[RPG] Should encounters be adjusted to a full-magic party


I am still a new GM and I am building a session for three first-time players. After discussing the game, rules and setting, all of them are interested in playing magic characters (Draconic Sorcerer, Druid and Warlock).

That is OK both for me and for the setting, but I am worried that average combat encounters could become over/underpowered against a full magic party.

Should encounters be handled on a different way for a full magic party?

What kind of parameters (number of enemies, their stats, the environment) could break the balance?

Since it seems there is a bit of confusion, I'll make this clear: I don't want to make things "easier" for them, I want to be able to evaluate the difficulty of the challenges they face, so the encounters are meant to be challenging, but I don't want to throw them fights they can't win.

Best Answer

Adding Variation to encounters.

First: Terrain.: You should begin by considering terrain. When dealing with typical groups terrain isn't as large an issue because the tanks tend to control the battlespace. With casters, terrain becomes all important because they're going to want to utilize crowd control effects and force creatures to rough terrain in order to maximize their ability to pick them off from range.

To expand further on terrain to encourage people to really consider room layouts:

  • Things like pillars, furniture, drapes, windows, and whatever the place uses to manage temperature (fireplace, braziers, torches, etc) are all powerful additions to improvisation and challenge. The big thing is actually utilizing these features.

  • If the players, being new and all, don't use them, start having your monsters show them what they can do.

  • For example, have an orc kick over a brazier of coals to burn away some tangled vines that were cast for crowd control.

    • Have a goblin leap into the air and use the chandelier to swing over to the casters from above.
    • Have reinforcements smash in through the windows from the floor above.

    • If your casters are using a lot of ranged cantrips, get a couple of creatures together to start pushing a table in front of them to take the brunt of the damage (until it's destroyed).

      There's a lot you can do, the limit is really up to you and your players.

Second: using CR as a guide: the CR ratings in the Monster Manual are a good indication of difficulty, but understand that the CR rating is meant for a balanced group of 4, and that your group of 3 casters (especially if they're glass cannons) is going to throw things off quickly.

  • For instance, they will have absolutely no problems with any single encounter because of their power level. The easiest way to make fights balanced for a nuke heavy party is to throw a couple of CR level fights at them in a row to see how many spells they need to use, and to see just how much is too much to throw at once.

  • When you have a feel for that, you can use what I call the fodder mobs.

    • These mobs are large groups (6 to 10) of very low CR level mobs that can not be ignored due to their sheer numbers. Casters will be forced to utilize AoE spells (costly spell slots) or terrain altering CC to deal with these mobs. In addition it will keep the party on the move and provide a balance against just watching them wipe the table with your creatures. An example of this is a zombie horde which contains 30+ zombies.
      In and of themselves, these aren't a big deal. However trying to kill them all before the get to your casters can be problematic. A caster burning his fireballs on the zombies no longer has them for use against 3 ogres in the next room.

Third: Overkill. With a caster heavy party, if you don't have any tanks, you're going to be severely limited when it comes to engaging them with the usual creatures such as orcs, ogres, trolls, goblins, lizardmen and other common creature types. You always have the option of showing them exactly why running no tanks is a terrible idea, but if you're more interested in keeping the story going with the characters they've made, then the tailoring is going to be 100% from your end. This leads me to my final point.

Fourth: DM mutation mode. If you're running a dungeon of undead and your casters take mobile as a feat so they can just kite the zombies everywhere, start introducing modified undead elites. One in every five skeletons comes up with the Charger feat, allowing it to dash and take an attack as a bonus action. Some zombies come up immune to fire. Others use nothing but the Dash action on their turn and explode when killed or when within 10 feet of a player in a 20 foot radius.

  • Basically, come up with new and interesting things on the fly to throw at your players in order to challenge them when things get to be routine.

    In fact, you could have persistent undead that unless consecrated with holy water return from the pile of bones, ash or bodies that they lay in in 1D6 minutes, forever dogging the party until the casters come up with a way to barricade the enemies behind something impenetrable (like dropping the ceiling behind them somehow.)

    Caveat on changing monster stats: you should always compensate in some other fashion in order to retain balance, and so you don't have to adjust XP or CR levels. For example, if you have a zombie come up with fire immunity, consider removing a HD from it's HP total in order to compensate the change. I personally prefer to leave this entirely up to random chance, and simply have tables of things I can add to my monster types in order to increase or decrease the complexity level accordingly. For instance, there's plenty of immunity or resistance to normal weapons that is bypassed by magical weapons, but sometimes it's a lot of fun to make a monster immune to any magic whatsoever and require the party to engage it using psionics, improvised weapons and regular weapons. Of course, since the monster is immune to magic, it doesn't have any magically enhanced strength or speed, so it doesn't hit like a freight train or use spell like abilities.

Anyways, try some of those out and see how they work for your group.