D&D General Tier 2 and 3 combats

Oofta

Legend
First, some good advice above on switching things up and changing tactics. In addition to waves of monsters and having goals other than just kill the enemy, I also have monsters flank and come from different directions. Nothing like the PCs in the back thinking their safe only to have a second wave, alerted by the sounds of fighting, come from the rear. Beasts, or creatures with a lower intelligence, will frequently grab someone (grapple as one of their attacks) and then try to escape with their meal.

In any case, I want to talk about difficulty.

Thanks for the replies


  1. Encounter - forest path, and a single Chimera , was doing a swooping attack, until wizard cast something that reduced its movement to 0 so fell out of the sky

Solos almost never work, they have to have backup or legendary resistance. With a higher level party I will sometimes use a normal monster but look at similar monsters that are legendary.

Looking at my handy dandy encounter spreadsheet, this is a trivial fight unless the Chimera was higher than CR 6. Even 2 would be a medium.

  1. Encounter - Ruins with lots of uneven terrain. Enemies were a Gorgon, 7 soldiers and a giant type, some charm spells and plant growth ( great plan ) and again I caused little damage and the creatures were destroyed

Again, Gorgon is CR 5, 3 levels below the party. Not sure what the giant type and soldiers were though.

  1. Encounter - different jungle path, 8 lions and an enhanced golden lion.

A lion is only a CR 1, which means that it's barely considered a threat to level 8 PCs.

But since this is spread out over 3 days, there is no way the party is being pushed at all. Sometimes that's fine, but not every time. Personally I use the gritty rest rules where a short rest is overnight and a long rest is several days, usually a week. An alternative is to just say that you need a safe place to get a long rest and if you're in a safe place. If this is just a travel story arc, I simply skip most of it and then set up days where they stumble across someplace particularly dangerous. Then they have to handle multiple encounters, almost like a mini dungeon.

For example, the group has been hacking it's way through the jungle for a few days, killing everything in sight (something I just narrate). A fey spirit decides that they need to be taught a lesson so they stumble across a patch of jungle that's maze-like and they can't escape until they've successfully defeated multiple opponents. Have the spirit show up now and then, taunting them but growing more and more frustrated as they survive.

If you're only going to have 1 fight per day, I'd consider going with a deadly combat that has multiple waves of enemies. So something like crossing a swamp and they get attacked by a trio of giant crocodiles (3 monsters at CR 5). Maybe use stats for an Allosaurus (CR 2) and throw 6 for a medium encounter or 8 for a deadly but set up the environment in grass taller than head height and have them attack from all directions as they charge in and pounce. You can still present them as lions or whatever creature you want.

In any case, the issue is that the fights you are throwing are far too easy. Unfortunately there aren't enough high level monsters, so I regularly take a monster from the book and just change the description to fit whatever I want. So for example, lions might not be tough enough but you could have lions of an unusual size and use the Allosaurus or (looking at just beasts for the moment) a CR 5 Triceratops. Just throw more than one unless you want a trivial fight. :)

I've attached the spreadsheet I use, the calculations are a bit different than the ones used in the PHB but I find that most of the time the results work most of the time. On the other hand I never throw easy encounters at my parties, I do medium or hard and they generally only get a long rest every 4-8 fights. I'd consider looking at Xanathar's guidelines if you don't want to use a spreadsheet.

Good luck, and remember: if the party is always stomping on your encounters you always have infinite dragons. Or lions. Or Allosauruses in a lion costume. ;)
 

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GreyBeardDM

Explorer
First, some good advice above on switching things up and changing tactics. In addition to waves of monsters and having goals other than just kill the enemy, I also have monsters flank and come from different directions. Nothing like the PCs in the back thinking their safe only to have a second wave, alerted by the sounds of fighting, come from the rear. Beasts, or creatures with a lower intelligence, will frequently grab someone (grapple as one of their attacks) and then try to escape with their meal.

In any case, I want to talk about difficulty.



Solos almost never work, they have to have backup or legendary resistance. With a higher level party I will sometimes use a normal monster but look at similar monsters that are legendary.

Looking at my handy dandy encounter spreadsheet, this is a trivial fight unless the Chimera was higher than CR 6. Even 2 would be a medium.



Again, Gorgon is CR 5, 3 levels below the party. Not sure what the giant type and soldiers were though.



A lion is only a CR 1, which means that it's barely considered a threat to level 8 PCs.

But since this is spread out over 3 days, there is no way the party is being pushed at all. Sometimes that's fine, but not every time. Personally I use the gritty rest rules where a short rest is overnight and a long rest is several days, usually a week. An alternative is to just say that you need a safe place to get a long rest and if you're in a safe place. If this is just a travel story arc, I simply skip most of it and then set up days where they stumble across someplace particularly dangerous. Then they have to handle multiple encounters, almost like a mini dungeon.

For example, the group has been hacking it's way through the jungle for a few days, killing everything in sight (something I just narrate). A fey spirit decides that they need to be taught a lesson so they stumble across a patch of jungle that's maze-like and they can't escape until they've successfully defeated multiple opponents. Have the spirit show up now and then, taunting them but growing more and more frustrated as they survive.

If you're only going to have 1 fight per day, I'd consider going with a deadly combat that has multiple waves of enemies. So something like crossing a swamp and they get attacked by a trio of giant crocodiles (3 monsters at CR 5). Maybe use stats for an Allosaurus (CR 2) and throw 6 for a medium encounter or 8 for a deadly but set up the environment in grass taller than head height and have them attack from all directions as they charge in and pounce. You can still present them as lions or whatever creature you want.

In any case, the issue is that the fights you are throwing are far too easy. Unfortunately there aren't enough high level monsters, so I regularly take a monster from the book and just change the description to fit whatever I want. So for example, lions might not be tough enough but you could have lions of an unusual size and use the Allosaurus or (looking at just beasts for the moment) a CR 5 Triceratops. Just throw more than one unless you want a trivial fight. :)

I've attached the spreadsheet I use, the calculations are a bit different than the ones used in the PHB but I find that most of the time the results work most of the time. On the other hand I never throw easy encounters at my parties, I do medium or hard and they generally only get a long rest every 4-8 fights. I'd consider looking at Xanathar's guidelines if you don't want to use a spreadsheet.

Good luck, and remember: if the party is always stomping on your encounters you always have infinite dragons. Or lions. Or Allosauruses in a lion costume. ;)
thank you
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
over 3 days

So, with the caveat that it's good to have the occasional easy fight, and it's also ok if some days only have one fight - it's not always plausible that every trip is a gauntlet of death!....

I ran a campaign (Yoon Suin) that had a paladin, and he was wrecking things. But then I realized it was because I have having too few encounters per day, so he could literally smite "all day long", because D&D combats in 5e are often short (and shorter if the paladin is going Nova), and if you only have 1 encounter per long rest, that's 3-4 rounds, meaning smiting on every hit was viable!

So I started having more encounters per day. The paladin quickly caught on (clever player), or perhaps I openly discussed it with my players that I was going to have to adjust things a bit (this is a good idea, btw). Even on a one encounter day type, the paladin couldn't be sure if there would be another fight, so they had to play a bit more conservative. And because he wasn't going nova every round, he was killing foes less quickly, which made the fights a bit more challenging.

You can also have "running battle" - where encounter 1 triggers a 2nd encounter, essentially, and the party gets a few rounds at most (possibly zero!) before the 2nd group, attracted by the ruckus of battle, shows up to investigate... or perhaps the lone monster flees on round 2 (if you attack a party, and lose 50% of your HP in one round, it's time to get out of there) and goes to grab their buddies.
 

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