[RPG] Modifying Multiple Monster XP Encounter


I'm a new DM and finding it a bit difficult to challenge my group that wants the glorious battles style of game play. When I asked them what they wanted from the campaign, the consensus was that they wanted near death battles that bring them out bloody and bruised. Currently, my players are all lvl 3 (soon to be lvl 4) and can easily destroy a swarm of goblins, orcs, etc.

I've been using the XP Threshold table in the DM's guide (page 82) and having a hard time grouping monsters into the deadly category, where I believe they want to fight, without going completely overboard over the current 1600 XP for 4 – lvl 3 heroes. In the DM's guide, it's suggested:

When making this calculation, don't count any monsters whose challenge rating is significantly below the average challenge rating of the other monsters in the group unless you think the weak monsters significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter.

DMG pg 82

Currently, I'm looking to have a group of Hobgoblins (MM pg. 186) attack the heroes for the next encounter. I was looking at 1 Hobgoblin captain 3(700 XP) and 6 Hobgoblins 1/2(100 XP). If I follow the standard rules, the total XP would be 1300 XP * 2.5 (7 attacks per round) = 3250 XP for the day. This is a bit obscene and is 2x the deadly encounter. If I were to follow the guide of quoted text and ignore the hobgoblin's since they're 6x "weaker" than the captain, this would just total out to a hard encounter.

My question is this then. Using the quoted text from the DM's guide, should I ignore the hobgoblin XP for modifying the encounter XP? My gut instinct on this tells me I probably should as they're going to be chum/1-shotted.

Best Answer

Check out this question: How can I play monsters and NPCs up to their potential?

The challange and XP ratings assume (I assume) that monsters play to their strengths. For example, your Hobgoblin captain should be commanding the hobgoblins - these are not mindless drones who attack without a plan - these are genetically professional soldiers. Good soldiers do not fight fair - level playing fields are for sporting fixtures, not battles.

The hobgoblins should refuse combat unless and until they have the advantage or they are desperate; but these guys plan ahead so they don't get desperate.

If the hobgoblins are aware of the party's approach then they should be preparing a series of ambushes, fall-back positions, escape/disengagement plans, booby traps, ways of separating the party and destroying them in detail.

If they are unaware then they should have done this anyway - good soldiers do.

For example, an attack on the party during a long rest has possibilities. 7 arrows with surprise at the PC on watch should render them unconscious with a high probability of success. They can then move in and slaughter the remaining PCs. Played this way this is certainly a 2x Deadly encounter. If they survive (which is unlikely) they will have earned every XP several times over.

This assumes that the party really wants "near death battles that bring them out bloody and bruised". My guess is that this is not what they really want.

The suggestion of a "battle arena" test is a good one. This can also be done in the campaign - maybe there are gladiatorial contests in your campaign that are not "to the death". Playing a team knock-out (that ends with 1 team knocked-out) could teach both you and your players what "deadly" can really mean without having a TPK.