[PnP] How do you balance encounters?
akoponen at mosquitonet.com
Sun Apr 20 11:47:14 CEST 2014
2nd Try, since the first time I sent this it didn't seem to get posted.
Made some minor changes.
Its been awhile since I GM'd P&P but the way that I did it was to
have an area of the world that the characters could adventure in. They
could hear rumors about things, (brigands on the high road, the haunted
ruins, etc.) and choose where to go and what to deal with. Some things
are too tough for them (I hope they are wise enough to avoid these or to
talk their way out or run if they fail to avoid too tough an encounter),
some a pushover, but most could be handled by using good tactics and
avoiding really bad luck. (I don't fudge the die rolls). I try to have
the encounter be reasonable given the background setting...I do reroll
encounter types that don't seem reasonable (rarely do Soul Divas wander
around the Middle World) and may choose to reduce the number immediately
encountered (though the rest will be within an hours walk) to make the
encounter less hazardous (winnable).
To calculate the difficulty of the encounter I do not have a
formula, instead I used a feel developed over many encounters as both
player and GM. But rules of thumb include:
Don't outnumber the characters by TOO much, numbers DO matter and
allow for flanking and rear attacks which radically change the odds. The
terrain matters here as well. Horatio may have beaten many opponents on
a bridge where he only had to face one opponent at a time, opponents
that could have quickly beaten him had they been able to surround him.
Other things that matter are such things as flying and invisibility
(note that sprites can be REALLY dangerous opponents far outperforming
their OCVs with the proper tactics - figure the situation modifiers
likely: Rear or Flank together with Above and Multiple Opponents).
Traps AND opponents together are much tougher than either alone. A
few missile armed goblins under cover behind a series of concealed traps
may be harder to beat than an ogre. Fortunately in P&P traps are
Let the opponents be overconfident. Perhaps they are used to
beating those with OCV and DCV of 1 or 2. Likely they are NOT used to
encountering magic users. Not all encounters have to give the opponents
much of a chance. Let some bully get his comeuppance because he picked
on someone far tougher than he thought. Many opponents will not have a
good grasp of tactics. Let them fight stupidly. Yes, the Ogre may decide
to charge across the open field at the line of bowmen guarded by a line
of pikemen instead of running or waiting in cover to ambush at close range.
Rarely have more than one really tough opponent (tougher than the
average party member), let the tough guy have much wimpier flunkies.
With big parties maybe one really tough opponent per four or so party
members with wimps to bring the numbers up to around half again the
number in the adventuring party.
Magic, properly used, CAN make a huge difference...but in P&P it
doesn't always work. Indeed it can backfire (one notable example: a
wizard called lightning from the clouds to fight off brigands and turned
himself to charcoal and set the wagon he was on to fire with an abysmal
On 4/19/2014 10:52 AM, Melkor wrote:
> Hi all,
> how do you manage to balance encounters in P&P?
> I have a group of four players:
> Ennon: OCV 2, DCV 4
> Gunnard: OCV 9, DCV 8
> Darrel: OCV 3, DCV 5
> Habbakuk: OCV 6, DCV 5
> the average hit point value of each character is around 20, except for
> Gunnard who has 33 HPV.
> Given this situation, i always have doubts as to which creature
> (monster) they should face.
> As you probably remember, Richard Snider at the end of book IV stated
> that "the situation that evolves in your game must be designed such that:
> A) they are not automatic victories for your players
> B) they are situations that the party involved can win
> I always try to stick to this (apparently simple) rule, but it is not
> so easy, so i would like to know how you are used to managing encounters.
> I think it is a mistake for the game master to throw monsters at the
> party that are too strong to beat, but at the same time the player's
> skills must be put to test, that is why i think that encounters should
> always be balanced.
> Now, how to balance them? How to pick the correct monster (*one which
> is as strong as my players are*) from the monster list in book III?
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