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General Taking the "Dungeons" out of D&D

aco175

Hero
I heard about, but not run a more freeform traveling adventure day. I tend to have a player roll for a random encounter or have a few set encounters for travel, but sometimes you want to just get to the dungeon or having only 1 encounter makes for player knowledge taking over the PC knowledge in thinking that they can nova and if there is another encounter the next day, they can just nova again. Nothing wrong with this and I tend to play like this, but have heard of another just roleplay encounter.

The travel to a place is not the main point of the adventure, so just spend through that and get to the dungeon. To make things more realistic, add a encounter, but have the players tell you what happened and how they overcome it. There is not initiative and dice rolling for the random encounter to the real adventure. You just tell the players; "You have been traveling for three days and finally reach the dungeon." "Along the way, you had an encounter with goblins- tell me about what your PC did."

Go around the table and each player tells about something cool their PC did and spells let off or cool smites or such. The Players can tell cooler stuff sometimes than dice and the rules can allow, and it does not really affect how the encounter was going to go.

I do not think I would do this for all the encounters, just the glossing over ones where the players know they can steamroll over the goblins. I like to roll dice and have the element of danger in the game and will not do away with it for the main parts, but may try this next overland travel.
 

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Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
The very fact they put that piece in there at all is a clobber-upside-the-head hint saying 'these are the assumptions the game's been designed around'.
The problem is this claim has no support to it. Trying to read in-between the lines to form your own conclusions is not the same as the system or designers saying it.

I claim that it isn't that the game is designed around this tight 6-8 assumption, my claim is that it's telling you the upper limit of expecting balance to remain in the game. Past that point, it's up in the air and a TPK is getting likelier. Before that point, balance is can be expected, within a tolerable degree (it's not like the designers are omnipotent or anything, they can't have asymetrically designed classes be precisely balanced).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The travel to a place is not the main point of the adventure, so just spend through that and get to the dungeon.
Depends on the adventure. Certainly if the point of the adventure is the dungeon and travel is just a speed bump in the way of getting to the good stuff, just narrating over the travel is a smart move. Personally, I prefer to design adventures such that travel is as much a part of the adventure as the dungeon is.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The problem is this claim has no support to it. Trying to read in-between the lines to form your own conclusions is not the same as the system or designers saying it.

I claim that it isn't that the game is designed around this tight 6-8 assumption, my claim is that it's telling you the upper limit of expecting balance to remain in the game. Past that point, it's up in the air and a TPK is getting likelier. Before that point, balance is can be expected, within a tolerable degree (it's not like the designers are omnipotent or anything, they can't have asymetrically designed classes be precisely balanced).
No reading between the lines necessary, experience shows that balance cannot be expected to a tolerable degree if you significantly undershoot the 6-8 encounter with 2-3 short rests benchmark. YMMV if you have a lot tolerance for imbalance, I suppose.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
No reading between the lines necessary, experience shows that balance cannot be expected to a tolerable degree if you significantly undershoot the 6-8 encounter with 2-3 short rests benchmark. YMMV if you have a lot tolerance for imbalance, I suppose.
I can't say your experience is wrong but I can say my experience have run contrary to yours in multiple cases.

I'm not saying that balance can always be guaranteed when not going 6-8, that's impossible. Even going the 6-8 route, balance isn't guaranteed. I'm saying that balance is possible, perhaps with the same likelihood that the 6-8 encounter model shows.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I claim that it isn't that the game is designed around this tight 6-8 assumption, my claim is that it's telling you the upper limit of expecting balance to remain in the game. Past that point, it's up in the air and a TPK is getting likelier. Before that point, balance is can be expected, within a tolerable degree (it's not like the designers are omnipotent or anything, they can't have asymetrically designed classes be precisely balanced).
Alright, that's certainly a claim you can hold. To support that claim, you should now present an argument for how a warlock with two fireballs per short rest is balanced against a wizard with five fireballs per long rest, over the course of a single large encounter. If you can't, then that's pretty strong evidence that your claim isn't true.
 


Azzy

Newtype
I don't understand why there's this assumption that a balanced day requires at least 6 encounters. Not only is that untrue, but it permeates a sense that a DM takes away from classes like warlocks or monks if they do not have the 6-8 encounters.
What I don't get is why everyone insists that it's 6-8 encounters. According to the DMG (pp. 84-85), it's specifically 6-8 medium or hard encounter per adventuring day. If there are easier encounters, there should be more encounters. Inversely, if there are deadly encounters, there should be less encounters. The adjusted adventuring day XP shapes how many encounters the characters should face in an adventuring depending on the creatures in the encounter (which means tougher encounters will result in less encounters). It's also worth nothing that character can only gain the benefit of a long rest once every 24 hours. The adventuring day also assumes that there will be, on average, two short rests per day. This is achievable if there is at least 3 encounters in the day.

It's also worth noting that the encounters don't have to be strictly combat encounters, either.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I think something missing from dungeon crawls (and the rest of the game) is a good method for tracking time in way that the players can respond to. It's amazing that 5e provides no mechanism for tracking game world time apart from some vague advice on how long things might take.
There used to be very precise knowledge of how dungeon "procedure" was made, but as several bloggers have pointed out, this knowledge was slowly lost and not included in the books anymore.

I recently discovered that the new edition of the GLOG contains an excellent dungeoneering procedure. Although it ws written for an OSR-type game, the advice give is very usable in 5e. I particularly liked his comments about trapfinding.


Specifically, check page 6 (or 7, depending on how numbering works on your PDF reader) - that single page is a great tool!
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
While we’re talking about adventuring days, we should also remember that not every day in the game world is an adventuring day. Each day of travel is not an adventuring day for example. You can make some travel days adventuring days by putting a difficult obstacle in front of the PCs or you can move to alternative rest rules in order to limit the nova effect making a single encounter uninteresting.

And a day of courtly intrigue also doesn’t count as an adventuring day (unless it’s a rerun of the red wedding!) Talking to people will not tax resources to any similar amount.

So, when thinking of adventuring days, these are the days when the PCs take on the dungeon, the wizards tower, the enchanted caverns or whatever. It’s when the s**** hits the fan.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I am of two minds on out of combat mechanics. I agree with you in many respects, but I also feel like when you have fewer mechanics for, say, "social combat" you end up punishing players who aren't necessarily good at that thing even when they want to play a character that is. No one has to prove they can really fight to play the heavy, why should a player have to be charming to play the face? That sort of thing.
This is true, and I understand your point. But I will point that to fight well in a game, you don't need to be a good fighter in real life. I'm a passable swordsman (basically I'm proficient in the arming sword and shield, but not good enough to have a fighting style of feat ha!). This knowledge doesn't help - in fact it helps me see the unrealistic part of the game better and is more a source of frustration than help ;)

So yes, a player with poor social skills IRL will suffer playing a bard unless he can use social skills in the game (like a persuasion check). Same how an out of shape person who's never been in a fight can play a brilliant warrior...

... but... there are skills involved in being a great warrior in a D&D game. You need system mastery (much more so in PF1 or 3.X than 5e, but still), and you need tactical sense. I have seen players who are bad at both. Should they be penalized for that? They... sort of are, unless the game is very easy. This is "player skills". Good roleplaying is also a "player skill".
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Because I'm happy to let politics and interpersonal relationships be resolved through roleplay? I understand why my preferences aren't universal, and that's just fine, but I strongly suspect some of this apparent puzzlement is performative.
I think it's worthwhile to point out that "resolved through roleplay" is just a "GM decides" adjudication system. The mechanics here are convincing your GM that you've done enough rather than using some other resolution mechanic. When I play Blades in the Dark, for example, social encounter use the same resolution mechanics as exploration or combat encounters, and there's a huge amount of roleplaying. Similarly, when I use a skill challenge as a social encounter in 5e, the dice have a say, but lots of roleplaying still happens. So, when you say you roleplay out social encounters, you're just saying that you prefer to use a GM decides (or player decides, for matters relating only to their PC) mechanic. It's not actually more or less roleplaying than can occur in other resolution schema.
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
There used to be very precise knowledge of how dungeon "procedure" was made, but as several bloggers have pointed out, this knowledge was slowly lost and not included in the books anymore.
And this is something designers should be clear-eyed about when including "rules structures": A lot of players simply won't use those structures if there's a more naturalistic (or maybe just lazier) way to handle them. In general, I think the OSR has taken elements such as "time in a dungeon," encumbrance, and the like way more seriously than most tables did when we were playing those games at the time. I played AD&D in tournament events at GenCon in the 80s where all those rules really should have been used, and they still weren't. I suspect they didn't fall out of the books by accident.

Fast forward to 5e, where it's revealed in every other complaint about "nova damage" or unbalanced spellcasting that DMs don't use the game's existing rules structures for the adventuring day. That shouldn't come as any surprise, because (many/most?) players always ignore rules structures it feels more "natural" to ignore.

I don't necessarily think there's any way around this, but recognizing that actual play is likely to be more "unstructured" than you assume is probably a decent baseline from which to start. Some designs may make it very difficult to play in a unstructured way (not naming any names), but those designs run the risk that players simply reject them in favor of those that accommodate their preferred playstyle more easily.
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
I think it's worthwhile to point out that "resolved through roleplay" is just a "GM decides" adjudication system.
Yeah, I'm a big fan. My preferred version of D&D would be something like B/X with no thief class and more freeform player-driven/GM adjudicated rules for everything from "skills" to spellcasting. Instead, the direction since 1974 has been to move more in the direction of the spell system by adding as much rules definition as possible to everything and trying to get as much of what a character "can do" as possible onto the character sheet. I think this is a mistake, but I've long accepted that my preferences are not shared by everyone (or even by many people at all).

That doesn't stop me from standing astride the forces of history and shouting "No more!" at every opportunity. :D
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
What I don't get is why everyone insists that it's 6-8 encounters. According to the DMG (pp. 84-85), it's specifically 6-8 medium or hard encounter per adventuring day. If there are easier encounters, there should be more encounters. Inversely, if there are deadly encounters, there should be less encounters. The adjusted adventuring day XP shapes how many encounters the characters should face in an adventuring depending on the creatures in the encounter (which means tougher encounters will result in less encounters). It's also worth nothing that character can only gain the benefit of a long rest once every 24 hours. The adventuring day also assumes that there will be, on average, two short rests per day. This is achievable if there is at least 3 encounters in the day.

It's also worth noting that the encounters don't have to be strictly combat encounters, either.
I think “6-8 encounters” is generally shorthand (and often I even just see “6 encounters.”) The point is less the specific number and more the idea that 5e is built around the idea of balance spread out across many encounters throughout the day. Even if you do mostly hard and deadly encounters, you’re still going to need 3 or 4 to meet the daily XP budget.
 

Inversely, if there are deadly encounters, there should be less encounters.
I mean sure, if you want to lower your 6-8 encounters to 2-3 you could make every single encounter the party faces deadly....but by the rules that assumes a high likelihood of killing off party members, which not every DM wants to do on some general wilderness exploration.
 

ART!

Adventurer
Is there anything official that addresses how many of the encounters per day "should" be combat encounters?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
While we’re talking about adventuring days, we should also remember that not every day in the game world is an adventuring day. Each day of travel is not an adventuring day for example. You can make some travel days adventuring days by putting a difficult obstacle in front of the PCs or you can move to alternative rest rules in order to limit the nova effect making a single encounter uninteresting.

And a day of courtly intrigue also doesn’t count as an adventuring day (unless it’s a rerun of the red wedding!) Talking to people will not tax resources to any similar amount.

So, when thinking of adventuring days, these are the days when the PCs take on the dungeon, the wizards tower, the enchanted caverns or whatever. It’s when the s**** hits the fan.
Yes and no. Obviously not every day that passes during the course of an adventure will be an Adventuring Day. But generally days that aren’t adventuring days are days that just get narrated over. If nothing eventful happens during travel, you just brush over it in the narration. But if there’s enough going on in a day, that it’s worth playing out, it’s probably an adventuring day. Not every encounter needs to be combat; if you’re challenging the PCs and they’re expending resources to overcome that challenge, that’s an encounter, be it an exploration, social, or combat encounter.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Is there anything official that addresses how many of the encounters per day "should" be combat encounters?
Logic dictates that non-combat encounters do not contribute toward expectations, unless they drain a significant amount of resources. The party has enough HP and spell slots to get through six moderate combat encounters per day, so going through five such encounters and one non-combat encounter would be trivial.
 

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