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How to build encounters


Advice

Osirion

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hey All,

My question is simple: how should I go about building encounters for a party of six level 2 characters using the high-fantasy build? any suggestions as to which foes I should use? So far I have created two antagonist for them to battle: a level 4 anti-paladin, and a level 3 cleric (chaos/ weather domain). I'm hoping that these two will become recurring enemies. Thanks in advance for your responses.

DK


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I will give you something that will make you a happy camper. Its something I made for myself.

Linky Linky

The easiest way to build an encounter is simply to know how much experience each player is expected to contribute to an encounter. Finding this out is relatively simple. CR, or Challenge Rating, is the base measurement on how powerful an encounter is; CR typically stands for what the average level of a party of four adventurers should be in order for the encounter to be of average difficulty. (An average encounter should siphon 25% of the party's depletable resources. Depletable resources can be anything you can damage or spend, from spell slots and ability uses to hit points and ability scores.)

Every CR has a set amount of experience it awards to a player; this can be found on a table in the GameMastery chapter of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook or you can look up a monster of an appropriate CR in one of the Bestiaries. What you then do is take the amount of XP earned from that encounter and divide it by 4; the reason you do this is that standard CR is calculated assuming that your party is a 4th level party. The resulting value is how much experience a single player is expected to contribute to that encounter and that is the value shown in every box of the table I sent you; how much XP a player of a given level should contribute to an encounter, ranging from Easy encounters (APL -1) all the way up to what I penned as 'Legendary' encounters (APL +5).

Once you have the value of XP for a single character of a given CR, all you need to do is multiply that value by the number of players you have and that is how much XP you have to "buy" monsters with. Here's an example.

I'm running an APL 3rd level party with six PCs in it. I want to throw a CR 6 encounter at them (which is APL +3). So I crack open my Bestiary and find out that a CR 6 encounter is worth 2,400 XP to 4 players, so I take 2,400 (the amount of XP earned) and divide it by 4, getting 600 XP. This informs me that in a CR 6 encounter, each player is expected to be able to handle 600 XP's worth of the challenge. So in order to find the value for a party of 6 players, I multiply 600 XP (the amount of experience earned by 1 PC in a CR 6 encounter) by 6 (the number of players I want to be participating in the encounter); this gives me a total of 3,600 XP. So now I go through my book and look at the XP values of various critters and build my CR 6 encounter while spending 3600 XP on various monsters.

Some notes:

DO NOT use the 'Mythic' or 'Legendary' categories without fully knowing what you are doing; they are only there to show the patterns that evolve when you go through this system. In theory, a Mythic encounter will drain 100% of your party's resources (or fairly close) and a Legendary encounter should drain 125%, very well killing all but the most experienced players. After all, we're talking about a CR 3 group going up against a CR 8 encounter here.

When building a five man band or higher, it is not advised to spend all of your experience in a single critter; your high-level monster is inevitably going to gain powers that you cannot deal with at the given level, like damage reduction / good before magical weapons are available or higher-then-can-be-reasonably-defended-against saving throws.

In encounter building, especially when you have a LOT of players, you typically want to put LOTS of enemies in your party, simply because the players will have to split up their actions to deal with the threats. Five+ players focusing all their actions against a single creature is hard to deal with, even when properly balanced.

Hope this helps!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I agree with everything above. I myself am a DM dealing with a six man party. Your six 2nd levelers are average party level 3. Therefore by the numbers a level 5 wizard is a reasonable boss for them (CR 4). However, a 5d6 fireball could one-hit-kill a whole party of level 2 adventurers. Anyone who fails their reflex save and doesn't have a d10 or d12 hit-dice is in serious trouble. Meanwhile, that wizard could easily be invisible and have an AC in the low 20s. Just too fierce for 2nd level PCs.

Think of it like age differences. A 38-year-old dating a 33-year-old is not that big a deal, but a 17-year-old dating a 12-year old is just gross. This problem goes away (somewhat) at higher levels, but it is huge for a low-level party.

Also, it depends on how well (cheesily) the PCs are built. If your party consists of a mid INT mid CHA fighter who is set to take leadership, a low CON melee rogue who swoons after two hits, a wizard who runs from combat after he uses up his spells, and an overconfident strength domain cleric, then regular CRs apply.

However, if they're a Lore Warden pole arm tripper, an Invulnerable Rager with 18 STR and 20 CON, a crossblooded Orc/Draconic blaster, and a Zen Archer... let's just say you'll be surprised at what they can handle.

Osirion

The Mighty Khan wrote:

I agree with everything above. I myself am a DM dealing with a six man party. Your six 2nd levelers are average party level 3. Therefore by the numbers a level 5 wizard is a reasonable boss for them (CR 4). However, a 5d6 fireball could one-hit-kill a whole party of level 2 adventurers. Anyone who fails their reflex save and doesn't have a d10 or d12 hit-dice is in serious trouble. Meanwhile, that wizard could easily be invisible and have an AC in the low 20s. Just too fierce for 2nd level PCs.

Think of it like age differences. A 38-year-old dating a 33-year-old is not that big a deal, but a 17-year-old dating a 12-year old is just gross. This problem goes away (somewhat) at higher levels, but it is huge for a low-level party.

Also, it depends on how well (cheesily) the PCs are built. If your party consists of a mid INT mid CHA fighter who is set to take leadership, a low CON melee rogue who swoons after two hits, a wizard who runs from combat after he uses up his spells, and an overconfident strength domain cleric, then regular CRs apply.

However, if they're a Lore Warden pole arm tripper, an Invulnerable Rager with 18 STR and 20 CON, a crossblooded Orc/Draconic blaster, and a Zen Archer... let's just say you'll be surprised at what they can handle.

I appreciate both responses, thank you. My gameplan is to have the 3rd level cleric and some goblin minions (something I picked up from 4e) in the initial fight. I figure this would be fairly challenging but not too difficult to overcome. Then depending on the outcome, I'd have the anti-paladin come in and take over. I'm not looking to kill the party, but as I posted earlier, I want to have recurring villians that they learn to hate! I gave the PCs max hitpoints for 2nd level and will give them each a +1 magic item fitting for their character class. Do you think this would be too much?


For the most part I agree with what people are saying, but I think a group of 6 players is slightly more than the traditional APL+1 math. The game doesn't account for it perfectly. Also I think that focusing on making recurring villains can frustrate your PCs. Especially if it feels like it is forced. I always try and think of what my villains motivation is and then determine if he will fight to the death, if they won't then I make an escape plan that makes sense for the villain. If your players kill these bad guys, no big deal. Most of your villains will die, and the few that don't become better villains as a result. I actually just started a blog on the campaign I am currently running and talk about that a little bit

Osirion

Ubercroz wrote:
For the most part I agree with what people are saying, but I think a group of 6 players is slightly more than the traditional APL+1 math. The game doesn't account for it perfectly. Also I think that focusing on making recurring villains can frustrate your PCs. Especially if it feels like it is forced. I always try and think of what my villains motivation is and then determine if he will fight to the death, if they won't then I make an escape plan that makes sense for the villain. If your players kill these bad guys, no big deal. Most of your villains will die, and the few that don't become better villains as a result. I actually just started a blog on the campaign I am currently running and talk about that a little bit

I most definitely will not force the villains to be recurring if the PCs manage to kill them. My question really goes back to how should I build an encounter for six 2nd level PCS, since the math doesn't seem to fit exactly. It seems like I'm not going to be able to know for sure until the encounter is played out in game, which too is fine with me. Thanks for responding.


I run a game with 6 players and really you can figure almost 2apl higher. But whe. You do that it can't be 1 monster.

So in this case let's say you have 6 players, all level 2 so APL 4 (the way I do it). If you were to have them fight a single epic monster CR7 they will lose, that monster will have resistance or DR they can't overcome at that level. So you have to make the fights more lower CR mobs to get it right. Really it's more art than science. I will often just take lower cahallenge mobs and do nothing except give them more hp, same damage same AC, just more hp. Makes it so the party can't instakill my bad guy and keeps the fights dynamic. If all else fails cheat and keep the monster a live a little extra or kill him with an earlier blow if it's clearly too hard for the party. It's about having fun so as long as people have a good time it's no big deal.

Sczarni

With high fantasy and 6 players it is probably APL+2.

The only real advice I can give (everyone else did a great job already) is remember to account for action equality. If you have 6 players at level 2 you may be tempted to put them against 1 higher level Wizard. The truth is your party gets 6 actions a turn and the wizard gets 1. That alone will nerf your encounter. Even if you have to set up 10 kobolds I'd do that because they aren't there to kill but really annoy and take up actions. Never do a 6v1 battle...make sure you set up some extra enemies even if they are just fodder.


I often run big groups, I've run a party as large as 9 before, and my current group is 6-8 depending on who shows. I have to disagree though on the APL being 2 higher for 6 players, its more than +1, but its not +2 IMHO. Since this messes up the math somewhat I try to make my encounters have CR balance as normal, but make the enemies synergy better, or have superior preparation. Its a way to crank the difficulty without toying too much with the encounter math.

Also since I'm currently running a home-brew kingmaker style campaign (like 1-2 encounters at most a day), I've made the average encounter to be APL+2 anyways (each battle is tough, but winnable barring luck/poor decisions).

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think this section of the CRB will help for reference too: Gamemastering.

I would like to expand on the good advice already offered. The way Pathfinder looks at encounter creation is that you (the GM) are given a budget and from that budget, you add opponents until that budget has been met. You could fill it by having one big guy or have multiple baddies. I think the Pathfinder philosophy (one that has been mentioned a few times already) is to have multiple opponents rather than just one.

Also, just because your party composition may allow for a CR 5 encounter, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should put in a CR 5 creature (especially at lower levels, as one poster already mentioned - fireball into a low level party).

Osirion

HangarFlying wrote:

I think this section of the CRB will help for reference too: Gamemastering.

I would like to expand on the good advice already offered. The way Pathfinder looks at encounter creation is that you (the GM) are given a budget and from that budget, you add opponents until that budget has been met. You could fill it by having one big guy or have multiple baddies. I think the Pathfinder philosophy (one that has been mentioned a few times already) is to have multiple opponents rather than just one.

Also, just because your party composition may allow for a CR 5 encounter, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should put in a CR 5 creature (especially at lower levels, as one poster already mentioned - fireball into a low level party).

Hey, thanks everyone! So far I've decided to have the 4th level paladin and the 3rd level cleric, plus about 4-6 goblins for cannon fodder. But I'm thinking of switching out the paladin for a 3rd level wizard (story reasons). The battle should be intense but doable since we are starting out at level 2 with max hitpoints, plus I plan to give each PC a +1 magic item. Think this would work?


Knight Druid wrote:
HangarFlying wrote:

I think this section of the CRB will help for reference too: Gamemastering.

I would like to expand on the good advice already offered. The way Pathfinder looks at encounter creation is that you (the GM) are given a budget and from that budget, you add opponents until that budget has been met. You could fill it by having one big guy or have multiple baddies. I think the Pathfinder philosophy (one that has been mentioned a few times already) is to have multiple opponents rather than just one.

Also, just because your party composition may allow for a CR 5 encounter, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should put in a CR 5 creature (especially at lower levels, as one poster already mentioned - fireball into a low level party).

Hey, thanks everyone! So far I've decided to have the 4th level paladin and the 3rd level cleric, plus about 4-6 goblins for cannon fodder. But I'm thinking of switching out the paladin for a 3rd level wizard (story reasons). The battle should be intense but doable since we are starting out at level 2 with max hitpoints, plus I plan to give each PC a +1 magic item. Think this would work?

I think you should consider having a few extra goblins nearby to have them come to the aid of their "masters" just incase the fight is going way too easy for your plans. As an aside when you pick your gear/ weapons/ magic for the villans/ goblins make sure they use some of it on the party and set how many charges will be left for teh party to win.


I think a good method for designing a major encounter (its too complicated for every encounter) is to do it in 3 parts, or acts. This lets you have a lot of flexibility with the fight. So act 1: cleric and a handful of goblins, act 2: wizard pops up with goblin back up on a ledge, act 3: a trap is activated that starts dropping rocks at random points from the ceiling. With this method you get a cool memorable fight, and several chances to modify how hard it is. If that didn't make sense I will see if I can say it more clearly.

Osirion

Ubercroz wrote:
I think a good method for designing a major encounter (its too complicated for every encounter) is to do it in 3 parts, or acts. This lets you have a lot of flexibility with the fight. So act 1: cleric and a handful of goblins, act 2: wizard pops up with goblin back up on a ledge, act 3: a trap is activated that starts dropping rocks at random points from the ceiling. With this method you get a cool memorable fight, and several chances to modify how hard it is. If that didn't make sense I will see if I can say it more clearly.

Hey that's a great idea! The fight will take place in the ruins of Old Absalom, which sits just under the Coins district. My plan is to have the PCs escape after their home is destroyed by the paladin and his minions. Then they'll have to make their way through Old Absalom by way of torchlight. After surviving several hazards and perhaps an monster encounter, the party will find themselves at the exits of on old sewer tube that looks over the harbor. The major fight for this story-arc which introduces the villains will take place on one of the abandoned boats. I'm hoping this is enough to keep the adventure and the fight memorable.

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