Encounters can never be an exact science. Certainly you should never just guess nor take a printed adventures word for the size of the challenge a group must face. You will have the best possible notion of what your adventurers can face – or what they’d prefer to face given an option.
You might find you have players who like to feel they have a risk of death every time they go into battle. In that instance, you will likely want to tweak up the Resistance. As the section on Appropriate Resistance (SCB, page 173) suggests, you must always consider the relative experience of your players, their skill in using and combining Abilities and Powers and the relative composition of the group. If the adventurers split up and leave the Mystics behind with a lone Warrior while the rest of the Warriors and the Rogues scout ahead, those two groups will have a very different strategy in handling any adversaries.
In purely statistical terms, each type of challenge has a Resistance value based on the Experience of that individual – which relates to their Abilities and Powers. A Weak creature has no Abilities or Powers and rates as 0 (zero) Experience while a Mighty (or Powerful – the terms vary within the book) creature has an equivalent of 600 Experience.
The game assumes that an average challenge will have Experience equal to half that of the party (see the sidebar on page 173). An Ordinary creature with two Weak minions (50 + (0 + 0 = 50) Exp) represents a reasonable challenge for four newly created player characters (200 Exp). As you can see, two Weak Resistance creatures together equate to a single Ordinary Resistance adversary, despite the lack of experience represented in their lone state.
If you want to make a fight a little harder you might assume the player characters have another member in their group and calculate accordingly. Or you can give one or two of the existing adversaries an extra Ability.
You could, for example, give a couple of Weak foes the ability to cast Novice level Powers – including the Tradition to support a resistance to permanent Corruption – for 40 Exp, which almost accounts for a whole extra Ordinary foe. In the example above, you could have the Ordinary foe acquire another Novice Ability to round the numbers off to 50 Exp extra.
Perhaps you have a Black Cloak (Ordinary) with Equestrian (novice), accompanied by two initiates (Weak = Self-taught Witchhunter) of the order, one with Marksman (novice) and Poisoner (novice) and the other with Backstab (novice) and Strangler (novice). That amounts to 150 Exp of Resistance which should be enough for a group of six newly created characters or a more challenging encounter for four. This falls somewhere into the deadly range for just two newly created characters, who would likely struggle against the three characters without the additional adjustment.
Numbers matter a lot. If you challenge a party with many foes you have an increased likelihood of Flanking – and the associated increase the foes chances of success in attack and damage with it. In the table, below, you can see a rough outline of the Resistance levels associated with different experience levels of player character party.
I would not suggest that twenty-four (24) Weak foes actually represent much opposition to a well-organised group of experienced treasure-seekers, but lowering the Weak numbers and throwing in Ordinary, Challenging and Strong members – perhaps a military unit with squad leaders and commanders – should be enough to (a) give them a worthy battle and (b) probably consume half your gaming session!
In fact, tolerance for long battles should actually serve as a measure of your challenges when you determine resistance. If your group don’t care for long drawn out confrontations, you may wish to stick to the suggested standard Resistance levels or even tweak them a little lower. If you throw a Challenging opponent with a Weak minion at a party of six adventurers, that might suffice for a game where exploration and social challenge matter more than the clammer of steel on steel.
For reference when using the table:
Fractions – indicate that more than one opponent of this level would be appropriate, but a whole extra would be too much. Against a newly-created party of six characters, two Challenging foes would be pushing it. If the group is Warrior heavy that might be fine, but you may have to play it by ear and be prepared to offer some reinforcements if things go badly. A Challenging foe with an Ordinary minion or two Weak minions would be more suited to a mixed party of new characters.
C – that would be a challenge with a lowercase C. You could throw this opponent into the fray, but you have every chance of experiencing a short session. Indeed, the C for a Challenging foe versus a single newly created character might better be a D…
D – suggests this level would be a deadly encounter and would best serve as a warning rather than a full on conflict. Rather like the Company of the Ring going up against a swarm of orcs, goblins and their pet troll, characters facing a D-level challenge will need luck, skill, strategy and maybe a neat mystic treasure or two.
Indeed, you should consider treasures and artifacts when calculating opposition. The Powers of an artifact will equate to Experience levels if they could be used offensively or defensively in the course of a battle. The two artifacts in the Appendix of the Symbaroum core book – the Mummified Hand and the Sun Stone – probably account for 20 Experience each in value when creating an encounter. Indeed, destroying the Sun Stone would temporarily increase the ‘level’ of the Player Character party by 100 Exp with a Fire Spirit at their command.
When you calculate a suitable Resistance for the table, every character ‘starts’ with 50 Experience – and you might want to note that against them as a base – with anything earned in play accruing over this. After their first adventure, a party might have gained a total of 50 additional Experience between them – such that a party of six will warrant an average opposition of seven (7) Weak opponents, or a Challenging opponent with one Ordinary and one Weak minion.
As with any element of the game, use the information in the table intelligently and adjust to the mood of the game and the interests of the players. Sometimes you will want them to run away; then you will ignore the table and throw a Mighty adversary at them simply to teach them a lesson.