D&D 5E Non Linear Adventures and Challenge Rating/Enemy Strength

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
This is still just boosting the enemies to be level appropriate when the PCs walk through the door, which is one of two things I was trying to avoid.
That's a good point! I do have a question: does it still not work for you if there's a diegetic, telegraphed-to-the-PCs reason that an enemy gets stronger over time? In other words, if the bad guys are getting stronger regardless of the PCs' interactions, does that still run contra to your design?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
That's a good point! I do have a question: does it still not work for you if there's a diegetic, telegraphed-to-the-PCs reason that an enemy gets stronger over time? In other words, if the bad guys are getting stronger regardless of the PCs' interactions, does that still run contra to your design?
Not necessarily. It would just be part of the situation. But I can't imagine a scenario in which the PCs did not find out pretty quickly that was happening.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
An approach I've used is to draw a timeline for each bbeg (or faction leaders in my uses) that tracks what it does and how it improves itself by each "milestone" (where a milestone is just some significant event by the PCs, in your case probably measured as the defeat of another bbeg). Such a timeline includes stuff like "Orc Chief acquires the Artifact Axe and conscripts the goblin tribe" and "Young Red dragon advances to adult red dragon" or whatever. Effectively, it's just a schedule of each bbeg's personal/statblock advancement, acquisitions, intel, and so forth. And when a bbeg is defeated, advancement along its timeline just ends; and in your case of "connected" bbegs, that ending would also be accompanied by some sort of power up to the surviving bbegs.

Powering up those surving bbegs could depend on their respective natures. Since I gather they're supernaturally connected, maybe give each a list of features that it grants to the remaining bbegs when it's defeated? For example, consider 5 "sibling" bbegs each based on one of the elements wood, fire, water, earth, metal. When one brother is defeated, then all remaining siblings gain a few HD and +1 attack bonus; AND a feature specific to their fallen brother's nature. For example, when the fire brother is defeated, the remaining brothers might each gain a permanent fire shield effect and some flying fire-snake minions. When the Wood brother dies, the surviving ones get the HD and atk boost, plus an at will entangle and loyal shambling mound. And so forth

In this way the bbegs get stronger both in their basic stats and through special traits, but exactly how that progresses depends on what order the bbegs are defeated. This means subsequent encounters could play out quite differently depending on which are tackled first. That in turn might even leave open the possibility for PCs to guess/research an optimal order to take them on.
 

Voadam

Legend
This is still just boosting the enemies to be level appropriate when the PCs walk through the door, which is one of two things I was trying to avoid.
I'd quibble a bit here.

In 3e if you say the opponent is a goblin, that can be anything from a level 1 warrior to a 30th level lich. PCs generally know and expect this.

If you say the opponent is an adult red dragon then a CR 15 adult red dragon straight out of the SRD is only the minimum CR adult red dragon to expect in 3e. One with a bunch of class levels is still an adult red dragon and something within the range of stuff a PC could reasonably expect to find when facing "an adult red dragon we heard about". If the players know the DM has the Draconomicon the players should not be shocked if the adult red dragon has special stuff that can boost them above the baseline stats of the MM.

Whether a DM uses monsters with tons of class levels or uses the stat blocks straight out of the monster manual is generally a matter of taste (and effort) in 3e.
 

aco175

Legend
This is still just boosting the enemies to be level appropriate when the PCs walk through the door, which is one of two things I was trying to avoid.
You could set each boss to level6 or 7 and have the PCs die in the early adventures and cakewalk through the remaining ones for those who survived. Not sue if I would like to play this way since all the threat is up front and gets easier when normally things get harder.

Maybe have some sort of time jumps where the the PCs portal to points in the life of the bad guys where they are a certain strength. Not sure how this would help though.

I like what @J.Quondam is saying with a timeline for each bad guy. This way they advance randomly from the PCs, kind of opposite as my first point. The players run into them and some could be more powerful and some less powerful than the group.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
What I am hoping to figure out how to do is avoid a situation in which the adventures in the campaign are built for APL 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 (for example) which essentially orders them for the players even they ostensibly have the choice to do them in any order.

NOT having a progression is certainly one way to do it. Leveling everything with the PCs is another way. I am having trouble figuring out a third alternative that feels more organic.
After each session roll a dice for each faction/adventure/whatever it is you are calling them. The dice determines the amount of progression for each faction. If the faction did something notable in the session give them a bonus to the roll.

Now develop a coherent narrative around what the factions were doing that progressed their leveling. Maybe some didn’t progress at all or faced setbacks. Etc.

By the way something along these lines is what people mean by faction play.
 


Voadam

Legend
The problem this presents is obvious: if the BBEGs are static, there isn't a "safe" way to let the PCs approach them in whatever order they like. So my solution is that when one of the BBEGs is defeated, the rest increase in power. Since I don't like purely mechanical solutions for RPG problems, I came up with an in-game solution: the BBEGs all stole the power of one even bigger, badder evil guy and when one dies, their potion of the power flows into the others. When there is only one left, that original BBEG takes over that boy and returns to the world.
I think this works fine narratively.

The Chaotic Chromatics overthrew Tiamat and Birthright style stole her power and bound it to the group so each gets a portion.

It is divine so it powers up their champions and minions as well. When the party defeats the first Chromatic the power disperses and flows to the others as they are now getting more of the power since the group is smaller.

I would not worry about the mechanical delta thing, I would just do my CR appropriate stat blocks with descriptive reskin when the party hits whichever adventure. You might think of stuff as Minion fights are APL -X (or easy to medium fights for 5e terms), lieutenants are about party level (hard) and boss fights are APL +X (deadly) to have that climax followed by levelling.

So the party could choose to go Black, Blue, Green, Red, White, or whatever order and the challenges would keep rising as the party continued to winnow down the chromatics. The Black stuff would still be swampy and acid oriented, the White stuff would be cold and winter/arctic themed.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
That's interesting. Where does "faction play" emerge from?
As far as I know it originates from living world sandbox style campaigns. Though sometimes their mechanics are more simulationist - but I think for yours a narrative style mechanic would work best - one where you get the result and narrate in a sensible explanation.
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
After each session roll a dice for each faction/adventure/whatever it is you are calling them. The dice determines the amount of progression for each faction. If the faction did something notable in the session give them a bonus to the roll.

Now develop a coherent narrative around what the factions were doing that progressed their leveling. Maybe some didn’t progress at all or faced setbacks. Etc.

By the way something along these lines is what people mean by faction play.
I don't think you even need to prioritize factions, necessarily. Let's consider that adult red dragon - Vorthinax, She Who Rages Against Death.

Vorthinax is both adept with curse-magic, and suffering a terminal mental illness. The further along that disease progresses (use a catastrophe die, rolled once per in-game month), the more erratic and more powerful she becomes. So as the catastrophe die drops to a d6, she gains resistance to all weapon damage (as barbarian's Rage), and the Unstoppable Rage feature. And then she shows up and wipes out a village, bellowing in Draconic.

As it drops to a d4, she gets an extra attack, and immunity to the charmed and frightened effects, as well as to any effect that would put her to sleep. Additionally, she gains resistance to psychic damage.

Finally, if the catastrophe die hits 0, she gains the traits of an ancient red dragon, along with all the effects she's previously gained, and will attempt to wipe out all life within a 50 mile radius of her lair...starting with any opposing power centers.

The key is that you have to let the PCs know the clock is ticking on all of these - that some of these threats are immediate and deadly and will get much worse if ignored. Light a fire under them that they need to get ahead of things. You can do that with proper rumors and proactivity, but if you don't telegraph any of this information (not the mechanics, but the "This is going to get bad" part), then don't be surprised when your PCs get salty about it when

That's interesting. Where does "faction play" emerge from?
Are you asking where it first appeared? I would argue that comes from OD&D. Or are you asking how you create that organically at the table?
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top