I just set this up so we can discuss 5e mechanics for both of my games in one forum (i.e., players from both games despite the fact that three player play in both games).
Topic at hand:
Is 5e too deadly? I am having a hard time designing combat that will challenge 5 PCs without making it deadly for one PC.
Current combat in Ironfang is a CR3 and a CR1 creature for a group of 5 level 2 PCs. It is classified as 'deadly'. Is that too much?
Past combat in WotR was a CR 4 creature for a group of 5 lvl 3 PCs. It is classified as 'medium' yet was almost too deadly.
Interesting discussion, and a difficult balancing act. I think you are doing a good job in WOTR--it should feel a bit overwhelming trying to turn back a demon invasion.
Several abilities are big step-ups in power -- in that last battle if we hadn't been able to hear and corner the sorcerer, the Improved Invisibility and the Lightning Bolt spells would have been the end of us. The action economy really worked for us, as well as the small room and the enemy's lack of stealth.
I agree the issue is that some higher level abilities for enemies can be deadly if a single PC is targeted--mostly magical abilities, but sometimes special attacks or multiple attacks can have a similar effect. Also, area attacks can be pretty deadly, especially if a PC in the area is already down.
The way death saves works keeps it from getting too crazy, and if we have a reasonable supply of healing, that helps a lot. Also, if you have the enemies focus on active combatants and not finish off downed PC's, that helps with survivability.
Well, the current combat is supposed to be hard, final boss in the dungeon and all. We sort of missed our coordination, because it was really easy for me to flank the boss, so I pumped all my cards on the rolls to do some decent damage. The right move is to drop the smaller one quick.
Action economy is very important in 5e. Since the bonuses are never fantastic (compared to 3.5 or Pathfinder), rolling more dice is really really powerful.
I think most combats haven't been individually hard. What is hard is that we've been going from one to the next, so wounds accumulate, and resources get drained, especially given our low level. We can't really rest them up as frequently as we would like, as we're under pressure by the latent threat of the invasion. And this is ok, since it gives us a sense of urgency.
So if the fact that our front-line is dropping unconscious from combat every in-game day makes you feel that the encounters are harder than you wished, maybe we can think on why.
First, the conditions are extraordinary. I am stuck with my starting armor which has a sad +1 bonus and can't buy myself something better. Other people in the party might need better gear that we just can't buy just yet. Another condition I mentioned is that we can't rest anytime we're hurt because we need to find a safe place for the refugees fast. So a solution for this is not obvious, I think.
Second, we may not be playing the best tactics. In this case, you could give us some gentle pointers, like "attacking from this angle seems dangerous". When I play with PnP it's much easier to discuss tactics because we can come up with good ideas. But in PbP, it can really slow down the game to discuss every aspect of the fight, so I feel that people don't do it mostly (or maybe my PnP group is more crunchy in this sense, idk).
Anyway, I don't mind hard encounters, as long as me and Gazul can hold the line long enough for the enemies to be hurt enough that the others finish the job.
I agree with what's been said so far.
For the WotR game, I think the combats have been difficult at times but fair and that only a couple of fights have gotten us really close to death. Also in the last fight, it was probably a little deadlier than the encounter on paper would suggest because Lightning Bolt & Fireball are overpowered on purpose as legacy spells; so they're dangerous at all levels but especially against low level PCs. I think that's all fine though as we're still low-level and just beginning to get our character concepts/ powers up plus we're still using starting equipment without magic items for the most part (though I know magic items aren't essential in 5e like they are in PF). I think overall though the combats have been fun and when we've struggled it's been more dice luck than tactics or overly powerful opponents (though we got lucky when Damon beat a boss essentially by himself ;p)
For the Ironfang game, I think we've been pretty unlucky with rolls at times and have been hit for big damage early that mess up our typical strategy. Also, partially my fault as I replaced a melee character with an archer, but with only two dedicated front liners (and one a bit squishy at the moment with starting armor), it puts a lot of strain on them fight to fight with limited rest or healing (though it'd be worse if we were fighting a horde vs. a couple at a time). I do like though that this game feels the strain for resources as the party is on a time crunch for decisions with the legion bearing down on us. I think in the long run we'll be fine once we get to level 3-4 and have more options in and out of combat and get the chance if possible to upgrade our items through loot etc.
Well, all of the falling makes this much more fun for me. In most games the PCs are superheroes, felling scores of enemies without any true danger. Here, each fight feels like it could be our last. That if our enemies find us then we really will be dead. The lack of merchants to buy gear, needing to find food, dwindling resources, all of it makes for PCs that feel like normal people caught in abnormal times.
Thanks for the feedback!
I'll link this thread in both Campaign Info tabs for reference.
I guess what I am hearing is that instead of being frustrated that the combats are hard, you guys seem to relish the fact that they are hard and overcoming them is much more rewarding. Kudos to you all for making lemonade with those lemons I keep throwing at you. :)
Seriously though, I chose both of these APS because I like the underdog feel of them. I like that the party feels overwhelmed; beating back a demon invasion and beating back a highly organized army of hobgoblins should not feel easy.
I am trusting 5e designers when it comes to combat challenges. Something I could do is to give the enemy less 'punch' and compensate with more 'staying power' but I fear this may prolong fights and nobody wants that in PBPs. My conclusion is that if I want one enemy to challenge 5 PCs then that one enemy should be more than a match for anyone one PC. Be warned when you are facing only one or two enemies. :)
I've already discussed magic items and I am just waiting for a reasonable story time of when/where to drop what you guys asked for. It's coming so be patient.
With regards to normal items, let me know what you want and I'll drop those much sooner.
Normal items Damon would like would be an armor upgrade (perhaps splint or plate) and maybe something cool with that Iomedaen shield he recovered from the fallen crusader.
I'm happy with both games. The challenge Level in Ironfang seems higher because of not so good rolls and perhaps not the best synergy of classes... none the less it's a fun ride.
How do you feel about allowing PCs to train for a new tool proficiency over the course of the AP? Was thinking a bit about potentially having my Ironfang PC pick up a set a thieves' tools at some point if she comes across a set.
UA came out with:
4th-level feature (enhances Ability Score Improvement)
When you gain the Ability Score Improvement feature from your class, you can also replace one of your skill proficiencies with a skill proficiency offered by your class at 1st level (the proficiency you replace needn't be from the class).
This change represents one of your skills atrophying as you focus on a different skill.
This may even get official with the new book coming out in November. In any case, I would be OK with this as is.
I know that thieves' tools is not offered to druids at first level but if you give me a good RP post then I will let you have it.
I hadn't see that before but that's a pretty cool idea and it would work for me. I was thinking it would actually be for Kasana in the Ironfang game if that's not a problem. I think it'd fit pretty well with the character idea I had for her and it's always nice to have someone proficient in thieves' tools.