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D&D 5E FeeFiFoFum *splat* goes the giants

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think all this story goes to show, other than questioning how the PCs got off two fireballs and the giants only got in a couple of attacks, is that D&D is by nature and design unpredictable to a degree. Sometimes fights that on paper look difficult are not really a threat, other times encounters that look easy are a challenge.

I think that's part of the fun and I don't think any calculation is going to fix that. In addition you can't please everyone.

Exactly, that's were codifying encounters for computation is bound to fail in 5e. 4e, which went further than any previous editions simplified this by having maps where starting positions were indicated, which meant that a number of DMs teleported characters and monsters on the map to the starting positions when combat started so that the conditions were as standard as possible. I'm not criticising that approach, but even in that case, initiative coud mean quite a bit of swinginess even before all the other dices started rolling.
 

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Mort

Legend
Exactly, that's were codifying encounters for computation is bound to fail in 5e. 4e, which went further than any previous editions simplified this by having maps where starting positions were indicated, which meant that a number of DMs teleported characters and monsters on the map to the starting positions when combat started so that the conditions were as standard as possible. I'm not criticising that approach, but even in that case, initiative coud mean quite a bit of swinginess even before all the other dices started rolling.

Sure, Which is why it's always interesting to have accounts like the OP. It's impossible for 1 group (well hopefully impossible) to gather so much actual play experience and data.

For ex., I would not have expected a group with the configuration listed in the OP to have an easy time with 3 hill giants! Generally a lower level (relatively) group stomping this kind of encounter involves suggestion or Hypnotic Pattern (a big weakness of Hill Giants) or something like that. Meeting Hill Giants with brute force (fireball is still brute force really) seems the harder approach.

But that's why it's always interesting to see groups other than mine at play (for me, I'm sure for some people it's like watching grass grow).
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Sure, Which is why it's always interesting to have accounts like the OP. It's impossible for 1 group (well hopefully impossible) to gather so much actual play experience and data.

For ex., I would not have expected a group with the configuration listed in the OP to have an easy time with 3 hill giants! Generally a lower level (relatively) group stomping this kind of encounter involves suggestion or Hypnotic Pattern (a big weakness of Hill Giants) or something like that. Meeting Hill Giants with brute force (fireball is still brute force really) seems the harder approach.

But that's why it's always interesting to see groups other than mine at play (for me, I'm sure for some people it's like watching grass grow).

I agree, but for the data to be interesting, we also need details, and in particular about the characters, because there are critical aspects like equipment, (rolled) stats, feats, etc. that are as critical to understanding what happened as are details of the situation. It also does not help when it starts with a heavy criticism of the game, on something that is hardly justifiable to that degree...
 

Mort

Legend
I agree, but for the data to be interesting, we also need details, and in particular about the characters, because there are critical aspects like equipment, (rolled) stats, feats, etc. that are as critical to understanding what happened as are details of the situation. It also does not help when it starts with a heavy criticism of the game, on something that is hardly justifiable to that degree...

Well, yes, details would be great.

I'm very curious how this could have been a cakewalk encounter as that's FAR outside my experience with this kind of scenario. But since we're over 160 posts in - probably not.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Well, yes, details would be great.

I'm very curious how this could have been a cakewalk encounter as that's FAR outside my experience with this kind of scenario. But since we're over 160 posts in - probably not.
Perhaps a list of “standard details”: things that would be informative but not so onerous people are unlikely to take the time to write them out
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
There are key details missing like ... how did the sorcerer get off 2 fireballs, what actions were actually taken, did the giants all fail their saves, etc.

A one time scenario with a caster going nova is not indicative of the game or the encounter rating system in general. 🤷‍♂️
 

Mort

Legend
There are key details missing like ... how did the sorcerer get off 2 fireballs, what actions were actually taken, did the giants all fail their saves, etc.

A one time scenario with a caster going nova is not indicative of the game or the encounter rating system in general. 🤷‍♂️
Yeah, even if all 3 were caught in both fireballs AND all 3 failed both saves (not too likely, Hill Giants have ok Con saves) that's only around 60 damage(on average) each. Barely enough to drop them far below half.

And I'd be curious to hear of any interesting tactics/synergies (like if the Shadow monk dropped a darkness and he and or the psi warrior had the blindfighting style).
 

HammerMan

Explorer
You are asking for the impossible, there are far too many variables between the one that I have listed and the ones that you list, not even mentioning the ones that we miss. And what does "group with magic items" mean, how many, of what type, do they affect the combat, do they synergize with the characters and the party ?

Honestly, if you start your party at level 1, it's not that complicated to have the first encounters correct, the worst that can happen is that they are too easy, and then is that really a problem ? And after that, as the characters grow in level, you will forge your own experience and learn how to create encounters that fit your party.

As the designers say in the SAC about rules: "Many unexpected things can happen in a D&D campaign, and no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency..."
I think including a side bar or two that helps would be better then doing nothing...

example: If your party has a + magic item to hit remember they are hitting like a party multi levels (+1 prof) higher would. a +3 sword on a 3rd level character makes them hit as often as a 20th level PC with no items. Magic that goes to defense (like AC) does the oppisite it makes the monster hit as if they had LESS prof. a 5th level party with 4 PCs with 2 +2 weapons and all 4 having atleast 1 +1 to AC will fight more like a 9th-10th level party BUT they wont have the HP so it will make the dice more swingy.

example2: If your party rolls for stats (remember that is the default) having PCs with much higher or lower stats allows them to hit or be hit more or less often. a good rule of thumb is if the PCs have X more then the standard array add 1 to there level if they have X less then the standard subtract 1. if some are higher and some

example 3: some feats are more powerful in a hit harder and some are more powerful by giving more options, if you see a PC has regularly in play been able to ahndle harder and harder monsters considering counting the whole party as one level higher.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Yeah, even if all 3 were caught in both fireballs AND all 3 failed both saves (not too likely, Hill Giants have ok Con saves) that's only around 60 damage(on average) each. Barely enough to drop them far below half.

And I'd be curious to hear of any interesting tactics/synergies (like if the Shadow monk dropped a darkness and he and or the psi warrior had the blindfighting style).
The math:

assuming standard dc 15 save (18 stat +3 prof).

chance of a fail (-1 dex save) = .75
Chance of all 3 fails: .42

general average: 28 x .75 X 3 + 14x .25 x3 = 63 + 10.5 = 73.5

if all hit: 28 x 3 = 84
 

HammerMan

Explorer
Yes, it's a real shame that my level 2 PCs slaughtered a herd of tarrasques, it should only have been hyper-deadly x99 for them, and still, it was over in one round. Shame on WotC, honestly ! What ? What if my PCs had their stats rolled on 2d100+100 ? What does this have to do with the result ? And no, they did not have magic items, because artifacts are not considered magical ! :p
the Tarrasque is the king of "CR and Encounter building doesn't work" if your party is made of experienced gamers, has the slightest bit of luck and just the basic items that you would find in a WOTC adventure, they can take him down at 10th level... If they are power gamers with good stats and/or good items by 7th level.

the guidelines break down in the mods they put out themselves.
 

Mort

Legend
The math:

assuming standard dc 15 save (18 stat +3 prof).

chance of a fail (-1 dex save) = .75
Chance of all 3 fails: .42

general average: 28 x .75 X 3 + 14x .25 x3 = 63 + 10.5 = 73.5

if all hit: 28 x 3 = 84

Ah of course, Dex Save (-1) not Con save - my bad. So actually quite likely at least 1 fails and (as you said) about 40% chance all 3 fail.
 

HammerMan

Explorer
Replace the hill giants with CR 5 fire elementals. Suddenly fireballs are pointless and the enemy can't be stunned. Or just have the giants throw boulders from behind cover before ducking back out of sight. Heck, don't expect an encounter where a 5th level can throw multiple fireballs to be a good example.

Deadly does not mean risking a TPK. It means there's a decent chance one PC could die. Which, if the giants got even reasonably lucky they can. Each one can do 36 points of damage per round without getting a critical. Have all 3 go before the wizard and focus fire, with a little luck it's one dead wizard.

Or you could just have a caster use their most powerful spell multiple times and then be surprised the encounter is over quickly.
replace it with 2 (much lower CR) shadows, and a shadow demon (CR 4) make it overcast/eclipse/night/inside and you have a MUCH deadlier encounter with lower CRs...
 

HammerMan

Explorer
Well, first, I ignore the multiplier for multiple monsters myself and use a slight variation of the calculator, which just barely makes it deadly for me.

Even with that, on average an 11th level wizard PC could be knocked out by the 3rd round based on the assumptions:
  • Wizard has Con 12, average HP for 42, 11 base AC with 16 AC because they're casting Shield every round. The giants still hit on an 8 or higher.
  • All 3 hill giants focus fire on the wizard throwing rocks the first round, closing in subsequent rounds.
  • All 3 hill giants survive to the second round, so by the second round the wiz has taken around 34 points of damage.
  • Only 1 hit has to land the 3rd round for the wiz to go down.
The calculations don't assume the wizard being able to cast their highest level spells, or monk stunning. They don't assume there's a cleric in the party.

Do the base assumptions work for every group? Of course not. That's why we have DMs.
an 11th level wizard... with a what for AC? 11?!? I mean at least give them mage armor... you know the spell they can cast, last all day and not have to concentrate on for the cost of the lowest spell slot... I mean most damaging 1st level spells are out done by cantrips and if it saves 1 shield spell it is worth it.
 

HammerMan

Explorer
in general the problem is encounter building isn't math... I mean it's some math, but not ALL math.

instead of a CR 1/3-30 (is there a deity at 31 yet?) you need to break down the what and how of the monster more...

The shadow at CR 1/2 has 16 hp (well 32 or more really cause they resist almost everything) and when they hit they start a death cycle down (especially for str based combatants). Shadows are strikers, they CAN be beaten easy if you have the right stuff (strike like magic, the radiant damage ect cuts there hp in half because everything else doubles it) how ever they hit above there CR indicates, and a lucky shot or two can derail the entire adventure. that can't be broken down to 1/2cr

The Tarrasque is a dumb brute with no way to handle ranged attacks that avoid it's defenses.... and by end game there are ALOT of ways to do it. (jokes about the rogue/wizard flying and throwing acid killing it at level 7 solo aside).

You need to break out roles like they did in 4e, you need 2 tiers of rating (it doesn't have to be but I liked solo/elite/normal/minion) and you need key words for what kind of warnings they have. THEN you build encounters out of this.
 

Stalker0

Legend
an 11th level wizard... with a what for AC? 11?!? I mean at least give them mage armor... you know the spell they can cast, last all day and not have to concentrate on for the cost of the lowest spell slot... I mean most damaging 1st level spells are out done by cantrips and if it saves 1 shield spell it is worth it.
I would agree. At 7th level a wizard is still very likely to have it on, but has a bit more limitations and may need to conserve the slot for whatever reason. But by 11th, no any wizard actually out in the day should have that on.
 

Stalker0

Legend
The shadow at CR 1/2 has 16 hp (well 32 or more really cause they resist almost everything) and when they hit they start a death cycle down (especially for str based combatants). Shadows are strikers, they CAN be beaten easy if you have the right stuff (strike like magic, the radiant damage ect cuts there hp in half because everything else doubles it) how ever they hit above there CR indicates, and a lucky shot or two can derail the entire adventure. that can't be broken down to 1/2cr
Its an interesting thought. Probably the best way to show that is for certain monsters to have a "flexible CR".

Example: Shadow: CR 1/2, + 1 per 4 PC levels.

Aka we give some respect to the fact that a Shadow's effectively "scales with PC level". 4 strength damage for a 12th level PC is always as bad as for a 4th level one. Obviously not a complete scale because the Shadow's hp and attacks don't scale, and its resistance becomes less of a problem.

This gives the dm some indicator that a shadow remains a credible threat much longer than its CR number would indicate.
 

Stalker0

Legend
the Tarrasque is the king of "CR and Encounter building doesn't work" if your party is made of experienced gamers, has the slightest bit of luck and just the basic items that you would find in a WOTC adventure, they can take him down at 10th level... If they are power gamers with good stats and/or good items by 7th level.
The 5e tarrasque has several issues, mainly its lack of regen and inability to hit flying creatures (a lesson we learned in 4e!!!!)

The 4e tarrasque (and the upcoming Level Up Tarrasque) are much better versions of Mr T. They include:

1) Damage Immunities (to keep out the "riff raff" army)
2) High Regeneration
3) Ability to deal with flying creatures.

That's a scary T!
 
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HammerMan

Explorer
I would agree. At 7th level a wizard is still very likely to have it on, but has a bit more limitations and may need to conserve the slot for whatever reason. But by 11th, no any wizard actually out in the day should have that on.
i meant the mage armor was the bottom the floor not the top
 


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