How many monsters is too many?


Advice


Just need a bit of advice please.

A group of 5 PCs all 1st level, come across an "Epic encounter".

This could be:
1 CR 4 monster OR
2 CR 2 monsters OR
3 CR 1 monster OR
6 CR 1/2 monsters OR
12 CR 1/4 monsters OR
24 CR 1/8 monsters etc...

Obviously, more monsters means more chances for them to kill the PCs.

What is a good maximum number of monsters to use for one encounter?


Just my opinion but here are my two thoughts.

1. If you have too many easy monsters it feels like a chore with no real danger...kill, kill, kill...how many are left.

2. IF you have 1 really difficult monster it can feel hopeless or perhaps the PC's get lucky but then don't feel like they earned it.

I like the middle ground of 2-6 creatures or 1 tough and several easy.

Save the lots of easy mosters to make the PC's feel heroic some other time. It is nice to feel awesome, but not for the BBG or Epic encounter.


i have trouble keepin track of more than 8 or so monsters, so unless its a special occasion, i usually have that as a soft cap. Having a horde of extremely weak monsters isn't usually too deadly, as the damage ability of most low CR baddies wont keep up with PC defences. But there are exeptions, like shadows. Shadows stay dangerous for a long time.


There's a couple of reasons to keep the numbers of monsters down.

Firstly, balance: massive numbers of low-grade monsters might be completely ineffective against the PCs no matter how many there are, or they might have some way of inflicting small amounts of damage reliably, which in sufficient quantities becomes unstoppably lethal.

The other issue is pace. If the players have to wait for 24 monsters to move, then they get to act, kill a couple of monsters, wait for the remaining 22 to move... it could really drag out.

If you want a large battle, how about 8 CR 1/4 monsters and 1 CR 1 boss monster?


I tend to match the pcs on hit dice to class levels (or slightly out gun them if they can take out a number magically), I then look at magical ability (most fights give the pcs the edge here as they are the 'attackers'), then I look at the environment (giving the monsters the edge as the 'defenders') and lastly I look at any magic item implications (especially consumables like potions and wands) - have the monsters actively use their treasure if it affords them an advantage.

Works for me.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I find it depends to a degree on the complexity of the monster and encounter, and the variety of foes.

Generally, it's easier to get away with more creatures if they all have the same stats (e.g., eight goblin 1st level warriors) as opposed to different stats (e.g., eight goblins, each with a unique name, class level, equipment and tactics).

Individual monster complexity is also a factor. An encounter where a monster has lots of options generally favors fewer creatures if you want to keep the game from getting bogged down.

In general, however, you are best I think keeping the creature numbers down to eight or less. If you want to run an encounter with more creatures, bring in the additional beasties as reinforcements or in waves, to supplement fallen foes.


Quench wrote:

Just need a bit of advice please.

A group of 5 PCs all 1st level, come across an "Epic encounter".

This could be:
1 CR 4 monster OR
2 CR 2 monsters OR
3 CR 1 monster OR
6 CR 1/2 monsters OR
12 CR 1/4 monsters OR
24 CR 1/8 monsters etc...

Obviously, more monsters means more chances for them to kill the PCs.

What is a good maximum number of monsters to use for one encounter?

That depends on you, your party, and your players.

More foes = more bookkeeping = slower turns. If you are good at bookkeeping, you can handle more foes.
Less foes = tougher encounter = players may get frustrated with tough enemies, or you may get frustrated with action-economy as a six-member party can pretty much own any single foe unless it's so strong they have no chance.

Sometimes you WILL run into hordes of foes you have to mow down. This can take ages but can also be very satisfying to the players, as they feel like supermen for beating a small army. Sometimes you WILL encounter a single foe that can give you a bad day, but exciting tough fights that you feel you can lose are amazing to win.

My own preferred 'balanced' encounter is usually boss + lieutenant + mooks. You have the enemy leader, the really tough guy, his lieutanent, plus a couple of mooks or hangers-on. For your party of five, I'd do one CR2 boss, a CR1 lieutenant, and three CR1/2 mooks. That way the party does not overwhelm thanks to action economy, everyone has somebody to fight or target, and they all feel they are contributing.

I try to keep the maximum size of the encounter equal or less than double the number of party members, and the minimum size equal to half the number of party members, as a rule of thumb.

A good example is an encounter I ran (a random one) with a raiding party of orcs - 2d12 orcs (I rolled 24) against a six-strong level 4 party. So I made it 18 orc warriors (1st level, CR1/2), plus four 'scout' orcs (Ranger 3, lieutenants), a 'brains' lieutenant (half-orc witch 3) and a leader (barbarian 4). The party first encounter two scouts mopping up a village they have pillaged, an easy encounter for them. Then they track the orcs to a temporary lair nearby - the orcs have a good chance to see them coming and prepare an ambush with two more scouts and ten warriors. Lastly, after the party have dealt with these guys the rest of the orcs are alerted for a 'last stand' by the survivors of this encounter, and they fight the orc leader and the remaining orcs in their camp, to rescue the enslaved villagers. At no point were they dealing with more than 12 orcs (easier for me), but they fought a memorable and interesting fight that was never too easy, and could quickly escalate if they did it wrong.

At the end of this, they get some loot too, tailored somewhat to what the party would like to find.

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