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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    I am trying to explain to you that achievement and reward are not the same thing.

    Achievement is finishing a goal of some sort

    reward is being able to experience the fruits of a particular goal.

    You just give them endless achievements at no point do they get rewarded.

    my car example is simple. they get the achievement of finishing the goal (completing the restoration) but they never get the reward (being able to drive the car)

    Al they ever do is struggle to get to the achievement and they truly never get rewarded for that. You can't say "but you finished blah ad have done blah a dozen times already" that is the point if all you do is struggle every day to get to something it is not a reward. It is an achievement for sure, but never being able to take in it and experience the after effect of hitting that goal you never feel rewarded

    another example since the car didn;t make sense to you ( I doubt this will since you feel the words mean the same thing) But, i'll give it a shot.

    Somebody wants a pool in their backyard. They dig a hole gets some cement, clay, marble and rocks to put in that hole to a nice fancy swimming pool. It is finished after coming in daily for a few weeks to do all the hard labor. They go "WOO, i finished it, it was rough but i have a nice feeling of accomplishment" But right as they are about to swim someone backs a dumptruck back up to it, fills the pool with dirt rocks and such then drives over it with a steam roller compacting it all down.

  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    they got XP and treasure from their previous encounter, their characters are more powerful and influential, and whatever story line changes they made to the world in the process of it remain
    Not speaking for ngilop, but ... The characters are not more powerful or influential, because whatever they try to do still requires ~80% of their resources. Treading water is not a powerful feeling. And the storyline changes are an accomplishment/achievement, not a reward -- there's not a practical benefit in that for your combat-oriented and uncreative players. Plus, from what you're saying about the breadth of resources you consider going into that 80%, if the players did leverage their story connections for practical dungeoncrawling benefit, they'd face even tougher challenges to maintain parity.

    As far as treasure goes, others posters have alluded to your players' various neuroses about using treasure, so apparently that's not very rewarding for them. Not your fault but you still have to factor that in.

    Question: With this group, what are your experiences with less challenging and/or more 'monty haul' campaigns? Do the players like it more and complain less? Do they talk about specific emotional benefits of that playstyle?
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  3. - Top - End - #63
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I do ask them, and they give inconsistent answers.

    Pretty consistent complaints are:

    1: They can't do a full clear of a dungeon in one go without using consumables, and this bugs them even though they have always still made a net profit and are always above suggested WBL.
    2: The wizard uses most of his spells in doing so and doesn't have as many as he would like to make scrolls or sell for profit in town.*

    In this particular campaign I let the players call a retreat at any time without consequences, as there are several new players in the group and I am trying to build up their confidence without having to risk accidental TPKs.

    *: This is a peculiarity of my particular house rules. I use a long rest variant so players don't have unlimited spells during downtime, but I allow them to save up unused spells or convert them to gold. Players can still purchase or craft items normally without expending spell slots.
    Okay, well then I think we can dispense with over-analysis on the numbers, because it sounds like closer to an expectations issue than anything else. If the players think the game should work such that they can clear a dungeon (completely, leaving no significant treasure behind) in one go (rather than going out and resting, 1. having to figure out how to do so safely and 2. risking the denizens planning countermeasures or leaving with the loot in the meantime), and without expending consumables (which are then used when?), then they clearly want a game with a different challenge tuning than most of us expect. For me, having accomplishing the whole thing so close you can almost taste it is exactly how things should be, because that means you get to make tough decisions, and those decisions matter. That seems like an optimal situation. But clearly your group disagrees. I will say that this rule of having the wizard get to turn unused spells into scrolls for profit does kinda strongly communicate the idea that you are supposed to get out of the dungeon with a reserve (and not just a 'what if you run into one last monster on the way out?' reserve), and that might be messaging-in-contradiction-of-intended-message on your part. Still, overall, I think you are dealing more with differing ideas of normal than anything else.

  4. - Top - End - #64
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    So... which of those two is accurate? because in two sentences you are telling that there are too many variables to really get to 80%, and then you say that you get close most of the time.
    Those aren't contradictory.

    There are too many variables to get -exactly- 20% resource burn on any typical encounter and it's actually more entertaining, IMO, for the typical fight of EL = APL that's supposed to drain that 20% to be made up of several foes of a CR < APL. Getting in the ballpark of 20%, give or take a few points, on the other hand, isn't all that difficult. Adjusting up or down as the day progresses to get to within a point or two of 80% by the end of a four encounter day is pretty easy.

    The whole thing gets kinda complicated when you further realize that defining 80% of party resources with precision is a fairly non-trivial task. How exactly do you value HP versus spell slots versus item charges versus potions as generic "party resources?" The only thing I can think of is using the magic item formulae to assign a gold value to -every- aspect of the character, including HD derived benefits like skill points and feats as well as ability score points. Just because they're renewable doesn't make them not resources, ya know.

    That is to say:

    Exactly 80.000% = basically impossible.

    Somewhere in the range 78.000% - 82.000% by subjective approximation = eminently doable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I personally am a "fiction first" sort of player, and would love to be a bit more loose with the encounter budget for the sake of drama and verisimilitude, but my players demand balance and cry foul if they feel it isn't there.

    Its kind of a funny disconnect actually, on Saturday I had someone on this thread accusing me of "neurotic adherence to strict balance guidelines," but I had one of my players complaining to me that he felt like I was "just picking CRs out of a hat and throwing them at the party randomly."
    At some point you have to realize that at least some of their complaints shouldn't carry any weight since they seem to be prone to whining. The desire to make the game to everyone's liking is commendable but compromise -must- be part of that. There's a line between being willing to compromise and being a doormat.

    I forget who the quote comes from but it goes something like "You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. You've got to choose your battles."


    I do ask them, and they give inconsistent answers.

    Pretty consistent complaints are:

    1: They can't do a full clear of a dungeon in one go without using consumables, and this bugs them even though they have always still made a net profit and are always above suggested WBL.
    2: The wizard uses most of his spells in doing so and doesn't have as many as he would like to make scrolls or sell for profit in town.*
    Okay, 1 is just pure whining. "We won but I don't like the margins" is a BS complaint that should be ignored outright. If things are getting tight and you don't want to burn non-renewable resources, either withdraw or hunker down and take the long-rest to restore your renewable resources.

    2 is contradictory to 1. If they have the downtime to make scrolls (1 day/ scroll, minimum) then they have the time to slow down and approach the dungeon in a way that doesn't force consumable use. Especially given this:

    In this particular campaign I let the players call a retreat at any time without consequences, as there are several new players in the group and I am trying to build up their confidence without having to risk accidental TPKs.
    In any case, a more conservative approach to dungeon delving could solve both of these complaints. I have no sympathy for people who whine about problems of their own making unless they're willing to at least -try- to fix it themselves.

    *: This is a peculiarity of my particular house rules. I use a long rest variant so players don't have unlimited spells during downtime, but I allow them to save up unused spells or convert them to gold. Players can still purchase or craft items normally without expending spell slots.
    This confuses me though. They never did have unlimited slots during down time. The per-day limit is exactly that; per day. Or at least per full night's rest for arcanists. Is a night's rest not a "long rest" somehow?

    I always took the 1/2 price on sales to be a matter of the abstraction of buying and selling gear. You get half because, unless you specify differently, the presumption is that you're selling it to a pawn broker or some similar person who makes it their business to buy up adventurer loot in a market where there are -plenty- of established sellers of good standing while you're just a random nobody. If one of my players wants better than 1/2 then I'll let them roll a few skill checks for as much as an extra 10% or actually try to establish themselves as a competing seller by opening a shop and maybe get full value if they don't mind it taking a good while and dealing with the adventure hooks that come with being a businessman in a high-magic, high-fantasy world.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2019-11-18 at 02:16 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #65
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by ngilop View Post
    I am trying to explain to you that achievement and reward are not the same thing.

    Achievement is finishing a goal of some sort

    reward is being able to experience the fruits of a particular goal.

    You just give them endless achievements at no point do they get rewarded.

    my car example is simple. they get the achievement of finishing the goal (completing the restoration) but they never get the reward (being able to drive the car)

    Al they ever do is struggle to get to the achievement and they truly never get rewarded for that. You can't say "but you finished blah ad have done blah a dozen times already" that is the point if all you do is struggle every day to get to something it is not a reward. It is an achievement for sure, but never being able to take in it and experience the after effect of hitting that goal you never feel rewarded

    another example since the car didn't make sense to you ( I doubt this will since you feel the words mean the same thing) But, i'll give it a shot.

    Somebody wants a pool in their backyard. They dig a hole gets some cement, clay, marble and rocks to put in that hole to a nice fancy swimming pool. It is finished after coming in daily for a few weeks to do all the hard labor. They go "WOO, i finished it, it was rough but i have a nice feeling of accomplishment" But right as they are about to swim someone backs a dumptruck back up to it, fills the pool with dirt rocks and such then drives over it with a steam roller compacting it all down.
    Ok, I think I follow now.

    Reward and achievement do not mean the same thing to me, but most people use the terms "character power progression" and "reward" interchangeably, the DMG certainly does.

    Still not sure why your examples involve destroying people's car / pool; wouldn't it be more accurate to say "Always building cars but never driving them, always digging pools but never going for a swim,"?

    Could you please give me an example of a campaign structure that you would consider to be properly rewarding?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    Not speaking for ngilop, but ... The characters are not more powerful or influential, because whatever they try to do still requires ~80% of their resources. Treading water is not a powerful feeling. And the storyline changes are an accomplishment/achievement, not a reward -- there's not a practical benefit in that for your combat-oriented and uncreative players.
    I can't agree with this. The numbers on the character sheet are larger, they have more abilities, from a crunch perspective they are objectively more powerful.

    Likewise, it is really hard for me to imagine a player thinking that a group of level 1 characters spending 80% of their resources to rescue a prize pig from some goblins to be every bit as influential as a level 20 party who spent 80% of their resources to defeat the dark lord who has enslaved this world for the past thousand years, liberating all of humanity in this life and the next, and becoming the god-kings of an empire that spans the entire globe.

    It is a role playing game, the pieces on the board actually exist in the fiction and represent real things, and high level characters simply have more options (both mechanical and fluffly) to affect them and guide the direction the narrative takes.


    Again, aside from inverting the traditional nature of game levels and starting hard and ending easy, how would you actually model such a thing?

    Would it be solved by simply occasionally having the players run dungeons far below their level or just have occasional "bar fight" scenes where someone picks a fight without the PCs despite being woefully outclassed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    Plus, from what you're saying about the breadth of resources you consider going into that 80%, if the players did leverage their story connections for practical dungeoncrawling benefit, they'd face even tougher challenges to maintain parity.
    Probably not, although it really depends on the scenario and campaign style. In my most recent campaign the players frequently hired mercenaries or talked their allies into helping them and I did not adjust the difficulty of encounters to compensate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    As far as treasure goes, others posters have alluded to your players' various neuroses about using treasure, so apparently that's not very rewarding for them. Not your fault but you still have to factor that in.
    Well, I don't know. Its complicated.

    They really like treasure, but to the point where it is an obligation. They don't feel good about getting more treasure, but they feel bad about getting less. They feel the need to scour the dungeon for every last copper, and then complain that the dungeon was too long, or they will spend 50g worth of consumables to claim a treasure worth 100g and then complain about how they lost 50g.

    Loss aversion I action I suppose.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    Question: With this group, what are your experiences with less challenging and/or more 'monty haul' campaigns? Do the players like it more and complain less? Do they talk about specific emotional benefits of that playstyle?
    I have not tried it with this particular group; although they do seem to get bored and frustrated by "mop up" fights where the enemy doesn't really have a chance, and they haven't shown much interest in going back and defeating lower level encounters that they missed unless the treasure and XP awards are scaled up to their current level, so I can't imagine they would react too well.

    In the past I have both played in and run monty haul campaigns, and it always seems to be that the players have fun for a little while and then get bored and want to play something else. There is also a whole lot of player bitching because of how wacky the world is and how inconsistent and poorly balanced such campaigns usually are. For example, I played in one monty-haul game where the players all had templates and 10x their normal WBL in gear, and were routinely taking on foes twice our CR, but then we came up against an enemy who could cast power word kill and the DM realized that even though we had ludicrously high saving throws nobody had enough raw HP to survive it.



    Now, a follow up question for both of you: Is this about difficulty or consistency? Would your arguments be any different if instead of an 80% balance point, I was using a 50% balance point, or 25%, or 10%, or 1%? If so, could you explain what the distinction is? If not, this discussion is only tangentially related to this thread as it is really more about player satisfaction than campaign difficulty.
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  6. - Top - End - #66
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Is this about difficulty or consistency? Would your arguments be any different if instead of an 80% balance point, I was using a 50% balance point, or 25%, or 10%, or 1%? If so, could you explain what the distinction is? If not, this discussion is only tangentially related to this thread as it is really more about player satisfaction than campaign difficulty.
    *blink blink*

    "Too difficult" is meaningless outside player expectations -- what's "too" without personal preference? Campaign difficulty is inherently about player satisfaction. The two can't be separated.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    *blink blink*

    "Too difficult" is meaningless outside player expectations -- what's "too" without personal preference? Campaign difficulty is inherently about player satisfaction. The two can't be separated.
    They are connected, but they aren't the same thing.

    A player can be dissatisfied with any number of things, most of them completely unrelated to difficulty, and it is also possible to be dissatisfied because a game isn't difficulty enough.



    I started this thread to ask about whether or not "80% resource expenditure is a good difficulty benchmark," not about whether having a consistent benchmark for difficulty is a good thing or not. Which is an interesting discussion, its just not really what I was talking about.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    They are connected, but they aren't the same thing.

    A player can be dissatisfied with any number of things, most of them completely unrelated to difficulty, and it is also possible to be dissatisfied because a game isn't difficulty enough.



    I started this thread to ask about whether or not "80% resource expenditure is a good difficulty benchmark," not about whether having a consistent benchmark for difficulty is a good thing or not. Which is an interesting discussion, its just not really what I was talking about.
    They aren't distinct, though. Players are not consistent across groups, so benchmarks aren't either.

    In this case 80% clearly is too much, because your group says they don't enjoy it. There are no objective markers for difficulty, the DM and the party are required by the game to dial their expectations to match each other.

    Edit: another way you could look at it is based on levels instead of sessions or days. Level up, then two sessions of easy encounters, two of medium, two hard, then level again. Each level feels like a massive increase in power, then enemies become more challenging over time allowing them to become used to their new abilities. Final sessions let you cut loose, then repeat.
    Last edited by Tvtyrant; 2019-11-18 at 05:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I didn't ever say that.
    I said that I learned encounter balance from the 3E DMG about 20 years ago, and have been using the ~80% guideline is the proper balance point ever since. I did not say that I do it every single day, and I was not using the DMG to "justify my actions", merely that it was where I got the idea of the 80% balance point from.
    And yet the amount you emphasize it has lead several posters to the conclusion that maybe you are doing it every day, or close enough that the players feel that way. And for the third time, the DMG does not directly justify the DM intentionally aiming for a certain resource expenditure, it never did. It says how much they should spend per encounter, and then essentially does the math for you on how many encounters that means they can handle per day. The decision to push the players towards that point is yours, because you specifically said you don't want them having 15 minute days, and apparently don't consider any other methods of disincentivizing it valid. The DMG expects multiple encounters per day because resting slows down the game, and tells you what appropriately leveled challenges should expend and from that the upper limit you could fit between rests, and that's it.

    You keep saying you took your 80% guideline from the book, but you didn't, it's actually your own derived target. It has more nuance than "4 encounters per day," but still lacks the nuance that the players are still the arbiters of when they decide to rest and the fact that not all encounters come in packs of four or 80%. And again, the way you keep repeating your adherence to it strongly suggests you have a blind spot about the situation.
    They still get XP for completing the dungeon as a whole, just not for each individual encounter; if my players want to sneak past a monster rather than killing it (or something of that nature) I don't think they deserve to be punished for it.
    That's not the definition I've heard- milestone leveling is that the PCs all level up when you tell them to, after "milestones." Regardless, you're still running into a problem mentioned in the DMG, which is that generalizing xp risks making the players dissatisfied. Even if the amount is in fact the sum of the encounters, the players probably don't know that. And if they have to finish a mult-session dungeon before getting xp, that stretches things further. If they do know exactly what xp they should be getting (as you mention below they're aware of some of the CRs you're using), then the obfuscation and delay of xp gain are pretty much pointless.
    Using consumables shouldn't be ideal. But sometimes it is necessary evil, and as I said my players were still above WBL for the entire campaign and always took more wealth out of the dungeon than they spent on consumables completing it.
    Your perception does not matter. You have players that think your game is to hard, their perception is what matters. If you've figured out what amount of consumables they want to spend (by asking them) and the book says different, that means you're gonna have to deal with your players wanting something different from the book.
    Also, putting "progress" in quotes like that says a lot more about you than me or my players.
    Does it? I don't know what happened in the campaign or how invested the players normally acted, but "progress" is the most nebulous reward. Xp and treasure are rewards, numbers that go up on your sheet and directly say you can X because Y. Progress only matters so long as the players think it matters, and even worse, progress is expected to be automatic. Even if you have a session with no combat and no looting, it is assumed there will be "progress" of the game in some form. Your xp rewards are obfuscated, the players feel they're spending more consumables than they should and falling behind (whether the book says they are or not), and progress is part of showing up. Even if its only a little bit, each reduction in reward satisfaction makes other problems worse.
    Its kind of a funny disconnect actually, on Saturday I had someone on this thread accusing me of "neurotic adherence to strict balance guidelines," but I had one of my players complaining to me that he felt like I was "just picking CRs out of a hat and throwing them at the party randomly." . . .

    1: They can't do a full clear of a dungeon in one go without using consumables, and this bugs them even though they have always still made a net profit and are always above suggested WBL.
    2: The wizard uses most of his spells in doing so and doesn't have as many as he would like to make scrolls or sell for profit in town.*
    In this particular campaign I let the players call a retreat at any time without consequences, as there are several new players in the group and I am trying to build up their confidence without having to risk accidental TPKs.

    *: This is a peculiarity of my particular house rules. I use a long rest variant so players don't have unlimited spells during downtime, but I allow them to save up unused spells or convert them to gold. Players can still purchase or craft items normally without expending spell slots.
    Yeah, pretty clear your group doesn't like consumables. The houserule for free scrolls may have sounded good, but what it's actually done is make someone feel like they're entitled to an infinite stockpile that increases every day, without actually making them feel better about using said stockpile. This group should probably just abolish consumable mechanics. Doing so might produce a further "save them from themselves" effect where in the absence of consumables they actually stop and rest at the point which feels comfortable to them, potentially reducing two stress factors.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    The whole thing gets kinda complicated when you further realize that defining 80% of party resources with precision is a fairly non-trivial task. How exactly do you value HP versus spell slots versus item charges versus potions as generic "party resources?" The only thing I can think of is using the magic item formulae to assign a gold value to -every- aspect of the character, including HD derived benefits like skill points and feats as well as ability score points. Just because they're renewable doesn't make them not resources, ya know.
    Spells (of significant effect) are easily counted. Hp is recovered by spells, therefore hp can be easily valued as spell slots (though hp loss, if channeled through the proper preemptive resistances and armored characters, may count for surprisingly few "spells"). Consumables are extra discretionary spending that I consider part of the safety net: you're never really expected to heal up or finish monsters off with wands or use the emergency potion of Water Breathing, but you use them when you need them. They're insurance against bad luck, mistakes, or trying to shoot for the moon. I would only expect consumable use in fights that I've planned such that I expect consumable use- though for groups where hp recovery is always from wands, that would greatly affect the expectations.


    Quote Originally Posted by Taladeal
    I can't agree with this. The numbers on the character sheet are larger, they have more abilities, from a crunch perspective they are objectively more powerful.
    "Objective" power means nothing. Most people don't care that they can objectively kill things, because they don't go around randomly killing things. Unless they actually see that previous fights are now easier, they cannot feel more powerful. If those fights are always in greater numbers such that they burn down to nearly nothing anyway, those fights will not feel easier, they will feel like an unending treadmill. For this clearly completionist group that never skips a fight, the DM must deliberately place combats with previously dangerous (and now less dangerous) foes, without a specific resource/challenge/whatever target, to ensure that the players get to demonstrate their new difference in power.

    However-
    they do seem to get bored and frustrated by "mop up" fights where the enemy doesn't really have a chance, and they haven't shown much interest in going back and defeating lower level encounters that they missed unless the treasure and XP awards are scaled up to their current level, so I can't imagine they would react too well.
    This line makes it sound like you have a group which with an extremely narrow idea of what fights they'll find fun. To the point where I'd usually suggest someone like that should try being the DM, because they'll either be happier in control, or find out how impossible their demands are.

    There remains one style of game I don't think has been mentioned: Is this a group that wants nothing but 1-2 fight days against equal or overleveled foes at all times? If they don't like "mop-up" and suddenly decide that they're too high level for areas they've apparently left unfinished, but complain not only about using consumables but also even burning through their daily resources, this sounds like a 1 fight per day group.

    Which brings us once again back to the fact that as long as they're spending 20% on equal level encounters, they're fine, even if there was only one fight that day. Single fight days are only a problem when the party has a bunch of daily resources they can "nova," which as I mentioned way back at the beginning, can be solved by having them play classes that don't have a bunch of daily resources, even if you're not willing to modify xp appropriately for circumstances.


    All of that said: if they're monitoring your CR-use (even though you said they don't have the MMs memorized), then they're never going to be happy. Seriously, if players are whining about your encounters because you didn't use exactly X monsters of CR Y, it doesn't matter what you do. Even if you only use exactly the CR calculations they consider fair, they'll just find something else to complain about. If someone thinks they're better than the DM but insists on playing instead, there is no fix.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Spells (of significant effect) are easily counted. Hp is recovered by spells, therefore hp can be easily valued as spell slots (though hp loss, if channeled through the proper preemptive resistances and armored characters, may count for surprisingly few "spells"). Consumables are extra discretionary spending that I consider part of the safety net: you're never really expected to heal up or finish monsters off with wands or use the emergency potion of Water Breathing, but you use them when you need them. They're insurance against bad luck, mistakes, or trying to shoot for the moon. I would only expect consumable use in fights that I've planned such that I expect consumable use- though for groups where hp recovery is always from wands, that would greatly affect the expectations.
    What defines "of significant effect?" The mess of first and second level spells a 12th level cleric burns off for HP restoration? Do they become more significant if they're slots off of a bard? Are they of more or less significance if they had a magic vestment prepared before they were sac'ed?

    For that matter, surely they're not weighted simply by the number of total slots rather than their relative power. That is; surely a first level spell and a fifth level spell don't count as the same amount of resource?

    How does an artificer fit into this idea when a -huge- portion of his day to day power comes from wands and staves?

    You said to count HP with spells as a proxy but different level spells and powers heal different amounts of HP. That doesn't account for HP restoration through item use at all, either.


    Don't get me wrong, this whole argument is purely academic since, as I said in my previous quote, you can just eyeball it and do well enough. I wouldn't expect anyone to actually do all the necessary formulation and math to get a precise value but it doesn't change the fact that details matter if you're trying to be precise.

    Besides, a certain kind of player could probably use such mathematics to "prove" that casters really are just outright superior to non-casters I really don't want to encourage that sort of thinking.
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  11. - Top - End - #71
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    The first time I DM'ed I obsessed over making encounters that challenged the players. Its a fine line to walk, and it gets tough the higher level you go. Eventually it got to a point where the encounters were decided in one or two rounds. The only way to prevent it would have been to take out several players in the Alpha, or some how otherwise deliberately screw over the players. I didn't want to DM that way, and expressed my concerns to my players. They gave me some great advice. They were having fun. As long as the encounters were interesting, it didn't necassarily matter whether they were pushed to their limits or not.

    I offer you similar advice. If the players are having fun, it doesn't matter. Make the combats interesting and meaningful, and forget about daily quotas. They might have 1 single battle in a day that cleans them out, or it could be a cake walk that leads to interesting role play and decision making. As they get more powerful they may have a dozen small encounters in a day. As long as you are keeping the players interested, then you are doing your job.

  12. - Top - End - #72
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I can't agree with this. The numbers on the character sheet are larger, they have more abilities, from a crunch perspective they are objectively more powerful.

    Likewise, it is really hard for me to imagine a player thinking that a group of level 1 characters spending 80% of their resources to rescue a prize pig from some goblins to be every bit as influential as a level 20 party who spent 80% of their resources to defeat the dark lord who has enslaved this world for the past thousand years, liberating all of humanity in this life and the next, and becoming the god-kings of an empire that spans the entire globe.

    It is a role playing game, the pieces on the board actually exist in the fiction and represent real things, and high level characters simply have more options (both mechanical and fluffly) to affect them and guide the direction the narrative takes.


    Again, aside from inverting the traditional nature of game levels and starting hard and ending easy, how would you actually model such a thing?

    Would it be solved by simply occasionally having the players run dungeons far below their level or just have occasional "bar fight" scenes where someone picks a fight without the PCs despite being woefully outclassed?
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I started this thread to ask about whether or not "80% resource expenditure is a good difficulty benchmark," not about whether having a consistent benchmark for difficulty is a good thing or not. Which is an interesting discussion, its just not really what I was talking about.
    As others and I have said, 80% is a terrible metric, because all metrics are terrible. What matters is what your table finds fun. And, from the sounds of it, 80% is too high for your table.

    However, it's worse than that.

    Your game was a hex crawl. The party gained levels. The party went wherever they wanted. Later hexes, they fairly consistently lost 80% of their resources. Therefore, one of the following must be true:
    • gaining power is a lie - their characters are still the same as when they started the adventure;
    • the map is a lie - Talakeal is presenting his railroad in the intended order, with the illusion of choice as to where to go;
    • the encounters and world-building are a lie - Talakeal is just making stuff up "appropriate to our level" / "to counter our power" when we get there.


    Without some serious gatekeeping (with zones, keys, etc), you cannot have static enemies on a hex crawl present a static level of challenge to a dynamically-leveled party. That's just utter nonsense. And, if that was (how they saw) your game, your players had to be feeling it.

    So, in context, both an 80% benchmark, and any static benchmark, are bad.

    And, yes, as I and others have already said, there should definitely absolutely certainly be occasional "bar fight" styles of encounters, to let the players actually notice that their PCs have improved! Although this can be accomplished by letting the players encounter "old foes" (like skeletons or Ogres) and experience how much easier they are now. They don't have to be "why did we bother with this encounter" level of easy, just noticeably easier. And not always as part of some guaranteed 80% (±) grind.

  13. - Top - End - #73
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I can't agree with this. The numbers on the character sheet are larger, they have more abilities, from a crunch perspective they are objectively more powerful.

    Likewise, it is really hard for me to imagine a player thinking that a group of level 1 characters spending 80% of their resources to rescue a prize pig from some goblins to be every bit as influential as a level 20 party who spent 80% of their resources to defeat the dark lord who has enslaved this world for the past thousand years, liberating all of humanity in this life and the next, and becoming the god-kings of an empire that spans the entire globe.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    "Objective" power means nothing. Most people don't care that they can objectively kill things, because they don't go around randomly killing things. Unless they actually see that previous fights are now easier, they cannot feel more powerful. If those fights are always in greater numbers such that they burn down to nearly nothing anyway, those fights will not feel easier, they will feel like an unending treadmill. For this clearly completionist group that never skips a fight, the DM must deliberately place combats with previously dangerous (and now less dangerous) foes, without a specific resource/challenge/whatever target, to ensure that the players get to demonstrate their new difference in power.
    This.

    Look, setting aside the metrics for a moment, at the end of the day, D&D is a power fantasy. It's not suited to many other things. It's not a terrific noir detective experience. It's not super as a harem comedy. And in a world where characters can literally become immune to fear, horror is really, really hard to pull off. It's a power fantasy. That's not to say that everything should be easy for the heroes - it shouldn't - but at some point they need to come out on top and feel amazing doing it.

    As in most things, the key is to judge by results, not by inputs. If the players expend the same amount of resources fighting the Orc Army that they did rescuing Grandma Marla's kitty from that tree, how do they feel super? Why should they have stopped rescuing kitties from trees if the outcome of the much harder fight still feels the same? If they expend almost all of their resources fighting some enemies who are relatively low on the totem pole - goblins, kobolds, bandits, etc. - when will they ever feel confident enough to fight a Dragon? If the goal is to make them god-kings of an empire that spans an entire globe, how will they ever feel up to that challenge when raiding the Underdark is still a near-lethal exercise?

    That's the point. Before your players can have the confidence to take on bigger challenges, you have to show them their progress - by showing that the smaller challenges have gotten easier. That makes the players feel that the PCs are more capable, more powerful. And that inspires them to move on to bigger and badder things.

    If you keep the players on a treadmill where everything they face takes everything they have, they don't reach that point. Because they never feel the result - that they've grown stronger. They never get to enjoy that high. And they need that.

    Look, if you ever watch a horror or suspense film, you'll notice something. They periodically relieve the pressure. Somebody makes a joke, or expresses relief, or feels safe. For just a moment, everyone - including the audience - can let down their guard. You need this. If you keep the pressure at maximum for the entire story, the pressure loses its value. You periodically relieve that pressure, so you can ramp it up again to great effect.

    Challenges are the same way. It's good to challenge your players, within reason. But periodically, they need to feel strong. They need to face a scrub, or a fight that was a challenge for them once but isn't anymore. That's how they feel they've made progress. That's what keeps them from feeling that everything is too hard.
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  14. - Top - End - #74
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    There are a lot of side conversations in this thread that don't seem on-target, and I personally can't really follow them. However, I do want to give some input.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    So are the guidelines in the DMG too hard?

    If so, what is the right level of challenge? And how do you run an easier game without breaking the system or the setting?

    If not, how do you get people more used to the "expected" level of difficulty?
    I think the guidelines in the DMG are just that, guidelines. I think they're pretty good for a challenge if they're looked at only in the percentage of resources utilized. The guidelines are good, however all of the additive parts to the "resources" of a character really screw those guidelines up. As characters acquire wealth and equipment, that wizard only having 3 spell slots is a lot less impactful, especially when the spells they go-to most often get wanded (fly, invisibility, etc.). They're not going to use up their resources at the same rate as other characters. Don't get me wrong, wands are great, but they throw off resource percentages because to use 80% of the resources each day, you have to absolutely BURN through wand charges, or you have to be meticulous about loot placement and only drop partial wands of those spells to better control their resources. This, again, gets messed up by character resources like magic item crafting feats. Basically, if there were fewer ways to increase your resources, I would find the guidelines nearly perfect, thus there are two possible answers; 1) the guidelines are good but the system they are for suffers from system bloat (I tend to be in this camp), 2) the guidelines are bad and need to be adjusted for the resource plentiful system (I tend to disagree with this as I tend to NOT allow every resource under the sun in my games).

    The right level of challenge is whatever brings your group fun. Typically this is achieved through a challenge and triumph system of play. Challenges can consist of a lot of different parts and vary in compsition depending on party composition and level. At level 1, a challenge might be 3 CR 1/3 goblin warriors. at level 8, that same level of challenge is probably an entire war camp of those goblins. At level 1, your resources are much lower so beating those enemies will be more resource intensive. At level 8, you have many more resources (and those resources are better protected), so taking out 20-30 of those same goblins will probably take approximately the same amount of resources, perhaps even less. The sense of achievement is based on what comes after the challenge though, the triumph. Did the party get sweet loot? did they save the damsel in distress? did they get the big bad guy? or, perhaps they got a "sorry mario, the princess is in another castle" letter and no loot, therefore no sense of achievement to show for their challenge. In short, if there is no triumph, there will be no fun in the challenge.

    Ultimately, the overall difficulty is also governed by the challenge and triumph system. If the triumph is lackluster compared to the challenge, there will be no fun. If there is sufficient reward, as long as the challenge is defeated, there is no such thing as "too difficult". "too difficult" would be expecting the group to use 100% of their resources in the first encounter and then not giving them a choice as to facing the next, which you use to ultimately kill all the characters without the players growing or learning.

    Now for something that wasn't in the original question:

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    We just completed a campaign where we played every other week for almost two years.

    So, basically, I have four players:
    One of them bitches about basically every encounter and finds someone or something to blame anytime his character fails at something.
    One of them is normally fine, but occasionally, usually when encountering a monster that he can't just run up to and trade full attacks with, or when he is wrong about a rule, he explodes, calls people (usually me) names, screams, and threatens to quit the game.
    The other two were pretty calm and drama free, but during the last half-dozen sessions or so they started exhibiting the same behavior as the first two, and I don't know it is the other players rubbing off on them, my game driving them to it, or some combination of the above.

    Some data about my game(s):

    I typically run about six encounters a session.

    The players complain that they are forced to spend too much money on consumables, but are still significantly above WBL the entire game.

    About once every five sessions they have a close fight where several of the players are down and they are seriously considering retreating to avoid a TPK, but pull through and win in the end.

    About once every ten sessions the players will have an encounter where they are unable to achieve their goals the first time. They decide to fall back and regroup / resupply / research / ask for help, the enemy gets away and has to be tracked down, or the enemy incapacitates them on their first encounter.

    About once every twenty sessions the party suffers a serious setback; the fail to stop the villain, they are forced to abandon the mission, one of the players dies (and resurrections isn't recoverable), they get their allies killed, or they make a mistake and choose the wrong side.

    About once every fifty sessions the group actually suffers a TPK and either starts over or has to resort to a deus ex machina.

    Three things:
    First bolded is the mindset there. Regardless of the player, this is an antagonistic mindset to have. If that behavior is the character's concept, what are you going to do about it? That's the character the player wants to play. If this is a player issue and the entire party also finds this to be an issue, this should be handled out of character in a discussion with the player. perhaps the player is acting this way out of a lack of understanding of their options available.

    Second bolded is a suggestion. As opposed to dropping cash, gems, art, etc. why not just drop the actual consumables? If those are potions, have the enemy use those against the party to clue the party in that there may be more of that on the corpse. If those are wands, drop partial wands on old corpses of previous adventurers or perhaps have partial wands as rewards for side-quests from different individuals in the area, something of a "while you're out there" kind of thing. Same with potions and scrolls as well. If that's for arrows or bolts... uhm... drop those too? Basically, instead of just dropping funds, drop stuff. Stuff is always more fun to fool around with anyway.

    The italicized bit is 100% an OOC problem and you've got to get that under control. Talk to the player, figure out where their head space is, and find the middle ground. Getting upset mid-session absolutely detracts from the group and should be taken seriously. Better yet, use bold 2 and figure out a way to drop something for them that will enhance their ability to do their schtick. Maybe boots of air-walking that lets them walk about 3 inches off the ground and then 3 times per day they can do an acrobatic charge without a dice roll OR they can fly until the end of their turn, at which point they float harmlessly back down to 3 inches above the ground. This helps defeat caltrops, marbles, and most other dangerous terrain, while also augmenting their ability to do their thing. It keeps it within the confines of the rules and satisfies many of the problems you identified, but don't just do this. Have the conversation, find that middle ground, and then deliver the solution in-game. If the player starts getting out of hand again, politely stop, talk to the player and remind them of that middle ground, and restore civility to the game.
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  15. - Top - End - #75
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    So, while the DMG does say that an average encounter will consume ~20% of a parties resources and that a party should be able to take on 4 encounters before resting, I suppose the 80% resources per adventuring day was just an inference I made 20 years ago and never questioned, so that makes this thread kind of moot.

    Basically, my players complain that they seem to always end the adventuring day low on resources, and when I asked about this in another thread many people claimed that my campaign sounded extremely hard and that it was harder than most old school meat grinders, which really confused me as the players never actually lost battles or characters, and always ended the adventure having spent less than they took out and were always above WBL.

    But, seeing as how there is actually no numerical metric for encounters per adventuring day, I guess its just totally subjective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Okay, well then I think we can dispense with over-analysis on the numbers, because it sounds like closer to an expectations issue than anything else. If the players think the game should work such that they can clear a dungeon (completely, leaving no significant treasure behind) in one go (rather than going out and resting, 1. having to figure out how to do so safely and 2. risking the denizens planning countermeasures or leaving with the loot in the meantime), and without expending consumables (which are then used when?), then they clearly want a game with a different challenge tuning than most of us expect. For me, having accomplishing the whole thing so close you can almost taste it is exactly how things should be, because that means you get to make tough decisions, and those decisions matter. That seems like an optimal situation. But clearly your group disagrees. I will say that this rule of having the wizard get to turn unused spells into scrolls for profit does kinda strongly communicate the idea that you are supposed to get out of the dungeon with a reserve (and not just a 'what if you run into one last monster on the way out?' reserve), and that might be messaging-in-contradiction-of-intended-message on your part. Still, overall, I think you are dealing more with differing ideas of normal than anything else.
    That is also how I feel.

    They are supposed to make it out of the dungeon with a reserve, usually about ~20%. But sometimes things go bad, and that's when you should use consumables as a safety net IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    At some point you have to realize that at least some of their complaints shouldn't carry any weight since they seem to be prone to whining. The desire to make the game to everyone's liking is commendable but compromise -must- be part of that. There's a line between being willing to compromise and being a doormat.

    I forget who the quote comes from but it goes something like "You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. You've got to choose your battles."

    Okay, 1 is just pure whining. "We won but I don't like the margins" is a BS complaint that should be ignored outright. If things are getting tight and you don't want to burn non-renewable resources, either withdraw or hunker down and take the long-rest to restore your renewable resources.

    2 is contradictory to 1. If they have the downtime to make scrolls (1 day/ scroll, minimum) then they have the time to slow down and approach the dungeon in a way that doesn't force consumable use. Especially given this:

    This confuses me though. They never did have unlimited slots during down time. The per-day limit is exactly that; per day. Or at least per full night's rest for arcanists. Is a night's rest not a "long rest" somehow?
    Oh, trust me, if I let them my players would never face more than one encounter per day and would spend years in town grinding money from professions if I let them.

    Basically, I use something similar to 5Es long rest variant where it takes a full rest rather than one night to recover, and I use something akin to the Adventure League downtime crafting system.


    So, I suppose this one is on me rather than something I can "hide behind the DMG" for.

    But I agree with the basic premise, the players can always come back later rather than seeing every optional objective as something that must be cleared immediately and then bitching about a loss of consumables that still results in a net gain of wealth.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    I always took the 1/2 price on sales to be a matter of the abstraction of buying and selling gear. You get half because, unless you specify differently, the presumption is that you're selling it to a pawn broker or some similar person who makes it their business to buy up adventurer loot in a market where there are -plenty- of established sellers of good standing while you're just a random nobody. If one of my players wants better than 1/2 then I'll let them roll a few skill checks for as much as an extra 10% or actually try to establish themselves as a competing seller by opening a shop and maybe get full value if they don't mind it taking a good while and dealing with the adventure hooks that come with being a businessman in a high-magic, high-fantasy world.
    They always find some argument for making extra money; they will find other adventurer's and meet them in the middle, they will live in a shack and live off bread and water to avoid living expenses, they will trade outside city walls to avoid taxes... always some scheme to squeeze every last copper out of the system and then complaining "but realism" if I shoot any of them down or try and enforce consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    That's not the definition I've heard- milestone leveling is that the PCs all level up when you tell them to, after "milestones." Regardless, you're still running into a problem mentioned in the DMG, which is that generalizing xp risks making the players dissatisfied. Even if the amount is in fact the sum of the encounters, the players probably don't know that. And if they have to finish a mult-session dungeon before getting xp, that stretches things further. If they do know exactly what xp they should be getting (as you mention below they're aware of some of the CRs you're using), then the obfuscation and delay of xp gain are pretty much pointless.
    The milestone is completing the dungeon.

    I don't care what they do in the dungeon, if they want to skip encounters, or provoke extra encounters, or handle them in an unconventional way, that is their business not mine.


    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    The decision to push the players towards that point is yours, because you specifically said you don't want them having 15 minute days, and apparently don't consider any other methods of disincentivizing it valid.
    Could you please elaborate on this? I am not sure what ways of discincentivizing this you are referring to or why you assume I don't consider them valid. Also, how do these methods not also include some metric for how many encounters the players "should" face in a day?


    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Your perception does not matter. You have players that think your game is to hard, their perception is what matters. If you've figured out what amount of consumables they want to spend (by asking them) and the book says different, that means you're gonna have to deal with your players wanting something different from the book.
    Sorry, going to have to hard disagree here.

    The DM is a person too, telling them that their opinion doesn't matter but a player's does is absurd.

    This also assumes that the players know what they want and are in full agreement, which is something that is very rare. Virtually every guide to playtesting I have ever read says something along the lines of "People are pretty good at noticing when something is wrong, but terrible at telling you exactly what it is, and even worse at telling you how to fix it."

    Also; some people just like to complain or find excuses for their failures, and I can't accept that these criticisms are automatically valid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Does it? I don't know what happened in the campaign or how invested the players normally acted, but "progress" is the most nebulous reward. Xp and treasure are rewards, numbers that go up on your sheet and directly say you can X because Y. Progress only matters so long as the players think it matters, and even worse, progress is expected to be automatic. Even if you have a session with no combat and no looting, it is assumed there will be "progress" of the game in some form. Your xp rewards are obfuscated, the players feel they're spending more consumables than they should and falling behind (whether the book says they are or not), and progress is part of showing up. Even if its only a little bit, each reduction in reward satisfaction makes other problems worse.
    Yes. If you only care about numerical rewards, it says a lot about you're playstyle. Even the most "kick in the door / hack and slash" players I have ever gamed with care at least a bit about working towards their character's goals and motivations.

    Also, I just had another poster get onto me for calling XP and treasure rewards. No wonder I am confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Yeah, pretty clear your group doesn't like consumables. The houserule for free scrolls may have sounded good, but what it's actually done is make someone feel like they're entitled to an infinite stockpile that increases every day, without actually making them feel better about using said stockpile. This group should probably just abolish consumable mechanics. Doing so might produce a further "save them from themselves" effect where in the absence of consumables they actually stop and rest at the point which feels comfortable to them, potentially reducing two stress factors.
    Agreed.

    Although hopefully I can figure out a way to come to terms with them without actually removing consumables, at that really fundamentally changes the game and takes away their "safety net" if things really do go bad, which will only lead to more drama and grief.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Spells (of significant effect) are easily counted. Hp is recovered by spells, therefore hp can be easily valued as spell slots (though hp loss, if channeled through the proper preemptive resistances and armored characters, may count for surprisingly few "spells"). Consumables are extra discretionary spending that I consider part of the safety net: you're never really expected to heal up or finish monsters off with wands or use the emergency potion of Water Breathing, but you use them when you need them. They're insurance against bad luck, mistakes, or trying to shoot for the moon. I would only expect consumable use in fights that I've planned such that I expect consumable use- though for groups where hp recovery is always from wands, that would greatly affect the expectations.
    Mostly agree, although there have been a number of times when my players would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had used a consumable reemptively, for example a potion of flight before engaging a flying foe, a potion of fire resistance before facing a red dragon, an oil of ghost touch before facing an incorporeal foe, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    There remains one style of game I don't think has been mentioned: Is this a group that wants nothing but 1-2 fight days against equal or overleveled foes at all times? If they don't like "mop-up" and suddenly decide that they're too high level for areas they've apparently left unfinished, but complain not only about using consumables but also even burning through their daily resources, this sounds like a 1 fight per day group.

    Which brings us once again back to the fact that as long as they're spending 20% on equal level encounters, they're fine, even if there was only one fight that day. Single fight days are only a problem when the party has a bunch of daily resources they can "nova," which as I mentioned way back at the beginning, can be solved by having them play classes that don't have a bunch of daily resources, even if you're not willing to modify xp appropriately for circumstances.
    Such a game would, by necessity, be very slow paced, have (next to) no risk, have (next to) no challenge, and not really require any care or skill on the players.

    Although they might find this fun in the short run, I would find it dreadfully boring, and as with the monty haul games I have run in the past, I can't imagine the players wouldn't quickly grow bored and move on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    All of that said: if they're monitoring your CR-use (even though you said they don't have the MMs memorized), then they're never going to be happy. Seriously, if players are whining about your encounters because you didn't use exactly X monsters of CR Y, it doesn't matter what you do. Even if you only use exactly the CR calculations they consider fair, they'll just find something else to complain about. If someone thinks they're better than the DM but insists on playing instead, there is no fix.
    They aren't. They simply assume that if they had a hard time it must be because I threw an imbalanced fight at them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonzai View Post
    The first time I DM'ed I obsessed over making encounters that challenged the players. Its a fine line to walk, and it gets tough the higher level you go. Eventually it got to a point where the encounters were decided in one or two rounds. The only way to prevent it would have been to take out several players in the Alpha, or some how otherwise deliberately screw over the players. I didn't want to DM that way, and expressed my concerns to my players. They gave me some great advice. They were having fun. As long as the encounters were interesting, it didn't necassarily matter whether they were pushed to their limits or not.

    I offer you similar advice. If the players are having fun, it doesn't matter. Make the combats interesting and meaningful, and forget about daily quotas. They might have 1 single battle in a day that cleans them out, or it could be a cake walk that leads to interesting role play and decision making. As they get more powerful they may have a dozen small encounters in a day. As long as you are keeping the players interested, then you are doing your job.
    See above.

    Also, "interesting" fights are the last thing they want. They want straight forward fights where they can charge in and hack stuff to pieces (or stay back and blow it up with fireballs).

    The biggest complaints I have gotten so far were fights against a fomorian whose goal was to throw them off a bridge rather than kill them, and avatars of the god of violence that when one was killed two would take its place. Both were very interesting non-traditional encounters, but both were absolute bitch-fests.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    As others and I have said, 80% is a terrible metric, because all metrics are terrible. What matters is what your table finds fun. And, from the sounds of it, 80% is too high for your table.

    However, it's worse than that.

    Your game was a hex crawl. The party gained levels. The party went wherever they wanted. Later hexes, they fairly consistently lost 80% of their resources. Therefore, one of the following must be true:
    • gaining power is a lie - their characters are still the same as when they started the adventure;
    • the map is a lie - Talakeal is presenting his railroad in the intended order, with the illusion of choice as to where to go;
    • the encounters and world-building are a lie - Talakeal is just making stuff up "appropriate to our level" / "to counter our power" when we get there.


    Without some serious gatekeeping (with zones, keys, etc), you cannot have static enemies on a hex crawl present a static level of challenge to a dynamically-leveled party. That's just utter nonsense. And, if that was (how they saw) your game, your players had to be feeling it.

    So, in context, both an 80% benchmark, and any static benchmark, are bad.

    And, yes, as I and others have already said, there should definitely absolutely certainly be occasional "bar fight" styles of encounters, to let the players actually notice that their PCs have improved! Although this can be accomplished by letting the players encounter "old foes" (like skeletons or Ogres) and experience how much easier they are now. They don't have to be "why did we bother with this encounter" level of easy, just noticeably easier. And not always as part of some guaranteed 80% (±) grind.

    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.

    The map had points of interest on it "dungeons" that grew increasingly more dangerous the further from town one strayed. Each was balanced to consume ~80% of the resources of a party of a given level. The players could choose to visit them in any order. They were not the only things on the map, and players could do things like hiring mercenaries or calling in favors to get assistance with the dungeons if they wanted to tackle the tougher ones first.

    Bar fight style encounters are absolutely fine. The problem is that they need to be part of a larger session, as my players would run riot if I didn't give them the full rewards.

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    This.

    Look, setting aside the metrics for a moment, at the end of the day, D&D is a power fantasy. It's not suited to many other things. It's not a terrific noir detective experience. It's not super as a harem comedy. And in a world where characters can literally become immune to fear, horror is really, really hard to pull off. It's a power fantasy. That's not to say that everything should be easy for the heroes - it shouldn't - but at some point they need to come out on top and feel amazing doing it.
    Maybe that's the source of the disconnect then. I have never much cared for power fantasies. I play RPGs for the immersion, the experiance of being someone I am not and exploring a fantasy world.

    So, while the DMG does say that an average encounter will consume ~20% of a parties resources and that a party should be able to take on 4 encounters before resting, I suppose the 80% resources per adventuring day was just an inference I made 20 years ago and never questioned, so that makes this thread kind of moot.

    Basically, my players complain that they seem to always end the adventuring day low on resources, and when I asked about this in another thread many people claimed that my campaign sounded extremely hard and that it was harder than most old school meat grinders, which really confused me as the players never actually lost battles or characters, and always ended the adventure having spent less than they took out and were always above WBL.

    But, seeing as how there is actually no numerical metric for encounters per adventuring day, I guess its just totally subjective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Okay, well then I think we can dispense with over-analysis on the numbers, because it sounds like closer to an expectations issue than anything else. If the players think the game should work such that they can clear a dungeon (completely, leaving no significant treasure behind) in one go (rather than going out and resting, 1. having to figure out how to do so safely and 2. risking the denizens planning countermeasures or leaving with the loot in the meantime), and without expending consumables (which are then used when?), then they clearly want a game with a different challenge tuning than most of us expect. For me, having accomplishing the whole thing so close you can almost taste it is exactly how things should be, because that means you get to make tough decisions, and those decisions matter. That seems like an optimal situation. But clearly your group disagrees. I will say that this rule of having the wizard get to turn unused spells into scrolls for profit does kinda strongly communicate the idea that you are supposed to get out of the dungeon with a reserve (and not just a 'what if you run into one last monster on the way out?' reserve), and that might be messaging-in-contradiction-of-intended-message on your part. Still, overall, I think you are dealing more with differing ideas of normal than anything else.
    That is also how I feel.

    They are supposed to make it out of the dungeon with a reserve, usually about ~20%. But sometimes things go bad, and that's when you should use consumables as a safety net IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    At some point you have to realize that at least some of their complaints shouldn't carry any weight since they seem to be prone to whining. The desire to make the game to everyone's liking is commendable but compromise -must- be part of that. There's a line between being willing to compromise and being a doormat.

    I forget who the quote comes from but it goes something like "You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. You've got to choose your battles."

    Okay, 1 is just pure whining. "We won but I don't like the margins" is a BS complaint that should be ignored outright. If things are getting tight and you don't want to burn non-renewable resources, either withdraw or hunker down and take the long-rest to restore your renewable resources.

    2 is contradictory to 1. If they have the downtime to make scrolls (1 day/ scroll, minimum) then they have the time to slow down and approach the dungeon in a way that doesn't force consumable use. Especially given this:

    This confuses me though. They never did have unlimited slots during down time. The per-day limit is exactly that; per day. Or at least per full night's rest for arcanists. Is a night's rest not a "long rest" somehow?
    Oh, trust me, if I let them my players would never face more than one encounter per day and would spend years in town grinding money from professions if I let them.

    Basically, I use something similar to 5Es long rest variant where it takes a full rest rather than one night to recover, and I use something akin to the Adventure League downtime crafting system.


    So, I suppose this one is on me rather than something I can "hide behind the DMG" for.

    But I agree with the basic premise, the players can always come back later rather than seeing every optional objective as something that must be cleared immediately and then bitching about a loss of consumables that still results in a net gain of wealth.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    I always took the 1/2 price on sales to be a matter of the abstraction of buying and selling gear. You get half because, unless you specify differently, the presumption is that you're selling it to a pawn broker or some similar person who makes it their business to buy up adventurer loot in a market where there are -plenty- of established sellers of good standing while you're just a random nobody. If one of my players wants better than 1/2 then I'll let them roll a few skill checks for as much as an extra 10% or actually try to establish themselves as a competing seller by opening a shop and maybe get full value if they don't mind it taking a good while and dealing with the adventure hooks that come with being a businessman in a high-magic, high-fantasy world.
    They always find some argument for making extra money; they will find other adventurer's and meet them in the middle, they will live in a shack and live off bread and water to avoid living expenses, they will trade outside city walls to avoid taxes... always some scheme to squeeze every last copper out of the system and then complaining "but realism" if I shoot any of them down or try and enforce consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    That's not the definition I've heard- milestone leveling is that the PCs all level up when you tell them to, after "milestones." Regardless, you're still running into a problem mentioned in the DMG, which is that generalizing xp risks making the players dissatisfied. Even if the amount is in fact the sum of the encounters, the players probably don't know that. And if they have to finish a mult-session dungeon before getting xp, that stretches things further. If they do know exactly what xp they should be getting (as you mention below they're aware of some of the CRs you're using), then the obfuscation and delay of xp gain are pretty much pointless.
    The milestone is completing the dungeon.

    I don't care what they do in the dungeon, if they want to skip encounters, or provoke extra encounters, or handle them in an unconventional way, that is their business not mine.


    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    The decision to push the players towards that point is yours, because you specifically said you don't want them having 15 minute days, and apparently don't consider any other methods of disincentivizing it valid.
    Could you please elaborate on this? I am not sure what ways of discincentivizing this you are referring to or why you assume I don't consider them valid. Also, how do these methods not also include some metric for how many encounters the players "should" face in a day?


    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Your perception does not matter. You have players that think your game is to hard, their perception is what matters. If you've figured out what amount of consumables they want to spend (by asking them) and the book says different, that means you're gonna have to deal with your players wanting something different from the book.
    Sorry, going to have to hard disagree here.

    The DM is a person too, telling them that their opinion doesn't matter but a player's does is absurd.

    This also assumes that the players know what they want and are in full agreement, which is something that is very rare. Virtually every guide to playtesting I have ever read says something along the lines of "People are pretty good at noticing when something is wrong, but terrible at telling you exactly what it is, and even worse at telling you how to fix it."

    Also; some people just like to complain or find excuses for their failures, and I can't accept that these criticisms are automatically valid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Does it? I don't know what happened in the campaign or how invested the players normally acted, but "progress" is the most nebulous reward. Xp and treasure are rewards, numbers that go up on your sheet and directly say you can X because Y. Progress only matters so long as the players think it matters, and even worse, progress is expected to be automatic. Even if you have a session with no combat and no looting, it is assumed there will be "progress" of the game in some form. Your xp rewards are obfuscated, the players feel they're spending more consumables than they should and falling behind (whether the book says they are or not), and progress is part of showing up. Even if its only a little bit, each reduction in reward satisfaction makes other problems worse.
    Yes. If you only care about numerical rewards, it says a lot about you're playstyle. Even the most "kick in the door / hack and slash" players I have ever gamed with care at least a bit about working towards their character's goals and motivations.

    Also, I just had another poster get onto me for calling XP and treasure rewards. No wonder I am confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Yeah, pretty clear your group doesn't like consumables. The houserule for free scrolls may have sounded good, but what it's actually done is make someone feel like they're entitled to an infinite stockpile that increases every day, without actually making them feel better about using said stockpile. This group should probably just abolish consumable mechanics. Doing so might produce a further "save them from themselves" effect where in the absence of consumables they actually stop and rest at the point which feels comfortable to them, potentially reducing two stress factors.
    Agreed.

    Although hopefully I can figure out a way to come to terms with them without actually removing consumables, at that really fundamentally changes the game and takes away their "safety net" if things really do go bad, which will only lead to more drama and grief.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Spells (of significant effect) are easily counted. Hp is recovered by spells, therefore hp can be easily valued as spell slots (though hp loss, if channeled through the proper preemptive resistances and armored characters, may count for surprisingly few "spells"). Consumables are extra discretionary spending that I consider part of the safety net: you're never really expected to heal up or finish monsters off with wands or use the emergency potion of Water Breathing, but you use them when you need them. They're insurance against bad luck, mistakes, or trying to shoot for the moon. I would only expect consumable use in fights that I've planned such that I expect consumable use- though for groups where hp recovery is always from wands, that would greatly affect the expectations.
    Mostly agree, although there have been a number of times when my players would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had used a consumable reemptively, for example a potion of flight before engaging a flying foe, a potion of fire resistance before facing a red dragon, an oil of ghost touch before facing an incorporeal foe, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    There remains one style of game I don't think has been mentioned: Is this a group that wants nothing but 1-2 fight days against equal or overleveled foes at all times? If they don't like "mop-up" and suddenly decide that they're too high level for areas they've apparently left unfinished, but complain not only about using consumables but also even burning through their daily resources, this sounds like a 1 fight per day group.

    Which brings us once again back to the fact that as long as they're spending 20% on equal level encounters, they're fine, even if there was only one fight that day. Single fight days are only a problem when the party has a bunch of daily resources they can "nova," which as I mentioned way back at the beginning, can be solved by having them play classes that don't have a bunch of daily resources, even if you're not willing to modify xp appropriately for circumstances.
    Such a game would, by necessity, be very slow paced, have (next to) no risk, have (next to) no challenge, and not really require any care or skill on the players.

    Although they might find this fun in the short run, I would find it dreadfully boring, and as with the monty haul games I have run in the past, I can't imagine the players wouldn't quickly grow bored and move on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    All of that said: if they're monitoring your CR-use (even though you said they don't have the MMs memorized), then they're never going to be happy. Seriously, if players are whining about your encounters because you didn't use exactly X monsters of CR Y, it doesn't matter what you do. Even if you only use exactly the CR calculations they consider fair, they'll just find something else to complain about. If someone thinks they're better than the DM but insists on playing instead, there is no fix.
    They aren't. They simply assume that if they had a hard time it must be because I threw an imbalanced fight at them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonzai View Post
    The first time I DM'ed I obsessed over making encounters that challenged the players. Its a fine line to walk, and it gets tough the higher level you go. Eventually it got to a point where the encounters were decided in one or two rounds. The only way to prevent it would have been to take out several players in the Alpha, or some how otherwise deliberately screw over the players. I didn't want to DM that way, and expressed my concerns to my players. They gave me some great advice. They were having fun. As long as the encounters were interesting, it didn't necassarily matter whether they were pushed to their limits or not.

    I offer you similar advice. If the players are having fun, it doesn't matter. Make the combats interesting and meaningful, and forget about daily quotas. They might have 1 single battle in a day that cleans them out, or it could be a cake walk that leads to interesting role play and decision making. As they get more powerful they may have a dozen small encounters in a day. As long as you are keeping the players interested, then you are doing your job.
    See above.

    Also, "interesting" fights are the last thing they want. They want straight forward fights where they can charge in and hack stuff to pieces (or stay back and blow it up with fireballs).

    The biggest complaints I have gotten so far were fights against a fomorian whose goal was to throw them off a bridge rather than kill them, and avatars of the god of violence that when one was killed two would take its place. Both were very interesting non-traditional encounters, but both were absolute bitch-fests.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    As others and I have said, 80% is a terrible metric, because all metrics are terrible. What matters is what your table finds fun. And, from the sounds of it, 80% is too high for your table.

    However, it's worse than that.

    Your game was a hex crawl. The party gained levels. The party went wherever they wanted. Later hexes, they fairly consistently lost 80% of their resources. Therefore, one of the following must be true:
    • gaining power is a lie - their characters are still the same as when they started the adventure;
    • the map is a lie - Talakeal is presenting his railroad in the intended order, with the illusion of choice as to where to go;
    • the encounters and world-building are a lie - Talakeal is just making stuff up "appropriate to our level" / "to counter our power" when we get there.


    Without some serious gatekeeping (with zones, keys, etc), you cannot have static enemies on a hex crawl present a static level of challenge to a dynamically-leveled party. That's just utter nonsense. And, if that was (how they saw) your game, your players had to be feeling it.

    So, in context, both an 80% benchmark, and any static benchmark, are bad.

    And, yes, as I and others have already said, there should definitely absolutely certainly be occasional "bar fight" styles of encounters, to let the players actually notice that their PCs have improved! Although this can be accomplished by letting the players encounter "old foes" (like skeletons or Ogres) and experience how much easier they are now. They don't have to be "why did we bother with this encounter" level of easy, just noticeably easier. And not always as part of some guaranteed 80% (±) grind.

    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.

    The map had points of interest on it "dungeons" that grew increasingly more dangerous the further from town one strayed. Each was balanced to consume ~80% of the resources of a party of a given level. The players could choose to visit them in any order. They were not the only things on the map, and players could do things like hiring mercenaries or calling in favors to get assistance with the dungeons if they wanted to tackle the tougher ones first.

    Bar fight style encounters are absolutely fine. The problem is that they need to be part of a larger session, as my players would run riot if I didn't give them the full rewards.

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    As in most things, the key is to judge by results, not by inputs. If the players expend the same amount of resources fighting the Orc Army that they did rescuing Grandma Marla's kitty from that tree, how do they feel super? Why should they have stopped rescuing kitties from trees if the outcome of the much harder fight still feels the same? If they expend almost all of their resources fighting some enemies who are relatively low on the totem pole - goblins, kobolds, bandits, etc. - when will they ever feel confident enough to fight a Dragon? If the goal is to make them god-kings of an empire that spans an entire globe, how will they ever feel up to that challenge when raiding the Underdark is still a near-lethal exercise?
    The goal isn't to make them feel "super" its to make them feel like "heroes".

    What do you mean "the outcome still feels the same"? That makes no sense to me; its like saying that nobody should ever try and achieve anything because winning a local competition "feels the same" as becominng the world champion.

    Also, I don't get why the proposed high level heroes are expending all of their resources drained by low level enemies in this example. Are you implying that I "scale up the world" like a bad Bethesda game, or do you assume my players are so dense that they can't infer that their level 20 demon slaying heroes could beat the crap out of the orcs they fought at level 1 because I haven't spent the time actually running them through a dungeon 15 levels below them as a demonstration of their power?


    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    If you keep the players on a treadmill where everything they face takes everything they have, they don't reach that point. Because they never feel the result - that they've grown stronger. They never get to enjoy that high. And they need that.

    Look, if you ever watch a horror or suspense film, you'll notice something. They periodically relieve the pressure. Somebody makes a joke, or expresses relief, or feels safe. For just a moment, everyone - including the audience - can let down their guard. You need this. If you keep the pressure at maximum for the entire story, the pressure loses its value. You periodically relieve that pressure, so you can ramp it up again to great effect.

    Challenges are the same way. It's good to challenge your players, within reason. But periodically, they need to feel strong. They need to face a scrub, or a fight that was a challenge for them once but isn't anymore. That's how they feel they've made progress. That's what keeps them from feeling that everything is too hard.
    Again, I find it really weird that you think players can't infer that a character who struggles to kill demon princes in Hell is no more powerful than one who struggles to kill giant rats in the abandoned mill.

    Also, the players in my game can and do periodically meet and wipe the floor with the same enemies that they struggled with earlier. I just don't base entire adventures around the PCs beating up things far below their weight class.


    Which is not to say I don't agree that there is value in varying the challenge of missions; some should feel harder and some should feel easier. The problem is, my players complain about both; if its too easy they complain that I am wasting their time by not providing them with as much XP and treasure, and if it is harder they complain that it is, well, too hard and therefore "imbalanced".
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  16. - Top - End - #76
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I started this thread to ask about whether or not "80% resource expenditure is a good difficulty benchmark,"
    As others have pointed out, it's a very loose guideline and it definitely shouldn't be regarded as the only measure of difficulty. (As an example, I believe very few of the TPKs I've seen were caused by depletion of daily resources. Most of them were instead caused by a depletion of tactical resources, typically as a result of player/PC stupidity, poor DM judgement and/or bad encounter design.)

    In addition, it's most likely not a good benchmark for your game and the preferences of your players, as both seem to deviate too much from the expectations the DMG guidelines were based on (like a lot of other games and player preferences AFAICT, mine included).

    In more detail:
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I typically run about six encounters a session.
    This seems to be reasonably in line with the DMG expectation of a "classic" attrition style game featuring a series of dungeons, each one filled with numerous easier fights against groups of mooks and ending with a more dangerous boss fight. So far so good.

    The players complain that they are forced to spend too much money on consumables, but are still significantly above WBL the entire game.
    There's no causality between the first and the second part of this sentence in this context. It's perfectly possible for players to feel like they're "forced to spend too much money on consumables" regardless of whether their PCs have more or less wealth than according to WBL. The second part just means the PCs and the combat challenges they face in your game are a bit more powerful than they otherwise would've been, while the first part means your average adventuring day is too difficult for the players' apparent "kick in the door of every room, kill every monster with cool magic sword* and take their stuff to pay for even cooler magic sword*"-preferences.

    *"Magic sword" refers to any items the PCs prefer to use (which is obviously not consumables).

    Assuming the proportion of the treasure you give and of the party's total gear value consisting of consumables is about on par with the DMG guidelines, the players' preferences obviously don't agree with those guidelines. IOW, you should probably reduce this proportion and adjust the difficulty accordingly, treating consumables more like Fizban said:
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Consumables are extra discretionary spending that I consider part of the safety net: you're never really expected to heal up or finish monsters off with wands or use the emergency potion of Water Breathing, but you use them when you need them. They're insurance against bad luck, mistakes, or trying to shoot for the moon. I would only expect consumable use in fights that I've planned such that I expect consumable use- though for groups where hp recovery is always from wands, that would greatly affect the expectations.
    Needless to say, I very much agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Basically, the players tend to attack all of the optional encounters, and are thus above WBL, but also a bit more resource starved then normal. If they are beaten up going into a fight, they will typically use consumables before hand to make up the difference. The extra treasure they get from optional fights is typically more than they get lose from consumables. This results in them having an overall higher WBL than normal in permanent equipment, but also using more consumables than normal.
    This seems to indicate that your adventures include more numerous and/or significant optional encounters than expected by the DMG guidelines. As a comparison, published adventures very rarely include enough optional encounters to noticeably offset expected WBL (or XP/level progression speed).

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Basically, I allow scrolls to be crafted XP and GP free, but I also use a long rest variant. In effect, this means that he can save unused spell slots from one adventure to another, and he feels like if he ever ends a mission using more scrolls than he creates he is "getting poorer".
    This definitely deviates from what the DMG guidelines expect. I can also clearly see why your player feels like he's "getting poorer", because even though his resources have obviously increased once a mission has been completed, they may very well have decreased in relation to the challenges he'll face on his next mission.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I don't actually give XP for combat at all; I use milestone levelling exclusively.
    And do you grant the players extra milestones for defeating optional challenges? If not, this is also most definitely not expected by the DMG guidelines. And likely more than any of the above, this directly decreases the suitability of using "80% resource expenditure" as a difficulty benchmark, since your players/PCs are rewarded far less than in a "standard" game for taking the risk of expending such a large proportion of their resources.

    Independently of the benchmark issue, I really recommend you award additional milestones for successfully taking on any optional challenges and design your adventures accordingly. As long as the PC's level increases are regarded and intended as a direct result of the PCs activities and as a reward for their achievements, it shouldn't matter whether the activities and achievements were optional or not, only how significant they were.

    (Btw, I've personally played in and run games with milestones for many years (and haven't used XP in decades), but some years ago my regular home game group switched to simply leveling up when we believe it would be appropriate story-wise and/or simply fun, largely independently of the PCs activities or achievements. This is by far the best PC progression "system" I've used, allowing me to play more in the level ranges I enjoy the most and giving me more freedom and less work as a GM. I completely understand that it's not for everyone though, perhaps especially not for groups of people who haven't already played together for a long time or GMs who rely on related guidelines/systems when designing their encounters and adventures.)


    Also:
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    "Objective" power means nothing. Most people don't care that they can objectively kill things, because they don't go around randomly killing things. Unless they actually see that previous fights are now easier, they cannot feel more powerful. If those fights are always in greater numbers such that they burn down to nearly nothing anyway, those fights will not feel easier, they will feel like an unending treadmill. For this clearly completionist group that never skips a fight, the DM must deliberately place combats with previously dangerous (and now less dangerous) foes, without a specific resource/challenge/whatever target, to ensure that the players get to demonstrate their new difference in power.
    This.

    However-

    This line makes it sound like you have a group which with an extremely narrow idea of what fights they'll find fun. To the point where I'd usually suggest someone like that should try being the DM, because they'll either be happier in control, or find out how impossible their demands are.
    And this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    That's the point. Before your players can have the confidence to take on bigger challenges, you have to show them their progress - by showing that the smaller challenges have gotten easier. That makes the players feel that the PCs are more capable, more powerful. And that inspires them to move on to bigger and badder things.

    If you keep the players on a treadmill where everything they face takes everything they have, they don't reach that point. Because they never feel the result - that they've grown stronger. They never get to enjoy that high. And they need that.
    And especially this. So very much.

  17. - Top - End - #77
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    What defines "of significant effect?" . . .
    Don't get me wrong, this whole argument is purely academic since, as I said in my previous quote, you can just eyeball it and do well enough. I wouldn't expect anyone to actually do all the necessary formulation and math to get a precise value but it doesn't change the fact that details matter if you're trying to be precise.
    Whatever your eyeballs find significant. Though as the numbers center around 4/day/level, unless they're completely eschewing use of some level of spells, it's not that hard to see when they've used a slot from every level, or that they've used all their slots that you know can impact their foes. Rating hp loss in spell slots is mostly useful if they're actually going to use slots to restore that hp, you're just anticipating it like any other spell use.
    How does an artificer fit into this idea when a -huge- portion of his day to day power comes from wands and staves?
    We'll clearly disagree on how huge a portion of the artificer's power comes from burning consumables. Much of which depends on how many they have, which depends on what they're able to craft, which depends on types of treasure acquired (cash vs items to sell) determining how much they can spend on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Could you please elaborate on this? I am not sure what ways of discincentivizing this you are referring to or why you assume I don't consider them valid. Also, how do these methods not also include some metric for how many encounters the players "should" face in a day?
    As I said, you could just not award xp for fights where the PCs use an extravagent amount of resources. Thus 15 minute days give no xp until they fight something sufficiently difficult that it should take an entire day's power to win, so they either stop doing it, or refuse to fight anything but big nova brawls. You said you would never be so harsh as to not give xp for a fight, so clearly you don't consider this valid.
    The DM is a person too, telling them that their opinion doesn't matter but a player's does is absurd.
    This also assumes that the players know what they want and are in full agreement, which is something that is very rare. Virtually every guide to playtesting I have ever read says something along the lines of "People are pretty good at noticing when something is wrong, but terrible at telling you exactly what it is, and even worse at telling you how to fix it."
    Your perception will not change that of the players. One player is not more important than the DM, but two players is half the party. Desired consumable use if a fairly safe bet when it comes to direct answers, it's not a nebulous playtesting issue. And when I said deal with it, that includes the options of asking them to compromise or kicking them out- if making the change on your end is a deal-breaker.
    Yes. If you only care about numerical rewards, it says a lot about you're playstyle. Even the most "kick in the door / hack and slash" players I have ever gamed with care at least a bit about working towards their character's goals and motivations.
    And it takes a serious investment for someone who showed up to play 3.5 DnD, one of the most complicated mechanical tabletop games, to care so much about "progress" that it eclipses the other two. Treasure and xp are a foundation of the Game in Roleplaying Game, and I smell dissatisfaction with both in your player descriptions. Furthermore, though it sounds counter-intuitive, the more agency the players have, the less fulfilling "progress" is. Apparently this was intended to be an impartial hex-crawl? So they're not on a continuous adventure path against the BBEG, and they're not pursuing the challenge of personal goals vs intentional DM interference. They're just. . . going around clearing bandit camps and climbing radio towers and maybe plot shows up if they feel like it.

    I remember another poster saying once that the best times their supposedly anti-railroad party had, were the parts of the game were the most on-rails. Riding down the rails, plowing through obstacles and doing the stuff expected of you, is the most rewarding of the nebulous "progress" set for a lot of people, though they might not realize it. The trick is to make the rails so fun and inviting they don't see them as rails. In absence of proper structure, many people default to simple power acquisition, as in: treasure and xp. And all your players' complaints seem to be about treasure and xp. . .
    Also, I just had another poster get onto me for calling XP and treasure rewards. No wonder I am confused.
    The particular terms doesn't matter. The point is the game gives out treasure and xp because people like getting treasure and xp, your players have identified a dissatisfaction with the consumables/treasure system, and you've admitted to using an xp system that has known potential to reduce satisfaction.
    Although hopefully I can figure out a way to come to terms with them without actually removing consumables, at that really fundamentally changes the game and takes away their "safety net" if things really do go bad, which will only lead to more drama and grief.
    Not as much as you might think. As long as they have a Cleric of sufficient level, there's essentially nothing they need to buy scrolls or potions of. The safety net can be replaced with bigger, flashier consumables that don't even have saleable gp value, like an Angel or Genie (or Devil, Demon, etc) who owes them a favor and can be summoned up with their whatever-name.
    Such a game would, by necessity, be very slow paced, have (next to) no risk, have (next to) no challenge, and not really require any care or skill on the players.
    Although they might find this fun in the short run, I would find it dreadfully boring, and as with the monty haul games I have run in the past, I can't imagine the players wouldn't quickly grow bored and move on.
    You seem to have missed the part where I said they should be playing classes without daily resources to nova. No nova, challenge stays mostly the same. And if/when they get bored and decide to fight more often, great, problem solved.

    The actual problem is that it's unlikely they'd actually agree to switch to no-resource classes, because if they feel like they can barely win with normal spells, they'll never win without them.
    Also, "interesting" fights are the last thing they want. They want straight forward fights where they can charge in and hack stuff to pieces (or stay back and blow it up with fireballs).
    The biggest complaints I have gotten so far were fights against a fomorian whose goal was to throw them off a bridge rather than kill them, and avatars of the god of violence that when one was killed two would take its place. Both were very interesting non-traditional encounters, but both were absolute bitch-fests.
    I mean, that bridge fight is still straightforward, they just get the extra fear of being thrown off a bridge. Which probably seems unfair because they can't do it. As for the latter, yeah I'd probably cry foul at a homebrew enemy that duplicates itself on death, without any further context. Especially if it was a puzzle boss vs a party you know doesn't like puzzles.
    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.
    Both a problem with the free scroll mechanic, lack of rules regarding late/absent players, and this particular player being a butt. I must assume there was another reason they were showing up, as anyone should know if you're that late you shouldn't bother.
    and always ended the adventure having spent less than they took out
    You mentioned before spending 50gp consumable to get 100gp, which I assume wasn't an actual example- because that's a terrible deal. But it does seriously beg the question of just how they were spending so much cash on consumables when you're giving them infinite free scrolls and still have to point out they "left with more than they took out."
    Basically, I use something similar to 5Es long rest variant where it takes a full rest rather than one night to recover, and I use something akin to the Adventure League downtime crafting system.
    I don't know what a "full rest" means, but if you slowed down resting then you don't get to complain about resting slowing down the game.
    Oh, trust me, if I let them my players would never face more than one encounter per day and would spend years in town grinding money from professions if I let them.
    They always find some argument for making extra money; they will find other adventurer's and meet them in the middle, they will live in a shack and live off bread and water to avoid living expenses, they will trade outside city walls to avoid taxes... always some scheme to squeeze every last copper out of the system and then complaining "but realism" if I shoot any of them down or try and enforce consequences.
    Too bad. Consequences *are* realism, and DnD doesn't have a "realistic" economy anyway. This is where you put your foot down and tell them you showed up to run 3.5 DnD, not their fantasy business spreadsheet. If they want to settle down and roll Profession for the rest of their lives, great, game's over, Smash Bros?

    Your capitulation and reinforcement of this is not helping. You let them have free scrolls, but I think you also said they could convert them into money, as in these aren't stockpiled spells but actually just free money? And you've given them an extra downtime crafting system that almost certainly results in more than the normal rules. They get rewarded for whining about money, and then apparently have to burn tons of money every time they actually fight, which only gives them more reason to whine about it.
    Also, I don't get why the proposed high level heroes are expending all of their resources drained by low level enemies in this example. Are you implying that I "scale up the world" like a bad Bethesda game, or do you assume my players are so dense that they can't infer that their level 20 demon slaying heroes could beat the crap out of the orcs they fought at level 1 because I haven't spent the time actually running them through a dungeon 15 levels below them as a demonstration of their power?
    You said you vary the number of fights (and indeed, your players seem to think you're picking CRs out of a hat), and using underleveled fights with the same target resource expenditure means you must use more of those underleveled foes. Now apparently this was a hex crawl game and you set dungeon levels rather than auto-scaling, but that doesn't change the fact that each area has been rigorously leveled and your players apparently have some idea of the expected level (if they're refusing to go to underleveled areas but also not getting wiped for bashing their head against overleveled areas).
    Also, the players in my game can and do periodically meet and wipe the floor with the same enemies that they struggled with earlier. . .
    Which is not to say I don't agree that there is value in varying the challenge of missions; some should feel harder and some should feel easier. The problem is, my players complain about both; if its too easy they complain that I am wasting their time by not providing them with as much XP and treasure, and if it is harder they complain that it is, well, too hard and therefore "imbalanced".
    Well if its a hex crawl they're self directed and you're not wasting their time, and if they walk into an overleveled area it's supposed to be their own fault. Your descriptions do not make this sound like a hex crawl- as Quertus said, something doesn't add up. Either your players are blaming you for their choice of progression through a truly impartial open world, or it wasn't very impartial to them. And the ever murkier question of consumables and free wealth generation only makes it worse.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Sorry, going to have to hard disagree here.

    The DM is a person too, telling them that their opinion doesn't matter but a player's does is absurd.

    This also assumes that the players know what they want and are in full agreement, which is something that is very rare. Virtually every guide to playtesting I have ever read says something along the lines of "People are pretty good at noticing when something is wrong, but terrible at telling you exactly what it is, and even worse at telling you how to fix it."

    Also; some people just like to complain or find excuses for their failures, and I can't accept that these criticisms are automatically valid.
    Blood pudding is gross. The fact that (some theoretical) you is a person, and loves blood pudding, does not change the fact that I find it gross.

    So, yes, it is, in fact, absolutely irrelevant that you are a person, too, for how hard your players perceive the game to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Such a game would, by necessity, be very slow paced, have (next to) no risk, have (next to) no challenge, and not really require any care or skill on the players.

    Although they might find this fun in the short run, I would find it dreadfully boring, and as with the monty haul games I have run in the past, I can't imagine the players wouldn't quickly grow bored and move on.
    Well, then, test it. Either they'll quickly grow bored, and you've not wasted much time, or you'll be proven wrong, and you'll learn something.

    Heck, even if you're proven right, you might learn something. And, maybe, if you focus on "learning something" rather than "getting your fix", you'll finally get out of your multi-decade rut in Bizarro world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.
    Fine. They all play as Quertus, perfectly balanced, done.

    My point is, someone else imposing some arbitrary metric (in this case, your misreading of rulebooks to believe in an 80% resource expenditure as a desirable benchmark) does not work. Only you know what you like. Someone else cannot tell you that you cannot enjoy the song because it has "too many notes".

    The only value of metrics in this context is that they are things that some groups might care about - and, therefore, if you are having problems, they are things that you might want or need to change, to match the value preferred by your group.

    You, OTOH, when told by your players that the food was too hot for their taste, responded that it was exactly as hot as you intended. And you cannot see how that is bad. That's… troubling.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The map had points of interest on it "dungeons" that grew increasingly more dangerous the further from town one strayed. Each was balanced to consume ~80% of the resources of a party of a given level. The players could choose to visit them in any order. They were not the only things on the map, and players could do things like hiring mercenaries or calling in favors to get assistance with the dungeons if they wanted to tackle the tougher ones first.

    Bar fight style encounters are absolutely fine. The problem is that they need to be part of a larger session, as my players would run riot if I didn't give them the full rewards.

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.
    So, the adventure sites ("milestones") were clearly color-coded for their convenience. OK.

    The players could choose to visit them in any order? Except… they were already more difficult than your group wanted, (and one encounter away from death - or, worse, expulsion / loss of treasure / sense of failure), and they cannot lower the difficulty by leveling up through farming XP, because you only give milestone XP.

    So this is very much the "on rails" version of a hex crawl, where there is one clear optimal path, and the party is punished for straying off the rails (or, rather, punished less for staying on them). Which "works" because you have players as conditioned as you are to need their fix (in their case, "getting full rewards", which I take to mean "getting milestone XP").

    So, in 3e, I could give them a rewarding, "proof of growth" fight very easily: give them the fight, give them their loot & XP, let them rest, done. With a good group, I could probably pull it off in under a half an hour, leaving plenty of time to still run a "full" game.

    Removing the XP (because milestone XP)? That would make it less rewarding for some tables… which would, in turn, make the entire game/system less rewarding for those players. Others, it could work if former "boss fight" characters - say, ogre knights - continued showing up, but in lesser roles. "Oh, look, we just mopped the floor with a dozen ogre knights. Remember 10 levels ago, when one counted as a boss fight?" "Yeah. What I really remember, though, was 5 levels ago, when the lone ogre Knight realized he was hopelessly outmatched, and surrendered to us without a fight." Yet other tables wouldn't care that they weren't getting XP, and would relish the popcorn fights.

    And there's the point - run the game for the players you have.

    Kudos to your Wizard player, for trying to get you to run the game he wants by manipulating the rules, since talking to you clearly wasn't working. You should consider ways to give the group the agency to fix your games in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.

    The map had points of interest on it "dungeons" that grew increasingly more dangerous the further from town one strayed. Each was balanced to consume ~80% of the resources of a party of a given level. The players could choose to visit them in any order. They were not the only things on the map, and players could do things like hiring mercenaries or calling in favors to get assistance with the dungeons if they wanted to tackle the tougher ones first.

    Bar fight style encounters are absolutely fine. The problem is that they need to be part of a larger session, as my players would run riot if I didn't give them the full rewards.

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.
    Also, you might want to consider putting your post on a diet? Not letting it use the photocopier? Or whatever it was that caused it to have doubled content.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-11-20 at 07:56 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #79
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Maybe that's the source of the disconnect then. I have never much cared for power fantasies. I play RPGs for the immersion, the experiance of being someone I am not and exploring a fantasy world.
    Except, and I'm trying (and I know I'm failing) to be delicate here - you're not playing. You're running the game. They are playing.

    Immersion is great. If you, as DM, can accomplish immersion for your players, that's a credit to you. But immersion, alone, does not make a game. It makes a story. You can accomplish immersion just as well by reading a well-written story to a group.

    This is a game. They are playing the game. Immersion is necessary, not sufficient. Your players need to feel that they have agency - that their decisions have meaning, that their actions make a difference - or else you might as well just be reading a story to them. Letting the PCs feel powerful is a way to accomplish that. It is ostensibly your goal - you wanted them to eventually become god-kings of the continent or world or something, right? They need to feel that. They need to feel that they've earned it. Feeling powerless for much of the game, because each fight takes so much out of them, only to be told at the end, "Congratulations, you're now the most powerful beings alive," does not feel earned. There is no point, before that, in which you feel like you actually are powerful.

    That, by the way, is where immersion can too easily break down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The goal isn't to make them feel "super" its to make them feel like "heroes".

    What do you mean "the outcome still feels the same"? That makes no sense to me; its like saying that nobody should ever try and achieve anything because winning a local competition "feels the same" as becominng the world champion.

    Also, I don't get why the proposed high level heroes are expending all of their resources drained by low level enemies in this example. Are you implying that I "scale up the world" like a bad Bethesda game, or do you assume my players are so dense that they can't infer that their level 20 demon slaying heroes could beat the crap out of the orcs they fought at level 1 because I haven't spent the time actually running them through a dungeon 15 levels below them as a demonstration of their power?
    Except, in D&D terms, heroes are super. A level 1 Paladin, no matter how noble or pure or heroic, will not save the kingdom from the dragon. He just won't. He needs to also be mighty and smitey. To be a hero - to be one who can make a difference - in D&D means to be powerful. And if the players don't feel powerful, the PCs aren't, no matter what their objective numbers are.

    I mean the outcome still feels the same because the players experience no difference in the experience. If fighting a housecat at level 1 is just as dangerous as fighting an orc at level 5, a part of my mind is saying, "Why did I leave housecats behind?" I'm not saying everything has to get easier, and I'm definitely not saying you have to run them through a dungeon 15 levels lower - please don't put words in my mouth - but I'm saying they need to feel a difference. See a difference. They need to be able to say, "Oh, I'm fighting orcs because those housecats aren't a challenge anymore. I'm fighting dragons because orcs are no big deal anymore. The PCs need a reason to move up the Ladder of Disposable Baddies, and if every fight is equally exhausting, they don't have that.

    I wasn't implying anything "Bethesda-like" about your gameplay. But I also didn't say that proposed high level heroes should expend all of their resources against low level enemies. Because they shouldn't. That's the point. They should be able to face weaker enemies so effortlessly that they can say, "Oh, that's why I'm fighting demons and gods now. Because I'm freaking awesome."

    Again, I'm not saying you run them through a lower-level dungeon. But per your description, at no point do they feel like the fighting has gotten easier. At no point do they get that rush of feeling strong enough to take on the world. I'll throw your own question right back at you - why haven't your level 20 demon slaying heroes encountered any hostile orcs? I assume orcs still exist, unless your PCs' job at level 10 was to genocide all of them. I assume they've run into some hostiles who were too stupid to realize they were hopelessly outclassed. Or maybe some hungry wolves who don't know any better. Something. And that's the point - the players need to be able to see that they've gotten stronger, or else those stat boosts and level-ups on their character sheets are just meaningless numbers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Again, I find it really weird that you think players can't infer that a character who struggles to kill demon princes in Hell is no more powerful than one who struggles to kill giant rats in the abandoned mill.

    Also, the players in my game can and do periodically meet and wipe the floor with the same enemies that they struggled with earlier. I just don't base entire adventures around the PCs beating up things far below their weight class.

    Which is not to say I don't agree that there is value in varying the challenge of missions; some should feel harder and some should feel easier. The problem is, my players complain about both; if its too easy they complain that I am wasting their time by not providing them with as much XP and treasure, and if it is harder they complain that it is, well, too hard and therefore "imbalanced".
    I'm not saying the players can't infer this. I'm saying that what they consciously know conflicts with how they unconsciously feel, because while they know that demon princes are stronger than mill rats, they don't feel a difference in the difficulty of the fight, because they never reached a point where mill rats felt easy. They just jumped straight up the food chain to the next tough enemy.

    Again, I'm not saying you base an entire adventure around beating up weaklings. Please don't suggest that's what I said. I said occasional scrub fights. And you mentioning this - that they can and do periodically meet and wipe the floor with earlier enemies - is, frankly, new information. If I had that, say, three posts ago, I probably wouldn't have taken the position that I did. It does seem, however, inconsistent with your stated view that each encounter requires consumption of one fifth of their daily resources.

    Also, your players' complaint is a curious one. It sounded earlier like you said that rewards came at the end of a milestone - say, a dungeon - rather than at the end of each combat. Yet now you suggest that the players complain that lower-level fights do not provide the same rewards as challenging ones. Why do they have the expectation of per-fight rewards at all if your default is milestone rewards?
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  20. - Top - End - #80
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    This thread has taken a negative turn. I don’t feel the need to contribute to that, however, this…
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Oh, trust me, if I let them my players would never face more than one encounter per day and would spend years in town grinding money from professions if I let them.

    They always find some argument for making extra money; they will find other adventurer's and meet them in the middle, they will live in a shack and live off bread and water to avoid living expenses, they will trade outside city walls to avoid taxes... always some scheme to squeeze every last copper out of the system and then complaining "but realism" if I shoot any of them down or try and enforce consequences.

    This also assumes that the players know what they want and are in full agreement, which is something that is very rare. Virtually every guide to playtesting I have ever read says something along the lines of "People are pretty good at noticing when something is wrong, but terrible at telling you exactly what it is, and even worse at telling you how to fix it."

    Also; some people just like to complain or find excuses for their failures, and I can't accept that these criticisms are automatically valid.

    Although hopefully I can figure out a way to come to terms with them without actually removing consumables, at that really fundamentally changes the game and takes away their "safety net" if things really do go bad, which will only lead to more drama and grief.

    They aren't. They simply assume that if they had a hard time it must be because I threw an imbalanced fight at them.

    Also, "interesting" fights are the last thing they want. They want straight forward fights where they can charge in and hack stuff to pieces (or stay back and blow it up with fireballs).

    The biggest complaints I have gotten so far were fights against a fomorian whose goal was to throw them off a bridge rather than kill them, and avatars of the god of violence that when one was killed two would take its place. Both were very interesting non-traditional encounters, but both were absolute bitch-fests.

    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.

    Which is not to say I don't agree that there is value in varying the challenge of missions; some should feel harder and some should feel easier. The problem is, my players complain about both; if its too easy they complain that I am wasting their time by not providing them with as much XP and treasure, and if it is harder they complain that it is, well, too hard and therefore "imbalanced".
    Indicates to me that this group dynamic (at least as you report it) is basically broken beyond all recall. It sounds like your group wants to succeed without any actual risk or challenge or expenditure of resources, throw a fit when this does not happen, and cannot or will not explain what it is that they do want (also unaware or uncaring that this is both unfulfilling and nearly impossible to keep up for you). I just can’t imagine how one could have run a game (much less a sandbox one) that meets this criteria long enough for this dynamic to have developed. I am not saying you are misrepresenting this, but honestly, with me reading back my impression of your situation, is there any part of it you think I misinterpreted?

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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    There are some individual points in the last few posts that I want to respond to, but I think I am just going to try and resist my urge to be stubborn and defensive and let it go for now.

    I will add a clarification though; the 20% per encounter and 80% per adventuring day are averages, not some hard rule, and I absolutely due vary it up a bit.


    Overall, I think the root problem for my game might be a sort of "cancelled the Christmas bonus," deal. I have put rules into the game to reward good play and encourage players to play smart and conserve resources, but now this has become an expected part of the reward structure and thus it feels like a punishment when the players have a session that is merely average.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    So, while the DMG does say that an average encounter will consume ~20% of a parties resources and that a party should be able to take on 4 encounters before resting, I suppose the 80% resources per adventuring day was just an inference I made 20 years ago and never questioned, so that makes this thread kind of moot.
    The guideline is phrased in a way that makes such an inference difficult to avoid. That aside, people saying your idea of fun for the game doesn't matter should be ignored just as quickly as a lot of your players' whining. It doesn't really help that your players' stated desires are self-contradictory.

    "We want 'balanced' encounters."

    "Your game is too hard."

    A series of balanced encounters is -supposed- to be hard, FFS.


    Oh, trust me, if I let them my players would never face more than one encounter per day and would spend years in town grinding money from professions if I let them.
    And this level of risk aversion suggests they're not interested in being anything that could even be charitably called a hero. There's an anime series running this season lampooning exactly this kind of attitude. I think you'd have a unique appreciation for it.

    In any case, this is one of those discussion points where you're supposed to get everybody on the same page for game expectations. I presume you've already expressed to them that their absurd degree of caution makes the game difficult for you to get motivated over.

    I gotta tell ya, I'd probably have packed it up and told them to get a new DM if I was in your place.

    Basically, I use something similar to 5Es long rest variant where it takes a full rest rather than one night to recover, and I use something akin to the Adventure League downtime crafting system.
    So it's a week between spell recovery? That explains why they're unwilling to hunker down in a dungeon.

    This is the first thing you've said that I'd actually call a serious mistake on your part. I'm guessing it's something to do with preventing a 15 minute adventuring day in a more permanent way than having to spring ambushes and apply time pressures constantly? If so, it's a kludge.

    The ideal solution would be for you to have a talk and for them to agree not to do that unless it's absolutely necessary. Failing that, applying time pressures, including actually following through with consequences, and ambushes at least periodically should at least give them pause with such behavior. Finally and least elegantly, lean into the curve and throw encounters at them that justify it; 65% resource drain per fight.

    Having to withdraw for a week, potentially allowing the dungeon to repopulate or at least regroup, after one load of what's normally daily party resources is a bit extreme and likely plays a substantial role in their "too difficult" complaint.

    If I've misinterpreted and you only make them take a 24hr long-rest and 8hr short-rest, that's not so bad. Also, what benefits are there to a short-rest, if any?


    So, I suppose this one is on me rather than something I can "hide behind the DMG" for.
    Eh, maybe somewhat on that last bit.

    Overall though, it sounds like you have players that are risk-averse in the extreme, who'd rather balance their in-character books than actually adventure. I'm honestly questioning why you're even playing at this point. The divide between your desires for the game is more of a chasm than a loose seam, IMO.

    They always find some argument for making extra money; they will find other adventurer's and meet them in the middle, they will live in a shack and live off bread and water to avoid living expenses, they will trade outside city walls to avoid taxes... always some scheme to squeeze every last copper out of the system and then complaining "but realism" if I shoot any of them down or try and enforce consequences.
    Yeah, those complaints are firmly in "STFU" territory. Tell 'em "You want to use "realism" to pinch every copper coin until you've got copper wire then I"m gonna use "realism" to regulate it and have an actual game. You can hide behind "it's a game" if you want but then you're getting half-value from treasure because that's part of the game's abstraction and no more wasting time on avoiding taxes and crap like that. Pick one."

    Gotta put your foot down sometimes and that's definitely one of those places. Don't even let them make an argument. Just demand the choice between realism and gamism be made and run with it. If they don't like it, they're free to walk. The game collapsing would just about be a blessing at this point from what I can see.

    Although hopefully I can figure out a way to come to terms with them without actually removing consumables, at that really fundamentally changes the game and takes away their "safety net" if things really do go bad, which will only lead to more drama and grief.
    I'd cut consumables and crafting altogether in your position. Give the wizard an extra wizard bonus feat for scribe scroll and never look back.

    Time to start streamlining until something gives. They bitch, you cut unless it's a part of the system that is essential. Tell 'em you're that's what you're doing up front and they can either learn to stop bitching, play a much smaller game, or kick rocks. Do invite any of them that think they can do better to sit the GM seat for a while.

    I'll be honest here, though. I'm getting kind of ticked off at them just reading about your game.


    Such a game would, by necessity, be very slow paced, have (next to) no risk, have (next to) no challenge, and not really require any care or skill on the players.

    Although they might find this fun in the short run, I would find it dreadfully boring, and as with the monty haul games I have run in the past, I can't imagine the players wouldn't quickly grow bored and move on.
    Might be worth sampling anyway, just to make the point. You're apparently willing to suffer for these people's enjoyment so suck it up for an adventure or three and throw it back in their faces the moment they -hint- at a "too easy" complaint.

    Hell, tell them "You chuckle-heads figure out what you want this game to be, together, and tell me. If it doesn't sound like utter crap, I'll run it."

    They aren't. They simply assume that if they had a hard time it must be because I threw an imbalanced fight at them.
    Like I said, invite them to do better if they think they can. You're going through all the work to make a game world so they can play at all and they bitch and moan and whine that it's your fault everytime -they- screw up. How have you not taken to beating them yet?

    Sometimes it may be that you really did screw up the estimation of a foe's challenge but that certainly should not be their default presumption if an encounter turns out to be harder than they think it ought to be. That's sheer entitlement. Me and mine are a bit rough and I can't imagine this not having resulted in a fist fight if this is the same group I remember you telliing horror stories about from years ago.

    Also, "interesting" fights are the last thing they want. They want straight forward fights where they can charge in and hack stuff to pieces (or stay back and blow it up with fireballs).

    The biggest complaints I have gotten so far were fights against a fomorian whose goal was to throw them off a bridge rather than kill them, and avatars of the god of violence that when one was killed two would take its place. Both were very interesting non-traditional encounters, but both were absolute bitch-fests.
    Oh, FFS. The first one sounds like a great encounter and an act of mercy, besides. If something like -that- is too much for them, I can't fathom why you're still playing with these people. The latter I could at least potentially see their point but I'm gonna guess that was supposed to be a major boss-fight? They'd absolutely crap the bed over a perfectly ordinary hydra, wouldn't they.


    Do note that my players demand balance, so saying "any benchmark is bad" won't fly with them, or me for that matter.

    The map had points of interest on it "dungeons" that grew increasingly more dangerous the further from town one strayed. Each was balanced to consume ~80% of the resources of a party of a given level. The players could choose to visit them in any order. They were not the only things on the map, and players could do things like hiring mercenaries or calling in favors to get assistance with the dungeons if they wanted to tackle the tougher ones first.
    Ask them to define balance. I'd bet a substantial amount of money that can't, at all. I think the idea that "any benchmark is bad" is a nonsensical one but so is complaining about a benchmark you know nothing about, which is apparently what your players are doing.

    Demand they -all- read the encounter section of the DMG. Then tell them, in on uncertain terms, that you're sticking to those guidelines because that's the line for balance set by the system. If they have a problem with it then they can take it up with Monte Cook or Skip Williams. This is -not- a particularly solid argument, tbh. It's not meant to be. It's a shut-down for their bitching. They want to pass the buck to you for their failings so you pass it right along and tell them to STFU. I wouldn't suggest this if your players were anything resembling reasonable but here we are.


    Bar fight style encounters are absolutely fine. The problem is that they need to be part of a larger session, as my players would run riot if I didn't give them the full rewards.
    Okay, no. You've got to stop taking responsiblity for their screw ups. A bar fight ends in nothing accomplished at best or legal consequences at worst. You don't get treasure for it. You probably don't get more than a pittance of XP for it if you're us

    For example, as I said above I let players convert unused spells into scrolls. One session (in a previous game) the wizard player missed almost the entire session, came in with about 5 minutes to go without casting any spells, and then demanded I let him convert his entire repertoire into scrolls.
    And you laughed in his face? 'S what I'd do.

    Maybe that's the source of the disconnect then. I have never much cared for power fantasies. I play RPGs for the immersion, the experiance of being someone I am not and exploring a fantasy world.
    Those aren't mutually exclusive. The problem is that your players don't seem to actually want either of those. They want it to be both and neither as benefits them from moment to moment. They want encounters that aren't too hard but aren't too easiy, not too complex but not too simple, and with rewards that require no expenditure. They want the economy in the game to make sense when it means getting payed and want it to just be a game when it would cost. They're like Goldilocks if she were a spoiled toddler.

    The goal isn't to make them feel "super" its to make them feel like "heroes".
    The goal is to present them fun challenges and make them feel something. That something can be super, hero-like, dread, or amusement, depending on what kind of tone you want to take.

    What do you mean "the outcome still feels the same"? That makes no sense to me; its like saying that nobody should ever try and achieve anything because winning a local competition "feels the same" as becominng the world champion.
    It's a weird bit of human pychology. It's also the reason a lot of high-level athletes suddenly quit and get normal jobs. You can see the objective metrics and understand that you -are-, in fact, progressing on an intellectual level but it doesn't -feel- like it because the relative gains from one season to the next are so small and the competition doesn't get any easier when you're competing at the level appropriate to your ability. This isn't sport but it's the same psychological phenomenon. You can see your character's numbers getting bigger and the monsters becoming more and more fearsome but the struggle still leaves you at the same degree of resources drained even if those resources are objectievly bigger units now. It's part of why I run throw-back encounters for my players to absolutely slaughter something they once struggled with once in a while.


    Also, the players in my game can and do periodically meet and wipe the floor with the same enemies that they struggled with earlier. I just don't base entire adventures around the PCs beating up things far below their weight class.
    And, dare I ask, what do your players think of those encounters?


    [quoteWhich is not to say I don't agree that there is value in varying the challenge of missions; some should feel harder and some should feel easier. The problem is, my players complain about both; if its too easy they complain that I am wasting their time by not providing them with as much XP and treasure, and if it is harder they complain that it is, well, too hard and therefore "imbalanced".[/QUOTE]

    It would be wholly inappropriate to suggest beating them with lightweight furniture, so I won't.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Whatever your eyeballs find significant. Though as the numbers center around 4/day/level, unless they're completely eschewing use of some level of spells, it's not that hard to see when they've used a slot from every level, or that they've used all their slots that you know can impact their foes. Rating hp loss in spell slots is mostly useful if they're actually going to use slots to restore that hp, you're just anticipating it like any other spell use.
    That works well enough for the game to function but it's hardly what you could call precise. And that was the core of my point there; making a -precise- measurement of resource expenditure isn't so simple. What you've said here amounts to expendables aren't party resources, or could be read that way at least. That's patently false on the face of it though.

    I agree that they probably shouldn't be part of the expected expenditures for most characters but you don't want to put them in some sacred, untouchable space either. It's a weird game space, all in all. I mean, you can't reasonably consider the charges on a wand of lessor vigor as just part of a safety net that has nothing to do with their day to day staying power.

    We'll clearly disagree on how huge a portion of the artificer's power comes from burning consumables. Much of which depends on how many they have, which depends on what they're able to craft, which depends on types of treasure acquired (cash vs items to sell) determining how much they can spend on it.
    Potions and scrolls, we probably agree. Wands and staves though? Several of the early mid-level features of the class may as well be a neon sign that says "use some wands, dummy.*" If you're in that boat anyway, not upgrading to a staff later so you can use your own caster level just seems foolish. Even several of the lower level infusions are geared toward making the most of wand use.

    You don't have to if you don't want to but I suspect most artificer players will. Then you have to account for it because the argument that it's not a major part of that character's day to day power is utterly absurd. It'll probably also play a pretty substantial role in slowing the day to day use of their infusions.

    *hypothetical "you" not Fizban, specifically.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    I agree that they probably shouldn't be part of the expected expenditures for most characters but you don't want to put them in some sacred, untouchable space either. It's a weird game space, all in all. I mean, you can't reasonably consider the charges on a wand of lessor vigor as just part of a safety net that has nothing to do with their day to day staying power.
    Yeah, that's why I said groups that wand-heal all the time would count differently.
    Potions and scrolls, we probably agree. Wands and staves though? Several of the early mid-level features of the class may as well be a neon sign that says "use some wands, dummy.*" If you're in that boat anyway, not upgrading to a staff later so you can use your own caster level just seems foolish. Even several of the lower level infusions are geared toward making the most of wand use.
    The question is how much wands. A charge per fight of an affordable wand seems reasonable to me (said wand will last around four levels), more if you use the infusion that pays for them or you're in throuble, but most people seem to assume that Artificers are spamming full metamagic stacked mailman orbs every round all the time (which I wouldn't allow any more than a non-Artificer mailman). Again, if they're using consumables as main tech rather than safety, that means you'll need to figure out how much you want them to consume per level and track accordingly. But I think the intended default is closer to safety/prudence than expected burn.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Overall, I think the root problem for my game might be a sort of "cancelled the Christmas bonus," deal. I have put rules into the game to reward good play and encourage players to play smart and conserve resources, but now this has become an expected part of the reward structure and thus it feels like a punishment when the players have a session that is merely average.
    That is certainly something that is easy to have happen. My current DM recently let the game slide into a 15 minute workday, and at least one player started treating it as the new normal. Given that the DM just kept upping the challenge to compensate, it became untenable to be a front-liner (because both sides' aggro had increased, but it still mostly landed on the front line).

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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Observation -

    You seem to be following 'guidelines' in the DMG pretty specifically. But then you don't give XP, you use milestones for leveling up.

    Is your progression slower than if you were giving out XP as per book? If it is slower then perhaps players the slower progress is an issue.
    Also, their is a psychological aspect to getting XP. It is a measurable progression towards going up a level.

    You may want to consider switching to using XP. If you want slower progression don't give as much XP out, I have calculating XP as if the monster had one less CR, matches my preferred progression rate.

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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by smetzger View Post
    Observation -

    You seem to be following 'guidelines' in the DMG pretty specifically. But then you don't give XP, you use milestones for leveling up.

    Is your progression slower than if you were giving out XP as per book? If it is slower then perhaps players the slower progress is an issue.
    Also, their is a psychological aspect to getting XP. It is a measurable progression towards going up a level.

    You may want to consider switching to using XP. If you want slower progression don't give as much XP out, I have calculating XP as if the monster had one less CR, matches my preferred progression rate.
    It is about the same as if they killed every monster in the dungeon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    It is about the same as if they killed every monster in the dungeon.
    See, in a sandbox world or even overland this doesn't work. Because ALL of the players I have ever had try to squeeze out extra coinage, extra xp, extra npc favors etc.

    But I like the plot driven levels rather than xp driven. It allows me to throw higher level monsters that actually challenge the party without forcing me to hasten their xp growth.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    IMO progression and narrative goals are accomplishments in and of themselves; beating up an army of demons and saving the world certainly feels more "powerful" to me even if it uses up the same percentage of my resources as beating up a group of goblins and saving a sheep farm did at level one.
    You're doing a comparison. That's -logic-. You're making a logical comparison, i.e., approaching this rationally. How an encounter /feels/ is not a comparative thing. Some of us have managed to route our feelings through our rational thought, and while that can be useful at times, it's not the standard method of feeling generation.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    See, in a sandbox world or even overland this doesn't work. Because ALL of the players I have ever had try to squeeze out extra coinage, extra xp, extra npc favors etc.

    But I like the plot driven levels rather than xp driven. It allows me to throw higher level monsters that actually challenge the party without forcing me to hasten their xp growth.
    I don't follow. Could you please elaborate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    You're doing a comparison. That's -logic-. You're making a logical comparison, i.e., approaching this rationally. How an encounter /feels/ is not a comparative thing. Some of us have managed to route our feelings through our rational thought, and while that can be useful at times, it's not the standard method of feeling generation.
    No; but it can sure help inform the approach I take when trying to rectify the situation.

    For example, if you are doing something that is logically good but feels bad, trying to "put a positive spin on things" might be more effective than reworking the thing entirely.
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    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    No; but it can sure help inform the approach I take when trying to rectify the situation.

    For example, if you are doing something that is logically good but feels bad, trying to "put a positive spin on things" might be more effective than reworking the thing entirely.
    Sure.

    --------------------

    As for your initial question, it comes down to three things:

    1.The zone of proximal development

    2.What sort of experience your players want to have.

    3.Are you more attached to your style of gaming or your group of players.

    The first is a concept from psychology to describe how tough something is. For some players, an encounter that requires resource expenditure to survive is too tough. For others, if an encounter can't kill 3 players in the opening round, there's no point even pulling out the combat map. Understanding your players and where they're at, developmentally as players, will let you tailor encounters to them, rather than some arbitrary standard. My PCs can't handle solo-threat invisible monsters typically. They don't have the preparations or tactics to deal with them before PCs die. So at my table, I treat invisibility as a bump to CR if the monster is a respectable melee threat without it.(Hellcats, for instance).

    For the second, some players don't want to rollplay(not a spelling error) at all, and just freeform roleplay. Others want to "play" as if they're using cheat-codes. Not every player wants to experience D&D as it was (roughly)designed: a weaving of storytelling, tactical combat and random tragedy. It will be eminently helpful to you to understand what sort of gaming experience your players -want-. Players who adamantly their characters to be essentially invincible outside major plot events will not enjoy 3.5 as it is suggested unless they are insanely good at this game, as most players will inevitably die a few times in cheap situations.

    Finally, on understanding how skilled your players are(as a group), and what sort of gaming experience they're after, you need to decide where your compromises are going. Are you ok DMing an easy-mode game cause that's where your players are at? Are you ok DMing one cause that's what they -want-? Cause while D&D is "supposed" to be hard, those are just guidelines, and you can trivially tailor the difficulty of the game to where-ever you want. For me, I lean towards preferring to have a group and make the game easier because that's where my players are at, but not making the game easier because that's the sort of game they want. I try to keep the game hard enough that players can legitimately just -die- from time to time, and they do.
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