Content of the article: "Am I the dick for making this encounter?"
I'm running a homebrew campaign for five players, a fighter, bladesinger, shadow sorcerer, moon druid, and a rogue. They are level 2 and each started with a free feat. The town mayor had told the group that there is a band of gnolls attacking merchants and travelers on the nearby road. He told them that the band was too much for the town guard to handle. There were a couple of other side quests for them to do as well. The actual encounter had three gnoll archers across the roadside river, a pack lord and 6 normal gnolls. I planned it as essentially three separate fights, the archers attacked to get the group to stop, then they would back off as the pack lord came out to command the regular gnolls to attack. If one of the pcs dropped to 0 hp the pack lord would step in to show dominance by killing the rest of the group (poor choice of words,but this is from the gnolls point of view). There were trees all around they could have used for cover and the rogue eventually used them as a place to hide. I also planned to make a morale roll every time a gnoll was killed to see if any would back off.
The wizard took a hit first, which was a crit, as he was the only one in sight of the archers. The following round the gnolls and pack lord appeared but made no attacks. Then the sorcerer went down in one round due to two crits in a row, one doing max damage, the other doing near max damage. A couple of gnolls attacked next round and made a couple of hits one of which dropped the wizard. The group hit a couple times also, but most of their attack rolls were too low to hit. The gnolls then stopped fighting to let their pack lord finish the group. The rest of the battle was the group against the pack lord. The druid nearly dropped to 0 hp even using a wildshape. The group had a lot of low rolls and the pack lord rolled average. They finally killed the pack lord, the gnolls rolled a nat 1 for morale so they all fled. At one point in the fight one player new to the group who also happens to be a dm was saying that there are too many gnolls for this encounter and started saying some things about the pack lords stats, a bit too much metagaming for my taste, but I digress.
Next session I talked to the group , reminding them that I do alter creatures and set up encounters so they can be a little more strategic and that the creatures as they are published are not an accurate way to calculate difficulty. The same player who got metagamey said that they calculated cr and it was too high for their group. I again confirmed that cr doesn't accurately portray how I run the encounters. I also reminded them that I was rolling higher than I've ever rolled before and that their rolls were below average. We spoke about how I run encounters in our session 0.
Earlier today another player messaged me about changing something on his character and this battle came up again. He was saying he calculated cr, saying it was "beyond lethal" and that they would have tpk'd if he and the other player who calculated cr "had played their characters the way they wanted to play them." I've been dming for 5 years and have run similar set ups with no complaints until now. I knew it would be a very difficult battle, but I never expected the gnolls to crit 3 times with near max damage. The pcere fully rested and I had no other combats planned. The way I see it, had both sides rolled closer to average and the group not split up leaving the squishier members closer to the incoming gnolls, they would have had no problem winning. We do play on Roll20 if that matters. It bothers me that they feel they couldn't play their characters the way they want to. Am I a dick for making an encounter like this?
- The time a level 1 party beat a gnoll war band.
- Encounter Advice
- Use average damage output instead of CR. Insights from last nights session.
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