D&D 5E Encounter Balance holds back 5E

ECMO3

Hero
A balanced encounter-building system simply means you know with good confidence (not perfect! just good confidence!) how dangerous a particular encounter will generally be for a group of characters. Because D&D includes both randomness and diverse options, perfect balance is impossible, even before we get to the fact that perfect balance is both not generally feasible in the first place and not generally worthwhile even when it is feasible.

You would need far less randomness to have any sort of confidence in such a system.

If we replaced the current attack rolls and saves with a d4 and used a bonus that scaled from 1 to 25 and then based damage on your ability modifier with no roll, then you might have some confidence in the outcome. The current d20-based system randomness eliminates any sort of confidence you can get in the outcome for anything beyond a trivial or overwhelmingly deadly encounter.

Two particular fights come to mind - When my 3rd level Goblin Artificer was killed outright in a trivial encounter and when my 8th level party defeated Orcus at the end of an adventuring day and after defeating his minions when we did not even enter the fight "full up". The latter was actually supposed to be a 1-round fight where Orcus was sucked back into the Abyss as the finale which was the end of the campaign, but we were doing so good the DM decided to play it out and we won outright.
 

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ECMO3

Hero
Because that's how Skill checks in 5E work...? Players don't call for checks, DMs do, and saying "no" to a low Charisma PC worh no persuasion or performance Proficiency giving a persuasive speech allows the Bars to always have the spotlight for that sort of thing. Si.ilarly, a 12 Intelligence Paladin who happens to have Proficiency in Religion should get rolls that require Religion Proficency to even try so that they get a bit to shine over a high Int characwith no Religion Skill.

But what if the Paladin or worse the Cleric does not have religion proficiency? Are you saying they should know nothing about religion and they should not even have a chance to make that check .... despite the fact they pray every day? What if the Rogue is the one with Religion proficiency (or even expertise)?

And you are saying the Barbarian with an 8 should just not be allowed to ever talk to someone and try to get them to do something? If the town magistrate asks the Barbarian if the party stole the King's jewels (which would call for deception) is he not allowed to talk in your games? ... or is it an automatic fail? ......

Or would the magistrate just never ask him that? .... so as long as the Bard was not in the room they would never get caught and having the Bard available to make a charisma check only weakens the party.

Now here is a curveball - what about when my max-Wisdom Ranger with a 14 Charisma takes expertise in Persuasion and then goes Fey Wanderer and can destroy the Bard on Persuasion checks, while also being equal or better on Performance and Deception. After 3rd level, should those skills now be protected for me and the Bard should no longer be allowed to make Persuasion and performance checks since I am the best at it now?

The WotC books call for gated Proficiency checks all the time, and is clearly how the designers intend the DM to call for Skill rolls selectively.

I don't know of any gated proficiency checks in the WOTC adventures. Do you have examples?

IME it is the opposite. WOTC products call for ungated checks all the time. Phandelver for example calls for ungated Perception to find the trap in Cragmaw and in the Redbrands hideout, ungated Pesuasion to convince Agatha to answer a question, ungated acrobatics to walk across the ledge, ungated thieves tools check to pick the lock to the Redbrands prison or alternatively an ungated athletics check to break it open, ungated history to know about the mine. I am DMing this campaign right now, the party is level 4 and I can't think of a single gated check that the game has called for so far.
 
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mamba

Legend
So you are going to tell your players or another player what they should or should not do with their PC?
yes, just like I tell a Fighter that they cannot cast Fireball…

Sorry players can do what they want, it is caused player agency and it is common (and often required by the story) for low charisma players to engage in social situations and make Charisma checks.
having checks only be made by chars with proficiency is not exactly uncommon
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
You kept insisting on using your tables take on the game as indicative of what 5e is
No I didn't. I didn't say anything about how my table does things. I said resource management is only as central as any individual group wants to make it. In other words, its importance can vary, and there isn't a single version of what 5E is. That's the exact opposite of claiming my way is the only way.

and as you're talking about resource management not mattering
No, you're putting words in my mouth again. I said resource management is as important as any group wants to make it.

that leads to the conclusion that you're not really playing the game as designed. There's two names for that, and I gave them.

If you feel offended, you should evaluate why, because neither one is a bad thing, and one shouldn't jump the gun and assume the worst of what people say.
I find it quite rich that you're accusing me of jumping the gun and making assumptions, when you've constructed a whole fantasy house of cards about what I do at my own table and concluded that I'm allowing infinite charges on healing potions, simply because I said that resource management isn't top priority in everyone's playstyle.

I thought maybe we were getting somewhere when you asked for my definition of "fundamental," but I gave it to you and you then proceeded to ignore it. If you're going to keep doing this, I don't know if there's much point in continuing this discussion.

You have to actively work to ignore resource management in D&D though. Like ignore rests and spellcasting beyond cantrips.
Where do you get "totally ignore resource management" from "It's only as important as you want it to be"?
 

pawsplay

Hero
So, anyway, the GM book says to vary encounter difficulty. Which most people ignore. But it's not really a problem with 5e so much as 5e DMs, and maybe some 5e module writers. Even with just +/-2 Challenge, which is pretty tame, you can have a wide variety of creatures, with a wide variety of number appearing, and all those encounters need not lead to combat.
 

ECMO3

Hero
yes, just like I tell a Fighter that they cannot cast Fireball…

So my 15th level Eldritch Knight with an 8 intelligence is not allowed to cast fireball even though it is a spell he knows? Persuasion is a skill the Barbarian has a score in.

If my Wizard gets grappled is he allowed to try to escape (no proficiency in Athletics or Acrobatics) .... to pull on this thread even more - does a grapple or shove attempt automatically succeed since he has no proficiency and therefore can't make a check to resist?

Is my 20 strength raging Barbarian who gets advantage on athletics checks allowed to even make athletics checks if he is not proficient?

Performance and Persuasion are both skills the Barbarian has scores in. He should be able to make a check. If the tavern is burning down and the Barbarian tells one of the fleeing patrons to grab a bucket of water (instead of just running) he should have a chance at being successful.

having checks only be made by chars with proficiency is not exactly uncommon

I have seen that happen in games I played but I would argue it is far less common than allowing any character to make a check and in official WOTC products I can't recall a single time skill proficiency was required for a skill check.

The skill system in 5E is designed around 2 components - ability score and proficiency bonus. So yes someone might know who the god of war is even if they do not have religion proficiency and if they are learned in general (high intelligence), they have a better chance of knowing that. But even the guy with a 6 Intelligence might have heard someone talking about it in the bar last night.

The way the skill system is designed, the DC is the gatekeeper for skill checks and a very high DC will flat prevent some characters from passing, even on a natural 20.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
You have defined "balance" so that it is an actively pernicious design evil

Holy naughty word, I have never seen someone hyperbolize my arguments so much. Pernicious design evil? Horrible to inflict? Bro, what are you TALKING about? Can you read my post again but this try not to actually amplify what I'm saying? I specifically used soft language to make sure that I wasn't taken across as saying balance is horrible for a game or evil. Like what? Are you being freaking serious with me man?????

Mod Note:
How about this - I will be serious with both of you.

Your escalating language is not acceptable. Your escalating conflict, rhetoric, and inability to find common ground is not constructive.

Cool it down and straighten it out, or walk away and find a discussion that doesn't spiral, because this isn't okay.
 


Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
No I didn't. I didn't say anything about how my table does things. I said resource management is only as central as any individual group wants to make it. In other words, its importance can vary, and there isn't a single version of what 5E is. That's the exact opposite of claiming my way is the only way.


No, you're putting words in my mouth again. I said resource management is as important as any group wants to make it.


I find it quite rich that you're accusing me of jumping the gun and making assumptions, when you've constructed a whole fantasy house of cards about what I do at my own table and concluded that I'm allowing infinite charges on healing potions, simply because I said that resource management isn't top priority in everyone's playstyle.

I thought maybe we were getting somewhere when you asked for my definition of "fundamental," but I gave it to you and you then proceeded to ignore it. If you're going to keep doing this, I don't know if there's much point in continuing this discussion.


Where do you get "totally ignore resource management" from "It's only as important as you want it to be"?
Honestly, I don't think it is as important as you want it to be, not unless you're not engaging with player abilities or, as @mamba suggested, you have exactly one resource-using encounter per day. Is it the latter?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
You would need far less randomness to have any sort of confidence in such a system.

If we replaced the current attack rolls and saves with a d4 and used a bonus that scaled from 1 to 25 and then based damage on your ability modifier with no roll, then you might have some confidence in the outcome. The current d20-based system randomness eliminates any sort of confidence you can get in the outcome for anything beyond a trivial or overwhelmingly deadly encounter.
Not at all. It is quite possible to design a system that accepts a range of results--particularly because of things like regression to the mean. Your example would make randomness effectively irrelevant, and thus the spread of results would be very nearly zero. You do not need the spread of results to be near-zero for the spread to be manageable. This fact is why statistics works as a science, rather than as a "eh, we just don't know!"

It really isn't anywhere near as hard as you make it sound.

Two particular fights come to mind - When my 3rd level Goblin Artificer was killed outright in a trivial encounter
Well, I've already made quite clear how much I hate the unavoidable sensitivity to such things in early levels in 5e, so this isn't actually a rebuttal as far as I'm concerned. It is merely yet more evidence why D&D desperately needs well-made, well-tested, robust, and (perhaps most importantly of all) not in any way deprecated or derided "zero level" rules. That way, folks who want to opt into such instantaneous lethality are strongly and earnestly supported, and folks who do not want to opt into such instantaneous lethality are not required to.

and when my 8th level party defeated Orcus at the end of an adventuring day and after defeating his minions when we did not even enter the fight "full up". The latter was actually supposed to be a 1-round fight where Orcus was sucked back into the Abyss as the finale which was the end of the campaign, but we were doing so good the DM decided to play it out and we won outright.
This...this isn't a bad thing. It is beautiful. There's not one thing wrong with that--and nothing unbalanced about it, either. I genuinely don't understand what the problem is here. You pried out a fantastic success from what was meant to be an unavoidable hollow victory. That is wonderful, and the one and only thing a well-made, balanced system should do is make clear just how impressive your success was. It should not, in any way, prevent this kind of encounter, and in fact, it should be designed in such a way that such feats, while unlikely, are in fact possible.
 

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