How to Design an Encounter

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Here is how to design Pathfinder encounters! Just keep in mind that CR is a good estimate, but may change according to party makeup.


How to Calculate the Challenge Rating for an Encounter

1. Calculate the Average Party Level, or APL. That is, total the levels of each player character in the plot, then divide the end result by the number of players, and round it to the nearest number (not necessarily down). From here:

Decrease the APL by 1:
If the number of players is 3 or fewer
If circumstances are heavily slated against the player characters
Increase the APL by 1:
If there are 5 or more players
If circumstances play heavily in their favor


2. Determine the challenge you want to present. Tenebrae characters are stronger than average because of their higher point buy, as well as the number of options provided ingame. The following chart has been adjusted to reflect that, although we've provided the standard one for reference. For PrPs and scenes, we assume the average encounter will be around APL+2.

Normal Pathfinder
Difficulty Challenge Rating Equals
Easy APL -1
Average APL+0
Challenging APL +1
Hard APL +2
Epic APL +3
Tenebrae Pathfinder
Difficulty Challenge Rating Equals
Easy APL +1
Average APL+2
Challenging APL +3
Hard APL +4
Epic APL +5

3. Compare this modified APL with the charts, below, to determine your XP Budget. For example, if your modified APL was 6 (don't forget that +2 for Tenebrae!), then you have an "XP Budget" of 2,400. Multiple creatures equal a higher CR.

CR Total XP CR Total XP
1-3 4-5 10 9600
1/8 50 11 12800
1/6 65 12 19200
1/4 100 13 25600
1/3 135 14 38400
1/2 200 15 51200
1 400 16 76800
2 600 17 102400
3 800 18 153600
4 1200 19 204800
5 1600 20 307200
6 2400 21 409600
7 3200 22 614400
8 4800 23 819200
9 6400 24 1228800
25 1638400
Number of Creatures Equal to...
1 Creature CR
2 Creatures CR +2
3 Creatures CR +3
4 Creatures CR +4
6 Creatures CR +5
8 Creatures CR +6
12 Creatures CR +7
16 Creatures CR +8



4. Go monster hunting. To find out how many and which monsters you can use, total the individual XP values of each monster. Then, compare the end result with your "XP Budget" number. Once you're close to your number, you've "filled" the monsters for that encounter.

Don't worry if the value isn't exactly equal--just approximate it the best you can!

If you'd like some general advice on tactics, check out this well-written guide!

Help for GMs

Tools for GMs
I Need Help With... Look Here
Can I really just run a plot? Yes, anyone may run a plot at any time, without pre-approval. Please make an +event after, though!
How can I design an encounter? Basics of Encounter Design

More Advanced Encounter Design

Are there tools to make encounters easier? Combat Manager

Player-Contributed Encounter Grab Bag

Where can I find monsters? Tenebrae Bestiary

Monster Creation Table

Is the a GM chat? Where can I find help? addcom tpk=TPK
What if I want to offer legwork? What IS legwork? Legwork Mini-Guide for GMs
Didn't you run some PrP Workshops? We did! Check them out here!
I want to include dragons! Dragons are one of a small handful of creatures we set aside in order to keep them unique. They may not be used in PrPs.

MUX versus Tabletop

Encounters in a MUX tend to take longer due to the nature of the medium. This is one of the reasons we have the 2 encounter limit in PrPs.

Stripping the APL Terminology Experiment