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D&D 5E Back to DnD after 12 years break. DM-ing questions thread.

Dan Chernozub

First Post
Recently back to DnD. I've last played/dmed 3e over a decade ago. So far I'm loving 5e. I'm running a homebrew campaign.

We are using the 3 main books only, to keep it simple. Players are a mix of total newbies to DnD and moderately experienced guys (though everyone has experience with other TRPG - mostly
oWoD).

In this thread, I'm asking questions about encounter design, CRs, party composition and all the various things about DM-ing that are dependent on the system. I'm learning together with my players and I'm trying to learn more so that we all have a better game.


Having some trouble with CR Balance - I often can't fit the DMG suggested 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day (the campaign is more of an open-world exploration, rather than a dungeon crawl). This results with party defeating fewer, harder encounters by burning through their resources aggressively.

PC's just hit level 4 and are closing on a Lizardfolk Cult/Tribe who a serving a Red Dragon. Before the Dragon, there should be a weaker BBEG. I usually don't use monsters directly out of the book, but tweak them a bit, if anything to surprise the players who have read the MM or faced those monsters in other games. I'm using monster creation in DMG and so far it served me well.

So, with a BBEG-junior in mind, I start looking for references and I see the Half-Red Dragon Veteran, CR5.
But looking at his stats I don't get how is he CR5:

Half-Red Dragon Veteran


CR5, but has AC 18, 65 HP, and attacks for 15 DPR with +5 attack bonus. He also has a breath attack for 48 DPR once in 3 rounds with DC 15 save. So his average DPR is 26. He hasn't got any notable abilities beyond that - I don't think blindsight, darkvision and fire resistance warrant a CR increase.


Overall he has an offensive CR of 4 and the defensive CR between 2 and 3. Overall being probably a solid CR 3 monster.


1. Am I doing something wrong with the math? I really don't think that the stats given are appropriate for CR5. Am I wrong? - Settled. The version of the H-RDV that I was looking at is indeed weaker than CR5.


2. I am looking for a draconic ancestry BBEG for 5 adventurers of 4th level.
I do not expect him to be encountered alone, I'm expecting a boss fight on his grounds, with a few mooks and 1-2 supporting divine spellcasters.
I'm considering to give him a couple of magic items, boosting his melee DPR to 22 & a better bonus with a magic sword, and to boost his defensive CR to 19 AC with +1armor and HP to 90 with extra HD. What do you think?

3. I would like to have feedback on my character creation rules. I was bored at the idea of the optimized stat distribution, so I went for an "in a row" rolling method. But I also wanted my players to have some flexibility in picking what they play, so I've allowed them to roll three times and pick any stat line they liked most. How do you think this affected the overall strength of the starting party? What will be the long-term results? So far, as I see it it means that they have high overall stats, but often don't have their secondary stats in an optimal state (Con and Dex mostly).

The method in one line: 4d6dl, in a row, three times. Pick your preferred stat line.

4+. More questions down the thread.



Any feedback is welсome.




 
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Dan Chernozub

First Post
A bit about the game so far:

Homebrew:
The setting is a post-magical-apocalypse world. A few centuries back the epic heroes of the world lost to the Really Big Bad Evil Guy, and most of sentient life was eradicated from the material plane. Now the nations of the world are rebuilding themselves and retaking the world for themselves. The PCs are from a mostly human kingdom and the game begins when the party arrives at a small island that was recently re-explored a few hundred nautical miles from its position on the pre-Cataclysm maps. This is mostly an open-world game - there are lots of locations and dungeons to go to and there are several factions operating on the island, most of which are not necessarily hostile.

Party composition:
Big Smart Barbarian - Barbarian with 16 INT and scholar background - a bookworm gone wild while studying the real world.
Does a bit of Tanking and solid DPR with a Greataxe and a Feat.
Light Cleric - the star of the group so far. Was very efficient using his Domain Features, both offensively and defensively. IMO not so efficient with his spells so far,
Valor Bard - half-elf, the brunt of support work is on her shoulders, but the player is fine spending her time being useful and not being the centre of attention.
Rouge - the DPR guy, for versatility purposes he picked the AT archetype. The party quickly figured how to provide the SA requirements and 3d6+3 is a lot for low-level monsters.
Diviner Wizard - the only who had issues regarding his usefulness. The reason I found this board (the epic 111-page thread "Do low-level wizards suck in 5e"), however after talking about what does the group need (not more DPR) and adjusting the spell selection by levelling and scrolls, he feels much more useful now.

Challenges so far:
Level 1.They've arrived at a small base on the island. Made friendly contact with the local idealistic CG Commander. They fought some wild monsters like Giant Crabs and an Owlbear (The Owlbear could have been easily avoided, but they used terrain to their advantage and killed it quite easily).

Level 2. Saw them in the first encounter with intelligent enemies in form of Goblin hunting party which they ambushed, but it still was a deadly fight. Perytons are a recurring enemy on the island. After a hard few fights party has figured out the birds' behaviour and are doing much better against them. They've met and made peace with the Hobgoblin Regiment whose Goblins they fought earlier and even took a "quest" from them to help eradicate the peryton problem. (My Hobgoblins are still ruthless but a really civilized and know better than to fight adventurers when it is not completely necessary).

Level 3. Started burning peryton nests and continued into a long-lost Dwarf Hold. Some Ooze, Skeleton Dwarves, a healthy dose of Riddles and Traps. The Hold was built to guard the magic trap where the Evil Fire Giant is held and the party had to fight a couple of Azer who came through a portal party activated. The succeeded at protecting the trap but almost died because of not adapting in time to the damage caused in close range by the enemies heat.
Later they were ambushed by a band of Outlaws from a second human fraction on the island. This was the first time they've met an organized group fighting with them - the Sergeant had Leadership Action and Protection Fighting style, the Scout had Sneak Attack and Thugs were using Pack Tactics.
Quite some time is when spent with little combat on travels, exploration, diplomacy and inter-party leadership squabble.

They hit Level 4 after a big fight with a 12-strong Lizardfolk band. Those came in several types - 4 squishy Lizard Scouts with poison, 6 Lizardfolk, a lvl3 Divine Caster and a CR3 greatsword-master Champion. They did a great job stealthily approaching and casting Sleep on the Scouts, which made the rest of encounter much easier, though they still had a tough time and were almost TPKed at one point. The fight resulted in some difficult prisoner interrogation that brought up the inter-party (RP) leadership issues back. The group is now not sure if their alliance with a local Fey was a right thing or not (LF were making a ritual to destroy her "home"). But whatever the truth is - their relations with the LF are likely beyond repair anyway and there are they headed now they will find out that LF are serving a Red Dragon, so ...
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Any particular DM at any particular table will see or use Challenge Rating differently. If you look at the CR5 Half-Dragon and think that it isn't going to be a challenge for 5th level characters, then go with your instincts.

For some DMs... a CR5 half-dragon that can pump out a 24 point damage breath weapon hitting a third to half of the party potentially 2 or 3 times in a row is going to decimate things.

Your math is probably right for looking at averages... but most monsters do not live long enough to see their abilities average out. So the reason why its CR5 is because it can nova in its one fight against the players and if it lucks out and can use its breath weapon 2 or 3 times during the fight, the party could easily TPK if it's lower level (in the 1st to 3rd level range.)

But again... your table is and will be different, so always just go with your instincts. If the numbers seem to indicate a monster should be a different CR... then go with that feeling. At the end of the day... it doesn't really matter because some fights will be easy and some fights will be hard. And if your guesstimation is off on which ones ended up being which... whatever! The next fight will probably be the opposite! :)

Happy gaming!
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
There is one more thing I would like to have feedback on - my character creation rules. I was bored at the idea of the optimized stat distribution, so I went for an "in a row" rolling method.

The one thing I'd say on this is that while you might be bored with optimized stat distribution... if you have some totally new players in your group, they won't be. For them, how this first character plays could easily make or break whether or not they find the game worthwhile and want to keep playing.

If you go with your 4d6 in a row three times method... there's a chance that one of your new players might still end up with comparatively crappy stats. So that could potentially affect their enjoyment of the game (especially if they see another player with really good stats that they lucked out on dominating everything). I'm not saying you shouldn't go with your idea... I'd just caution you to remember that your experiences will be much different than your players, and to consider all your changes through their eyes as well. Because while they might be more interesting for you personally... you're not the one who has to live and play with the results.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
@DEFCON 1
Thanks for the reply. The reason I'm bringing this up is that I don't yet have experience with PCs higher than level 3. They are now, and they are probably getting to level 5 by the time they get to that BBEG. I have had hard time assesing their capabilities before (1st level parties can dish out some serious DPR in 5e) and I honestly don't have an idea how much tougher will they become when they get all the level 5 advantages.

By the way - my argument about the CR is a separate one. I've been using the DMG guidelines for the low CR monster design and they worked fine. The first time I go up there - it starts to seem completely of. So I'm not asking about the aplicability of H-RDV for my game, but about how is his CR level is in comparison with other published monsters of same CR.

For example, a Hill Giant, CR5 has roughly the same Defensive CR - 105HP AC13 vs. 65HP AC18, but is way, way stronger in attack +8 bonus 36 DPR vs. +5 bonus 14 DPR. Even the AOE damage is just a bit higher than the usual Club attacks of the Giant.
 
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MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
A couple of small things:

Are you including the short sword attack from their multiattack?
Parry is a nice ability when paired with an already high AC.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
This was one of my considerations, but I still went through with it after talking to the players. Most of them were excited about it, some of the more experienced ones expressed mild concern.

So far it feels mostly good with some unexpected characters that we are having fun with. And while character balance is somewhat of an issue, I try to balance it out by the distribution of magic items. One more thing that I like about 5e is that the DM is more in control of what PCs get, how and when.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
A couple of small things:

Are you including the short sword attack from their multi-attack?
Parry is a nice ability when paired with an already high AC.

No, I'm counting double longsword attacks only. Dropping a shield for 1d6+3 extra damage doesn't sound like a good idea to me unless carving up some soft target. An opportunity which PCs probably won't give to a not very mobile BBEG.
Giving him adventurer level(s) was one of the ideas that crossed my mind. Parry and/or other fighter perks.
Also - what do you think about H-RDV as printed vs. other CR5 creatures?
 

Recently back to DnD. I've last played/dmed 3e over a decade ago. So far I'm loving 5e.
It is a big step up - and a small but significant step back, especially in attitude.

I'm running a homebrew campaign. We are using the 3 main books only, to keep it simple.
Adding the other published books wouldn't exactly break the system's back, but, understandable after having run 3.x, which got pretty crazy, pretty fast. ;)

Players are a mix of total newbies to DnD and moderately experienced guys (though everyone has experience with other TRPG).
Interesting, what other games did these not-so-new newbs actually start with?

Having some trouble with CR Balance - I often can't fit the DMG suggested 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day. This results with party defeating fewer, harder encounters by burning through their resources aggressively.
Not unusual. As long as you're not seeing problems within the party as a result (ie you don't have a big gap in resources among the PCs, or you do and nobody cares/everybody likes it that way), it really is just a simple matter of dialing up the difficulty until the party is challenged. Fit the same amount of challenge into each day, even if you can't fit in the same number of encounters and short rests. In theory, if you have 3-4 deadly encounters with a short rest after each one, things'll balance out about the same. 1-2 encounter days, even if you dial up the exp to be a full day's worth, are going to distort the balance between classes that recharge on short rests, or have most of their power in always-available features and those with more of their power concentrated in long-rest-recharge resources (mostly slots, obviously). That's an issue for some tables, where intra-party imbalances are considered undesirable.

1. Am I doing something wrong with the math? I really don't think that the stats given are appropriate for CR5. Am I wrong?
CR is not an exact science. Given that your party is facing fewer encounters/day, and given what you know of their player-skill, party mix, and general effectiveness, you should feel free to buff the monster as much as seems necessary to bring it up to snuff, without boosting the exp its worth.

I'm considering to give him a couple of magic items, boosting his melee DPR to 22 & a better bonus with a magic sword, and to boost his defensive CR to 19 AC with +1 armor and HP to 90 with extra HD. What do you think?
Thing about magic items is PCs pick 'em up and that puts them ahead of the curve, of course. The helper support casters are a better idea. An item that acts as magical only for the BBEG, or that's diametrically opposed to the party in some way, so they'll consider destroying it a 'win,' could work - again, depends on your party's attitude...


There is one more thing I would like to have feedback on - my character creation rules. I was bored at the idea of the optimized stat distribution, so I went for an "in a row" rolling method.
Good call, IMHO. Get some variety that way. I've found that a party of random-rolled characters (though none were random-in-order) did better at 1st level, which can be a bit of a pain in 5e, as it was back in the day, do a little better, because there's generally been one or two PCs that did particularly well, and helped carry the party through that 1st level. As you level up, the discrepancy would eventually work itself out due to ASIs.

But I also wanted my players to have some flexibility in picking what they play, so I've allowed them to roll three times and pick any stat line they liked most. How do you think this effected the overall strength of the starting party? What will be the long-term results? So far, as I see it it means that they have high overall stats, but often don't have their secondary stats in optimal state (Con and Dex mostly).
That should give you pretty capable, not too cookie-cutter characters. Combined with fewer encounters/day, it shouldn't be surprising if they can handle a little more than expected from a 'standard' (array, 6-8 encounter/day) party.

But it really depends a lot on your players and the mix of classes they chose. And, of course, even more on you. ;)


The reason I'm bringing this up is that I don't yet have experience with PCs higher than level 3. They are now, and they are probably getting to level 5 by the time they get to that BBEG. I have had hard time assesing their capabilities before (1st level parties can dish out some serious DPR in 5e) and I honestly don't have an idea how much tougher will they become when they get all the level 5 advantages.
If your party was dishing out high DPR and not facing any character deaths at 1st level, you have to expect them to be really hitting it out of the park by 5th. 5e characters start out pretty modest and rather fragile at 1st, and come into their own as they pick up sub-classes, their first ASI at 4th, and Extra Attack & 3rd level spells at 5th.


..while character balance is somewhat of an issue, I try to balance it out by the distribution of magic items. One more thing that I like about 5e is that the DM is more in control of what PCs get, how and when.
Using magic items to perk up a lagging PC is a valid tool - I haven't had to it break out, yet, as I have mostly been running low level and not using items, feats or MCing, at all.

I'd be interested to hear more details on what you've run into, the breakdown of the party, etc... ?
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
No, I'm counting double longsword attacks only. Dropping a shield for 1d6+3 extra damage doesn't sound like a good idea to me unless carving up some soft target. An opportunity which PCs probably won't give to a not very mobile BBEG.
There's no shield to drop. 18 AC is all from plate, if you want to add a shield it would be up to 20.
Giving him adventurer level(s) was one of the ideas that crossed my mind. Parry and/or other fighter perks.
They already had parry in my copy, but fun fact I just looked up, WOTC removed it in later printings. http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/errata-may-2016
Also - what do you think about H-RDV as printed vs. other CR5 creatures?
I haven't run it, but as printed it seems a bit tricky to judge. HP are low, but AC is high. Normal attacks are low, but breath weapon could do a lot more. I'd probably try running it as is and see. If it seems like a push over, you can always add some hit points on the fly.
 

Coroc

Hero
Recently back to DnD. I've last played/dmed 3e over a decade ago. So far I'm loving 5e.

I'm running a homebrew campaign. We are using the 3 main books only, to keep it simple. Players are a mix of total newbies to DnD and moderately experienced guys (though everyone has experience with other TRPG).

Having some trouble with CR Balance - I often can't fit the DMG suggested 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day (the campaign is more of an open-world exploration, rather than a dungeon crawl). This results with party defeating fewer, harder encounters by burning through their resources aggressively.

PC's just hit level 4 and are closing on the Red Dragon serving Lizardfolk Cult/Tribe. Before the Dragon, there should be a weaker BBEG. I usually don't use monsters directly out of the book, but tweak them a bit, if anything to surprise the players who have read the MM or faced those monsters in other games. I'm using monster creation
in DMG and so far it served me well.

So, with a BBEG-junior in mind, I start looking for references and I see the Half-Red Dragon Veteran, CR5.
But looking at his stats I don't get how is he CR5:

Half-Red Dragon Veteran


CR5, but has AC 18, 65 HP, and attacks for 15 DPR with +5 attack bonus. He also has a breath attack for 48 damage once in 3 rounds with DC 15 save. So his average DPR is 26. He hasn't got any notable abilities beyond that - I don't think blindsight, darkvision and fire resistance warrant a CR increase.

Overall he has an offensive CR of 4 and the defensive CR between 2 and 3. Overall being probably a solid CR 3 monster.

1. Am I doing something wrong with the math? I really don't think that the stats given are appropriate for CR5. Am I wrong?

2. I am looking for a draconic ancestry BBEG for 5 adventurers of 4th level.
I do not expect him to be encountered alone, I'm expecting a boss fight on his grounds, with a few mooks and 1-2 supporting divine spellcasters.
I'm considering to give him a couple of magic items, boosting his melee DPR to 22 & a better bonus with a magic sword, and to boost his defensive CR to 19 AC with +1 armor and HP to 90 with extra HD. What do you think?

Any feedback is welсome. If you have any other published monsters with a "wrong" CR, please share them too so we can discuss.




Wit single mobs it's difficult sometimes, sometimes they need more HP sometimes they need 1-2 minions at least.

Forget about the 6-8 encounter rule. That is only working with a perfectly balanced party who play in perfect synchronization and perfectly timing their short and long rests which may never be interrupted. Also the CR must be absolutely fine all the time.

And imho that's a boring hack and slash / minmax / resource planning style of playing.

Make quality encounters instead of quantitiy. If the party nearly tpks but succeeds in the end that is the better fight (which has a higher CR eventually or just better mob tactics)
than the 8th of your daily encounter when some lousy goblins manage to take you down just because your cleric is out of slots
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
There's no shield to drop. 18 AC is all from plate, if you want to add a shield it would be up to 20.

They already had parry in my copy, but fun fact I just looked up, WOTC removed it in later printings. http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/errata-may-2016

I haven't run it, but as printed it seems a bit tricky to judge. HP are low, but AC is high. Normal attacks are low, but breath weapon could do a lot more. I'd probably try running it as is and see. If it seems like a push over, you can always add some hit points on the fly.

In SRD (I think it is the right name for thar free-distritubuted stuff?) that I'm looking at he only has Breastplate. With Full Plate, I'd say there is even more reason to keep the shield. Shortsword or not, Breath likely deals more damage, so surviving longer is pretty much a very important thing.

Given characters probably attacking with +6 there is ~33% increase in damage taken from attacks that nee to roll to hit by dropping the shield.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Recently back to DnD. I've last played/dmed 3e over a decade ago. So far I'm loving 5e.

I'm running a homebrew campaign. We are using the 3 main books only, to keep it simple. Players are a mix of total newbies to DnD and moderately experienced guys (though everyone has experience with other TRPG).

Having some trouble with CR Balance - I often can't fit the DMG suggested 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day (the campaign is more of an open-world exploration, rather than a dungeon crawl). This results with party defeating fewer, harder encounters by burning through their resources aggressively.

PC's just hit level 4 and are closing on the Red Dragon serving Lizardfolk Cult/Tribe. Before the Dragon, there should be a weaker BBEG. I usually don't use monsters directly out of the book, but tweak them a bit, if anything to surprise the players who have read the MM or faced those monsters in other games. I'm using monster creation
in DMG and so far it served me well.

So, with a BBEG-junior in mind, I start looking for references and I see the Half-Red Dragon Veteran, CR5.
But looking at his stats I don't get how is he CR5:

Half-Red Dragon Veteran


CR5, but has AC 18, 65 HP, and attacks for 15 DPR with +5 attack bonus. He also has a breath attack for 48 damage once in 3 rounds with DC 15 save. So his average DPR is 26. He hasn't got any notable abilities beyond that - I don't think blindsight, darkvision and fire resistance warrant a CR increase.

Overall he has an offensive CR of 4 and the defensive CR between 2 and 3. Overall being probably a solid CR 3 monster.

1. Am I doing something wrong with the math? I really don't think that the stats given are appropriate for CR5. Am I wrong?

2. I am looking for a draconic ancestry BBEG for 5 adventurers of 4th level.
I do not expect him to be encountered alone, I'm expecting a boss fight on his grounds, with a few mooks and 1-2 supporting divine spellcasters.
I'm considering to give him a couple of magic items, boosting his melee DPR to 22 & a better bonus with a magic sword, and to boost his defensive CR to 19 AC with +1 armor and HP to 90 with extra HD. What do you think?

Any feedback is welсome. If you have any other published monsters with a "wrong" CR, please share them too so we can discuss.

Hi Dan, yes there are several instances where the MM and DMG disagree on a monster's CR because the DMG was printed after the MM. In fact, I even noticed the Quickling in VOLO'S has a CR probably 2 lower than what it should be! So there are occasional discrepancies between printed monsters and the DMG. Generally, in my mind I append a "+/-2" notation to all CRs, until I have experience using that monster against my party.

With the Half Red Dragon Veteran, your numbers are right: Defense CR 3, Offense CR 4, Total CR 3 or 4, depending which way you choose to round it.

If you want something of a higher CR value, I recommend using a Gladiator (CR 5), give it fire resistance and Fire Breath, and call it a Half Red Dragon Gladiator. Done.

@DEFCON 1
Thanks for the reply. The reason I'm bringing this up is that I don't yet have experience with PCs higher than level 3. They are now, and they are probably getting to level 5 by the time they get to that BBEG. I have had hard time assesing their capabilities before (1st level parties can dish out some serious DPR in 5e) and I honestly don't have an idea how much tougher will they become when they get all the level 5 advantages.

There's a learning process figuring out your party's capabilities and what constitutes a solid challenge as they grow in power. Since the Half Red Dragon encounter is meant to be a mini-boss, I wouldn't stress it too much; treat it as your opportunity to get a better feel for the PC's abilities as they level up, in an encounter with lower stakes than the actual red dragon. It's a warm up run, for them and for you.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Welcome back! I started playing 5e after not having played since 1e and am loving it.

My players are very experienced. I really need to crank up the power of foes and use minions and challenging terrain/fortifications to keep thing challenging and interesting. If I go with suggested CR with my kids, however, their characters die so I have to tone things down considerably.

CR are just guidelines, made to work with newer players and average, balanced parties.

Know you players and experiment until you find the happy middle.

For me, I find the that the advice for increasing or decreasing difficulty of combat given in Adventurer's League modules to be helpful examples that you can extrapolate into your games.

I completely ignore the suggested number of combats per whatever period nonsense. Is that a hold over from 4th? It is just alien to how I learned to play the game. I've had 8-hour sessions with no combat and 8-hour sessions with a single combat.

Combat is likely but not inevitable in my games. I also like to mix up my campaign with sessions that focus on different pillars of role playing. Some sessions are who dunnits, some are hack n' slash marathon meat grinders, some are traps-and-puzzles focuses. You don't need to have a balance of all pillars of play in each and every session. Perhaps in convention play, that is something to strive for, but run your own games to have fun your own way.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
Interesting, what other games did these not-so-new newbs actually start with?
oWoD, mostly.

CR is not an exact science. Given that your party is facing fewer encounters/day, and given what you know of their player-skill, party mix, and general effectiveness, you should feel free to buff the monster as much as seems necessary to bring it up to snuff, without boosting the exp its worth.
Agreed, that is why I was asking to compare H-RDV with other CR5 creatures. I don't yet have enough experience with creatures above CR3 to adapt them to my players on my own.

Think about magic items is PCs pick 'em up and that puts them ahead of the curve, of course. The helper support casters are a better idea. An item that acts as magical only for the BBEG, or that's diametrically opposed to the party in some way, so they'll consider destroying it a 'win,' could work - again, depends on your party's attitude...
Well, players love magic items and I'd say the killing the BBEG should net them some reward. And again, I don't usually present them with boring +2 Noname weapons. What they have so far is a +1 dagger which makes no sound when attacking and a Shield, which casts Silence when used to block an attack (double-edged sword for a party with quite a few spellcasters - but has it uses). They come from the same set - and the PCs are yet to figure out how to trigger the Shield Silence voluntarily (without enemies attacking).

I don't think a +0 to hit/+1d6 fire damage Flametongue longsword or a Gem of Brightness would bring characters too far ahead.


If your party was dishing out high DPR and not facing any character deaths at 1st level, you have to expect them to be really hitting it out of the park by 5th. 5e characters start out pretty modest and rather fragile at 1st, and come into their own as they pick up sub-classes, their first ASI at 4th, and Extra Attack & 3rd level spells at 5th.
Well, they are much less modest when the 3e 1st levels. Level 3 is really fast to achieve, and I liked it. Level 4 was longer and felt well-earned. They haven't shown me what they choose for ASI/feats.

Using magic items to perk up a lagging PC is a valid tool - I haven't had to it break out, yet, as I have mostly been running low level and not using items, feats or MCing, at all.
I'm allowing them to start to craft Magic Items at 3 level, but this is more of a side-quest with an unguaranteed result when a "purchase". They are currently working with an allied NPC on Stones of Sending so that they can keep in touch with their base of operations.

I'd be interested to hear more details on what you've run into, the breakdown of the party, etc... ?
Homebrew:
The setting is a mostly human kingdom in a post-magical-apocalypse world. A few centuries back the epic heroes of the world lost to the Really Big Bad Evil Guy, and most of sentient life was eradicated from the material plane. Now the nations of the world are rebuilding themselves and retaking the world for themselves. The party arrives at a small island that was recently re-explored a few hundred nautical miles from its position on the pre-Cataclysm maps. This is mostly an open-world game - there are lots of locations and dungeons to go to and there are several factions operating on the island, most of which are not necessarily hostile.

Party composition:
Big Smart Barbarian - Barbarian with 16 INT and scholar background - a bookworm gone wild while studying the real world.
Does a bit of Tanking and solid DPR with a Greataxe and a Feat.
Light Cleric - the star of the group so far. Was very efficient using his Domain Features, both offensively and defensively. IMO not so efficient with his spells so far,
Valor Bard - half-elf, the brunt of support work is on her shoulders, but the player is fine spending her time being useful and not being the centre of attention.
Rouge - the DPR guy, for versatility purposes he picked the AT archetype. The party quickly figured how to provide the SA requirements and 3d6+3 is a lot for low-level monsters.
Diviner Wizard - the only who had issues regarding his usefulness. The reason I found this board (the epic 111-page thread "Do low-level wizards suck in 5e"), however after talking about what does the group need (not more DPR) and adjusting the spell selection by levelling and scrolls, he feels much more useful now.

Challenges so far:
Level 1.They've arrived at a small base on the island. Made friendly contact with the local idealistic CG Commander. They fought some wild monsters like Giant Crabs and an Owlbear (The Owlbear could have been easily avoided, but they used terrain to their advantage and killed it quite easily).

Level 2. Saw them in the first encounter with intelligent enemies in form of Goblin hunting party which they ambushed, but it still was a deadly fight. Perytons are a recurring enemy on the island. After a hard few fights party has figured out the birds' behaviour and are doing much better against them. They've met and made peace with the Hobgoblin Regiment whose Goblins they fought earlier and even took a "quest" from them to help eradicate the peryton problem. (My Hobgoblins are still ruthless but a really civilized and know better than to fight adventurers when it is not completely necessary).

Level 3. Started burning peryton nests and continued into a long-lost Dwarf Hold. Some Ooze, Skeleton Dwarves, a healthy dose of Riddles and Traps. The Hold was built to guard the magic trap where the Evil Fire Giant is held and party had to fight a couple of Azer who came through a portal party activated. The succeeded at protecting the trap but almost died because of not adapting in time to the damage caused in close range by the enemies heat.
Later they were ambushed by a band of Outlaws from a second human fraction on the island. This was the first time they've met an organized group fighting with them - the Sergeant had Leadership Action and Protection Fighting style, the Scout had Sneak Attack and Thugs were using Pack Tactics.
Quite some time is when spent with little combat on travels, exploration, diplomacy and inter-party leadership squabble.

They hit Level 4 after a big fight with a 12-strong Lizardfolk band. Those came in several types - 4 squishy Lizard Scouts with poison, 6 Lizardfolk, a lvl3 Divine Caster and a CR3 greatsword-master Champion. They did a great job stealthily approaching and casting Sleep on the Scouts, which made the rest of encounter much easier, thought they still had a tough time and were almost TPKed at one point. The fight resulted in some difficult prisoner interrogation that brought up the inter-party (RP) leadership issues back. The group is now not sure if their alliance with a local Fey was a right thing or not (LF were making a ritual to destroy her "home"). But whatever the truth is - their relations with the LF are likely beyond repair anyway and there are they headed now they will find out that LF are serving a Red Dragon, so ...
 
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aco175

Legend
My party can handle fights above their level, but I still need to be a bit careful. Level 5 is where things seem to separate in terms of killing the party. If the PCs are level5 when they encounter this guy you may need to add some others to the fight. A single bad guy is hard pressed to make a cool encounter against a whole party, unless it is a beholder that gets a ray attack before each PC can act.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
[MENTION=20323]Quickleaf[/MENTION]
Thank you for your response, sir!

I've looked at the Gladiator and compared it to my updated "Veteran" and I think they are quite similar, which is probably a good sign.

I must note, however, that this is going to (or at least I plan it so) feel like a proper boss fight because there will be a story build-up to it, and they likely won't be facing the Dragon himself right afterwards. So I've went down the road of puting more time into his design.

I'm planning for him with a small group of followers to be playing a cat and mouse game with the party in the dragon temple, where neither side is sure who is the cat. The temple will provide easy-medium encounters to soften the party (beasts, traps, animated statues) while LF decide when and where to attack.
 

Dan Chernozub

First Post
[MENTION=6796661]MNblockhead[/MENTION]
I do agree with you mostly, and if you will look at my reply to Tony Vargas, you will notice, that our approach to the game is quite similar. However, DnD being a combat-centric system it is a part of the enjoyment of the game to have interesting and rich and diverse combat encounters. So I'm not saying that I'm trying to have 6-8 combats per day because book says so, I'm saying that with few big combats a day the party can burn everything that they have, which takes out some of interest and of learning process of resource management.

Unfortunately, I don't own and AL modules.
 

oWoD, mostly.
That's a transition. Some of the storyteller set were really down on D&D, sounds like haven't drawn any of those, luckily.

They come from the same set - and the PCs are yet to figure out how to trigger the Shield Silence voluntarily (without enemies attacking).
"Set?" Is there a mechanic to that, or is it just that they have a common origin?

I don't think a +0 to hit/+1d6 fire damage Flametongue longsword or a Gem of Brightness would bring characters too far ahead.
Depends on how you implement the latter, I guess (a low save DC could render it fairly minor). The former, though, could be surprisingly high-impact once Extra Attack kicks in - any damage bonus can be. But, yeah, safer than the official 5e version, IIRC.

Homebrew:
The setting is a mostly human kingdom in a post-magical-apocalypse world. ...This is mostly an open-world game - there are lots of locations and dungeons to go to and there are several factions operating on the island, most of which are not necessarily hostile.
... Perytons are a recurring enemy on the island.
[/quote] The Peryton had been missing for a while, it seemed like. ;)

Party composition:
Big Smart Barbarian - Barbarian with 16 INT and scholar background - a bookworm gone wild while studying the real world.
Lol. ;) There's that roll-in-order for you. Could've gone EK, but, still, amusing.
Berserker or Totem? Seems like I only ever see Berserkers.
Light Cleric - the star of the group so far.
Valor Bard - brunt of support work
Rouge - the DPR guy, AT archetype.
Diviner Wizard - the only who had issues
Diviner gets better as you go, apparently. Haven't had anyone play one, though.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
[/URL]
Thanks for the reply. The reason I'm bringing this up is that I don't yet have experience with PCs higher than level 3. They are now, and they are probably getting to level 5 by the time they get to that BBEG. I have had hard time assesing their capabilities before (1st level parties can dish out some serious DPR in 5e) and I honestly don't have an idea how much tougher will they become when they get all the level 5 advantages.
Assuming they don't have any weird multiclass builds, they will be noticeably stronger at level 5. You can get away with one tough monster and some minions at level 3-4; you'll want at least two major targets for a good fight at level 5. 5e fights are more fun, in general, with several moderately challenging targets, rather than one overwhelming one.
 

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