Welcome to the encounter calculator for 5e DnD! With the help of its encounter builder, your 5e DnD adventure's combat encounters will always be balanced and of appropriate difficulty for your party. With an in-depth explanation of the game's encounter building and difficulty system, you can build balanced encounters for 5e in no time.

In this accompanying article, we'll cover essential topics such as:

  • How to use this encounter calculator for 5e;
  • How encounter difficulty in 5e works;
  • How the encounter size in 5e affects its difficulty; and
  • How to balance your 5e encounters for optimal difficulty.

So what are you waiting for? The DnD encounter calculator is waiting!

💡 Looking for other DnD-related calculators? Check out our hit points calculator for finding a player character's hit point maximum, or our point buy calculator for building a character using the point buy method.

How to use the encounter calculator for 5e

To let this encounter builder for 5e do all the math for you, follow these easy steps:

  1. Enter the party's levels. Higher-level adventurers can face greater challenges, and so their levels determine which encounters are pushovers and which are deadly threats.

    • The XP (experience point) thresholds of the encounter difficulties are shown below your party's makeup.
  1. Enter the monsters that the party will face in this encounter. More and tougher monsters mean harder fights.

    • Select the monsters from the drop-down list — it's sorted alphabetically.

    • If your desired monster isn't on the list, select Custom and enter their challenge rating or XP value directly.

    • Enter the number of monsters of this type — if left empty, Number will default to 1.

    • The XP value of the encounter will be shown below the monsters.

  2. Find the difficulty rating at the bottom of the encounter calculator for 5e. Using all the information you've given, this combat calculator for 5e will determine what difficulty this encounter is, leaving you to decide whether to tip the scales and adjust the combat.

💡 Are the die in your favor? Try our D20 dice roller or our dice probability calculator and see for yourself!

How does encounter difficulty in 5e work?

In the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the party of player characters frequently has to fight monsters. But a trio of fiendish goblins is less threatening than an ancient black dragon. To determine exactly how dangerous a combat encounter is, the game designers devised a mathematical system that takes the player character's levels and the encounter's monsters' XP values and numbers and uses those to return one of these four difficulty ratings:

  • Easy encounters might leave the party with a few scratches, but their victory is virtually guaranteed, even without using any limited resources like healing or some class features.

  • Medium encounters might have some tense moments, but the party should still win. Using limited resources isn't necessary, but they could avoid it with luck or skill.

  • Hard encounters could result in death saving throws for some characters, and death is a real possibility despite the party's best efforts. The use of limited resources will be essential.

  • Deadly encounters can be lethal for some characters, and the group risks a total party wipeout.

Play around with the encounter calculator for 5e to see some examples.

How do I calculate encounter difficulty for 5e DnD combat?

To calculate the difficulty of an encounter in 5e DnD:

  1. For each difficulty ("easy", "medium", "hard", and "deadly"), sum the party members' XP thresholds together.
  2. Sum the XP values of the monsters and adjust it based on this 5e encounter size.
  3. The highest party XP threshold lower than the monsters' XP value is the correct difficulty.

Consult your DM's Guide for exact numbers.

Let's look at that in a bit more detail. We need two things: the party members' XP thresholds for the four difficulty ratings and an XP value for the encounter. They'll be compared to one another to determine the encounter's overall difficulty.

Step 1: The party's XP thresholds

Each player character has a level (from 1 to 20) and each level has an XP threshold for each difficulty rating. You can find them in the table below.

XP thresholds of character levels for each difficulty rating.

Character level

Encounter difficulty

Easy

Medium

Hard

Deadly

1st

25

50

75

100

2nd

50

100

150

200

3rd

75

150

225

400

4th

125

250

375

500

5th

250

500

750

1,100

6th

300

600

900

1,400

7th

350

750

1,100

1,700

8th

450

900

1,400

2,100

9th

550

1,100

1,600

2,400

10th

600

1,200

1,900

2,800

11th

800

1,600

2,400

3,600

12th

1,000

2,000

3,000

4,500

13th

1,100

2,200

3,400

5,100

14th

1,250

2,500

3,800

5,700

15th

1,400

2,800

4,300

6,400

16th

1,600

3,200

4,800

7,200

17th

2,000

3,900

5,900

8,800

18th

2,100

4,200

6,300

9,500

19th

2,400

4,900

7,300

10,900

20th

2,800

5,700

8,500

12,700

For example, a 3rd-level character has a hard encounter difficulty threshold of 225 XP.

To calculate the XP threshold of each difficulty rating for the entire party, we sum up the characters' thresholds. A party of two 4th-level characters and two 3rd-level characters will have the following thresholds:

  • Easy: 400 XP (125 + 125 + 75 + 75)
  • Medium: 800 XP (250 + 250 + 150 + 150)
  • Hard: 1,200 XP (375 + 375 + 225 + 225)
  • Deadly: 1,800 XP (500 + 500 + 400 + 400)

Enter these levels in our combat calculator for 5e and see for yourself.

Step 2: The XP value of the encounter

The XP value of the encounter is based on the monsters' XP values and on how many there are. Let's pit our adventurers against one Rug of Smothering (CR 2, 450 XP) and four Flying Swords (CR 1/4, 50 XP). Their total XP value is 650 XP (450 + 4×50).

But more monsters mean more actions, attack rolls, and hit points facing the players, making the encounter more difficult. To balance an encounter in 5e, the XP total is multiplied based on how many monsters the party faces. The exact multiplier is determined by the table below.

XP total multipliers based on the number of monsters in the encounter.

Number of monsters

Multiplier

1

×1

2

×1.5

3–6

×2

7–10

×2.5

11–14

×3

15 or more

×4

Note that the party does not get this adjusted amount of XP for winning the combat — the multiplier is only used to determine the encounter's difficulty.

Based on the table above, our four monsters' XP total must still be multiplied by 2, which results in an adjusted XP total of 1,300 XP (650 × 2).

Step 3: Compare the XP value to the XP thresholds

Finally! Looking downward from the encounter's XP value of 1,300, the nearest difficulty threshold lower than 1,300 XP is 1,200 XP, with the hard difficulty rating. Therefore, this encounter is a hard encounter for our party.

You can try this example in our DnD encounter calculator — see what happens when you make the party stronger or add more monsters.

What is encounter size in 5e?

An encounter's size is simply the number of monsters that the party will have to fight in combat for that encounter. When more monsters join the fight, the encounter gets exponentially harder, so the Game Master adjusts the encounter's total XP value accordingly when determining the encounter's difficulty.

What is encounter balance in 5e?

Encounter balance refers to the difficulty of an encounter. An unbalanced encounter means the encounter is either much too easy or much too hard for the party.

If an encounter's XP value is lower than the party's easy difficulty threshold, the encounter is unbalanced in the party's favor.

If the XP value is much higher than the deadly threshold, the encounter is unbalanced in the monsters' favor.

How many encounters should a party have per day in 5e?

Six to eight encounters of medium or hard difficulty in a day, according to the Dungeon Masters' Guide (DMG). However, many DMs and adventure writers prefer fewer encounters (three or four) for the sake of both fun and game time. Your party composition might also influence this number. Above all, your campaign is your own — you must decide what the correct number is for you and your players.

FAQ

Is one ancient black dragon more dangerous than two adult black dragons?

No, the two adult black dragons (worth 34,500 XP together) are a slightly harder encounter than the single ancient black dragon (worth 33,000 XP). You can verify that in our encounter builder for 5e!

Rijk de Wet
Party
Select the levels of the player characters in the party.
Player #1
Player #2
Monsters
Select existing monsters, or select Custom to specify a CR or XP.
Monster #1
Monster #2
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