounters? Was it a poll question answered at some point?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    Was this an area where players generally gave feedback that they did 6-8 encounters? Was it a poll question answered at some point?
    I took all the playtest polls. My memory sucks, but I don't recall an encounters/day question.

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    Lol, ya all my groups have ben 3-4 players, 3 with any consistency and engaging in 1 maybe to 2 encounters per COMBAT DAY per session. I specify combat days because many session "days" are down time, travel, preparation, and just opening up story elements. That said, session days can fast forward a bit. We may only have 1 or 2 COMBAT days in a 4 hour session, but generally at least 1, thought we have had a few sessions without them.

    Unless your actually in a dungeon, combat is a big moment that takes up a large part of a session between story, so my GM limits them. It also makes the Warlocks spell recovery pretty useless since the group would rarely ever have a more than one battle a day. In a dungeon however, I could see a Warlock suddenly becoming the anchor of the team and really powerful.

  4. #4
    Yea, I have never played with a 6-8 encounters/day. The only time I've done that was in a dungeon type setting, but even then it wasn't that high. Since we rarely have more than one encounter per session, this would really slow down narratively driven games since combat takes so long at our tables. And that's considering we use theory of mind (I've found minis and maps always makes people slow down to plan their shot).

  5. #5
    I think it comes from the adventure paths. Each chapter / section has around 6-8 encounters. If you only took long rests in between the sections, you end up pretty often with 6-8 encounters per day.

    Could also be that they simply tried out what setup makes all the classes balanced and concluded that a setup of 2-3 per short rest and 2 short rest per long rest results in the best balance with the existing ruleset.
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  6. #6
    From what I can glean, it's based primarily on a dungeon environment where the pressure to continue, due to constant threats, is immediate. The problem with that is that most adventures don't occur in a dungeon for more than a few days at a time, if that. So the majority of play is in a low pressure environment where, short of contrived convenience that breaks immersion, there's no reason to continue once significant resources are expended.

    In other words, it's a false paradigm that should never have made it into primetime.
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    From the DMG, p.84 "Assuming typical adventuring conditions* and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day," and a little later, "This provides a rough estimate of the adjusted XP value for encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest."

    The reason that 6-8 encounters per adventuring day figure gets tossed around is because people interpret "can" as "should."

    As @dropbear8mybaby notes, it's a good number for dungeon type environments, or really any time when there's pressure to keep moving. The point of the number is to push the party to expend resources til they're low, thereby evoking the possibility of failure/death. However, nowhere in the DMG (that I know of) is it suggested every adventuring day ought to include 6-8 encounters.

    Alternately, some people may read it as the average number of encounters in an adventuring day (with the presumption several days have more, and several days have less). The appropriate interpretation is that it's the recommended maximum number of encounters per adventuring day (unless you really want to start KOing PCs).

    * = The DMG doesn't specify what typical adventuring conditions are, so the rest of the guidelines in this section are meaningless, anyway.
    Last edited by Nevvur; Tuesday, 14th November, 2017 at 02:21 PM.
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    I love watching Nevvur do the can can Guys if you homebrew Wotc knows you smart enough to adjust the encounters or adjust the rules.

  9. #9
    I think a lot of it pulls from previous editions as well. In TSR days, that seems pretty typical, because you completed an encounter pretty quickly. Compare that to 4e, where an encounter just by itself can take an hour or more of real time. So depending on what edition you're used to playing, the # of encounters per day can vary widely simply due to logistics. And since 5e brings back a lot from old school, the # of encounters you can have will rise unless you still play the game in a 4e grid based tactical style. Then it might seem high because you want to advance in the story without spending 6 hours of real time in combat only.

    Re: the #, as I mentioned, that seems pretty average for me. Some days there are only 1 or 2. Other days there may be a dozen encounters in a day between a rest. And that brings up the other reason I see most often for the disparity between gaming tables: how often you allow PCs to rest. In our games for instance, the game world dictates when rests are available. The PCs can say they'd like to rest, but if monsters are alerted to them, they will try to find them so they aren't able to get in 8 hours. Or if they do, the monsters reinforced the area, or moved the object, or whatever. Basically, the game world doesn't pause when PCs rest. It still goes on. So there is a sense of urgency for PCs to keep going.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevvur View Post
    From the DMG, p.84 "Assuming typical adventuring conditions* and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day," and a little later, "This provides a rough estimate of the adjusted XP value for encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest."

    The reason that 6-8 encounters per adventuring day figure gets tossed around is because people interpret "can" as "should."
    I disagree with the conclusion. The reason that I use the 6-8 encounters is because there is a large amount of empirical evidence across a lot of tables that shows that this is the point the at-will, short-rest-recharge and long-rest-recharge classes balance against each other as well as common attrition tactics take a toll.

    Fewer, harder encounters favor some classes more and disfavor other. Number one common element in "5e is easy mode" threads is that they don't do 6-8 encounters.

    BTW, I'm not defending 6-8 encounters - I really enjoy 5e and it's by far my biggest complain about the system. I'm just saying that the reason the 6-8 gets talked about is because not only do they suggest it, but it holds up. Like as if they balanced against it.
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