View Full Version : EL and CR stuff

2008-04-25, 07:07 AM
Well, last night we lost a character in an ambush, and it certainly felt like a very tough fight, so I had a question about the idea of EL and CRs.

Our party has 4 PCs and an NPC, we're 3rd level, with little gear (we haven't made it back to a town to trade loot in) - nobody has magic items (well, I have a couple of crafted talismans for 1st level spells), though we have a few masterwork items. We have no cold iron, either. We are gestalt, so we're a little tougher than our level, but we're not twinked really, especially as it's a group who haven't played much, and it's my first time on 3.5 (I played a lot of 1st edition though).

We knew that a pixie was going to be around, as he had been harrassing us with "pranks" the past while, but we had managed to present evidence of his crime (leading a bunch of orcs to kill a dryad who had rejected him) and had him banished from the court - so we had some preparations in case he came back. We followed a trail sign to what we suspected might be a trap, a friend of ours trussed up bleeding at the base of a tree, 100 feet off. One player cast Linked Perception to boost our spot/listen, and I used Embrace the Wild, and we moved up (me in the brush, as I had been hiding).

Sure enough, it was the pixie, who used Entangle on the group, and 4 large spiders dropped down on us. The pixie apparently had class levels of some sort, as he could shatter things and fire some strange entangling moonbeam things too, that dealt non-lethal damage.

We won in the end, and took the pixie out (thanks to a Faerie Fire talisman and my Earthbind spell) - he got caught by his own entangle as well - but our NPC died in the battle, and we were almost killed (he summoned a swarm of some glass butterflies that caused bleeding, which are pretty nasty when you are stuck in place, fighting big spiders).

Now, this seems like a really tough encounter, and I said as much after the session, and the DM said that he thought it wouldn't be too hard, as the spiders are only CR2. We came really close to losing other party members - our healer was at 1 HP, I was only up because of my rage, though much of my damage was non-lethal, and the other 2 players were well below half health. We used every prepared spell except one first level and our cantrips.

Was this absurdly hard, just really challenging, or is it about right?

Duke of URL
2008-04-25, 07:13 AM
4 CR2 monsters (spiders) and 1 CR4 monster (pixie) would yield an encounter level of 7 - listed as "overpowering" for 5 4th-level characters. Giving the pixie class levels would likely increase the CR there; going gestalt would be a justification for lowering CR across the board.

Your party's resources were stretched to the limit, but you survived. All in all, fair, but this should not be considered a "typical" encounter.

2008-04-25, 07:18 AM
What he said, though I'll add that generally when I run players in gestalt, I consider them to be level +2. So, if you had a group of 4, and all were level 3, I'd consider them level 5. As such, this was about +2 over you, which is a tough challenge, that you should lose someone in, but, with good plays, should win. Sounds about like what happened.CR = ECL +2 is as close to a "fair fight" as you should get. The party was facing something as strong as it was.

2008-04-25, 08:05 AM
Ok, thanks for the feedback - I certainly wouldn't want to face that every day. The DM was surprised at how nasty the spiders were, but with the players entangled, envenomed (hard to break out with str based poison), and the spiders moving about above the ground on webs... The pixie definitely had class levels, looking at pixie HP I realise that - We dealt a lot of damage to him, even through his DR; the ranger critted and hit for 23 damage (13 through DR), and I delivered at least 30 damage through his DR with attacks and Produce Flame - he healed himself twice (an item I think, he reached to his belt, and seemed stronger again), but that's still way more than the 3 HP listed for a pixie.

Edit: The DM contacted us all by email today to give out XP, and treated it as 1xCR 8 and 4xCR3 (he said he boosted the spider CR to account for the fact that they had a super advantage in that we were trapped by entangle that they could ignore) - we were lucky to only lose one :)

Thanks again!

2008-04-25, 09:40 AM
Yeah, sounds like your DM doesn't understand how CR and EL work, if he didn't think that'd be "so hard." For a party of five 3rd-levels, two or three CR 2 spiders would be an "appropriate" challenge. More than that, or monsters with higher CRs, are what I call "a good challenge" (i.e. the players will either have to think fast and fight smart, or they're all toast). One dead in an encounter that's 2 EL above party level is to be expected; if it's more than that, it's "only one dead".

Really, though, CR and EL, while useful for XP calculations, are by far not the standard to use to judge the actual difficulty of the encounter. Famously, a bunch of kobolds played true to their intelligence (i.e. just as smart as humans, plus they have a lot more experience with traps and ambushes) can wreck a high-level party. The DMG even acknowledges this (although, oddly, in the CR section, not the EL section); encounters where the circumstances are stacked against the PCs (i.e. the dragon has an open sky above it, the orcs are on top of a 50-foot crenellated stone wall, the kobolds are in 4-foot-high tunnels filled with pit traps) are harder (and are therefore worth more XP).