D&D 5E Adjusting to 1 encounter per Day: Putting the XP Budget into a single fight

ECMO3

Hero
So with all the talk of game balance of late, something that keeps coming back up is the notion that players that get to rest more often and fight less encounters in a day will find challenges easier than a party that gets the full 6-8 encounters.

So the real question is: Well how much more can a party take on?

So we could start with a simple premise: What if the DM just pushes the entire daily adventuring budget into a single encounter. Aka its expected the party will go hog wild, throw every bit of juice....and be completely spent by the end. So what would that look like in terms of challenge?

So lets take 4 level 7 characters. They have a daily adventuring budget of 20,000. So here are some example challenges that would fit their entire budget. I had to go a bit under or over much of the time, as often adding just one more of almost any monster just shoots the encounter XP way up.
  • A Demilich (CR 18)
  • Two Young Red Dragons (CR 10) - 17.7k
  • 3 Githyanki Knights (CR 8) - 23k
  • 4 Mind Flayers (CR 7) - 23k
  • 5 Flesh Golems (CR 5)
  • 8 Black Puddings (CR 4) - 22k
  • 200 NPC Guards (CR 1/8)
So just taking a look, what do people think? Do you generally feel like these would be really challenging encounters for such a party who is going "all out"? Would this crush them into the dirt, would you expect them to win with no problems?

If this produces reasonable results it might be the way to go for people who just want to do 1 "big combat" a day, and help them understand what you really need to throw out to challenge such a party.
I don't think it would be reasonable. 200 guards in particular fighting at once would easily overwhelm 4 level 7 characters. They are going to overwhelm them on action economy. 4-7th level characters have 4 reactions a round, meaning there is nothing stopping most of them from moving in and out of combat.

2 dragons and a demilich likely would beat 4 7-th level characters as well. The adventuring budget is based on short rests and recharging.
 

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Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Short rest classes (fighter, monk, warlock) and largely restless classes (rogue) suffer in such days, while full casters (bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, wizard) excel.

Offense goes through the roof. It becomes a game of rocket tag.

I tend to run 3 deadly fights a day. When you have one fight in a day and it feels telegraphed (dragon ambush in the morning), things end up being very swingy. You need to hit that xp budget through multiple creatures, not one big creature.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Short rest classes (fighter, monk, warlock) and largely restless classes (rogue) suffer in such days, while full casters (bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, wizard) excel.
I should note that the purpose of this thread is not to fix any imbalances with 1 encounter per day. Its the simple acknowledgement that a good number of groups play that way (with a least a good portion of their encounters), and so its about what guidelines would give such a group the best guidance on what encounters to have that should meet a good and reasonable amount of challenge. The various caster vs martial imbalances are a different problem for that DM to solve:)
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I should note that the purpose of this thread is not to fix any imbalances with 1 encounter per day. Its the simple acknowledgement that a good number of groups play that way (with a least a good portion of their encounters), and so its about what guidelines would give such a group the best guidance on what encounters to have that should meet a good and reasonable amount of challenge. The various caster vs martial imbalances are a different problem for that DM to solve:)
The guidance is take stock of the kinds of classes your characters play.

If you telegraph that this is going to be the only fight, your full caster blasters are going to try to maximize actions, burning through as many action, bonus action, reaction castings as they can, since they won't care about conserving. Your paladins are going to smite on every hit instead of crit fishing. Offense is going to be through the roof.

Guidance would be use multiple enemies, but not so many that they can be easily wiped by an AoE.

Guidance would be to not use glass cannon enemies. Use stuff with the hp and defenses to survive. Use legendary monsters so they have legendary resistances to survive.
 

Stalker0

Legend
The guidance is take stock of the kinds of classes your characters play.

If you telegraph that this is going to be the only fight, your full caster blasters are going to try to maximize actions, burning through as many action, bonus action, reaction castings as they can, since they won't care about conserving. Your paladins are going to smite on every hit instead of crit fishing. Offense is going to be through the roof.

Guidance would be use multiple enemies, but not so many that they can be easily wiped by an AoE.

Guidance would be to not use glass cannon enemies. Use stuff with the hp and defenses to survive. Use legendary monsters so they have legendary resistances to survive.
So based on that guidance it’s seems you would recommend the mind flayer, demilich, or githyanki knight encounters.

so looking at those specially, if we used the standard model (wizard fighter rogue cleric)...do you think those would be good encounters, too weak, too deadly?
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I'd think CR 3s or 4s would be closer to what I'd be comfortable throwing at the party. 3 is the "1v1" standard at 7th level in the new Xanathar's system. I wouldn't use Mindflayers, though, as their AoE stuns would cripple the party.
 

Stormonu

Legend
As an aside, on the 200 guards if you're using grid combat it's likely only 8 enemies per PC will get an attack a round, unless you allow conga-line tactics or they're all attacking from range or have a mix of close combat and reach weapons.

Overall though, I don't think you can expect the party to face the entire encounter day budget in one go. The game assumes that the party will take a break between combats to recover some abilities and hit points, which won't be possible in a one-go encounter. Off the top of my head, I don't think you'd want to use more that 60% or so of the daily XP budget in one encounter, or bump a deadly encounter up above about 50%.
 

Democratus

Adventurer
In AD&D, wading through piles of normal human opponents (like guards) was made much easier by spells which made you entirely immune to attacks from non-magical weapons such as Protection from Normal Missiles.
 

This is true (about 5E) and it has always bothered me in every edition.

Edit: thinking about this more deeply, I am not sure I agree with the notion that four 7th level characters could wade through "thousands of low level foes". I did not play 3rd or 4th edition, so I can't speak to those games, but in Basic DnD or 1E, it seems incredibly unlikely that four PCs could hold off 200 regular folks.

If a natural 20 is always a hit, then the 200 guards would have an expected 10 hits in the first round even if they needed to roll a 20 to hit (which they likely would not need against a magic user or thief whose AC wouldn't be that great). They could do enough damage in that first round to kill a magic user or thief pretty easily...possibly both in the same round.
the issue is that 200 people can’t all attack one person. I believe that in 5e it is 8 Medium creatures can in theory surround one Medium creature. So, it is likely that each member would face no more than 8 attacks per round, potentially fewer.

if that is the case, the PCs can fight for a few rounds at least and the odds become more and more in there favor.
 

So with all the talk of game balance of late, something that keeps coming back up is the notion that players that get to rest more often and fight less encounters in a day will find challenges easier than a party that gets the full 6-8 encounters.

So the real question is: Well how much more can a party take on?

So we could start with a simple premise: What if the DM just pushes the entire daily adventuring budget into a single encounter. Aka its expected the party will go hog wild, throw every bit of juice....and be completely spent by the end. So what would that look like in terms of challenge?

So lets take 4 level 7 characters. They have a daily adventuring budget of 20,000. So here are some example challenges that would fit their entire budget. I had to go a bit under or over much of the time, as often adding just one more of almost any monster just shoots the encounter XP way up.
  • A Demilich (CR 18)
  • Two Young Red Dragons (CR 10) - 17.7k
  • 3 Githyanki Knights (CR 8) - 23k
  • 4 Mind Flayers (CR 7) - 23k
  • 5 Flesh Golems (CR 5)
  • 8 Black Puddings (CR 4) - 22k
  • 200 NPC Guards (CR 1/8)
So just taking a look, what do people think? Do you generally feel like these would be really challenging encounters for such a party who is going "all out"? Would this crush them into the dirt, would you expect them to win with no problems?

If this produces reasonable results it might be the way to go for people who just want to do 1 "big combat" a day, and help them understand what you really need to throw out to challenge such a party.
I don't know about any of the OTHER monsters, but my level 7 Tabaxi Battlemaster would be REALLY lucky to defeat ONE mindflayer. I mean, the thing has a 60% chance of just flat out stunning me on round 1, for one minute, which is pretty much an insta-gank in most straight up fights. Given that the NEXT attack has a 50/50 chance of hitting and IS a flat out insta-gank (I have 49 hit points), I'm not rating my chances THAT high. I mean, I can do some pretty good damage. I'm going to hit in melee on a 6+, and getting advantage is pretty feasible. I can make FIVE attacks on round one, guaranteed (assuming I can survive to get close), but even if all of them did max damage that's not going to finish off Mr Flayer. More realistically I'll get 4 hits, for a grand total of about 40 damage. I can probably arrange one off-turn attack using a maneuver, and then 3 more attacks the next round, which is not going to finish this bugger without some real hot dice. I'd give it a solid chance of surviving round 3, too, though not 50/50.

I could fight from range too, and get 2-3 attacks per round at +8 with a longbow. Not a terrible option, assuming I can keep Brainiac out of my hair. It will take AT LEAST 4 rounds that way to get rid of this monstrosity.

So, my conclusion is that a 7th level PC has something like a 30-40% chance to beat a Mind Flayer. Maybe some will do better. Obviously if I had the ability to choose how and where to engage, or prepare heavily beforehand, the odds would change somewhat. I'm guessing a fully-optimized party of 5 PCs loaded for this encounter and able to dictate the location and tactics would stand a very good chance of victory. The party my example character comes from DID manage to defeat a LARGE number of gnolls at one point which definitely was in the same kind of league with what you are proposing. It was a very close thing!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So with all the talk of game balance of late, something that keeps coming back up is the notion that players that get to rest more often and fight less encounters in a day will find challenges easier than a party that gets the full 6-8 encounters.

So the real question is: Well how much more can a party take on?

So we could start with a simple premise: What if the DM just pushes the entire daily adventuring budget into a single encounter. Aka its expected the party will go hog wild, throw every bit of juice....and be completely spent by the end. So what would that look like in terms of challenge?

So lets take 4 level 7 characters. They have a daily adventuring budget of 20,000. So here are some example challenges that would fit their entire budget. I had to go a bit under or over much of the time, as often adding just one more of almost any monster just shoots the encounter XP way up.
  • A Demilich (CR 18)
  • Two Young Red Dragons (CR 10) - 17.7k
  • 3 Githyanki Knights (CR 8) - 23k
  • 4 Mind Flayers (CR 7) - 23k
  • 5 Flesh Golems (CR 5)
  • 8 Black Puddings (CR 4) - 22k
  • 200 NPC Guards (CR 1/8)
So just taking a look, what do people think? Do you generally feel like these would be really challenging encounters for such a party who is going "all out"? Would this crush them into the dirt, would you expect them to win with no problems?

If this produces reasonable results it might be the way to go for people who just want to do 1 "big combat" a day, and help them understand what you really need to throw out to challenge such a party.
If they don't have magic weapons, that Demilich would wreck them. With it, it will still likely wreck them. Their best bet might be the guards if they lack magic weapons.

Edit: I've been the victim of a thread necro, albeit one that hasn't been dead as long as many I've seen raised.
 

If they don't have magic weapons, that Demilich would wreck them. With it, it will still likely wreck them. Their best bet might be the guards if they lack magic weapons.

Edit: I've been the victim of a thread necro, albeit one that hasn't been dead as long as many I've seen raised.
Only a couple months. Besides, it sure beats the "Rawr! That's not roleplaying! Thread, eh?" lol. Anyway, I think being 7th level and meeting 2 Red Dragons would really bite. Happened to one of our parties around that level. There was literally zero effective response (it was out in the wilderness) except "run and hide while it takes all our stuff." I never was sure exactly what the point of that sort of encounter is...
 

Only a couple months. Besides, it sure beats the "Rawr! That's not roleplaying! Thread, eh?" lol. Anyway, I think being 7th level and meeting 2 Red Dragons would really bite. Happened to one of our parties around that level. There was literally zero effective response (it was out in the wilderness) except "run and hide while it takes all our stuff." I never was sure exactly what the point of that sort of encounter is...
Clearly to take your stuff
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Only a couple months. Besides, it sure beats the "Rawr! That's not roleplaying! Thread, eh?" lol. Anyway, I think being 7th level and meeting 2 Red Dragons would really bite. Happened to one of our parties around that level. There was literally zero effective response (it was out in the wilderness) except "run and hide while it takes all our stuff." I never was sure exactly what the point of that sort of encounter is...
Two red dragons would absolutely bite. ;)
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
the issue is that 200 people can’t all attack one person. I believe that in 5e it is 8 Medium creatures can in theory surround one Medium creature. So, it is likely that each member would face no more than 8 attacks per round, potentially fewer.

if that is the case, the PCs can fight for a few rounds at least and the odds become more and more in there favor.

Since the thread is already back up and running...

8 medium creatures can surround each player at any one time, but since movement can happen at any time in your turn, dozens of creatures could have the opportunity to attack each PC each round. Adding a missle weapon to the NPCs would make this virtually unwinnable for the PCs.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
the issue is that 200 people can’t all attack one person. I believe that in 5e it is 8 Medium creatures can in theory surround one Medium creature. So, it is likely that each member would face no more than 8 attacks per round, potentially fewer.

if that is the case, the PCs can fight for a few rounds at least and the odds become more and more in there favor.
If you have a second rank with halberds (reach) 24 people can attack a single character.
 

Since the thread is already back up and running...

8 medium creatures can surround each player at any one time, but since movement can happen at any time in your turn, dozens of creatures could have the opportunity to attack each PC each round. Adding a missle weapon to the NPCs would make this virtually unwinnable for the PCs.

If you have a second rank with halberds (reach) 24 people can attack a single character.
My response to both of these would be to state that either situation seems HIGHLY unrealistic. Imagine what dozens of attackers running past your PC taking a swing each round would imply. This kind of 'Conga Line' would require all 200 opponents to enact a level of choreography never achieved in the real world! It is simply ridiculous. I mean, OK, if they are all controlled by a single mind flayer or something, maybe...

Likewise being pig stuck by 24 opponents, while it might technically be feasible under the rules (honestly, since 5e doesn't define any sort of 'grid' I'm not sure how you come to this conclusion to start with) but it SEEMS pretty unrealistic to me. My understanding of 5e's rules is that they don't have hard and fast RULES for stuff like this, and that the GM should be looking at the situation and determining what actually makes sense.

That being the case, 200 guards does sound like a PITA. OTOH its another of those tactical situations. If it is the right situation, or the PCs can recontextualize the conflict and put it in their own terms, then they should win easily.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
Likewise being pig stuck by 24 opponents, while it might technically be feasible under the rules (honestly, since 5e doesn't define any sort of 'grid' I'm not sure how you come to this conclusion to start with) but it SEEMS pretty unrealistic to me. My understanding of 5e's rules is that they don't have hard and fast RULES for stuff like this, and that the GM should be looking at the situation and determining what actually makes sense.
5e has rules for playing with a grid. As usual they are in the DMG not the PHB. Grab a sheet of grid paper and count the squares, you'll get it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
5e has rules for playing with a grid. As usual they are in the DMG not the PHB. Grab a sheet of grid paper and count the squares, you'll get it.

While it's one way to go about it, another one is to actually picture the situation in your mind and for the players, and to allow what seems reasonable, in particular taking into account what can be expected of the troops attacking the character in terms of coordination. So yes, maybe modrons mentally coordinated by a hierarch could allow that level of coordination, but simple guards would be hard pressed doing it even partially, and goblins or orcs would be absolutely unable to pull it off.

As a reminder, while there are grid options in the PH, completed in the DMG, the standard set-up of 5e is TotM, and it has simple guidelines about how many creatures of a given size can gather around a given enemy, without using a grid, and at the same time avoiding what could be considered immmersion breaking tactics of 200 adversaries running in a coordinated ballet around a single target (Assuming Medium combatants, eight creatures can fit in a 5-foot radius around another one).
 

5e has rules for playing with a grid. As usual they are in the DMG not the PHB. Grab a sheet of grid paper and count the squares, you'll get it.
I'm familiar with grids, trust me. Not arguing about how many squares or hexes fall within some area of a grid. I am merely pointing out that 5e is not a wargame, and its rules are not intended to be followed in a slavish manner. It talks about grids, yes, but they should be seen as merely an aid to play, if your GM wants to use them. So, the question is STILL "is it realistic for 24 people to be able to attack one guy, even with long weapons?" IMHO the answer is 'no', but its definitely an opinion, just one formulated by considering what I've seen in real life. So, even assuming that it might be physically possible, with tight choreography to get 24 attacks on a single medium sized target, is that really at all realistic? I doubt it, just from viewing things like American Football, Rugby, or SCA mass combats. Real combat is pretty messy and even pros are unlikely to maximize their opportunities THAT much.
 

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