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I have a party of heroes at level 10. The party itself is composed of 4 players and in that sense balancing encounters is pretty easy.

Recently however they have been joined by another character at level 15 and they will be joined shortly by another one at level 20 for a climatic fight.

My idea is for the whole group to face a level 25 enemy, however I'm having lots of issues trying to decide if the encounter is balanced or not.

What I've done is set up the "average party level" as around 13 (10+10+10+10+15+20 / 6) and with that the encounter seems to be between moderate an severe, which is what I'm looking for. I'm a bit afraid while it is relatively balanced, all my players will die.

Can someone tell me if this is balanced or am I about to kill my whole party?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As alluded to in Ifusaso's answer, if you treat those NPCs as part of the party, combat will be impossible. Consider treating them as a cutscene or one-time effect that justifies being able to fight the BBEG instead. "I've weakened them as best I can, it's up to you now" \$\endgroup\$
    – Cireo
    Commented Jun 11 at 5:43

1 Answer 1

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You will kill the whole party

Pathfinder 2e does not balance encounters the same way as Pathfinder 1e, or D&D 5e, or any other RPG I'm aware of (D&D 4 might be close, but I haven't played it myself). A single creature 4 levels higher will be a very difficult fight for a party of 4. Any single enemy 10 levels higher will be essentially impossible to fight.

The guidance on multi-leveled parties is:

If you choose not to keep the whole group at the same character level, you'll need to select a party level to determine your XP budget for encounters. Choose the level you think best represents the party's ability as a whole. Use the highest level if only one or two characters are behind, or an average if everyone is at a different level. If only one character is two or more levels ahead, use a party level suitable for the lower-level characters, and adjust the encounters as if there were one additional PC for every 2 levels the higher-level character has beyond the rest of the party.

Their recommendation is to make the combat level 10 (or higher for increased difficulty), but for 9-11 (4 level 10, +5 for the level 20, +2 for the level 15) characters. It does include that you can use the 'average party level', but I believe that is written with the assumption that the party isn't split between such a large gap and the 'single higher character' model works better, even with 2 high level characters (especially since they are Not the Heroes).

I'm not sure how you calculated that a level 25 enemy is a severe encounter. Even with your suggestion of using the average level of 13, a level 17 enemy would be an Extreme Solo Boss fight. However, the level 20 character could handily solo such a 'Low or Moderate threat lackey'. Most Adventure Paths so far end with an enemy around level 22-23 with a level 20 supporting character for a group of level 20 PC. A single spell or ability from a level 25 creature (say, horrid wilting/desiccate at 10th level) could annihilate some or all of the level 10 characters. With Treerazer's DC of 49, any low level character that didn't roll a natural 20 would take effectively 24d10 damage. Meanwhile, the party will have nothing meaningful to do except provide bonuses to the level 20 character in the hopes they will get lucky.


Consider, instead, an old trick of adding NPC's to parties - the cinematic clash. The level 20 (and possibly level 15) NPC go to fight the BBEG somewhere visible but not close enough for the party to be affected incidentally. However, said character(s) will 'surely be overpowered' if the BBEG general, a boss in their own right, isn't held back/defeated by the party. Create an interesting boss fight for the party, and provide a bigger threat for the higher level characters to be busy with. It could even be that the party is fighting the BBEG, but they've summoned something beyond their control that only the NPC's are a match for ('Summon the Kraken!'). Make sure you're clear that the NPC's are going to handle the over-deadly encounter so that the party is free to disrupt the BBEG/summoning ritual.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I'll follow your advice for cinematic clash, In terms of what I used, I basically used this: maxiride.github.io/pf2e-encounters/# I set up a party of 6, level 13 and a single oponent of level 25 \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JorgeCórdoba That's based on Table 10-8: XP Awards, which tops out at party level + 4. That calculator is showing the same "difficulty" for monsters levels 17+, which I think is very misleading \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Commented May 13 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dessicate can target anything in 500 feet, that boss fight will be hardly visible for the party, if they need to be in a safe distance \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented May 14 at 6:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András Dessicate wasn't chosen because it seemed like what the OP wanted, it was just one of the few statted Level-25 creatures' 10th Rank spells. I don't know what OP needs the NPC's to fight, but the narrative would include them being unable (or unaware to) target the party and should not even have them in rounds. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14 at 11:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András You can submit that as a second answer, but I don't feel that's best here. He's already introduced a level 15 ally, and has plans to add a level 20 ally. There's no such thing as a balanced encounter involving them directly. And with the suggestion I provide, the enemy doesn't even need to be statted out or a credible threat. It just needs to be impressive enough to complete the narrative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14 at 19:07

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