D&D 5E The Challenge Rating Goldilocks Thread- Too Hot, Too Cold, or Just Right?

How do you use Challenge Rating, if at all, to design encounters in 5e?

  • 1. I use CR as written, and I find it helpful.

    Votes: 20 26.7%
  • 2. I use CR as written, and I DO NOT find it helpful.

    Votes: 4 5.3%
  • 3. I modify CR, but continue to use it to plan encounters.

    Votes: 22 29.3%
  • 4. I don't use CR in 5e for reasons, but I'd like a CR system that worked.

    Votes: 16 21.3%
  • 5. I wouldn't use CR if you paid me.

    Votes: 5 6.7%
  • 6. I swear to you gentlemen, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness.

    Votes: 8 10.7%

  • Poll closed .

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No flips for you!
As written.

I use KFC to build encounters using CR. I cheat toward hard/deadly because I have an experienced crew who enjoy the combat game, but that's still within the CR usage guides. I find it useful to get a rough gauge on vase encounter difficulty, which I can then adjust to circumstances like terrain or non-hp-exhaustion win conditions.

However, it bears stating that I also get pretty close to the 6-8 encounter adventuring day recommendation, so that helps.


Don't use it, don't think about it, don't care about it.

But I also won't vote for #5 because if you WERE going to pay me, then sure, I'd use it. ;)


Jewel of the North
I use it as a rough guideline, with the help of KFC. It gives me a ballparck estimation of the type of combat challenge my group is SUPPOSED to have in theory.

But...my group of players suck.

I mean, they are my best friends in the whole world, but damn they are bad at playing D&D. If I described a room with 2 doors and 5 orcs, they would rush to attack the doors and attempt to check for traps and unlock the orcs. Yup, that bad.

So I think that in my particular taste, the inefficiency of CR in general is due to my group inefficiency :p


It's a useful guideline, even though I do ignore the multiplier for number of opponents.

But it's still a guideline and the results need to be tweaked for individual groups and other encounter specific considerations.


I don’t use it. Never have. Been playing since 1981 and rules like that seem too restrictive and often seem to conflict with a true living world

That said, I voted 4, because I write adventures for others, and I use the CR system for those because I understand other people have that expectation.


I guess I'm between option 1 and 3. CR, as others have said, is really just a rough guide line. If viewed as such, it can be helpful, but is not the end all be all of planning encounters. A few points:

  • The lower the CR, the more accurate I find it to be. This is not surprising, as the levels rise the variance in options, experience of the players and other things makes the power of a party range wider.
  • Each party and campaign is different in some way and will interact with the CR system slightly differently.
  • The frustrating thing is when the CR system is not internally consistant with itself, as there are a few that are really not set right compared to other monsters in the same CR, though I can't think of examples off hand.

Big J Money

This being my first D&D adventure, I'm using the reported CR values to help me get my bearings on the impact of base stats (HP, AC, Hit, Damage) on their own and with the addition of special abilities.

The main tweaks I will probably make to the formula is to include some encounters at much higher than recommended CRs. These encounters are not meant to turn into combat, but rather to remind the PCs that they are in a wondrous, mysterious and living world that does not always make a nice and neat path for them to achieve their goals, and that violence is just as often not a good solution and they should pick their battles wisely.

I also may use CRs far below their level occasionally to remind them how they've grown in expertise. I don't expect these to result in slaughters, but more likely in their would-be foes surrendering or fleeing.

It's nice that CRs exist to help me tweak in this way even if I'm not going to follow guidelines to the letter.


Ran an encounter with an oni (ogre mage) this weekend. Even with a half dozen support ghouls and ghasts, he was stomped before the end of his second turn. This was a five member 5th level party. A previous encounter with a single bullette tested the party to the max, and a fight with a group of 6 orc archers on the other side of a pit of 3 gelatinous cubes was a good challenge.
The difference was all in the terrain of the combat. The oni did enter combat invisible, but he quickly got surrounded. The party did so much damage so quickly (170+ points in one round), that it didn't matter if it had regeneration, spell-like abilities, or what.
So it was anti-climactic for me, but the players had fun stomping the BBEG of the campaign arc.


So it was anti-climactic for me, but the players had fun stomping the BBEG of the campaign arc.

Then it was a successful encounter. I've had encounters that were rated as medium that were practically TPKs and encounters that were hard/borderline deadly that were cake walks.

That doesn't mean the CR system doesn't work as well as any can, it just means that tactics, environment and luck can play a huge role.


I think CR is good if you keep in mind what the descriptors of the challenge levels mean.

Easy, Medium, Hard, and Deadly all have descriptions in the book. Those are necessary to know for CR to be useful.

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