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While playing through Dawn of Defiance: The Traitor's Gambit, my 3 first-level PCs defeated the first encounter (CR1) within a single round. Are we misreading some rules or are they meant to be this powerful?

As they were spotted by the informants, the Noble of the party was engaging in the classic "pretend to recognize someone and hug them so you can whisper secrets" gambit with Maya. Therefore, when the Stormtroopers arrived, they were standing side by side. Our Scoundrel went first, firing her Ion Pistol and missing. With instructions to take Maya in alive, one Stormtrooper shot her with a stun bolt while the other fired a lethal bolt at the Noble. Maya was hit and stunned into unconsciousness, while the Noble was missed. The Noble then dropped both informants with autofire from her blaster rifle, and the Jedi dropped both Stormtroopers with Force Slam. End of battle.

Did I run this badly? Should the PCs be doing that much damage? Or is it just that Star Wars has a lot more lethal combat than Pathfinder (which is what we're used to) and our expectations need to adjust?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't know about this system, but in other d20 games it sometimes just happens - if team's powers match opponents' vulnerabilities. If informants was non-combat NPCs, their participation in encounter was probably negligible, and stormtroopers in movies are shown to be vulnerable to force, so it kinda makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jun 4 '14 at 13:49
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At First Level, Things Are Swingey

Encounters can easily be ended by a couple of good dice rolls from the PCs, or can kill all the PCs outright in an orgy of crits from quite weak enemies.

This is fine, as it helps set the theme - at low levels, the PCs can end an encounter with a blaster under the table fired into an unsuspecting bounty hunter's stomach. At high levels, they need to do crazy stuff to win - it helps orchestrate the whole 'zero to hero' theme of DnD style character leveling.

I'll give my standard advice on Adventure Paths - a lot of them are aimed at parties with low levels of optimization and creativity. If, as a GM, you encourage well-made characters and smart play, you will find your PCs blitzing encounters on a regular basis. This might be fine, or you might want to up the challenge. Most of the time, you can simply add more enemies - this is good in a lot of ways, as encounters with multiple enemies are vastly superior overall to simpler encounters, allowing more 'action-sceney' moments. Beware, though. Sometimes Adventure Paths have occasional incredibly hard encounters where you don't expect it (Age of Worms is famous for this), often due to the writers not realizing the power of the enemy they have used. Keep an eye out for those too. Basically, just because it's an adventure path doesn't mean you don't need to eyeball encounter strength and adjust, still.

And i'll give my standard advice on Encounter Design - add elements that increase the challenge without necessarily directly harming the PCs. Cover that favours the enemy, time pressure, hostages, things to protect, all do this. When in doubt, a group of enemies is less likely to 'one-shot' player characters, and always try to give an 'escape route' to your players. Every combat should make your players feel awesome, and also leave them slightly amazed they escaped with their lives.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, interesting -- I would have expected a high-optimization party to rip through modules with no trouble, but I hadn't thought about high-creativity players also doing so. We're all new to the system so nobody's sure what needs adjusting yet \$\endgroup\$ – Yamikuronue Jun 5 '14 at 12:06

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