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  1. #1

    D&D 3.5: Encounter Levels

    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. 1 PC vs 2 Goblins (1/3 EL for each).
    2. 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!
    "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come to pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. . ."

  2. #2
    mr_h's Avatar
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    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
    DM: For reference sake, when a bad guys dies, I'll turn their token over. So an upside down 'A' or 'B' means it's a corpse.
    PC 1: So if we kill a 'M' is it reincarnated as a 'W'?
    PC 2: That damn 'O' just won't die!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mr_h
    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*
    "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come to pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. . ."

  4. #4

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    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

  5. #5
    Cypher's Avatar
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    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.

    http://www.novuscom.net/~chrisjdouce...or-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

    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/~chrisjdouce...Calculator.xls

    *Note: it has macros to calculate values, there's nothing bad.
    Last edited by Cypher; May 2nd, 2006 at 17:34.

  6. #6
    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.

  7. #7
    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.

  8. #8
    Wraith's Avatar
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    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.
    See you around the table.

  9. #9
    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!
    "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come to pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. . ."

  10. #10
    Cypher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acmer
    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.

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