Balancing Encounters in D&D 5th Edition

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Tonight we played D&D in episode 5 and part of episode 6 of the adventure called “Hoard of the Dragon Queen”. This is an in store game of encounters so there are 6 PCs all level 5. These are experienced players and all of them have various feats and magical items so they are a tough bunch.

I am finding it harder and harder to provide a challenge for any fights unless I overload the battlefield with many, many enemies. The main drawback of that is combat takes too long. I tried using the “mob rules” of the DMG but the PCs still wiped out everybody quickly.

Sometimes I will find a monster that deals a lot of damage and I put a few extra in the fight which sometimes drops a few characters. Typically the cleric instantly heals them and play resumes. If I try and play like the PCs do it goes better (for me) but not all the players are enthused when all the arrows hit the spellcaster. 😀 I think this is working well overall because I notice the players sit up, don’t check their phones and gasp or groan a little.

No matter what I do, the PCs have so many healing and damage dealing options not to mention short rests that it is really hard to balance encounters. Instead of doubling or tripling the monsters, I may just increase the hp to max, give a few feats and up the CR a couple of levels above the PCs.

I think the game is more fun for all if there is a challenge and some fear of not surviving. I’m finding the new edition of D&D great at early levels but very hard to balance and provide a challenge at higher levels, especially at in store encounters with 6 or 7 PCs. Part of the in store experience is supposed to be fun for all so I have to keep things moving and keep it exciting.

So far I think it is going well and I hope the players are having fun. We do have a lot of laughs despite the lack of overall danger.

Next week they storm the Castle Naerytar and there will be a lot of chaos. I may even throw in a surprise or two for my player who has read the adventure (but pretends and insists he has not).

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