I am still a new GM and I am building a session for three first-time players. After discussing the game, rules and setting, all of them are interested in playing magic characters (Draconic Sorcerer, Druid and Warlock).

That is OK both for me and for the setting, but I am worried that average combat encounters could become over/underpowered against a full magic party.

Should encounters be handled on a different way for a full magic party?

What kind of parameters (number of enemies, their stats, the environment) could break the balance?

Since it seems there is a bit of confusion, I'll make this clear: I don't want to make things "easier" for them, I want to be able to evaluate the difficulty of the challenges they face, so the encounters are meant to be challenging, but I don't want to throw them fights they can't win.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Assassin Iron Golems. Make it happen. \$\endgroup\$
    – QuestionC
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 18:16

9 Answers 9


Adding Variation to encounters.

First: Terrain.: You should begin by considering terrain. When dealing with typical groups terrain isn't as large an issue because the tanks tend to control the battlespace. With casters, terrain becomes all important because they're going to want to utilize crowd control effects and force creatures to rough terrain in order to maximize their ability to pick them off from range.

To expand further on terrain to encourage people to really consider room layouts:

  • Things like pillars, furniture, drapes, windows, and whatever the place uses to manage temperature (fireplace, braziers, torches, etc) are all powerful additions to improvisation and challenge. The big thing is actually utilizing these features.

  • If the players, being new and all, don't use them, start having your monsters show them what they can do.

  • For example, have an orc kick over a brazier of coals to burn away some tangled vines that were cast for crowd control.

    • Have a goblin leap into the air and use the chandelier to swing over to the casters from above.
    • Have reinforcements smash in through the windows from the floor above.

    • If your casters are using a lot of ranged cantrips, get a couple of creatures together to start pushing a table in front of them to take the brunt of the damage (until it's destroyed).

      There's a lot you can do, the limit is really up to you and your players.

Second: using CR as a guide: the CR ratings in the Monster Manual are a good indication of difficulty, but understand that the CR rating is meant for a balanced group of 4, and that your group of 3 casters (especially if they're glass cannons) is going to throw things off quickly.

  • For instance, they will have absolutely no problems with any single encounter because of their power level. The easiest way to make fights balanced for a nuke heavy party is to throw a couple of CR level fights at them in a row to see how many spells they need to use, and to see just how much is too much to throw at once.

  • When you have a feel for that, you can use what I call the fodder mobs.

    • These mobs are large groups (6 to 10) of very low CR level mobs that can not be ignored due to their sheer numbers. Casters will be forced to utilize AoE spells (costly spell slots) or terrain altering CC to deal with these mobs. In addition it will keep the party on the move and provide a balance against just watching them wipe the table with your creatures. An example of this is a zombie horde which contains 30+ zombies.
      In and of themselves, these aren't a big deal. However trying to kill them all before the get to your casters can be problematic. A caster burning his fireballs on the zombies no longer has them for use against 3 ogres in the next room.

Third: Overkill. With a caster heavy party, if you don't have any tanks, you're going to be severely limited when it comes to engaging them with the usual creatures such as orcs, ogres, trolls, goblins, lizardmen and other common creature types. You always have the option of showing them exactly why running no tanks is a terrible idea, but if you're more interested in keeping the story going with the characters they've made, then the tailoring is going to be 100% from your end. This leads me to my final point.

Fourth: DM mutation mode. If you're running a dungeon of undead and your casters take mobile as a feat so they can just kite the zombies everywhere, start introducing modified undead elites. One in every five skeletons comes up with the Charger feat, allowing it to dash and take an attack as a bonus action. Some zombies come up immune to fire. Others use nothing but the Dash action on their turn and explode when killed or when within 10 feet of a player in a 20 foot radius.

  • Basically, come up with new and interesting things on the fly to throw at your players in order to challenge them when things get to be routine.

    In fact, you could have persistent undead that unless consecrated with holy water return from the pile of bones, ash or bodies that they lay in in 1D6 minutes, forever dogging the party until the casters come up with a way to barricade the enemies behind something impenetrable (like dropping the ceiling behind them somehow.)

    Caveat on changing monster stats: you should always compensate in some other fashion in order to retain balance, and so you don't have to adjust XP or CR levels. For example, if you have a zombie come up with fire immunity, consider removing a HD from it's HP total in order to compensate the change. I personally prefer to leave this entirely up to random chance, and simply have tables of things I can add to my monster types in order to increase or decrease the complexity level accordingly. For instance, there's plenty of immunity or resistance to normal weapons that is bypassed by magical weapons, but sometimes it's a lot of fun to make a monster immune to any magic whatsoever and require the party to engage it using psionics, improvised weapons and regular weapons. Of course, since the monster is immune to magic, it doesn't have any magically enhanced strength or speed, so it doesn't hit like a freight train or use spell like abilities.

Anyways, try some of those out and see how they work for your group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Some zombies come up immune to fire." As this kind of cheese goes back to Greyhawk era DM vs Player concepts, it's hard to complain but it's a cheap trick ... unless you boost CR and XP award for this more powerful zombie. ;-) Suggest you add "this boosts CR" for such monsters in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 17:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks , this kind of advice is what I was looking for! Playing with terrain, monster numbers and special monsters will make the difference. Of course, as @KorvinStarmast says, I won't throw them fire-immune zombies without at least a couple of subtle warnings, and I will remember them they have to manage their spell slots carefully and take advantage of the terrain. \$\endgroup\$
    – Santreim
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 but I am not 100% convinced that this party has "no tanks". Depending on how that Druid is built, it could be pretty tanky. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 19:16

As the GM I would not worry about it at all.

IMO the cardinal sin a DM can do is make the players feel "safe". Don't confuse balance with maintaining a FAIR/consistent world but frequently the two get confused when talking about balanced. Yes a level 18 character should not have to fear a single skeleton but I don't fear a bee or a fire ant but I still am willing to take one seriously if it's crawling on my arm.

This is an opinion but I'd say no - the players will have some fights that are much easier for them and some that are much harder. That's their problem/benefit not yours. Certainly you should give them metagaming advice but the whole goal of the game is to let them decide what their characters are.

As long as things are still fun and challenging I would not sweat it - one of the great things about pen and paper is there is no need to make all the roles "balanced" the way they are in MMORPG - sure there are more or less effective mixes but the game should be fun and playable with a part of all half orc druids if that's what your players want to be.

I'd even play up the fact that some things (goblin rush or even a low level army attacking their town) may let the group shine but others (Resist magic boss...in perpetual darkness) may wipe the floor with them.

Balance is, in that respect, the party's issue, not yours. Let the players figure out innovative ways to get around their self imposed limitations. Or die, muahahah...

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm on the same page as you, we are playing a sandboxy game, and the world is meant to be dangerous. That's why I don't want to throw them an encounter that becomes too easy for them, nor impossible. At least on their 1st session... \$\endgroup\$
    – Santreim
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for letting the players figure out innovative ways to get around their self imposed limitations or die. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... which may or may not be "fair" with newbies. But well, if they do so knowingly... \$\endgroup\$
    – Raphael
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 5:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ As players, there is a learning curve as well as the learning curve represented by character progression that is played out as not knowing everything and having to do Int or Lore checks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:16

So you're listing 3 classes selected, but class details are important.

Draconic Sorcerer, Druid and Warlock

At first level, everything is kind of frail.

By second level, the Circle of Moon Druid is a "front-line" tank. Transform into a bear with 30+ HP and multiple attacks. Trust me, these are hard to kill.

By third level, your Sorcerer will have access to Shield & Mirror Image and your Warlock will have access to Hellish Rebuke. All of which mean that they are not helpless in melee. A Pact of the Blade Warlock will be at least useful with a blade and capable of surviving some melee.

So you don't really need to tailor anything. Your party should be perfectly capable of surviving the basic things you will throw at them early on, especially if the Druid is a Moon Druid. The party will have lots of spell variety available, so it's really on them to prepare appropriately as time progresses and the enemies get tougher / more varied.

  • \$\begingroup\$ These are good points, but at 3d level ... how many encounters per day/long rest do they face? Spells can get burned up quickly. Do you want to address that in your answer, given that the game is "balanced" around a mixed party of 4, two short rests and multiple encounters per day? (6-9 seems the number most often used to illustrate this). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Korivn - the encounters pretty much start at around 5-6 per long rest period, and then gradually move up based on story and difficulty. The game was based on the balance of being able to deal with 6 CR 1 encounters in a row (NOT AT THE SAME TIME - so many DM's screw this up horribly) for a party of 4. 3 casters should be able to handle 3 - 4 encounters per long rest. If they blow all of their spells in the first 2, I would make them pay for it for the next two. Low level characters are meant to die, it's how you learn how to deal with challenges. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's also be clear here, all casters have access to damage-dealing cantrips. Warlocks have Eldritch Blast that can deal 1d10+CHA at level 3, with 120ft range. It also uses their proficiency+CHA to attack. That's on par with a Fighter in terms of basic damage & attack bonuses. The Sorcerer probably has something slightly weaker and 6 spells / day... but that Scorching Ray can deal 8d6 points of damage! Look, if the PCs don't have a true "tank" they just have to work around that limitation and play their fights differently. But D&D has lots and lots of ways to do this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gates VP
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:59


... but I'm sure you want slightly more detail, so let me expound:

You're getting a lot of good advice about balance, about old-school methods, about optimized builds to mitigate the balance, and I'm actually surprised to not (yet) see one about CR numbers and linking to Wolfram Alpha, but I'm sure it's coming. And this is all great, fantastic advice. Read it, and the other answers. But my response to your question--and it will contain an answer--is...

Are you serious?!

No really, are you freaking serious? Because what I'm reading is that you have a rare, golden opportunity to have an especially unique campaign, and you're asking if you should go with it.

Dude, White Wolf has made an entire game line based on this premise, called "Mage: the Pretentious Edition-Specific Subtitle." And if you can get past the scent of patchouli reeking off the writing, it's actually really good.

What's so great about it is that everything in the game serves to remind you that magic is real, it is distinct, it is unique (especially the newer edition of Mage, whose setting is sadly poorer), it is everywhere, and it is not just an appliance you use for a simple end.

"But my players just want to kill things and take their stuff!"

Bullshit. They had a thousand and one options, and they all decided to make magical characters. And even if they made them in isolation, it appears that they even kept the choice after finding out the others also made magical characters. Given the options in 5e, any one of them could have said, "well, magic is going to be overdone, but I still like the supernatural stuff... so maybe an Avenger Paladin like a medieval Batman, or an Arcane Trickster modeled after this Naruto character I liked when I was a kid, or maybe a crazy Bard with grappling feats who I play as Rowdy Roddy Piper--I'm not even joking he IS Rowdy Roddy Piper and he's all out of bubblegum, yes!!"

No, they stuck with it. All deep, hardcore magical classes.

"Are you sure?"

Yes, but you might give The Same Page Tool a try to make sure everyone's on the page. You probably should do this anyway. So go do that.

"OK, you were right, now what?"

I know I was, thanks. So, let me give it to you straight: It's going to take a lot of work, and this may be a little above your comfort zone as a new DM. You sound awesome, but it may be above even your skill level right now. I'm not going to assume that though. Let's assume success is an option!

Consider house ruling a few things from the top. Let me suggest 3 things to help you integrate magic into the very air your characters will breathe. They aren't necessarily the right answer, but they should get you thinking down the right path.

Draconic Sorcerer has Detect Magic going, constantly. No rolls, no concentration, it's part of who he is, the result of being a magical bloodline--a bit like Peter Parker's Spider Sense. You will need to add in magical details. Note objects that stand out "magically," and consider that spirits, the emotional energies poured into artwork, and sentimental value may be things that can ping this sense. You may want to do some research about auras and what the colours mean. That way you can describe any given object/person/etc as glowing with this or that colour, or whatever. They can analyze the results of this sense by rolling Arcana (or Religion if they don't have that, or maybe Insight--it's part of who they are, after all).

The Druid can sense all the living things within 30 feet, again, as part of who they are. Pick a sense and base it off that. Let's not do sight, that's the Draconic Sorcerer's thing, let's be crazy and do smell. In the middle of a jungle, the Druid may actually feel a mildly uncomfortable pressure due to the absolute weight of life around them. In a desert, however, the slightest life would stand out like a pinprick. A moldy dungeon may feel slightly tingly; petting a horse is going to feel very pleasant, almost like the horse is petting the Druid--unless the horse is undead. Pick a key feeling for plants (tingling?), a key feeling for animals (throbbing?), and a key feeling for sentients (thrumming as if you were a guitar string) to describe things with. A Nature (or Arcana if it's a weird Druid without the Nature proficiency, or Religion failing even that) roll can analyze those sensations for more detail.

For the Warlock, since you didn't describe which kind, let's go with sound. Once more, this is an innate part of this magically transformed person; like the others, you can no sooner remove this than remove their emotions. But let's not just rip off the previous examples and go with any old sound. What makes a Warlock is that they have some form of patron... so this is going to be a voice. The Archfey will narrate things, like the narrator in The Stanley Parable or in the movie Stranger Than Fiction. If the patron is The Fiend, then instead perhaps the Fiend will whisper in their ear, like a cartoon devil on the character's shoulder--in fact, go ahead and make the Fiend show up as a cartoon devil that only this character can see. Or, if the character is affected by the Great Old One, then give them auditory hallucinations of nightmarish secrets spoken in words no sane mind can comprehend, but hinting at the secrets that lie beneath--the lies, the manipulations, the arcane and hidden about things. Once again, choose Arcana, Religion, or perhaps Investigation as the go-to proficiency for interpreting more from this sense.

As a slight alternate, instead of allowing them to roll a skill to go deeper, allow them to roll that skill to "proc" or fire off that sense. Perhaps it doesn't even appear unless they succeed. Or just base the quality of the information off of the level of success/failure.

A Lot of Work

That's my simplest advice, but it's going to take a lot of work. I know, I understand. But it's going to be so immersive, my friend. More so than adjusting CRs based on the ratio of monster to PC hit points. More so than forcing your players to perform 30 minutes of data entry to make a new character every time they or you make a mistake. This is especially true if you make those senses part of your descriptions and interaction, and if you make those senses also a liability. The pressure of the living could be quite debilitating if the Druid is infected with some form of evil spores (which a Warlock of the Great Old One could know a way to help with, thus giving you an innate adventure hook). The Fiend may whisper very bad ideas in the Warlock's ear, ideas which seem good at the time. And a sufficiently magical object may blind the Draconic Sorcerer's actual visible-spectrum vision.

But don't focus too much on the weaknesses. Focus on what they can add.

These senses can make up for the lack of other classes' capabilities.

The Archfey Warlock's narrating patron can outright say, in the right circumstances, "... but the constable's family isn't nearly so capable of protecting themselves, and he knows it," to help with an Intimidation attempt that may well fail for lack of a charismatic Rogue. The Druid can feel the life draining out of creatures, or sense the presence of living creatures lying in ambush, making up for a lack of a Ranger. The keen magical senses of the Dragonborn can identify vulnerabilities in monsters--especially if you add strong ones for him to find. Perhaps all goblins are deathly allergic to milk, or the undead are burned by salt.

So that's it, that's my advice with examples on not only whether you should tailor encounters, but how. In short:

You have magical characters, so make magic an integral--no, the integral part of your world. Do so, and especially as you get used to it and comfortable with house rules and adjudicating on the fly, your campaign will be the most memorable of all.

And all because your players were too stubborn to make a balanced party.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer, you made my head spin with lots of new ideas to improve the campaign. However, I was searching more for mechanical answers to combat encounters than plot/flavour/houseruling. I will follow your advice, and I'm sure my players will love it, but I hope you understand I select a more mechanical answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Santreim
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 7:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for an answer outside of the box; nice ideas on how a DM shapes the world and the playing experience. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NanbanJim we have a policy here that insists everyone Be Nice. That's 2 times riding the line. Be courteous to other site users please. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 3:22

The absense of first line melee people makes a big difference:

  • The value of the feat Resilient (Constitution) goes way up, to keep Concentration going
  • One level of Cleric for the Medium or Heavy armor and Shield becomes highly desirable
  • Basically the emphasis and relative value of feats and abilities shift

While having fun is the most important factor in the game, still the story should be realistic. If they never meet big bosses, but every enemy group consist of small monsters clumped neatly togehter for a Fireball, it will soon get tiresome and suspicious.
You could bend over backwards to create encounters that are tailored to their strengths, but it is more work for you, and less challenging and interesting form them. What I would do instead, is pushing them in a more melee oriented direction.
Moon Druids are great in the front line, and Pact of the Blade is also meant to be in hand to hand combat.
Let them hire guards and henchmen, to serve as cannon fodder.

To sum it up, change encounters, but not too much or in a very obvious way, and help them to fill in the gap themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll suggest these build options to the players, but I don't want to force them to build optimal characters. I believe their character are their own, and they should build them as they wish. \$\endgroup\$
    – Santreim
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let them know about the possibilities and the benefits, but let them decide. If they are not interested, hired NPCs are probably the best option, gold is hard to spend in Dnd5e anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 14:10

No, it doesn't make a difference overall.

Concentration isn't a factor to the number and variety of ranged spell attacks in an all-spell-caster party. Again, this is speaking overall like for example running though Phandelver or the Horde of the Dragon Queen.

The different character classes have different capabilities but aren't dramatically different in my opinion over the course of a campaign.

In my experience the single biggest factor in 5e encounter balance is the number of players in the party - period. More characters means more variety in the way that the party can handle encounters.

What is critical is how the characters' selection of spells meshes with each other. Melee character give you staying power, spell casters give you the big damage/control in a short time.

The only time I see party composition make a difference is if they lack decent ranged attacks (spell or regular weapons).

Concentration is not the factor people think it is; the buff effects that use it give an edge but are not decisive compared to numbers and the use of basic tactics.

Armor is nice, but with Bounded Accuracy and larger Hit Point poos it is more about damage per round, and doing more damage sooner than the opposition does.


Honestly, the core issue seems to be totally ignored by all the answers: What is your goal? Let's examine the two different most typical goals.


In such a play style you try to have a realistic world and you're simply living in it. As a GM you are primarily the creator of the world, not the story. You create this huge world where you let the players run wild and then react to what they do. In such a case you would not adjust the encounters whatsoever at all. That in no way means your world doesn't react to the presence of a group of magic users, but if anything that means you only adjust the easy stuff to make it harder (after word gets out that a group of magic-only users is coming). Totally practically speaking this also likely means that they will be get wiped out pretty quickly in an unlucky encounter.

Story driven

On the other hand the other popular play style is one where you are primarily the creator of the story as the GM and although players can direct the story to a smaller or greater extent the most important thing is having the players feel like they are part of an awesome story and adventure. In this case you might definitely use the fact that their entire group consists only of magic users in your plot, but in the end you do adjust everything to optimize for the best possible story. If that means that you exclude a couple of highly magic resistant enemies because they would break the plot too much then that is perfectly fine, though at the same time you should of course make them feel the consequences of such an unbalanced party at least at some level.

So, practically speaking in both cases the party will wish to hire some kind of tank or something as soon as possible probably and I think it might be a wise idea to give them that chance. Except of course if they are new to the game and do wish to play sandbox games and you consider this as a chance for them to learn that full magic parties don't work. Well, either that or you can try to coax them into developing a more melee like fighting style as some of the other answers suggest, but I am not entirely sure they will be willing to do that if they choose a party like this in the first place.


Should encounters be handled on a different way for a full magic party?


What kind of parameters (Number of enemies, their stats, the environment) could break the balance?

To address this--and to explain my 'no' above--I encourage you to think of your party a little differently. It's not that remarkable that every party member is magic-using: in 5e every class has at least some way to use magic. (Admittedly, the barbarian's magic is pretty sparse.) So I don't see it so much the profusion of magic that distinguishes your party; it's at what opportunity cost that concentration of magic comes:

  • a mass-hit absorber/obvious target, depending on your druid's choices and play-style;

  • a sneak;

  • a diplomat, though your charismatic sorcerer or warlock might cover this;

  • a mass or frequent healer;

  • a 'buff'er;

  • a wilderness guide, though again druid may help some here;

  • &c., &c., &c.

Your group may not be constructed to stack up well against some of the non-combat encounters along their path--be aware of that. A good adventure will have plenty of paths between waypoints: any time you see an obvious non-combat intent in an encounter's design be sure you've spotted the alternatives, as your party may need to take two or three runs at these encounters.

In combat they'll likely have potent offense but not much ability to take a licking--mobility and range will be their friends. (That's both their positive mobility and any impediments to enemies' mobility.) A party mindful of terrain is going make much more-efficient use of their area of effect spells, anyway!

Venturing into 'advice' territory, I'd discuss the above with your party. Let them know you're psyched to see how it's going to work out for them, and here are the pitfalls/opportunities you foresee for them. If it were my group and an encounter seemed like it were spinning way out of control I'd happily press "pause", chat a minute about how and why it's developing, and "resume" (possibly re-setting the clock). But that sort of meta-gaming is highly group-specific, and is anathema to many. Good luck, and have fun.


Disclaimer: I'm currently playing a Wizard in a 5e campaign but I haven't played the other spellcaster classes & am not familiar with their spells. Speaking from experience, even a 1st class Wizard has an inexhaustible supply of Fire Bolt and Ray of Frost direct damage cantrips.

Having said that, here are three suggestions to create balanced encounters for a spellcaster party:

  1. Run the numbers with combat simulations. If you have the time, you can pit the PCs against low-level monsters + a few bosses in arena-style combat simulations. Calculate the average hit point damage the PCs can mete out per round with spells vs. the damage inflicted by their opponents. Take into account healing spells/potions of healing. Design future encounters based on the results. To keep encounters exciting I imagine you'll want the PCs to hover right on the edge of being defeated - they've taken a few injuries - before routing the enemy.

  2. Empirical evidence. Actively manage combat encounters. If the PCs wipe out the first wave of ten goblins no sweat, feed more goblins into the fray until things start to get dicey for your players. If you overdo it and the players are taking serious damage, you can always rule that the remaining goblins break and flee. This approach runs the risk of seeming contrived to the players. They may suspect what you're doing and then there goes suspension of disbelief.

  3. Let the players sort it out. In a sandbox campaign, clearly communicate to the players the level of danger they'll face. This can be as simple as writing location descriptions on their campagn map like "Lair of the lich lord", "Den of the red dragon Azoleus", "Ogre clan", "Orc outpost", etc. Low-level players should be able to figure out which dungeon to hit first: the Orc outpost, and then work their way up the CR chain based on their knowledge of the monsters. In fact there may be a number of low-level Orc outposts, but it will be tedious to run a series of easy low-level adventures + players won't earn as many XPs and treasure. Instead, you could rule that as word gets out a band of magic-users are clearing them out one by one, the Orcs consolidate their forces, or set a trap of some kind with appropriate bait, or even hire an evil magic-user to counter them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ NPCs (Goblins particularly) running away from a fight in which they personally are likely to die is not contrived at all. The thing that kills supsension of disbelief is when a goblin says "sure, I'll die if I stay here, but my group will kill the PCs, which is a Pretty Big Deal and thus worth my sacrifice." \$\endgroup\$
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Scott - You're right, goblins running away rather than dying is realistic. I'm just saying the DM should be careful when tailoring combat encounters on the fly to make them balanced. Like arbitrarily feeding more monsters into the melee if the encounter is going too easy for the PCs, or arbitrarily routing monsters if the combat is going too hard on the them, to avoid the players suspecting the combat encounters are "fixed". \$\endgroup\$
    – RobertF
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 17:08

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