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I've never DMed before, and would like to ask any experienced DMs if they think 3 (regular) wolves are too much for a level 8 monk.

It's a solo "party" with one Way of the Four Elements monk. He has an amulet that increases his AC by 2. It's D&D 5th edition. It will be a small 2 hour session, and no assistance will come.

I was wondering whether I should use just one wolf, but I thought that might be too easy, and I thought storywise it would make sense to have more than one wolf.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answers y'all its very helpful! \$\endgroup\$ – Aoi Nov 28 '18 at 16:31
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The encounter is probably too easy

A level 8 character has an experience point budget of 450 for an easy encounter according to the Basic Rules. At CR 1/4, each wolf is worth 50 XP, with a multiplier of 2.5 since there are three of them and only one monk. At 375, the encounter will be lower than the XP budget for the monk. (This factors in the Party Size to encounter difficulty, but the modifier possibly should be a little larger since the monk is fully alone.)

Wolves do get Pack Tactics which makes them punch a bit above their CR, since they will all be attacking the same target1. In a larger party, the players might divide the wolves among themselves to prevent this from becoming as much of a problem, but gaining advantage allows the wolves to have a decent chance at hitting the monk.

With 17 or 18 AC, they would be hard-pressed to hit at all without Pack Tactics; the monk has even more thanks to the amulet. I would say the extra Armor Class and advantage about balance out, perhaps a little in favor of the wolves since they can actually hit, but they still deal very little damage. The monk can kill a wolf in one round with flurry of blows.

This encounter is a little too easy.

1: I have had many experiences where a few monsters with Pack Tactics that are meant to be easy to defeat end up almost killing a party member that they group up against.

Some alternatives

If the goal is a fairly easy encounter, another wolf would probably balance things. Since the monk will probably kill one wolf almost immediately anyway, the encounter will be much the same. Except, the wolves get a chance for three attacks in the first round, bringing things closer to the easy encounter budget.

Note: Remember that Pack Tactics lets them punch up a bit since there is only one target.

I've included a few other encounters at varying difficulties that keep a similar flavor to the one you propose:

  • Easy: 4 wolves (50 XP each * 2.5 = 500 adjusted XP)
  • Medium: 2 dire wolves (200 XP each * 2 = 800 adjusted XP)
  • Hard: 3 dire wolves (200 XP each * 2.5 = 1500 adjusted XP)
  • Deadly: 2 alpha wolves (450 XP each * 2 = 1800 adjusted XP)

Note: My alpha wolves use the polar bear stat block, but have wolves'/dire wolves' ability to knock an enemy prone (see below) attached to their bite, and no swim speed. They will be a hair stronger than CR 2, but that is why the adjusted XP is lower than the 2100 budget.

If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity: have you been happy with the party size modifier when it's all the way down at 1? I generally haven't been, so I'd be interested to hear about your success(es) with it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 28 '18 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I have never used parties of smaller sizes than 3, except during split party situations when I made sure the encounters were extra easy just to be safe. That's why I added the "the modifier possibly should be a little larger since the monk is fully alone". Tried to make things clear that the rules don't cover solo parties fully. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 28 '18 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you think adding a Gnoll Pack Lord would even it out a bit? My goal isn't to kill him but I want it to really feel like there is an organized force opposing the village he's in since this is the first encounter that he will face and will bolster the fact that the villagers have been under siege for months by monster attacks \$\endgroup\$ – Aoi Nov 28 '18 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aoi for a basic understanding, use the Basic Rules link in my answer. Just make it a Medium difficulty encounter if he will be fighting more in the adventuring day, or a hard one otherwise (as long as he knows he can use all his ki). Adding a Gnoll Pack Lord brings the adjusted XP to 1500 (a hard encounter) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 28 '18 at 17:01
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No, it's a very very easy encounter

I utilized the third party tool Kobold Fight Club to look at the encounter difficulty and it is below Easy.

It was 3 1/4 CR creatures against a single Level 8 PC. This gives an adjusted XP, accomodating for multiple creatures, of 375. An Easy encounter for a single level 8 PC would be 450 XP.

I highly recommend using that tool, or one like it, to help you in your encounter design. It's not an exact science and you'll learn as you go along, but it'll give you some good direction.

Another good thing to keep in mind is flexibility during the encounter. You can always add more, or have some runaway, at any point as long as it fits narratively.

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