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D&D 5E How many encounters per day is YOUR average?

On average, how many combat encounters do you experience per day in a 5e game?


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I've been playing or running 5e pretty consistently since launch across multiple groups, stores, and states. One thing that seems pretty regular across all of those tables though, and that's the number of average combats per day. If I had to give an integer, I'd say that the average I've seen is only around 2 per day and the most I've probably ever seen is 4 fights in a day. In some campaigns, we regularly have one combat per day and that's it. The recommended number of encounters per day in the DMG seems completely bonkers, to me.
 

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This was probably the biggest failure of the playtest. It was never asked, and they designed the game around a different assumption than most groups preferences. What's particularly odd is that this was after 4E, which averaged 2-4 combats per day. This disconnect is the root of a vast majority of people's complaints about balance between the classes (specifically martial vs caster).

Even if you play under the standard assumptions it doesn't quite work out right. It should have been based on level, since at low levels players have very few resources, but much more at higher levels. A level 1-4 party can handle 4-6 encounters pretty easily. Levels 5-10 fit the standard 6-8, but above that you need more encounters to drain resources properly.
 

Even if you play under the standard assumptions it doesn't quite work out right. It should have been based on level, since at low levels players have very few resources, but much more at higher levels. A level 1-4 party can handle 4-6 encounters pretty easily. Levels 5-10 fit the standard 6-8, but above that you need more encounters to drain resources properly.
I'm trying to balance damage when making homebrew and my experience with the paladin is that the scaling is ridiculous. At low levels, you have hardly any smites, but then at high level you have more damage than you can ever spend in a real-world 2-encounter day.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
All of this discussion comes from a bad reading of the rules, honestly. The game never advocates a high number of encounters per day. It gives you a daily budget in terms of XPs, and all it says is : "Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day. If the adventure has more easy encounters, the adventurers can get through more. If it has more deadly encounters, they can handle fewer."

After that, the problem is that as most people play with options like feats and multiclass and quite a number (at least on the forums) powergame with this, encounters need to be extra hard to reach the level of difficulty listed in the DMG.

And obviously, it's really hard to balance things with only 1-2 encounters per day especially if the players know about this, as those who can will go nova, and outshine anyone else in every single combat, not even mentioning those recovering on long rests compared to short rests etc.

So no, there is no recommendation, just a simple statement of what COULD be handled IF you only threw medium to hard encounters are a really typical group (which no one ever does anyway). It would be nice if people who are bent on criticizing the system (yes, it's not as precise as 4e because the overall system is more fuzzy, but also way more open-ended, as D&D should always have been) would actually read the rules and stop repeating hearsay that has no ground in the rules themselves...

Ad for us, encounters are mostly 0 per day, sometimes there is a huge fight, and sometimes a series of small encounters that will eat up resources. And sometimes the adventurers just have to flee because even with all their resources, it's too much for them...
 



dave2008

Legend
I'm trying to balance damage when making homebrew and my experience with the paladin is that the scaling is ridiculous. At low levels, you have hardly any smites, but then at high level you have more damage than you can ever spend in a real-world 2-encounter day.
Maybe you need to make those two encounters a little harder ;)
 

MarkB

Legend
It's hard to put a figure on it, because it depends on the circumstances. If they're travelling, there won't be more than 0-2 encounters per day, because I don't want it to take several sessions just to get from one town to another. In a dungeon, the number of encounters will be a lot higher.
 

Maybe you need to make those two encounters a little harder ;)
To be clear, I'm talking about homebrew classes and subclasses, not DMing. Running down resources in a session isn't exactly the issue, it's making it seem fair across the level progression between classes.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
All of this discussion comes from a bad reading of the rules, honestly. The game never advocates a high number of encounters per day.

So no, there is no recommendation, just a simple statement of what COULD be handled IF you only threw medium to hard encounters are a really typical group (which no one ever does anyway). It would be nice if people who are bent on criticizing the system (yes, it's not as precise as 4e because the overall system is more fuzzy, but also way more open-ended, as D&D should always have been) would actually read the rules and stop repeating hearsay that has no ground in the rules themselves...
This comes from the math of the system, specifically the class recovery mechanisms, not just the 6-8 encounters per day recommendation in the DMG.

There are two aspects to number of encounters per day. Of of them is tension and risk, and that can be balanced by making encounters more deadly. However, the other one is attrition of resources, and that one needs a number of actions - usually broken out into a good number of encounters - to balance out.

It has to do with the math behind balancing at-will primary classes (like the rogue or the EB warlock) vs. long-rest-recovery classes (like pure casters outside the warlock) and the hybrids (like barbarian or paladin who need their logn-rest to really make the most of their at-will).

Let's take the simplest example - what's more powerful, a barbarian that can rage every combat or one that can rage half the combats. But it's on classes like the casters it's the most obvious. It really comes down to average effect per action over the course of the adventuring day.

It's a safe statement to say that using one of your highest levgel spells has more effect per action than an at-will character doing a single action. It's also usually safe to say a cantrip action will do less than an at-will character doing a single action. So the place where the casters and at-will characters balance out is when casters are using both high level slots, and enough cantrip actions to balance them down to what the at-will characters will do. This doesn't happen if there as so few combat actions in a day that the casters still have slots left. Heck, it doesn't even happen if the casters run out of slots but just barely. It happens when the casters run out of slots and do a lot of cantrip actions. That takes a lot of actions - a lot of turns of combat.

It's made even harder when condensing to fewer combats that spell with durations can do even more in a longer combat. Shortest durations out there are usually 1 minute. Spiritual Weapon ina 3 round combat will do less than one in an 8 round combat, but it's still the same slot to cast. So when you combine to fewer combats you need to run to even more total rounds than if they were separate combats to have enough low-efficiency actions to balance it out.

And all of that doesn't include short-rests recovery, which is a separate axis as well but with similar effects - a monk will be a lot less effective in a single large combat than in multiple combats and the recommended (and balanced around) 2 short rests around 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through.
 

dave2008

Legend
To be clear, I'm talking about homebrew classes and subclasses, not DMing. Running down resources in a session isn't exactly the issue, it's making it seem fair across the level progression between classes.
In my current group we have 2 fighters, 2 rogues, and a wizard. I think we average 3 combats per day, but only 2 is not unusual and 1 or 5-6 happens sometimes too (1 more likely than 5-6). I just haven't seen an issue with "fairness" regardless of how many encounters I throw at them. Everyone gets to shine at some point
 

dave2008

Legend
This doesn't happen if there as so few combat actions in a day that the casters still have slots left.
Of course you are not compensating for encounter difficulty. Now, I know in theory that skews the numbers to the nova classes, but at the table it plays our pretty fairly IMO.
 

I just haven't seen an issue with "fairness" regardless of how many encounters I throw at them. Everyone gets to shine at some point
That's great in theory but if you design a class that shines the same for each encounter for any number of encounters at any level and you have another class that scales wildly with level and the number of encounters and with the number or resources per day, it makes balancing new classes more of a challenge. I've played a ton of tables that only run 1 encounter per day with pretty big contribution differentials among PCs and while it's generally fun and it seems like everyone is fine, the differences are pretty clear.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
Difficult to say so I'll lowball it and say 3 encounters per day. If I have them in a dungeon situation it's closer to 7 but averages around 5. Typically what I try to do is tie the work day to a narrative, and let that decide the pace. Outdoor exploration is usually just one, maybe two with a few dangerous non-combat encounters to bring the location to life. Here's some examples of narrative pacing I've used:
  • Countdown Timer - Underwater adventure where each PC was given a sip from a Potion of Water Breathing. They had 1 hour to get in and out of the sunken Spelljammer ship.
  • Chase - hunting an Orc raiding party that has a day's head start. Several Skill Challenges and non-combat encounters that led them into Orc territory.
  • Invasion - The Keep on the Borderlands was besieged by Goblins of the Pomarj. The PCs took part in defenses. Each phase was a Skill Challenge followed by several combat encounters.
 

aco175

Legend
My group tends to have 5-7 per day. There may also be 1-2 short rests in there as well, so the problem is mostly casters who cannot recharge daily spells. Right now there is a fighter, cleric, rogue, and warlock. Only the cleric slows them down each fight be needing to save spells for the whole day. The warlock has the encounter spell recharge so falls into this some if there are a few encounters before being able to rest. The group tends to run out of spells or rooms in the dungeon before running out of healing 'surges' in a typical day, unless 1-2nd level.

Some of the pacing may be my fault. I tend to develop dungeons that can be played in one night or maybe two. These tend to have only 3-5 combats with 1-2 encounters with traps or puzzles or such. There is generally a place to take a short rest and larger places have someplace, maybe hidden, that PCs can take a long rest. I also like to have sections of the dungeons where reinforcements come if the PCs are not as careful. What started as 3 easy encounter becomes 1 hard encounter when the whole section of the dungeon arrives to aid the monsters.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Of course you are not compensating for encounter difficulty. Now, I know in theory that skews the numbers to the nova classes, but at the table it plays our pretty fairly IMO.
Actually, I address encounter difficulty in the second paragraph, talking about how it is an entirely different aspect. Most of us are familiar with it, I didn't delve into deep explanation.

Here's what I wrote:
There are two aspects to number of encounters per day. Of of them is tension and risk, and that can be balanced by making encounters more deadly. However, the other one is attrition of resources, and that one needs a number of actions - usually broken out into a good number of encounters - to balance out.
 

I can’t tell!
Sometime we hope for our long rest, and even we hope for our short rest, and sometime there is the big fight of the day.
Unpredictable for sure.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
I've been playing or running 5e pretty consistently since launch across multiple groups, stores, and states. One thing that seems pretty regular across all of those tables though, and that's the number of average combats per day. If I had to give an integer, I'd say that the average I've seen is only around 2 per day and the most I've probably ever seen is 4 fights in a day. In some campaigns, we regularly have one combat per day and that's it. The recommended number of encounters per day in the DMG seems completely bonkers, to me.
I've gotten a consistent six per day, but then I have heavily modified the short and long rest rules to make that more likely.

That said, my players are so good at dividing their resources out over encounters that it would be easier if they just had fewer uses to start with! Signs point to 6th ed having one rest type, but I wonder where they will land with feature uses per rest?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I've been playing or running 5e pretty consistently since launch across multiple groups, stores, and states. One thing that seems pretty regular across all of those tables though, and that's the number of average combats per day. If I had to give an integer, I'd say that the average I've seen is only around 2 per day and the most I've probably ever seen is 4 fights in a day. In some campaigns, we regularly have one combat per day and that's it. The recommended number of encounters per day in the DMG seems completely bonkers, to me.

I think that this is accurate, from what I've seen. Which leads to two general conclusions:

1. This greatly disadvantages classes and abilities that are short rest.

2. It makes the healing rules and general attrition rules (w/r/t hit point, encounter balance, and so on) unworkable.

For those reasons, I don't police encounters per day. Instead, I modify the short rest / long rest and healing rules.
 

Puddles

Explorer
My main reason for ignoring the encounter recommendations is for pacing of sessions. We play once every 2 weeks for 3-4 hours and a combat encounter usually takes at least an hour to play through. If we were to fight 6-8 encounters in a "day" it would take probably 2 months of real-world time to get through. I much prefer having 1-2 encounters so the story can move at a fairly regular pace.
 

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