Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
Again, I don't have trouble meeting the difficulty metrics, this is more of a "postmodern" question about whether the metrics themselves are flaws.
They do what they're intended to do decently but people seem to expect more of them than is reasonable and so declare them failures.

CR 5 is only CR 5 if the presumptions of the designers are -accurate- to your table. If, for example, you're being stingy with treasure and the party is mostly martial types then CR 5 might feel more like CR 8, particularly if it's a bruiser type, or even C9+ if it's got an ability they have no ability to deal with. On the other hand, if the party is all over-geared, borderline-TO gish builds then CR 9 might feel more like CR 4.

That said, there are a few shots that strayed well off-target. Virtually all of MM2 is questionable and there are outliers like the infamous "That Damn Crab," but from the 3.5 changeover forward they're really not too far off for the most part.

For example, last year the wizard player came to me and said the game was too hard because he ends every adventuring day with only about 20% of his spells remaining, and that means I am cutting it close. I responded by saying something along the lines of "Good, that is exactly what I am shooting for!", which he (and several forum-goers) took as me just dismissing his concerns about the fundamental nature of the challenge I am shooting for, and now I seem to be having a similar conversation here, just the other way around.
I guess this is where you showed him the DMG guidelines? Different people have different desires and expectations from the game. It's important to discuss them so you're all on the same page or at least know where everyone stands. I'll acknowledge that can be a royal pain-in-the-butt when trying to discuss it with newbs or people who haven't given it much thought.


At this point I am taking a break from GMing, so I am going to see how it plays out with someone else in the chair while I process everything I have learned.

I also found out today that two of the players in question were on mood altering prescription medication during their outbursts, so that problem might solve itself.
That's not a bad idea at all. Getting the opportunity to see things from the other side can be very helpful for understanding the opinions of others.

As for the meds issue... Yeah... Here's hopin' that's sorted now. Ya never do know what's goin' on in someone else's head, I suppose.

Note that it isn't about the PCs actually getting their butt-kicked, the PCs still win in the end and go through their ~80% party resources in an adventuring day.

I was just thinking that it might feel harder to actually deal with weaker monsters that use smart tactics vs. a big bruiser that just charges in and deals huge damage.
Oh yeah. It always feels rougher to deal with smart enemies. I like it because that's just how I'm wired but others can have a rough time of it, particularly if they're less tactically savvy than you are.

Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
Maybe your style of encounters leads to frustration due to lacking sense of achievement. Okay, they win, yes, but only with huge effort (80% resources*), and then for all that trouble, all they have achieved was neutralizing some goblins or whatever. That doesn't even earn them bragging rights.
There might be something to this. This is why I like to do throwback encounters once in a while. I do a 1:1 recreation of an encounter from a few levels back and the players get to enjoy steamrolling something that was once a serious challenge. It also helps to give them a sense of their growth that might otherwise be overlooked if near to all of what they face are "fair" challenges.

Imagine being in the PC's shoes, as they return to town after a hard adventuring day:
Barkeep: "Whoa, you look pretty beat up, what ever happened to you?"
Party: "Goblins."
B: "What, Goblins did that to you? Are you messing with me?"
P: "Yah well, they were really nasty Goblins and they used the terrain to their advantage."
B: "Riiiight, the terrain. Uh-huh."
P: "We did kill them eventually!"
B: "And do you want a medal for Goblin-slaying now? Tell you what, here's a cup of warm milk on the house for everyone. Also, I have a cellar full of rats, that might be more up your alley."


Do not underestimate goblins.

Now imagine the same scene, except the party killed a band of Trolls or Fire Giants or whatever sounds tough at their level. I don't think I need to spell it out, but the Barkeep's reaction would be different.
So, regardless of whether any such scenes ever play out at your table -- something like that is probably going on inside your players' heads. Hence they get mopey.
Punching above your weight-class always feels nice -if- you know that's what's happening. OP has said that his players aren't super familiar with the MMs. If all they know is the struggle then you have to -tell- them that what they've done is impressive and that just doesn't have the same impact.

If you work in some foreshadowing then you -might- get that sense of accomplishment but you might also get the Players to decide to look for another plot-hook because this one seems suicidal.

I agree in principle but the execution can be tricky is what I'm saying here.

*) come to think of it, strictly speaking "80% of resources" cannot mean "80% of HP _and_ 80% of spells", much less "and 80% of consumables". After all, HP need to be restored, and that will probably require more magic resources (like the next day's spell slots). Sure, casting Cure spells in downtime is practically free, but keep in mind that if restoring those HP takes, say, 40% of another day's spell slots, that adventuring day actually cost them 120% of their daily resources. Ofc I don't know if you handle it that way or not, just wanted to get the thought out.
Single use consumables aren't generally considered when you're eyeballing resource drain for an encounter. It's dailies that you need to worry about.

By class you want to look at the resources important to that class. The warrior is worried about his HP and maybe something liike rage uses or smites. The mage is concerned about his slots and maybe the charges on his metamagic rod.

If you've burned through 80% of -all- the resources that the party has; each character's HPs, all the casters' slots, the charges on their staves and wands, all their rechargeable dailies from class or gear, and their one-use consumables; that's been an absolutely monstrous grind of a day.