PF Pathfinder: Encounter Design Simplified

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Step One: Determine the Encounter Budget

For each PC in the party, look up his level, and add the indicated amount of XP to the encounter budget.

Example: Party of four 1st level PCs each add +100 to the budget; total budget = 400 XP.

Code:
Level	XP Budget (per PC)
1	100
2	150
3	200
4	300
5	400
6	600
7	800
8	1200
9	1600
10	2400
11	3200
12	4800
13	6400
14	9600
15	12800
16	19200
17	25600
18	38400
19	51200
20	76800
Step Two: Determine Desired Difficulty

Multiply the total XP budget by the following multipliers:

Easy: x2/3 (-1 EL)
Average: x1
Challenging: x1.5 (+1 EL)
Hard: x2 (+2 EL)
Epic: x3 (+3 EL)

Example: Initial budget 400, challenging encounter x1.5, final budget = 600.

Step Three: Purchase Creatures from the Budget

Using the Creature XP values provided by Pathfinder, "purchase" creatures out of your encounter budget.

Code:
CR	XP
  1/10	40
  1/8 	50
  1/6 	65
  1/4 	100
  1/3 	135
  1/2 	200
1	400
2	600
3	800
4	1200
5	1600
6	2400
7	3200
8	4800
9	6400
10	9600
11	12800
12	19200
13	25600
14	38400
15	51200
16	76800
17	102400
18	153600
19	204800
20	307200
21	409600
22	614400
23	819200
24	1228800
25	1638400
NOTE 1: If you have to purchase more than 10 of any creature, it's probably not going to add much to the challenge of the encounter.

NOTE 2: Buy the most expensive creatures first. When you are done, if you have points left over, you can either toss them aside, or you can "overspend" just enough to buy one creature of the closest available amount.


Pathfinder Examples
These examples are taken directly from the Alpha 2 document.

Let’s say you want your group of four 5th-level characters to fight a group of ogres (CR 3).
Four 5th level characters each add 400 XP to the budget, for a total of 1600 XP.

An average fight (x1 budget multiplier, 1600 budget) is 2 ogres (CR3=800 each).

A challenging fight (x1.5 budget multiplier, 2400 budget) is 3 ogres.

A hard fight (x2 budget multiplier, 3200 budget) is 4 ogres.

An epic fight (x3 budget multiplier, 4800 budget) is 6 ogres.

Let’s say you want your group of six 8th-level PCs to face off against a group of gargoyles (CR 4) and their stone giant boss (CR 8). This is to be a challenging fight.
Six 8th level PCs is a base budget of 6 x 1200XP, or 7200 XP.

It's to be a challenging fight, x1.5, final budget = 10800 XP.

Stone Giant (CR8) costs us 4800 XP, leaving 6000 XP to spend on gargoyles.

Gargoyles cost 1200 XP each; 6000/1200 = five gargoyles.
 
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TheAuldGrump

Visitor
I like that! Seems like a simple, consistent system. I think I will steal it right now.

The Auld Grump, tired enough that he thought yelling 'Look it's a monkey!' and grabbing the system would be funny....
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Wicht said:
That is pretty good work.

Did you post this over on Paizo?

No, I emailed it directly to Jason Buhlman a couple of days ago.

However, I did not hear back from him, presumably because (if I may paraphrase him from his blog) he is trying to get the next alpha out and he has literally thousands of emails and forum posts to comb through.

At the time I also suggested a couple of other things to Jason that I did not include in my initial post here, chief of which is changing the "base" XP from 400 to 240.

  • 240 is evenly divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10. It makes it easy to calculate the XP values of creatures less than CR1 without any rounding off.
  • It's also easier to divide that XP award equally among a greater number of typical party sizes (obviously missing only 7 and 9). (If you have 11 or more PCs in your party, you need to share some players around, you greedy prick.)
  • If you use 240 as the baseline XP, and following Pathfinder's advancement assumptions of 20 average encounters or 13.33 challenging encounters, then the Character Advancement table looks like this (the 3rd column is rounded to the nearest 500 xp):

    Code:
    Level	XP req.		(rounded)
    1	0		0
    2	1,200		1,000
    3	3,000		3,000
    4	5,400		5,500
    5	9,000		9,000
    6	13,800		14,000
    7	21,000		21,000
    8	30,600		30,500
    9	45,000		45,000
    10	64,200		64,000
    11	93,000		93,000
    12	131,400		131,500
    13	189,000		189,000
    14	265,800		266,000
    15	381,000		381,000
    16	534,600		534,500
    17	765,000		765,000
    18	1,072,200	1,072,000
    19	1,533,000	1,533,000
    20	2,147,400	2,147,500
    If you change the base value from 400 to 240, the other tables change as well, obviously, but the format is the same.

Anyhow, I posted this here for comment, and in the hopes it might raise the profile a bit.

Obviously I have a vested interest in making sure that the things I am working on are as compatible with Pathfinder as possible. ;)
 

Elodan

Explorer
This is exactly the sort of stuff I want to see in Pathfinder. Keeping the basics of 3E but giving us ways to do things quicker and easier.

Awesome job Wulf! Yoinked.
 

Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
I am getting ready to plat test the alpha release with some friends here really soon. This is going to be a great help!

thanks!
 
This is seriously one of the smartest moves (mathematically) I've seen in a long time and including it in Pathfinder SHOULD be an epic win. Paizo gets an easy to design encounter "generator" that is easily the equal of 4E. Just goes to show that a little innovative thinking allows us to retain 3.5 and still minimize time for character generation and DM prep time.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Angellis_ater said:
This is seriously one of the smartest moves (mathematically) I've seen in a long time and including it in Pathfinder SHOULD be an epic win. Paizo gets an easy to design encounter "generator" that is easily the equal of 4E. Just goes to show that a little innovative thinking allows us to retain 3.5 and still minimize time for character generation and DM prep time.
"This is seriously one of the smartest moves I've seen in a long time. Just goes to show that a little innovative thinking allows us to retain 3.5 and still minimize time for character generation and DM prep time."

"An epic win."

-- early feedback for Trailblazer

:D
 

James Jacobs

Explorer
Yeah! Great stuff, Wulf!!!

Jason HAS been looking this over, but he's scrambling to get Alpha 3 ready for release so if he hasn't gotten back to you yet... that is indeed the reason why.

It's a great example of why an open playtest of rules is a good thing. I really like how simple the system is to understand on the first read through, in particular.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
James Jacobs said:
Yeah! Great stuff, Wulf!!!

Jason HAS been looking this over, but he's scrambling to get Alpha 3 ready for release so if he hasn't gotten back to you yet... that is indeed the reason why.

It's a great example of why an open playtest of rules is a good thing. I really like how simple the system is to understand on the first read through, in particular.
Excellent! Very happy (relieved, actually) to hear it.

Maybe next we can talk about why an open compatibility logo is also a good thing! :D



(P.S. Go with 240.)
 

Erik Mona

Visitor
Jason and I had a meeting about this system on Friday. It is very impressive on about three different levels, and I commend you for it.
 
I took your numbers and put them into Excel, made a chart and used an exponential fit, then equated the XP to Level and the XP to CR fits to see what CR would be a good solo challenge for a player (and since I'm not wanting to do any vb fu, I will just write it out the old fashioned way):

1 = 1/3
2 = 1/2
3 = 1
4 = 2
5 = 3
6 = 4
7 = 4
8 = 5
9 = 6
10 = 7
11 = 8
12 = 9
13 = 10
14 = 11
15 = 12
16 = 13
17 = 13
18 = 14
19 = 15
20 = 16

I'm hiding a lot of math, but it seems that by your method that a party of 4 13th level characters would be challenged by 4 10 HD creatures. Does that seem to work out?
 
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ruemere

Explorer
Wulf Ratbane said:
Step One: Determine the Encounter Budget
[...]
Step Two: Determine Desired Difficulty
[...]
Step Three: Purchase Creatures from the Budget
[...]
(warning: very imho)

It's nifty, but is that really simple?
With CRs you had to simply use one (or two) digit numbers to find out appropriate (I know, I know - CRs don't work...) encounter mobs. And now you have to spent points going into 3-4 digits to perform operation similar to building a war band or army in a strategic game.

Is it really better than CR?
CRs caused problem because there was no real way to calculate them reliably apart from playtesting. They were also subject to unforeseen interactions (apropriately matched monsters were more effective than their CRs would indicate, and vice versa). However, the same goes true for xp method... xp cost of a monster does not really indicate monster weakness and strengths.

What about support for monsters from other third party publications?
If you don't know monster's associated xp, how are you to fit the monster into encounter design process?

Summarizing:
- nice, but complicated,
- does not seem to improve over CR method,
- does not support monsters from other OGL products.

Suggestions:
- tie the system to CRs instead of abstract xp numbers.
- introduce properties reflecting monsters weaknesses and strengths (Girallon entry could look similar to this: CR 6, strengths: melee, weakness: ranged, will save).
- introduce standard encounter packages by EL/CR (EL8/CR6,CR6/strong melee, weak ranged, weak will save - example: 2 Girallons)
- introduce improved CR calculation method (based rather on canonical class similarities than actual stats, for example: Girallon CR6 should prove to be an equal match of Canonical Melee Fighter 6).

Advantages:
- improved support of other 3rd party publishers,
- ease of adjudicating monsters needed for encounter,
- faster encounter assembly (any CR6 strong melee, weak ranged, weak will mob would do fine in place of missing Girallon),
- CR6 monsters would finally be comparable to classed characters.

Regards,
Ruemere

PS. Edit: errors, loads of them.
 
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Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Achan hiArusa said:
I took your numbers and put them into Excel, made a chart and used an exponential fit, then equated the XP to Level and the XP to CR fits to see what CR would be a good solo challenge for a player (and since I'm not wanting to do any vb fu, I will just write it out the old fashioned way):

I'm hiding a lot of math, but it seems that by your method that a party of 4 13th level characters would be challenged by 4 10 HD creatures. That that seem to work out?
Let me be up front about something first: The system replicates Jason's arcane and fuzzy multi-chart method. ;)

Only easier. I have my own doubts about the CR/EL system in general but have not touched on that at all.

To answer your question:

Two CR 10s = EL12
Four CR 10s = EL14

My method isn't doing anything you couldn't already do in your head with homogenous groups, it just lets you do it much easier with mixed groups, with non-standard party sizes (3, 5, 6, etc.) and with parties comprised of PCs of varying levels.

(In fact it's safe to say most folks could do a homogenous group for a typical 4-man party in their head much faster than they could do it with the Encounter Budget. You don't need this system for that.)
 
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