Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
Point is, if you are very successful at aiming for "80% resources consumed" difficulty, as you claim, then you are necessarily mashing the encounters (or encounter days) very samey, from a difficulty PoV.

Whereas, if you look at my encounters, they are not nearly so well balanced. Some days, the party uses almost no resources; other days, they burn through over 100% (ie, they supplement resources with consumables, they retreat, or they TPK).

To take an earlier suggestion and expand on it, the characters can really feel like they've grown if they go back through the Goblin Caves - which used to consume 80% of their resources per visit - and come out with over 50% resources remaining.

The existence of variations from day to day - which your player(s) complained was absent (granted, for likely munchkin reasons) - help to differentiate different parts of the campaign in the minds & memories of the players.

Similarly, the difference in difficulty in dealing with recurring foes (which I still haven't gotten a good answer regarding how often your players are facing familiar encounters - especially with what were once "gotcha" monsters) helps demonstrate how the PCs have grown.
Definitely helps a lot to face old foes. I remember an old 3E game a combat was such an ordeal fighting a few distrachans. Six or seven levels later the party fights another group of distrachans and we win in 2 rounds without a scratch. Current 5E game when the campaign started at 6th level an ogre or two was the BBEG of a fight. When we were 13th level fighting demons and giants, those same ogres we encounter in our travels run away from us before there is even a fight as flavor text.

Perception is key. Players need those easy fights. A spellcaster player will be happy he only needed to cast Cantrips. A warrior player with Great Weapon Master will be happy to use the -5/+10 part every round and not have an angst decision of whether he needs the accuracy instead or the extra damage means he kills things in one round if not one hit. It's a way to enjoy the combat play of the game for the sake of the combat play with the relief of knowing for this instance there's no real risk or threat. In character the players realize their PCs truly are that bad-donkey.