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I'm running a session tonight and I made a huge magical prison. I have everything ready to drop the players inside (boss fights, puzzles, status conditions on different floors), but I didn't populate it with monsters on the common cells.

My trouble is that I don't know how to manage a 4 person, level 5 party and determine, for example, the number of monsters (and levels) to make it more or less challenging.

There is no restriction on theme of the monsters inside of the prison. They can be anything from a magical giant rat to a necromancer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What does "more or less challenging" mean? \$\endgroup\$ – GamerJosh Sep 4 '14 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ What part of the DM Basic Rules section on creating encounters are you having trouble with? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 4 '14 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bomberclaw it's a separate file. They've released a second book now. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Sep 4 '14 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I voted to close as unclear before, but now I would close with the custom reason that we aren't a replacement for reading the rule book. If it's blocked at work, that doesn't prevent you from reading it at home later. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 4 '14 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is being asked a replacement for reading the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Sep 4 '14 at 19:34
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There are two considerations for building encounters. The first is CR the second is the XP budget.

To build an encounter, the first thing you decide is how hard you want the encounter to be. You have a range to select from. From Easy to Deadly. This provides you with the XP budget for the encounter. A same CR monster will likely consume the whole CR budget for a moderate encounter, so keep that in mind.

The next thing you need to consider is the overall adventure context. If you're designing a single day dungeon, then you'll want to have a look at the table that indicates how much the XP budget for an adventuring day is. Make sure you divide that properly so that you're not over taxing your PCs on a day (or at least you know *how big of a challenge it is for them). At Level 5 you should be aiming for 3500 XP per player on your average day. That's 7 moderate encounter, or more easy ones or fewer harder ones.

It's also important to note that when you mix multiples of the same creature, you add an XP multiplier to calculate the difficulty. So if you have 2 CR 1/4 Goblins, they are worth 100 XP, but they make the challenge of the encounter equivalent to 150XP.

With this in mind, you can build your encounters. A CR 5 monster is worth 1800 XP, that's a bit less than a moderate encounter for 4 PCs and a bit less than a hard one for 3 Pcs. Add in some secondary creatures as minions and you would have your XP budget for a moderate/hard encounter.

If you wanted to design an easy encounter, or an encounter with a lot more creatures, select lower CR creatures to populate it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ this is what exactly i was looking for thanks a lot Wax :D \$\endgroup\$ – Bomberclaw Sep 4 '14 at 19:54
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Use the rules in the Dungeon Master's Basic Rules, pp56-58: http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules

You determine a target XP total based on the encounter difficulty and the level of the PCs, then select monsters that add up to that XP total after applying a multiplier based on the number of monsters.

As a general rule, one CR5 monster would be an appropriate challenge for a party of five Level 5 PCs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Pages 56 - 58 are of particular interest here. (In the current, v0.1 version.) \$\endgroup\$ – GamerJosh Sep 4 '14 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GamerJosh Thanks; I added the page reference to my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Avery-Weir Sep 4 '14 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im at pages 56 - 58 and its the abiliy checks one... maybe im bit dated on the basic rules... got the 0.1v atm... \$\endgroup\$ – Bomberclaw Sep 4 '14 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ You want the Dungeon Master's Basic Rules, not the Player's Basic Rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Avery-Weir Sep 4 '14 at 19:44

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