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5E You encounter 20 orcs ...

Tobold

Explorer
Hi there! I am currently DMing the 5E Essentials Kit adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak for a group of 5 players. In that adventure there is one encounter [SPOILER WARNING] called Shrine of Savras in which the group encounters "4 orcs per characters plus 3 ogres", if they are level 4 or level 5. So for my 5-player group, that would be 20 orcs. Furthermore, unless the players attack at night (which isn't an obvious strategy, because several of them don't have darkvision), the encounter says that there is no way for the group to approach without raising an alarm from the guard orc on the tower and encountering all those orcs and ogres at once. Even if the characters sneak in unseen, all the orcs and ogres except for one guard are in the same location, so there is no easy way to fight them separately.

Now my group isn't overly specialized in area of effect damage spells. I have three melee characters and two spellcasters. So apart from the problem of an encounter with 23 enemies taking bloody forever, I also seems very deadly to me. Already the total xp of the orcs and ogres would qualify the encounter as "deadly" for a level 4 group, and that is without taking into account the "adjusted XP" formula for groups of enemies.

Has anybody here either run this specific encounter, or has experience with 5E combat involving such large numbers of enemies? I have the feeling I need to tweak this; but then, what is an encounter that isn't really playable as written doing in a D&D starter set? Am I just imagining things, and my players are going to cut through those 20 orcs and 3 ogres like a hot knife through butter? Or are my tingling DM-senses correctly warning me of a design problem?
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Not having read or run the mod, I can only give general advice.

Mods are not written in stone. If you think it would be more fun to split up the enemy, do it. Or just give the group some foreshadowing and let them figure it out. Maybe they can create a distraction or draw some of them off. Maybe they can avoid a fight altogether. Not all encounters are meant to be a straight up fight.

If they do fight, consider using the "mob" rules on page 250 of the DMG. Split the orcs up into groups of 4 or 5 (or what makes sense to you) and have them attack as a unit.

I'd also think about way to let the PCs run away valiantly retreat, this does seem like an overwhelming force.

Maybe someone who has read the mod can give you better advice. Good luck!
 




billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The encounter says that the PCs can't approach by daylight without being spotted, but what do the actions of your players say? Not knowing exactly what composition the group is, all I can do is speak generally. But an invisible rogue can do some real damage to an orc on watch, even in a tower. A fireball can toast a lot of orcs all at once (though if they're only 4th level, I can see that being out of reach). Watching the shrine from cover to see if they go on any kind of patrol or foraging expeditions can help the PCs thin out the herd a little.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would suggest you present it as is, giving the players an appropriate amount of foreshadowing about what they can expect at this location, then let them decide what to do with full knowledge of the difficulty and stakes. Adjudicate what they decide fairly and with an eye toward the goals of play. I bet everything works out just fine.
 

Draegn

Explorer
There are alternatives to fighting. Perhaps the players could in someway encourage the orcs to fight one another over some issue? Remember LotR when the orcs fight over Frodo's shiny shirt.
 

S'mon

Legend
Level 5 PCs are well over twice as powerful as level 4 and have access to a bunch of AoE that can slaughter droves of orcs. Level 4 PCs are likely to get slaughtered.

I ran the Delmon Manor siege in POTA with 40+ orcs, several Orogs and a War Chief vs level 5 PCs and some weak NPCs. The Orcs were massacred in droves; fireball at a choke point was devastating - it was an easy win, but the PCs were defending and could choose not to expose themselves.
 

Also, not all the orcs are going to be ready for combat. Some might be doing chores, napping, whatever. Plus just because the guard shouts a warning, doesn't mean everyone is going to respond right away. So, the PCs will have time to retreat if desired, as well as the orcs should come in waves, maybe 1d4+1 orcs per round, with an ogre on rounds 2, 3 and 6, or something.

Then perhaps your players flee, and even though they don't have darkvision, doesn't mean they can't attack at night. Let them get creative. Maybe they burn the camp so they have enough light to fight by!
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
Attacking at night is a good tactic no matter what.

Lack of Darkvision shouldn't be an issue. Orcs will still have fires and torches. Darkvision sucks and, I feel, most DMs don't adjudicate it properly. You can only see 60 feet and all perception checks within that 60 feet is at disadvantage. Most orcs, in a camp, are going to spend their waking time at night near a torch or campfire where they can see properly. It's hard to play cards, or dice or do anything like cook without light or fire, even with darkvision.

A party can navigate in the dark without darkvision, given enough moonlight, if they are careful enough not to trip over rocks and bump into trees. Not as well as an Orc, who will have no such issues, but enough to get into an advantageous position.

The Orcs will, likely, be well lit, near torches or campfires, making it easy for people to shoot into the lit areas with no penalty, from a distance (assuming a long bow or long-ranged spells), while the orcs, because their lowlight is only 60 feet, have no clue where the shots are coming from and are at disadvantage on all perception checks to locate the direction of the shots.

Also, are orcs nocturnal? I'm not sure but, if not, a good portion of those orcs will be sleeping. If they are nocturnal, attacking during the day will give PCs advantage since most of the orcs will be sleeping.
 
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Tobold

Explorer
Level 5 PCs are well over twice as powerful as level 4 and have access to a bunch of AoE that can slaughter droves of orcs. Level 4 PCs are likely to get slaughtered.

Yeah, that is my most likely problem in my specific adventure. If the players go to the Shrine of Savras directly after Mountain Toe’s Mine, they will be level 4, not 5.
 

At that moment, the Stone Cold Reavers mercenary company came charging from off the side, launching ahead of the PCs. The orcs, caught off guard, focused surely on the faction charging at them. Sensing this as an opportunity, the PCs made their way past the carnage.

Then again, that is if you change the Stone Cold Reavers from a four/five party band into a small mercenary company. I feel that would work better in making them more of an antagonistic force.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
At that moment, the Stone Cold Reavers mercenary company came charging from off the side, launching ahead of the PCs. The orcs, caught off guard, focused surely on the faction charging at them. Sensing this as an opportunity, the PCs made their way past the carnage.

Then again, that is if you change the Stone Cold Reavers from a four/five party band into a small mercenary company. I feel that would work better in making them more of an antagonistic force.
I like this idea. Or have the party encounter the Stone Cold Reavers before they reach the Shrine. The Reavers are scoping it out from afar, trying to come up with a plan of attack, when the PCs arrive. The PCs can choose whether or not to cooperate with them.
 

I like this idea. Or have the party encounter the Stone Cold Reavers before they reach the Shrine. The Reavers are scoping it out from afar, trying to come up with a plan of attack, when the PCs arrive. The PCs can choose whether or not to cooperate with them.
The way I roleplay Slyvania Moonlight(I think that's the name of the one named member of the Stone Cold Reavers) is that she's not only the leader of the mercenary company, but also a complete sociopath. So if an option was to strike a deal with the PC for help, it would totally be in her favor, on her terms, and will be EXPECTED for the PCs to uphold the other end of the bargain. So making a dealing like that would be deadly. But drama and suspense!!!


Course no matter what, she'll backstab the party as soon as the moment presents itself.
 

pogre

Legend
I ran this recently and it looked awesome on the table! (We play via Zoom).

I had the orcs in two separate groups in the courtyard. PCs hit group one, group two showed up the next round, and finally the ogres showed up in the third round - emerging from behind the shrine.

I thought my PCs would flee when the ogres hit the table, because I was using a bunch of the Reaper Hookhill ogres - those things are the size of buses!

They did not flee.

Two front-line warriors went down and it was touch and go, but the party pulled it off.

Great combat!

I think allowing the PCs to make a dent in the orcs in separate waves was probably the difference.
 

Reynard

Legend
Orcs hit hard but go down easy. Let the PCs know what's up and let them figure out what to do. As others have mentioned, they might try a distraction or other means to whittle the orc force down. Maybe they will come up with a clever ploy or way to parley. Maybe they will rush in and all die.

Those kids of decisions, free of a heavy hand from the DM, are what make playing D&D fun IMO.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hi there! I am currently DMing the 5E Essentials Kit adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak for a group of 5 players. In that adventure there is one encounter [SPOILER WARNING] called Shrine of Savras in which the group encounters "4 orcs per characters plus 3 ogres", if they are level 4 or level 5. So for my 5-player group, that would be 20 orcs. Furthermore, unless the players attack at night (which isn't an obvious strategy, because several of them don't have darkvision), the encounter says that there is no way for the group to approach without raising an alarm from the guard orc on the tower and encountering all those orcs and ogres at once. Even if the characters sneak in unseen, all the orcs and ogres except for one guard are in the same location, so there is no easy way to fight them separately.

So, I just played through that scene a little while ago. I think we were level three or four, and there were only three PCs.

So, yes, if the PCs just walk in in broad daylight, they are in trouble. They have to be smart. Luckily, we were smart...

Note that orc darkvision is only 60 feet. The orc in the tower can't see very far at night - certainly not to the far corner of the building! If we designate the watchtower as the SW corner, we came in, under cover of darkness, to the NE tower. There was some risk to this, as one of us didn't have darkvision, but they managed to make a stealth check to be quiet while led by another character who could see.

We then quietly sat at that corner several hours, until dawn, when our non-darkvision character could see, and attacked the unspuspecting orcs while most of them were asleep. I guess our GM thought the idea that all the orcs would be inside the building all the time was silly (because, really, it is - orcs in a camp move around) or too deadly (which it might have been, I dunno). So, some were sleeping around little fires outside scattered around the compound. This allowed us to take the first gorup by surprise, and quickly dispatch them before any others could come along.

We then created a distraction using a wand of pyrotechnics from a previous encounter, directing most of the orcs to the southeast corner, as we moved to the northwest, now with the building blocking the watchtower orc's view of us. We met one ogre in that corner, beat him down, and moved inside the building, and so on.

So, misdirection and constant motion. so we were never dealing with them all at once, were key. Walking up in their faces would not have been a good idea.
 

Eltab

Hero
Haven't played this either, but my group is slowly learning tactics.

Find a way to create a choke point. Sure there's 20 of them, but if that big Ogre gets there first, you only have to fight ONE (at a time). Until some Orc in the back remembers their bow and arrows...
 

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