# Challenging Challenge Ratings...again

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Hey all!

I got into an interesting discussion over on the WotC forums, which made me do a bit of research and testing.

The results were a touch surprising, and I discovered two things.

Firstly, that when using groups of lesser opponents in tandem with my CR x2 = EL +4 formula, you should ALWAYS use the maximum number of opponents OR at least a number that is above the average.

e.g.

4-5 same CR opponents = EL +4 ~ average 4.5. Therefore always use 5

6-7 same CR opponents = EL +5 ~ average 6.5. Therefore always use 7

8-11 same CR opponents = EL +6 ~ average 9.5. Therefore always use 10 or 11

12-15 same CR opponents = EL +7 ~ average 13.5. Therefore always use 14 or 15

16-23 same CR opponents = EL +8 ~ average 19.5. Therefore always use 20-23

Those of you keeping up with the Throne of Orcus work in progress on my website will note that I had already stated you should always use maximums, just to be on the safe side.

Secondly (and this one may need further testing?), I am not sure if the CR x2 = EL +4 functions perfectly at every non-epic level. It could be that CR x2 = EL +6 for non-epic levels.

I have done some testing and five 13th-level Fighters roughly equal one 20th-level Fighter. Where before I would have said four 10th-levellers.

This certainly seems to be the case in and around the 10th-20th mark. But weirdly not below 10th or above 20th.

Four (or possibly even 3) 5th-levellers equal one 10th.

Could just be some anomalous testing of course but probably worth keeping an eye on. It seems like there is a spike in the power levels between 10-20th.

Between 1st-6th, Use 3 instead of 4-5 (e.g. 3 2nd = 1 4th)
Between 7th-12th Use 4-5 (e.g. 4-5 6th = 1 12th)
Between 13th-19th use 6-7 instead of 4-5 (e.g. 6-7 10th = 1 19th)

Consider this thread a general catch all for Challenge Rating and Encounter Level stuff.

#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
I think that to really get a perfect sense of the EL range differences at different levels, one would need to examine the range of capabilities of the average PC.
At levels 1-3, most monster have ACs about 11-15, which any PC not suffering from a low ability score should be able to hit. (and a lucky crit swings the fight either way) Likewise, Saving throw DCs are 11-15.

As PCs gain levels, the range of ACs fall into three catagories:
- Allways hit (Total to-hit bonus > AC)
- Usually hit (Total to-hit bonus about two to nineteen less than AC)
- Never hit (Total to-hit bonus twenty or more points lower than AC)
Likewise, saving throw DCs fall into similar catagories.

The trick is discerning the predicted growth of this range of numbers, and building the EL system to match that range.

Four level 1 characters cannot hope to defeat a CR 10 monster. Four level 50 characters won't have much problem defeating a CR 60 monster, because their acceptable range of challenges has expanded in every area. Sure that CR 10 monster may have a weakness that the level 1 characters could exploit to win, but likely it isn't going to save them on a daily basis. Conversely, the level 50 characters are so focused in their areas of mastery that they can continue using their tactics on foes who possess resistances to those tactics (Ex: Grapple a dragon) and still show strong success rates.

The trick to building encounters with your system U_K would be to anticipate, since most deities only have 4 items, that each probobly only give one kind of bonus to one area, their range of possible numbers and to scale the system based on the expansion over time of that range.

EX: Lets say a level 100 Rogue has a cloak of resistance 50. Lets say his high save (Reflex) is total 102 before attributes, and his low is now 83 (Fort and will).
Lets say his highest attribute is Dex, with 98, and his lowest is 13. (Constitution, hes a sickly elven assassin. Poisoned himself a few too many times)
We will say for kicks his Wisdom is 50.
So the rogue's saves are F: 84, R: 146, W: 103.
That rogue's range of acceptable save span from DC 86 (Trivial) to DC 113 (Impossible for fortitude saves) to DC 165 (Impossible on everything)
Thats a 79 point span of save DCs that would likely challenge that rogue and his compatriots in an adventure. A Level 1 rogue with 18 dex and 8 con, 12 wisdom, no items, has F: -1, R: 6, W: 1. The level 1 character's span is 26.

Using the above example, that level 100 rogue can "Generally" handle the save DCs from things of CR 76 to 155. (Assuming the Monster's Save DCs are aproximate with it's CR, about CR+10. They never are this way in practice though)

Now, that rogue example only had 2 magic items factored in - Cloak of Resistance, and probobly a set of Gloves of Dexterity. The rogue probobly has an Enchanted Short Sword, so he or she can tackle appropriate ACs for his or her level, and perhaps a Ring of Protection, so his or her AC is not lacking, or enchanted armor.

The trick would be to plot these ranges on a graph for each level and class and draw a line of best fit. This line would probobly quadratic in nature, and would be difficult to adjucate definitly for lopsided characters. (Ones that pour all their resources into one area, likes attack bonuses or saves. they will never fail in that area, even it the challenge is much greater than them (probobly 2 or three times their level) but will certainly fail in every other area)
Bah! Brain hurting.
The oldschool train of thought - PCs Level +12 doesn't cut it for EL +0 difficulty classes, because it is never certain if a given PC can make that DC, or if it is trivial to everyone - just doesn't cut it.

#### Fieari

##### Explorer
U_K, I think the CRs you give for theh various incarnations of the Dire Template in the Bestiary might be off... I applied the teratoid template to the 5-headed hydra, like you suggested in your God of War review (Lernean Hydra stats) and by your rules, this should make it CR 16. Except that the beast would utterly trounce a level 16 party unless the party decided simply to flee, and even then, if it gets the drop on the party, then the party is likely to suffer a death in the very first round... and multiple kills in a single round aren't out of the question.

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#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
In the stat block you linked the HD and HP are wrong if the Terratoid template was used. (Minimum HD for size, etc). It seems to have been factored in, but still listed as a 5 HD monster. CR 16 seems about right since it can't do much if it can't reach you. (Same weakness as the tarrasque - No range) Cast fly and kill it with a bow or spells (Like Enervation/energy drain). Also it has optimal feats for it's ability. It focuses on combat 100%, and its saves are weak. (Cast Dominate monster and win)
It has lots of hp and deals lots of damage. Its bonus to Hide and it's Scent ability do make it a terror to the unprepared.

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Hiya matey!

Fieari said:
U_K, I think the CRs you give for theh various incarnations of the Dire Template in the Bestiary might be off... I applied the teratoid template to the 5-headed hydra, like you suggested in your God of War review (Lernean Hydra stats) and by your rules, this should make it CR 16. Except that the beast would utterly trounce a level 16 party unless the party decided simply to flee, and even then, if it gets the drop on the party, then the party is likely to suffer a death in the very first round... and multiple kills in a single round aren't out of the question.

I think part of the problem is that you are adding the template CR for Animal, when its really a Magical Beast (which is a tougher monster type).

Use +1 per extra 3 HD (I did a quick scan and it looks like +0.361 per Hit Dice for a Magical Beast. But +1/3 should work out fine.

Using this the Hydra works out at CR 21.

#### Pssthpok

##### First Post
Hey, UK.
Version 4 of Challenging Challenge Ratings has a system for determining PEL and comparing that to EL.
Is this still a functioning mechanic?
If not, what are you doing for PEL now?
The reason I ask is because in Version 5, IIRC, a 31st-level character equals an EL 20. 2 CR 20 Balors equal an EL 20. In a one-on-two fight, the 31st-level character would stand to gain either a LOT of XP (using EL 20 vs. EL 20) or very little XP (using PEL 27 vs. EL 20).

My question then is simple: How much XP would a 31st-level character gain by defeating two Balors single-handedly?

#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
Pssthpok said:
Hey, UK.
Version 4 of Challenging Challenge Ratings has a system for determining PEL and comparing that to EL.
Is this still a functioning mechanic?
If not, what are you doing for PEL now?
The reason I ask is because in Version 5, IIRC, a 31st-level character equals an EL 20. 2 CR 20 Balors equal an EL 20. In a one-on-two fight, the 31st-level character would stand to gain either a LOT of XP (using EL 20 vs. EL 20) or very little XP (using PEL 27 vs. EL 20).

My question then is simple: How much XP would a 31st-level character gain by defeating two Balors single-handedly?

The encounter XP should be meaningful if the encounter was so.

I think U_K had an EXP system for EL in his V4. 1 single character vs the 2 Balors seems like an even fight, depending on how Min-maxed the PC is and what advantages the Balors hold.
I would use the PEL 20 vs EL 20. (Though MM book Balors are likely to be flattened quickly by the PC) Adjustments for how the fight actually goes may be more accurate. Just getting numbers off a table doesn't always work nicely, especially in epic.

#### Pssthpok

##### First Post
Thanks, but I don't like hearing 'whatever you think is best'/'depends on how the fight went'. I can already do that. I'm looking for a systematic method that works.

#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
Pssthpok said:
Thanks, but I don't like hearing 'whatever you think is best'/'depends on how the fight went'. I can already do that. I'm looking for a systematic method that works.
Heh, sorry.

I try to make fights worth about 100 xp per level of the party. I adjust the XP based on the Difference of CR of the party vs the EL of the foe. If the party is twice as strong as the foe, they get half the XP, and vice versa.

Example:
10th level party of 4 vs a Balor (CR 20) would get 2000 XP.
The party would get 1000 Xp for an even EL fight (10th level x 100)
The balor is twice their level in CR, so they get double Xp for defeating it, 2000 XP (CR 20 / 10th level = 2/1 = X2 XP)

This doesn't take into account other encounter modifiers such as a one-sided battle field. Should the Party from the above example fight the Balor on the Abyss, it may have other advantages that significantly change its CR or the XP awarded. (Demonic Minions, dangerous terrain/weather, unholy enhancements, etc.)

This math is slightly different from WoTC math as you usually get 10 EL +/-0 encounters per level instead of 13. (Actually they use 13.3...) I prefer a straight 10 system simply because it makes it easier to scale long adventure modules, and sounds nicer on paper.

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Pssthpok said:

Hiya mate - apologies for the slow reply.

Pssthpok said:
Version 4 of Challenging Challenge Ratings has a system for determining PEL and comparing that to EL.

Is this still a functioning mechanic?

It still 'functions'. I presume you mean have I updated it. To be honest I haven't looked at that side of things for v6 yet - its mostly been about determining CR, rather than playing about with EL.

But I am always looking to simplify.

Pssthpok said:
If not, what are you doing for PEL now?
The reason I ask is because in Version 5, IIRC, a 31st-level character equals an EL 20. 2 CR 20 Balors equal an EL 20. In a one-on-two fight, the 31st-level character would stand to gain either a LOT of XP (using EL 20 vs. EL 20) or very little XP (using PEL 27 vs. EL 20).

My question then is simple: How much XP would a 31st-level character gain by defeating two Balors single-handedly?

In this scenario I would use the version which gives quite a bit of EXP.

For the simple reason that its a pretty tough fight (assuming the PC is not min/maxed).

I was just looking over the Balor CR in v5, and the ECL of 33 should be 30 in v6. Which means CR 20.

By the way I was involved in a discussion about this over on the wizard boards about a month ago. It may be of interest.

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#### Cheiromancer

##### Explorer
I calculate the challenge of an encounter by squaring the ECLs of the monsters and adding them up. Then I do the same thing for the players. An equal challenge encounter should be 75 xp per character level. Twice the challenge gives twice the xp, and so on.

So if a party of 4 10th level characters (challenge 400) encounter a balor (challenge 900) they should get 2.25 * 75 * 10 = 1687 xp each. With a base of 100 xp for an equal challenge encounter that would be 2250 xp each.

The balor would actually be more challenging than the numbers indicate because of its pesky blasphemy ability, which would kill the entire party with no save. I assume the party fights in silence, and with protection from evil to protect against being dominated. Although a greater dispel magic would take these out; you could ready attacks against its SLAs, I suppose. Still looks like a tough fight. I wonder if the balor should be challenge 1089 (33 squared).

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#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
Cheiromancer said:
I calculate the challenge of an encounter by squaring the ECLs of the monsters and adding them up. Then I do the same thing for the players. An equal challenge encounter should be 75 xp per character level. Twice the challenge gives twice the xp, and so on.

So if a party of 4 10th level characters (challenge 400) encounter a balor (challenge 900) they should get 2.25 * 75 * 10 = 1687 xp each. With a base of 100 xp for an equal challenge encounter that would be 2250 xp each.

The balor would actually be more challenging than the numbers indicate because of its pesky blasphemy ability, which would kill the entire party with no save. I assume the party fights in silence, and with protection from evil to protect against being dominated. Although a greater dispel magic would take these out; you could ready attacks against its SLAs, I suppose. Still looks like a tough fight. I wonder if the balor should be challenge 1089 (33 squared).
Cool idea. I like that system.
I also found it funny in 3.0 they gave almost every lower-planar monster Blasphemy at will, which dazed anyone who isn't evil, no save, in 3.0.
Balor strategy: Round 1 - Summon Marilith, Use blasphemy. Round 2+: Use blasphemy, Laugh.
Thankfully, my DM never did this to us. (He did worse things at that level, like a Balor with a permenent Contingent Heal spell on itself for if it was at less that 1 HP. So you had to take it from >1 to <-10 in one hit)

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#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Hiya mate!

Cheiromancer said:
I calculate the challenge of an encounter by squaring the ECLs of the monsters and adding them up. Then I do the same thing for the players. An equal challenge encounter should be 75 xp per character level. Twice the challenge gives twice the xp, and so on.

So if a party of 4 10th level characters (challenge 400) encounter a balor (challenge 900) they should get 2.25 * 75 * 10 = 1687 xp each. With a base of 100 xp for an equal challenge encounter that would be 2250 xp each.

The balor would actually be more challenging than the numbers indicate because of its pesky blasphemy ability, which would kill the entire party with no save. I assume the party fights in silence, and with protection from evil to protect against being dominated. Although a greater dispel magic would take these out; you could ready attacks against its SLAs, I suppose. Still looks like a tough fight. I wonder if the balor should be challenge 1089 (33 squared).

ECL 30 according to v6.

One of the things I determined over at the WotC boards was that there are some skewed results at non-epic levels.

So when using

Low-level characters, use EL +1
Mid-level characters - EL as per usual
High-level characters - use EL -1

Another thing is to always use at least the averages rounded up, otherwise lower the opponent EL by 1.

e.g. A typical party of 4-5 means at least 4.5 and therefore 5.

#### Cheiromancer

##### Explorer
Remind me what you mean by low-level, etc.? Low-level is under 40th level, right?

You decided to extend the silver rule past 20 HD, didn't you? I think that's what you were telling me in IM. Could you explain to me how that party of 10th level characters is supposed to take out a balor? What with at-will blasphemy, greater dispel magic and domination I think they are toast.

I don't use EL. But if CR x 2 = EL +4, then EL+1 is equivalent to increasing the size of the group by 50%, right? E.g. from 4-5 to 7.

#### Ltheb Silverfrond

##### Explorer
Yep, the Balor is certainly a toughie, but not impossible. While blasphemy is a strong option, 10th level characters have access to Deathward and Silence, as mentioned. Really it is about tieing up the Balor's actions. Make it seem more profitable to do something other than use blasphemy. In all, its about tricking the poor thing. Get it to full-attack a fighter type, then blast it to bits with Everything. Depending on the group make up and the sourcebooks in use, the possibility of success varies.
And defeating a Balor doesn't always mean killing it. Banishment works fine too. If it happens to be on the prime material plane, stopping its plan or banishing it work nicely. (Just be prepared for revenge at an inconvenient time, like while resting after slaying a dragon)
A CR twice that of the average level of a PC means there is a very good chance of them dieing, and a slim chance of the PCs winning, but the possibility exists.

#### Pssthpok

##### First Post
UK,
How are you?
I have another conundrum... which
Stop me at any point where I mess up...

Random Intermediate Deity (InDy); 68 HD.

Challenge Rating and Encounter Level:
68 HD = CR (*2/3) 45 + 40 (w/equipment) = CR 85. alternatively CR 113 sans the 2/3 factor; which method do I use to determine InDy's CR?

Now, looking at the assumed CRs versus a 8-man party of 30th-level characters we find that InDy proves to be an unpredictable challenge... even though his AC easily breaks 100, his attacks the same, and if fine-tuned can have Bardic suggestion save DCs well over 100 as well as 10 15th-level spells per day.

Using CR 85 we get an EL 26...
Compare to an 8 person party of 30th-level builds:
-using Class Levels to determine EL ala v5.: 8 30th-level characters (EL 26) treat him as an EL +/-0 (i.e. 300 XP/HD, or 9000 XP each)
-using Class Levels summed and divided to determine PEL ala v4.: 8 30th-level characters (PEL 32) treat InDy as a PEL -6 (i.e. 37.5 XP/HD, or 1125 XP)

Which of the above methods is correct? EL or PEL?

Using CR 113 we get an EL 28... marginally more realistic, but not as drastically as I should imagine.
Using EL we get 18,000 XP per character with a victory.
Using PEL we get a standard encounter (75 XP/HD, or 2250 XP) with a victory.

In your debate on WotC, you stated many times that CR equals ECL, but the templates in Ascension do not support this statement, hence the different entries for CR and ECL modifiers granted by the template. I'll use ECL in place of CR though, to see if it pegs InDy's relative power sufficiently above a party of twice-as-many-as-normal PCs of less than half InDy's HD, and almost 1/3 of his CR... divine ranks and abilities not withstanding.

Effective Character Level and Encounter Level:
68 HD + 60 (w/equipment) = ECL 128. Assuming that ECL equals CR, this makes InDy an EL 29... hmph.

What's wrong with this picture? Should PEL be completely disregarded? On the low end, it doesn't make sense to use EL for PCs since the yields are so high, but in this case it seems only fair to use EL since otherwise the PCs get practically nothing for defeating a creature 38 levels and 12 divine ranks over them.
Furthermore, why, if CR = ECL, are there separate modifiers for these numbers in the templates?
Am I doing something wrong?

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Hiya mate!

Cheiromancer said:
Remind me what you mean by low-level, etc.? Low-level is under 40th level, right?

Low = 1-6
Mid = 7-12
High = 13-20
Low-Epic = 21-40
Mid-Epic = 41-80
High-Epic = 81-160

Cheiromancer said:
You decided to extend the silver rule past 20 HD, didn't you? I think that's what you were telling me in IM.

Yes. (past 20 ECL, just to clarify)

Cheiromancer said:
Could you explain to me how that party of 10th level characters is supposed to take out a balor? What with at-will blasphemy, greater dispel magic and domination I think they are toast.

Get lucky!

Depends on the party make up to be fair.

Lets be honest it is a nightmare encounter for the 10th-level party, the odds are against them. Personally I would try and hit it with as many save effects as possible (Baleful Polymorph, Arrows of Slaying). Although Will save based effects would have the best chance (so things like Charm Monster would be okay). Even though it will make the save more often than not, you always have a chance. Try and take it on at range if possible and spread your forces out so they won't get caught by area effect spells.

At best I think you would have a total 5% chance of penetrating its SR and getting it to fail its save. so its a longshot.

Win initiative would be another plus. Chances are you could lose a character a round.

If you have prep time, use buffs, have death ward and free action cast.

The win is possible, just not probable.

Cheiromancer said:
I don't use EL. But if CR x 2 = EL +4, then EL+1 is equivalent to increasing the size of the group by 50%, right? E.g. from 4-5 to 7.

Yes.

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Hiya mate!

Pssthpok said:
UK,
How are you?

Usual.

Pssthpok said:
I have another conundrum... which
Stop me at any point where I mess up...

Random Intermediate Deity (InDy); 68 HD.

Challenge Rating and Encounter Level:
68 HD = CR (*2/3) 45 + 40 (w/equipment) = CR 85. alternatively CR 113 sans the 2/3 factor; which method do I use to determine InDy's CR?

Okay, where does this alternate CR come from?

68 HD intermediated Deity = ECL 128 = CR 85.

Where does CR 113 come from?

Pssthpok said:
Now, looking at the assumed CRs versus a 8-man party of 30th-level characters we find that InDy proves to be an unpredictable challenge... even though his AC easily breaks 100, his attacks the same, and if fine-tuned can have Bardic suggestion save DCs well over 100 as well as 10 15th-level spells per day.

Okay.

Pssthpok said:
Using CR 85 we get an EL 26...
Compare to an 8 person party of 30th-level builds:

Well firstly, remember that when using multiple characters always use at least the average and round any fractions up.

So when the spread says 8-11 characters, you should always use at least 10.

Pssthpok said:
-using Class Levels to determine EL ala v5.: 8 30th-level characters (EL 26) treat him as an EL +/-0 (i.e. 300 XP/HD, or 9000 XP each)
-using Class Levels summed and divided to determine PEL ala v4.: 8 30th-level characters (PEL 32) treat InDy as a PEL -6 (i.e. 37.5 XP/HD, or 1125 XP)

Which of the above methods is correct? EL or PEL?

No idea, but heres a thought, why would you go back to v4 after I released v5?

Pssthpok said:
Using CR 113 we get an EL 28... marginally more realistic, but not as drastically as I should imagine.
Using EL we get 18,000 XP per character with a victory.
Using PEL we get a standard encounter (75 XP/HD, or 2250 XP) with a victory.

I'm lost, where does CR 113 come from?

Pssthpok said:
In your debate on WotC, you stated many times that CR equals ECL, but the templates in Ascension do not support this statement, hence the different entries for CR and ECL modifiers granted by the template.

I probably stated that CR should equal ECL. The simple fact of the matter is that it does not. In version 4 I used a system whereby CR and ECL were the same thing. But it simply proved too confusing to people, because you had WotC CR and Upper_Krust CR.

Pssthpok said:
I'll use ECL in place of CR though, to see if it pegs InDy's relative power sufficiently above a party of twice-as-many-as-normal PCs of less than half InDy's HD, and almost 1/3 of his CR... divine ranks and abilities not withstanding.

Effective Character Level and Encounter Level:
68 HD + 60 (w/equipment) = ECL 128. Assuming that ECL equals CR, this makes InDy an EL 29... hmph.

What's wrong with this picture? Should PEL be completely disregarded? On the low end, it doesn't make sense to use EL for PCs since the yields are so high, but in this case it seems only fair to use EL since otherwise the PCs get practically nothing for defeating a creature 38 levels and 12 divine ranks over them.
Furthermore, why, if CR = ECL, are there separate modifiers for these numbers in the templates?
Am I doing something wrong?

You seem to be mixing v4 with v5.

The simple facts are:

ECL 128 = CR 85.

ECL 30 = CR 20.

Therefore the two should never be brought together since one is more than x4 the other, which is not advisable at epic levels.

However, if we choose to ignore that...

CR x 1.5 = EL +2 = x2 PCs
CR x 2 = EL +4 = x4 PCs
CR x 3 = EL +6 = x8 PCs
CR x 4 = EL +8 = x16 PCs

2x ECL 30/ CR 20 = ECL 45/CR 30 (so 2 L30 characters = CR 30)

4x ECL 30/CR 20 = ECL 60/CR 40 (so 4-5* L30 characters = CR 40)

8x ECL 30/CR 20 = ECL 90/CR60 (so 8-11* L30 characters = CR 60)

16x ECL 30/CR 20 = ECL 120/CR 80 (so 16-23* L30 characters = CR 80)

*Remember in all cases of multiple characters to use average or better numbers (5/10/20 in these cases).

So technically twenty L30 characters would be roughly equal to a single Intermediate deity with 68 hit die.

But, as previously stated the god would probably still win because hes more than four times more powerful than any individual.

Collectively it would be an EL +/-0 encounter though. With each character gaining 75 EXP x their ECL. 2250 in this case.

#### Cheiromancer

##### Explorer
I've been having trouble locating v5- is it attached to a post somewhere?

#### Upper_Krust

##### Hero
Cheiromancer said:
I've been having trouble locating v5- is it attached to a post somewhere?

Email me.

I can't remember where the heck I posted it.

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