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I have created a 5th-level Satyr Druid. This Satyr also carries pipes.

If I take the Monster Manuals guidelines about increasing CR when adding class levels, then I would come up with a CR 9 (4 for a Satyr with pipes, +5 levels of an associated class).

However, this Druidic Satyr will be using a lot of poison. I've decked him out with poison arrows and needles. He has poisons ranging from Black Lotus Extract to Small Centipede Poison.

With this in mind, should I adjust the CR accordingly, and by how much?

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The satyr's gear may not change its challenge rating

A satyr druid 5 has either 4,300 gp because it's a level 5 NPC druid and, in addition, around 4,500 gp that's average treasure for an EL 9 encounter (DMG 51) or 7,200 gp because of its ECL 7 (MM 291). (More can be read about this contradiction in this question.) The DM should pick at the campaign's beginning how to determine the wealth of a monstrous NPC with class levels. This DM strongly recommends the first option; the second option is absurd. (For example, under the first system a CR 8 hill giant fighter 1 has 900 gp plus around 3,400 gp that's average treasure for an EL 8 encounter, while under the second system the same hill giant fighter 1 has a whopping 100,000 gp because it's an ECL 17 NPC.)

(This DM recommends a middle-ground house rule saying that monsters with class levels use their challenge ratings as their NPC levels for Table 4–23: NPC Gear Value (DMG 127) and have no other wealth or treasure, eliminating the quirks that come from random treasure determination and avoiding the mid- and high-level excesses that come from using ECL. I've used this, and this works fine, but it is a house rule.)

Once the DM's determined how to figure the foe's wealth, subtract the value of the creature's gear from that wealth as one would for a PC. If there's leftover cash, spend it or make it part of the creature's hoard. If a little too much has been spent, that's okay. The creature will be somewhat stronger, and players should expect that sometimes. Some creatures will be lucky enough to have more stuff, just like PCs at times might have too much stuff. The PCs caught the monster on the upswing, and that happens. If the monster's defeated, the creature's excess gear should be compensation enough for a slightly harder fight.

If the creature has an excessive amount of useful gear—like, for instance, a satyr druid 5 with a half-dozen doses of the poison black lotus extract (DMG 297) (4,500 gp; 0 lbs.), each of which can drop a PC on a lucky roll—, recompute the creature's wealth as if it were a PC using Table 5–1: Character Wealth by Level (DMG 135). If the creature's gear remains at or even slightly above that new threshold, consider increasing the monster's challenge rating by 1. (While this is unofficial, such a tack is taken by, for example, at least one NPC from former Dungeon magazine publisher Paizo's original 2008 Rise of the Runelords adventure path, and that seems reasonable.)

If the creature's gear is vastly in excess of its wealth even were it a PC, it's probably a good idea to reduce its gear rather than increase the creature's challenge rating. Remember that PCs are supposed to win fights, and while giving a monster excessive gear makes it tougher, a monster's gear is also a reward for defeating it. Now imagine the PCs developing a clever plan that kills the monster without them taking any risks, scoring all that juicy loot without expending resources. If that much free loot would unbalance the campaign, reduce the amount of loot instead of increasing the creature's challenge rating.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am confused by the calculation in your first paragraph. Where does the ECL 17 come from? \$\endgroup\$ – Southpaw Hare Nov 7 '17 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SouthpawHare That hill giant has 12 Hit Dice, a level adjustment of +4, and 1 level of the (presumably) associated class fighter for a total effective character level of 17. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 7 '17 at 18:36
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If, after calculating the wealth of this NPC, this satyr can buy all that poison with the gold available to him (or if, as the comments suggest, he uses spells to temporarily produce the poison he uses), this is included in his challenge rating.

If the poison is more than he could possibly buy, including if it is bought on top of his other equipment, it could grant a +1 CR at that level (despite the high cost of poisons, it's likely that he will have spent at most what a character next level would have been able to spend, but without the HP and spells tied to a new level, so maybe you can give him even some more gold without worrying too much.

Anyway, keep in mind that challenge ratings are more an art than a science¹, and the best way to assign them is by testing the NPC against the specific party composition. Since this is most probably not practical to do for every NPC, I suggest using them as guidelines (in order to decide which enemies to pitch against the party) and to decouple CR from the leveling mechanics.


¹ there are published CR3 creatures that are pretty much guaranteed to kill at least one character of an averagely optimized party, CR9 with 1/day disintegration and a general power creep of monsters published in later manuals, to keep up with the more powerful builds available because of the proliferation of options introduced with splatbooks. Not even NPCs built as characters are immune, it is way too easy to build glass cannons that deal massive damage since NPCs are throwaway characters anyway.

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