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Author Topic: I don't like CR.  (Read 1895 times)

Ratman_tf

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I don't like CR.
« on: February 23, 2021, 06:30:35 AM »
I've tried using CR with Pathfinder, 4e and 5e, and so far, I wind up ignoring it or trying to reverse-engineer it to make sense to me.
My usual stumbling point is that the system assumes a party of X characters and one monster as it's base value. And I rarely use just one monster in an encounter. So I'm almost always having to apply some kind of modifier.

Anybody like it? Using it sucessfully?
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2021, 06:58:53 AM »
I use it as a rough guideline for picking out a possible base for a creature roster.  That is, a CR 1/2 may or may not be weaker than a CR 1 and may or may be stronger than a CR 1/4, but it is definitely weaker than a CR 4, at least in most situations.  So when I'm picking out a roster, I use the CR listings and scan things in and around the party level.  Though I do think the CRs in Tome of Beasts are a better fit for me than the WotC stuff.  Maybe that's because I'm usually running for a large group.  Also, I'm only using the CR's as a guide for what to expect in a sandbox.  I'll use any creature that fits the area, some of which are things the characters will die if they fight and others are much weaker.

Then I ignore their information on how to scale for numbers (doesn't work right), assume that they've botched most of the CR's a little, and go from there.  The article the Angry GM did on putting monsters in Tiers is a more rigorous form of what I do.  I even think of the creatures in tiers, and did before his article. 

As for experience awards, that's way too much number crunching for not enough gain.  Take the average level of the characters and use the chart, adjusting up or down for toughness.  These are 5th level characters.  This seems like an adventure supposedly balanced for 4th level characters.  I'll give them experience as if every monster was right on the dot of 4th level toughness when you work it out the long way.  (I did it both ways for some time to check.  It's not enough difference to matter in even a short campaign.)  I'm not quite to the point of awarding experience by tiers, as the Angry GM does.  Would probably be there by now, but since I've abandoned WotC products and started using my own design that has monsters built in tiers from the ground up ...

Steven Mitchell

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2021, 07:31:10 AM »
A link to Part 2 of the Angry GM article referenced above:  CR-There Is a Better Way Part 2

Follow up articles where he used it to build things:  How to CR Practical Example Part 2

I've linked the end of the series, because he has links in them to the start of it.

Gameogre

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2021, 08:08:01 AM »
Most of the time CR can't even be used for what it's for. A Difficult encounter isn't difficult but pathetically easy. In order to even use CR you have to constantly redo it to see what the current stat is compared with the newest player oriented overpowered aspects.

Not to mention the entire notion of encounter balance to begin with and the thought training it does on players who now expect ever encounter to be if not easy then at least winnable.

CR and the greater encounter systems are some of the worst things to happen to rpg's.


sureshot

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2021, 08:19:21 AM »
I use it as a rough baseline unfortunately imo CR does not take into account the power of even the most non-minimized character. Use it to get an idea of what the party can fight then alter accordingly. That being said I do like it because unlike previous editions of D&D it makes it easier to make encounters especially for new DMs.

hedgehobbit

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2021, 08:26:10 AM »
I used CR successfully back in my 3e days and have incorporated it into my B/X and OD&D games. I don't really see the issue that others do as CR is the exact same mechanic as "Monster Level" from OD&D/AD&D. It even has the same problems (such as how in AD&D four 1 HD orcs are more of a threat than one 4 HD Ogre yet are worth fewer XP).

The only difference is that CR is scaled to character level rather than the arbitrary dungeon level, which as others have pointed out, makes it more useable in practice.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2021, 08:27:53 AM by hedgehobbit »

Steven Mitchell

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2021, 09:07:26 AM »
Besides the psychological aspects on players (which is really a problem with GMs and players, not the mechanic), the main issue with CR is false precision.  It's almost as if the designers skipped that part of 8th grade math where they talk about how using incorrect precision in mathematical operations can produce misleading results.  They certainly didn't remember it from high school chemistry that drives the point home, if it wasn't already.

That also is the main reason why the "Tier" approach manages to be simpler yet more accurate.  It doesn't take a bunch of wild guesses and then multiply and divide them several times in a formula--and then pretend that the answer is accurate.  It takes some broader guesses and does fewer, simpler calculations on them.

Charon's Little Helper

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2021, 10:19:21 AM »
The execution isn't perfect, but I'd rather have the CR system as a ballpark than not have it at all. Especially useful for new GMs who don't have the experience to eyeball encounter difficulty.

While it could be better, I don't think it'd be possible to make it perfect anyway as there is too much table variation. How tough are undead? Depends if you have a cleric. etc.

I do agree that the one really annoying thing is how it seems to promote the idea of encounters being a single foe. There are rules for CR with multiple foes, but they're treated as an optional rule rather than the default. It'd be nice if the Monster Manual (or Bestiary or whatever) would give the CR of standard groupings of foes combined.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2021, 10:26:02 AM by Charon's Little Helper »

Chris24601

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2021, 12:54:25 PM »
I've tried using CR with Pathfinder, 4e and 5e, and so far, I wind up ignoring it or trying to reverse-engineer it to make sense to me.
My usual stumbling point is that the system assumes a party of X characters and one monster as it's base value. And I rarely use just one monster in an encounter. So I'm almost always having to apply some kind of modifier.

Anybody like it? Using it sucessfully?
I pretty much rewrote my entire system around fixing the CR system and its somewhat in line with the "CR-There Is a Better Way Part 2" article that Steven Mitchell linked to upthread.

The real honest to God key to a functional CR system from my experience (and why its never worked all that great in D&D) is that for it to be able to reliably measure anything you need the system to have linear instead of quadratic scaling.

In D&D, your improvement in combat is generally quadratic. Not only are you becoming more accurate, you're also dealing more damage per round. You're not only getting more hit points, you're also getting harder to hit.

So instead of five 1st level threats being of similar danger to you at 5th level as one was when you were 1st level. Its likely you'd need ten or even twenty (and maybe more) to present a credible threat to the PC. The result is that your challenge rating has to be quadratic if its going to measure anything accurately... Ex. a level 1 is CR1, a level 5 is CR10, a level 10 is CR40, etc.

But even that has its limits because, in 3e/4E, the scaling was so great that often a 10th level PC was virtually immune to any number of 1st level threats. 4E even directly referenced this with statements about how a solo monster at level 1 would have to be restated as an elite if facing the PCs at level 10, as a standard monster at level 20 and as a minion if the PCs encountered it at level 30. In one epic tier adventure they even statted up a legion of thousands of ghouls (heroic tier threats) as DIFFICULT TERRAIN for the PCs during a fight with an Exarch of Orcus.

My solution to creating a fully scalable and easily usable CR system (also a system that allowed mass battles without needing special conversion rules... the original purpose of the change) was to remove one of the axes of growth so that level progression was linear. Specifically, to-hit and defenses are almost static; about +10% over the entire range of the game; while damage and hit points scale linearly for both PCs and monsters.

The result is that you can more-or-less just use a monster's hit points to determine its relative threat to the PCs*. If a PC has 25 hp, then a group of monsters with a total of 25 hp will be a normal challenge for them. If an adventuring party has 220 hp, then monsters with about 220 hp will be a normal challenge, 330 hp will be a dangerous fight and one with 440 hp will almost certainly result in a TPK if the PCs don't beat a hasty retreat.

This also makes it easy to account for henchmen and hirelings in encounter balance too. Just add their hit points to the PCs side to determine what's going to be an easy, typical, hard or lethal fight for them.

* Its slightly more complicated than that since monsters can trade hit points for better defenses and visa versa, and can trade accuracy for damage and visa versa (that way there's more variety than just level between monsters); but the default "Challenge Point" value is just the pre-adjusted hit point total of the monster with everything else about the monster scaling in ratio with that.

Samsquantch

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2021, 01:03:12 PM »
Most of the time CR can't even be used for what it's for. A Difficult encounter isn't difficult but pathetically easy. In order to even use CR you have to constantly redo it to see what the current stat is compared with the newest player oriented overpowered aspects.

Not to mention the entire notion of encounter balance to begin with and the thought training it does on players who now expect ever encounter to be if not easy then at least winnable.

CR and the greater encounter systems are some of the worst things to happen to rpg's.

I agree with you there. I find CR all but useless for my groups and enevitably beef up encounters by a good amount just to provide a challenge. It's more of a base line for me at this point. However I still remember the first encounter of 5e, the Goblins Arrows ambush from Lost Mine of Phandelver. Four total newbs to RPGs and me the old grognard DM... The first two characters were down on the first hit, the second two were badly mauled, and the NPC cleric was scrambling to revive the downed PCs. And that was round one. Four goblins of CR 1/4 versus 4 PCs with max base hit points (not counting CON bonus if any). I had to pull punches to avoid a TPK.

Samsquantch

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2021, 01:11:13 PM »
I've tried using CR with Pathfinder, 4e and 5e, and so far, I wind up ignoring it or trying to reverse-engineer it to make sense to me.
My usual stumbling point is that the system assumes a party of X characters and one monster as it's base value. And I rarely use just one monster in an encounter. So I'm almost always having to apply some kind of modifier.

Anybody like it? Using it sucessfully?
I pretty much rewrote my entire system around fixing the CR system and its somewhat in line with the "CR-There Is a Better Way Part 2" article that Steven Mitchell linked to upthread.

The real honest to God key to a functional CR system from my experience (and why its never worked all that great in D&D) is that for it to be able to reliably measure anything you need the system to have linear instead of quadratic scaling.

In D&D, your improvement in combat is generally quadratic. Not only are you becoming more accurate, you're also dealing more damage per round. You're not only getting more hit points, you're also getting harder to hit.

So instead of five 1st level threats being of similar danger to you at 5th level as one was when you were 1st level. Its likely you'd need ten or even twenty (and maybe more) to present a credible threat to the PC. The result is that your challenge rating has to be quadratic if its going to measure anything accurately... Ex. a level 1 is CR1, a level 5 is CR10, a level 10 is CR40, etc.

But even that has its limits because, in 3e/4E, the scaling was so great that often a 10th level PC was virtually immune to any number of 1st level threats. 4E even directly referenced this with statements about how a solo monster at level 1 would have to be restated as an elite if facing the PCs at level 10, as a standard monster at level 20 and as a minion if the PCs encountered it at level 30. In one epic tier adventure they even statted up a legion of thousands of ghouls (heroic tier threats) as DIFFICULT TERRAIN for the PCs during a fight with an Exarch of Orcus.

My solution to creating a fully scalable and easily usable CR system (also a system that allowed mass battles without needing special conversion rules... the original purpose of the change) was to remove one of the axes of growth so that level progression was linear. Specifically, to-hit and defenses are almost static; about +10% over the entire range of the game; while damage and hit points scale linearly for both PCs and monsters.

The result is that you can more-or-less just use a monster's hit points to determine its relative threat to the PCs*. If a PC has 25 hp, then a group of monsters with a total of 25 hp will be a normal challenge for them. If an adventuring party has 220 hp, then monsters with about 220 hp will be a normal challenge, 330 hp will be a dangerous fight and one with 440 hp will almost certainly result in a TPK if the PCs don't beat a hasty retreat.

This also makes it easy to account for henchmen and hirelings in encounter balance too. Just add their hit points to the PCs side to determine what's going to be an easy, typical, hard or lethal fight for them.

* Its slightly more complicated than that since monsters can trade hit points for better defenses and visa versa, and can trade accuracy for damage and visa versa (that way there's more variety than just level between monsters); but the default "Challenge Point" value is just the pre-adjusted hit point total of the monster with everything else about the monster scaling in ratio with that.

Using HP as guideline is what I found myself doing as well. I know that my group can do X amount of damage on average and can take X amount per round so I have been adding extra mobs to encounters with base HP or increasing boss HP to compensate. It seems to be working fine whilst still providing a decent challenge. Still get a good amount of downed PCs but so far no deaths from missed saves or massive damage.

Omega

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2021, 03:37:30 PM »
We had this discussion here when 5e came out.

Overall CR works as a base idea of possible challenge. But way way way too many try to use it as an absolute gauge and then wonder why it keeps failing. After a point I just go back to eyeballing the overall stats and using accordingly rather than CR.

Ratman_tf

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2021, 03:46:07 PM »
I used CR successfully back in my 3e days and have incorporated it into my B/X and OD&D games. I don't really see the issue that others do as CR is the exact same mechanic as "Monster Level" from OD&D/AD&D. It even has the same problems (such as how in AD&D four 1 HD orcs are more of a threat than one 4 HD Ogre yet are worth fewer XP).

The only difference is that CR is scaled to character level rather than the arbitrary dungeon level, which as others have pointed out, makes it more useable in practice.

That's the thing. Using HD I had very few problems.
You have two baselines. Total HD compared to total party Levels, and individual HD compared to individual character Level. More HD = harder encounter, less HD = easier encounter.
The one issue that later editions pointed out is action economy. Less actions (solo monster versus group) can be a huge disadvantage.
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finarvyn

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2021, 04:04:00 PM »
My usual stumbling point is that the system assumes a party of X characters and one monster as it's base value. And I rarely use just one monster in an encounter. So I'm almost always having to apply some kind of modifier.
I find the examples to be confusing unless I happen to have exactly the same number of characters as the example.

As others have noted, additional attacks from the four 1-HD orcs make them more deadly in many ways than the one 4-HD ogre, and it never seems like this is accounted for correctly. I assume that one could create a chart with # of characters on one axis and CR on another, and then when you cross-reference you could get a true difficulty level for the encounter, but to do that I have to get a better grasp of the examples and how to adjust for multiple characters or multiple monsters.

Love the idea in concept, but like others I just eyeball it and cross my fingers.
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S'mon

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Re: I don't like CR.
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2021, 04:06:59 PM »
I just treat it like AD&D Monster Level - a very rough guide to threat level, not something to build encounters with (late 4e was the only D&D version where 'encounter building' worked). I prefer status quo sandboxing with a big PC group who know when to run!

Oh, I do use BTB XP in my current game, so Challenge determines XP rewards if you beat the monster.
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