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DarkStar
May 2nd, 2006, 13:51
I am a D&D n00b (and proud of it!) and was wondering about Encounter Levels as of late. Seems like I just can't get it well enough. I read (and use) the rules in Dungeon Master's Guide, there's a nice table depicting EL and Experience Points for those encounters. It is said somewhere in the rulebooks that those tables are for a party consisting of four Player Characters. I have five in my group, so I try to make the EL a tiny bit higher. So far, I had two combats with goblins:


1 PC vs 2 Goblins (1/3 EL for each).
5 PCs vs 6 Goblins (this gives us EL 2, as far as I know!)The problem is - both encounters were too easy, in my opinion. I almost had no chance to act, my players killed those poor bastards easily. We are talking of 5 1st level characters here. Six Goblins are not a challenge? Maybe it should be 3 Goblins on 1 1st lv PC (3 * 1/3 = 1)? Of course, 12 goblins is just boring, but I am giving an example in terms of Encounter Level. Could I ask the more experienced DMs in these forums to cast some light on the topic?

Thanks in advance!

mr_h
May 2nd, 2006, 14:04
I use the encounter calculator at d20srd.org to figure out the numbers since I can't do math worth a darn. It doesn't come out always right, but if you have a number of encounters in a row it seems to work fine (IE, if you have three encounters before they rest/heal up).

Sometimes I guess it's just trial and error :)

DarkStar
May 2nd, 2006, 14:19
I use the encounter calculator at d20srd.org to figure out the numbers since I can't do math worth a darn.

I used the EL calculator at Wizards' website and cross-referenced the rulebooks. I use d20srd.org website everytime we play (even though I have C-SRD, I just find web-based SRD easier to use, especially since I have their Firefox plugin installed). You know what? It says that 5 1st lv PCs meeting 6 goblins is a very difficult one. I would call it below moderate when we played three days ago. ;) My monk was injured by a javelin, but other than that there were no casualties. The sorcerer took out two of six monsters at the very beginning, casting the Sleep spell and the other four were quite easy to beat. *sigh*

richvalle
May 2nd, 2006, 14:38
Someone pointed me to this:
http://www.geocities.com/edymnionii/EPLvsEL.html

A while back.

Though it also says that encounter is 'very hard

rv

Cypher
May 2nd, 2006, 17:27
Nothing beats experience for calculating difficulty levels.

For the mathematically inclined, I've provided a link to an encounter calculator that uses the Chi/Rho method to calculate comperable power levels between groups of mixed CR creatures vs mixed level parties. This tool says that 6 goblins vs 5 level 1 players is a very easy combat.

www.novuscom.net/~chrisjdoucette/downloads/EL-XP-Calculator-35-v1.6.zip

One tool I built for my own use, and I'll share it here for you all, is an average damage output calculator. The idea of this tool is to give you the round by round average damage output of a character. It is not super refined because it was built for personal use, but if you find it helpful then that's great :D

Use it to compare your parties average damage per round to your enemy's hit points to get an average number of rounds this combat should take. Is this the be all end all solution to encounter balance? Not even close, but it does help give an idea of the staying power of your encounters. Once you've found the damage output of your players, and have an average number of rounds your encounter will live, put your monsters in as well to determine how much average damage they will do over those same rounds.

OK enough of the preview... hope this helps.

http://www.novuscom.net/~chrisjdoucette/downloads/Damage%20Output%20Calculator.xls

*Note: it has macros to calculate values, there's nothing bad.

bobthebuilder
May 2nd, 2006, 18:07
I have a table that you can use to find out whether a combat encounter will be challenging no matter how many PCs are in the party or what level they are. And it is accurate. (You can use it with just one PC, 4 PCs of varying levels or even 8 or more PCs).

Based on the encounter you described with the goblins, it is one that will take just over 20% of the party's resources. It's is a little tougher than what the DMG says is a "challenging" encounter, but I am not surprised that your party mowed them down easily.

Remember, if your party has higher ability scores than the "average" PC (which is a 25-point buy) than they will, in the long run, find "challenging" encounters to be slightly easier. It would be best to use a hard and fast way of determing the challenge, which you can get by the table I have had for several years.

If you want it, just send me a private message here at FG and I'll give it to you (it's easy to use).:) Oh, and it is mathematically accurate, to get the best result means using a scientific calculator and punching in the formula shown with the tables, but the tables are accurate enough if you prefer using them.

acmer
May 2nd, 2006, 18:24
As a player in the fight that DarkStar mentioned, I have to say that it was a good fight, even if it was a bit easy.
Some of us are not very comfortable with combat yet and it could have turned very bloody. It was good to see how battle works in FG first. The other thing is that we used mostly ranged weapons and magic. Anything is easy if it doesn't get to hit you. I think those calculators are for melee combat only, or balanced melee/ranged/magic with both sides.

Wraith
May 2nd, 2006, 18:36
Well Pawel,
I try to use even CRs, like 1 CR1 creature/ lvl 1 character. It makes the encounters more difficult then D&D sets in the DMG, but I give the party time to heal in-between almost every encounter. I think in your champaign this might work the way you want but with 5 PCs there is a chance that at least 1 PC might die. If you plan on only one encounter before the PCs go into a role-playing encounter or a string of role-playing encounters were the PCs will be safe and heal make it an even fight but if you are planning on making a dungeon to explore were every room has a fight then it is better to use the DMG cause if you think about it when they're done they will have fought a lot of monsters.

DarkStar
May 2nd, 2006, 19:03
Thanks everyone for your input! I downloaded your files, Cypher, and will give them a look in a while. I am also going to PM bob. :)

Whoa, I made acmer actually speak on the forums! :D

Cypher
May 2nd, 2006, 19:54
As a player in the fight that DarkStar mentioned, I have to say that it was a good fight, even if it was a bit easy.
Some of us are not very comfortable with combat yet and it could have turned very bloody. It was good to see how battle works in FG first. The other thing is that we used mostly ranged weapons and magic. Anything is easy if it doesn't get to hit you. I think those calculators are for melee combat only, or balanced melee/ranged/magic with both sides.

If you had ranged weapons in open combat this is where I would put the advantage with the players, and agree with you. That's why using charts, tables, calculators and such are only good to give you a feeling for an encounter's difficulty. Party composition is a major factor in encounter design, which is why some parties breeze through an encounter like it wasn't ther while another party may be wiped out by the exact same encounter.

That's why there is really no substitute for experience. Knowing your encounter's abilitites, and knowing your parties abilities are the best tools for balancing an encounter.

Another thing to keep in mind is that not every encounter has to be a near death experience. There is no rising/falling action, and no distinguishing characteristics for the bbeg, if every battle is a fight for your life.

DarkStar
May 2nd, 2006, 21:47
I grabbed your files off the website. I tried to calculate my encounter with 6 goblins using Chi/Rho method and it gave me: 50% party resource usage and 75% chance of survival. This is of course untrue for the encounter we had, but yeah, what you are saying seems pretty sensible. Maybe it was easy for them, because of some circumstances:

a) they were quite far from their enemies
b) the monk acted quickly and killed the first goblin with charge attack (almost kicking his head off)
c) they used ranged weapons and eliminated some other foes
d) the party sorcerer put two goblins asleep, because they were standing close enough to each other

Yet, the monk was critically injured (or should be, I rolled 20, but didn't count the critic - now you know my little secret :P), so... Maybe I am exaggerating and it was actually a difficult encounter, but circumstances and party acting made it a lot easier?

EDIT: I didn't count in one of my PCs before. ;) The outcome of the above-mentioned method should be 40% and 80% respectively.

LordTomar
May 2nd, 2006, 21:52
I grabbed your files off the website. I tried to calculate my encounter with 6 goblins using Chi/Rho method and it gave me: 50% party resource usage and 75% chance of survival. This is of course untrue for the encounter we had, but yeah, what you are saying seems pretty sensible. Maybe it was easy for them, because of some circumstances:

a) they were quite far from their enemies
b) the monk acted quickly and killed the first goblin with charge attack (almost kicking his head off)
c) they used ranged weapons and eliminated some other foes
d) the party sorcerer put two goblins asleep, because they were standing close enough to each other

Yet, the monk was critically injured (or should be, I rolled 20, but didn't count the critic - now you know my little secret :P), so... Maybe I am exaggerating and it was actually a difficult encounter, but circumstances and party acting made it a lot easier?

Yeah in an encounter you cant just go by numbers. location and situation will play a large part in combat. Also luck sometimes plays a large part in combat.

Griogre
May 2nd, 2006, 23:00
You should be aware that ignoring the crit would make that a much easier encounter. Especially at low levels (before area effects) damage is not distributed evenly over a party. Soft targets like Monks, Rogues, Bards, Sorcerers and Wizards often go down very fast should they get hit.

The mage also cast a sleep. Each normal encounter is suppose to take about 20% of the parties resources before they have to rest - this encludes spells by the arcane and divine casters. A first level spell caster does not have many spells. While hps are a party resource, if the group uses a spells to prevent or cure the hps this is part of the average 20% use of resources per encounter. While you can toughen up your encounters, when you do you will find the players want to rest more often between encounters and this slows the game down. In most adventures, you don't really want the players trying to rest after a couple of normal encounters.

Most encounters shouldn't be that hard but by the 4th, 5th, or 6th encounter the party should be running low on resources and it will add tension to the encounters (which is a good thing). The only type of fights where the party should feel they are fighting for their lives are where the party has screwed up badly or against a tough BBEG (big bad evil guy - major boss).

Wraith
May 3rd, 2006, 10:05
Well I play in DS's campaign and I think that a small encounter like the one he is beating himself up about was perfect. He is playing a RP heavy campaign and a little fight every now and again keeps those hack and slash gamers interested when their mind starts to wonder after a couple of long RP encounters. Like Cypher and Griogre stated that only the big bosses should be the real tough fights, because in the end the PCs are supposed to win but it shouldn't be a cake walk and it shouldn't be a never ending gantlet. Again I thought the encounter fit well for it's purpose. It gave me a much needed break from all the talking. Don't get me wrong I like role-playing but every now and again it's good to break somethings head open on a really big rock.

acmer
May 3rd, 2006, 14:49
If the encounter had been too overwhelming, we would have done anything we can to avoid the fight, of course. Players (at least good ones) don't attack everything hoping that the DM will be merciful. I can speak only for myself, but if there's no good chances in winning the battle without losses, running or hiding is the best option at first. Always there's no such chance but it's definitely easier to run from a dragon than to kill it.

John_Geeshu
May 3rd, 2006, 19:56
In my humble opinion, making an encounter more challenging should include much less in the way of beefing up the encounter's CR by throwing in more difficult opposition, and much more in the way of setting up battle to take place in an interesting environment. Even simple goblins, given some cover, height advantage, or otherwise, can be a challenge for PCs. At 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level you don't necessarily want to make the encounters difficult because it is easy for a low level character to take one hit and go down, especially if you luck out and score a crit. Goblin's and their ilk make great beginning encounters because they will almost certainly go down with a single hit, HP being so pitiful, which means your melee/ranged challenged PCs only have to worry about hitting them once.

Craw
May 4th, 2006, 17:26
In my humble opinion, making an encounter more challenging should include much less in the way of beefing up the encounter's CR by throwing in more difficult opposition, and much more in the way of setting up battle to take place in an interesting environment. Even simple goblins, given some cover, height advantage, or otherwise, can be a challenge for PCs. At 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level you don't necessarily want to make the encounters difficult because it is easy for a low level character to take one hit and go down, especially if you luck out and score a crit. Goblin's and their ilk make great beginning encounters because they will almost certainly go down with a single hit, HP being so pitiful, which means your melee/ranged challenged PCs only have to worry about hitting them once.

Precisely. Also don't judge the CR rating system on a single encounter. The variable effects of the dice mean you have to average things out. I recently ran an encounter of 5 goblins against 4 beefy 2nd level characters. (I was too liberal with the character builds). Should be a cakewalk based on the encounter calculator. However, add in some difficult terrain, cover and concealment for the gobs, and a falling rock trap and voila! a CR3 encounter designed to challenge an already slightly depleted party. However, a steady stream of 18+ on the dice from the players reduced the encounter back to a cakewalk. Back to the drawing board.

KindredWolf
September 12th, 2016, 16:26
Hi Bob. I created a profile just to get a copy of your tables. Can you PM me with them?

jshauber
September 12th, 2016, 16:32
Hi Bob. I created a profile just to get a copy of your tables. Can you PM me with them?

Welcome to the FG community KWolf. I am not sure if Bob is still around since this thread was from 2006.

There might be others that have created tables OR you can give it a try yourself. They are actually pretty easy to do in FG.

Check out the wiki here http://www.fantasygrounds.com/wiki/index.php/Tables for complete instructions on how to create your own tables.

KindredWolf
September 12th, 2016, 16:36
Welcome to the FG community KWolf. I am not sure if Bob is still around since this thread was from 2006.

There might be others that have created tables OR you can give it a try yourself. They are actually pretty easy to do in FG.

Check out the wiki here [link redacted - FG limits # of links in new posts] for complete instructions on how to create your own tables.

I was not expecting that quick of a response. wow. Thank you for the reply. I checked his user profile and it shows his latest activity was this last July. So, I'm hoping. But, I will take a look at the link you offered. Thank you for your support!

jshauber
September 12th, 2016, 16:40
I was not expecting that quick of a response. wow. Thank you for the reply. I checked his user profile and it shows his latest activity was this last July. So, I'm hoping. But, I will take a look at the link you offered. Thank you for your support!

If he has been active in July then you might want to PM him directly. He might not be checking forums often.