8
\$\begingroup\$

I'm DMing a group with 4 players. For all of us, this is our first D&D experience. We'll be playing the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure from the Starter Set.

I'm concerned about the survivability, especially given how green the players are. At first level, they'll have 10 or 12 hit points, facing groups of goblins that can hit for 1d6+2. I'm adjusting the number of monsters in each encounter, but still worry.

Healing seems to be very rare. At first level, the spellcasters will have the ability to cast two spells in an entire dungeon.

The Epic Heroism resting variant (DMG, p. 267) seems like it could help, but might tip the balance too far the other way into easy mode:

This variant uses a short rest of 5 minutes and a long rest of 1 hour. This change makes combat more routine, since characters can easily recover from every battle. You might want to make combat encounters more difficult to compensate.

Spellcasters using this system can afford to burn through spell slots quickly, especially at higher levels. Consider allowing spellcasters to restore expended spell slots equal to only half their maximum spell slots (rounded down) at the end of a long rest, and to limit spell slots restored to 5th level or lower. Only a full 8-hour rest will allow a spellcaster to restore all spell slots and to regain spell slots of 6th level or higher.

Am I missing some element that would make the party more likely to survive the first dungeon, or would this rule variant be a good way to introduce the mechanics of the game?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ related: many of our questions tagged with LMoP. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 27 at 3:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ A reminder to potential answerers: All answers should be supported by citing evidence or experience. In this case, answers should ideally cite experience using the Epic Heroism optional rule or seeing it used. For more info, see these questions on meta: What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange? and How do we ask and answer subjective questions? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 27 at 6:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A handy tip that doesn't answer the question asked is to use "reinforcements" if you are worried about balance. If the encounter says "5 bandits" then have 2 bandits at the camp fire, the other 3 are out gathering firewood. When the fight starts they rush back and join in as seems appropriate. If the fight is going easily they arrive fast, if it's going hard they arrive slowly. You can also without telling anyone increase or decrease the number of reinforcements before they arrive. Reward players for scouting by letting them find the wood gatherers and ambush them apart from the rest. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Aug 27 at 11:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer so not posting as one, but look at the monsters attack bonuses vs your characters armor classes. My group didn't really get hit enough for the goblin damage to matter much. \$\endgroup\$ – Jake Aug 27 at 15:58
18
\$\begingroup\$

It's possible, but casters will have a field day

Lost Mines of Phandelver has a lot, a lot of encounters that consist of mostly low HP enemies that will die to a single AoE spell, two tops. At first this might not seem like a big deal, but it is when you combine a lot of easily AoE'd squishy enemies with the ability to get your spell slots back very, very quickly.

LMoP ends before your players will get access to true powerhouse spells like Fireball which will instantly end encounters, but a lot of first level spells will easily end encounters if you can simply spam them.

Even with only a single spellslot, a warlock who can get their spells back in 5 minutes will have no reason not to blow up everything in sight, then rest 5 minutes and do it again in the next fight. This will make your non-spellcasters feel a lot less exciting, because those classes are generally better in longer drawn out days where you can't simply unload all your resources into a single problem.

Now this might not be a problem if your casters mostly use spells like Sleep, but if you have a caster who specializes in blowing things to kingdom come you'll see a lot of fights end before your rogue and fighter have even gotten to the fight, leading to frustration.

The only fight I can come up with where your players are likely not going to notice the difference is the dragon, in the rest of the fights, classes specialized in spending x-per-rest resources will feel far stronger than your rogues or fighters. Considering you have first-time players, this might make some people think this is how D&D is always going to be, and they'll be turned off from playing characters that work better in drawn-out days because they believe they are vastly inferior to casters with AoE spells. (A problem I've encountered DMing for new players even when not using epic heroism.)

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen this exact issue multiple times when newer DMs run a lot fewer encounters per day than recommended. "Why is the druid an unkillable beast soloing every encounter?" -> you're letting them burn every resource they have, in each fight. Can be fun if the entire party is casters (and the encounters are rebalanced), but makes for a bad experience for non-casters and like you say, should probably be avoided to avoid giving newer players the wrong idea. \$\endgroup\$ – mbrig Aug 27 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Running fewer encounters can help later on, when the their hit point pool is sufficient to reduce the odds of any given single hit incapacitating a character. Unfortunately, at early levels, that simply isn't the case. If you have 6 HP, and a single goblin does 1d6+2 points of damage on a single hit, you have a 50% chance of being downed by any single hit from a goblin. Given that the goblins in LMoP need (IIRC) a 10-12 to hit the PCs, the goblin cave portion of the adventure has very good odds of incapacitating multiple characters in any single encounter. Rests only help survivors. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Sep 2 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheoBrinkman That is true, but rest does allow you to burn all your resources every encounter. You also only need a single AoE damage spell or a sleep spell to turn most of those goblin encounters into non-encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Sep 2 at 6:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theik, only if you're lucky enough to have most/all of the goblins fail their saves, which isn't a given by a long shot. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Sep 3 at 13:15
7
\$\begingroup\$

Shorter rests really won't help with the initial fights, because they're spaced closely together in time. If you alter the goblins in the cave, you don't have 5 minutes for a short rest, much less an hour for a long rest.

The solution is a small supply of extra HP at 1st level.

The simplest/cleanest thing you can do to make the initial encounters of Lost Mines of Phandelver more survivable, while having reduced impact as the characters level up, is to give them some bonus HP at 1st level.

At 1st level, and second level, those extra HP are a significant increase to survivability, virtually eliminating the one-hit kill concern. At 5th level, it's not a huge difference. By the time you hit 10th level, you're not going to need or notice it.

I've run LMoP twice.

The first time, the goblin cave was effectively a complete party wipe, with the wizard (at 1 HP) dragging his unconscious/dead companions away from the cave as fast as he could. (It didn't help that the party alerted the goblins to their presence and the rogue, attempting to scout the bushes outside the cave got tagged by two natural 20s.)

The second time, I gave everyone half their CON in bonus HP at first level, rather than their CON modifier. (It amounts to 5 extra HP.) Those initial fights were still tough, and dangerous, due to the lack of available healing, but it didn't come close to a TPK.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would having a friendly NPC cast 2nd or 3rd level False Life on them achieve the same effect? \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Aug 27 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D., that would have been my suggestion too. An apprentice wizard casting False Life upspelled to level 2 gives anywhere from 10-13 extra hp. That should be plenty for a days adventuring. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Aug 27 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott - Technically FL only lasts an hour, but there are oodles of ways to hand-wave that away (and I'm sure the party won't complain). \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Aug 27 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast, "a few healing potions" don't do much good when single hits from baseline goblins can be killing blows. If you have to spend the entirety of the party's available resources to survive what is supposed to be a set of 1st-level encounters, there is either (a) something wrong with the encounters, or (b) something wrong with 1st level characters. If the answer to a TPK in 3 encounters is "you should have spent all your money on additional healing before starting play in a module that starts with the PCs on the road", then that's a bad suggestion for a 'fix'. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Aug 28 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheoBrinkman Got it, all good points, comments removed. (And FWIW, I don't think dex of 14 for the goblins is good monster design, separate topic) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 28 at 21:53
1
\$\begingroup\$

Use of Rest Variation.


As the DM it is entirely appropriate for you to select if you use variant rules, such as Epic Heroism. There are a few things to think about though. Spell-casters can end up having a bit of an advantage over other classes with Epic Heroism. You may also want to consider whether you "change back" once the characters have levelled-up and are more powerful/capabable. You could also end up making more work for yourself if you continue to apply Epic Heroism and then need to keep adjusting encounters; unless you're writing your own adventures to take this into account. A different option that you may consider is to let the characters use the Healing Surge variant rule (DMG p266) until they gain some levels/experience.

Another few things to consider:

  • As the DM you can give opponents a "handicap" for their attack and damages, or scale the numbers of opponents, to make things a bit easier until the characters are a bit more skilled or others join the party. (This is essentially a variant/mix of Ignoring the Dice (DMG p236) and the DM determining the consequences (Resolution and Consequences, DMG p242).

  • You could send an NPC (or a couple) along with the group to assist, but remember not to "take over" the play. NPCs can be good "supporting actors" tagging along or departing as required. You can keep the NPCs' levels "balanced" to the characters as necessary; if they weren't part of the last adventure they were just off gaining experience somewhere else. I have used this technique with myself, as DM, controlling the NPC with some new players to good effect, and you can keep things moving along if the group gets stalled. There is information on options to do this under NPC Party Members (DMG p92)

  • Depending on the experience of the players, you could could let them control more than one character. This can be tricky, particularly with newer players, and pairs of characters (of the same player) can sometimes get along together "to well". We used this technique a lot playing with small groups and it is good as long as the players treat the characters as separate entities, not a single entity with "two bodies". There is some advice on this under Small Groups in the DMG p236

As other players come into the game they can create characters of about the same level as those already playing, or you could let them take over a long-term NPC. The first option probably being better as then they have better ownership of the character, and you can keep the NPC for later use as required. There is advice on new players joining the team in the DMG p236 - Also remember that early on characters do level-up fairly quickly, and they'll be able to handle threats better.

Hope that's some help.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.