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Challenge Ratings in MoM/Pugmire vs. D&D

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  • Challenge Ratings in MoM/Pugmire vs. D&D

    So in vanilla D&D the Challenge Rating for a creature states that a CR X character is an appropriate opponent for a part of 4 level X players (DMG 274). It looks like in MoM/Pugmire the rule is that a CR X creature is a moderately difficult challenge for ONE level X player. This would mean to me that for balance I'd need to use a lot more (3-4 times as many) CR 1 enemies for a starting party in MoM than I would in my D&D campaign, but I wanted to verify this is the intent before I TPK my group.

    Thanks,

    Rick

  • #2
    Hmmm... good question. You could always test it. If they die, it was a prophetic dream warning of the dangers ahead. Surprise!


    Jason Ross Inczauskis, Freelance Writer
    Projects: Dark Eras 2, Mummy: The Curse 2e, Pirates of Pugmire, TC In Media Res, DtD Night Horrors: Enemy Action, C20 Anthology of Dreams
    Masculine pronouns preferred.

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    • #3
      Seems right to me, based on the game I’ve been running. This is a good thing: keying the system to an assumed party size always bugged me, as I will pretty much never exactly have that number at any given time. Much better to key it to each PC.

      It’s still not an exact science and never will be. For example, a larger number of enemies than the PCs makes them more challenging than their CR alone would suggest, whereas a single opponent will be less so. But it works well enough, and I’d call it one of several small but welcome improvements that Eddy has made to the underlying system.
      Last edited by Black Flag; 02-18-2019, 07:40 PM.

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      • #4
        I’ve been looking at these systems quite a bit as I prepare for my first pugmire game. the same DMG page you mention (274) gives hard stats per CR as well; pugmire has a similar chart on 196. Regardless of the philosophy of vs 1 player or 4, those hard stats of AC, Damage per round, to hit bonus, and save DV are what make monsters a greater or lesser challenge, and we can use those to guess a CR conversion between systems.

        What I noticed is that the damage per round stays the same between pugmire and D&D CRs; pugmire increases AC much faster, and pugmire has a to hit / save dc that’s a little bit higher than the same CR in D&D - which makes it hard to draw an exact parallel. I ended up using averages to ballpark it. Here’s my guesstimate...
        Pugmire CR 0 covers the range of D&D CR 0, 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2.
        Pugmire CR 1 is identical to D&D CR 1
        For CR 2-7, add +1 to the CR when converting pugmire to D&D; they’ll deal less damage than one would expect, but will hit with effects more consistently and be harder for PCs to damage. Likewise, for D&D into Pugmire, -1 to the CR expectation, but you want to deliberately reduce the damage. (Ie, pug 2 ~> d&d 3)
        For CR 8-10, add +3 CR for pugmire to D&D. Pugmire has way higher ACs and to hit bonuses at the upper levels, equivalent to D&D CR 16-20, but do way less damage. Converting D&D to pugmire, anything above CR 11 will dish out damage way too high for pugmire characters to deal with, but the rest of their stats will be lower, so cap damage at 70/round, but otherwise the higher CR monsters can still be used as top tier challenges.

        That’s just what it looks like to me from the numbers. I was pretty surprised at how those stat ranges compared, because I figured pugmire would have much weaker monsters if CR was designed to scale for a single PC, but they’re actually harder to hit and more consistently hit the players with both attacks and effects. Damage is probably the more impactful stat, though, so that likely skewed my estimates.
        If you look at damage alone, a D&D monster has equal CR in pugmire, so you could do a 1:1 port D&D -> Pugmire without too much issue.
        Spells and special abilities can be a game changer, of course, along with any number of other variations (tactics, terrain, groups, player party composition). High level D&D monsters do some crazy stuff....


        Anyway, those are my estimates; I’d be interested in feedback on how to look at those tables more effectively. And When I start game I’ll give an update as to how it’s working out...


        Second Chance for

        A Beautiful Madness

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        • #5
          I just started up my chronicle this weekend. We're starting at first level, and haven't had too many encounters yet. But I did use a crocodile and a rust monster straight out of D&D5E. These fall within CR0 on Pugmire's 'make a monster' chart, and since they were single monsters vs 6 PCs... they died quick. I was trying to be cautious about damage-per-round, though, as 5/6 PCs had 10 Stamina or less. These early levels should be tough to balance challenging fight vs one-shotting a PC.
          I'll keep posting as the chronicle progresses. I'm liberally using D&D to design encounters, including the XP budget from the DMG (82) to gauge difficulty, but it'll be a few months before we get above CR2, methinks.

          The crocodile was a cool and scary encounter though. They were traveling by boat, so I had it sneak up on them and attack with a surprise round. it leapt onto the back of the boat and bit the Hunter, establishing a grapple. Because everybody dumped Strength, he didn't make the save to break free. The party couldn't kill it in one round, so it dove underwater with the Hunter, and was hiding in the murk. But the Shepherd had hit it with Sacred Flame, so it was glowing faintly and showed up clearly when the Mancer used detect magic - so I let her help others aim with crossbows to cancel out the disadvantage. They were able to get it the second round, and the hunter took a rest during the rest of the boat trip.
          Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 08-20-2019, 04:46 PM.


          Second Chance for

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          • #6
            We just had our third game session. The players went into this session as level 2, and they fought two monsters out of D&D: a Chuul (cr 4) and a giant goat (cr 1/2). The goat was more of a skill challenge to climb a steep rocky hill while a mountain ram tried to knock them off, but they did use spells and attacks to out-maneuver it; it was fun, but pretty easy (as expected).
            [I didn't post last time, as all of our encounters were against Pugmire monsters - they fought a badger tribe. But I did learn that multi-attack would one-shot somebody, so I decided to avoid that power entirely until they have a bit more Stamina..]

            The chuul was serious fight. It took 3 rounds for them to take it down - but they did really well on saves, so escaped its grapple before it could do serious damage. It had high enough defense that several attacks missed, but most landed (and they had 3 crits!). I did not use it's multi-attack, which did nerf its damage pretty well, but at level 2 they still have low enough Stamina that I was worried about 1 shotting them.
            They also fought a Breath Taker, which is CR 4 for Monarchies of Mau, so I got a good comparison between CR in the two systems. (I also did not have the breath taker use multi attack). With a lower Defense, more hits landed, but it had resistance to all of their attacks, so it lasted about as long as the D&D monster. It was serious enough that they finished it off with clever tactics: the mancer threw up webs (which it dodged), but the Guardian then pushed it into the webs. It rolled low on the save to break free, so they set it on fire and finished it off.

            Comparing these fights side-to-side I think I have a better feel for using D&D CR in Pugrmire. It's feeling about equivalent so far. I did fudge those encounters to be easier (but the same way in both), because damage per turn increases pretty quickly; letting them have two attacks could have easily 1-shot any of my party members still. But that was something I new going in, and intentionally changed.


            I'll post again after next session - we're going to have some more complex multi-foe combats in our next encounter (using more Monster Manual ports) - but so far so good!
            Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 09-07-2019, 11:32 PM.


            Second Chance for

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            • #7
              Greetings all.
              I have run 2 more game sessions since my last post, with encounters that have including Pugmire/Mau monsters, D&D monsters straight out of the monster manual, and custom made monsters following D&D's creation guidelines. I've been using the guidelines in the DMG (pg 82) to arrange each encounter for a targeted difficulty. And things are going really well: I haven't run into any major issues, the encounters have been fun for the party - but they do seem to be a bit easier than I've been intending. I'm not sure if that's my players' composition and strategy, or luck of the dice, or part of the encounter-building system I'm using. But it hasn't caused any problems, and has pretty much gone the way I've expected / intended. So... so far so good; anecdotally if you run things straight out of D&D5, it shouldn't have major issues. I probably won't post another update of in-game experiences until we're much higher level or until something goes wrong *glances back at thread activity...*

              However
              Since I've started making my own custom monsters, I've gotten much more familiar with the guidelines for CR in both systems. I've read up in depth on how to make your own monster from DMG (273-282) and read a few blogs that explain that process in different ways and point out some of its quirks.

              And I missed something totally, bloody obvious that I really should have caught a long time ago: Pugmire has way lower Stamina points than equivalent CR D&D monsters. I didn't catch that before because Pugmire doesn't put their expected Stamina point range on the table like D&D does, but it wasn't that hidden and I really should have caught it before, and that's probably a huge factor in Pugmire scaling CR for a single PC rather than a party of 4. Because of course health mattters. Duh.
              So I reexamined the crunchy rules stuff, started a new Excel doc, and I did some tinkering. Here's what I learned.


              TL : DR: HP is the biggest factor of difference between Pugmire and D&D that I've found. I figured out how to convert it, but it's a little messy.
              End Results - here is my proposed conversion process for D&D 5E into Pugmire:
              1. Pull up the stats for your D&D monster.
              2. Look at it's HP. Reference this against the chart in the DMG (pg 274) to find what CR is associated with that HP rating.
              3. Use that CR to determine it's number of Hit Dice.
              4. Use the same size of die (d4/d6/d8 etc) listed in it's stat block
              5. Convert to Pugmire Stamina points: give the max number on the hit die, plus Constitution modifier, multiplied by its number of Hit Dice
              6. (very optional) Double check the AC rating, Attack Bonus, and Saving Throw DC against the Guidelines in Pugmire (196) or Mau (210), and tweak as necessary.
                Recommended alternative: +2 AC if it's CR 7+, +2 Attack bonus if CR 10; Don't worry about it otherwise.
              7. You're done - you can use everything else as is
              *Note that D&D CRs 0, 1/8, /14, and 1/2 fall within Pugmire's CR 0. And Pugmire's CR 0 calculates Stamina the same as CR 1

              Now you have a (realms of) Pugmire stat block for the creature, and can use it to design encounters using exactly the guidelines for Pugmire!

              I welcome criticism and counterpoints; if I missed something or there's another way to think about this, I'll be happy for other opinions to refine this with.

              Enjoy
              ~Seraph Kitty


              Wait, wait, wait. What about all the stuff I learned and my process for getting there, and my justifications for that process. Well, it's a giant whole thing, so I put it behind a spoiler. Here's the whole spiel, including graphs and spreadsheets.


              Okay, I posted 2 months ago saying "look at these charts, here's how I think they line up". What was missing from those charts wasStamina Points - and that's a huge bloody thing for me to forget about. I didn't catch it at the time because Pugmire doesn't put its expect Stamina range on the table - but it's not exactly hard to find, so I probably should have caught it sooner.
              Well, it turns out, Pugmire has way lower Stamina points than D&D. This is important: it's a major factor in CR. In fact, according to D&D's guidelines at least, the CR is basically determined by HP and Damage Per Round, with a few modifier based on those other stats (attack bonus, AC, save DC) and special abilities. And its not just a matter of lowering the points, either - like, there's not an easy formula like "1/3 HP" that can be used. The entire system for figuring out Stamina is way different, and leads to a huge amount of variance that makes it difficult to compare against D&D's system.

              Here's why:
              In Pugmire, you choose a creature's size (which gives you a hit die), award the maximum amount on the hit die (same as with PCs), add their Con bonus, then multiply by CR.
              Sounds simple, but due to the difference of size (d4 to d20) and the range of possible ability scores (1 to 30, giving bonuses of -5 to +10), you end up with a huge spread. At CR1, creatures can have between 1 Stamina (tiny with Con -3) to 30 Stamina (gargantuan with Con +10).
              Now, D&D gets rid of all that variation by giving an target HP range for each CR - and the range is only 14 points. Regardless of size or constitution, all CR 1 monsters should have between 71 and 85 HP. And to hit that range, they tell you to choose a totally arbitrary amount of "hp levels" to get in the ballpark. Pugmire only ever gives "hp levels" equal to CR, and they don't even mention a ball park. That means that the difference in Stamina amounts per CR is widely, widely varied.

              To figure out how varied (hoping to find an easy conversion), I made an Excel sheet of possible Pugmire Stamina points, then divided by the D&D average at that CR to find it's proportion (aka percentage).
              I then did quartile analysis for each CR. And I made a nice graph to easily visualize it. That tells us, out of that entire range, what is the middle value for that range [median, in green], the middle value for the lowest numbers [first quartile, in red], and the middle value for the highest numbers [third quartile, in yellow].

              Here's my Excel sheet: dropbox link
              Graph on "Pivot Table Sheet"

              So we can see justhow widely varied Pugmire's Stamina points can be when compared to D&D monsters, and how the amount of variation changes a lot across size categories, constitution ratings, and CR. A really Buff CR 3 monster would have 47.2% of an equivalent D&D monster's health; while at CR 9, that spikes to 77.3% !
              So we just cannot simply pick a percentage to cut HP by.

              *Note: what's up with CR0? well, in Pugmire, CR 0 and 1 have the same HP range, so that proportion gets smaller. Also, Pugmire's CR 0 covers the entire range of D&D CRs 0, 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 - which covers an HP range of 1 to 70. I compared Pugmire's range against the average number (35), which ends up with a skewed proportion that doesn't show off how D&D's gradient works.


              Okay, so HP is all kinds of wonky. It'll require a more complex conversion process.
              The easy answer is to look at the D&D stat block, look at the hit die and Con, use that to make a Stamina rating through Pugmire's process. And yeah, that's an easy ballpark. The problem, though, is that the CR listed in a D&D monster's stat block might not be the CR used to determine it's HP. And if you just follow that easy conversion, you risk skewing the Stamina points and making the creature a whole CR harder or weaker than you're expecting it to be. And the issues with unknowingly using a creature a whole challenge rating tougher is an obvious one.

              So let's back up and examine D&D's CR process in depth.
              Here's what D&D does: it calculates an offensive CR, and a defensive CR, then averages them together. That final, averaged CR is the only one they put in the stat blocks. They don't tell you directly whether that creature is balanced (equal offensive and defensive) or skewed to be a glass cannon (low defense, high offense) or a sponge (high defense, low offense). To find that out, you have to reference their stats against the DMG and check what range their HP and damage is actually in.
              If you don't know if a monster is skewed and which way, you can end up giving much more or much less Stamina than it “should” have. Enough to change it’s actual CR, while you’re still thinking that it’s listed CR is correct.

              Here’s an illustrative example:
              Werebears (MM 208) are a medium sized creature (hit die = d8), with +3 Con, 135 HP, and are CR 5

              If we take a look at this and use our easy conversion into Pugmire, we give them 55 (8 from the hit die, plus 3 for Con, multiplied by the CR of 5). If this is a balanced creature (offensive 5, defensive 5 = CR 5), then we’re probably right.
              And if we check the DMG, an HP of 135 is in the CR 5 range, so it is balanced, and we’re good.

              But if it wasn’t balanced, here’s what it would look like.
              “Sponge” (offensive 3, defensive 7 = CR 5)
              All we see is the CR 5, we come up with 55 Stamina points. But it’s actual listed HP is 170, because it’s (hidden) defensive rating is 7. So it now has appropriate Stamina for a defensive rating of 5; averaged against it’s offense of 3, our restatted werebear has an actual CR of 4, even though we’re assuming and acting like it’s a CR 5. It won’t provide the kind of challenge we were intending. To keep in on par, we should have given it 77 Stamina.

              “Glass Cannon” (offensive 7, defensive 3 = CR 5)
              Once again, if we see CR 5 and assume that’s the correct metric, we’ll assign 55 Stamina. But it’s actual listed HP is 110, because it should have a defensive rating of 3. By giving it an appropriate Stamina pool for a CR 5 challenge, that changes the actual averaged total to CR 6. Now we’re using a higher CR monster, and a heavy hitting one at that, and assuming it’s a CR 5; that can be a really deadly combination. To keep the intended challenge, we should have given it 33 Stamina; that way it’d hit like a brick, but fall just as fast. The extra staying power of 22 Stamina points could well be deadly for the players before we recognize the problem.

              That’s why the easy conversion doesn’t hold up. But we can also see the solution to avoid that particular trap: you gotta reference the DMG. If you double check what it’s intended defensive challenge is (which the HP tells us), regardless of what CR its labeled with, you can convert the HP to an appropriate number of Stamina to keep it at the same challenge rating.


              What about the offensive rating? That scales with damage per round, and by comparing the monster creation guides between D&D and Pugmire, we can see they use the exact same damage per round guidelines. That means you don’t have to worry about the offense part.


              There are some fiddly bits, but we don’t actually have to worry about them.
              While the defensive rating is based on HP, it gets modified by their AC and some special abilities. So something might have the HP pool of a CR 2, but by buffing up its armor or giving it flying or something, it’s considered a defensive challenge of 3. Same on the other side; damage per round determines the based, but that gets modified by its attack bonus or its save DC and special abilities.
              Here’s why you don’t have to worry: those modifier are already being considered by the stat block. Maybe they have a “spongy” werebear (offensive 7, defensive 3 = CR 5). But they give it the HP pool of a CR 2 monster and give it a high AC instead. Well, that change is reflected in the HP amount; so you reference that, find out it has the HP of a CR 2, give it Stamina based on Pugmire’s calculation for that CR… and the extra AC stays the same, modifies it to defensive rating of 3, and still averages to 5. You have to care about the fiddly bits when your building your own monster, but with a finished stat block, the modifiers are all going to do their thing behind the scenes; you just have to adjust the HP correctly.

              BUT Pugmire does give different guidelines for what those fiddly bits (defense, attack bonus, save DC) should be
              But it’s not much of a difference. Ignore what my first post said on the subject. The DMG clarifies that there’s some wiggle room with each of those numbers before it has an impact. Specifically, if it’s within +/- 1, it doesn’t modify the offensive / defensive rating; it doesn’t change the CR. It only modifies by 1 step for every 2 points of difference. And by that guideline, the different AC expectations in Pugmire don’t provide enough of a difference to worry about until CR 7 (and Mau actually has the same AC expectations as D&D, so it’s not affected at all); the attack bonus / save DC doesn’t adjust the rating until CR 10. And in each case, they only do so by one step. And since the Pugmire expects the ratings to be higher, all it’ll do is nudge the monsters a little bit weaker if you don’t adjust them.
              How much is "a little bit"? About 1/2 a CR, if it's affecting one side. So, if you have 2 points less AC than advised, it moves the defensive rating down one step, and gets averaged with the offensive rating, for a total that's 1/2 a CR lower. The DMG says to round to the closest CR, X.5 is in the 'round up' region. The guidelines effectively say to rate it as the same CR. If both sides are too low (say, AC and attack bonus, like a CR 10 monster could have), then it's a full CR's difference.
              If either (or both) sides were higher, it would round up to the next CR. But Pugmire awards higher Defense and Attack Bonuses, so that situation isn't likely to come up.
              Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it at all. It’s a minor difference, it affects only seriously affects the highest tiers, and I don’t mind fudging things in the players’ favor.

              If you do want to worry about it. Well. While you’re referencing the HP, also double check where the AC and attack bonus stand. The HP tells you it’s baseline defensive rating, right? so you can use that to figure out what it’s offensive rating should be. If the AC and attack bonus don’t line up to those levels (by 2 or more points), they’re modifying the challenge, and therefore modifying how they average together. And you’ll have to think about that critically. If it has the HP of a CR 2, but it has two or three extra points of AC, then it’s defensive challenge is 3; therefore you want to give it the Stamina of a CR 2, and the Defense of a CR 2 plus two or three extra (which is not the same at the Defense of a CR 3).

              The modified defensive rating, however, means that it’s offensive rating might be different than you expect; recalculate how those average into the listed CR. Check to see if the attack bonus or spell DC have also been tweaked by 2 or more. Find Pugmire’s attack bonus or spell DC for it’s baseline offense (which is damage per round), and tweak them by a similar number.


              Whew! Complicated enough for you?
              The good news is you don’t have to worry about how the special abilities are affecting things. They would do the same amount of impact in both systems. So even it’s modifying the ratings and changing how the average CR is calculated, you don’t have to look under the hood and figure out how. Just convert the HP, it’ll do the same amount of tweaking, and CR will stay the same. We only worried about AC and attack bonus and Save DC because Pugmire lists different guidelines for those stats.

              …But those tweaked numbers for AC and attack bonus, after all that cross referencing and adjustment, they’re probably going to be pretty nearly the same as the listed stat block, +/- 1. Which, as we established, is within the given wiggle room. So, like I said, it’s probably fine to not worry about. Or I might add an easy blanket rule, like, “if defensive rating is 7+, add 2 AC”. Or you could do the HP conversion, and if the monster is CR 10, re-record it as CR 9; everything else will be within a "round up to the same CR" ballpark.

              To be fair, these ratings do affect the intended challenge and intended play experience, and they are important for that reason. And if you’re the type of GM who takes that really seriously, that’s fair: there you go, the steps above have the cross-referencing you need to hone in on the intended ratings.

              For my mileage, though, that’s of work to port in a cool monster. At a certain point, it’s more worth it to just take the core concept and stat in from scratch in Pugmire. Pulling out the DMG is already a step you can’t really do at the table, so this conversion process is of limited use in that regard; but you’re probably not going to try porting a D&D monster at the table anyway, and even if you’re doing a “30 minutes before game prep” that’s a minimal amount of complexity to get a good port. And these systems are a little wibbly-wobbly anyway; there’s some room for error, and I’m personally fine erring on the side of the players.




              There is one huge gap with this whole analysis and conversion process, though: the Player Characters. I haven’t looked at PC stats at all. I have the impression, though, that Pugmire characters have a very different track than D&D characters. And since the whole idea of a challenge rating is “how tough is it for these PCS”, that’s a pretty huge gap.
              I’m going to let someone else tackle that half, though. Or maybe I’ll get to in a few months, when my party is level 5 and rickety-wrecking everything. We’ll see. But I was able to get through this chuck because of the existing guidelines in the corebooks and several GM blogs; I’ve yet to see anything that examines under the hood of the PCs like that, so I have no good starting point to think about it.
              And there’s my pile of salt to hide all this math and system referencing under.

              Thanks for reading!
              Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-11-2019, 02:04 PM.


              Second Chance for

              A Beautiful Madness

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