D&D 5E So, I figured out why 5e's encounter building is broken(and how to fix it)


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FallenRX

Adventurer
Honestly, after experimenting a bit, you can basically just summarize the adjustment as changing the encounter modifier to 0.75 if the party outnumbers the monsters by 1 or 2.
0.5 if the party outnumbers them 3 or more.
Not as precise, but more simplified
 

4E and 5E are massively different. 4E was designed to have uniformity to a ridiculous extent - to the point where people commented that a wizard, fighter, rogue and cleric all felt very similar in play. 5E restored differences, and in doing so made it harder to balance.

I thought bounded accuracy and cantrips reduced vast differences between PC?

Edit: alternativily, I could have went, "they did make classes different via operating on long or short rest and there are dozens of complaints about that here."
 
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Staffan

Legend
For real.

1 level X monster is a match for 1 level X PC. Elites are a match for 2, solos 5. 4 minions are equal to 1.
Elites, solos, and minions are the things from 4e I miss the most in Pathfinder 2 (the second most are healing surges, and the Stamina variant kinda fixes that).

PF2 only measure creature power on one axis: level. A "solo" is just a higher-level creature. The devs have defended this choice, because they want PCs to be able to fight a level 3 ogre warrior at level 1 and go "Dang, that was tough" and then at level 5 have a fight with four of them that's the same overall difficulty but having each ogre go down like a chump. But I think this is unfortunate, because that means "bosses" hit like a truck, can hardly be damaged, and are near-impervious to any cool things the PCs want to do. I think there's room for monsters that are "wide" – having the same basic numbers as a normal monster, but with enough hp and action economy (either directly or indirectly, such as having AOEs) to pose the same threat as two or more normal monsters.

  1. Hit Points. 4e solos was standard monster x4 HP which was to much for many. Many complained 4e solos were a grind because of this + issue #4. 5e "solos" have significantly less HP. A true challenging solo in 4e was level +4-5 which also meant a solo monster had a bit more HP than the whole party. In 5e a true solo is a legendary monster with a CR equal to lvl +8-10 and will have HP typically a but less, some times a lot less, then the whole party.
  2. Damage. 4e solos didn't do enough damage (particularly at high levels). The had 4x the HP of a standard monster, by only 2x the actions (typically) and used the same damage by level tables as the standard monsters. So they didn't necessarily do any more damage than a standard monster. 5e improved on this somewhat by pushing solos further out from the PC level (and this higher up the damage tables), but didn't really tackle this problem, particularly at high levels.
I'm thinking these are related in 4e, and maybe should be inverted.

Let's take a very simplified combat against four monsters. Each monster deals X damage per round, and the party when focus-firing can take out one monster each round. So the monsters will deal a total of 10X damage (4X in round 1, 3X in round 2, 2X in round 3, and X in round 4 – somewhat depending on initiative, but we're keeping it simple here).

Now replace the four monsters with a single monster with four times the hit points, so it takes four rounds for the party to beat it down. If the monster also deals 4X damage per round, that means it will deal a total of 16X damage. That's a lot more than 10X, so quadrupling both hp and damage doesn't work. A more appropriate damage level would be 2.5X, which would deal the same overall damage. But we could also have 3X damage per round and 3.33 times the hp, or 4X damage per round and 2.5 times the hp.

Of course, the math isn't as simple as that in reality. The solo is generally less susceptible to AOE magic, but more susceptible to debuffs. But it at least illustrates the point.
 

Staffan

Legend
Solos have never really worked in my experience. In my home game, I threw Lollth, a CR 35 solo brute, at a group of 6 level 21 PCs. The spider queen never stood a chance. So they may have worked for you, in my experience they did not.
That's why they call her LOLth.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
4E and 5E are massively different. 4E was designed to have uniformity to a ridiculous extent - to the point where people commented that a wizard, fighter, rogue and cleric all felt very similar in play. 5E restored differences, and in doing so made it harder to balance.
Naw: 5e's daily damage budget is surprisingly uniform.

5e is balanced on the adventuring day, not the encounter.
 


James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
There were a few solos created later in 4e that did some ridiculous things to overcome action economy (immunity to conditions to make controllers worthless, and multiple off turn actions), but the reality is, I'm with Oofta here. Solo monsters couldn't be used as actual solos. They needed minions at the least, if not support monsters. The very last Solo I ever used was a cakewalk- the Cleric dropped a power on it that made it dazed and vulnerable all for 1 turn, the Fighter hit it with a mark and a utility power that gave it a grand total of -7 to hit anyone other than them, while turtling their defenses, the Barbarian used a 7 [W] daily and the Ranger used an action point to use a daily that hits 3 times, an encounter that hits 2 times, and a bonus action attack to hit one additional time- they got a crit in there somewhere, and they had bracers that added damage if they hit at least twice, plus their hunter's mark.

Something like that. The critter was down to like 25% hit points before it's next turn, and the daze prevented it from using it's off-turn attacks. This isn't really anything new, mind. D&D has always had a problem with this, in my experience. I remember reading The Crystal Shard, with three melee guys going after an ancient white dragon and nodding to myself "yeah, as long as they have the hit points to handle the breath weapon, that's about how it would go", after watching several dragons get massacred.

The only real way for a solo to stand up to a party of adventures is with prep time and devious tricks that aren't usually covered by it's stat block, like the dragon in Dragon Mountain that fools the party with a polymorphed kobold disguised as a red dragon (while it hides, polymorphed into a small bird) to let the party waste their first round only to get ambushed from behind, lol.

Or the dragon in Forge of Fury, which happily uses the underground lake to it's advantage to make it difficult for the party to engage it in melee.

I was using "lair actions" years before 5e, like having a white dragon create it's lair with an icy floor over a frozen lake, uneven slippery terrain, weak points it could break with it's tail, as well as stalactites and stalagmites it could shatter to deal some AoE damage (ice shrapnel), and of course, it's escape route, swimming away to it's secondary lair, an underwater cave, where it keeps it's treasure.

Too many DM's I've seen just grab some monsters and think that will make for a challenging encounter; you need to get inside the monster's head, and force the party to engage it on it's turf or what usually happens is one or two characters take a ton of damage, and then the thing is fuming on hit points before it's third turn.

There are exceptions- monsters that can take players out of the combat with some wacky special ability, but those tend to be pretty miserable for the player who gets basically told "no, you're not allowed to play in this encounter", so I find them hard to use.
 

jgsugden

Legend
People who never played it, sure.
I played it a lot. So many of the abilities were "damage appropriate for the level of ability plus a minor benefit like push, pull, prone, etc..." That edition was a good game system - but it wasn't the same feel as other editions of D&D, and it was not the best design for a fantasy setting. YMMV - but you'd be wrong.
I thought bounded accuracy and cantrips reduced vast differences between PC?
They're meant to provide more balance than we saw in 3E, but they are far less restrictive than the cookie cutter construction of classes in 4E.
Edit: alternativily, I could have went, "they did make classes different via operating on long or short rest and there are dozens of complaints about that here."
Wow. Dozens of complaints for a game with millions of players.

I think there are far more than dozens that 'complain' about it, but often what they don't like is feeling the limitations that 5E puts on PCs. They don't like that a warlock only gets 2 spell slots per SR, or that they get nothing on a SR and the rest of the party is happy to take a lot of SRs because their table honors the rule that prevents multiple LRs within 24 hours. Most of those complaining players tend to be players wih a PC that feels a restriction that is preevtning them from being overpowered, and their objection is to the limitation that keeps PC power levels in check.
 

dave2008

Legend
Elites, solos, and minions are the things from 4e I miss the most in Pathfinder 2 (the second most are healing surges, and the Stamina variant kinda fixes that).

PF2 only measure creature power on one axis: level. A "solo" is just a higher-level creature. The devs have defended this choice, because they want PCs to be able to fight a level 3 ogre warrior at level 1 and go "Dang, that was tough" and then at level 5 have a fight with four of them that's the same overall difficulty but having each ogre go down like a chump. But I think this is unfortunate, because that means "bosses" hit like a truck, can hardly be damaged, and are near-impervious to any cool things the PCs want to do. I think there's room for monsters that are "wide" – having the same basic numbers as a normal monster, but with enough hp and action economy (either directly or indirectly, such as having AOEs) to pose the same threat as two or more normal monsters.
Absolutely! When PF2 came out I immediately started think about adding "elite" and "solo" monsters. I haven't looked at it in a long time, but I can't remember a reason why it would work.
 
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