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D&D 3E
appropriate challenge for party 
9th-Apr-2007 11:47 am
I'm about to throw my party up against a camp of Orcs and ogres. I want to have it be an appropriate level of challenge, but I don't want the party to die. I have a nice setup for it, but I'm unsure of how many enemies to throw in there.

The party is 6th level, and there are 6 of them - 1 shaman (think druid), 1 rogue, 1 barbarian, 1 fighter, 1 sorceror/fighter, 1 wizard

In the camp, so far, I have about 15 orcs, 3 orcs with one level of fighter, a half-fiend ogre, and 2 regular ogres. That seems like the party will stomp them. It is at night, but there are enough bonfires to easily see by. The party will probably have time to prepare/enable spells, and are currently unwounded. They do not have mounts and the camp is walled with logs.
9th-Apr-2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
Yup, the PCs will stomp them, especially if they have time to prepare. Check out Ye Olde Encounter Calculator at http://www.d20srd.org/encounterCalculator.htm which is quite handy for this sort of thing. Note that a regular orc will be essentially no challenge for a 6th level PC, so you might want to only count a fraction(maybe a third?) of their numbers for EL purposes.
9th-Apr-2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a cakewalk.

The fact is, lots of low-level creatures do not really add up to an appropriate encounter level. Unless all 15 Orcs could swarm one character, they're not really a threat. The orcs will have +4 to hit.

The fighter has, at a guess, AC 22 (at that level, some combination of +1 Deflection, +1 natural/insight, +6 Armor, +3 Shield, +3 dex would be 24. Assume a little less) is only going to be hit 10% of the time. The Fighters are going to hit 20% of the time. Meanwhile, each hit is going to drop one of the orcs, and the Sorc/Wizard will be dropping them en-masse. (Burning Hands will drop everyone in area of affect, as would Fireball, Lighting Bolt, etc.) The Shaman will probably add dropping a low level each round.

Even with a lot of them, it isn't a significant encounter.

The challenge would be the Ogres. They total a CR around 6 or 7, which may be challenging to your party, maybe not.

I'd reduce the number of baseline Orcs, and increase the number with levels. A party of that size should have a 2nd or 3rd level caster (Shaman, Druid, Spirit Shaman, Cleric, Adept) in it. With the Ogres, it seems unlikely that the orcs have their own leader, but Orc Seargent of about 3rd level (Fighter, Warrior, Barbarian) would be appropriate, as well. And I can't imagine why all of the orcs shouldn't have a class level of Fighter or Warrior or Barbarian (well, Barbarian makes things a pain with Rage).
9th-Apr-2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
Good suggestion! I was thinking of having a spellcaster, but I couldn't decide whether or not to include one. And I like the idea of a sergeant.
9th-Apr-2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
Keep the orcs spread out to avoid easy Fireball targets. I would make sure they all have a few throwing spears and have them start with those agaisnt the softer targets.

The Ogres are a bit trickier since one crit from an ogre can put a 6th level character down real quick. You may want to have them spaced apart so all three are not likely to be engaged all at the same time. If the party is smart give them an oppurtunity to isolate and Ogre when he goes to relieve himself. If the party is not smart and gives them a chance the Ogres would be smart enough to group together and attack as a group.
9th-Apr-2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
The cool thing is there is this wooden structure in the center which is essentially a hill of wood. At the top is the barbarian's girlfriend, chained up, with the ogre next to him, so the ogre can't be immediately fireballed. The orcs are spread out so thin that fireballs wouldn't matter anyway.
9th-Apr-2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
I can think of three ways to make the encounter more challenging without getting too crazy.

1) Add a few orc shamans or low-level clerics to give support to the better fighters and provide some healing.

2) Have a couple of orc scouts out in the woods who flank the PCs once they attack and force them to split up a bit.

3) Three words: Invisible Ogre Mage.
9th-Apr-2007 07:44 pm (UTC)
A party like that could probably take on 60 orcs.

Maybe more. The problem with piling up low levels against a higher level party is just that they can't hit. And when they do hit (5%), it won't do enough damage to make the party notice.

Add a LOT more orcs, and at least one 'boss' that's at LEAST CR 6. The invis Ogre Mage is a good idea. Let the party fight with the orcs for a few rounds before making it clear there's another hidden monster. You might teach the wizard not to waste fireballs. :)

9th-Apr-2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Just a small additional idea:
A group like that is likely to have some animals(or equivalent) for hunting, guarding or just as pets. Might be worth putting in a couple of critters the orcs have trained (dire wolves maybe, owlbear that sort of thing). If they've been camped there a while will probably also have a perimeter of some sort set up, gives the PCs somthing to climb, avoid, bad terrain etc.
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