Do mounts impact party XP threshold for the purpose of building combat encounters?

The 5e DMG has rules and a process for developing combat encounters of an appropriate level: https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/dmg/creating-adventures#CreatingEncounters

However, mounts can take actions in combat, e.g. player with a halfling PC mounted on a mastiff could sic the dog onto an enemy, effectively increasing that player’s combat actions.

How should mounts factor into a party’s XP threshold for calculating a budget for use in balancing combat encounters?

How can I create encounters that encourage players to use non-Attack actions?

In D&D 5e, the players have lots of actions they can take within combat encounters besides attacking. I’m trying to figure out how to encourage them to use a greater variety of actions, especially Disengage, Dodge, and Help.

They’ve seen NPCs use these actions, so they know they are available, and my rogue is good at taking Disengage as a bonus action. However, it seems like these options are too weak mechanically to compete with attacking for the PCs actions.

Are there specific tactical situations that will make these options more appealing?

What is a good way to keep track of time between encounters with an ability that regenerates at a rate of 1 per minute?

What is a good way to keep track of time between encounters with an ability that regenerates at a rate of 1 per minute?

Force Ward

You constantly surround yourself with a ward of force. You gain a number of temporary hit points equal to your kineticist level. You always lose these temporary hit points first, even before other temporary hit points. If an attack deals less damage than you still have as temporary hit points from force ward, it still reduces those temporary hit points but otherwise counts as a miss for the purpose of abilities that trigger on a hit or a miss. These temporary hit points regenerate at a rate of 1 per minute. …

This gives you a pool of temporary Hit Points that regenerate at the rate of 1 THP per minute. How do would you keep track of THP gained during the session?

Example with multiple encounters, how you keep track of time between random and predetermined encounters to know how much THP you regenerate in between?

Are combat encounters during travel fluff for mid-level players?

In particular, there are 4 level 8-9 PCs who not have any travel augmenting abilities besides Fly (Warlock). They are beginning to travel longer distances for story reasons, which will take a few weeks by horse. In the past they have purchased or bartered for teleportation, but they did not choose to pursue that route in this case.

The road is certainly less dangerous than where they are heading, making any challenging 1/day encounter implausible (a wild Ultraloth appears!) – but I would like to find a way to have some meaningful combat experience in sessions without eliding over a month or more of travel.

The thoughts that had come to mind were less “two muscular men block your path” and more social encounters during travel and larger-scale problems at population centers or points of interest.

How can I stress my players’ resources while making the stressors feel natural without simply adding more combat encounters?

In a weekly campaign I’ve been running my players have recently reached levels where they are obtaining some of their core abilities. One of my players is a druid, who has chosen the wild shape-focused Circle of the Moon. Now that he can transform into a brown bear as a bonus action his character has made me notice a flaw in my session design: my characters seem to never be at a loss for abilities, spells, and the like. Encounters – combat encounters especially – are always too easy for them.

I should point out that this is my fault, not theirs – if anything they are taking fewer rests than what would probably be considered normal. I find fitting in the recommended number of combat encounters to be immersion breaking. Tossing so many random combat encounters at a group who is making a day trip to kill an ogre harassing a nearby farming village feels very manufactured. The timescale also feels a bit prohibitive – running into so many hostile groups in a single adventuring day seems odd.

The focus of my campaign is the story, not combat. Combat-heavy segments are definitely within scope, likely solving the problems I’ve mentioned, but they will not always be appropriate. I am specifically interested in solutions for when combat-heavy play is not a good option.

How can I stress my players’ resources while making the stressors feel natural without simply adding more combat encounters?

The DM is unapologetically providing TPK encounters; what can we do?


Situation

I have a friend who is just starting as a DM. They’ve run a couple of one-shots that were really hard and ended with TPKs. Both one-shots were miserable slogs, and the encounters were clearly designed to kill characters. All of the players have voiced that they didn’t like how those one-shots went. I assumed at first that this was just a result of rookie mistakes, so I tried to offer advice, but the friend simply told me that the players just didn’t play well enough and should’ve picked magical classes.

The problem

I am concerned that the DM is doing this intentionally as some sort of payback. They’ve previously exhibited problem behaviours as a player, especially using killing to “correct” things they see as a problem: killing characters, taking agency away from other players, killing NPCs he felt were getting too much attention, etc. I fear this might be another attempt to “correct” us.

I really just want everyone to get along and have fun, and this is making the group dynamic very tense.

I want him to stop. How do I do this without the authority I’m used to having as a DM and without burning down the friendship/exiting the game?

How to handle the harder encounters in the White Plume Mountain dungeon?

I plan to incorporate the White Plume Mountain into an ongoing campaign, and there are two encounters that bother me.

One of them is the golem puzzle which I fully expect them to fail, and the other one is the vampire. Am I supposed to use the MM templates for there? Because if yes, I don’t see how I don’t just wipe the floor with them.

For people who ran the module before, how did you handle it? Scale down these fights, or use an alternate template? Is it just fine to have unwinnable encounters, and encourage the players to run away?

How do I design balanced encounters when one PC vastly out-performs the rest of the party?

I’m having some serious balancing issues with my current campaign. Mostly due to the Barbarian. My entire party consists of the Barbarian, a Bard, and a Druid, all recently turned lvl 6. So one serious damage dealer and two supports. The Druid is circle of the moon, so not too squishy but not exactly a tank either. And the Bard is a lvl 6 Bard.

The main problem is this, I’m having trouble trying to find an encounter that can challenge the entire party including the Barbarian without the guarantee of outright killing the other two. The Barbarian has Rage, Reckless and great weapon master at his disposal which he never fails to utilize. This puts out some massive damage potential and he pretty much one shots anything with 20 or less hp.

Here’s two scenarios to put things into perspective.

Scenario 1. The party still lvl 5 and without most of their gear, fights two Bulettes separately. The first one I powered down, thinking it might be a bit much. The Barbarian makes short work of it without too much help from the other two. The second one was a normal Bulette which I thought would present more of a challenge. Not so, the rest of the party had more to do this time but the Barbarian still did a good half of the damage.

Scenario 2. I decide to try throw two strong creatures at them instead of just one. Owlbears. This was definitely more of a challenge and pretty fun for me for the most part. But the Barbarian still cut the owlbears to shreds and i think he’s begun to make the other party members feel a little bit useless or surplus to requirements.

Sorry about the length of the post. I hope I’ve made my predicament clear. Basically the tldr is that my Barbarian is completely out damaging the other two party members and i don’t know how to counter that without a TPK.

Any advice is welcome. I’m totally open to good homebrew ideas.

How to balance encounters after the loss of the frontline fighters?

I’ve been running a pathfinder game for some time. Up until now I think I have done a fairly good job of balancing encounters, the party is about to reach level 7 and there have only been 2 deaths but many many close calls. This is exactly the kind of risk level I want in this campaign.

The party has consisted of a barbarian, bard, druid, paladin and wizard. A fairly balanced party composition that have learned to synergise reasonably well. The barbarian and paladin are the main frontliners with the other supporting them with spellcasting and ranged attacks.

My issue is the barbarian was killed last session and the player is most likely to replace them with an oracle instead. Additional my paladin player informed me that he will be moving overseas for a year next month so he is out as well.

What changes do I need to make to my encounter design to allow for the loss of the frontline fighters?

I’m looking for advice from GMs who have experience similar situations, or have run campaigns for parties that are lacking in melee characters.