Hi all, I will be starting the first chapter of RoW next week with a semi new group. We have 5 players 2 of which aren't very well versed in PF but are in tabletop in general. The party consists of: a gnome ranger with the beastmaster/skirmisher archetypes, a human ninja, a human paladin of abadar that is planning to go holy vindicator, an invulnerable rager barbarian, and a suli? (might be human instead) Sorceror. The party seems fairly optimized and I allowed them to use 20 point buy instead of 15 (15 feels too weak to me generally) I would like the combats to feel challenging and I have heard this AP is rock hard but I still dont hold out much hope in the encounters providing much challenge. If anyone has some suggestions of how I should tweak the encounters for this kind of party I would appreciate the input. I'm considering just giving standard encounters +2 HP per HD and giving bosses max HP not sure if that will be enough to cover it though. Thanks in advance.
Give them 15, It's enough... they'll get the baba yaga boon soon... I felt the same way as you when we started but now... I just reduced them. We did screw up the crafting rules (I never looked them closely and they were pretty sure about them, until I noticed they were misreading them, the Italian translation did its part though) so we decided to re-buy the equipment with the standard money/level, while I was at it I asked them to reduce their pb form 20 to 15 -we're at the 5th book, better late than never- so that I will have to spam the AST only once in a while and not always.
So far (I had 6/8 players, we're 5 now, luckily) I always putted Advanced Simple Template to all the monsters, Maxed HP to bosses and tweaked some encounters adding more enemies, because of this sometimes I had to plan bigger rooms to fit them all.
I'd suggest bumping up numbers of foes by 50% in general and giving solo encounters a boost by improving hp by 100% and allowing their attacks to affect multiple opponents (whirlwing attack or free great cleave for melee, single target magic becomes two targets or area of effect to get most of the party).
Add minion types to most solo fights to even out the action economy a little, there are a lot of solo fights.
First piece of advice: Don't come up with a rule and blindly follow it.
Second piece of advice: Generally, bump enemy HP from average to maximum; this is a simple change that helps.
The other two big things are in fact the Advanced Simple template and increasing the number of enemies, as mentioned above. And, again, as mentioned, for solo fights, add some minions or lieutenants.
Be very cautious about the Advanced Simple template at low levels; basically at low level, there's less room for optimization to have made a big difference, so adding +2 to hit and +4 to AC on enemies makes a big difference. I almost killed my party's paladin very early because I underestimated how dangerous the template made some enemies.
As you get a feel for the party, you'll get a feel for adjusting the encounters as appropriate to your party.
Also, don't be afraid to make tweaks mid-encounter. If the party is having too much trouble, invent an explanation and weaken the enemies. If the party is blowing through too easily, have reinforcements come in, or insert another random encounter to make them expend more resources.
The reinforcements strategy is also a nice way to avoid having your increased enemy count get wiped out by one fireball, and to deal with dungeons where there are a bunch of adjacent rooms with similar enemies; it keeps you from doing many repetitive small combats, avoids overwhelming the party with a huge mass of foes, and means you don't need to explain why these guys just hung around in their room while the party killed their friends next door.
I'm currently running for a party of 6, 2 of the players are not very smart players, one is reckless, and 3 are really good, so I've got about a 5.75 man party. My group despises point buy so we went 4d6, reroll 1s once, drop the lowest die, and it worked out fairly well, the party is a bit higher powered, but I like a high powered game.
The party consists of a Human Magus (Menhir Warden, a homebrewed archetype that mirrors the druid archetype Menhir Savant), Changling Witch (Winter Witch), Human Ranger/Bard (Savage Skald), Human Barbarian (Titan Mauler), Half-elf Cleric of Sarenrae, and a Gnome Druid (Arctic Druid)
I have been using the Advanced Simple template on most of the named creatures, giving all enemies max hp, adding extra enemies/minions and adding HD/class levels to enemies in the encounters that are supposed to be more difficult. Generally, I've added 1 or 2 to the written CR for each encounter and it seems to be working well.
I echo what Phelan said, be careful with the Advanced template at low levels, I had to tweak an encounter or two because the AC on the enemies was just too high for 1st and 2nd level characters.
Hope this info helps! It's a great campaign and I hope you enjoy it as much as I and my group have been.