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

Staffan

Legend
Absolutely! When PF2 came out I immediately started think about adding "elite" and "solo" monsters. I have looked at it in a long time, but I can't remember a reason why it would work.
It certainly could work, it's just a matter of finding the right balance between defense, offense, and an action economy that encourages spreading the love. For example, an action that lets the monster Strike two different targets is better than an action that deals double normal damage.

One idea that came to me in the shower was something like Indomitable N: You count as N levels higher for the purposes of incapacitation effects, and get +N to all attempts to break ongoing effects (or reduce any flat check DC for the same purpose by N).

It would be interesting to see this in action because one of the issues I have with Incapacitation effects is that higher-level creatures essentially double-dip on their defenses against them: first by having saves that mean the chances of failure are pretty low (e.g. a level 7 caster probably has a save DC of 25, and a level 9 creature has +18 on their middle save) and even if they do fail that failure gets turned into a success, and a success into a critical success (so in the example the creature effectively fails on a natural 1, succeeds on 2-6, and crits on 7+). But if their defenses are lower, perhaps the incapacitation rules won't be so bad.
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
The fundamental issue is that they are guessing how threatening a monster is after designing it. If you want functional encounter building math you need to start with the math.
 

dave2008

Legend
The fundamental issue is that they are guessing how threatening a monster is after designing it. If you want functional encounter building math you need to start with the math.
I want functional encounter building, not necessarily functional encounter building math. If it just comes down to the math, that is a bit stale IMO.
 

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.
I was referring to DM's having trouble balancing the different needs between the long and short rest classes. I remember reading those on here before. I don't recall player complains but it does track. A lot it tracks back to the distaste of the adventuring day; which I find weird. The adventuring day is one of the most scared cows of the D&D game. The game was designed around resource management/attrition.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Early D&D was the original version (and inspiration of) the Rogue-like, a game where RNG ruled and the further you ventured, the higher the risk, and the better the rewards gained before you were forced to return to a safe haven. Even if you were aware of your limitations and cautious, there was always the chance of encountering a foe you couldn't fight, and might not even be able to flee from- at which point you create a new character and try again.

Many modern adventures aren't built this way; there isn't a vast, procedurally-generated dungeon to keep trying to push deeper into. There's usually a mission, with set goals. If there is a timeline of events, it's usually pretty generous, to allow for long rests and side quests. The writers might not be overly concerned with the "6-8 encounters" between rests format, and instead you might travel for a day to find only an encounter or two at a location.

As a result, the game encounters problems as it seems designed for a different paradigm, and the management/attrition elements can seem artificial and immersion-breaking, or simply arbitrary. What's worse, the game actually provides players with the very tools necessary to break encounter balance!

Presumably, these were inserted to accommodate an ever-changing campaign, when tiers of play actually meant something beyond "bigger and badder monsters". Once you've become movers and shakers, lords of the land, you aren't really exploring dungeons or worrying about rations for a few days- you're expected to be able to fly/teleport quickly to the far reaches of your domain to deal with threats quickly. Or, instead of reacting to threats, being proactive, and deciding to take the fight to foes on your terms, instead of theirs.

5e doesn't come equipped with many tools or even an expectation that the game will change much over the course of levels 1-20, yet abilities that trivialize standard attrition models and even break encounter design in half are still present, because there was a feeling that the game feels incomplete without them when 5e was being developed.

Think of how everything is tied to an xp budget, that a lot of DM's have dispensed with in favor of "milestone" leveling because it's more convenient to have the players level up at set points, and for the players to be all at generally the same level. I think many playgroups have simply outgrown the DMG encounter guidelines, and the CR system as a whole, which is why it seems to work well for some, but not for others.

What less experienced DM's need, I think, is a book to help them come to terms with the fact that their players and characters can be unique or non-standard enough that these guidelines aren't enough- and to offer suggestions beyond ham-fisted attempts to force them to adhere to those guidelines.
 

Voadam

Legend
Think of how everything is tied to an xp budget, that a lot of DM's have dispensed with in favor of "milestone" leveling because it's more convenient to have the players level up at set points, and for the players to be all at generally the same level. I think many playgroups have simply outgrown the DMG encounter guidelines, and the CR system as a whole, which is why it seems to work well for some, but not for others.
The CR system says it is designed to tell a DM how tough baseline an encounter is. This holds true whether a party is megadungeon attritioning with multiple fights in a day trying to push resources to the limit, using milestones in a politics oriented story game where there might be one fight a day, or whatever.

If you face a deadly fight you generally expect the party to need to pull out all the stops and still be at some risk. If it is an easy one you expect them to be able to get through with only at wills and be fine. The more resources expended the easier the fight turns out to be. The baseline CR and encounter budget calculations, different from daily budgets, should work for 5e to tell you how baseline tough a specific encounter is.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The CR system says it is designed to tell a DM how tough baseline an encounter is. This holds true whether a party is megadungeon attritioning with multiple fights in a day trying to push resources to the limit, using milestones in a politics oriented story game where there might be one fight a day, or whatever.

If you face a deadly fight you generally expect the party to need to pull out all the stops and still be at some risk. If it is an easy one you expect them to be able to get through with only at wills and be fine. The more resources expended the easier the fight turns out to be. The baseline CR and encounter budget calculations, different from daily budgets, should work for 5e to tell you how baseline tough a specific encounter is.
Perhaps, so. I haven't seen a lot of data, just heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that some groups can decimate maximum lethality encounters, while others struggle mightily with them. My personal experience has been that players can do a lot to stave off attrition and rarely need fear running out of resources, which breaks the encounter building expectations. While there are solutions to this, many of them seem contrived if used often, and I'm leery of entering an "arms race" with my players. It's also my experience that sort of thing never ends well.

When I ruled that the toxic air of the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, for example, would prevent long resting (as you take damage hourly), the players initially seemed resentful, and argued that this wasn't fair. When I stuck to my guns, they found a way around the problem, and were also able to handle any random encounters trivially, to the point that much of the rest of the adventure was a cakewalk for them.

I can't have every adventure be time-sensitive, have environmental hazards, or constantly pressure the players with patrols, after all. That seems rather heavy handed to me. I mean, I could, yes, but it would make the game feel more like a "game" and less like a roleplaying experience.
 


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