GM Breakdown, episode 32 - The Shadow Squad
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
This week was intense. One of the npcs goes down right out of the gate and then Teh'Rull is up and down basically the entire fight. Sheesh.
This is one of those moments where the encounter builder is just waaaay off. If you're not familiar, the encounter builder is a tool used to help balance encounters. It is basically a budget of experience which gives you an inclination of how hard an encounter will be based on how tough the encounter is. The harder you want the fight to be, the more xp you have to "buy" enemy participants for. The higher level those enemies are, the higher the cost to include them. This tool tops out at an extreme difficulty encounter with a budget of 160 xp. The griffons are APL+1 (1 higher than average party level) and cost 60 xp each, totalling 180 xp. You can argue all you want that having Ot and the three anadis to help us balances this encounter, but that just isn't true in my opinion.
Sure, Threads and Goss did some damage and caused a griffon to be dazzled, and Ot healed Teh'Rull at a critical moment, Droplets occupied one of the griffons for a bit (BY DYING!!), but this is not what made the difference. Without Rikdahn's crits in this fight, we would all be dead. You cannot change my mind on that fact. Granted, I did mess around and waste two turns just to make the griffon sit down and get back up because I thought it was fun and didn't really realize how tough it actually was at the time (also secretly hoping the griffon would calm down because Wully is an awesome animal druid), but even so, without those crits, the griffons would have messed us up.
In my very humble opinion, using the extreme difficulty encounter before at least level 7 is pure evil. This would be the equivalent of near the end of book 2 in an AP that starts at level 1. I think I've said this before, but level 7 is when all the classes really start branching out, most gaining expert in the thing they are specializing in, and so on. It is also when some classes start hitting triple digits in hit points and most characters can survive a crit from an extreme enemy, some two or even three on some low damage rolls. This number goes up if it's several enemies making up the extreme encounter. At first level, the number of characters that can survive a crit from an enemy four or three (sometimes even two) levels higher is basically zero. Now, before I get long-winded (too late?), I just want to implore gms or AP writers out there, don't use extreme encounter before level seven, or at least five, unless you want someone to die. The boss of book 2 is a good first place to start using extreme. And to anyone saying the threat of death is what makes rpgs great, there is plenty possibility for death in severe or sometimes even moderate encounters.
That's enough rambling from me this week, next week we're doing a recap of book 1!