How can I reduce the number of encounters per day without throwing off game balance?

I’m running an Open Table sandbox game this summer. The 5E DMG states that they expect 6-8 Medium or Hard combat encounters per day, with about two short rests. If I tried to do that, we’d never get anywhere (short sessions, lots of newbies who struggle with combat), and my players and I enjoy many things besides combat, so I generally have closer to 2 combat encounters between long rests (though I usually make them at least Hard).

However, this means that PC’s rarely feel the need to take a short rest, and people can use spells and other once-per-long-rest abilities pretty freely, which unfairly advantages casters (who have limited big effects and unlimited but less effective cantrips) over mundane classes (who have more consistently medium damage output and defensive capability). It also means that the benefit of effects that recover after a short rest, like Warlock spell slots, are much diminished.

I’d like to restore the balance and at least have the option to make my players sweat a little about resources. But I do not want to throw combat after combat at them – none of us would enjoy that much in a row, nor do I want every combat encounter to be super deadly; I just don’t want them to start every fight at full strength.

The DMG suggests (under Adventuring Options: Rest) making a short rest 8 hours and a long rest 7 days. That seems promising, but a little excessive, so I’m considering making all rests 8 hours, but in order to get the benefit of a long rest you’d need to be in at least an outpost or otherwise reasonably safe and comfortable location, so the PCs can still have that moment of “I’m exhausted, let’s retreat” without needing to wait a whole week before continuing.

Has anyone tried this, or other methods to maintain game balance and challenge with fewer encounters per day? What were the results?

Are there issues with allowing parties to accidentally succeed at encounters with DC checks?

During Waterdeep Dragon Heist, there are a number of faction missions, one of which is:

With a suggested solution:

Given that a suggested solution involves the party spending money and checks of a given DC.

The party’s solution was:

So, while fun, roleplay not rollplay, but without paying or using checks, the party seem to have solved the requirements of the mission.

What are the issues with not charging/challenging the players in this case? Are there any compelling reasons to force the party to follow the suggested, published solutions closer?

How do I adjust encounters to challenge my lycanthrope players without negating their cool new abilities?

Background: In my campaign, my players (each are level 5, having just finished LMOP, and have magic weapons) took up a quest for a group of lycanthropes, and as a reward, were bitten and granted lycanthropy. Soon after, I realized this was a terrible mistake, as lycanthropy is a very overpowered thing to have. However, I don’t want to immediately take the lycanthropy away, as that would spoil my players’ fun. For the same reason, I don’t want all the players’ enemies to immediately gain silver weapons. In my campaign, lycanthropes are sparse on the surface, but have a small city in the underdark.

Question: How do I create encounters to challenge my players, without outright negating or countering their abilities?

How can I add encounters in the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign without giving PCs too much XP?

I’m currently reading the LMOP scenario. I was thinking about adding some encounters if the PCs want to explore the forest or other side-story zones that aren’t considered in the book.

But actually I don’t want them to earn too much XP from these, plus I’ve never DMed before so I’m not aware at all what XP quantities represent.

The reason I’m concerned with giving them XP is that:

  • It can lead to them being higher than level 5 before the end (I’ve asked here whether that’s a serious concern)
  • Maybe the PCs end up trying to farm XP by just going side-road to easily go through the following of the scenario

What I’ve already thought about:

Within the scenario, each encounter is specifically awarded with XP, so I might only give XP for scripted encounters, but it might look a bit disappointing for players.

On the other hand, if I award them with the full XP given in the monster’s stats blocks, it might end up with one of the problems I mentioned above.

Given prior experiences as a GM or player (especially with LMOP in particular), how can I give PCs XP for encounters that aren’t scripted without changing too much of the scenario level expectation?

I’ve given my players a lot of magic items. Is it reasonable for me to give them harder encounters?

I’m running a campaign for a group of 6 level 8 characters. Last session, they went shopping, and I let them buy about 2 magic items each. On top of this, I let them each start with an extra feat and a free magic item when the campaign started (at level 8).

(Selling magic items to my players was a lot of fun for all of us! My question is not about whether that was a good idea – I believe it was the right call.)

Given how many nice things my players have, I’m thinking about balancing my encounters as though they were for a party of level 9 characters instead of level 8. Is this a reasonable approach for me to take?

How many encounters can a party handle in a day, without breaks?

I’m currently working on some homebrew for a Starfinder game. I’ve read the pages 388 to 393 of the core rule book several times, but might just be missing something.

It gives details on how to craft an encounter that’s suitable for the character levels. Great stuff, new characters, five of them at level 1. So they’re good for 0-3 CR per encounter.

However I want to craft my opening section into a single game day, no 8 hour breaks for recoving Resolve or HP. However I don’t know how many encounters I can throw at them to stretch them without killing them. Is there a rough calculation for this?

Adding voiced random encounters in Skyrim

I am wondering how I can add random events such as “College Application Denied” and “A Good Death” with the Creation Engine.

I looked for tutorials on this, but couldn’t find anything specific. I used the Creation Engine to replace 3d meshes and use them as activators for some small scripts, but beyond that I didn’t do anything.

Do 5th-edition D&D PCs consistently outmatch level-appropriate encounters?

I have a group of PCs that started at level 1. The group varies in size between 6-8 PCs and they have a good spread of classes (healer, tanks, damage dealers, 2 arcane casters).

They are level 5 now. I have found that they are consistently able to handle encounters whose xp total should be considered “deadly” to my group per the DMG.

In general I have been estimating the compensating factors and difficulty of the encounter, not calculating it.

The last adventure was when the PCs were level 4. The adventure day took them through 5 fights with 2 short rests and no long rests. There were 7 PCs for this adventure.

1st fight 4 CR2 monsters + 1 CR4 monster. Total XP 5800

2nd fight 1 CR5 monster: 1,800 xp

3rd fight 1 CR5 monster: 1,800 xp

Short rest.

4th fight 3 CR 3 monsters, 12 CR 1/2 Monsters: 8,100 XP

Short rest.

5th fight 1 CR 8 monster, 3 CR 3 monsters: 12,000 XP

Total XP for adventure: 29,500.

I found the challenge of this adventure to be too small for the team. In particular I had planned a story mechanic to save the PCs in the final fight but was surprised to find that the mechanic was not necessary as they ended up besting that encounter.

Some things I have noticed which seem unbalanced are the damage potential of certain classes compared to monsters. PCs just seem to do more damage. Also the feat shield mastery in a large group of PCs is quite effective because imposing the condition prone (thereby giving other melee advantage on attack rolls) allows the PCs to focus threats down very effectively.

My questions.

  • In your campaign do you find that the PCs are strong compared to the CR/XP ratings of the encounter?
  • Would it help if I stopped estimating the CR of encounter and stuck to the DMG more rigorously when designing encounters for my group of 6-8 PCs?
  • Am I correct in assuming that the CR ratings for monsters as given will not provide a significant challenge to the PCs going forward beyond level 4 and 5. Will I need to increase the power level of the monsters, or make other things like terrain to not be in their advantage when designing encounters for my group of PCs?
  • Is what I am seeing a function of adding additional PCs beyond the first increases the power of the party in a non-linear fashion or more a function that the PCs work well together?