Author Topic: Balancing encounters?  (Read 2213 times)

Machine Gun Batman

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Balancing encounters?
« on: July 27, 2015, 06:42:14 AM »
I'm currently DMing a game of Legend (a self converted Rise of the Runelords AP from Pathfinder), and my players frequently consider my encounters too hard. My four players are former 3.5 veterans, quite enjoy CO (and sometimes TO) and their builds certainly reflect that. Their builds complement each other and are build with synergy, such as the frontline fighter having Fire Elemental while two casters use Arcane Lore with fire damage. They also make use of interaction skills/vigor, defensive fighting and maneuvers, so they are not complete newbies.

The party composition:
  • Frontline Fighter 1 "Sentient Construct/Shaman Chassis" (Battle's Tempering/Fire Elemental/Sentient Construct)
  • Frontline Fighter 2 "Paladin Chassis" (Battle's Tempering/Judgment/Smiting)
  • Caster 1 "Tactician Chassis" (Arcane Lore/Shaman Spells/Tactician Spells/Tactical Insight
  • Caster 2 "Lich/Shaman Chassis" (Arcane Lore/Lich/Virtue)

The following encounters were considered too hard:
  • Level 1 party vs a single level 3 Barbarian (Dervish/Path of Destruction/Path of the Ancestors). PCs had terrain advantage (Narrow indoor area with chokepoints). PCs fled after Fighter 1 was knocked out.
  • Level 2 party vs three level 2 Operative Minibosses (Utter Brute/Path of Destruction/Force of Will/Smiting) and one level 3 Character (Dragon/Tactical Insight/Force of Will/Lightning Elementalist). Neutral terrain. PCs fled after some tactical mistakes (spreading their fire and allowing the enemies to group up). Returned at Level 3 and curbstomped the same fight.
  • Level 3 party vs two level 3 Elites (Fire Elementalist/Tactical Insight), one level 4 ranged Myriad, four level 3 Minions (Grunt/Striker) and four level 3 Turrets. PCs had access to a 10ft wide chokepoint to limit melee exposure. PCs won the fight, with Fighter 1 going into negatives twice and Fighter 2 once.
  • Level 3 party (minus Caster 1) vs a single level 7 Operative Expert (Discipline of the Dragon). This fight was optional and the PCs had terrain advantage (Chokepoint vs melee enemy). PCs won the fight handily, but Caster 2 went down once.
  • Level 3 party (minus Caster 1) need to cross a 100ft wide chasms with raging currents 80ft below. A single rope is spanned across the chasm, and the incline is 10%. I ask them for a DC 15 Athletics to successfully climb across.
  • Level 3 party (minus Caster 1) vs a single level 5 Sage (Arcane Lore/Force of Will/Discipline of the Dragon). Neutral but spacious terrain. PCs won the fight, but they were all down to single digit HP and Fighter 2 fell into negatives once.
  • Level 3 party (minus Caster 1) vs a single level 5 Barbarian (same guy as above). Neutral terrain. PCs won the fight handily, with Fighter 1 & 2 going below 50% HP.

So yeah, were my encounters too hard objectively? I feel like they were fair and challenging for the party, but I may be wrong.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2015, 07:05:04 AM by Machine Gun Batman »

rejectedreality

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Re: Balancing encounters?
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2015, 06:55:52 AM »
Hard to say without context, but from what I can tell, most of these should have been pretty easy encounters, to be honest. Maybe they just aren't used to characters going unconscious? I know that my combats in Legend often result in a couple characters going unconscious, but none of the encounters have resulted in player loss yet, often due to abundant healing. And my party doesn't even really use simple tactics like focus firing.

Especially that chasm. DC 15 at level 3 shouldn't be particularly difficult for anyone trained in it and a good strength. Should probably have about a 20 strength if that's one of your key abilities at level 3, and a +3 from the trained on top of that = 8. So about a 65% chance of success. More likely than not. I hope you were open to alternative solutions, but from the sound of it, the players couldn't think of any alternative solutions anyway. For players without athletics or strength, though, yeah, it could be pretty rough.


It would certainly be worth getting second opinions from other posters, though.

Machine Gun Batman

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Re: Balancing encounters?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2015, 10:50:53 PM »
Hard to say without context, but from what I can tell, most of these should have been pretty easy encounters, to be honest. Maybe they just aren't used to characters going unconscious? I know that my combats in Legend often result in a couple characters going unconscious, but none of the encounters have resulted in player loss yet, often due to abundant healing. And my party doesn't even really use simple tactics like focus firing.

They get demoralized very easily. When they see a Striker mook doing 1d6+9 at Level 3, they have an OMG expression on their face. Nevermind that with Tactical Insight and Defensive Fighting, said Striker needs a roll of 18+ to actually hit them. When a single opponent deals ~20 damage in a single hit, Fighter 2 calls for a retreat. I think they are not used to bigger numbers and are thinking in 3.5 terms.

Between their healing abilities and Vigor checks, the enemies need to deal 30+ damage to a single PC in a round in order to make some damage actually stick.

Especially that chasm. DC 15 at level 3 shouldn't be particularly difficult for anyone trained in it and a good strength. Should probably have about a 20 strength if that's one of your key abilities at level 3, and a +3 from the trained on top of that = 8. So about a 65% chance of success. More likely than not. I hope you were open to alternative solutions, but from the sound of it, the players couldn't think of any alternative solutions anyway. For players without athletics or strength, though, yeah, it could be pretty rough.

All of them are trained in Athletics in order to get the scaling benefits, namely the movement speed bonus. Only Fighter 2 has a noteworthy Strength score of 18, everyone else has 10. That skill check caused quite the shitstorm in our group. Between comments of "DC is too high" (it's not) and "It's a trivial task, we should succeed automatically" (O Rly?), there was complaining all around.

There was a rope bridge across the chasm on their way in, but it got destroyed when they entered the plateau. To those familiar with the "Rise of the Runelords" AP, it was Thistletop. There is a three story dungeon there, and they had explored the first two levels when they suddenly decided to bail (probably due to miscommunication) after finding a minor Macguffin. The last floor contained both the final boss fight and a means to leave the plateau without skill checks.


I'm not sure I'm up to DMing anymore at this point, to be honest. The constant discussions have left me somewhat demotivated.

rejectedreality

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Re: Balancing encounters?
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2015, 01:33:59 AM »


They get demoralized very easily. When they see a Striker mook doing 1d6+9 at Level 3, they have an OMG expression on their face. Nevermind that with Tactical Insight and Defensive Fighting, said Striker needs a roll of 18+ to actually hit them. When a single opponent deals ~20 damage in a single hit, Fighter 2 calls for a retreat. I think they are not used to bigger numbers and are thinking in 3.5 terms.

Between their healing abilities and Vigor checks, the enemies need to deal 30+ damage to a single PC in a round in order to make some damage actually stick.

All of them are trained in Athletics in order to get the scaling benefits, namely the movement speed bonus. Only Fighter 2 has a noteworthy Strength score of 18, everyone else has 10. That skill check caused quite the shitstorm in our group. Between comments of "DC is too high" (it's not) and "It's a trivial task, we should succeed automatically" (O Rly?), there was complaining all around.

There was a rope bridge across the chasm on their way in, but it got destroyed when they entered the plateau. To those familiar with the "Rise of the Runelords" AP, it was Thistletop. There is a three story dungeon there, and they had explored the first two levels when they suddenly decided to bail (probably due to miscommunication) after finding a minor Macguffin. The last floor contained both the final boss fight and a means to leave the plateau without skill checks.


I'm not sure I'm up to DMing anymore at this point, to be honest. The constant discussions have left me somewhat demotivated.

It definitely sounds like they're thinking 3.5, not Legend. I know that my players often make comments about "I really feel like I shouldn't be able to do this much damage" and such, and I have to try to explain that "This is how Legend works. Characters are supposed to be awesome, don't worry, I can handle the numbers and your abilities". They might get used to it eventually, but I guess most players just aren't used to being able to do cool things, and handle high numbers. Sad huh? As for your players, it seems they, too, think there characters are way more fragile than they actually are.

Strange that they felt a 100 ft climb across a rope over a gaping chasm was trivial. Maybe there was a miscommunication or something. Overall, definitely sounds like they think they're much weaker than they really are.

Sorry to hear you're losing motivation. I certainly sympathize, as players can often wear down on a DM one way or another. Hopefully you can communicate your concerns and the way the system works, or find some solution.

Mystify

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Re: Balancing encounters?
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2015, 12:25:10 AM »
yeah, I think your issue is mainly one of managing expectations. Legend is not 3.5, and many things that 3.5 doesn't like are trivial, or visa versa. The number scales are different, the battle expectations are different, baselines competencies are different. I don't consider a legend encounter difficult enough to be worth running if there isn't at least one ko, preferably more.
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Monringstar

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Re: Balancing encounters?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2017, 04:16:36 AM »
How do I do this?