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.

FallenRX

Adventurer
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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Deekin

Explorer
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.
 


Ancalagon

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
 

GreyLord

Legend
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.
 

pukunui

Legend
@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.
 

Deekin

Explorer
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.
 

I'd take this with a grain of salt, however, because the monsters from the playtest were never changed at any point. They always felt super easy to defeat, and so the "encounter design" was pretty weak. I'd have to take a look over the last packet, but I don't think the monster's CR really even fit within the final version, making it even less useful of a comparison.

I will say the 6-8 encounter per day was an odd decision, but technically the short rest classes balance best against the long rest classes when using the average. More encounters benefits the short rest classes more, while less benefits the long rest classes more.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Anything cool got rolled back hard near the end.
Yeah, the difference from the final playtest packet to the PHB is huge. Part of that is due to the fact that they held off on a lot of the combat balance math until after the open playtest ended. I guarantee this change was based on the results of the closed internal playtesting, not the open playtest feedback.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
Through the open playtest we had the Caves of Chaos from Keep on the Borderlands, Isle of Dread, and an original adventure in Blingdenstone where you help the gnomes ward off invading orcs. I don’t really recall much chatter on the forums regarding encounters per day, other than the fact that people loved how quickly combat played out (remember, this was coming off the back of 4e, which had extremely long combats), which made days with a lot of “easy” encounters feasible. In fact, I remember the Caves of Chaos being mostly “easy” encounters, and playing through several of them per day. Probably like 3-4 “easy” and 1-2 “average” was pretty normal, with “tough” encounters being relatively rare unless you went into a higher-level are of the caves.

I do remember a lot of people complaining combat was too easy back then, and disagreeing with them, as it felt just about right for my group. The common refrain from WotC at the time (they were active on the forums back then) was “we are just trying to get a general sense of how it feels, we’ll hammer out the math in internal testing before release.”
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
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.
Agreed, that can make a big difference.
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
This is not so different from the published rules, changing only at level 18 and above. Granted, high level spells can be powerful, so this is a power increase, but at the upper end of play it may be hard to notice.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
It's actually impossible to have set difficulty parameters for a game like this.

All they can do is say that some enemies should be harder to fight than others.

Even in this thread one poster said that level 5 characters in their game take down CR 15 creatures.

I remember a post once where someone said the encounter rules are broken because a level 1 party defeated the entire drow encampment at the start of OotA.

Of course, the DM just made it happen. The DM can make sure any party can defeat any enemy. It's the nature of the game.

I find the difficulty guidelines to be very good as long as we are going with the description of each tier of difficulty and not the name. We use the standard array and I use the treasure hoard tables and I also don't play all enemy creatures like zombies.

Every table is going to differ wildly on how difficult the game actually is.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
There are two very different aspects that need to be met by number of encounters per day.

One of them is challenge. And yes, you can have fewer, deadlier encounters and reach your goals for this. This isn't really debated, and it's the primary - on only - one that most people think about.

The other one is balance between the at-will classes like rogue or the EB-focused warlock, and the long-rest recovery classes like full casters plus hybrids like the barbarian or the paladin.

If you took your average full caster and took away all slots, they would be less effective on average than at-will classes like the rogue. At-will > cantrip. (This doesn't include EB boosted with invocations.)

On the other hand, if you gave casters unlimited of their highest level slots, they would do more than at-will characters. A fireball with multiple opponents, etc. Slots of the highest few levels > at-will.

Putting them together, we get, in generic terms for the average character:

Slots of the highest few levels > at-will > cantrip

So in order to balance these, we need some number of spells cast using highest level slots, and some cantrips or low-impact spells (like 1st level offensive spells in T2+). Some above and some below will average out to the same as an at-will.

Let's examine that. If you run a few encounters and run the party's casters all the way out of spells - you are STILL not balancing the classes unless you also are forcing them to have a good number of rounds at less than at-will effectiveness.

An easy way to work this out is average effectiveness per action, over the course of the adventuring day.

Ah, so if you have fewer encounters, as long as the last as long as more encounters we're good, right?

Well, no. It's moving in the right direction, but duration is a thing. If an encounter is 3-4 rounds and you can a spell lasting 1 minute, you only get 3-4 rounds of it at most. But if the combat lasts 9 rounds, then you are getting 2-3 times the effect from the same slot and the same action. It's more powerful. So you need to offset it with even more rounds of lower than at-will efficiency.

A easy way to see this is the barbarian. Say you've got 3 rages per day. Assuming the encounters total to the same deadliness, is there any case where you are worse off if you can rage for every encounter instead of half of them? That's one of the things that decreasing the number of encounters does - allows duration effects to be even more powerful.

To sum up:
1. Can balance danger and challenge in fewer encounters by having tougher encounters.
2. Need to have more total rounds fighting in fewer encounters that all of the more encounters in order to maintain balance between classes.

And that second one does not often get met. Fewer encounters per day is usually fewer total rounds then if we did all of the encounters per day, and that definitely is mathematically biased in terms of the long-rest-recovery classes like casters as well as a big boost for hybrids like the barbarian and the paladin.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It's actually impossible to have set difficulty parameters for a game like this.

All they can do is say that some enemies should be harder to fight than others.

Even in this thread one poster said that level 5 characters in their game take down CR 15 creatures.

I remember a post once where someone said the encounter rules are broken because a level 1 party defeated the entire drow encampment at the start of OotA.

Of course, the DM just made it happen. The DM can make sure any party can defeat any enemy. It's the nature of the game.

I find the difficulty guidelines to be very good as long as we are going with the description of each tier of difficulty and not the name. We use the standard array and I use the treasure hoard tables and I also don't play all enemy creatures like zombies.

Every table is going to differ wildly on how difficult the game actually is.
I think the broader point was that the open playtest used the same daily XP budget, but with what are now considered “hard” encounters as “average,” which suggests fewer, harder encounters per day may have been the standard, instead of the 6-8 that people complain is too hard to pull off.
 

ECMO3

Hero
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.

I think this goes both ways. Mosters played intelligently will kill players played dumb pretty easily, but players playing well are usually more than a match for a deadly encounter of the apporpriate level. If you get into parties of 5 or more PCs this starts to favor the enemies more, but a party of 3 or 4 with all hps and spells will usually dominate an encounter with an appropriate number of foes to make it "deadly".

Some tables I play at play really smart, some don't. The low hanging fruit is just remembering your bonus actions and abilities. Another thing is basic tacitcs like prone and cover - you are facing a bunch of enemies with missiles, who are not even approaching melee and your backline wizards and such don't drop prone or look for cover before they end their turn. I have seen that happen. Other tables are experts and if the players have been playing together a lot they can string together group tactics pretty easy even with minimal table talk.

On the DM side it is more difficult to play monsters because you need to do expert-level play you need to be an expert on every monster in an encounter. That is really hard and I often find myself saying "Oh crap I forgot he has legendary resistance" after he is already restrained by ensnaring strike. The main thing DMs do wrong though is they don't concentrate fire until a player is dead. Even without expert play you can make it tougher on PCs by attacking one PC at a time and keep attacking that PC until it is dead. Also using grapple and shove is often needed when faced with things like Bladesingers, high AC Eldritch Knights, familiars with flyby or Rogues that keep moving in and out of combat.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The main thing DMs do wrong though is they don't concentrate fire until a player is dead. Even without expert play you can make it tougher on PCs by attacking one PC at a time and keep attacking that PC until it is dead. Also using grapple and shove is often needed when faced with things like Bladesingers, high AC Eldritch Knights, familiars with flyby or Rogues that keep moving in and out of combat.
This is tough because there’s a risk of making the player feel singled-out.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
I think the broader point was that the open playtest used the same daily XP budget, but with what are now considered “hard” encounters as “average,” which suggests fewer, harder encounters per day may have been the standard, instead of the 6-8 that people complain is too hard to pull off.

I read it differently. That the names of the encounter difficulties were changed and it caused confusion but that the math and # of encounters was the same.

Which I think is completely true. People see 'deadly' and then when no one dies they say it's bad design. When all 'deadly' actually means is that there is at least a small chance of a character death.

They're poorly named but the function remains the same.
 

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