The Temple of Elemental Challenge Rating Calculation Evil

I’ve recently decided that I’m going to forge ahead with my Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. However, I’m changing systems yet again, mainly because I have these shiny new 5th edition rulebooks that I want to get some more use out of and everyone at our table (including me) really enjoys these new rules.

The biggest obstacle to overcome in this process is going to involve monster and NPC conversion. Obviously, I can just use the 5e version of most of the monsters, but I’m not sure how the challenge ratings and experience point awards will stack up. In general it seems like 5e monsters are stouter than their 1e counter-parts, and offer a lot more experience per monster. This is coupled with the fact that advancing in levels takes much less experience points now than it did in earlier editions of the game. My gut tells me that things should basically work out alright, even if the party ends up being a higher level than the module intended at a given point. The lower power curve of this edition should ensure that hordes of lower CR monsters will still prove challenging for adventurers of a slightly higher level than the adventure was intended for. Also, the original module is kind of a meat grinder, seemingly requiring about twice as many characters than what our group has if a group of the intended level would have any chance of success. I’m going to try and play things by ear when it comes to tweaking the number of monsters in the encounters, and I’m sure once I get more comfortable with the new rules I’ll be able to make pretty good on-the-fly decisions when it comes to appropriate challenge ratings.

A bigger problem I have right now, without a Dungeon Master’s Guide, is determining experience points and challenge ratings for folks like Lareth the Beautiful and his 4th level fighter lieutenant. Looking at Appendix B in the Monster Manual gives me some direction, but it also looks to be all over the map when it comes to determining challenge ratings and hit points. I can probably use the entry for “Bandit” right out of that appendix, so I thought that maybe this lieutenant or this sergeant could be a “Bandit Captain.”

That’s where things get a little confusing.

According to my module, the lieutenant is a 4th level fighter. He has 31 hit points and is worth 259 experience points. With his Constitution and the “default” hit points per level that a fighter gets he would have 40 hit points, so I’ll probably make that adjustment. The bandit captain has 10d8+20 (65) hit points and is a challenge rating 2 (450xp) creature. I’m not sure how to parse this. All I can tell is that his hit die are not based on a character class and his challenge rating doesn’t correspond to a character level. I feel like a 4th level fighter would be tougher than this bandit captain from looking at the stats, but I don’t know that he should be worth CR 3 (700) experience points, much less CR 4 (1,100). For now I’ll probably call him CR 3.

Lareth is an even bigger problem. If I’m saying a 4th level fighter is CR 3 should I make a 5th level cleric CR 4? That’s what I’m leaning towards right now. In 5th edition, Lareth’s hold person isn’t quite as devastating since you get to save against its effects each round. Also, he isn’t benefiting from his dexterity as much as he use to in that heavy armor he’s wearing, so his relative armor class is going to be a bit worse (In the module he has plate mail +1 and a -1 armor class. I think the closest equivalent that makes the most sense is probably going to be half plate +1, giving Lareth an 18 armor class nowadays).

I’m just basing these things off of what “feels right,” rather than any conversion guide or in-depth deconstruction of the monsters found in the book. I’m probably way off in my thinking, but we’ll see how it goes. These guys along with their underlings will be quite a challenge, even for a party of 3rd level characters (the current level of my party) and I think the experience point haul from setting these challenge ratings where I have will still be pretty decent. The whole encounter will be worth right at 2,000 experience points, which puts it just above a total challenge rating of 5. I have no idea how close this would be compared to any actual nuts and bolts calculations, but for now I’m going to have to just stick with things “feeling right” because consulting the charts in the Dungeon Master’s Basic Rules PDF gives me a migraine. If I look at the “Encounter Difficulty XP Per Character” chart on page 57 I can see that this encounter is “deadly” and then some based on the formula for calculating such things given on that page. That seems legit – this encounter was quite deadly “back in the day.” However, looking at the “XP Per Adventuring Day Per Player” chart on page 58 tells me that this group of characters should be able to face almost three times as many experience points worth of danger before having to complete a long rest, which seems ludicrous to me.

Any thoughts?

4 thoughts on “The Temple of Elemental Challenge Rating Calculation Evil

  1. I agree?

    The one bit of 5e that I really don’t like, that I actually actively dislike is the whole CR thing. For my faded 1e eyes that never played 3e, 3.5e, Pathfinder, or 4e (not even 2e really) I’m very used to the old style formulas for calculating XP. I do understand the desire to simplify it, I even understand the reasons to “simplify” “building encounters” – but the whole CR system doesn’t make any sense to me. I really hope that post-DMG it makes more sense than it does now.

    *grumble* I still wish they’d given us the DMG before the MM…


    1. I’ve always found the whole challenge rating system to be cumbersome and clunky. I was very happy to see that monsters have an actual XP value included in their stat blocks again instead of just a challenge rating. I’m hoping that the DMG will include a simple system for determining XP values for NPCs, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

      1. Yeah, as I’ve thought about it I’ve realized that at least part of my problem is that I think that while CR’s *might* be a great way to help beginning DMs and players get a sense of how to build encounters or design adventures as an experienced DM I just find clunky and cumbersome as all heck.


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