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Deth Muncher
2008-11-18, 10:30 PM
As a first time DM, I'm having quite a bit of trouble figuring out the CR system, and how to calculate how it's supposed to apply to the whole "How people can do against something" thing. For example, if a Tsuno is CR6, does that mean that the equivalent of a 6th level character can take it down?

My main issue is that i have a party of 5 3rd level characters who will be venturing off an encountering some heavily modified enemies: Basically, take a Hill Giant. Now make that Hill Giant posessed by a Yak Folk. Now you've got a monster with +16 to hit in melee, and has really good mental stats. Oh, and can probably cast spells. How many of these could my party take? They're not really maximized characters (although the players themselves can be known to be a bit munchkiny).

Siosilvar
2008-11-18, 10:33 PM
As a first time DM, I'm having quite a bit of trouble figuring out the CR system, and how to calculate how it's supposed to apply to the whole "How people can do against something" thing. For example, if a Tsuno is CR6, does that mean that the equivalent of a 6th level character can take it down?

CR6 means a party of 4 level 6 characters use about 1/5 of their resources (HP, spell slots, etc.) to win. At least, that's the DMG's definition. Every +2 CR doubles the challenge.

Sstoopidtallkid
2008-11-18, 10:58 PM
d20 encounter calculator. (http://www.penpaperpixel.org/tools/d20encountercalculator.htm)

kjones
2008-11-18, 11:06 PM
d20 encounter calculator. (http://www.penpaperpixel.org/tools/d20encountercalculator.htm)

Second. This automates the function of that table in the DMG. As a DM, it's indispensable.

Rei_Jin
2008-11-18, 11:07 PM
As a first time DM, I'm having quite a bit of trouble figuring out the CR system, and how to calculate how it's supposed to apply to the whole "How people can do against something" thing. For example, if a Tsuno is CR6, does that mean that the equivalent of a 6th level character can take it down?

My main issue is that i have a party of 5 3rd level characters who will be venturing off an encountering some heavily modified enemies: Basically, take a Hill Giant. Now make that Hill Giant posessed by a Yak Folk. Now you've got a monster with +16 to hit in melee, and has really good mental stats. Oh, and can probably cast spells. How many of these could my party take? They're not really maximized characters (although the players themselves can be known to be a bit munchkiny).

If something is a CR6, then a party of 4 level 6 characters should be able to take it, and it should cost them 20% of their daily resources (Hitpoints, spells, etc)

If you have 5 level 3 characters, they're roughly equivilent to 4 level 4 characters. They should be able to take a CR4 by only expending 20% of their resources.

A Hill Giant is a CR7. That means that it's a really tough challenge for your party. If you make it even tougher by giving it spells and making it smarter, you are likely to kill some, or all of your players.

In short, unless you give them something to help them through the situation (eg. they are aware of it and can prepare to take it on, get appropriate traps and spells ready, etc) then you'll wipe the floor with them.

Sstoopidtallkid
2008-11-18, 11:53 PM
A Hill Giant is a CR7. That means that it's a really tough challenge for your party. If you make it even tougher by giving it spells and making it smarter, you are likely to kill some, or all of your players.

In short, unless you give them something to help them through the situation (eg. they are aware of it and can prepare to take it on, get appropriate traps and spells ready, etc) then you'll wipe the floor with them.Or use something smaller and call it a Hill Giant. Ogres work.

Seatbelt
2008-11-19, 12:23 AM
I threw one troll at a party of 6 level 3 characters. They destroyed the thing in a round and a half, but I almost killed the barbarian in one full attack action. The thing to remember at low level, at least in my experience, is that tough enemies are not always the way to go. At high levels make the encounters tough, and low levels, make them annoying.

For example, 6 kobolds ambushed the party. 4 modified kobold champions, and 2 kobold "monks" with levels of unarmed swordsage. I threw down caltrops and netting, gave the kobold swordsages the "hampered movement" and "that guy is bigger than me!!" abilities, and it was a really challenging encounter without putting the PCs in immediate splatyourdeadwoops danger.

But on the other hand, my CR 5 green dragon almost killed the whole party with his breath weapon, and then died before he could go again. What should have been a really tough encounter ended up being almost accidentally lethal, and then extremely easy.

Also, at any level, one monster is almost never a good idea unless it's got a way to negate attacks, or some of the party are distracted, or it's got something else *really* good going for it. In a game where I'm a player, our party is hasted and our style is to say "The hell with it" and charge through as many rooms as possible to grind out encounters without wasting the Haste. We encounter a flesh golem (a level appropriate challenge at the time), and I get a full attack, and my character is a cleric who specializes in putting out damage. I won init and destroyed it without a thought, Even with the monster's DR. Instead of using one really tough monster it's almost always better to use a few kinda tough monsters. Unless the party has used up most of it's resources. Then bring in the big baddie. :P

Deth Muncher
2008-11-19, 12:26 AM
Whoa, super-responses are go!

@ Siosilvar - Thanks, that's helpful. I couldn't find the DMG definition when I looked, most likely due to sleep deprivation.

@ Sstoopidtallkid - Hah! Sweet. Thanks. And in response to your later post: Good point. Just because something is called an Ogre doesn't mean in-gamewise it couldn't be a Giant.

@ Rei_Jin - In this first actual encounter of the game, I was planning on having the Bad Guys break off after a certain amount of damage was done to them, as more of a "Holy crap! Those guys are strong! We should prepare!" kind of thing. Furthermore, I was planning on allowing all the PCs with Spirit Sight (read:most of them) to be able to see the Yak-Spirit dominating the body, so that they would then be able to identify what it was (with moderate amounts of research) and plan accordingly.

Who_Da_Halfling
2008-11-19, 03:17 AM
On a similar note, how do you calculate the CR of monsters with class levels? I don't recall the DMG or MM saying anything on the topic, but I might have been looking in the wrong place.

I've been running what was supposed to be a one-shot for some of my friends for when our regular DM was absent. The party of 4 lvl 5 characters didn't have much trouble with my main cavern (the cave had an entrance with random goblins and orcs, a main cavern with 6 goblins, 6 orcs, and 2 lvl 3 fighter orcs, and a final cavern with 8 orcs, a boar, and a lvl 6 barbarian orc). I thought the encounter would be troublesome or at least somewhat difficult for them, but they just smashed all the randoms and ganged up on the class-level orcs. It helped that I let them hole up in the doorway and only have to fight two guys at once.

The final cavern, however, nearly TPKed them. I had to fudge rolls for the leader for most of the encounter b/c his strength while raging caused his weapon to hit on anything but a 1 and to deal a minimum of 10 damage per hit to characters with 20-40 HP. You can imagine how that might be a problem, especially since he had 66 HP (while raging). He also had a Double Axe (b/c i thought it would be cool. my bad), so he was hitting them 2-3 times per round, dealing 75-100% of their HP each round. Yeah. Didn't expect that.

Anyway, the DMG didn't say much of anything useful on the topic of CRs for platoons of enemies, so I had to kind of wing it, and it ended up being a little too tough. the CR calculator seems really useful though, just wondering about the class levels thing.

-JM

bosssmiley
2008-11-19, 05:43 AM
A Hill Giant is a CR7. That means that it's a really tough challenge for your party. If you make it even tougher by giving it spells and making it smarter, you are likely to kill some, or all of your players.

You know an encounter is too tough when players are dying. I think that's the far end of the Killer DM spectrum there. :smallamused:

"Whatever that thing we were fighting was it hit so hard that Dave's character sheet exploded! Took off two fingers and blinded him in both eyes."
"You weren't playing in Rei-Jin's game were you?"

Generally anything within a couple of CR of a typical four character party makes a fun and interesting challenge. Beings of a lower CR than that should appear in groups, anything more (like, oh say, a Yikari-possessed Hill Giant - about CR 9-10 as I eyeball it) runs the risk of turning into a TPK.

Quietus
2008-11-19, 06:45 AM
On a similar note, how do you calculate the CR of monsters with class levels? I don't recall the DMG or MM saying anything on the topic, but I might have been looking in the wrong place.

In general, you look at the role the creature should fill, and the class levels you're putting on it. If they work well together, it's an "associated class", and each level you give it adds +1 CR.

If they don't really mesh too well together, each level adds +1/2 CR, until you've added as much CR to the monster as it has hit dice, after which point it gets +1 CR per level.

For an example, look here, at the 3.5 Ogre, and Ogre Barbarian. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/ogre.htm The Ogre Barbarian has four levels of Barbarian on it. It's also 4 CR higher. This is because an Ogre is a big melee brute, and you've added more melee brute levels to it, so each level adds +1 CR.

Now, let's pretend that A) that base ogre had a good int and B) you wanted a spellcasting ogre. Wizard levels don't add much to what the ogre does; It already does lots of damage, has lots of hit points, and wears armor. The wizard levels don't REALLY make a huge difference. Each Wizard level you added to an ogre is +1/2 CR. You could make that Ogre an 8th-level wizard, and still only make it up to CR7, the same CR as that 4th-level Barbarian.

However, 8 levels of Wizard means +4 CR. It's a CR 7 monster now, and you've added as much CR to it as it has HD. If you wanted to add another level of Wizard, it's now a powerful enough wizard that the additions are significant. From this point forward, each level of Wizard adds +1 CR. An 8th-level wizard ogre is CR 7, a 9th-level one is CR 8, etc.

pjackson
2008-11-19, 07:46 AM
The CR system is only a very rough approximation. It can't be very precise because the power of 2 characters can vary widely, even if they are the same class and level with the same equipment. E.g. a fighter whose player does not use power attack because they can't be bothered with the maths vs one who always tries the value that maximises his damage output. Or a wizard who likes to blow things up vs a batman wizard.

Saph
2008-11-19, 08:48 AM
The CR system is only a very rough approximation. It can't be very precise because the power of 2 characters can vary widely, even if they are the same class and level with the same equipment. E.g. a fighter whose player does not use power attack because they can't be bothered with the maths vs one who always tries the value that maximises his damage output. Or a wizard who likes to blow things up vs a batman wizard.

*nod* The CR system is an attempt to give you a guideline on what'll be a challenge for a group of 'average' characters - not totally wimpy, not totally min-maxed. This is pretty difficult, which is why it doesn't always work.

Think of CRs as a baseline which the DM is going to have to look over and modify. Usually, once your group gets good at tactics and optimising, they'll be able to handle equal-CR encounters without much trouble, so you'll need to bump them up a point or two.

- Saph

Rei_Jin
2008-11-19, 05:03 PM
You know an encounter is too tough when players are dying. I think that's the far end of the Killer DM spectrum there. :smallamused:

"Whatever that thing we were fighting was it hit so hard that Dave's character sheet exploded! Took off two fingers and blinded him in both eyes."
"You weren't playing in Rei-Jin's game were you?"

Yeah, I make that typo all the time. I guess that's what comes from not being able to seperate characters and players in my head. :smallbiggrin:

Mind you, I have had players act like I killed them, rather than their characters.

Tehnar
2008-11-19, 05:50 PM
As was said here before almost never go for one monster. Either its so strong it will cause a TPK, or due to the overwhelming amount of actions the PCs have on it, they will quickly overwhelm it.

2-8 monsters per encounter are a good baseline. Adjusting EL is a art, not a science so dont worry too much if you put too many mooks in there. Lots of lesser CR creatures make for more interesting encounter then 1 creature with a big CR.

Here are some tips:

- mix and match your monsters (some melee, some ranged, some magical etc)
- use terrain (difficult terrain, slippery floors, multilevel rooms, interactive elements)
- use traps in the same room as monsters (a simple 10ft deep pit allows many fun tactics), or a reverse trap that heals monster
- if you are using monsters that cast spells or use spell like abilities consider using dispell magic as one of those. Helps with those buffers, and you can use it to counterspell. If you want to be evil use recriprocial gyre (from SC)

arguskos
2008-11-19, 06:05 PM
Mind you, I have had players act like I killed them, rather than their characters.
So... they fell over, started bleeding, and twitched a lot? They roleplay REALLY well! :smallwink: /picksonRei_Jin

Anyhoo... yeah, level-appropriate encounters are a myth. Just eyeball stuff, and you'll get it right eventually. It takes a good amount of practice and experience with a given group of players to get a good balance. Keep plugging away at it, and apologize before hand for anything unpleasant that may occur, and you're probably all good.

Rei_Jin
2008-11-19, 06:08 PM
So... they fell over, started bleeding, and twitched a lot? They roleplay REALLY well! :smallwink: /picksonRei_Jin

Nah, it was more in the area of "swearing revenge, saying that their friends/allies would avenge them" and so on.

Mind you, I have had them go to "another place" and disappear from view, never to return, even when called back by the high priest of pizza and mobile phones.

Yup, some people just get too wound up in their characters.

arguskos
2008-11-19, 06:10 PM
Nah, it was more in the area of "swearing revenge, saying that their friends/allies would avenge them" and so on.

Mind you, I have had them go to "another place" and disappear from view, never to return, even when called back by the high priest of pizza and mobile phones.

Yup, some people just get too wound up in their characters.
I tend to get pissed off when killed by arbitrary "DM IS ANGRY" moments. Beyond that, nothing really bugs me about character death.

Guess I'm just easy going. :smallbiggrin:

Rei_Jin
2008-11-19, 06:23 PM
Yeah, I run (until 22/11/08, that is) a once a month convention style game day where we have 30+ players turn up to play in a home brewed world for D&D 3.5

It's been running for 4 years now, and you get all kinds of people turn up. Some of them are just nutjobs, but most of the crazy ones have left now that they've learnt that we don't put up with their stupidity.

I'm giving it up as my wife is due to give birth to our first child on 26/11/08, and I need more time to spend at home.

arguskos
2008-11-19, 06:25 PM
That... might be the most awesome thing I've ever heard of, Rei_Jin! Damn... I wish I could join up with something similar.

Also, congrats. :smallbiggrin:

Rei_Jin
2008-11-19, 06:29 PM
Thanks, it takes a lot of work to keep running.

With 3.5 winding down, the turnout has dropped some (we peaked at 52 players about 18 months ago) but we're still going.

We did a world change at the start of the year as well, and we've published the world we use now (through lulu.com).

It's amazing the number of people who want to be pirates :smallwink:

If you're interested in having a look at the book, it's called Occassus, and can be purchased for printing costs only through Lulu.com

One of the biggest jobs we had to do was organising Prestige Classes into organisations and working out how people would earn entry into them. So many Prestige Classes...

And thanks for the congratulations, it means my posting will drop down for a month or so, but I'll still be here, plugging away.

Who_Da_Halfling
2008-11-20, 11:10 AM
BTW, thanks for the assistance in the CR calculations everyone! I still have a question tho:

Orcs have CR 1/2. How does one add 3 character levels to that? The calculator doesn't let me do CR 3 1/2...

I'm mainly doing it to see if they've leveled and how much treasure to give them. I wasn't going to worry about it, but since this one-shot has expanded to a 3rd session and possibly beyond, I want to give them an appropriate progression.

Edit: Also, much congrats Rei_Jin!

-JM

Deth Muncher
2008-11-21, 08:13 PM
So many responseses! This is what I get for not subscribing to my own threads to remind me to check up on them! So the basic gist of what people are saying is that making level appropriate encounters is really really hard to do until you get the hang of it, and just to be sure to pre-warn the players as to possible excessive damage they might take. I can do that.

Some possible questions to you all, then, are (for anyone who has the Oriental Adventures book at-hand) what might be some appopriate encounters for some folks about to go off into a forested mountain path? I'm going to go look myself, but some input might be nice.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-11-21, 08:33 PM
My main issue is that i have a party of 5 3rd level characters who will be venturing off an encountering some heavily modified enemies: Basically, take a Hill Giant. Now make that Hill Giant posessed by a Yak Folk. Now you've got a monster with +16 to hit in melee, and has really good mental stats. Oh, and can probably cast spells. How many of these could my party take? They're not really maximized characters (although the players themselves can be known to be a bit munchkiny).

None. I'd be surprised if they were able to take a regular hill giant, much less one that casts spells.

As Seatbelt mentions, you generally want to use lots of medium enemies, not one big enemy. The big enemy is likely to kill a PC in a single round, but it's also likely to die in that round (because everyone is whomping on it). Very unsatisfying combat, that.

On a similar note, how do you calculate the CR of monsters with class levels? I don't recall the DMG or MM saying anything on the topic, but I might have been looking in the wrong place.

The MM does, indeed, speak on this. So does the SRD. Link. (http://www.systemreferencedocuments.org/35/sovelior_sage/improvingMonsters.html)

ChaosDefender24
2008-11-21, 08:36 PM
Orcs have CR 1/2. How does one add 3 character levels to that? The calculator doesn't let me do CR 3 1/2...

-JM

That orc has one level of the NPC class warrior. You probably want an Orc Barbarian 3 or whatever, which just has a CR of 3.

2008-11-22, 07:19 PM
Just because something is called an Ogre doesn't mean in-gamewise it couldn't be a Giant.
Actually, ogres are giants. Who typically live in hills. They're just not hill giants, since that's the name of another race. Ogres, trolls, and ettins are all giants, actually; they just don't have "giant" in their names like cloud giants, frost giants, fire giants, hill giants, storm giants, and stone giants do. Kinda like how dragon turtles, pseudodragons, and wyverns are dragons. You could distinguish the "giant"-named giants by calling them the "true giants", if you wanted, like how metallic dragons and chromatic dragons are called "true dragons".

Um, anyway, my point is that as Large, stupid, humanoid-shaped creatures that live in temperate hills, ogres are just like hill giants -- big, strong, tough -- only less so. They're probably closely related.

If they don't really mesh too well together, each level adds +1/2 CR, until you've added as much CR to the monster as it has hit dice, after which point it gets +1 CR per level.
No, actually, "[a]dding a nonassociated class level to a monster increases its CR by ½ per level until one of its nonassociated class levels equals its original Hit Dice". Not until the CR increase from nonassociated class levels equals the monster's hit dice, but only exactly half that. If you did it the way you describe, then e.g. a stone giant with 28 levels of wizard would be CR 22. Hopefully you see the problem there.

Even if you go by RAW, it's a little silly. A stone giant 14th-level wizard only works out to be CR 15. As powerful as casters get by that level, I think that making a wizard a stone giant instead of a human probably makes him more dangerous than giving him one more level. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that they should have said that class levels up to the monster's challenge rating can be nonassociated, instead of using its hit dice.

Belial_the_Leveler
2008-11-22, 08:08 PM
To make a CR-appropriate challenge you take an Elder Air Elemental, apply the Phrenic Template, Elite Stats, Aging Bonuses, Vow of Poverty and use unassociated class levels to give it 12 more class levels by CR 20. Now you have a 32 HD creature with full VoP bonuses, nice stats, 42 spell resistance and some nifty class abilities. Give it Infinite Deflection and you're good to go.

Wait! You were asking about ECL 6 party? Here are a few things you must check:

1) Armor Class
Check your possible challenge's best attack bonus with the party's average AC. If the challenge is appropriate, it should be 10-11 points lower thus hitting roughly 50% of the time.

2) Damage
Check the possible challenge's damage against the party's average HP. For the challenge to be appropriate it should be low enough that a critical hit knocks a player unconscious but does not kill them.

3) Saving throw DCs
Just like armor, they should succeed 50% of the time unless the effect could kill a party member outright (too much damage, flesh to stone, death). In this case and if the party has no access to the appropriate defences, they should succeed on anything higher than a 3.

4) Enemy HP/Defences
The creature in the challenge is outnumbered 4 to 1 and the PCs should need about 4 rounds of attacks to dispatch it. The PCs must not hit more often than 25% and the maximum damage a full attack or spell could do must not burn more than 20% of the creature's HPs.

Deth Muncher
2008-11-23, 11:38 AM
@ DA - Off to look at the Ogre! (Finally)
@ Belial - Hey, guidelines! Let's see how this works...

Well, eyeballing the Ogre, it seems to better fit the needs of "What the PCs Need to Fight" right now, as they have about a +6 to hit, as opposed to, oh the +16 of the Hill Giant. And they speak Giant! Using the Calculator, and assuming an Ogre posessed by a Yak-folk with 1 level or sorceror equates to single ECL increase, 3x Ogre-Yaks and 1x Ogre Barb is an Overpowering encounter, which seems to work. Especially since the PCs have a bit of time to prepare, and I've made all casting spontaneous (with a limit of 1 minute searching for the spell in the book if they don't already have one ready) so as to limit book-keeping.

AslanCross
2008-11-23, 04:34 PM
Things to keep in mind:

-Medium-sized enemies who have class levels (say a human BBEG) are going to be a cakewalk if they're solo, even if they have five class levels on the PCs. This once happened when my Lv 6 party was able to take down a Lv 11 Warblade. The action ratio and the likelihood of getting surrounded is just too much. If you want a solo monster, he'd need the ability to fling PCs away or otherwise control their movement (extended reach, large size, the Awesome Blow and Combat Reflexes feats).

(Exception to this is casters with crowd control ability)

-More PCs in a party means they expend less resources in taking down encounters. One or two extra monsters makes it more challenging.

-Too many monsters is very hard to manage. Most I've managed at any given time is 8, but 6 I think is a good number.

ChaosDefender24
2008-11-23, 04:52 PM
I've found that if you pump AC it's not that bad if you get surrounded.
The feats Large and in Charge and Standstill (especially the first if it's just one guy) are hilarious for keeping people back, though.

Deth Muncher
2008-11-23, 05:29 PM
I've found that if you pump AC it's not that bad if you get surrounded.
The feats Large and in Charge and Standstill (especially the first if it's just one guy) are hilarious for keeping people back, though.

Oooh ooh, do explain. I've not heard of those.

ChaosDefender24
2008-11-23, 06:16 PM
Large and in Charge is from Draconomicon and a bunch of other books. If you're large and do damage to stuff with a movement-based AoO, you make an opposed Strength check with bonuses contingent on size and how much damage you dealt. If you win, your opponent is pushed back and cannot move further!

This is Stand Still. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/psionicFeats.htm#standStill) The reason why I'd prefer Large and in Charge if it's one foe is because that foe will probably want to do damage as quickly as possible - if you stand still everyone who approaches, you are simply delaying the inevitable. Stand still works a lot better if you have a source of damage other than your attacks (an aura of some sort, perhaps?) or you're with other people who can pick on the immobilized - but that defeats the purpose.

And if all else fails for single monsters, an advanced jovoc should do the trick

Deth Muncher
2008-11-23, 09:10 PM
Large and in Charge is from Draconomicon and a bunch of other books. If you're large and do damage to stuff with a movement-based AoO, you make an opposed Strength check with bonuses contingent on size and how much damage you dealt. If you win, your opponent is pushed back and cannot move further!

This is Stand Still. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/psionicFeats.htm#standStill) The reason why I'd prefer Large and in Charge if it's one foe is because that foe will probably want to do damage as quickly as possible - if you stand still everyone who approaches, you are simply delaying the inevitable. Stand still works a lot better if you have a source of damage other than your attacks (an aura of some sort, perhaps?) or you're with other people who can pick on the immobilized - but that defeats the purpose.

And if all else fails for single monsters, an advanced jovoc should do the trick

As do many of the optimised monster jokes, the jovoc reference flew right over my head. But as to the rest of the post:

Large and In Charge made me lol when I read the name, and even more when I read what it did. Even if I don't use it, I'll have to point this out to one of my players, who is currently playing a Half-Giant Barbarian (sans the Psi-like abilities) and would appreciate it.

Stand Still I would be wary of introducing into my campaign, for two reasons. The first of which is that I've made the XPH and regular PH off-limits, and the second of which is that if I let the monsters have it, certain players may want to take it for their Animal Companions and wreak Cheddary havoc. It's very nice for someone who specializes in tying up lots of people with AoOs. Like monks!

EDIT: I just realized part of my post might not make sense. Specifically, banning XPH while simultaneously having a Half-Giant character. I took one level off of the LA in exchange for the Stomp ability, and anything else tying the Half-Giant to the XPH.