Dungeons & Dragons Online

Balancing Nightmare

The Problem:

My biggest challenge as a DM is there is no reliable way to communicate how hard a fight is until the players start to get hit and by then it is too late. I've gotten myself into a Balancing Nightmare. My players know there are four vampires they want to kill. They know where the Vampires live. They decided to kick in the door and attack the house of the vampires. How do I balance My party facing potentially four vampires when one alone is a deadly threat to the party? Do I just Murder the party? Do I have it so only one of the four is home while the Party attacks? Do I nerf the weaker Vampires and have the Leader be the BBEG full threat vampire. I know I should Toy with them Strahd Von Zarovich style I just don't know what to do for that. I fear I have made an impossible situation for my players and don't want to make them feel frustrated and lose their trust

The Details:

The party is 4 level 7 PCs they have taken on "deadly" challenges without breaking a sweat because they have some powerfull magic items. I usually count them as 5 level 7s if I use a calculator. One of my players told me he wanted to retire his character and change PCs. He got charmed and kidnapped by one of the Vampires now he is an Imposter Vampire in disguise. So the Party will lose their 4th member when It comes time for the BBEG fight. There is an NPC with the party to hopefully balance that out. There are Four Vampires in this cabal. From the Vampire's perspective they know the party is coming thanks to the Imposter so logically they should all be home to recieve them. If they have to face all four Vampires in one night they don't stand a chance, and I will feel like I made a totally unfair game and fear ruining the fun and the trust of my players.

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I'm using the Cassalanter Villa from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist as my Vampire Mansion so it has 3 floors or house and 2 floors of dungeon.

The story:

The general quest my party is on is to rid the city of a family of Vampires posing as a Crime family. I designed the adventure to mimic Curse of Strahd. They were to get involved stopping the crime family, find out they are vampires, look for weapons and allies to slay vampires, or come up with a plot to seperate the Vampires and take them out one by one.

One of my players is a Warlock of the Raven Queen, he recieved a vision from her asking him to kill the four Vampires in the city. In the vision it was made clear that these undead are very powerful and very dangerous. Once the party found out who the vampires were they proceeded to sneak in the back door of the vampire's mansion. Potentially all four Vampires are home and awaked, they are doing this in the middle of the night. When/If they get to the bottom floor of the dugneon they will find the body of the imposter PC and the big reveal will be the BBEG has been traveling with them through the house. Vampires are smart and cunning if they know the party is coming they would be prepared.

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The Conundrum:

My players have accused me of pulling punches. They have said that their favorite fight was the one I designed to be unwinnable, which they almost won. I can't decide how to use these Vampires to challenge the paarty appropriately. One of them on their own could wipe the party. I want to make it Unwinnable but also make it fair. They are smart enough to realize they messed up by coming to the Vampires home when all four of them should be awake.

My current plan is to have the Vampires attack one at a time, with some minions. They will either Drop one player and flee or get weakened to half health and flee.

How do I keep this deadly and fair?

Should I have Vampire only attack inderectly?

Should I just have a show of force at the beginning to scare the party?

Should I trap them and turn them into spawn?

Should I nerf the weaker vampires to have a few balanced encounters leading to the BBEG?

Do I only have one vampire home to be a balanced encounter when logically he wouldn't me alone?

Do I just Murder my over confident party?


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