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I'm trying to make a set of encounters for the following party:

Rogue, Cleric, Fighter, Sorcerer, Monk - all 3rd Level.

I have built three encounters:

  • 1 at Challenge XP 600 (6 Lower Level Minions)
  • 1 at Challenge XP 1350 (2 Were-rats)
  • 1 at Challenge XP 2150 (5 Minions, 1 Werewolf, 1 Dire Wolf).

Assuming that all characters are long rested prior to the fights and that they won't have chance to take short rests between any of the fights, how difficult will this sequence be?

NB: I've built a few fights already using the DMG & the Build Encounters Section (including looking at the calculations for multiple monsters & XP per Day), but they've proven too easy for the characters thus far and this is supposed to be the "end boss" sequence to this story arc and I'd like to pitch it right.

Any help for a GM new to 5e appreciated!

ANSWER: I have now adjusted the encounters to the following

1 at Challenge XP 600 (CR 1/2 x2 & CR 1/8 x4) - Possibility of turning the CR 1/8)

1 at Challenge XP 1100 (Wererat (CR2) & CR 1/4 x2)

1 at Challenge XP 1650 (Werewolf (CR3), Wolf (CR 1/4) & CR 1/8 x3)

Thanks for everyone's help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Richard and welcome to the RPG Stack Exchange. This question may be too broad and more appropriate to a forum where discussion and debate are available. There is a lot of detail needed when designing multiple encounters, like how your players reserve their resources, what opportunities to circumvent combat might be available, how effective your players are at their roles, etc. There are resources available to help guide when building Combat Encounters as well as planning an Adventure Day both within the DMG. Do you have access to these? \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Apr 30 '18 at 23:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.se. Please take some time to take our tour. You can edit your question with the clarifications asked on the comments. Stating what you have done to try and solve your problem, where did you get stuck and, if you know, why did you get stuck help us to give you a better solution and not waste our or your time. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 1 '18 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Folks - Sorry if this question has been a bit too broad, I ended up here from the Unearthed Arcana Exchange and I appreciate that this should have been asked in a different setting. That said, I'm grateful for the responses provided and will comment below. I will also adjust my question above to accomodate/adjust for the direct comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Allan May 1 '18 at 8:16
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Reverse Engineering

From Creating Combat Encounters (DMG pp.81-84).

Encounter 1: 6 monsters totalling 600XP. This means an Encounter Multiplier of 2 so each monster is \$600/2/6=50\$XP, so CR1/4.

Encounter 2: 2 CR 2 monsters (450XP). Encounter multiplier 1.5 so \$450\times 2\times 1.5 = 1350\$ - looks correct.

Encounter 3: 7 monsters of CR3, CR1 & CR?. Encounter multiplier 2.5. CR3 - \$700\times 2.5 =1750\$, CR1 - \$200\times 2.5 = 500\$ that totals \$2250\$ so \$2150 - 2250 = -100\$XP left for the minions - so the minions are going to be on the player side? Or perhaps there's a mistake here somewhere? If these are the same type of minions from Encounter 1 then they are worth \$50\times 2.5\times 5 = 625\$. This would be a total for this encounter of \$2,875\$.

Encounter Difficulty

5 level 3 PCs have an encounter budget of:

$$\begin{array}{clc} \text{Easy} & 75\times 5 = 375\\ \text{Medium} & 150\times 5 = 750\\ \text{Hard} & 225\times 5 = 1,125\\ \text{Deadly} & 400\times 5 = 2,000\\ \end{array}$$

Encounter 1 is Easy, Encounter 2 is Hard and Encounter 3 is Deadly. This means:

Easy. An easy encounter doesn't tax the characters' resources or put them in serious peril. They might lose a few hit points, but victory is pretty much guaranteed.

Hard. A hard encounter could go badly for the adventurers. Weaker characters might get taken out of the fight, and there's a slim chance that one or more characters might die.

Deadly. A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat.

So, the first encounter shouldn't use up too many resources - assuming your players can acurately assess the threat and don't blow all their resources here. The second encounter will challange them and the third could be a TPK if things go wrong - I'm OK with that if you are.

Multipart Encounters

Sometimes an encounter features multiple enemies that the party doesn't face all at once. For example, monsters might come at the party in waves. For such encounters, treat each discrete part or wave as a separate encounter for the purpose of determining its difficulty.

OK, done that.

A party can't benefit from a short rest between parts of a multipart encounter, so they won't be able to spend Hit Dice to regain hit points or recover any abilities that require a short rest to regain. As a rule, if the adjusted XP value for the monsters in a multipart encounter is higher than one-third of the party's expected XP total for the adventuring day (see "The Adventuring Day," below), the encounter is going to be tougher than the sum of its parts.

Well 3rd level PCs have a daily budget of 1,200 each, there are 5 of them so one third is 2,000 and the total for these 3 is 4,825 - so, more than two thirds. I would try to squeese in a short rest between 2 and 3 or else the odds of a TPK go way up.

Other Concerns

Damage Immunities Bludgeoning, Piercing, And Slashing Damage From Nonmagical Weapons That Aren't Silvered

If the PCs only have normal weapons then only the Sorcerer and Cleric can damage the lycanthropes. If so, then a TPK is almost certain. Better make sure some if not all of the Rogue, Fighter and Monk have magic or silver weapons.

If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 11/12 Constitution saving throw or be cursed with wererat/wolf lycanthropy.

Each bite, the players have a 1/3 to 1/2 chance of getting cursed - get bitten 3 times and your chance of avoiding the curse are about 12-25%. Assuming the PC wants to fight the curse (and it isn't a full moon) then this shouldn't affect this fight but it needs the 3rd level spell Remove Curse to cure which the cleric can't get until 5th level.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wish I could give more than a +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Voromir Kadien May 1 '18 at 5:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the multipart encounter, I would exclude the first encounter XP though. It should be a walk in the park for the 3rd level party and as you yourself mentioned, almost no resource should be spent on it. The main problem is from 2 to 3 without a short rest - mainly for the Fighter. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 1 '18 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow!! Dale, this is an incredible amount of work - thanks ever so much. I wasn't sure what I needed to think about to balance this right (as I thought I had done this right already) but you've raised a few things. I will reduce the difficulty of the 2nd & 3rd Encounters slightly to bring them into the Medium & Hard brackets. The Party prepped for this by getting their weapons silvered I plan on using the potential of a cursed individual as a plot/character hook for the next stage of the adventure. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Allan May 1 '18 at 10:34
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Adding to the technical answer from Dale M, I'd like to add that there are other factors to "how difficult will an encounter be":

Surprise

How do you intend to start these encounters? Are the players getting caught by surprise by the first encounter, and then normal encounters follow? The opposite? (They are the surprise attackers for the first encounter?)

Surprise might be a relevant factor, mainly for the first encounter, and it is certainly relevant mechanically. If they are caught by surprise, the first six attacks might force a healing effect from the party, although no more resources should be used. On the other hand, five 3rd level characters could be to able to one-shot five CR1/4 monsters if they are the surprising side, making the encounter almost non-existent.

Terrain

Your party has at least one character that certainly likes to Hide - the rogue. Does he have good places to hide? Is he on the open? Can the enemies get half-cover, 3/4 cover, full-cover against ranged attacks? Are they smart enough to?

This will also make the encounter harder or easier depending on how you set it up. The multi-part encounter is already hard enough as it is, as mentioned in Dale's answer. You probably should be giving cover to your party and letting them outsmart the enemies, not the opposite.

Damage Immunities

As Dale mentioned, the WW alone is troublesome due to the damage immunities if your party doesn't have the magical tools to handle it. If you didn't already, set them up letting clear that they are fighting WWs soon and let them get at least silvered weapons, assuming they can afford it (they should). It seems you are already going for the final battles, so it might be too late to give them magic weapons if they don't already own, but as I mentioned, the silvered weapons should be enough.

How will you play the creatures?

It also depends a whole lot in how you will play them. If the creatures are played as dumb beasts (they could or not), focusing the party's Fighter instead of maneuvering for the Rogue and Sorcerer, the encounter should again be easier than if it was played optimally. Note that not every monster has 30 INT and the ability to check who is the easiest member to kill on the party, so focusing the Big Guy with a Big Sword right in front of them many times is what makes more sense, even if it means the encounter will be easier by doing that.

TL;DR:

From a pure Adjusted XP perspective, the encounter is hard and has a decent chance to TPK, as stated in Dale's answer. However, many other factors can make it easier (or harder, if things don't go as expected and we underestimated your PCs, or overestimated the encounters - it happens) than it looks like. It depends on how you set up these encounters and how you play them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Hell Saint - Surpise - depending on how well they deal with the other encounters, they may get surprise. The first encounter is there to refresh my players on combat mechanics - they are fairly green. Terrain I have included several pillars, corners, etc. for the Rogue to utilise and he knows/wants to. Immunities - Their weapons are silvered. Play I'm thinking that making the smaller/minion monsters conscript/forced soldiers might give the possibility of them being turned or if not, fighting badly. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Allan May 1 '18 at 10:41

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