I did the math for the encounter in area 11 in the Isle of the Abbey adventure from Ghosts of Saltmarsh (p. 108), and I came up with an encounter difficulty of 7200 XP. This is way, way more difficult than even a "deadly" encounter for six 5th-level characters (the module description at the beginning of the chapter (p. 97) states that it is "designed for a party of four to six 5th-level characters").

Assuming the party does not figure out the plot hook that allows them to avoid this encounter, does every DM ratchet this encounter down a bit? Or am I reading too much into the numbers?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth pointing out that Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a compilation of adventures from previous versions of DnD ported to DnD 5e without any balance patches. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Apr 17, 2021 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I've been pondering that. They had to make some changes and it doesn't make sense that some baseline balancing wouldn't be part of that. But you could be right. I have quite a stack of AD&D mods but none of the ones in GoS... \$\endgroup\$
    – Omortis
    Apr 17, 2021 at 14:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, to some degree they probably balanced things that they were adding in by adjusting statblocks - but they didn't adjust the number of monsters that appear, and that means that if an encounter throws up you up against 30 skeletons or something, you're going to be fighting 30 skeletons even if that might not be a balanced encounter in 5e. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Apr 17, 2021 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000: Some of that information may be useful material for an answer instead of a comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 17, 2021 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant Q&A on meta: Don't signal your edits in text. Instead, you should edit your answer to read as if it were always the best/most correct version of itself. Anyone interested in older versions can view the revision history. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 17, 2021 at 22:07

2 Answers 2


By my calculation, this is only a hard encounter for six 5th level characters.

The total xp of those monsters is 3600, and there are 5 monsters. Normally for 5 monsters, you multiply the xp by 2 for the purpose of measuring encounter difficulty, but we see this rule in the calculation guidance:

If the party contains six or more characters, use the next lowest multiplier on the table.

So we multiply 3600 by 1.5 and get 5400, and the threshold for a deadly encounter for six 5th level characters is 6600. For 5 or fewer PCs, the 3600 would be doubled to 7200, pushing it to a deadly encounter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool thanks for that, I missed the rule for "6 or more" PCs under Party Size. Either way, that's 2 (11 and 12) very nasty encounters back to back if the party misses the clue... \$\endgroup\$
    – Omortis
    Apr 17, 2021 at 2:37

It depends on the party's make up

(*Based on the original question, location 12)
The party I DM'd for in that one handled it pretty well. Here's the line up:
1 Barbarian, Bear Totem
1 Sorcerer, Shadow Magic
1 Druid, Shepherd
1 Artificer, Artillerist
1 Monk, Drunken Master

Tactical Points: artificer's protector canon was up, and the Monk Stunned the

minotaur statue {aside, the monk was wearing the medallion, not sure if that is the plot hook that you are referring to, I suspect that it is)

twice. They had just dealt with

a bunch of traps

and were not at full resources, but they also were not at the end of their rope either. IMO, the stun was a significant difficulty mitigation. If your party fights well as a team, they'll probably handle it unless the dice hate them.

No, it's not overpowered for your party of 6 PCs.

As you noted in a comment, the adjusted XP is 7300 for 5 in area 12, but since the party has 6 party members, it's 5475 adjusted XP; between hard (4500) and deadly (6600) for 6 fifth level PCs.

For location 11, they dealt with it in a non combat manner. Also, since your party has six PCs, per the DMG and the Basic Rules

If the party contains six or more characters, use the next lowest multiplier on the table.

you use a 1.5 rather than a 2.0 multiplier. The 5400 ajusted XP puts it between 'hard' and 'deadly'. In my experience, the addition of that sixth party member is a significant benefit to any party. (I have a memory of hearing that the encounter difficulty basis in the DMG is based on a 4-PC party, as an estimate; I can't find where I had heard that. I have found that with a fifth member in a party the extra ability to do a thing or two during a round can make a substantial difference unless, as above, the dice hate the party during that encounter).

The adjusted XP method is for estimates, and has soft edges

A few points:

  1. using the d20 system is by it's very nature 'swingy' - if you miss that hold person save the burst of damage that can hit your character really spikes.

  2. Some party combinations are better than others (Example: in area 11, if the party has a cleric there are some abilities that mitigate the danger better than if the party has no cleric).

  3. Some players are a lot better at applying synergistic effects and party combinations than others.

Use the numbers and difficulty ranges as a 'best estimate' rather than 'this is written in stone' for your encounter assessments and creation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited my original question - I apologize, I originally said location 12 but my "math" was for location 11. Sorry! Doing the same for 12, now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omortis
    Apr 17, 2021 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok I did the math for encounter 12 and it comes out to 7300 XP for 5 or less PCs (per the recommendation below). Even more dangerous! Yes, that is the plot hook I was talking about. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omortis
    Apr 17, 2021 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am targeting 4-5 characters but this is early days and I'm just assembling the campaign, now. Yeah, I'll be winging it and will make adjustments as necessary when we get there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omortis
    Apr 17, 2021 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Omortis: Did you intend for this question to be about area 11 or area 12? I know you originally mentioned area 12 but did the math for area 11... This answer mostly focuses on area 12, and addresses area 11 somewhat in passing; meanwhile, the other answer more specifically addresses area 11. If you wanted, you could ask about both areas' encounters separately (or possibly as part of the same question); if you ask a new question or edit this question to ask about both areas, then this answer could be copied over to the new question or edited to address the combined question respectively. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 17, 2021 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Sidenote: Judging from the revision history, it seems Thomas Markov's answer also had based its math on the encounter from the originally mentioned area, but updated the math after the question was edited.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 17, 2021 at 22:29

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