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Looking at the difficulty of the coming encounters and the fact that both me and my players are new (first time), I was thinking I should give my players a +1 sword which is dropped by the Orc Chieftain from the orc event. I was thinking it would do +1 all, then +2 to elves. Or maybe it would do +1 to fey, +2 if held by an orc. I think it could make for some interesting RP opportunities but it may be too powerful. At this point the players should be level 1 or level 2.

Is a +1 sword (with +2 to fey/elves) too powerful for their current level?

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Instead of a permanent solution consider a Spell Scroll.

Magic Weapon or Elemental Weapon would do quite nicely.

Both provide a +1 to attack rolls and damage (at their lowest slot) and are considered magical, in addition Elemental Weapon provides an additional d4 (again at its lowest slot) of choice of elemental damage upon casting. Both also provide an opportunity cost as they require concentration.

Also, with the new Xanathar's optional rules this is likely the most accessible for low level characters. It can also be given by a hedge wizard or town leadership in hopes of helping the adventurers defeat the threat. Then they can say "We helped!"

It is tempting to give your players extra edges in combat but as you are all first time, use it as a learning experience first before making changes that could take away the fun. If encounters are too easy they are not much fun in my experience.

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I would not do it

Rarity in D&D is a good indicator of value (mostly). +1 magic weapons are uncommon. Meaning this would be something the PCs should realistically start getting at higher levels (3-4ish).

Some alternatives: +1 ammunition, the help of an NPC for a combat, or an opportunity for them to realize that they have to be clever and tactically sound sometimes...

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This is something I've discovered recently as a new DM myself. Challenges are often a lot easier than they actually look.

I did a full combat session last week to get used to combat a bit more. I had 6 level 3 characters defeat all kinds of challenges with challenge ratings that should have been way too high for them. The last challenge they faced and beat, although two of them were down and nearly died, was a Drider and two smaller mobs. The Drider has a challenge rating of 6, the two smaller mobs both had a challenge rating of 2.

Although one or two of them came very close to dying, the others easily dispatched the mobs.

I've experienced the same in my other sessions, where my players easily beat some of the encounters that I thought would have been difficult.

Conclusion: Don't underestimate your players. They're a lot tougher than they look.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That Drider encounter plus the two mobs sounds about right for the resource depletion to be honest. Of course Mob mileage may vary by DM and terrain and such matters. Tucker's Kobolds anyone? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 28 '18 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid I don't know from this answer whether you're suggesting that the +1 sword should or shouldn't be given to the players/characters. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Mar 4 '18 at 6:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ My opinion is that you don't have to give them the +1 sword because they will most likely make it out of the encounter just fine. That doesn't mean you shouldn't though. It's your game! \$\endgroup\$ – Pascal Claes Mar 5 '18 at 9:18

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