D&D 5E Do you mind not experiencing traditional lower level challenges?


41st lv DM
If your DM was a generous, horn of plenty sort of referee, than a Werewolf may have been low level fodder, but for those with parsimonious DMs, the bay of a Werewolf,
( and no or only one silver dagger in the whole party), meant you have to get creative, or run.

Does trapping one in an illusionary ice pit (the adventure took place in a frozen arctic area) & then dumping water on it until it froze count?
(of course if the thing had ever passed a save or succeeded on a climb check we'd have been in alot of trouble. Especially the guy pissing on it.)

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I find L1 - L3 necessary to figure out how your class features work together (or how they don't do what you thought). Try bringing in a never-previously-played L6 Swashbuckler Rogue and discover you forgot to actually give him the two-weapon fighting package (feat, fighting style, gear)!
This is the big thing really - player experience and rule knowledge. A low level party of experienced players would never have been frightened of an ogre - not in 1st edition and not in 5e.

These things only become frightening if the players don't know the capabilities of the monsters or their characters.

Nobody needs to fight the giant rats in the tavern cellar

But early levels are best run as Scooby mysteries than fights - the werewolf isnt going to be a hard challenge to fight but perhaps the challenge is going into the village and trying to identfy just who the werewolf is. Then theres the issue of who is protecting the werewolf

The best excuse for fighting rats in the cellar was given by WFRP. The rats were part of a giant secret underground civilization of ratmen called Skaven (who were also one of the most on-point Nazi parodies I've ever seen). Oh, and one of the starting PCs was a professional ratcatcher with a small but vicious dog.


I'm not going to mention kobolds and skeletons and other things that were moderately scary in small numbers at first level but are only a challenge in the dozens fairly soon. I don't mind that part so much. I also didn't list a lot of beasts, like giant scorpion, or monsters that tend to work behind the scenes, like hags. I'll give some examples of monsters that seem like they should be scary as loners (maybe with a couple of weaker pets or so), as something you could run into and find a dangerous challenge. I also tried to stick to more classic examples rather than putting in everything that might fit the bill mechanically.

By level 2, these critters aren't scary:
-Giant Spider
Level 3:
-Carrion Crawler
-Gelatinous Cube
-Displacer Beast
-Phase Spider
Level 4:
-Helmed Horror
Level 5: At this point pretty much anything less than CR 8 or higher can be destroyed by a party.

Again, those are few of the loner encounter examples that stand out the most. If you add in something like, "a dozen kobolds/goblins", or "a few bugbears" you can fill in more classic threats that go away.

Going to have to disagree with some of this.

I've had Phase Spiders be dangerous threats up to level 5. The fact that they can choose when to come back is key.

Giant spiders... hard call. By itself against 5 people, yeah, not very scary but very few things are when they get hit five times before their turn. But, they have a very nasty poison that dropped a character of mine at around 5th level when we were fighting some reskinned Driders

Single ghost is swingy. If they possess someone, then the party is guaranteed to have at least one member drop to zero hp, because without high level magic, you cannot force a ghost out of someone they have possessed. Well, that or a successful turn undead, but until like 7th level you only have one of those and if you've used it already. You are just out of luck.

Banshee's can drop an entire party with a failed con save. I don't see everyone suddenly getting good at those by 4th level.

The biggest thing that plays into this is whether or not the monster gets surprise or goes early in initiative. Yes, if the monster stands in the center of the room and takes 5 attacks before it gets a turn, it is likely less of a threat. But, if the ghost appears from inside a casket and possesses the barbarian before combat even starts, it is a much different fight.

Giant spiders lurk in holes, so it's unlikely the whole party will be able to attack one. And if they don't get surprise they are unlikely to attack at all.

Ghosts tend to be a role play encounter anyway. They possess someone, tell the party wat they want, and the party does what's needed to lay the ghost to rest.


Besides the suggestions others have mentioned such as

Ramping up abilities/skills/saves help with this.
Upgrade monster with Legendary and Lair actions.
Incorporate some of the prior edition resistances and invulnerabilities.
Design additional abilities based on the narrative (i.e. monster write-up)
Use terrain/environment features
Add additional allies/minions
Use of Magic Items (even consumables may do the trick - Potions/Scrolls)

One may incorporate thematic abilities which demand no saves, and just have effects occuring successfully, thus instilling a supernatural element into the combat which cannot be easily countered by the PCs.

Using a werewolf as an example -

Shadows of the Beast - As a bonus action and only within dim or bright light, the werewolf uses their constantly distorted, twisting and hulking shadows to confuse and disorientate a single opponent within 10 feet, thus negating their opponent's ability to react this round (no save).

Unnatural Growl - As a bonus action a werewolf may emit a low unnatural growl - All animals within a 10 foot radius of the werewolf are immediately under the effects of the Fear condition and are considered Panicked (no save) while riders are required to make an Animal Handling check (DC 10 +STR) to remain on their mounts. Failure results in the riders being dismounted and placed adjacent to their panicked mounts. Failure by 5+ means they are also prone.
On their turn Panicked mounts use their movement and Dash action to flee. At the end of each round Animals are afforded a WIS save (DC 10 + STR)...or that effect.

Preternatural Evasion - As a reaction and after a successful attack the lycanthrope moves (dare I say slides) 5 feet and ignores the effects of the attack.

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