DM in trouble needs advice/help to balance encounters in his campaign.

Flamestrike

Explorer
But one that can easily cause issues is that 5e is calibrated around a long slog of an adventuring day. Your party should get a short rest maybe every-other encounter, and a long rest only after 6-8 encounters.
This.

OP; instead of dialing up the difficulty of encounters (which turns the game into rocket tag, and mandates the 5 minute adventuring day) you need to increase the amount of encounters per short/ long rest.

Either use Doom Clocks or other methods to push more encounters (as a median) on the party per long rest, or change the rest frequencies (short rest = 1 day, long rest = 1 week).
 

aco175

Adventurer
Could you bring milestones back and reward the players with a re-roll every 2 encounters they manage each day? I do not see pacing being a big problem, but this may help the 5mwd crowd. Although a re-roll is not the same as having all your powers back.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Ok, you and your players are NEW to 5E. So have allies in nearby towns not charge for healing or raise dead. Know both you and your players are learning a new game so if there is a total party kill, don't worry about it. Either rewind the action, or have npc allies recover the bodies.
I been playing since 1980 and started 5E in Sept 2016. It took me about two years to get use power levels and new classes.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Thanks a lot for the quick replies.

I think you guys nailed it: We're very far from 6-8 encounters in between rests. It's usually more like 1-2 :/

I lack the experience to wear the characters down and force them to develop strategies to save their strengths.

On the other hand, when I think about it, they also lack that experience: I almost lost the whole group in the cult's secret temple, when they just explored it in one go without ever resting. The last encounter would have been deadly hadn't I decided the creatures were young and therefore naive in their strategy...

Now to address an advice you gave me: I have a tool on a French D&D website to simulate encounters so I use that to evaluate them. I suppose there's just not enough fights all in all, except for that secret temple scenario but in any case we're really not used to play dungeon crawling style.

In our last game I just got caught off guard when the players ran into 3 NPCs and half a dozen soldiers: the damned sorcerer (or whatever it's called in English... not the one with a pact or a book, the one with innate magic) vaporized 85% of my strengths in the blink of an eye, with a fireball :'(
I realized I found it hard to evaluate the strengths of the NPCs because they don't fit in my webtool to simulate encounters...

Ah well, I suppose I have a long way to go to learn how to be a good DM.
Thanks again for the help and tips.
Cheers !

t.


edit: since we're not used to play multiple battles in a row, it may actually help and fit our gaming style if we change the resting rules as you suggested. I need to ponder the options and maybe discuss them with my players. We'll see. Kudos :)
As well as rests being off, the scaling for number of creatures is tuned to very easy. I have been using

MonstersMultiplier
1
0.5​
2
0.75​
3 to 6
1​
7 to 10
1.25​
11 to 14
1.5​
15+
2​
 

Sadras

Adventurer
@tom1017 I think your biggest issue is that the encounter guidelines provided within the DMG do not match the published material which is something @CapnZapp has crusaded at length on these boards.

My bite-sized advice on this lengthy issue is if you're going to have 1-2 encounters per day, have them be deadly and come in waves OR change the recovery rate of abilities/powers to either those in the book or something you're comfortable with OR introduce Lingering Injuries per the DMG or any combination of these options.
 

tom1017

Villager
Wow I missed all the hindsight of the past days.
Thanks all for the help and advice.

It's true our main issues are that everyone in our group is new to DD5e and we're not used to encounters-heavy sessions.
So I think I'll just give a go at changing the resting/recovery pace and see how it goes from there.

In any case, your guys help was really appreciated. Kudos.

Cheers!

t.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
It's true our main issues are that everyone in our group is new to DD5e and we're not used to encounters-heavy sessions.
I see this come up a lot where people conflate sessions with long rests.

Our table averages 1 long rest every 2 sessions.

Every table will be different. Different session lengths, playstyles, play speed, time spent talking out of game, etc.

These differences all work if you don't try to have exactly 1 long rest per session.
 

tom1017

Villager
The simple fact is I never considered there was a needed ratio between encounters and short/long rests.
I just followed the narrative so if a session's length implied 5-6 nights comfortable enough to recover, bang, here we were with 5-6 long rests while our gaming style implies that in the same time max 2-3 medium/hard encounters occur.
If there was a little more encounters due to a more dangerous stage of the scenario, I set them "easy" but still, we were lightyears from 6-8 encounters between long rests.

This is why I believe our group needs to consider trying something like 1 average night = 1 short rest recovery value while something like a good night's sleep per week in a very cosy place offers the recovery benefits of a long rest.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
The simple fact is I never considered there was a needed ratio between encounters and short/long rests.
I just followed the narrative so if a session's length implied 5-6 nights comfortable enough to recover, bang, here we were with 5-6 long rests while our gaming style implies that in the same time max 2-3 medium/hard encounters occur.
If there was a little more encounters due to a more dangerous stage of the scenario, I set them "easy" but still, we were lightyears from 6-8 encounters between long rests.

This is why I believe our group needs to consider trying something like 1 average night = 1 short rest recovery value while something like a good night's sleep per week in a very cosy place offers the recovery benefits of a long rest.
Yeah. The game is designed for adventuring in dungeons (or the equivalent).

The farther you deviate from that the more house/alternate rules you're going to want to use to correct for it.
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
This is why I believe our group needs to consider trying something like 1 average night = 1 short rest recovery value while something like a good night's sleep per week in a very cosy place offers the recovery benefits of a long rest.
This approach still puts control over rest - and therefore the difficulty of the game - in your players' hands. The decision becomes a little harder, but not much in my experience. You're still trying to connect a out-of-game balance mechanism ("How often should the characters recover their mechanical resources?") with an in-game fiction controlled by the people who are supposed to feel its pressure. To use a loose sports analogy, it's like a game where the rules say that the players can have three time-outs in a game, unless they decide that they want more. (That analogy isn't perfect, so please don't nitpick it.)

If you use the system I described, the players' control over the game's difficulty is vastly reduced. You eliminate the awkward dance between DM and players as you negotiate whether the characters can rest successfully. You no longer need to worry about whether the players have "earned" a short rest or whether an unexpected long rest will destroy the challenge of the final battle. Each rest comes on a strict schedule that the players are aware of and can plan for. There's complete transparency. If they sling their spells too casually in the first three encounters, you'll see them carefully strategizing in the last couple of fights. They'll need to get creative (and you'll have to support that creativity) because they must make do with less. That long rest is still two encounters away and they can't weasel you into giving it to them early without a big sacrifice! So they'll figure out how to negotiate with the monsters or trick them or steal the treasure. And because you're mostly designing Medium strength encounters (mostly as defined in the DMG), you know that those final few battles will be reasonably short and quick, but still exciting.
 
This approach still puts control over rest - and therefore the difficulty of the game - in your players' hands. The decision becomes a little harder, but not much in my experience. You're still trying to connect a out-of-game balance mechanism ("How often should the characters recover their mechanical resources?") with an in-game fiction controlled by the people who are supposed to feel its pressure.
That's not necessarily all bad. Where it's a little bit good is that it does give the players some meaningful decisions to make - as long as the pacing of the campaign puts the decision to rest in the players' hands, with benefits and consequences to weigh. Being better able to handle encounters because you're at full strength is the relevant benefit, and time pressures - enemy preparedness/escape, rivals getting there first, 'doom clocks' of various types, etc - the usual consequences.
However, in D&D, because the classes are balanced around a specific pacing, there's /also/ metagame pressures, for the classes with a heavy concentration of rest-recharge resources, resting more often will mean greater effectiveness, importance, and even dominance in play, and, correspondingly, greater effectiveness & chance of success for the party, for the classes without such, making a meaningful contribution means seeing classes of the first sort pushed beyond the limits of their resources. So there is a built-in, perverse incentive, for players of certain classes to sabotage their own party in order to at least appear to be pulling their own weight, when, in fact, by doing so, they are overall hurting the party's chance of success, while, conversely, if they go with what's best for the party, they're chronically under-contributing. There's literally no right call.

The 13A solution eliminates both dynamics. The standard D&D model emphasizes both.
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
That's not necessarily all bad. Where it's a little bit good is that it does give the players some meaningful decisions to make - as long as the pacing of the campaign puts the decision to rest in the players' hands, with benefits and consequences to weigh. Being better able to handle encounters because you're at full strength is the relevant benefit, and time pressures - enemy preparedness/escape, rivals getting there first, 'doom clocks' of various types, etc - the usual consequences.
I'm with you, but put a lot of emphasis on the part about whether the pacing is being handled via other pressures in the world. New DMs can really struggle with the solutions you're describing, especially in the moment when sitting at the table. How much stronger should the enemy be if the party rests for an hour? If the rivals get there first, is the DM ready for that? Unless DMs are using Dungeon World-style Fronts (and why would new D&D DMs be expected to?), then the DM needs to improvise and calibrate difficulty on the fly. Part of improving as a DM involves becoming better at improvising that sort of thing, but @tom1017 is a relatively new DM (with lots of players experience). One benefit of 13th Age's approach is that it puts less pressure on the DM's ability to improvise. They can build confidence with the other parts of the game without worrying as much on the game's difficulty. That's why I often recommend it. But if Tom feels confident or comfortable in their ability to improvise these pacing obstacles in game, then it just remains to find the right sweet spot of in-game time for rests. ;)

So there is a built-in, perverse incentive, for players of certain classes to sabotage their own party in order to at least appear to be pulling their own weight, when, in fact, by doing so, they are overall hurting the party's chance of success, while, conversely, if they go with what's best for the party, they're chronically under-contributing. There's literally no right call.
I don't remember seeing it put that way before, but I like it. :)
 

tom1017

Villager
Hey guys.

Honestly it's getting a bit too technical for me... I mean, we don't even have sports with time outs around here :unsure: (lol)... but I really appreciate all the help you're providing.

Long story short I discussed the option of changing the recovery pace with my most experienced player, one who's got pretty good understanding of the dynamics too.

We agreed that trying the idea of 1 average night = 1 short rest benefits while 1 comfortable night a week (or so) = 1 long rest benefits might be a pretty good idea for our group.

In any case I'm really confident this option will give positive results.
 

Quartz

Explorer
To sum up, most of my experience comes from playing Warhammer RPG and Call of Cthulhu, and to put things simply I'm struggling to balance encounters when the players have a lot of HP and powerful abilities.
Are your players having fun? Then you're doing it right.

Somerthing not so far covered: in the two systems you mention, at least the versions I recall from 20 years ago, taking damage is a very bad thing; in D&D it's very different: PCs are expected to take damage, so don't worry about hurting PCs. They're supposed to get hurt and they have resources they can use to recover.
 

S'mon

Legend
I strongly recommend changing to 1 week long rests, with max 3 short rests/day (if dungeon delving - if only having 1 fight/day then overnight SR is fine). I found this made a huge difference to my game. You definitely do want to be having multiple encounters between LR most sessions, 6-8 is ideal but 3 is a minimum.

I don't really balance encounters as such. I'd say, if in doubt just double the number of monsters. This works really well in 5e. :)
 
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Ratskinner

Adventurer
Hey guys.

Honestly it's getting a bit too technical for me... I mean, we don't even have sports with time outs around here :unsure: (lol)... but I really appreciate all the help you're providing.

Long story short I discussed the option of changing the recovery pace with my most experienced player, one who's got pretty good understanding of the dynamics too.

We agreed that trying the idea of 1 average night = 1 short rest benefits while 1 comfortable night a week (or so) = 1 long rest benefits might be a pretty good idea for our group.

In any case I'm really confident this option will give positive results.
Changing the rests is the thing I was going to suggest. It's in the DMG, IIRC.

Another option, that can be used at the same time. Add more simple encounters with small-medium sized groups of easily dispatched opponents. If you can get a few of the folks like paladins and wizards to blow some of their "nova" abilities, so much the better. You can also put those in as either reinforcements or a "first wave" of the more important encounters.

I really like the "Doom Clock" suggestion. As I understand it the Tyranny of Dragons should have one anyway. Just keep it prominent and don't be afraid to mark a tick off when they fail a roll for something like Dungeoneering, Survival, or even picking a lock (if your clock is for a short enough timescale.) You can even have a "Wandering monster" clock. I've used clocks in other games and they work great to ratchet up the tension.
 

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