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Thread: Appropriate Encounter CR
Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 08:52 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Appropriate Encounter CR
I'm running a 4th level campaign that my group hasn't played in about 6 months, so it's been a while since I have DMed. I am trying to give a nice variety of challenges, some easy, some challenging, but my problem is what's a good challenge for a party at 4th level. I read that doubles of the same monster adds 2 to the CR. So under that logic, 4 cr 1 monsters should be a challenge for a 4th level party of 4. And that doesn't seem right to me. Any thoughts or suggestions on this?
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Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 09:54 PM #2
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
That's how the math works. However, the CR/EL system has issues. One is the designers don't seem to know PC capabilities (even such simple things like AC values).
Maybe you could try four 3rd-level characters instead. If they kick a lot of butt, don't throw more encounters for the day.
Sadly, I think it's been years since I've seen a party of NPCs taking on a party of PCs.
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Wednesday, 14th November, 2012, 11:56 PM #3
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
CAVEAT: I don't have Pathfinder and the CR/EL rules may have changed a bit since 3.5, so forgive me any erroneous assumptions I'm operating under.
Second, remember that an "appropriate challenge" should deplete about 20% of the party's resources- spells, hps, etc. So don't mistake an "appropriate" challenge for a tough one.
Finally, CRs and ELs and all that are an art, not a science. Especially when you use npcs with pc levels- note that a 10th level sorcerer is CR 10, and there are prolly examples of CR 10 monsters with the spellcasting abilities of a 10th level sorcerer on top of their other abilities. So CR and EL break very easily when you try to use them as a real yardstick to measure difficulty, but work very well when you recognize that they give only approximately correct ratings. (Plus, compare the real difficulty of fighting a wraith when the party has a cleric vs. doesn't, or a golem vs. a party with no fighters or all fighter types- the same monster's "degree of challenge" can vary a lot, depending on the pcs.)
All that said, if you want a challenge for your party that uses CR 1 monsters, choose a good mixture of CR 1s- perhaps a group of barbarian 1s with Toughness for extra durability screening a 1st-level sorcerer with tons of magic missiles or orb spells, or maybe a healer. Generally speaking, however, the bigger the difference between your party's level and the CR of the individual monsters, the easier of a time your pcs will likely have.
Thursday, 15th November, 2012, 12:53 AM #4
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
So how do it appropriately create encounters for a well balanced party (rogue, sorcerer, cleric, fighter all of level 4). I don't want to waste time or bore my players. You shed a lot of insight on how I should be setting up these encounters, and worry less about a CHALLENGE, but more of an appropriate challenge.
Thanks for all your help, I haven't DMed in a while and I appreciate everything.
Thursday, 15th November, 2012, 02:57 AM #5
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
First, note that 4e (and the 3.5 Dungeonscape book) has tons of great advice for encounter design; its focus on the encounter certainly paid off in terms of really helping me to evolve and improve my own encounter design. If you have access to a 4e DMG it's worth a look at the sections on building encounters. Likewise, Dungeonscape has a great section on this, including the 3e take on "monster roles". So yeah, if you can, check both of those out for good advice.
Now, as far as 1st level guys making up an EL 4 encounter, yeah, you can pretty much expect them to go down easier than a single CR 4 monster. It's one of the things about the CR/EL system that really doesn't work well, especially if you're dealing with a large discrepancy in encounter level vs. CR. (Theoretically, 1500 level 1 human warriors- each CR 1/2- are an EL 20 encounter, but as many dms who have run high/epic level spellcasters in 3e can attest, they really aren't.)
EDIT: Whoops, submitted before I was ready by mistake.
What I would do, in your case, is bear in mind that such encounters are going to be easier than predicted by EL. This leads to a couple of add-on effects: You can use higher EL encounters by using lower-level monsters without swamping your pcs, and the "double quantity = EL +2" rule lets you add some but not double the numbers of enemies without a very large impact on EL.
(In other words, 4 level 1 pc-class npcs are an EL5 encounter and 8 level 1 dudes are an EL 7 encounter. Therefore, five to seven 1st level pc-class npcs make an EL 6 encounter.)
Npc classes also offer nice opportunities, since they clock in at a slightly lower CR, so you can use either more bad guys or bad guys who are a level higher.
So the question becomes: How hard of a fight do you really want this to be? It sounds like you want a not-cakewalk but not-too-tough fight, and you only have a party size of four (so all these calculations are slightly off anyhow). So here are a couple of options for you:
Archery Assault - Encounter Level 5
This encounter should start at range; this is the stereotypical "elven xenopaths shoot at people intruding in their lands" kind of encounter.
1 elven ranger 2 (the leader) (bow style)
2 elven ranger 1s (bow style)
1 elven druid 1 (entangle the party and keep them away)
Novice Adventurers - Encounter Level 5
These fellows are the new adventuring party on the block and are quite arrogant. The pcs might slay them or might defeat and humiliate them; they could even end up allying together.
1 dwarf fighter 1
1 elf wizard 1
1 halfling rogue 1
1 human cleric 1
Attack En Mass - Encounter Level 6
This works equally well whether it's goblins, humans or whatever CR 1/2ish race. The party is attacked by a mass of them, maybe bandits, maybe a savage warband, whatever. The point is, this is about as many bodies as you can get without hitting EL 7. Your pcs would have to take about 4 each of them; I'm pretty sure a 4th level party could, but it might be tight, and bad luck for the pcs, good luck for the warriors or foolish player actions might change the situation to one of overwhelming odds.
15 human warrior 1s
Hope these help!
Thursday, 15th November, 2012, 04:16 AM #6
Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
If your party is 4 people of 4th level, then you are looking for an average CR of 4.
For CR1 monsters, the math becomes weird because it's a fixed CR adjustment when you add more of them. Two CR1 monsters gets a CR of 3, which makes absolutely no sense to me when two CR15 monsters is only a CR17 encounter.
This also greatly depends on the build of your party, are they power-houses? Are they concept-characters? Are they more inclined to solve a skill-challenge or attempt diplomacy than use their fists?
For example:, I'm running with a party of 7, all of whom are level 9, and more than half are power-builders. I threw a CR14 monster at them(which is appropriate for characters their level), and they ate it alive in the first round. I later threw a CR16 at them, which they proceeded to demolish in less than 5 minutes. Obviously the party makeup demands greater challenges.
Now, here's some notes: for a large party, a single powerful creature may not be a challenge simply because of the number of turns taken each round by the players.
For a smaller party, a single powerful creature may be more satisfying than several smaller ones.
EX: a CR1 Wolf has 13 health and an AC of 14. A level 4 fighter with a solid strength(18) has a BAB of 4, and a +4 str bonus. Taking a 50% average, that being a roll of 10. That fighter will roll an 18 to hit. Significantly outclassing the 14AC of the wolf. He's also getting a +4 damage bonus on lets say a longsword for 1d8+4, or roughly 8-9 points of damage per turn, basically half the health of the wolf every turn.
The wolf meanwhile is only getting a +2 to their bite of 1d6+2, giving them an average roll of 12. This doesn't even TOUCH the fighter's AC, who hopefully is in some kind of heavy armor, and is likely sitting on at least a 15 or 16 AC.
However, the average CR4 monster will sit on an AC much closer to your fighter's average roll, and dish out damage much more likely to hit your players.
In my opinion, with smaller parties at lower levels, single, more powerful creatures are a better challenge than multiple, less powerful creatures.