D&D 5E Who wrote these CRs?


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JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
Just finished running an adventure in which the PCs (5 7th level characters) fought Yetis, Githyanki, Grimlocks, Quaggoths, and Mind Flayers.

The yetis were a speedbump.
The grimlocks absorbed attacks and did no significant damage in return (as expected).
The Mind Flayers were super disappointing. 3XMind Blasts for no effect but killing an NPC.

The Quaggoths and Githyanki....rocked the PCs world. 6 of the lower level Githyanki managed the impossible task of making the party surrender. The Quaggoths were fireballed which ended up with all of them being ENRAGED and wrecking the party in just a couple turns.

My observation from this adventure, and the adventures before it, is that monsters that deal lots of simple straight up HP damage are much closer to what you expect from their CR than those with defenses or wacky abilities.

Now back to planning tonights adventure....how many vampire spawn do I include in a battle with a vampire, a mage, and infinite skeletons to make a battle "challenging" versus my 7th level adventurers.

Not. A. Clue.
 

What's the CR of that?

Per DMG guidelines, +4 to AC is +1 CR, and the dragon's other abilities like Darkness and Invisibility are mostly "free" from a CR perspective, so call it +2 total CR for the possibility of Quickened Fireball and Shield. So, CR 19ish. I was posting in reaction to "Yea I've basically come to the conclusion that any one monster thrown at a party of 5 players is going to die" so I didn't bother to downgrade the monster to CR 15, especially because I didn't know at first what level your PCs were at. That Red Dragon is a mildly downgraded version of one of the minor "villains" (of a sort) of my home campaign, who is level 9 instead of level 5. He scares the pants off the PCs and they are currently scrambling for thousands of gold pieces to meet his demand for "this much gold" (expansive gesture) "by tomorrow," although dragons IMG are both innumerate and have trouble with time, so every day I roll a d20 in front of the players to see if the dragon realizes it's now "tomorrow", time for them to pay up.

In fairness, it is kind of the PCs' own fault for volunteering to find him treasure--all he did was accept their offer.


A Young Red Dragon with Dragon Sorcerer 5 (CR 12ish) will mess them up in almost identical fashion. That's well within your original "5 fifth level PCs vs. 1 CR 15" parameters.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think most people have said that CR works reasonably well for the first few levels, and completely breaks down around level 5 or so (or level 7, or some unspecified higher level).

The culprit of that is player and party optimaztion variance.

CR is rated to the lowest sensible form of character and party optimization.

At low levels, PC build options and tactics are limited. But by level 9 or so, PCs can vary A LOT and the tactics can build off this variance.

There's NO way around this outside of the MMORPG method of having the designers choose what you can do and level out all choices to the point that choices only adjus you by 25% up or down.
 


This is completely untrue. CR is meaningless, it's why this whole thread exists in the first place! If it was working as intended there wouldn't be 11 pages of people describing how their parties can destroy monsters at much higher levels.


CR means:

"Your party can handle these monsters at that level and probably won't get obliterated"


That's all it means if you ask me. It says nothing about offering a hefty challenge, or a good fight (depending on how you interpret the meaning of "worthy challenge" or "fair challenge" ). In my view, all it says is "The party will probably not die when faced with this foe". And that's extremely useful information. It means that if the party is level 12, the DM can pretty much ignore all of the monsters that are lower than CR 12 in the Monster Manual, when building his/her encounters. So as the players increase in level, the selection of monsters to choose from decreases. In other words, CR's become MORE useful the higher the level of your players. Because there are less monsters to choose from.

Also, another argumentum ad populum. Arguments of popularity are bad, because they don't add any meaningful arguments to the discussion. It's the equivalent of saying "Lots of people agree with me, and that's my argument".

That's not it. The CR section says nothing about only requiring the spending of some resources. What it says is this. A CR 3 creature should be a "worthy challenge" to 4 level 3 PCs, but not kill a PC. A cake walk is not a worthy challenge, and people here are describing fights against CRs much higher than the party level as cake walks. That makes CR broken. It doesn't function like it is supposed to.

And this is where it gets tricky, and where I wish the 5th edition wording was a little less vague. The DMG also uses the term "fair challenge", which can be be interpreted in various ways. And we certainly split a lot of hairs about that phrasing in a very long discussion over on the WotC forums. Does it mean fair, as in "reasonable", or fair as in "not unfair"?

A CR 3 creature may be a reasonable challenge to a group of three level 3 players, or it might be a cake walk when its a group of four or five players. Obviously the number of players, their equipment, and their class, has a dramatic effect on how hard an encounter is. And a CR can't possibly reflect that completely. What it can however indicate, is if under any of those combinations, the battle is likely to result in deaths. What if the group is made of only two players? What if they roll really badly on their saves? What if they accidentally get split up? According to the CR, that monster should still be reasonable under those conditions. I don't think that's useless information, and I don't think that's broken.
 
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That's all it means if you ask me. It says nothing about offering a hefty challenge, or a good fight (depending on how you interpret the meaning of "worthy challenge" or "fair challenge" ). In my view, all it says is "The party will probably not die when faced with this foe". And that's extremely useful information. It means that if the party is level 12, the DM can pretty much ignore all of the monsters that are lower than CR 12 in the Monster Manual, when building his/her encounters. So as the players increase in level, the selection of monsters to choose from decreases. In other words, CR's become MORE useful the higher the level of your players. Because there are less monsters to choose from.

Tangent, but monsters going obsolete is contrary to the design goals of 5E. In fact, that's one of the reasons they invented Bounded Accuracy in the first place, so you can use CR 1 monsters with 20th level PCs and CR 20 monsters with level 3 PCs.

http://archive.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120604

RodneyThompson said:
The DM's monster roster expands, never contracts. Although low-level characters probably don't stack up well against higher-level monsters, thanks to the high hit points and high damage numbers of those monsters, as the characters gain levels, the lower-level monsters continue to be useful to the DM, just in greater numbers. While we might fight only four goblins at a time at 1st level, we might take on twelve of them at 5th level without breaking a sweat. Since the monsters don't lose the ability to hit the player characters—instead they take out a smaller percentage chunk of the characters' hit points—the DM can continue to increase the number of monsters instead of needing to design or find whole new monsters. Thus, the repertoire of monsters available for DMs to use in an adventure only increases over time, as new monsters become acceptable challenges and old monsters simply need to have their quantity increased.

It opens up new possibilities of encounter and adventure design. A 1st-level character might not fight the black dragon plaguing the town in a face-to-face fight and expect to survive. But if they rally the town to their side, outfit the guards with bows and arrows, and whittle the dragon down with dozens of attacks instead of only four or five, the possibilities grow. With the bounded accuracy system, lower-level creatures banding together can erode a higher-level creature's hit points, which cuts both ways; now, fights involving hordes of orcs against the higher-level party can be threatening using only the basic orc stat block, and the city militia can still battle against the fire giants rampaging at the gates without having to inflate the statistics of the city guards to make that possible.

I've used both these approaches in my game. At third level, my players fought a battle that would have been Deadly for 20th level PCs, but because I gave them lead time ("the neogis will return at the next new moon") they had time to request backup from the king (fifteen archers and a handful of swordsmen), to prepare the terrain, and to lay some beartraps, caltrops, and rolling boulder Indiana Jones-style traps, and they caught the neogi in a bad disposition, ignored the umber hulks in favor of killing the master neogis, and in fact triumphed in a situation that I frankly expected to kill them. It was great.

In 5E, you don't have to restrict level X PCs to encountering only level X threats.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I slightly disagree. I think that the variance is (as noted by a poster in the other thread) that 5e borrows from older editions. 4e, for example, was more mathematically precise.

This means that there is more consistency not just in terms of parties to monsters, but in terms of monsters to each other. 5e doesn't quite have that consistency. It has some of the 4e precision, but not enough. Whether that's good or bad depends on your beliefs.

Personally, I don't mind, because I'm more old school. I don't need CR precision. But I understand that it is frustrating for people that prefer it.

And I disagree as 5e doesn't not borrow from 4e for its CR.

Quite the opposite. 5e only goes on killing abilty. A CR 1 can't average over 10 damage in a turn. CR 2 is 15. CR 3 is 20.

The issue is the group with synergistic PCs and smart players Ade gauged with the one with the rock gnome fighter with linguist, half orc wizard, and dwarf medium armor rogue/cleric.

The problem is people using definitions and assumptions from older editions. I can't blame people for it but it's wrong.
 


...in 5e it's debatably the worst system to figure out CRs of a monster. Have you LOOKED at that table that shows you how to calculate CR? It's a nightmare! It's like... they tried to mathematically explain "winging it".

Teach a GOOD GM how to run a game, not how to regurgitate meaningless numbers in a certain situation.

I assume you're referring to the monster special abilities table and not to the AC/HP/Damage "Quick Create" table, right? The Quick Create table isn't egregiously bad, in the sense that if you created monsters using that table and gave them all ranged attacks, your players would probably find the resulting encounters more challenging than fights with MM meatsacks (as opposed to the MM non-meatsacks like Intellect Devourers and drow). However, the rest of the system including the special abilities table is totally insane. Teleport has zero effect on CR? Avoidance is like +1 to AC? I guarantee you that if I run four 7th level PCs through two "Medium" encounters, one with 14 bog-standard orcs and one with 14 teleporting orcs with only AC 12 but with Avoidance, they will notice that the second encounter is noticeably harder. In fact, technically I can give the magic orcs 25 HP and a Legendary Resistance without moving them out of their CR 1/2 bracket (which brings us back to the Quick Create table, which is quite bad in some places but not egregiously bad overall).

The CR construction rules are whacked, best used for calculating kill XP and nothing much else. Don't expect CR to equate to deadliness in the general case.
 

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