5E My PC's and the Stirge Scourge

Playing Lost Mines of Phandelver last night with one of my D&D groups, and they got a random encounter of stirge. After playing this encounter, they have declared that stirges must be one of the strongest creatures in the game and are more fearful of them than any other creature to date.

For clarity, the encounter is 1d8+2 stirge, and they rolled an 8. This also happened during the night, with 2 characters on watch (one being the wizard). I have the watch schedule posted and have been ruling night encounters as a surprise round, with anyone on watch able to act in the surprise round. All players not on watch wake up on their turn (and stand up if they wish), but cannot take an action.

The first big problem I noticed is that a stirge does quite a bit of damage for a little guy. Also, providing that they hit once, don't need to hit again to do the same damage. The stirge won initiative and immediately attached themselves to the Wizard and Cleric that were awake. The stat block doesn't say how many stirges can be attached, so I ruled that 2 was plenty and didn't let the others attack a target with 2 stirges sucking blood. Even with this provision both the fighter and the wizard were unconscious in two rounds. I also had the stirges release their victims once they were unconscious rather than "dead". After everyone was awake they fought them off, but took quite a bit of damage in the process. The question came up of "do I have to pull the stirge off me before I attack it?" and we did some fuzzy ruling on that as well.

Now the running joke of the group is whether something is "stronger or weaker than a mosquito attack". A goblin does 1d6+2, and a stirge does 1d4+3. The goblin does more damage technically, but the stirge has a much higher average. The most depressing thing was that this encounter that resulted in a 40% party wipe was only worth 250xp. I think everyone at the table was glaring at me. It didn't help that this exact same encounter repeated itself 3 nights later, 10 stirges et al.

So I guess my questions to the community are: did I do something wrong? Is this just a fluke encounter which has a crazy difficulty curve under the perfect storm? Did I misinterpret some of the rules? Can a player have infinite stirges stuck to them? Any suggestions or thoughts are appreciated, even if its a "well, a smarter DM would have read this passage...." :p
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
The XP multiplier (IIRC) is only for encounter building to judge difficulty. The multiplier doesn't get awarded as XP.
Ah, alright then.

So, for the purpose of judging difficulty, how dangerous was the encounter? Should a party of that level have been able to handle it with no problem?

I mean, as a random encounter, they should just be thankful that it wasn't a dragon or something. It sounds like a bunch of weak enemies can be a threat to anyone, unless the wizard sees them while they're in a Fireball formation.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
I think the multiplier is only for figuring out the difficulty of the encounter, not officially for the value of the encounter. But, I only use xp as a rough guide for leveling up anyway.

Stirges are very pesky, and quite dangerous in the right situation - even in other editions. The automatic damage if feeding is what makes them so deadly.

Stirges are one of the reasons why wizards have Burning Hands. I'd rather waste a spell slot than let those buggers attach themselves to the party.

I would think that up to 8 or more could actually attack a medium sized creature if they could surround him. Remember that they can fly so they fill a 3 dimensional space not just the floor spaces. The MM entry does say that they will detach themselves after draining 10 hp.

Also, a PC can use its action to detach one of the little buggers. I let my PCs pull them off, throw them to the floor and try to squish them with a DC 14 Dex Check (medium and I use their AC of 14 as the target number just for the heck of it). It is more satisfying than just pulling them off. I also let other PCs attack them when they are attached to others without any penalty.

I remember running a playtest game and the rogue who had snuck ahead got surrounded by a bunch of stirge. After two bit and attached themselves to him, he ran back to the group Cleric screaming in panic.

(got ninja'd on the multiplier question)
 

Cernor

Visitor
Stirges are one of the reasons why wizards have Burning Hands. I'd rather waste a spell slot than let those buggers attach themselves to the party.
And Thunderwave! As long as you don't mind everything within 300 feet coming to eat you...
 

guachi

Explorer
The old B series modules are full of stirges. I swear every module has the little buggers in them. The Basic set had a limited number of monsters so you tended to see the same monsters over and over. Stirges are everywhere and they had bad treasure, too.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
It didn't help that this exact same encounter repeated itself 3 nights later, 10 stirges et al.
I wouldn' t have allowed stirges again so soon. Repetitive encounters can be quite boring.

Other than that, it's just players learning that certain monsters can be tough to overcome, especially with a surprise round.
 
Not to get all nitpicky, especially over a tangential point, but it's gonna drive me nuts if I don't ask. ;) Don't 1d6+2 and 1d4+3 have the exact same average damage (5.5)?
Heh, fair enough. I didn't actually do the math. The Goblin damage is more variable, I suppose is probably what I really meant.
 

Riley37

Visitor
I remember a flock of stirges wiping out a low-level party in 1E or 2E. One of the survivors contracted a lethal disease.
 

Lidgar

Adventurer
I have to agree with your players. We had a similar experience in LMoP and with similar results. The dragon was a breeze compared to those bloodsuckers.

I have hated those buggers ever since the room on the first level of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Only finding the Ring of Shooting Stars with a very lucky search roll made up for the carnage they caused.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Ah, alright then.

So, for the purpose of judging difficulty, how dangerous was the encounter? Should a party of that level have been able to handle it with no problem?

I mean, as a random encounter, they should just be thankful that it wasn't a dragon or something. It sounds like a bunch of weak enemies can be a threat to anyone, unless the wizard sees them while they're in a Fireball formation.
I don't know how many PCs were in the OP's party or what level they were, but for the standard 4 person party: at level 1 is very deadly, level 2 is hard, level 3 is Medium, and level 4 is Easy. Now, since there was a surprise round, that shifts the difficulty level up 1. So very, very deadly for the level 1 party, deadly for level 2, hard for level 3, and medium for level 4.


And for the [MENTION=73919]Guyanthalas[/MENTION]: Encounters easier or harder than a mosquito attack? :) Awesome. Bummer for your players though. Feces occur.
 
I don't know how many PCs were in the OP's party or what level they were, but for the standard 4 person party: at level 1 is very deadly, level 2 is hard, level 3 is Medium, and level 4 is Easy. Now, since there was a surprise round, that shifts the difficulty level up 1. So very, very deadly for the level 1 party, deadly for level 2, hard for level 3, and medium for level 4.
Well, the math is a little weird. 10 creatures at CR 1/4 (25xp) comes out to 250xp. Since there are 10 of them we use a 2.5 multiplier on top of it, for a total of 625xp budget.
At level 1, this would be a deadly encounter without the surprise round.
Level 2, medium encounter.. add in the surprise round and we can say hard.
Level 3 is an easy encounter. (This is the level the party was at the time of the encounter).

Not that I disagree with the level of deadliness. I honestly like the party shaking in their boots from time to time. But this "easy/medium" encounter would have probably killed two of them if I had not instituted the "only two stirges per person" rule. I did miss the part about them flying away after sucking up 10 HP, but that's still 100 HP drained at full steam. That's pretty darn close to a TPK!

I like the Dex Check that [MENTION=18333]Neechen[/MENTION] mentioned, but I'd probably modify it some. <=5 and Stirge stays on, <13 stirge falls off, no damage, >=13 kill stirge. I just like there to be a bit of a risk. ;)
 

the Jester

Legend
The most depressing thing was that this encounter that resulted in a 40% party wipe was only worth 250xp.
Wait, I thought nobody died? If a couple of pcs fall unconscious, that is NOT a 40% party wipe. That's two pcs unconscious. If they actually died, then yes, it's a 40% party wipe- but the difference is absolutely not insignificant. Not to split hairs or anything, but yeah.

So I guess my questions to the community are: did I do something wrong? Is this just a fluke encounter which has a crazy difficulty curve under the perfect storm? Did I misinterpret some of the rules? Can a player have infinite stirges stuck to them? Any suggestions or thoughts are appreciated, even if its a "well, a smarter DM would have read this passage...." :p
I don't think you did anything wrong (although I think a maximum of two stirges per person is an awful generous ruling, I believe Basic and 1e specified that stirges generally spread out amongst available targets fairly evenly, and I still keep to either that rule of thumb or "random targeting on!" methods of stirge allocation).

Stirges are infamous and always have been. The little bloodsuckers have killed many a pc in my game over the years.

Not to get all nitpicky, especially over a tangential point, but it's gonna drive me nuts if I don't ask. ;) Don't 1d6+2 and 1d4+3 have the exact same average damage (5.5)?
Yes it is.
 
Wait, I thought nobody died? If a couple of pcs fall unconscious, that is NOT a 40% party wipe. That's two pcs unconscious. If they actually died, then yes, it's a 40% party wipe- but the difference is absolutely not insignificant. Not to split hairs or anything, but yeah.
If it were not for the 2 stirge per person rule, they would have been dead. 5 damage to latch on, then drain 10 per stirge... the 20 hp wizard would go down really fast. I agree that it was a generous ruling, but I'm not about to kill a group of PC's that fast over a fluke. But agree to your point, that was more hyperbole than fact with how I played it... but I felt I had license with what could have happened.

The reason the two fell (and damage was not spread out) was that the party was sleeping in a large tent, with two people standing outside to guard. There was some debate about whether a stirge could open a tent flap... but I just had them delay waiting for the "prey" to come to them. Again, this was a generous ruling... but I'm siding with keeping my party alive at least until they hit level 5.

I know there is plenty of debate on PC's and "tough lessons", but I'm still a bit of a softy towards newbies. Give them another D&D adventure after this one, and they are fair game. ;)
 

CapnZapp

Hero
As soon as my Sorcerer heard something up ahead, before we could see anything, he cast Sleep.

Instant win, with eight Stirges dropping to the floor.

Your Stirge-Fu is weak ;)
 
I am in favour of this development, for obvious reasons.
After the session, my girlfriend* and I decided to look up stirges online to see if there was something we had missed. I'm going to misquote here but I think I heard something from her like: "There is a whole BLOG about how much stirge's suck! ...oh. its just the title. Well, they still suck."


*Hopefully this resolves any debate about why I've chosen not to kill the party on a whim... yet. ;)
 

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