Challenge Rating (CR) is a measure of how difficult an encounter is. CR is not exact. It is a general measure of difficulty, based on party level and size. A poorly-prepared party can suffer defeat even in a Trivial encounter, whereas a party that does substantial tactical research and obtains relevant consumables may be able to defeat even a Deadly encounter.
Each Quest, Dungeon or Encounter will have an approximate CR. You can use the CR Calculator below to figure out what CR is appropriate for your party.
A Trivial encounter should never pose a threat unless a party makes catastrophic mistakes. Trivial encounters will be despatched quickly, even by a party very low on resources with poor gear. They offer little XP and the material rewards will generally be a waste of time, but certain Trivial encounters may still need to be farmed if a party requires a specific loot reward from them.
An Easy encounter will never normally lead to defeat, though the party will still need to pay attention. Easy encounters are suitable for fighting repeatedly to gain gold, XP or items. They never require specific gear or items to beat, and can be taken on repeatedly by even a half-rested group with limited resources, although deaths are possible if a party pushes themselves too far. The rewards are fairly low, to match the risk and ease of repeating these encounters.
Medium encounters pose some risks to the party. Some deaths are likely, as well as possible losses of material resources, damaged items, or XP. A poorly-prepared group will not usually succeed on the first try. Medium encounters will occasionally require specific gear or items to beat, but can usually be taken on by any well-geared, well-prepared group with good synergy. Medium-challenge encounters often reward quality items, as well as gold and XP. They are well worth preparing for, though a few attempts may be needed.
A Hard-challenge encounter is a significant test of a party’s gear, tactics and ability to work together. Even a well-prepared group is unlikely to succeed on the first try, and will need to rest, recover and discuss tactical improvements to achieve victory. You may sometimes require specific gear or items to beat a Hard encounter.
Though much time and effort is required to beat Hard encounters, the rewards are substantial. Hard-challenge encounters generate much more gold and XP than Medium ones. Certain reagents and items will only drop from Hard-challenge encounters, even if the party’s Prospecting is high.
Deadly encounters are extremely difficult, though not impossible, to beat. They will always require many attempts – and therefore, many deaths – to discover tactical refinements. A Deadly encounter will always require specific gear and items to beat.
A party willing to invest the time and resources into beating Deadly encounters will find themselves awash with gold, XP, and rare goods. Certain reagents and items will only drop from Deadly-challenge encounters, even if the party’s Prospecting is high, and they are sometimes the only way to proceed with certain high-level Quests and Titles.
An Impossible encounter will always result in total annihilation for even the most well-prepared team. Any attempts are futile.
To find an appropriate encounter for your party, look up your party’s Level on the left-hand column, then scan across to find the Difficulty you would like.
For example, a Level 10 party wishes to try a Hard encounter. They would need to find an encounter with a CR of 13 to 15.
To find out what Level an encounter of a particular CR is suited to, look up the CR on the left-hand column, then scan across. For example, if an encounter is CR 20, it would be Medium for a party of Level 11-15.
XP is not cumulative, that is it resets to zero when a character levels up. For example, a Level 10 character needs to gain 43,000 XP to reach Level 11. Their XP would reset to zero, and they would need to gain a further 58,000 XP to reach Level 12.
An ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge. The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results.
For every ability check, the DM decides which of the six abilities is relevant to the task at hand and the difficulty of the task, represented by a Difficulty Class. The more difficult a task, the higher its DC. The Typical Difficulty Classes table shows the most common DCs.
Sometimes two or more characters team up to attempt a task. The character who’s leading the effort–or the one with the highest ability modifier–can make an ability check with advantage, reflecting the help provided by the other characters. In combat, this requires the Help action.
A character can only provide help if the task is one that he or she could attempt alone. For example, trying to open a lock requires proficiency with thieves’ tools, so a character who lacks that proficiency can’t help another character in that task.
Moreover, a character can help only when two or more individuals working together would actually be productive. Some tasks, such as threading a needle, are no easier with help.