D&D 5E How much an 11th level party can take in a day?

Plutancatty

Explorer
I'm preparing a oneshot for a group of 5 fairly experienced players at level 11. I was just wondering what other DMs would think of the day they're about to head into (ideally).

All players have 2 rare magic items at their disposal, plus the Aberrant Dragonmark feat, which I've souped up for them: they each get an additional 1st level spell Prof Bonus (so 4) times per long rest, plus a 2nd or 3rd level spell once per long rest tied to the powers they took from the Mark: for example, I have a Player who took Fire Bolt and Burning hands, so in addition they get Chromatic Orb (fire only) and Scorching Ray. Just to point out that this party is pretty souped up.

Mostly what I'm looking for is advice on where to put the possibilty of a rest, Short or Long, and if there's some things that should be dialed down in generalno matter the rests.

Encounter 1
-1 Gladiator, 5 Veterans, all with Blindsight 10ft, immunity to poison gases, and vulnerability to thunder damage, +1 Conjurer Wizard. These guys storm in to the room the party is in after chucking in tear gas (Stinking Cloud, save DC 15) canisters. I expect a decent fight out of this.

Encounter 2
-They need to steal an object from an office in a building guarded by:
4 Clockwerk Oaken Bolters, 3 Clockwerk Stone Defenders, plus another one on the top floor and a few thugs. They can stealth their past potentially but even if they do fight to the death they should come out on top here.

Encounter 3
-3 Champions, just straight up. Might give one a glaive and Polearm Master + Sentinel.

Encounter 4
-One of either of these two:
A Beholder, in its lair, supported by 5 Dolgaunts, 20 Dolgrims, some Chokers, Gibbering Mouthers, and Nothics. (Minions can be broken up into a few separate encounters, but the boss fight will have at least a hanful of melee mooks)
-Eidolon + Statue and a Living Cloudkill in a room that has a Dex 16 tp halve 4d10 trap at the end, in the direction a PC would flee if scared by the eidolon. Followed by a room covered in Circles of Death that activate at initiative 20, followed by a Harm that targets a single player in range at initiative 10, in a room with 10 Specters and a Cadaver Collector.

Final Encounter
-Warlord, 5 Gladiators, 1 Evoker, 1 Abjurer, 1 Diviner. This encounter has at most a Short Rest between it and the last one, or it would be too easy (especially if they reach Encounter 4 at full strength).

I might be nuts, but I think they can take it. However, the max level I've played up to this point is level 10 (Curse of Strahd), so I'm not sure what players at higher levels can take on. I was also planning on having them level up roughly after encounter 3 and again after encounter 4 (any new features and hit points they gain are at full capacity, even in the case they get no rest while leveling up) - weird, and I wouldn't do it normally, but for a oneshot it'll do.

Anyway, I don't even know if these explanations are any good, but I'm hungry so I'll clarify any issues later if needed.
 

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aco175

Legend
11th level PCs can do a lot more than you think. They now unlock a 3rd attack and 3dwhatever cantrips, not to mention 5th level spells. They are on the level where they have powers getting beyond what one DM can think of to make things work right. Do not worry about balance that much.

Your encounters seem about right. I like encounter 1 with using a special tactic like the gas and if the PCs overcome it, then good for them. They may run to the next room or such or have gust of wind spell.

Encounter 2 could be divided in waves depending on how the PCs stealth. 8-10 bad guys start to become harder for the PCs. Allow the PCs to lock the constructs in rooms to take them out of the fight or slow them down for a round or two. This lets some of the players shine if they have good skills.

Encounter 3 likely needs to be tougher if you have only 3 bad guys. I would think about putting a large group of mooks here to let casters and fighters shine some. Like in the movies where bad guys are just getting smashed and tossed around. The one or two leaders of the group try to direct them, maybe with a cool power that lets them move for free or something.

Put a short rest here. Could be some roleplay with a former captive of the bad guys or even a secret shrine that if they make an offering you can give an extra 1d10hp back.

I like encounter 4 being a trap and construct. This allows for some wiggle room in making the encounter easier if they overcome things or harder if they fail to see things first. You can also add some tension with some skill checks to jump over pits or swing on ropes like Indiana Jones or something. Giant stones dropping to block off tunnels with waterfalls opening up to flood the room. Less fighting outright and more keep it moving.

5 feels a bit easy. The PCs will still have power left in the tank for the BBEG, especially if they know the game is a one-shot. The final encounter is where you should likely lose a PC or two. Have something cool and strange happen partway through the fight. Maybe a bad guy caster pulls out a scroll and any dead gladiator rises as an undead gladiator or a demon or something. This adds a second wave to the fight when the players already have made plans. Maybe a flying monster to allow getting to back row PCs. Teleporting circles in the room that allow people to move around. You can make this tied to a ring or something the bad guys wear or allow the PCs to figure it out and use them as well. It is a better reward to let the players figure it out though.

Overall it sounds fine and just remember it is a one-shot so go bonkers.
 

Top tip: Keep some encounters in reserve, and see how it goes. Level 11 starts to become very unpredictable.

You can have a few rooms where you have the choice between a nasty trap (may or may not hurt 1 PC) or an encounter (will drain all PCs). Or if you draw the map by hand, you can skip entire rooms, or add them when you need them.
 

jgsugden

Legend
My first concern is that you said one shot. If you mean one session, that is about 8 or 9 hours of D&D assuming you need to tie the combats together with some RP. If the players do not know their PCs, it could be slower. Make sure you can fit everything in ...

Every combat you've set up there is Deadly by DMG standards for five 11th level PCs. Your 4th encounter is potentially ridiculously off the charts deadly (either version), as is the 5th (with an adjusted XP at over 400% of the deadly threshold).

You're talking about players that are unfamiliar with their PCs, in a one shot setting where they're unfamiliar with the htreats and their allies as well.

If I'm running an all day (or two 4 to 5 hour) session, I want to aim to have no LR, and one SR in the middle. I want to have about 5 encounters, but only one or two would be deadly, and the others would primarily be challenges because of what the PCs have to achieve during them rather than whether the PCs can just survive (as a survival slugfest gets boring when every battle is just there to be survived). 11th level PCs need to feel like heroes - not thugs you hired to steal stuff. For that difference to be there, they need to feel competent and capable of beating routine bad guys like a Super Hero in comics does.
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
My first concern is that you said one shot. If you mean one session, that is about 8 or 9 hours of D&D assuming you need to tie the combats together with some RP. If the players do not know their PCs, it could be slower. Make sure you can fit everything in ...

Every combat you've set up there is Deadly by DMG standards for five 11th level PCs. Your 4th encounter is potentially ridiculously off the charts deadly (either version), as is the 5th (with an adjusted XP at over 400% of the deadly threshold).

You're talking about players that are unfamiliar with their PCs, in a one shot setting where they're unfamiliar with the htreats and their allies as well.

If I'm running an all day (or two 4 to 5 hour) session, I want to aim to have no LR, and one SR in the middle. I want to have about 5 encounters, but only one or two would be deadly, and the others would primarily be challenges because of what the PCs have to achieve during them rather than whether the PCs can just survive (as a survival slugfest gets boring when every battle is just there to be survived). 11th level PCs need to feel like heroes - not thugs you hired to steal stuff. For that difference to be there, they need to feel competent and capable of beating routine bad guys like a Super Hero in comics does.
Good, points based on false assumptions caused by a lack of explanation on my part. I'm probably going to run these encounters over at least two, maybe 3 or 4 sessions, so I'm not overly worried about burnout or time.

Second, the players are playing as outlaws here, and all the humanoid encounters they have are guards and soldiers hunting them down as they try to reach their mcguffin, so I'm fine with having them feel run down and beaten up.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm preparing a oneshot for a group of 5 fairly experienced players at level 11. I was just wondering what other DMs would think of the day they're about to head into (ideally).
Your daily (adjusted) XP budget is around 52,500. That's a decent soft target IME, so a little over or a little under is fine.

Encounter 1 = 19,000 adj XP (or 7,600 flat XP if party has strong area effect & crowd control), also consider if there's a "short circuit" players can use such as taking gas masks off the NPCs and wearing the gas masks for themselves, or whether they have gust of wind or similar magic to move the stinking cloud effect – those would all merit using the flat XP or downgrading the XP value of the encounter somewhat.

Encounter 2 = 26,250 adj XP (or 10,500 flat XP), I wouldn't really count the thugs (unless there are LOTS) as they're more for background flavor and can be easily taken out, if the PCs have shatter or construct targeting magic, or some kind of "short circuit" like a switch or overloading them with electricity, that would be worth downgrading the XP value of the encounter.

Encounter 3 = 30,000 adj XP (or 15,000 flat XP), a rough encounter in melee, but if the PCs have the option (or create the option) to make this primarily a ranged attack, definitely worth downgrading the XP value of the encounter significantly, since champions are weaker at range. Another way to tip odds in PCs' favor is if they can deal a bunch of frontloaded damage / alpha strike champions to get their HP below half, thus negating the extra 2d6 champions deal when >half HP.

Encounter 4 (eidolon option) = I'm not familiar with dolgaunts/dolgrims/living cloudkills, not in Kobold Fight Club, so can't easily comment on this one. I've had lots of fun running an eidolon + statues against 5th level PCs (it was a FLEE scenario that felt straight out of Indiana Jones). Sounds really nasty pairing with cloudkill and circle of death.

Encounter 5 = 78,250 adj XP (or 31,300 flat XP) This one looks a bit tedious to me. You have lots of different types of enemies, including lots of different spellcasters you need to keep track of, hitting the PCs at the end of the adventure when they're most taxed for resources, and running several monsters (gladiators) they previously fought). It looks like a recipe for grind to me, and I would strongly encourage revising it to focus on what's unique about the scene / setup / motives / NPCs.

Overall, I think that's my biggest comment – each encounter should have an implied story that leaps off your written description. That's always where I begin my encounter design - with the seed idea. Some of these - at least as you've written them here - feel too flat.

Obviously, you're turning the dial past anything I've done at 11th level (EDIT: I've done one thing that came close, but there was lots of a sneaking & a "short-circuit" goal), and certainly well beyond what the DMG suggests for the Adventuring Day XP Budget. When I go hard like this, I try to include some kind of a trick to the encounter that, if players figure it out, makes the encounter significantly easier / tips it in their favor. You've got that in some of the encounters, I think, but I'd encourage more of that kind of thinking when you're going all out like this.
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
Your daily (adjusted) XP budget is around 52,500. That's a decent soft target IME, so a little over or a little under is fine.

Encounter 1 = 19,000 adj XP (or 7,600 flat XP if party has strong area effect & crowd control), also consider if there's a "short circuit" players can use such as taking gas masks off the NPCs and wearing the gas masks for themselves, or whether they have gust of wind or similar magic to move the stinking cloud effect – those would all merit using the flat XP or downgrading the XP value of the encounter somewhat.

Encounter 2 = 26,250 adj XP (or 10,500 flat XP), I wouldn't really count the thugs (unless there are LOTS) as they're more for background flavor and can be easily taken out, if the PCs have shatter or construct targeting magic, or some kind of "short circuit" like a switch or overloading them with electricity, that would be worth downgrading the XP value of the encounter.

Encounter 3 = 30,000 adj XP (or 15,000 flat XP), a rough encounter in melee, but if the PCs have the option (or create the option) to make this primarily a ranged attack, definitely worth downgrading the XP value of the encounter significantly, since champions are weaker at range. Another way to tip odds in PCs' favor is if they can deal a bunch of frontloaded damage / alpha strike champions to get their HP below half, thus negating the extra 2d6 champions deal when >half HP.

Encounter 4 (eidolon option) = I'm not familiar with dolgaunts/dolgrims/living cloudkills, not in Kobold Fight Club, so can't easily comment on this one. I've had lots of fun running an eidolon + statues against 5th level PCs (it was a FLEE scenario that felt straight out of Indiana Jones). Sounds really nasty pairing with cloudkill and circle of death.

Encounter 5 = 78,250 adj XP (or 31,300 flat XP) This one looks a bit tedious to me. You have lots of different types of enemies, including lots of different spellcasters you need to keep track of, hitting the PCs at the end of the adventure when they're most taxed for resources, and running several monsters (gladiators) they previously fought). It looks like a recipe for grind to me, and I would strongly encourage revising it to focus on what's unique about the scene / setup / motives / NPCs.

Overall, I think that's my biggest comment – each encounter should have an implied story that leaps off your written description. That's always where I begin my encounter design - with the seed idea. Some of these - at least as you've written them here - feel too flat.

Obviously, you're turning the dial past anything I've done at 11th level (EDIT: I've done one thing that came close, but there was lots of a sneaking & a "short-circuit" goal), and certainly well beyond what the DMG suggests for the Adventuring Day XP Budget. When I go hard like this, I try to include some kind of a trick to the encounter that, if players figure it out, makes the encounter significantly easier / tips it in their favor. You've got that in some of the encounters, I think, but I'd encourage more of that kind of thinking when you're going all out like this.

I'll adress the final encounter since it's what seems to be the hottest topic here and I'm on my phone:
1) The reason they get similar enemies to the first encounter, story wise, is that the kill squad that was sent to whack them originally failed, so the same organization sends another, beefier one to chase them down, and reaches them as they approach their final goal. The three champions are also in this same vein, as I want to give them a sense of urgency to rush to the "safety" of the dungeon their mcguffin is in: they know the guards are after then in numbers, and if they stay in town too long they'll get overrun. Meeting them again at the end just drives the point that they are the main antagonists and are out to get them, but they win themselves a modicum of freedom by taking out a big shot commander and his strongest retinue.
2) Their final goal is a machine that is used to superpower creatures with dragonmarks (which everyone in the party has - these allow them to cast a few low level spells extra times per day) if somebody channels the machine, depending on how much the party needs it, the plan was to allow them to upcast the spells their mark gives them (to 9th level even, since this is an ancient artifact once used to flatten cities) or to make them do things they usually couldn't, like have a single target spell target all enemies in range. I'll probably play that by ear depending on how banged up they are.
 

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