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

Redwizard007

Adventurer
If you have a second rank with halberds (reach) 24 people can attack a single character.

Adjusting the guards weaponry
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.

Try this. "The horde of guards charges at your group of PCs. The wizard's lightning bolt kills a dozen or more, but there are just so many. As they reach you (the fighter and cleric front line,) each man jabs with his spear as he rushes past you to threaten your back line (rogue and wizard.) The first past you falls to your AoO, as does another to the cleric, but by now they are all around you. Jostling you. Attacking from all sides (with advantage because I'm a bad DM that likes optional rules.) You are struck repeatedly, no one wound being serious, but before you can retaliate you have enough wounds to be seriously concerned. You feel Bless end as the cleric stumbles under the many blows. The wizard is surrounded, and the rogue is gone. You aren't sure if she fell, or disappeared into the crowd. The wizard opens a dimension door and steps through, appearing far from the fighting. He pulls some bat guano from his pouch and looks back at you with determination..."

You make your 2 attacks, action surge for a couple more, and never get another turn.

Edit: replacing poo w/ guano
 

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Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
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.
It's not about real life. It never is with D&D. It's about what the game rules allow. I do use wargames tactics against my players because we all are wargamers. We enjoy that. YMMV. :)
 

Adjusting the guards weaponry

Try this. "The horde of guards charges at your group of PCs. The wizard's lightning bolt kills a dozen or more, but there are just so many. As they reach you (the fighter and cleric front line,) each man jabs with his spear as he rushes past you to threaten your back line (rogue and wizard.) The first past you falls to your AoO, as does another to the cleric, but by now they are all around you. Jostling you. Attacking from all sides (with advantage because I'm a bad DM that likes optional rules.) You are struck repeatedly, no one wound being serious, but before you can retaliate you have enough wounds to be seriously concerned. You feel Bless end as the cleric stumbles under the many blows. The wizard is surrounded, and the rogue is gone. You aren't sure if she fell, or disappeared into the crowd. The wizard opens a dimension door and steps through, appearing far from the fighting. He pulls some bat naughty word from his pouch and looks back at you with determination...

You make your 2 attacks, action surge for a couple more, and never get another turn.
Sounds like a possible outcome yes. I don't think you'd need more than 10 or 12 attacks per PC/round to achieve that, would you? I mean, level 7 PCs should have AC around 18-22 IME, and around 50-70 hit points. If 12 guys attack you, and 4 hit, and each do 8 damage, you won't last about 3 rounds, right? Obviously the PCs in your example used horrible tactics! So, they kinda got their just desserts basically...

Now, what if the wizard cast a Wall spell instead of some sort of lightning? What if the cleric used some higher level spell too? I think they could limit the number of attackers that the fighter was exposed to enough to allow him to hold his own, unless the terrain is simply some vast featureless flat space.... If it is, then the PCs should have run before they even got close to the enemy and maybe started picking them off somehow, until they arrived at a good defensive spot.

I seem to recall one time when a 5e party I was in got attacked by an ENDLESS stream of undead, and we holed up in a vault or something where my fighter could hold the door, and the cleric just kept all the undead except one or two at bay every round. I had to kill something like 100 of the blasted things, but with the support of the other PCs we were able to hold that door until some other thing happened and we got out (I forget the details it was years ago).
 

OB1

Jedi Master
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
I like to mix 1 encounter, 3 encounter, 6-8 encounter and 10+ encounter days through the course of a campaign to help keep players on their toes and spread the spotlight between short/long rest PCs.

For single encounter, daily adventuring budget type days, I keep the following in mind.
  • I'm very careful when using monsters with a CR of more than 1.5x party level. Over that, the specific capabilities, magic items, and tactical ability of the players needs to be taken into account, or you could end up with a TPK. I would probably not send a Demilich against a 7th level party.
  • I'm also careful when using more than 1 creature in a single battle who's CR is higher than the party. Again, the specifics of the party can have a huge effect here. So Two Young Red Dragons at 7th level might be too much, depending on the party.
  • Finally, when using a full daily adventuring budget, I'm careful about sending more than 3x the party number of creatures at them.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
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.
I agree the "conga-line" suggestion seems completely over the top, and would veto any such tactic in my games, but the number of people with long pointy weapons that can attack a target seems pretty spot on, IMO. This scene comes to mind, with 20 horsemen with spears:
1630603912927.png

If they were not mounted and/or had some longer spears, I think they could easily get 24 spears pointed at them.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
Sounds like a possible outcome yes. I don't think you'd need more than 10 or 12 attacks per PC/round to achieve that, would you? I mean, level 7 PCs should have AC around 18-22 IME, and around 50-70 hit points. If 12 guys attack you, and 4 hit, and each do 8 damage, you won't last about 3 rounds, right? Obviously the PCs in your example used horrible tactics! So, they kinda got their just desserts basically...

Now, what if the wizard cast a Wall spell instead of some sort of lightning? What if the cleric used some higher level spell too? I think they could limit the number of attackers that the fighter was exposed to enough to allow him to hold his own, unless the terrain is simply some vast featureless flat space.... If it is, then the PCs should have run before they even got close to the enemy and maybe started picking them off somehow, until they arrived at a good defensive spot.

I seem to recall one time when a 5e party I was in got attacked by an ENDLESS stream of undead, and we holed up in a vault or something where my fighter could hold the door, and the cleric just kept all the undead except one or two at bay every round. I had to kill something like 100 of the blasted things, but with the support of the other PCs we were able to hold that door until some other thing happened and we got out (I forget the details it was years ago).

Oh hell yeah, tactics, terrain, spells prepared, and a hundred other variables could turn any of the suggested encounters either direction. I just took exception to a couple posts that said getting more than 8 attacks on a PC were silly (to paraphrase.) We've all seen those period pieces where mass combat starts with a mad rush ending with combatants mixed 8 rows deep. I just wanted to translate that into something palatable to a D&D audience, whether using grids or TotM, and to show how it can be easily believable.
 


I agree the "conga-line" suggestion seems completely over the top, and would veto any such tactic in my games, but the number of people with long pointy weapons that can attack a target seems pretty spot on, IMO. This scene comes to mind, with 20 horsemen with spears:
View attachment 143189
If they were not mounted and/or had some longer spears, I think they could easily get 24 spears pointed at them.
I count 15 spears pointed at 3 guys. Maybe they could muster a few more, not everyone seems to be equipped with a pig-sticker there, but there is still the question of how many of them can actually push forward and attack effectively. I'm just saying, 24 seems like a pretty high number. I don't think that a DM who insisted that would work should be called 'crazy', just that I'd probably limit it a bit more.

Anyway, IMHO, level 7 PCs are 'big heroes' enough to do some stunts and at least get a chance to put themselves on a more even footing. This is one area where I'm not that fond of 5e's treatment of fighters. 4e fighters generally had some fairly wild tricks by level 7 that they could burn to 'turn the tide' a bit. 5e seems determined to kind of downgrade the tone towards low fantasy action instead. My 4e fighter could fire off 'Come and Get It" (a pretty bad-assed picture emerges here) and knock the whole lot of them prone! My 5e battlemaster really has nothing like that kind of option available, maybe a potion or something, at best.
 

Oh hell yeah, tactics, terrain, spells prepared, and a hundred other variables could turn any of the suggested encounters either direction. I just took exception to a couple posts that said getting more than 8 attacks on a PC were silly (to paraphrase.) We've all seen those period pieces where mass combat starts with a mad rush ending with combatants mixed 8 rows deep. I just wanted to translate that into something palatable to a D&D audience, whether using grids or TotM, and to show how it can be easily believable.
Well, be careful about movie battles, they are beyond totally unrealistic. With any training AT ALL mass combat in pre-modern pre-gunpowder days was more like a giant shoving match between ordered groups of opponents. All that swirling chaos of guys running back and forth and mixing it up, nope, no army worth its salt would EVER fight that way.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
Well, be careful about movie battles, they are beyond totally unrealistic. With any training AT ALL mass combat in pre-modern pre-gunpowder days was more like a giant shoving match between ordered groups of opponents. All that swirling chaos of guys running back and forth and mixing it up, nope, no army worth its salt would EVER fight that way.
I'm no historian, but I believe several tribes in Germany, France, Spain, and the UK fought the Romans in exactly this way... or tried to. It is noteworthy that they generally did not fare well. The hyper organized and disciplined warfare that we associate with the Greeks and Romans seems to be the outlier.
 

I'm no historian, but I believe several tribes in Germany, France, Spain, and the UK fought the Romans in exactly this way... or tried to. It is noteworthy that they generally did not fare well. The hyper organized and disciplined warfare that we associate with the Greeks and Romans seems to be the outlier.
Not really, Zulu appear to have fought in a very similar fashion. These kinds of tactics were quite common. Sure, irregular warfare was no doubt also a common thing, as it is today. Still, if you were to believe what you see in movies EVERY battle was like that, lots of guys running in all directions, but 90% of them were not like that at all. Certainly not most of the ones depicted that way in film.

And yes, the reason the Celts, Germans, etc. etc. etc. mostly got their butts kicked whenever they faced a legion was exactly because mass formed bodies of infantry are not going to be defeated by disorganized pell-mell attacks, which are easily repulsed by a wall of shields and spear points (or in the case of the Romans pila, which was the main infantry weapon in actuality).
 



clearstream

(He, Him)
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:)
From keeping a very close eye on propensity to alpha my observation is that party capabilities are very volatile. A creature that is a nightmare for one party, can be trivialised by the group who have the caster with the right spell. That same foe might be lethal, or a walkover, depending on the encounter set up.

That said, some features of such fights
  • They generally play out better in the middle ground of 2 to perhaps a dozen creatures. A lone creature can suffer tempo problems. More than a dozen can take a long time to play out (assuming they all have actual teeth in the combat).
  • Generally a creature needs a way to attack more than one PC - to deplete multiple health bars at the same time.
  • Generally it also needs a way to dump on one PC, either with an SoS or a lot of damage
  • Varied creatures yield a fight far, far more interesting than all the same type of creature
  • With cheaper creatures, you have to think about how they are equipped. Take a look at Orogs versus your basic Orc. Orogs have far better armor, which really counts. Those 200 guardsmen? If they all have longbows and split into small groups, the party are going to struggle far more than if they rush in with simple weapons. They need to be varied - some plate and shield, some heavy crossbows or longbows, remove a few dozen and add a caster or two.
  • Decide how you want to play morale. The DMG has some guidance on that. It really matters in making bigger, longer fights more manageable. Think about why the foes are in this fight at all, and what they want from it.
  • Effects that change the tempo equation are very swingy, like a succubus charm. If it comes off, then the party are one down and their foes are one up.
  • Usually, the foe getting a surprise turn will inconvenience one or two characters, and make the fight hard. If the PCs get a surprise turn, if they can freely alpha that is the end of the fight.
The basic trouble with alpha though is your fights become all-alpha, all-the-time. The same most effective spells are cast again and again. The same abilities are always dumped into the fight.

Against that, trivial fights are also dull. The space for interesting is created by fights that are probably a bit fewer in number than DMG guidance, a bit harder on average than DMG guidance, occasionally deadly or deadly+, and your party can sometimes afford to alpha but you run rests in a way that forestalls that being every fight.
 
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From keeping a very close eye on propensity to alpah my observation is that party capabilities are very volatile. A creature that is a nightmare for one party, can be trivialised by the group who have the caster with the right spell. That same foe might be lethal, or a walkover, depending on the encounter set up.

That said, some features of such fights
  • They generally play out better in the middle ground of 2 to perhaps a dozen creatures. A lone creature can suffer tempo problems. More than a dozen can take a long time to play out (assuming they all have actual teeth in the combat).
  • Generally a creature needs a way to attack more than one PC - to deplete multiple health bars at the same time.
  • Generally it also needs a way to dump on one PC, either with an SoS or a lot of damage
  • Varied creatures yield a fight far, far more interesting than all the same type of creature
  • With cheaper creatures, you have to think about how they are equipped. Take a look at Orogs versus your basic Orc. Orogs have far better armor, which really counts. Those 200 guardsmen? If they all have longbows and split into small groups, the party are going to struggle far more than if they rush in with simple weapons. They need to be varied - some plate and shield, some heavy crossbows or longbows, remove a few dozen and add a caster or two.
  • Decide how you want to play morale. The DMG has some guidance on that. It really matters in making bigger, longer fights more manageable. Think about why the foes are in this fight at all, and what they want from it.
  • Effects that change the tempo equation are very swingy, like a succubus charm. If it comes off, then the party are one down and their foes are one up.
  • Usually, the foe getting a surprise turn will inconvenience one or two characters, and make the fight hard. If the PCs get a surprise turn, if they can freely alpha that is the end of the fight.
The basic trouble with alpha though is your fights become all-alpha, all-the-time. The same most effective spells are cast again and again. The same abilities are always dumped into the fight.

Against that, trivial fights are also dull. The space for interesting is created by fights that are probably a bit fewer in number than DMG guidance, a bit harder on average than DMG guidance, occasionally deadly or deadly+, and your party can sometimes afford to alpha but you run rests in a way that forestalls that being every fight.
All of which begs the question of whether or not this is a well-designed game, as it seems much easier to get it to output sub-par results...
 

dave2008

Legend
All of which begs the question of whether or not this is a well-designed game, as it seems much easier to get it to output sub-par results...
Yes, those are the best designed games (please note there a lots of flaws with 5e, I am not trying to suggest it is the best designed game). To much predictability lessons the fun IMO.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
All of which begs the question of whether or not this is a well-designed game, as it seems much easier to get it to output sub-par results...

That is certainly one opinion. Another might be, 5e allows for versatility in play styles, levels of optimization and lethality. The ability of any given DM will have a direct impact on how combats play out, as will the abilities of the other players. Other games with similar issues are poker, Monopoly, chess, solitaire, basketball, and fishing.
 


Yes, those are the best designed games (please note there a lots of flaws with 5e, I am not trying to suggest it is the best designed game). To much predictability lessons the fun IMO.
Yeah, we will have to agree to disagree. 'Predictability' is not the opposite of what 5e does. There are other ways to look at it. Anyway, this is not the place for that discussion. Suffice it to say that pacing is a deep issue in 5e, who's designers eschewed many well-established ways of avoiding those issues.
 

Huh? We're addressing a case that the OP intends to fall outside what the game is designed for.
Oh, yes, that is true, but when you start to look at "what do I do which is better than this one giant encounter", which your post was aimed at, then you start to see the problem in perspective. At best the DM has to solve a multi-dimensional problem to get a good result, and at worst even the best attempt may be undone by access to some specific ability (spell, item, whatever) or simple luck.
 

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