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5E The impact of overkill damage

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
In general, increasing damage increases the likelihood that an enemy dies in fewer rounds. In general, increasing damage increases the amount of overkill damage. *Note, there are a few ways to increase DPR without increasing overkill damage (Increases to accuracy or increases to number of attacks). Neither of those methods though actually increase overkill damage though. So the only scenario worth examining is one where your DPR increase is due to an increase in damage.

So let's look at the case of 1 hp enemies. Overkill matters in that scenario and higher damage characters will do more of it. In fact this scenario can be generalized to a case of enemies that you are guaranteed to kill in 1 hit. In any scenario where that happens then overkill matters. In scenarios where that isn't the case then increasing damage increases the chance you kill the enemy in fewer rounds.

This is why my conclusion has consistently been that normal assumptions about overkill damage being a mitigating factor for high damage characters is misleading. Under normal situations you fight enemies that take more than 1 hit to kill. Having a higher damage increases the chances you kill the enemy faster. Doing more damage isn't about assigning every point of damage to an enemy, it's about having those enemies you target die faster. Also worth noting is that this view requires one to move away from averages and instead view things through the lens of damage distributions - which makes for a more accurate view.

This isn't to say there aren't minor differences in same DPR distributions when facing enemies that take more than 1 hit to kill. There are. It's just that when really evaluating higher damage and higher overkill setups against the most common enemies, what we find is that the higher damages benefits aren't mitigated as much as looking at average overkill damage would seem to indicate when we look at the damage distribution and the average round to kill information.

Which essentially means that in all but the most rare or carefully constructed scenarios that overkill damage doesn't actually mitigate higher damage setups. Whatever negative impact of overkill damage exists, it never actually outstrips the value of a higher damage attack (at least under realistic parameters).
 

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Li Shenron

Legend
I like featuring massive battles against lots of mooks that can be killed in 1 hit, and I am happy that 5e makes those a lot easier to run than 3e (and I am not even using mob rules). In those cases, there is a lot of overkill, and the main tactic the players need is to find all ways to maximize their number of targets instead of maximizing damage to each.

Last Sunday, we had waves of kobolds and the party Rogue didn't even need to roll damage since between her fixed damage bonus and the number of dice rolled when sneak attacking, she would autokill a kobold on a hit. Of course she also has the Sharpshooter feat so she's perfectly capable to deal with the opposite case of a single huge bag of HP :D
 

I like featuring massive battles against lots of mooks that can be killed in 1 hit, and I am happy that 5e makes those a lot easier to run than 3e (and I am not even using mob rules). In those cases, there is a lot of overkill, and the main tactic the players need is to find all ways to maximize their number of targets instead of maximizing damage to each.

Last Sunday, we had waves of kobolds and the party Rogue didn't even need to roll damage since between her fixed damage bonus and the number of dice rolled when sneak attacking, she would autokill a kobold on a hit. Of course she also has the Sharpshooter feat so she's perfectly capable to deal with the opposite case of a single huge bag of HP :D
Minions were the single greatest 4e innovation.
 


ccs

40th lv DM
Minions were the single greatest 4e innovation.
Really? To me, as a player, at best they felt like a waste of time. At worst an insult.
Because if I'm playing a big damned hero who's bad-ass enough to drop ogres or whatever in a single blow? Then I expect to be able to do that vs the full on MM entry of that creature. When an "ogre" only has a high AC but 1 HP? Then you don't need me as any old mooks able to drop one.
And as the DM they were definitely a waste of my time.
 

Really? To me, as a player, at best they felt like a waste of time. At worst an insult.
Because if I'm playing a big damned hero who's bad-ass enough to drop ogres or whatever in a single blow? Then I expect to be able to do that vs the full on MM entry of that creature. When an "ogre" only has a high AC but 1 HP? Then you don't need me as any old mooks able to drop one.
And as the DM they were definitely a waste of my time.
I also DM. When players battle 50 or 200+ opponents, keeping tracking HP is a chore. Minions rock.

My players once attacked a goblin stronghold. The stronghold had 500 goblins inside (I wrote a JAVA program to roll attacks). I didn't want to keep track so many HP pools. Minions worked perfectly.
 

FreeTheSlaves

Explorer
I tell the players the monster AC and give indication of creature's health, so they can have their characters place their attacks to best effect. Why not? I figure this'd be observable through the PCs senses. So yeah, not much DPR wastage.

If I use the 'mob attacks table' (DMG pg250), then I use the 'Cleaving through creatures' combat option (pg272). In these uncommon circumstances, again, there isn't much overkill wastage.

As a player I had one of my characters work out which buffs gave average damage to one-shot a stock Hobgoblin and Orc. Less a champion character, more a soldier type.

If you let players narrate their winning hit, and let them know the remaining hp, it can be funny with the right player. :) In this case, there's no such thing as 'wasted' damage.
 

Retreater

Legend
Really? To me, as a player, at best they felt like a waste of time. At worst an insult.
Because if I'm playing a big damned hero who's bad-ass enough to drop ogres or whatever in a single blow? Then I expect to be able to do that vs the full on MM entry of that creature. When an "ogre" only has a high AC but 1 HP? Then you don't need me as any old mooks able to drop one.
And as the DM they were definitely a waste of my time.
I loved minions. I would still use them if they were viable in 5e - but with bonded accuracy a squad of 4 minions is different than a single full-hp monster (more effective in terms of damage potential, but AC doesn't scale enough to protect their puny 1 hp).
I'm curious what hero build you can make in 5e that can drop a full-on Ogre with 59 hp in a single blow? I'll bet that most characters can't reliably drop a 15 hp Orc in a single blow.
Hit Points have inflated over the years. In OD&D I think Ogres had an average of 19 hp. Now in 5e, an Ogre's HP have more than doubled just since 3rd edition (when it was 29). Whereas in the past editions, characters could drop monsters in a single hit, that's really not the case anymore due to HP bloat. Minions would be a good remedy for that.
If being a badass warrior and having epic fights like we saw in the LotR films aren't your thing, I guess you can keep disliking minions.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
What's interesting about overkill damage is that while few monsters will probably have low enough HP that it will matters within the first round, in the second round, the overkill damage may become greater since your allies also put damage in them. Round 2, the enemy might have 1 hp left after all.

That's not to say overkill is all that important. It kinda depends on the situation but I'm curious how much overkill a class would do on-average.
 

MarkB

Legend
Depending upon your play style, you could introduce some useful side effects of overkill damage. Like, if you deal sufficient damage to take down an uninjured creature in a single blow, their nearby allies must make a Charisma saving throw or become frightened of you for one round. The DC is equal to the number by which your damage exceeded the creature's total hit points.
 

jgsugden

Legend
...This is why my conclusion has consistently been that normal assumptions about overkill damage being a mitigating factor for high damage characters is misleading. Under normal situations you fight enemies that take more than 1 hit to kill. Having a higher damage increases the chances you kill the enemy faster. Doing more damage isn't about assigning every point of damage to an enemy, it's about having those enemies you target die faster. Also worth noting is that this view requires one to move away from averages and instead view things through the lens of damage distributions - which makes for a more accurate view...

Which essentially means that in all but the most rare or carefully constructed scenarios that overkill damage doesn't actually mitigate higher damage setups. Whatever negative impact of overkill damage exists, it never actually outstrips the value of a higher damage attack (at least under realistic parameters).
This has been proven false in so many threads it is ridiculous - with math to back it up. Dismissing the math as irrelevant because you consider it 'unrealistic' (in your subjective lens) is not proving anything. We don't need to relitigate this every few months.

However, a good exercise to study this situation is to build an efficient 5th level rogue, and an efficient 5th level monk. The monk attacks 3 times, the rogue only twice, but gets to deal sneak attack damage once per round (assuming they hit at least once) and can use a main weapon and an off hand weapon. No magic items will be used, but a +1 bonus to the damage of the rogue main hand to balance out the simple DPR.

Now, have them cut down targets. These targets will have (2d4-1)d20 hps (a range of 1d20 to 7d20, with a tendency towards 4d20), and ACs of 8+2d6 (10 to 20 with a tendency towards 15).

To limit the influence of random chance, you'll have them each tackle the same targets in the same order (so if you roll a 46 hp target with an AC of 16, both will use their attacks to kill it and then will move on to the second one you roll so that their second one is also identical, even if they get to it at different rounds). You'll also record your d20 rolls and apply them to the attack rolls in the same order so that the first 6 d20 roll will cover 3 rounds for the rogue (who has main hand and off hand) and only 2 rounds for the monk (who has multi-attack and martial arts).

I've run this experiment. For 3000 targets. The monk killed 3000 targets in 9886 rounds. The rogue took 15,224 rds to kill the same number of targets.

The monk was attacking three times - twice at d8+4, and once at d6+4 for basic DPR of 24.5. The rogue was attacking for d8+5 (an extra plus one to balance out the DPR), d6, and 3d6 sneak. 24.5 for the rogue. Same DPR - massively different kill rates because of the overkill factor - even when we allowed a wide range of hps. However, I did not calculate DPR to include the criticals, which actually favors the rogue as they get to roll more additional dice on a crit.

Run the experiment. You'll see that lost efficiency due to overkill is a huge factor in balance.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
This has been proven false in so many threads it is ridiculous - with math to back it up. Dismissing the math as irrelevant because you consider it 'unrealistic' (in your subjective lens) is not proving anything. We don't need to relitigate this every few months.

However, a good exercise to study this situation is to build an efficient 5th level rogue, and an efficient 5th level monk. The monk attacks 3 times, the rogue only twice, but gets to deal sneak attack damage once per round (assuming they hit at least once) and can use a main weapon and an off hand weapon. No magic items will be used, but a +1 bonus to the damage of the rogue main hand to balance out the simple DPR.

Now, have them cut down targets. These targets will have (2d4-1)d20 hps (a range of 1d20 to 7d20, with a tendency towards 4d20), and ACs of 8+2d6 (10 to 20 with a tendency towards 15).

To limit the influence of random chance, you'll have them each tackle the same targets in the same order (so if you roll a 46 hp target with an AC of 16, both will use their attacks to kill it and then will move on to the second one you roll so that their second one is also identical, even if they get to it at different rounds). You'll also record your d20 rolls and apply them to the attack rolls in the same order so that the first 6 d20 roll will cover 3 rounds for the rogue (who has main hand and off hand) and only 2 rounds for the monk (who has multi-attack and martial arts).

I've run this experiment. For 3000 targets. The monk killed 3000 targets in 9886 rounds. The rogue took 15,224 rds to kill the same number of targets.

The monk was attacking three times - twice at d8+4, and once at d6+4 for basic DPR of 24.5. The rogue was attacking for d8+5 (an extra plus one to balance out the DPR), d6, and 3d6 sneak. 24.5 for the rogue. Same DPR - massively different kill rates because of the overkill factor - even when we allowed a wide range of hps. However, I did not calculate DPR to include the criticals, which actually favors the rogue as they get to roll more additional dice on a crit.

Run the experiment. You'll see that lost efficiency due to overkill is a huge factor in balance.
what level were the PCs? What was the hp range of the enemies?
 





FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I’ll start by looking at enemies with 37+ hp. 1 above the rogues max damage (non crit). that’s the scenario I set up in this thread after All.

The scenario that’s being challenged is not at all realistic. Far to many cases of extremely low hp.
 

Campbell

Legend
From an analysis standpoint the main thing this tells us is that given similar DPR results classes with multiple attacks and the ability to attack at range will probably perform better in real situations.

My rogue/Sorcerer who often can do 40-50 damage in a single attack is far more likely to do overkill damage than our warlock or fighter/ranger ginsu artist.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I’ll start by looking at enemies with 37+ hp. 1 above the rogues max damage (non crit). that’s the scenario I set up in this thread after All.

The scenario that’s being challenged is not at all realistic. Far to many cases of extremely low hp.
I've put 5th level characters against groups that included lots of low HP monsters. I think that's a pretty reasonable use case for 5e.

The example would have generated about as many high HP creatures as low, since it's not a linear distribution. Given the large same size (3000) you'd have roughly as many high HP creatures as low HP, with many somewhere in the ballpark of 42. That doesn't seem particularly unrealistic to me.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Which essentially means that in all but the most rare or carefully constructed scenarios that overkill damage doesn't actually mitigate higher damage setups. Whatever negative impact of overkill damage exists, it never actually outstrips the value of a higher damage attack (at least under realistic parameters).
Increasing the damage of your attack, while holding everything else the same, will almost always make you more effective in combat and will never* make you less effective. Overkill doesn't change that. This much is true.

Overkill becomes a consideration when you are evaluating cost-benefits. Let's say you are a wizard deciding whether to throw a fireball at four ogres. Is that a good use of your 3rd-level spell slot? If the ogres are at full hit points, it's an excellent use. But if they are all heavily beaten down and close to death, it's... well, overkill. :) Unless it's deadly important to put them down right this instant, you're usually better off to throw an attack cantrip at one and let your fellow PCs clean up the rest.

[Edited to swap in "damaged ogres" for "kobolds," to clarify the point.]

*Except in some really incredibly bizarre scenario.
 
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