5E Encounter difficulty: how to fix it.

practicalm

Explorer
I think it's to prevent the PCs from gaming the system.

If you gave increased XP via these guidelines, then the players are incentivized to find hordes to crush as opposed to seeking out threats of an appropriate CR. It's metagaming, sure. But I think that's what they were trying to circumvent.
Not sure how it's gaming the system. If you are rewarding players for overcoming a challenge does it matter if it was 1 giant or 11-12 Hobgoblins? Why shouldn't they get the same XP reward for the same challenge? Or worse why should someone overcoming 12 hobgoblins individually get the same as fighting all 12 at once?
 

Boarstorm

Visitor
Not sure how it's gaming the system. If you are rewarding players for overcoming a challenge does it matter if it was 1 giant or 11-12 Hobgoblins? Why shouldn't they get the same XP reward for the same challenge? Or worse why should someone overcoming 12 hobgoblins individually get the same as fighting all 12 at once?
High level AoEs change the balance significantly. 1 giant can take a couple well placed fireballs. 12 hobgoblins can't. I don't feel like I'm expressing myself well.

I guess the nitty-gritty is that not all encounters of the same XP budget are the same challenge for a higher level party.
 

Elric

Visitor
EDIT: Ohh. Those guidelines look complicated and stupid. I think my real issue is with the update.

That's preposterous! Why would a more difficult encounter not result in a higher XP reward?! "Work in progress," indeed!
I happen to agree that it doesn't make sense to treat an encounter as harder when creating it, but not award extra XP. The original post in this thread is focused on how to accurately determine the difficulty of encounters, which is a different issue than the XP awards. It wouldn't be difficult to add to the OP's system so that it gives XP based on the total difficulty of the encounter (regardless of how many monsters there are).

To avoid the "less XP for facing what is supposedly an equivalently hard fight because there were more monsters" issue in the Basic DM encounter guidelines, you can just actually multiply the XP award by the "encounter XP multiplier." But, as inspired this thread, the "encounter XP multiplier" is flawed and in particular it overestimates the difficulty of encounters where monsters differ substantially in CR (compared to encounters with monsters at the same CR).
 

Sadras

Adventurer
I'm sure someone has mentioned this already, if you were using the OP system, why not just multiply the XP as given by the difficulty rating as given by the OP.
For instance 40% of the total monster XPs for easy encounters, 60% of the total monster XPs for medium encounters, 80% of the total monster XPs for hard encounters and 100% of the total monster XP for deadly. I'm actually going to try out the system tonight and offer some feedback of its success/failures.
 

Gobelure

Visitor
I'm not yet to the point where I may advocate how to attribute XP to players according to encounter difficulty. I leave this for the DMG as I will probably use the milestone system for myself.

One word about the last suggestion by [MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION]. I'm quite puzzled by the thresholds in the Basic rules to define "easy", "moderate" and "difficult" with respect to "deadly". Levels 1, 2 and 4 apply one formula (25%, 50% and 75%), Level 3 another (18.7%, 37.5%, 56.3%), and all other levels go for (22%,44%,66%). I've no clue where it is coming from, and without any further definition of what "medium" means, I sticked to the (25%,50%,75%) scheme.

The (40%,60%,80%) for PEL I came with in the OP is just the translation of these (25%,50%,75%) for XP. So if you go for XP, you have to use the XP percentages.

I am not sure about whether PEL works well with mismatched groups of monsters (high CR plus low CR) because I have not run much in the way of those mixed monster groups. Although I will be running one next week.

As a suggestion to [MENTION=6780929]Gobelure[/MENTION], is there a way to get the results in the normal XP budget numbers? The thing that really shines in this method is the ramping up of monster difficulty. Since the party is only supposed to get the base (not the multiplied) xp of the monsters could you apply your multiplier to the XP required by the party and the XP given by the monsters (i.e. pull the PEL numbers out)?
Thanks very much for all your suggestions and discussion, it made me improve my own understanding. Of course, the mismatched CR test is the one to be done in order to playtest PEL vs. XP.

You mentioned that my system sets usually an easier difficulty for encounter than the official one. I'm looking out where it is coming from and will come with some answers to that.

Now, you asked for a formula to revert back to encounter XP: this is the reverse process that led from XP to PEL.
XP = (PEL^1.5) * 50
In practice,
1) take the total PEL
2) in the Monster table, look for the CR equivalent of this PEL
3) in the DMG table, get the XP for a monster of that CR, doing any necessary interpolation.

Or use the following table: once you get your total PEL, you can have to the right column the corresponding enounter XP. I only listed those corresponding to an equivalent monster CR, so you still have to guess numbers which fall between 2 rows.

Equivalent Monster CRTotal PELEncounter XP
01/310
1/82/325
1/4150
1/21.5100
12.5200
24450
36700
481,100
5111,800
6132,300
7152,900
8183,900
9215,000
10245,900
11287,200
12328,400
133610,000
144011,500
154413,000
164815,000
175218,000
185620,000
196022,000
206425,000
217633,000
228841,000
2310450,000
2412062,000
2513675,000
2615290,000
27168105,000
28184120,000
29200135,000
30216155,000
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
One word about the last suggestion by [MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION]. I'm quite puzzled by the thresholds in the Basic rules to define "easy", "moderate" and "difficult" with respect to "deadly". Levels 1, 2 and 4 apply one formula (25%, 50% and 75%), Level 3 another (18.7%, 37.5%, 56.3%), and all other levels go for (22%,44%,66%). I've no clue where it is coming from, and without any further definition of what "medium" means, I sticked to the (25%,50%,75%) scheme.

The (40%,60%,80%) for PEL I came with in the OP is just the translation of these (25%,50%,75%) for XP. So if you go for XP, you have to use the XP percentages.
My guess is the thresholds at the lower levels take into acount the fragility of early PCs. At level 3, the PCs might be at their lowest compared to enemies since they take the ability score increase at level 4 which balances things out a bit.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think it's to prevent the PCs from gaming the system.

If you gave increased XP via these guidelines, then the players are incentivized to find hordes to crush as opposed to seeking out threats of an appropriate CR.
How would that be "gaming the system"? If the idea of the XP system is to reward the overcoming of challenges and, as per the XP guidelines those encounters are more challenging, then what would be wrong with players having their PCs seek out those challenges?

EDIT: I saw your reply to this upthread. My feeling is that if AoE means being outnumbered isn't as bad as all that, we want that reflected in encounter build guidelines just a much as in XP award guidelines.
 
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Tormyr

Adventurer
I'm quite puzzled by the thresholds in the Basic rules to define "easy", "moderate" and "difficult" with respect to "deadly". Levels 1, 2 and 4 apply one formula (25%, 50% and 75%), Level 3 another (18.7%, 37.5%, 56.3%), and all other levels go for (22%,44%,66%). I've no clue where it is coming from, and without any further definition of what "medium" means, I sticked to the (25%,50%,75%) scheme.

The (40%,60%,80%) for PEL I came with in the OP is just the translation of these (25%,50%,75%) for XP. So if you go for XP, you have to use the XP percentages.
I have been using this for encounter difficulty, and it seems to be working fairly well. I like that there is not a big jump in adjusted XP between having 6 and 7 enemies.

The new version of the Basic DMG is out, and it bumps up the difficulties for encounter balance. Essentially, the encounter thresholds are at the other end of their respective difficulty range. Where previously everything past the Medium threshold and up to the Hard threshold was Hard, now everything past the Hard threshold and before the Deadly threshold is hard. How would you adjust percentages? Or is it as simple as 0% Trivial, 40% easy, 60% Medium, 80% Hard, and 100% Deadly?
 
Gobelure said:
You mentioned that my system sets usually an easier difficulty for encounter than the official one. I'm looking out where it is coming from and will come with some answers to that.
I've been comparing your system with the RAW system for the purposes of encounter design and noticed something along these lines. When it comes to large groups of same CR monsters, your system seems to underestimate the encounter challenge by one degree as compared to RAW.

For example, take a party of 4 characters of 8th level.

In your system, the PEL thresholds would be EASY (40%) = 12+ / MEDIUM (60%) = 19+ / HARD (80%) = 25+ / DEADLY (100%) = 32+

Whereas in the RAW system, the XP thresholds would be EASY =1,800+ / MEDIUM = 3,600+ / HARD = 5,600+ / DEADLY = 8,400+

First, they face a pack of 8 dire wolves. In your system this would be just an EASY encounter (PEL 16), whereas in the RAW system this would be a MEDIUM encounter (8 * 200 * 2.5 = 4,000 XP). Probably not a big deal, since the key difference between an EASY and MEDIUM encounter is the expenditure of healing resources.

Next, they face a pack of 14 dire wolves. In your system this would be a HARD encounter (PEL 28), whereas in the RAW system this would be a DEADLY encounter (14 * 200 * 3 = 8,400). And if it were 15 dire wolves it would clearly be a DEADLY encounter thanks to the monster multiplier. This is a more significant discrepancy because the difference between a HARD and a DEADLY encounter could be the difference between few / no PC deaths and multiple deaths / a TPK.

Which is the more accurate guideline? I don't know. I suspect for a well-equipped fully rested party of 4+ PCs with powerful area spells that your system is a bit more accurate. However, if the party is under-equipped, not fully rested, is of small size (thus with diminished force multiplier capacity), or lacks a caster with area spells, then I suspect the RAW system is a bit more accurate.
 
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Better but still a few problems. You need a "don't be a jerk" rule because 12 flying snakes (easy to medium) are going to annihilate a 2nd level party.

Since this lets you have multiple monsters more easily it lets a DM, intentionally or accidentally, mass a large number of under CRed creatures (and boy there are a lot of them in the MM).

Also without the multiplier I think you'll find larger parties, like 6, are going to be facing significantly tougher fights under your system.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I've been comparing your system with the RAW system for the purposes of encounter design and noticed something along these lines. When it comes to large groups of same CR monsters, your system seems to underestimate the encounter challenge by one degree as compared to RAW.

For example, take a party of 4 characters of 8th level.

In your system, the PEL thresholds would be EASY (40%) = 12+ / MEDIUM (60%) = 19+ / HARD (80%) = 25+ / DEADLY (100%) = 32+

Whereas in the RAW system, the XP thresholds would be EASY =1,800+ / MEDIUM = 3,600+ / HARD = 5,600+ / DEADLY = 8,400+

First, they face a pack of 8 dire wolves. In your system this would be just an EASY encounter (PEL 16), whereas in the RAW system this would be a MEDIUM encounter (8 * 200 * 2.5 = 4,000 XP). Probably not a big deal, since the key difference between an EASY and MEDIUM encounter is the expenditure of healing resources.

Next, they face a pack of 14 dire wolves. In your system this would be a HARD encounter (PEL 28), whereas in the RAW system this would be a DEADLY encounter (14 * 200 * 3 = 8,400). And if it were 15 dire wolves it would clearly be a DEADLY encounter thanks to the monster multiplier. This is a more significant discrepancy because the difference between a HARD and a DEADLY encounter could be the difference between few / no PC deaths and multiple deaths / a TPK.

Which is the more accurate guideline? I don't know. I suspect for a well-equipped fully rested party of 4+ PCs with powerful area spells that your system is a bit more accurate. However, if the party is under-equipped, not fully rested, is of small size (thus with diminished force multiplier capacity), or lacks a caster with area spells, then I suspect the RAW system is a bit more accurate.
With the encounter difficulty changing in the new version of the Basic DMG, I am not sure the 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100% thresholds are still valid. There is also a differentiation between scaling the adjusted XP in both systems. So where you calculate the two systems matters, but you already pointed that out.

I use a spreadsheet, so I don't really care if the difficulty is calculated using PEL or RAW. The greatest strength of PEL in my opinion is that it provides a gradual, constant scaling of encounter difficulty with each new creature added. RAW has some nasty jumps in difficulty. Dire Wolves 3-6 add 400 XP each, but Dire Wolf 7 adds 1100 XP. A viable solution may be to introduce PEL's scaling into the normal XP budget system. But doing that on the fly would require a spreadsheet which is not something everyone is going to have when they are putting together an encounter. I have a feeling the PEL tables might still work, but they may need to be rebalanced.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Better but still a few problems. You need a "don't be a jerk" rule because 12 flying snakes (easy to medium) are going to annihilate a 2nd level party.

Since this lets you have multiple monsters more easily it lets a DM, intentionally or accidentally, mass a large number of under CRed creatures (and boy there are a lot of them in the MM).

Also without the multiplier I think you'll find larger parties, like 6, are going to be facing significantly tougher fights under your system.
You forgot to use the encounter difficulty multiplier for 12 creatures. Both systems rate that as a deadly encounter, not an easy to medium one.

The PEL accounts for adjustments to both the number of characters and the number of monsters. The math is buried in there, but it is there.
 

doodlidoo

Visitor
PEL vs XP Budget spreadsheet

Hello all,

Reactivating this thread, as I think a lot of DMs new to 5th edition (I am one of those) will happen to ask themselves if the XP Budget method found in the DMG is accurate for multi CR encounters.

Here's my 2 coppers : a spreadsheet that allows you to compare the resulting thresholds of an encounter given by both methods (PEL vs XP Budget). As I was a little doubtful about the numbers given by the OP for the breaking points (40%, 60%, 80%, 100%), I added an option that lets you select the average D&D experience of your players, changing the results accordingly. In that way, for example, the same encounter could be tagged "easy" for high experienced players, and "hard" for novices.

Feel free to send any question, comment or suggestion.
 

Attachments

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That's a good effort, but even with the OP's method saving the multiplier step (which is really nice), it still seems more cumbersome than 3e's CR and less dependable than 4e's EL.

Back in the old AD&D days, where monsters had a level scaling from I to X (in roman numbering, mind you!), there were no encounter building rules. You had to follow your gut feeling. Use intuition. This will of course yield some easy fights and some tough fights. And some of those will be unexpectedly easy or difficult.
Best solution then, and, IMHO, best solution, now. I ran the fights in HotDQ straight, they were disasters. I re-created some using the guidelines - not much better.
I started just running encounters the way I did in the old days, by feel, adjusting on the fly: much better results. Of course, it's a very personal approach, YMMV in a big way.
 
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I'm sure someone has mentioned this already, if you were using the OP system, why not just multiply the XP as given by the difficulty rating as given by the OP.
For instance 40% of the total monster XPs for easy encounters, 60% of the total monster XPs for medium encounters, 80% of the total monster XPs for hard encounters and 100% of the total monster XP for deadly. I'm actually going to try out the system tonight and offer some feedback of its success/failures.
This exercise highlights the whole mess of the encounter building system which is predicate on what I consider s design error in the game (not one that effects game play directly so it's not a biggy).

There are two factors why having more monsters makes for a harder fight. One is "Lanchester" - fighting 5 monsters then 5 monsters is easier than fighting 10 monsters all at once. The other is that the XP value of lower CR monsters is disproportionately high. Wizards managed to conflate these two issues & come up with their overly cumbersome system. Ie XP value of monsters rises faster than their threat.

The true XP values of the monsters should be proportionate to their PEL, so if a CR 1 monster is the baseline worth 200 xp then a CR 1/4 should be 80 not 50 & CR 3 should be 320 not 450. If these values were used you could just add up the XP budget & get the right results.
Somehow, given that this is what 4e did correctly & well, WotC managed to completely screw this up & got the complex mess now cleaned up by #Gobelure.

The next step would be to disassociate PEL from CR so we can have elites solos & especially minions back ;)*

The DM encounter building guidelines could then address how swarms of monsters are rather vulnerable to AOE at higher level & how higher than party CR monsters are especially dangerous.

Whether you should get more XP for fighting tougher fights or the same XP for seeking out & ganking individual orcs has always been an issue with D&D. It is not an especially big one but the wonky maths of the encounter building guidelines drew attention to it (what they were really highlighting is the bad XP values for low CR critters.

As as side effect of this maths conjure animals & its ilk are pretty broken** - you get 2 CRs worth of critters adding up the CR literally. Clearly you get twice the bang for your buck with 8 PEL of CR 1/4 wolves than with 4 PEL of polar bear.Not helped by the fact that wolves are very good CR 1/4. Also not a problem for their use as monsters - bad when the PCs will cherry pick the best summons they can.

I'm not yet to the point where I may advocate how to attribute XP to players according to encounter difficulty. I leave this for the DMG as I will probably use the milestone system for myself.

Equivalent Monster CRTotal PELEncounter XP
01/310
1/82/325
1/4150
1/21.5100
12.5200
24450
36700
481,100
5111,800
6132,300
7152,900
8183,900
9215,000
10245,900
11287,200
12328,400
133610,000
144011,500
154413,000
164815,000
175218,000
185620,000
196022,000
206425,000
217633,000
228841,000
2310450,000
2412062,000
2513675,000
2615290,000
27168105,000
28184120,000
29200135,000
30216155,000
Thanks for the table referenced above! I use milestones too.

* Jk bounded accuracy largely fixes this. Monsters with lots of attacks they cannot focus on individuals work as solos (lair actions?) & CR<1 work as minions.

** I was going to say "broken but not game breaking" but since it was a major factor in me stopping DMing the game I ran maybe not. YMMV in fact almost certainly will.
 
That's a good effort, but even with the OP's method saving the multiplier step (which is really nice), it still seems more cumbersome than 3e's CR and less dependable than 4e's EL.
It's less cumbersome than CR which added logarithmically. The fact it's worse than the 4e EL is due to the vagaries of the CRs themselves.

Granularity is an issue especially at low value. I am fine with a bit of eyeballing & fudging - it's a guideline explicitly afterall.
 
It's less cumbersome than CR which added logarithmically.
What makes this system seem cumbersome to me is that nothing quite equates to actual level. CR equated to level and EL was level. Doubling is a very easy operation, so figuring out how many ogres theoretically present a challenge to a high-level party isn't that cumbersome, since at least you're starting with something like level on both sides of the calculation. You know you want an EL 10 to modestly challenge a level 10 party. One CR 10 equals 2 CR 8, 4 CR 6, 8 CR 4, and, boom 16 CR 2 ogres. Probably won't actually turn out to be much of a challenge (between UnBounded Accuracy and Tier 1 casters), but the math wasn't hard or unintuitive.


The fact it's worse than the 4e EL is due to the vagaries of the CRs themselves.

Granularity is an issue especially at low value. I am fine with a bit of eyeballing & fudging - it's a guideline explicitly afterall.
It's also just the looser 'balance' of 5e, in general. You can't count on a party (not) having certain general capabilities let alone synergies or even ballpark overall effectiveness depending on party composition, as well as the monster's CR's not being exactly dependable, as well as Bounded Accuracy making being outnumbered such an issue. It's always been a guideline, just a more helpful one and/or easier to use one in other modern eds - but, yes, guidelines need always be used with caution.

5e's saving grace is that the DM has more than enough latitude to fix any problems as they occur, via said eyeballing and fudging.
 

Athinar

Visitor
Search for "Excel spreadsheet that does the calculations CR

Search for "Excel spreadsheet that does the calculations CR", Created it back in January for both "Level Threat" and "CR Calc"
 

Gobelure

Visitor
FYI, the numbers haven't changed between the preview and the DMG. So the system is still valid !

Just a word about the thresholds : they work fine in practice for lower levels. At higher level, thresholds get shifted a bit and become 35% for easy, 55% for medium and 75% for hard.

Not such a big shift anyway, I seriously doubt you can predict the outcome of a fight at 5% level ;)

IMHO, feeling should always prevail on the math when designing encounters : the encounter should look like something you want. Math can still help not getting too far outbounds.
 

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