Guest Writer: Dave Johnson
Encounter Building in OSRIC v1.4
OSRIC and 1e FRPG doesn’t need encounter-building guidelines,
other than the very basic idea that the 1st level of a dungeon should have mostly 1st level monsters in it! – Anonymous
In part three “Encounter Building in OSRIC” well will conclude the article with the procedure we use
for building encounters.
ENCOUNTER BUILDING procedure & tables:
Building an encounter using these new guidelines breaks down into a series of simple steps.
- Look at the adventuring party, taking note of their levels and generally the experience of the
group. As the Game Master, you don’t want to overcome your players. You don’t want to
mismatch them in terms of ratios. Like the number of PCs with certain experience levels versus
the number of monsters of certain Hit Dice. Keep in mind that encounter building is an art and
not a science. You can use a mathematical formula if you like… Taking out the creative aspect,
or the artistic aspect leaves the game sterile and not so fun. Matt Finch1 says, – “I think you
have to eyeball the difficulty of the encounter, really. That said, I usually try to put multiple
monsters into an encounter, and more than one type if possible because it makes the encounters
more tactically fluid and unpredictable. A single opponent can have an epic feel since it’s
probably individually stronger, but that kind of encounter is usually less complex and doesn’t
have as many exciting ups and downs as a combat involving multiple (but weaker) opponents.”
- Determine the nature of the battle between your players and the monsters. Take into account the
situation and how the proposed battle will impact the overall story. The story should drive the
proposed encounter, not the other way around. Chris Larr2 says, “Consistency of theme. That’s
key to me.” So, look at the size of the party and their strength. Think about the number of
monsters. Do you want more or less? One low HD monster or one high HD monster. Mix it up?
- Let’s say you have an adventuring party of six player characters. Let’s also say you want them
to fight a 12 hit die monster. Lets look at a table that show the equivalent PC level versus
This table will help you to determine the strength of the monster versus the adventuring party. For
example, a 1+1 to 2 Hit Die monster is equal to a 3rd level adventurer. A one to one ratio. One monster
to one character. The Hit Die is also equal to Challenge Rating or CR in later versions of FRPG’s.
*Treat peasants as up to 1-1 HD. Men-at-arms are 1-1 to 1 HD
Here above is a table for Character Levels 1st to 5th versus the monster Hit Dice Rating. The
corresponding character to monster ratio will be given and this will help to keep the fight fair and
As you can see, the higher the PC level and the higher the HDR the lower or more equal ratio is
obtained. I tend to keep the level and Hit Dice Rating evenly matched, but in favor of the player
PICKING THE MONSTERS
Once you have your story and the first encounter location and you have determined the proper monster
to player character ratio… Choose your creatures to populate the encounter! Keep in mind the Hit Dice
of the monster is very important in spite of the type or kind of creature. So you must choose wisely.
This is where the art comes in.
A helpful tool can be found at Dragonsfoot.com A thirty page PDF file that contains all the monsters
stat blocks found in the core rulebook is available for download here.
Note to the dear reader…
If you find this material to be useful or you think that something should be changed, please contact me
at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org