My dear PCs have defeated an evil king without taking out his elite guards, so they're planning retribution.

The guards will scry+teleport an elite squad, all buffed and stuffed for this fight. They had seen the party (party level 17) fighting before, so the spell list / buff will be optimized.

The squad has one cleric 15, one wizard 13 (+2 CR from template), and a fighter 16. They come with mass SR, haste, heroism, protection from energy, FPG, magic vestment, shield of faith ...

How does these buff affects EL? Is it worth a +2?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Is the squad buffing specifically adapted for this party, or adapted for a "generic" 17th level party? Are they preying on a rested party, or an exhausted one? Are their tactics specialized or generic? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2017 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ One small nit to pick: ECL doesn't affect CR \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Apr 26, 2017 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... edit window timed out ... d20srd.org/srd/… has the rules; typically, the CR will be the base creature's CR plus the number of PC class levels they have. ECL is only for PCs, CR is only for NPCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Apr 26, 2017 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wizard have a template that boost CR (you're right, it's not ECL) --- The buffing is adapted for this party \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26, 2017 at 6:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you be interested in a frame challenge as to why the event in the question should not happen to a party of level 17 adventurers? Or is the occurrence a forgone conclusion? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2017 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


CR numbers are used to answer two separate questions: "Is this encounter about the right difficulty for this group?" and "How much experience should I give for defeating this encounter?"

This is a case where the answers to the two questions may be different.

For purposes of calculating difficulty, you absolutely should factor the situation into your calculation. The exact amount of increase will depend on your PCs. If the PCs spot the scry sensor, realize something's up, and take basic defensive precautions, this might be a smaller difficulty increase; if the enemy scry-teleports the PCs while they're sleeping, it's a much larger difficulty increase. If the PCs lose several attacks against the buffed AC of the attackers, that should represent a large difficulty increase; if they notice the buffs and throw some targeted dispel magic spells before engaging in melee, that's a smaller increase. Without knowing more about your situation, +2 to CR is probably right.

For purposes of granting experience, the decision is really up to you, but there's an argument that you shouldn't grant extra experience for this. There's a quote: "you don't give extra experience if the enemy wizard casts fireball, so don't give extra experience if he casts summon monster instead." Buff spells could reasonably be included in the list of things that are already factored into monsters' CR.


I'll make two arguments, and you can pick one.

You know the old saying. Batman always wins, if Batman has time to prepare.

If this were the other way around, and the players were the ones doing the buffing, would you penalize them for it? Would you LOWER the amount of XP if they prepared for an encounter to make it easier? If so, yep, go ahead and give them MORE XP for this one. If not, well...

I argue that: The encounter difficulty is based on the advantages available to them, vs. the level. That the enemies were smart enough to optimize should not affect XP.

And really, if the party has encountered these folks before, shouldn't THEY be optimizing for what they have seen in the past?

It's different if it's a total surprise.

Really your call, just my opinion. The other argument is that since this is tailored specifically to screw them, it should give them more XP, because it's literally more difficult to deal with. Maybe you should see how the fight goes, and read the mood in the room. If they sacrifice a lot to get through it, up the XP. If it's much easier than you thought, stick to the strict definition.


I think that this is definitely worth some increase in EL. Exactly how much probably depends on the party makeup and how well the enemy can anticipate their tactics and counter them, though +2 seems like a good place to start.

One way to think about this question would be to consider how the EL would change if the cleric cast summon monster just before engaging the party - you can look at what effect the summoned creature would have on the EL, then look at the effects of the buffs to determine if you think they are more or less effective than having that creature on their side.

As a larger example, the party in my current campaign consists of two melee tanks, an archer, a sorceror specialized in direct damage, and a healer with some access to fire magic. Opponents familiar with this group might know the following (among other things):

  • The two melee characters have very high ACs, so they would probably expect to deal with them using magic.
  • The two melee characters have little to no ranged capability and rely on a single cast of fly in a ring of spell storing to handle flying enemies.
  • The two melee characters have multiple teamwork feats.
  • One melee character has a fairly low Will save.
  • The sorceror favors Fireball and Chain Lightning, making those good candidates for Spell Immunity.
  • The sorceror has Greater Spell Penetration and is unlikely to be bothered by SR.
  • The healer has two kinds of offensive magic - fire spells and save-or-suck vs. Will.
  • Four of the five party members are Good.

Depending on exactly how useful the information is that the enemies would know, they might be able to buff more or less effectively.


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