There is a fight in Hoard of the Dragon Queen that seems to be especially lethal, and I'm not sure if I'm reading it and running it right.

In episode 3 area 3, there's a fight with four Violet Fungi, and a stair trap that will drop a character right into them.

Since they're indistinguishable from the background flora of the cave until they move, there was no indication that the PC was in danger until they attacked. They each have multiattack, so I rolled 4d4, came up with 10 attacks with advantage between the four of them, and managed to kill the level 3 character on turn one, before she could fight back.

Is it meant to be that lethal? How are they a CR of 1/4 each?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Point of order - do you mean kill outright, or reduce to zero hit points? \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Mar 7 '16 at 2:11

I'm not sure if I'm reading it and running it right.

Yes and No.

As written, the fact that there is no clue to the players or the characters that there is something they should be doing is unfair.

Generally, there should be something in the description that tells an astute player that they should look for traps AND/OR the characters should be allowed a passive check; the fact that both are disallowed is nor right IMO. All this does is train the players to search for traps everywhere which just bogs down the game.

I think you may not have played the first round right though. The players are surprised and one of them has "been dumped". Now this is not a fall that causes damage so our hero is not prone (PHB p.182).

The party is surprised, you should then roll for initiative. The odds are extremely good that the monsters will lose because their initiative bonus is appalling! Anyone with a +1 initiative modifier will win more than 75% of the time. If he wins, he loses his first turn and the monsters then attack, if he loses the monsters attack, he loses his first turn and the monsters attack again. However, depending where other party members fell in the initiative they may be able to intervene before the monsters' second attack.

Notwithstanding, I don't understand why the monsters had advantage on their attacks. The fighter is not prone, surprise doesn't give advantage and these particular monsters have no ability that gives advantage; so what am I missing?

Is it meant to be that lethal? How are they a CR of 1/4 each?

Well, there are 4 CR 1/4 monsters - a base XP of 50x4=200 x2 for 3-6 monsters = 400 - a deadly encounter for 3rd level characters.

Deadly. A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat.

So yes, I guess its meant to be this lethal.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Yes I do. I don't have access to the hardback but the Adventurer's League version says "dumped" nothing about prone. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Mar 6 '16 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, I must've remembered wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 6 '16 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM: Your CR calculation is incorrect; the XP thresholds listed are per character, so for a party of 4 3rd-level adventurers this should be an Easy encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec May 22 '16 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looking back at this question with more 5e experience under my belt, the biggest mistake I made here was knocking the person prone -- something that "felt right" coming from 3.5 and pathfinder but was absolutely a bad judgement call for 5e. If I remember right, though I don't seem to have mentioned it above, I also was rolling attacks of opportunity from the person trying to get back up, which you don't provoke in 5e for standing from prone. So this was actually the correct answer since it mentions the prone problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Yamikuronue Sep 11 '20 at 22:34

They should be spread out just a bit, but, yes, each gets it's 1d4 attacks at 10'.

Thing is, Either everyone should fall, or only ONE party member should fall...

  • If it's everyone, no one is getting more than 3 attacks, and usually only one, and running through is a suitable defense.
  • If it's just one, a smart party has a tank or two up front. By this point in the adventure, the tank should be level 2 if not 3 or even 4... so 16-30 HP, and should have AC at least 16, possibly up to 20 (20=Plate & Shield, 19= half-plate, dex 14+, and shield).

Also note: to not be targetable after it's moved, the Violet Fungus would need a hide roll. And it's not going to succeed at one. (If it does, tho', it's safe from being attacked.)

The way it's worked out for me has been fighter goes down, initiative is rolled, fighter usually survives 1-2 hits, then disengages and gets out of range.

As for the CR 1/4... HP 18 is base of 1/8. AC should be 13, but is 5, so 3 steps down. No save DC. so, effective Defensive CR is 0. Offensive CR base is 1 for 11.25 per round, but AB+2 is -4 rows, so, down to 1/2. Average the two, 1/4.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth summarizing the CR calculations - maybe something like "in other words, while they punch above their weight, they make up for it by being really easy to kill". \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 6 '16 at 2:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a fantastic answer, and has my upvote. I was going to post one of my own but you've already cited everything relevant. The only thing I would add is that from experience, the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure is exceedingly deadly for the first three modules or so, and then begins to balance out to a non-psychotic level. So yes, if the DM feels that the threat is extreme, then they are most definitely playing the module correctly. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 6 '16 at 7:37

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