Sunday, January 11, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different: Encounter calculator with a GUI

First, my apologies for not posting anything recently. Most of my time went to finishing an assignment. Thankfully, Jacob and Joe have been able to post some interesting stuff while I've been busy.

Because I didn't have time to write a second part for series of articles about map design, this week I'll instead show you something I designed to make my freelance work easier: An encounter CR calculator with a very visual interface. Let's have a look!

So, this is how it works: You type the name of a monster / villain / mook in the Creature name field and then enter its CR in the CR field.

The spreadsheet then automatically calculates the xp value of that creature as can be seen in the xp column. The spreadsheet also shows a graphical representation of how much of you xp budget each monster uses. In the example above, I'm building a CR 8 encounter.

What's great about the calculator is that it's very easy to see how much adding or removing a creature would affect the CR. For example, if I had to scale the encounter down to CR 7, I could slap the young simple template on the vorpal elephant and remove a few mooks. Voilà!

This is very useful especially when you're writing a Pathfinder Society scenario (or quest). PFS scenarios have not only two subtiers (which are always 3 CRs apart), but they also have encounter scaling rules for parties of four (five or six PCs is the standard assumption).

And no, this example is not from a real adventure. The vorpal elephant would have a much higher CR, duh! :-D


Any ideas on how to make the spreadsheet even more useful?


  1. Interesting - feel free to share that spreadsheet!

    I like that you can see how much of the total CR is taken up by each creature. Though it's intended that two encounters with the same CR should be equally challenging, I've wondered about the differences between an encounter where most of the CR is taken up by one creature versus one where the CR is distributed across several or many creatures. Without knowing anything else, would you expect to have an easier time with a single CR 10 or a group of 3 CR 7's? Or, do you think that they really are as equal as intended by the CR math?

    1. After I posted the article, I started adding new features. There's now a database of creatures from the Bestiary and the GameMastery Guide, and you only have to type the name of a creature and it automatically checks the CR and calculates the xp. And there's even a search function, so you can specify, for example, that you're looking for creatures between CR 4 and 8 that have "air" in the name. The database itself, however, is still very much incomplete. If I had the time to populate it with data from the various bestiaries, it'd be a really powerful encounter building tool.

      As for the question about CRs, it really depends on the type of creatures. Generally speaking, though, I'd say that 3 weaker creatures is a more interesting encounter than 1 stronger creature because they have a better action economy than a single creature, and more tactical options too. They're usually also more balanced encounters, whereas a strong solo monster might get ganged up on really quickly OR it might blast the PCs into oblivion before they even get to act, depending on how the die falls.


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