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D&D 5E Dungeon Delves in 5e

Eric V

Hero
(This isn't a complaint, at all; just an experience to share and maybe some discussion over encounter building)

So we have been playing 5e since it came out, but only the low level stuff (HotDQ, where we are 3rd and MoP, also 3rd). We wanted to test out the higher level encounters. The main reason we switched from 4e is because fights in 4e at high levels (we stopped at 18th) just took too long, and therefore ended up drama-free; we wanted to see comparatively how long the fights in 5e at equivalent level would be.

Since it was just a one-off, I converted the level 14 delve from Dungeon Delves, the 4e product. They converted some of their 4e toons to 12th level in 5e. For those who aren't familiar with the product, a delve is a series of 3 linked encounters(rooms) that basically take up an evening of play.

The party was a vengeance paladin, a trickster cleric, a battlemaster, a frenzied berzerker, and a fey pact warlock.

I wanted to test out the encounter building guidelines; my first error was trying for equivalencies: While 6-8 approximately medium encounters make up an adventuring day, that doesn't mean you can compress those into fewer but harder encounters in 5e without a short rest.

First encounter was a mind flayer and 2 umber hulks. Considered a hard encounter for 5 pcs. None of the above are proficient in Int saves, and all have Int as a dump stat. I prepped the delve before I knew what toons were coming in, for those wondering. As you can imagine, they had a hard time with the Illithid and its mind blast. They won, but the cleric used a lot of healing. They were bitter about how that combo of creatures really screws over action economy of the party. Legit complaint, but at least the monsters made thematic sense together (Underdark type deal).

Second encounter, I wanted to test the idea that creatures of CR significantly below the level of the encounter don't affect it for CR purposes. I am not sure this is a good rule; I believe this was my second error. I had 2 drow elite warriors, 1 drow assassin (assassin npc with drow race), 5 drow and 1 mind flayer. A deadly encounter without the 5 drow. They were not insignificant in the fight, and they clearly did make things tougher; they should have 'counted' in other words, despite being CR 1/4.

The party was so banged up after that fight that they could not do the next one, also a deadly encounter (illithid, 3 driders, 5 grimlocks). Paladin had used all his LoH ability, and the cleric had only 3 slots of 1st and 2nd left.

Error on my part #3: Delves as they are classically presented are very hard to do without altering the time of a short rest. They needed one to spend HD after the 2nd encounter, but it would have broke believability for them to rest in room about 100 feet away from the monsters with no intervening door after sounds of combat. To see how it would worked out, I let them spend HD anyway.

I still don't think they could succeed in that last encounter, however.

Things I am taking away from this: If there are going to be several encounters between short rests, none of them can be hard or harder; you cannot 'compress' the adventuring day to eat up resources within a smaller number of encounters by merely making those encounters harder; modifying the amount of time for a short rest may be necessary if one is going to have a sort of classic dungeon crawl; low-level CR creatures should still count (how? not sure...) in high CR encounters.

Maybe some other stuff too. Anyone else have high-level wisdom to share?

(Note: Not the best party to test this stuff out. A fireball or two would have changed encounter 2 a lot. A 2nd healer might have made a difference as well. Someone who is ranged other than the warlock, who spent the entire 2nd fight trying to eyebite people would also have helped. So, not optimal conditions, for sure).

-E
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Pretty cool. You started with the premise that high level play elsewhere took too long - how fast did it run in 5e? (After making some allowances for players with advanced one-shot characters instead of ones they are familiar with playing for 12 levels.)

You mentioned prepping the delve before you knew who was in it, but if the illithid was particularly dangerous to this group of players due to poor Int saves having it in all three encounters would really drop the party efficiency due to messing up the action economy. In other words, this may have been more deadly to this particular group and not a good thing to generalize from. But still, that will happen.

I'd love to see the party run the same group (so now the players have a better feel for their characters and how the combo with the other characters) against another set of foes in the same format.
 

ZombieRoboNinja

First Post
Interesting stuff - sounds like "deadly" encounters really do push the party!

I'd be a bit cautious about changing the short rest time and not the long rest time with it - class balance (eg wizards vs warlocks) could get screwy if the warlock gets a recharge every encounter and the wizard has to last all day.
 

Eric V

Hero
Pretty cool. You started with the premise that high level play elsewhere took too long - how fast did it run in 5e? (After making some allowances for players with advanced one-shot characters instead of ones they are familiar with playing for 12 levels.)

It wasn't quite as quick...but it was still faster than a high level 4e fight. You are quite right about allowances needing to be made for unfamiliarity.

Individual turns just don't seem to have as many options as existed for high level toons in 4e, so decision-making is less complicated. Especially if you're the cleric and people are getting wailed upon. Which leads me to consider this rule from the DMG:

Healing surges: As an action, a character can use up to half his HD (you start by rolling one, see the result and keep rolling up to the maximum). A character recovers the surge after a short rest and all HD after a long rest. A "super-heroic" option is offered in which healing surges are a bonus action.

It would allow the cleric to do more on his turn than heal, if he wanted to.

You mentioned prepping the delve before you knew who was in it, but if the illithid was particularly dangerous to this group of players due to poor Int saves having it in all three encounters would really drop the party efficiency due to messing up the action economy. In other words, this may have been more deadly to this particular group and not a good thing to generalize from. But still, that will happen.

Yeah, that part was just an awful coincidence. It was one of many times that evening whereupon I wish someone had made a wizard...

I'd love to see the party run the same group (so now the players have a better feel for their characters and how the combo with the other characters) against another set of foes in the same format.

Me too! And we may do just that. The other thing I want to do is to try this same delve again, but replace the barbarian, warlock, and battlemaster with an archer, wizard and rogue.

Other variations would be to start with the deadly encounter first, then the medium/hard ones? Or maybe just do medium-medium-hard...I'd like to find a sweet spot, as it were.
 

Eric V

Hero
Interesting stuff - sounds like "deadly" encounters really do push the party!

I'd be a bit cautious about changing the short rest time and not the long rest time with it - class balance (eg wizards vs warlocks) could get screwy if the warlock gets a recharge every encounter and the wizard has to last all day.

Yes! One "deadly" encounter seems to demand a rest right after...it might end up being half the "adventuring day."

As for altering rests...yeah. I really wish they had given more advice on that in the DMG (standard disclaimer that as the DM I can do what I want, etc.) I think the healing surge rule might help out, though.

Without some change, however, a kick-in-the-door dungeon could have medium encounters at the most, I'd wager.
 

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