D&D 5E It's Official! Most of my encounters are "Deadly" (now updated with info through the end of 2022!)

Let me ask you this: Is this supposed to modify how much XP the PCs get? Because if not, it seems like a big waste of time. Currently, I just add up the XP values of all monsters defeated/overcome and divide it among all the PCs in the party.
No, it's just to gauge difficulty. The PCs only earn what the monsters are worth, not the adjusted value,

And I partly agree it's a waste of time. Encounters come and go. You know what your players can (and cant) handle.

Of far more importance to 5E is the 'adventuring day XP table' and getting your encounters to rests ratio right. I kind of wish this wasnt the case (it's good in some ways, but a chore and limiting in others). I would have much preferred a system where encounters were able to be balanced in isolation, and not in the context of the adventuring day.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Of far more importance to 5E is the 'adventuring day XP table' and getting your encounters to rests ratio right. I kind of wish this wasnt the case (it's good in some ways, but a chore and limiting in others). I would have much preferred a system where encounters were able to be balanced in isolation, and not in the context of the adventuring day.

I never worry about that and it works fine - just follow up with the consequences of trying to rest too often and/or in dangerous areas and in my experience players moderate that stuff themselves. Same goes for not resting enough.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
REMINDER: This thread is not asking for advice. This game is going great. I am just sharing data I've collected out of curiosity and used a site to figure out encounter difficulty after the fact.

Another update, but it isn't much. . . The last few sessions have been light on combat (3 combat encounters broken across two sessions). We have started the next adventure, but won't include any of the data from that until it is over, but it is interesting that the first HUGE battle was during twilight and because of time pressure the PCs must keep going without a long rest, settling for a short rest before continuing and knowing they will likely be up all night and into the next day to stop the encroaching threat.

Anyway, that is what is coming up - what just passed was a couple of encounters connected to the PCs driving out the evil forces present in the hunting lodge they bought and are refurbishing to be their HQ, while befriending the Booka who also live there and were testing them to see if they could get rid of the bad stuff and be good hosts for them (so yeah, the party now has tiny faerie guardians that look over their home).

Encounter #Monsters# of (N)PCs/LevelCRsDifficulty
56Shadows (3)4/61/2Trivial
57Cloaker4/68Hard
58Stirges (6)4/61/8Trivial

Encounter #56 was easy, but not quite trivial - in part because the attack happened while the PCS were finishing dinner and the shadows flew down into their lodge through the chimney and targeted the weakest people present (their servants). The cloaker fight was helped by closed quarters, though one member of the party and one non-combatant NPC dropped to the dying condition. The stirges (or mosquito-bats as locals call them) were harder than you'd think - not hard to kill once you hit them, but annoying and a danger after the Cloaker fight.

The next encounter (which I will share in my next bit of data) involved 4 PC vs. 18 opponents (12 goblins, 4 ogres, and 2 trolls) and included the line from a player, "This is where we all die."
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I have also updated the total number of different difficult level encounters so far in the campaign. The rate of "deadly" encounters has dropped some, but the number of so-called "Trivial" encounters has increased the most. Easy and Hard also increased slightly, but there have been no "Medium" encounters in the last 19 encounters since the last time I totaled these up.

Total # EncountersTrivialEasyMediumHardDeadly
571087923
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Here is the data from our most recent adventure "The Wayward Wood" adapted from Dungeon #32 (Nov/Dec 1991)

Encounter #Monsters# of (N)PCs/LevelCRsDifficulty
59​
Ogres (4), Goblins (12), Trolls (2)
4/62, 1/4, 5
Deadly​
60​
Goblins (25), Ogres (4), Trolls (2), Cave Troll, Eydral, Troll Chieftess4/6*1/4. 2, 5, 8
Deadly​
61​
Gibbering Troll, Basilisk (2)4/68, 3
Deadly​
62​
Crysilisk4/63
Trivial​

Encounter #59 was an ambush, and thus the one I mentioned above where a player said, "This is where we die." It took place in a moving forest, with huge trees slowly marching forward, creating lots of cover but also the danger of being knocked over or crushed for both sides.

Encounter #60 was kind of the opposite, with the PCs having a chance to prepare for multiple waves of assault at an old roadhouse. For this encounter I also handed out for NPC allies for the players to control, but they were all the equivalent of CR 1/2 or less and mostly the job was to keep them alive (with an XP bonus on offer for the whole group based on how many make it threw - of the four, one was ripped in half by a troll while trying to rescue the horses from the burning inn). This encounter could have been significantly harder, but deals the PCs made with some local firbolgs and treants and a rebel splinter of goblins meant that fewer foes arrived than could have without the diplomacy aspect (so four fewer ogres, 36 fewer goblins, two fewer trolls, and another nine goblins and their wargs)

Encounter #61 was on an ancient subterranean bridge guarded by what I call "A Gibbering Giant Troll" - imagine a dire troll with multiple limbs and heads and faces, gibbering to cause a confusion effect and when its limbs are chopped off they transform into (smaller) gibbering mouthers! (I'll post a stat block in my "Stat Block" thread in the next day or two). The basilisks occupied the piles of boulders washed up along the base of the bridge.

Encounter #62 is a "Crystal Basilisk" - basically the mama basilisk having moved on to its next stage, which turns people into crystal instead of stone. She guarded a treasure room. Not a tough fight, esp. after already having the experience of fighting a creature with a gaze attack.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Yesterday, my Ghosts of Saltmarsh+ game completed U3 - The Final Enemy and I have put together the stats for encounter difficulty for the adventure. Below see some notes.

Encounter #​
Monsters
# of (N)PCs/Level​
CRs​
Difficulty
63​
Clockwork Sphinx4/712Deadly
64​
Sahuagin (6), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (2), Sahuagin Champion4/7, 1/3, 4/21/2, 1, 3Easy
65​
Sahuagin (5), Sahuagin Coral Smasher, Sahuagin Priestess4/7, 1/3, 4/21/2, 1, 2Easy
66​
Sahuagin Champion (2), Sahuagin Priestess (2)4/7, 1/3, 2/23, 2Medium
67​
Sahaugin (8)4/7, 1/3, 2/21/2Easy
68​
Sahuagin Priestess, Sharktopus4/7, 1/3, 2/22, 9Hard
69​
Shell Sharks (7)4/7, 2/22Hard
70​
Sahaugin (8), Sahuagin Champion4/71/2, 3Medium
71​
Sahaugin (10), Sahuagin Champion (2), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (2)3/71/2, 3, 1Deadly
72​
Sahuagin Champion, Sahuagin (3)3/73, 1/2Easy
73​
Sahuagin (30), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (5), Sahuagin Champion (3), Sahaugin Blademaster4/71/2, 1, 3, 6Deadly

Encounter #63 was only a potential combat encounter. The PCs were given a choice of fighting the sphinx, giving it a living offering, or answering its riddle. They chose the third and got it right on the first try, so it delivered a message from an immortal clownish evil archmage instead of trying to kill them (this is a hook for a future adventure). This was a one-off 5 days before the rest of the encounters listed here.

The party took a short rest between encounters 65 and 66. Also at this point, two of the party's lizardfolk allies left to escort rescued prisoners out of the sahuagin fortress.

The party's sea elf ally was swallowed whole and killed by the sharktopus in encounter #68.
The remaining 2 lizardfolk allies were killed in the fight against the shell sharks.

And between Encounters 70 and 71 three days of planning a new assault took place.

You might also notice that starting with Encounter 71, there were only three 7th level PCs - that was b/c a player missed the session so we decided that the druid had been celebrating the earlier victory a little too hard and was hungover. He was wildshaped as a rat, sleeping it off in the gnome's hood. Once the player returned the next session, he had "recovered" enough to re-join the fight.

I have updated the total spread below:

Total # EncountersTrivialEasyMediumHardDeadly
73​
11​
12​
11​
10​
29​
 
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Clint_L

Legend
I use the DnDBeyond Encounter Builder, and I cannot emphasize how much I love it. It makes building and running encounters so much faster! And it also shows the supposed difficulty rating for each encounter. Most of mine are deadly, but most of my games only have 1-2 encounters at most. On the rare occasion when we are doing more of a dungeon crawl, I tone them down a bit.
 

Yesterday, my Ghosts of Saltmarsh+ game completed U3 - The Final Enemy and I have put together the stats for encounter difficulty for the adventure. Below see some notes.

Encounter #​
Monsters
# of (N)PCs/Level​
CRs​
Difficulty
63​
Clockwork Sphinx4/712Deadly
64​
Sahuagin (6), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (2), Sahuagin Champion4/7, 1/3, 4/21/2, 1, 3Easy
65​
Sahuagin (5), Sahuagin Coral Smasher, Sahuagin Priestess4/7, 1/3, 4/21/2, 1, 2Easy
66​
Sahuagin Champion (2), Sahuagin Priestess (2)4/7, 1/3, 2/23, 2Medium
67​
Sahaugin (8)4/7, 1/3, 2/21/2Easy
68​
Sahuagin Priestess, Sharktopus4/7, 1/3, 2/22, 9Hard
69​
Shell Sharks (7)4/7, 2/22Hard
70​
Sahaugin (8), Sahuagin Champion4/71/2, 3Medium
71​
Sahaugin (10), Sahuagin Champion (2), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (2)3/71/2, 3, 1Deadly
72​
Sahagian Champion, Sahuagin (3)3/73, 1/2Easy
73​
Sahuagin (30), Sahuagin Coral Smasher (5), Sahuagin Champion (3), Sahaugin Blademaster4/71/2, 1, 3, 6Deadly

Encounter #63 was only a potential combat encounter. The PCs were given a choice of fighting the sphinx, giving it a living offering, or answering its riddle. They chose the third and got it right on the first try, so it delivered a message from an immortal clownish evil archmage instead of trying to kill them (this is a hook for a future adventure). This was a one-off 5 days before the rest of the encounters listed here.

The party took a short rest between encounters 65 and 66. Also at this point, two of the party's lizardfolk allies left to escort rescued prisoners out of the sahuagin fortress.

The party's sea elf ally was swallowed whole and killed by the sharktopus in encounter #68.
The remaining 2 lizardfolk allies were killed in the fight against the shell sharks.

And between Encounters 70 and 71 three days of planning a new assault took place.

You might also notice that starting with Encounter 71, there were only three 7th level PCs - that was b/c a player missed the session so we decided that the druid had been celebrating the earlier victory a little too hard and was hungover. He was wildshaped as a rat, sleeping it off in the gnome's hood. Once the player returned the next session, he had "recovered" enough to re-join the fight.

I have updated the total spread below:

Total # EncountersTrivialEasyMediumHardDeadly
731112111029

You're applying the XP multiplier for all creatures present even if they don't significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter (Namely the Sahaugan which are CR 1/2).

They should just be adding a flat 100 XP per creature, and otherwise not be counted towards difficulty (I tend to count a group of low CR mooks as a single creature at the multiplication step, so a CR 5 'heavy' and 6 x CR 1/2 Mooks is 2 creatures or x1.5 multiplier)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
You're applying the XP multiplier for all creatures present even if they don't significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter (Namely the Sahaugan which are CR 1/2).

They should just be adding a flat 100 XP per creature, and otherwise not be counted towards difficulty (I tend to count a group of low CR mooks as a single creature at the multiplication step, so a CR 5 'heavy' and 6 x CR 1/2 Mooks is 2 creatures or x1.5 multiplier)

1. I don't know what that means, but. .
2. Saying "if they don't significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter" is absurd. Of course they do. At least they did they way I run these encounters. 🤷‍♂️
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I use the DnDBeyond Encounter Builder, and I cannot emphasize how much I love it. It makes building and running encounters so much faster! And it also shows the supposed difficulty rating for each encounter. Most of mine are deadly, but most of my games only have 1-2 encounters at most. On the rare occasion when we are doing more of a dungeon crawl, I tone them down a bit.

As I explained in my original post, I only figure these out after the fact out of curiosity. I am fine with my encounters and I build them out of just makes sense for the scenario.
 

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