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How do you balance combat encounters?

I may have missed it in the book, but i didn’t find any guidelines on how to balance combat encounters.

How do you know how much your PC’s can handle? The levels don’t seem that useful for trying to figure out how strong given creature/NPC is vs your players.

I think guidelines for encounters might be in the GM kit.

That’s not very helpful since GM kit is not available yet.

At least i didn’t get download link for it when i bought the GM bundle.

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I’ve found that in most games encounter balance guidelines is relatively meaningless as group dynamics can change a ton and good or bad dice rolls impact things a ton. My group in the playtest had little issue with a bunch of super mutants (including one with a mini-gun) but then got their butts kicked by some mole rats because of environmental effects (it was dark and they got ambushed after failing to notice the mole rat nest).

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Yep, same here. But it makes sense that it’s in the GM kit. I wish those that preordered the GM bundle got a PDF but my guess is that it isn’t ready yet.

This is very similar to my playtest, except it was a radroach nest instead of mole rats and raiders with a missile launcher instead of super mutants.

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I agree with Grendel here. Encounter balance mechanics are very situational and rarely considers party composition and Skill and Perk choices into consideration. Some also have some more or less hidden asumptions about party composition, equipment and ability choices, that might not be relevant to your group.

I use the inhabitants/location rules on page 197. I set the level of the location (I don’t base this on the PC level as some places are simply way more dangerous) and then if it’s a large location like a Mall I add 5-10 inhabitants. One small inhabitant = .5 normal, one big inhabitant = 2 normal. That gives me a rough outline. I then adjust as I think looks right for the narrative. Note that I may make something like a Mall into multiple locations or different sizes - like the parking lot, the main floor, the food court, the second floor etc. and then each location gets the same treatment. I find it works super, super well.

I’ve got two games - one a continuation of our playtest game with 4 players and the other a West March Style open world/survival style game with fifteen players. I approach encounter design very differently for them.

The ongoing game is about the narrative (outside of random encounters) and I plan things with that in mind. The West March style game has a large map and the players are free to go anywhere but the further from the Settlement, the more dangerous. In that regard it’s much like an MMO in that different regions are different levels. There’s nothing stopping a low level character from going to the level 20+ area but it’s going to be hella dangerous.

I cant say much for the best way to balance an encoutner for game preperation, but I’ve found the easistes way to balance during the ecounter is though the DMs use of AP points for the enemies themselves. To harden an ecounter I usually have a NPC is in the back some where using thee rally action to pump out AP, while other fight - if the ecounter is too difficult, my NPCs will normally forgo the use of AP all together or dont act as stratically - as well as become more prone to flee if the PCs get the upperhand.