[RPG] Why are all of the encounters in the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign Hard or Deadly


Even with 5 players assumed, the adventure seems quite brutal. Could someone please explain why the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign has so many deadly encounters?

Some examples:

  1. The very first encounter with 4 hidden Goblins has a difficulty of 400 XP (which is considered Hard), but we also need to consider that this is a surprise attack, which increases the risk greatly to such low-level characters.

  2. If you don't side with the Goblin Boss to save the human, that encounter is adjusted to 1,250 XP. It only takes 500 XP for an encounter to be considered Deadly to 5 level 1 characters. I feel like that doesn't give players a lot of options… the booklet mentions taking them on as a valid choice, but it really isn't. So if the party wants to survive, the party is destined to lose all of their money to meet his back-stabbing demand once you kill the Bugbear.

  3. The bugbear encounter is 700 XP, which again is over the 500 XP threshold for a Deadly encounter.

In between all of that, there are many Medium encounters and other damaging surprises to wear the party down. Why is this adventure trying to kill the players at every turn? These are beginners trying to learn the game.

The only sensible solution to Chapter 1's cave is to convince the Goblin Boss to join forces to take on the Bugbear… which the adventure book doesn't even account for. That way, you could wear both groups of goblins down, and clean up the other group (if the party didn't want to side with the Goblin boss).

It seems the encounters just get worse from there. Can anyone explain the design?

Best Answer

The XP guidelines are guidelines only, and aren't always accurate.

Having recently run a party of 5 newbies through this adventure I can testify that not every encounter is hard/deadly. In fact, they stomped right through most of them, the only encounters giving them trouble were the 1st bugbear and the Flameskull (they even killed the dragon, which I did not expect at all).

Part of the answer is that the exp guidelines are just not exact, especially at low levels. At level 1 both the party and most NPCs will die in one or two hits, So good tactics and strategy decide most of the outcome.

The other part of the answer is that if your players are smart and cautious (not min/maxers, just not charging ahead screaming 100% of the time) they will get the drop on most of the enemies and will be able to kill 50% or more of the monsters before they even get a turn. Also consider reminding the players that they can retreat and rest if they need to; there is no push to explore everything all at once.

If your players are being careful and reasonable, they will probably win, even if the numbers say they won't. The designers of the module knew this and playtested to make sure it was winnable.