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    Default Who deserves their high CR?

    Okay, so has everyone seen the thread(s) on how to KO the Tarrasque at a very low level? There's one floating around right now, if not.

    The point is, there are a lot of high-level monsters that probably don't deserve the CR they've been given. Even some of the most "fearsome" monsters of the 3.5 monster manual - say, for example, golems - are no longer really a threat to even the people they were designed to fight!!

    The Orb of X spells are now anaethema to anything with high SR (or spell immunities) but low energy resistances, which were originally intended as a threat that the melee fighter would have to handle.

    In fact, many of the issues of "game balance" discussed come into effect because most monsters seem to be proportionally more effective against melee types than spellcasters!

    Spellcasting, naturally, is a phenomenon that grows more powerful at higher levels. The question I ask is this: Who deserves their CR?
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    NPC spellcaster enemies.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    The defeat of high-powered monsters by low level parties is bad DMing in my book, and shouldn't be allowed. I'd kill any party below 10th level with a Tarrasque. Dragons of collosal size are even worse. I think DMs must be playing them too poorly, or allowing too much magic on low-level people, or are just too inexperienced.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Mind that CR's are supposedly determined by a party of nonoptimized players with what, elite stat arrays?

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    There are better and worse monsters. And a CR, say, 10 monster should be relatively simple for a 10th level party to beat. If we're trying to see if a CR 12 monster is effective, it should be against 10th level PCs, and therefore give a good challenge, but a surmountable one.

    Another poorly CRed monster in the Monster Manual is the Beholder. It's save DCs are too low, as are its own saving throws. I've had a 10th level party one-shot the CR 13 monster. The rewrite on the WotC boards is a bit better.

    Bluewizard, at 10th level, it's simple for a spellcaster to cast Overland Flight on the entire party. How will the Tarrasque catch them?

    In general, an inability to fly is a poor thing for a high-level monster.
    Last edited by storybookknight; 2007-04-03 at 12:37 PM.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Encounters can really be dependent on what gear the party has, and if any party roles are missing.

    For instance, rogues v. constructs or the undead, or fighter types vs. incorporal creatures. Simply not having the appropriate damage type to overcome reduction, or being a sorc with lightning bolt instead of fireball, and fighting demons.
    Last edited by Tor the Fallen; 2007-04-03 at 12:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tor the Fallen View Post
    Encounters can really be dependent on what gear the party has, and if any party roles are missing.

    For instance, rogues v. constructs or the undead, or fighter types vs. incorporal creatures. Simply not having the appropriate damage type to overcome reduction, or being a sorc with lightning bolt instead of fireball, and fighting demons.
    Fair enough, but specifically, I'd like to limit the discussion to balanced parties.
    Last edited by storybookknight; 2007-04-03 at 12:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    Fair enough, but specifically, I'd like to limit the discussion to balanced parties.
    Balanced like skill monkey+arcane caster+divine caster+melee type?
    Last edited by Tor the Fallen; 2007-04-03 at 12:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    NPC spellcaster enemies.
    Consider an encounter of equal CR - it's likely that the party will have 2 spellcasters, and thus twice the spellcasting actions, that the NPC does.

    Similarly, once the enemy incapacitates a party member, he must also use an action to finish them - whereas a villain might be held in range long enough to be hit by the fighter's shock trooper+leap attack+pounce combo.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tor the Fallen View Post
    Balanced like skill monkey+arcane caster+divine caster+melee type?
    Essentially, as that's what the CR rating system is based on. It's not based on 3 CoDzillas and a Beguiler.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Kill any form of magic-item (ab)use. In the game session that i have enjoied most our party havn't seen a couple of +1 swords before level 10. All leaved to our strategy, attention and care, nothing that we can't in some way solve, but at the same time nothing that we can blow out just with Power-Items-Strenght.

    I had discuss with a dungeon master abashed because his group of lvl 6 charachters had defeated more than 50 orcs. Oh yes, the mage in the group have a Ring of Fireballs...

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Hai-pe-neki, I don't think you understand how magic items in D&D are supposed to work.

    Look at the Wealth-By-Level guidelines on p.135 of the DMG. The PCs should have +1 swords by level 4 or 5, not 10. By 10, they should be packing +2 and a +4 or two stat boosters, enchanted weaponry and armor, Rings of Protection, and some other stuff.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hai-pe-neki View Post
    Kill any form of magic-item (ab)use. In the game session that i have enjoied most our party havn't seen a couple of +1 swords before level 10. All leaved to our strategy, attention and care, nothing that we can't in some way solve, but at the same time nothing that we can blow out just with Power-Items-Strenght.

    I had discuss with a dungeon master abashed because his group of lvl 6 charachters had defeated more than 50 orcs. Oh yes, the mage in the group have a Ring of Fireballs...
    That doesn't really address the notion of the CR system, though, which ideally takes Estimated Wealth By Level into account. If the PCs can afford a Necklace of Fireballs, probably they should have them, or something like it.

    Also, 50 orcs at Level 6... doesn't seem that excessive. Given the right terrain, you have a fighter in front with cleave holding them back, a cleric behind healing, a rogue firing arrows into the back, and a wizard alternating AoEs and buff spells.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Yeah. If you have (or can create) a choke point of any kind, 50 orcs should be pretty trivial. If you don't, a simple AoE (Fireball, for example) will take care of so many that you're pretty much in mop-up mode at that point.

    The encounter calculator pegs 50 orcs (CR 1/2 each, as per the monster manual) as an EL 9 encounter, making it suitable (if difficult) for a group of 6th level PCs. HOWEVER, as per the DMG, plain old orcs are so weak that they don't represent a reasonable challenge to a 6th party at all -- the encounter should not only be simple, it should award no experience.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Sure, you CAN fly away from a Tarrasque at level 10, but that's going to be little help to the town full of commoners getting eaten and watching their life's work get destroyed down below.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueWizard View Post
    The defeat of high-powered monsters by low level parties is bad DMing in my book, and shouldn't be allowed. I'd kill any party below 10th level with a Tarrasque.
    A party below 10th level might not be able to kill the tarrasque, but you would have a hard time killing them without metagaming. Given his modus operandi he is not going to surprise them and there are too many ways to avoid combat altogether. The only way the Tarrasque is worth his CR is if he is controlled in some way and fights the PCs in circumstances where he can actually be effective.

    High level dragons in general are worth their CR, highly intelligent, very good mobility and spellcasting.

    Storybooknight, I think a beholder is meant to be fought in it's own domain ... his anti-magic cone is a lot more effective in vertical tunnels.
    Last edited by PinkysBrain; 2007-04-03 at 01:27 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by PinkysBrain View Post
    Storybooknight, I think a beholder is meant to be fought in it's own domain ... his anti-magic cone is a lot more effective in vertical tunnels.
    A beholder can't use his rays on any target that he's antimagic'ed. Archers then proceed to perforate the hapless beholder. Should he turn aside? Phantasmal Killer (as I found to personal experience as a DM), or any of the other nasty tricks a party can do to him.

    Never mind how annoying it is to recalculate attack bonuses on the fly.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    Who deserves their CR?
    Things to keep in mind about the erroneously-dubbed "Challenge" rating:

    1. It was designed to allow the standard party to KILL and COMPLETELY defeat an equal CR encounter, losing only 20% of their hp/spells/resources in the process.

    2. It was designed with the idea that PCs would NOT know beforehand what they were going to fight, thus were unable to pick spells, tactics and terrain to their advantage.

    3. It was designed for FOUR PCs. Not five. Not six with two cohorts and an NPC ally.

    4. It was designed for PCs who were using the elite array, or close to it (4d6-drop-lowest).

    5. It was designed with the expectation that the PCs MUST and WILL fight three to five such encounters per day, without losing anyone.

    6. It was designed for CORE material. Shock Trooper-Leap Attack-Combat Brute are non-core combos that dramatically increase the power of a Fighter. The Orb spells are non-core spells that dramatically increase the power of a wizard to affect certain anti-wizard monsters. There's a whole slew of non-core spells that greatly enhance the caster abilities of the druid. There's a lot of full caster prestige classes that are far better than advancing as a sorcerer or wizard - better because they make you more powerful. If you allow non-core material, then the PC's power for their level will increase if the players design their characters wisely.

    7. By and large, it is assumed the monsters don't have usable equipment, even if they have the treasure to afford it. They rarely use weapons, bows, or armor, almost never come equipped with rings, cloaks, headbands or doohickees.


    With all that in mind, the most powerful opponents are those who are allowed to benefit from all the rules-mangling the PC's benefit from: class levels, customized and usable equipment, the more powerful non-core spell selection, cohorts and allies, interlocking groups that synergize their abilities (ie, instead of three casters, use two casters and one tank), higher stats, foreknowledge and opportunity to customize spell lists and strategy to neutralize the PC's strengths, non-core feats, etc.

    Also, if the PCs are expected to have one fight a day (or the PCs get to control when they stop), then you need to greatly ramp up the enemy's power. If you don't do this, then the PCs will have cake-walk after cake-walk. While it's entertaining for a while, it gets old quickly. You might also consider reducing the xp given for encounters (even challenging ones) to keep the PCs lower level longer.

    These are things the group as a whole needs to have input on.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Remember a beholder can shoot his eye stalks as free actions. Opening and closing his main eye is a standard action.

    A beholder in a cave with lots of tunnels where he can fire, move, and afterwards open his eye is very much different difficulty than a beholder you fight on an open plain.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramza00 View Post
    Remember a beholder can shoot his eye stalks as free actions. Opening and closing his main eye is a standard action.

    A beholder in a cave with lots of tunnels where he can fire, move, and afterwards open his eye is very much different difficulty than a beholder you fight on an open plain.
    Prepared actions, sadly, take a lot of the sting out of this. A prepared Phantasmal Killer ruins your beholder's day.

    Specifically, Beholders are weak vs. Save-or-Die and Save-or-Suck spells. Moreover, their saves are very low (it's not difficult in the slightest to make a DC 17 when your level is 13, or even 11.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Gamebird View Post
    Things to keep in mind about the erroneously-dubbed "Challenge" rating:

    6. It was designed for CORE material. Shock Trooper-Leap Attack-Combat Brute are non-core combos that dramatically increase the power of a Fighter. The Orb spells are non-core spells that dramatically increase the power of a wizard to affect certain anti-wizard monsters. There's a whole slew of non-core spells that greatly enhance the caster abilities of the druid. There's a lot of full caster prestige classes that are far better than advancing as a sorcerer or wizard - better because they make you more powerful. If you allow non-core material, then the PC's power for their level will increase if the players design their characters wisely.

    With all that in mind, the most powerful opponents are those who are allowed to benefit from all the rules-mangling the PC's benefit from: class levels, customized and usable equipment, the more powerful non-core spell selection, cohorts and allies, interlocking groups that synergize their abilities (ie, instead of three casters, use two casters and one tank), higher stats, foreknowledge and opportunity to customize spell lists and strategy to neutralize the PC's strengths, non-core feats, etc.

    Also, if the PCs are expected to have one fight a day (or the PCs get to control when they stop), then you need to greatly ramp up the enemy's power. If you don't do this, then the PCs will have cake-walk after cake-walk. While it's entertaining for a while, it gets old quickly. You might also consider reducing the xp given for encounters (even challenging ones) to keep the PCs lower level longer.

    edited for length
    Addressing these issues specifically: the monsters in the Monster Manual 3 and 4, by and large, are more interesting and dangerous than those in 1 and 2, because people start to take into account various player proclivities. While the CR system is, indeed, something originally built for core games, nevertheless it continues to be used as the core game is expanded.

    You can certainly make the argument that it's an ineffective system. I won't stop you, and in fact probably agree. The question that I am asking, however, is thus: which opponents retain their effectiveness as the game expands? Are Pit Fiends better opponents than Tarrasques? (They are.) Do Dragons still deserve their power level? (That one's a little trickier.)

    Which opponents become dramatically easier with the addition of fifth and sixth characters?

    The CR system is the current system, without any real good replacements (if you have ideas for one, please don't have them in this thread!) - so the question is, which monsters should probably be reconfigured, and which are appropriate?

    You say that the monsters which are most similar to the players are the most challenging.

    Keeping in mind that throwing too many NPCs at the party results in overtreasuring, what do you recommend?
    Last edited by storybookknight; 2007-04-03 at 02:10 PM.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    A beholder can't use his rays on any target that he's antimagic'ed.
    But he can turn it on/off as a free action once a round. He can use his rays, then turn on the AMF ... after that you can put some non magical arrows into him. He also has flyby attack, so he can simply go across the top of the tunnel throw some rays in your face and fly away.

    Once the PCs catch on they have to use readied actions on him he is going down fast ... but really, the beholder only needs 1 or 2 rounds of offense to be worth his CR IMO. Weak save is likely to be around +12, so that's a 25% chance of the effect getting through. With so many rays that aren't bad odds.
    Last edited by PinkysBrain; 2007-04-03 at 02:09 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Ramza, I understand the kind of tactic you're talking about, but isn't it a standard action both to close, and to open? So in that situation he could Close, fire rays, move. But he wouldn't have enough actions to open the eye again. Unless I'm missing something.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    It's not an action at all, opening or closing his eye is simply something he can do once a round on his own turn.
    Last edited by PinkysBrain; 2007-04-03 at 02:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    Hai-pe-neki, I don't think you understand how magic items in D&D are supposed to work.

    Look at the Wealth-By-Level guidelines on p.135 of the DMG. The PCs should have +1 swords by level 4 or 5, not 10. By 10, they should be packing +2 and a +4 or two stat boosters, enchanted weaponry and armor, Rings of Protection, and some other stuff.
    I think his claim was more that RAW and "how magic items are supposed to work in D&D" should be tossed out the window, a very magic item light campaign was the most fun for him...

    It certainly makes parts of the game more dangerous and challenging, and easier for a DM to balance encounters around what the party can do (since they have less options)

    It certainly dosn't seem to be the majority play style of the people on this board but that doesn't make it any less valid.
    Last edited by Jayabalard; 2007-04-03 at 02:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Once a round. Also, he can't necessarily use his rays on the entire party. If he does, then he can only target 3 of them with rays after he closes his eye. If he doesn't catch the entire party, odds are one of them will have either powerful spells or magic flying boots which can be used to chop him into tiny tiny pieces.

    Wizards of the Coast did a monster redesign article on the beholder - its inefficiency isn't exactly a subject of that much debate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    I think his claim was actually that RAW and "how magic items are supposed to work in D&D" should be tossed out the window, a very magic item light campaign was the most fun for him...

    It certainly makes parts of the game more dangerous and challenging, and easier for a DM to balance encounters around what the party can do (since they have less options)

    It certainly dosn't seem to be the majority play style of the people on this board but that doesn't make it any less valid.
    I'm not saying that it doesn't. I'm saying that that's not the point of the thread. Also, it mostly limits the options of nonspellcasters, whereas most of the play balance issues with the CR system lie in the wake of new spells, rather than new items or non-spellcaster class features and feats.
    Last edited by storybookknight; 2007-04-03 at 02:19 PM.
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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    I'm not saying that it doesn't. I'm saying that that's not the point of the thread. Also, it mostly limits the options of nonspellcasters, whereas most of the play balance issues with the CR system lie in the wake of new spells, rather than new items or non-spellcaster class features and feats.
    The relevance would be suggesting that the problem as presented isn't that the CR vs actual difficulty is of, it's simply the power level of the characters; with lots of magic items, stuff from the latest splatbooks and a little optimization parties are much more powerful than they were when the CR system was created.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    The relevance would be suggesting that the problem as presented isn't that the CR vs actual difficulty is of, it's simply the power level of the characters; with lots of magic items, stuff from the latest splatbooks and a little optimization parties are much more powerful than they were when the CR system was created.
    BUT some monsters hold up better than others, wouldn't you agree?

    The thread is more about which monsters are effective challenges than the CR system itself.

    For my own part, I (as a DM) have started awarding encounter experience rather than monster-based experience. If the PCs cleverly manage to overcome a foe more powerful then they should have otherwise been able to beat (by virtue of having the right spells known/prepared, the right alchemical/enchanted weapons, or by knowing the monster's weakness) then probably they didn't learn as much or grow in power as quickly as they would have in a situation where they had to rely on main strength to win the day.

    I.E. if they spent most of their resources but nobody died, it was an EL of party level +3. If they spent very little resources, it was an EL of the party level, or maybe one below (unless it was designed to be significantly weaker than the party), regardless of what the monster CR might have indicated.
    Last edited by storybookknight; 2007-04-03 at 02:33 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    Consider an encounter of equal CR - it's likely that the party will have 2 spellcasters, and thus twice the spellcasting actions, that the NPC does.
    So, um, two NPC spellcaster enemies? Or more? With a horde of weak-to-moderate fodder, arriving in waves, for backup / buffing / finishing off trapped / save-or-suck'ed PCs, or just for distraction? That can get ugly fast.

    There are several tricks. One of the big ones is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket--unless your one monster is horribly, absurdly powerful, PCs have a lot of ways to disable lone opponents, and overall four actions vs. one action give them an advantage that can be difficult to overcome. On the other hand, you don't want just a horde of weak things that can be dealt with via one spell or cleave, or that simply can't hurt the fighter without a critical. Having underlings arrive in waves helps with this--the evil wizard regularly calls for his guards or the orcish warchief bellows for his hordes or whatever. Of course, you should be reasonable and give the players a sense that these reinforcements are actually coming from somewhere and can be blocked off or exhausted, but time spent doing that is time not spent focused on the big evil bad guy(s), which can make things harder.

    Having enemies attack in waves is a good idea in general--it makes it harder for the players to hit them all with one spell, and gives their buffs more time to wear off. Of course, the problem is you're giving up some numerical advantage.

    Having some archers among the hordes attacking from widely-dispersed locations can make players suffer a bit, too... even if they're just small plinkers, you can scatter them enough to keep them from being taken out by one spell, forcing flimsier mages to waste spells to protect themselves. Don't forget to give them magic weapon on their arrows--it's a first-level spell, so a grunt level 1 or 2 caster can cast it enough times for everyone before a big fight.

    Oh, yes, having casters among those fodder monsters can help, too. A bunch of creatures that wouldn't be worth paying attention to normally suddenly become nastier when one casts grease or glitterdust.

    In general, it's better to think about how challenge ratings apply to fights, not just to individual monsters. The orcish warchief and his two shamans might be an only moderately difficult fight on their own, but with hordes of grunt orcs streaming in to back them up it can get messy.

    Relying on reinforcements lets you dynamically adjust the challenge to keep things from getting dull (by calling in more than you originally intended), but don't get carried away. If the players begin to feel that the DM is just pulling infinite monsters from his rear, it can take away from the fun. Giving them a general estimate as to how many reinforcements the BBEGs have to call on can help here, so they know they're at least making some headway.

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    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquillion View Post
    So, um, two NPC spellcaster enemies? Or more? With a horde of weak-to-moderate fodder, arriving in waves, for backup / buffing / finishing off trapped / save-or-suck'ed PCs, or just for distraction? That can get ugly fast.

    There are several tricks. One of the big ones is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket--unless your one monster is horribly, absurdly powerful, PCs have a lot of ways to disable lone opponents, and overall four actions vs. one action give them an advantage that can be difficult to overcome. On the other hand, you don't want just a horde of weak things that can be dealt with via one spell or cleave, or that simply can't hurt the fighter without a critical. Having underlings arrive in waves helps with this--the evil wizard regularly calls for his guards or the orcish warchief bellows for his hordes or whatever. Of course, you should be reasonable and give the players a sense that these reinforcements are actually coming from somewhere and can be blocked off or exhausted, but time spent doing that is time not spent focused on the big evil bad guy(s), which can make things harder.

    Having enemies attack in waves is a good idea in general--it makes it harder for the players to hit them all with one spell, and gives their buffs more time to wear off. Of course, the problem is you're giving up some numerical advantage.

    Having some archers among the hordes attacking from widely-dispersed locations can make players suffer a bit, too... even if they're just small plinkers, you can scatter them enough to keep them from being taken out by one spell, forcing flimsier mages to waste spells to protect themselves. Don't forget to give them magic weapon on their arrows--it's a first-level spell, so a grunt level 1 or 2 caster can cast it enough times for everyone before a big fight.

    Oh, yes, having casters among those fodder monsters can help, too. A bunch of creatures that wouldn't be worth paying attention to normally suddenly become nastier when one casts grease or glitterdust.

    In general, it's better to think about how challenge ratings apply to fights, not just to individual monsters. The orcish warchief and his two shamans might be an only moderately difficult fight on their own, but with hordes of grunt orcs streaming in to back them up it can get messy.

    Relying on reinforcements lets you dynamically adjust the challenge to keep things from getting dull (by calling in more than you originally intended), but don't get carried away. If the players begin to feel that the DM is just pulling infinite monsters from his rear, it can take away from the fun. Giving them a general estimate as to how many reinforcements the BBEGs have to call on can help here, so they know they're at least making some headway.
    Well, granted! I think most DMs pick up those tricks at one point or another.

    Still, monsters have suggested CRs. Some monsters (oozes in an open setting, for example, notoriously the tarrasque, mind flayers once people get to be on a level of parity) don't meet suggested values, and some
    do. For a single monster vs. a party of four, who does well?
    Avatar by Mephibosheth!

    Currently DMing:
    In the Emperors' Hand

  30. - Top - End - #30

    Default Re: Who deserves their high CR?

    Dragons. If they're presented as their CR rating indicates (that is, not surrounded by minions, traps, given permanent and powerful one-shot items, etc), they're eminently Dealable With provided the party spellcasters are up to par, but they'll soak up enough spells and do enough damage in the process to deserve their CR.
    That is, unless the party hits them with cheesy dex-drain, Ray-of-Clumsiness/Ray-of-Exhaustion style.

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