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I am going to DM for the first time. The group of players is 6 people.

I have no clue on how many creatures I should make them face. For example, a group of 2 people would face about 3-5 bugbears but a group of 6 people would need to face like 15 bugbears. Should I instead raise the CR or AC of the creatures? Should I give them more armor or should I just raise the number of creatures they fight? What should I do? They are all starting at level 1.

We are playing 3rd edition or a cross between 3 and 3.5.

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Okay, I may be misunderstanding your question, because I'm unclear on this: You say that you know that 2 PCs should face X number of creatures and 6 PCs should face Y number of creatures. How does that not answer your question? Why are you thinking about changing other things? –  SevenSidedDie Oct 28 '13 at 15:30
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You can find the "official" suggestion in an easy-to-use format here: d20srd.org/extras/d20encountercalculator That'll let you plan encounters for larger parties, but YMMV on how well it works in practice –  Yamikuronue Oct 28 '13 at 15:38
    
@SevenSidedDie I think gengar is positing that as the sort of answer he wants to see. –  C. Ross Oct 28 '13 at 16:11
    
@C.Ross That was my first guess, but getting my hands in there to edit it, I started to think that maybe they for some reason reject the idea of adding more creatures? –  SevenSidedDie Oct 28 '13 at 18:16

5 Answers 5

Be Reactive

If you're just starting as a DM, don't try to adjust things in your first few encounters. Balancing encounters is something that gets a lot easier with experience, and if you get it wrong early you may just wipe the party out by overdoing it.

It also depends on how optimized the party is. If the party is full of experienced players playing very strong builds, you will need to throw a lot more at them than if it's a party of newbies or people just playing non-optimized characters.

Given all that, the best advice I can give you is for the first couple of encounters, do nothing. Treat the party of six like it's a party of four for encounter purposes. If you're using a pre-written adventure, just run what they have in it. If you're making your own encounters up, use what the Monster Manual and DMG suggest for a party of their level (as a party of four, not six).

If that turns out to be too easy for them, start ramping it up. You can do that in a few ways:

  1. Add more Monsters. Don't do this if there's already a lot of monsters, as encounters with 20 enemies in them tend to take a really long time.
  2. Change to higher Challenge Rating monsters.
  3. Advance the existing monsters to make them tougher. There's rules in the Monster Manual to add Hit Dice to do that (or if the monster has character levels, add levels). (If you find you don't have time to do that and need to do it on the fly, adding 20% to it's HP and increasing the result of all rolls by +2 will make a tougher monster on short notice.... but you shouldn't do this on short notice if it's at all possible to plan ahead.)

Personally I find that fights in my campaign go more smoothly if the enemy count is under eight. There was one encounter in the book that had like 30 Goblins, and it really wasn't that fun for anybody. So if I needed to make a fight harder that already has six enemies, I'm unlikely to add more and will instead make the existing ones tougher.

Even with only one enemy I'll sometimes still choose to advance it. If the party is fighting a big dragon, what other creatures can I add that both make sense and won't really skew the encounter? If the fight is three enemies on the other hand, adding a fourth can be a practical way to make it harder.

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+1 for tougher monsters. –  CatLord Oct 28 '13 at 15:41
    
K thanks. i was wondering what i should do and now you answered my question –  gengar807 Oct 29 '13 at 0:04
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@gengar807 If the question is answered, please click the checkbox next to the answer you like so that other people know it's answered. Thanks. :) –  Tridus Oct 29 '13 at 11:30

Bigger Monsters

Since Tridus covered most of what I wanted to say, the only option I don't believe he included was a bigger singular monster. A large party has a better chance of surviving a more boss-like monster because one crit won't destroy all of their capabilities. With a group of six PCs, you could always try a Wyrmling aged dragon (IE a rogue wyrmling from a nest terrorizing a village. Small enough to be realistic/manageable, big enough to need a party that big).

Safety Nets

If the encounter gets to be too much for you to handle, or you're worried about the party, you can throw in some town militia (level 1 Warrior) as cannon fodder or as a narrative distraction. Or, on the contrary the party is only meant to stall the monster with a clock that you keep track of and thus control. Thus if the party doesn't really know how to handle the threat strategically, you give them an extra tactical advantage. Maybe some local trappers had a snare set for the beast but certainly weren't going to stay and watch when they had a living to make. In some beginner level D&D games I've offered the players tactical saving graces, but they had to buy them from the experience the encounter would offer (something like 10% of the XP, enough to be useful but still a big chunk). It went over well with newer groups that didn't know how to chain their abilities. The new advantage was often a hint at the best strategy (as I saw it) and direction but occasionally had an external loci for salvation such as the helpful NPC or the unknown sentient relic throwing some mojo around.

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+1 Town militia are always handy to have if you need to nudge an encounter a bit. The DMG has some tables starting on page 113 if you want to get generic NPC stats like those very quickly. –  Tridus Oct 28 '13 at 16:37
    
Thanks to your comment I thought to hotlink the warrior class on SRD –  CatLord Oct 28 '13 at 21:11

Depending on your type of game, there are a lot of things that you can do to change the difficulty of an encounter for a larger group. More enemies is definitely the easiest way, on paper, to do this as the DM, but you quickly run into administrative issues. More creatures in an encounter leads to slower turn time.

An alternative that I like to use is to pre-generate the encounter's treasure and let the monsters use that treasure. For example, a troll is CR 5. This would make a single troll an appropriate encounter for a party of 4 level 5 players. An easy way to make this encounter more difficult is to equip the troll with a ring of minor fire resistance. This may not work well at low levels, however, but it is something you can keep in your hat for later levels.

Another method to make an encounter more difficult is to make the encounter itself advantageous for the enemies. Some examples include giving the enemies the high ground, forcing the PC's to navigate a bottle-neck, placing obstacles between the PC's and enemies (allowing the enemies more chances to use ranged attacks), or the use of traps/caltrops.

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I suggest you start with a small amount of small NPCs in relation to the level of the players. I would then move it up to a large amount of small characters towards the end of the play period.

Example:

  • First encounter: 3 - give everyone a chance to do something, but don't let it stress them.
  • Second encounter: 3 - let them get used to how the system works.
  • Third encounter: 6 - give each one a monster; it needs to be easy but still give each one.

Second play:

  • First encounter: 4 - little harder, but remember, it's a warm up
  • Second encounter: 5
  • Third encounter: 7 or 8 - different distances away, so as not to swarm them, but let them pick and chose tactics and engagements.

Go on from there. Soft ball some at the first, then ramp it up. Remember, it's not about the story; it's about the fun and enjoyment they get out of the story.

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While I can't actually comment on the content of your answer, it looks like a good answer. I'd like to suggest, though, that you read through this and this. I've taken some time to edit your question's grammar, but in the future, it would be very helpful if you could take a look at this yourself. Thanks! –  Emrakul Nov 17 '13 at 23:42

The answer, I'm afraid, is "it depends." You can of course go with a small number of strong creatures, or a lot of weak creatures, but there are limits on both ends of this spectrum. Of course most dragons -all but the youngest and weakest- will toast a party of first-level adventurers. But even a sufficiently large army of kobolds will still paper-cut a 20th-level party to death. Striking a balance where battles feel intense but are still tilted in the players' favor is one of the trickiest parts of DMing.

Until you get a feel for what your party can handle, I would suggest smaller numbers of stronger enemies, because this makes it easier to fudge the numbers in an emergency. PCs don't know the exact health of each enemy, so it's easy to suddenly make an enemy weaker than it "should" have been. But they know exactly how many enemies are on the field, and you can only have so many of them suddenly drop from "random" heart attacks before it starts to look strange.

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