Relative Adventuring

This is not my idea but one I have borrowed from the Conan game by Modiphius.

Imagine you are reading an adventure module for Rolemaster. The adventure describes an ambush by goblins at a river ford. In the details it says ‘There will be two goblins for every character’. In the next encounter, in an outer chamber of the goblin lair the numbers are ‘There will be three more goblins than characters.’

Every encounter describes the strength of the encounter relative to the strength of the adventuring party.

We all know in RM superior numbers can be the critical factor in a battle. Even a first level character can open ended and kill anything in the first round if they are lucky enough.

My party of 5th level characters got into serious trouble against a raiding party of kobolds. The same raid against D&D characters would have been a non-event.

So the idea is that the level that the adventure is pitched at is highly flexible. If you write an adventure and the main bad guy is a 70th level drake then that is not a starting adventure but more middle of the road stuff just flexes to meet the strength of the party, not by level but by threat.

This has never really been an issue before now, but as the number of monsters available grows and now eDGCLTD is sowing the seeds of self publishing, BriH is asking about short form monster stat blocks all the pieces are coming together for unofficial RM modules.

So what are your thoughts?

6 Replies to “Relative Adventuring”

  1. Michael Brown (whose no-frills adventures on RPGNow I recommend taking a look at) uses something similar. Enemy numbers are described as being things like n+3, with n being the number of characters.

      1. Yes, I do like the idea of scalable encounters. Whether that’s something as simple as altering numbers, or more complex methods such as adding useful skills, spell casting abilities and magic items to monsters (in old D&D modules, monsters would often have magical items as treasure that they could use – but didn’t. That never made a lot of sense). Of course, adding more complex scalability to an adventure can increase its size significantly.

  2. Personally I’ve been scaling my adventures this way at least in terms of what one might call supporting fighters for some years now. It does work quite well, and I’m building guidelines like these into the modern stuff I’m working on.

    As an aside, I did like those rules with the exception of their basing XPs on the least active player in any session. That bothers me.

    1. I like the idea of a scaling formula, but not sure it can work in the design phase. I “scale” encounters already (see Seers of Strok or Priest-King) but scale up usually involves a different mixture of adversaries Rather than just a linear increase in numbers.

      That said, most modules should have some guidelines for adjusting key encounters to PC strength.

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