D&D 5E The actual adventuring day is 3-4 encounters per day, Wizards just last minute decided to make Easy Encounters from the playtest, the average.


I recently made a post on Reddit about rebalancing your game to center around "hard" according to the XP budget being your average encounter, to make for shorter, more efficient adventuring days, with a bit of challenge to then, I came across this post, the top rated one saying this.

" Funny bit of trivia, during the open playtest for 5e, what we call Hard encounter we called Average and what we call Medium were called Easy. The math behind the adventuring day hasn't changed since then, still 6.5 Medium (playtest Easy) and 4 Hard (playtest Average), but there are still people who swear the playtest adventuring day was better, when all that changed were the difficulty names. "

This baffled me, and I actually looked at the final playtest Document, and found out...this is true, but not as he explained.

Basically, In the original playtest of the Game, there were only 3 difficulties, Easy(Now Medium), Average(Now Hard), and Tough(Now Deadly). With clear guidelines on how to run this, with 4 on Average, 6-8 on Easy, and 2 or 3 on Deadly.

After the playtest for some reason, despite this being fine and fitting the typical balance paradigm that DnD has always had(at least 3-4 encounters per day), they added a new difficulty called "EASY", changing the old Easy to Medium, making the Average to Hard, and making Tough slightly easier and making it Deadly, and did this without actually changing the math much.

What this causes is, Medium encounters are still easy, because Medium Encounters WERE the Easy encounters, and the math didnt change much at all, so they never stopped being easy.

This leads to the adventuring day dragging out on easy encounters, and kinda ruins the pacing of the game, and the challenge the game was actually playtested around, which makes the game simply feel worse, all because of a Last minute not publically playtested changed, that drags out the expectations of the adventuring day. No wonder people feel Medium encounters are too easy because they were, and since the math didn't change much STILL ARE the Easy encounters.

The game was and still is designed around 3-4 Encounters per day, Its just a simple dumb naming change shifted expectations, making the "Easy" encounters the Default for some reason, ruining the pacing of the game. My Advice is? Simply as my previous post, Design your game around "Hard" Encounters, as that is actually the "Average" encounters the game was designed around, not the last-minute switch to make the "Easy" encounters the average.

My only question is, Why did Wizards purposely make their game feel worse with this last-minute change without public playtesting, Why?

TL;DR. The game was originally designed around "Hard" Encounters being the average, but last-minute wizards added a new, easier difficulty, and downshifted the game's average encounters to the "Easy" Encounters without changing the math. So now the game feels too easy.

Again the original playtest Adventuring Day is still in the game, it's just Hard Encounters now, so as per my last point, again, simply just use Hard as your average, its actually what the game was designed for.
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Ok, that is interesting, and it is a really weird change. It seems I have basically just stumbled on the the originally intended way of running the game. I realised that six, let alone eight encounters per day isn't gonna happen, and the CR is a lie and encounters are way easier than the game tells me. So I just now run fewer encounters, usually difficulty Deadly, or sometimes difficulty Insane Annihilation Blender Mode,* and it has been fine.

(* Seriously, the characters have managed to beat encounters that they should have no business even being near at if we believe the CR. But CR is a complete lie. A party of four level five PCs managed to take down an encounter that was around CR 15 or so!)
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The thing that majorly changed the encounter math?

Check out the Spells per Day in the Playtest Packet vs the One in the PHB, and the spell preparation rules. Casters got way more spells prepped at low level, and more spells per day at higher level.

Jeez. Did ANYTHING positive come from the playtests?
Anything cool got rolled back hard near the end.


Dusty Dragon
Now that's interesting...

and honestly, regardless of encounter difficulty, in any setting other than a dungeon, 6-8 encounters a day is a lot - like really busy. 3-4 seems much more attainable to me


And yet, I can still kill a bunch of PC's if I play enemies anything other than rote stupid.

In fact, to make sure the PC's don't die before level 5, I have to play the enemies lower than what any intelligent creature would actually do, because killing PC's can be VERY easy.

Maybe it's because I started on the early editions when creatures were weaker overall at the beginning, so you played them intelligently so that PC's would learn that it wasn't about the killing that made the game, but getting the treasure.

Maybe there are a LOT of people that play enemies that way? And the feedback showed that so they decided that for all those who played monsters with pretty big tactics were a bigger threat overall than those who can shout loudly?

I don't know, just conjecturing. I don't have a problem with how deadly or undeadly the monsters are, a bunch of them together (due to bounded accuracy) will still kill High level enemies if the DM plays them right...just like an army of 200 archers can take down dragons and other high level monsters.


@GreyLord: Yeah, I have had plenty of PCs die in my 5e games. Even a few (near) TPKs. Sometimes it’s because the players use poor tactics (or I use superior tactics as the DM). Other times the terrain is a major factor. Sometimes it’s just because players tend to be too stubborn to retreat until it’s too late. Sometimes it’s because the dice are simply not rolling in the players’ favor.

Very rarely has it been because I’ve misjudged the difficulty of an encounter.


Oh? How were they changed?
Number of spell prepped went from 1+Class level in Playtest packet 10 to Casting Stat Bonus +Class level in Release. At low levels, thats a massive increase in flexibility.

In terms of spells per day, in Playtest packet 10, you never got more than 2 5th level spells, and only one each of 6-9th level spells

I've had the same intuition - 6-8 assumes lots of relatively easy encounters, because "hard" is not actually hard if your players have a clue what they're doing.

In practice, twice their level in CR is doable if the pc's can do any kind of monster-specific prep.

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