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I am creating a level one D&D campaign. At this point, they will have defeated two Awakened Shrubs, a Giant Rat, a Giant Owl, and possibly a Giant Centipede (it depends on whether someone keeps watch during a rest). This will bring the players up to either 95 or 145 XP. They will still be at level one, so will a Satyr be too advanced?

Keep in mind that this is a sort of "mini-boss" in the woods that the players will be adventuring in at that point. I will have 4 players or more. There will be one Paladin, one Druid, one Fighter, and one other who has not made a character yet. There might be more, but those are the only ones I have confirmed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 21 '17 at 15:50
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There are plenty of ways to handle it if the encounter with the satyr goes badly for your PCs. It all depends on the Satyr's intentions and motivations.

  1. He could capture them for some nefarious purpose.
  2. He could surrender as mentioned in the comments on the original post

    What's the satyr's motivations? Does he need to kill the PCs? Will he stand his ground until dead?- Important for knowing that you don't want the guy to try to escape at half HP (@daze413)

  3. There could be any number of possible outcomes

Matthew Colville specifically mentions this in his video on Bad Guys linked here: Running the Game #15, Bad Guys

He uses an example of one of his villains who is a high level wizard. He says that oftentimes he will have the party encounter them before it is ever possible for them to beat him. The point of this is to set up things for later narrative conflict with this villain. If attacked, he simply renders the PCs unconscious and leaves them for dead because at low levels they simply aren't worth his time to kill.

If you don't want to watch the whole video, the take away is to let your bad guy's motivations inform his decisions on how he fights the party. Definitely don't be afraid to use something that is too tough for them to beat as long as you have some ideas on how this can add to the narrative rather than just being a defeat for the party.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly what I was going to say. Being defeated early on by a villain is a great way to forge the PCs into a party with a shared history. Great Answer, +2 \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Jun 21 '17 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I edited this for format improvements, and to fold in the comment you referred to. Please review the edit to make sure it fits your intended answer, and edit again as needed. (I also voted +1 because this is a helpful answer to the question). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 21 '17 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much, @KorvinStarmast. I did do some editing to make it read a little better. I appreciate it though, especially since I wasn't sure if I should reference the comment directly. \$\endgroup\$ – kwgsmith Jun 21 '17 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great! At this point, the characters have just braved the dangerous woods and are about to enter a Druid civilization that lies in the center. The Satyr won't show up later, he is just a guard. So he could just take them into the village where things are cleared up if they lose. Thanks, this helped a lot! \$\endgroup\$ – Tyrvian Jun 21 '17 at 21:38
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The Guidelines

The DMG shows you how to determine if something is, in the abstract, an appropriate challenge. From the SRD:

A monster’s challenge rating tells you how great a threat the monster is. An appropriately equipped and well-rested party of four adventurers should be able to defeat a monster that has a challenge rating equal to its level without suffering any deaths. For example, a party of four 3rd-level characters should find a monster with a challenge rating of 3 to be a worthy challenge, but not a deadly one.

Monsters that are significantly weaker than 1st- level characters have a challenge rating lower than 1. Monsters with a challenge rating of 0 are insignificant except in large numbers; those with no effective attacks are worth no experience points, while those that have attacks are worth 10 XP each."

The stock satyr is CR 1/2, which means your party of four or more level 1 adventurers should rock its world.

But Parties Differ

But this is a general guide - only you know your party and its current state. Will they have had a lot of fights by that point without resting and be already significantly banged up? Do they kinda suck because they're new and have struggled with other CR 1/2 foes? Does the monster have abilities that the whole group is super weak against for some reason? (In this case, if you just had a party of all wizards, the magic resistance of the satyr would be much more impactful.)

And Monsters Differ

The DM controls the difficulty of an encounter to a great degree by determining the creature's motivations and tactics. If it cleverly splits them up and uses ambush and focuses on weakest opponents first and fights till dead, then that's a hard encounter. If it spends every other action wiggling its furry butt at them to taunt them and runs away if wounded, then it's an easy encounter. An experienced DM can, on the fly, always lower the difficulty and can usually up the difficulty by a level or two just by how they play the monster. And losing a fight doesn't have to mean death... Maybe this satyr needs some wingmen to win that nymph's heart and the PCs fit the bill.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This will be the Party's first session, so I feel like the Satyr will be a worthy challenge. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Tyrvian Jun 21 '17 at 22:22

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