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The following contains minor spoilers for LMoP.

I am preparing to DM my first-ever game, which is the published adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver. I'm looking at the very first encounter, the

Goblin ambush on the Triboar Trail.

I will have four players, two of whom have never played a tabletop RPG before, with brand new level-one characters.

Due to the wooded location and

the Goblins' racial feature, it won't be very difficult for a Goblin to make a ranged attack from the woods and then immediately Hide as a bonus action (even if, as the book says, only two of the four Goblins make ranged attacks). My PCs' passive Perception scores will probably all be 12 or 13. If I have the Goblins Hide as a bonus action every chance they get, will that make the encounter too difficult for these four brand-new first-level PCs, some of whom are controlled by first-time players?

Or should I not worry about the encounter being too difficult, because the book says that

if the Goblins are victorious, they just loot the PCs and leave them unconscious?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's the first part. The second part is does someone who can see a creature need to use an action to notify someone who can't see it as to where it is? The third part is, if the answer to both questions is yes, then does having the goblins hide as a bonus action every chance they get, make the encounter too difficult for my players? I thought they were connected enough to be okay to ask them together. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Sep 11 '18 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would split those questions apart - each is a separate mechanic and deserves it's own chance to asked/answered/found by later users! For the first one, it does like a duplicate of this. The background can be useful, but I'm not sure it's necessary in this case - and you should probably spoiler it so that folks don't get information they shouldn't if they're going to use that module. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 11 '18 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK I will edit this question just to focus on the third part. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Sep 11 '18 at 19:57
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I wouldn't worry too much.

Especially since the party's defeat only leads to them getting knocked out and looted.

The difficulty of this encounter is going to be very much up to chance. If you roll very well for the Goblin's Hide checks, your PCs may struggle or be defeated, and if you roll poorly, they may get through the encounter easily. Sometimes the dice fall against the players, and that's ok. An early defeat may teach them to strategize a little better and show them that they're not going to win all the time just because they're the "heroes" of the game.

That being said, you can always improvise a little. Let's say your Goblins are up first in initiative and open with a few critical hits on the party (unlikely of course, but possible), or just have gotten the obvious upper hand in the battle. You could decide to roleplay that the Goblins start to feel overconfident after dishing out some major damage and no longer see the need to Hide. Maybe let the players know that the Goblins are laughing wickedly, tossing aside their bows, and moving in for the easy kills with their daggers.

This gives the players a chance to turn things around without having your monsters simply rolling over for them. Remember that monsters like Goblins aren't the brightest. Just because you can think of a strategy that will easily bring them a win doesn't mean that the Goblins are smart enough to come up with it or disciplined enough to carry it out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for 'Goblins are dumb'. A big part of DMing is being able to successfully execute tactics that make sense from the viewpoint of the monster but not from the viewpoint of the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 9:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also a +1 from me for the suggestion to "play dumb". Remember, as a DM, your role is not to defeat the heroes at all costs; your role is to be the architect of an epic (or sad, or tragic, or scary, etc.) story. If you're playing a heroic RPG with powerful heroes, then the DM should strive to keep that overarching tone of the game. (Obviously that doesn't mean heroes can't ever get their behinds smacked - just that the overarching tone should be preserved!) \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Sep 12 '18 at 10:47
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Probably not, for this group.

If you had a group of experienced players with new level 1 characters, I'd say go for it; they know what they're getting into and how to deal with hidden enemies and such. But since you have some people at the table who can't be expected to really know how combat is supposed to work and be comfortable with the mechanics, it may be better to let them just have the fight as an introduction to the basics, and not throw in too many twists right out of the gate.

So I don't think having the goblins hiding a lot makes the fight to difficult per se, but it may make the very first fight frustrating for first-timers, which is a bad look.

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This tactic is totally reasonable.

However, it's not that hard to beat. Your basic goblin has +6 Stealth, which against a Perception DC of 12 has a 3/4 chance of success. With two archers doing attack-move-hide, there's a 7/16 chance each turn that at least one of them won't get out of sight successfully. At that point your party can probably charge toward that goblin and start actively hunting it. Remember that the goblins can only hide if they can get to a spot where none of the PCs can see them, and the closer they get, the harder that becomes.

The players could also run away, though you might have to provide a nudge in that direction. My experience is that D&D players will not run away until the DM says something like "If you stay here, you will die."

This is one of the first encounters in a scenario for new players and it's explicitly not lethal, so it's clearly meant for the players to experiment with tactics. That works best if the bad guys use some sensible tactics of their own.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Remember that the goblins can only hide if they can get to a spot where none of the PCs can see them..." Are you saying that hiding is all or nothing -- that in order for the goblin to hide, its stealth roll must beat the passive perception scores of all PCs? I understood that it was handled individually, meaning that if the stealth roll beats one PC's passive perception, then the goblin becomes unseen by that PC, regardless of the other PCs' results. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Sep 12 '18 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ "At that point your party can probably charge toward that goblin and start actively hunting it." But a PC would have to burn an action, either by doing the Search action, or by attacking the spot where they think the goblin is, right? And regardless of whether they are successful in finding it, the goblin could attack again and hide again on its next turn. It's really the ability to hide as a bonus action that I think might be OP for the very first encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Sep 12 '18 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Are you saying that hiding is all or nothing -- that in order for the goblin to hide, its stealth roll must beat the passive perception scores of all PCs?" Effectively, yes, because whoever sees it first can point and yell and the pursuit can continue. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Sep 12 '18 at 16:24

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