# CR2.0

##### Challenge Ratings 2.0

Combat is a core part of *Dungeons & Dragons* 5th Edition. Yet most Dungeon Masters have found 5th Edition's combat-building system to be unreliable at best and misleading at worst.

Some have written that the system is "hopelessly broken" and that relying on it is a "mistake". Others have suggested that combat-building is largely "experience and guesswork" and that combat balance "is an art based on pseudoscience."

Most critics agree that the "action economy" lies at the core of 5th Edition's shortcomings. Yet no combat-building guides thus far have mathematically analyzed how combat works and where 5th Edition goes wrong.

**Challenge Ratings 2.0** is the first to do so. Built on a comprehensive mathematical analysis of 5th Edition combat rules, this system provides Dungeon Masters with a simple, flexible, and resilient method for building encounters. From mild skirmishes to overwhelming ordeals, **Challenge Ratings 2.0** allows Dungeon Masters to precisely calibrate each encounter to its intended difficulty.

This system is split into two parts: a **basic guide** and an **advanced guide**:

- The
**basic**guide features a simple, yet powerful method for building balanced encounters. - The
**advanced**guide allows Dungeon Masters to build even*more*challenging encounters and accounts for unique characteristics like magic items, multiclassing, waves of monsters, and more.

To support my work and access an automated **encounter-building tool** that uses this system, you can join my Patreon here.

Thank you for playtesting **Challenge Ratings 2.0**, and happy gaming.

—DragnaCarta

## Part I. Basic Guide

### Building an Encounter

#### Step 1. Calculate Party Power

Using the table below, add together the Power of each PC in your party. This is the **Party Power.**

Level | Power |
---|---|

1 |
11 |

2 |
14 |

3 |
18 |

4 |
23 |

5 |
32 |

Level | Power |
---|---|

6 |
35 |

7 |
41 |

8 |
44 |

9 |
49 |

10 |
53 |

Level | Power |
---|---|

11 |
62 |

12 |
68 |

13 |
71 |

14 |
74 |

15 |
82 |

Level | Power |
---|---|

16 |
84 |

17 |
103 |

18 |
119 |

19 |
131 |

20 |
141 |

Then, increase the **Party Power** by the total Power of all summoned monsters and NPC allies. (You can find this information in the table in **Step 3.**)

#### Step 2. Determine Encounter Difficulty

Find the intended **Encounter Difficulty** on the table below.

Encounter Difficulty | Multiplier |
Cost |
---|---|---|

Mild. The PCs will win without a scratch. |
0.40 | 2 |

Bruising. The PCs will win with minor injuries. |
0.60 | 4 |

Bloody. The PCs will win with major injuries. |
0.75 | 6 |

Brutal. The PCs will win, but some may fall unconscious. |
0.90 | 8 |

Oppressive. The PCs can only win with a little luck or skill. |
1.00 | 10 |

Then, multiply the Party Power by the encounter's **Multiplier**. This is the **Encounter Power Budget.**

#### Step 3. Choose Monsters

Using the table below, choose a number of monsters whose total Power equals the Encounter Power Budget.

CR | Power |
---|---|

0 |
1 |

1/8 |
5 |

1/4 |
10 |

1/2 |
16 |

1 |
22 |

2 |
28 |

3 |
37 |

CR | Power |
---|---|

4 |
48 |

5 |
60 |

6 |
65 |

7 |
70 |

8 |
85 |

9 |
85 |

10 |
95 |

CR | Power |
---|---|

11 |
105 |

12 |
115 |

13 |
120 |

14 |
125 |

15 |
130 |

16 |
140 |

17 |
150 |

CR | Power |
---|---|

18 |
160 |

19 |
165 |

20 |
180 |

21 |
200 |

22 |
225 |

23 |
250 |

24 |
275 |

CR | Power |
---|---|

25 |
300 |

26 |
325 |

27 |
350 |

28 |
375 |

29 |
400 |

30 |
425 |

You're done!

### Building an Adventuring Day

Find the **Fatigue Level** for the adventuring day you'd like to run on the table below. (Resources include hit dice, spell slots, and abilities.)

Total Cost |
Fatigue Level |
---|---|

2 |
Light. The PCs will use few resources. |

4 |
Moderate. The PCs will use some resources. |

6 |
Taxing. The PCs will use a large minority of their resources. |

9 |
Draining. The PCs will use a majority of their resources. |

12 |
Debilitating. The PCs will use nearly all of their resources. |

15 |
Exhausting. The PCs will use all of their resources. |

Then, build a number of combat encounters whose total **cost** (as given in the **Cost** column in **Step 2** of * Building an Encounter*) is equal to the

**Total Cost**for that Fatigue Level.

### Example Encounter

Assume a party of four fourth-level PCs. Each PC has 23 Power, so the Party Power is 92.

The party also includes a CR 1/2 **scout**, who has 16 Power. The Party Power is now 108.

We want to build a **Bloody** encounter. A Bloody encounter has a Multiplier of 0.75. We multiply 108, the Party Power, by 0.75 to get 81, the Encounter Power Budget.

We need to choose any number of monsters whose total Power adds up to 81. Let's choose:

- One CR 1
**bugbear**(22 Power each), - Two CR 1/2
**hobgoblins**(16 Power each), and - Three CR 1/4
**goblins**(10 Power each).

That brings us to 84 Power, which is almost exactly equal to the Encounter Power Budget. We're done!

### Example Adventuring Day

Assume an adventuring day with the following encounters:

- A
**Mild**encounter (cost 2), - A
**Bruising**encounter (cost 4), and - A
**Brutal**encounter (cost 8).

The Total Cost is 14, making this a nearly **Exhausting** day. Assuming they get enough short rests, the PCs will use almost all of their resources, including hit points, hit dice, spell slots, and abilities.

### Note: Special Monsters

Be careful when building encounters with monsters whose Power is twice as much as any individual PC's Power. These monsters may deal enough damage to knock out a PC in a single hit, removing them from combat and setting the PCs onto a "death spiral" that may be impossible to recover from.

Additionally, the following monsters are Special CR and should not be used except by an experienced Dungeon Master: **shadow**, **intellect devourer**, **sea hag**, and **banshee**.

## Credits

is created byChallenge Ratings 2.0DragnaCarta.You can read about the theory behind the system here. (Note that this article is not yet complete.)

Special thanks to:Twi, whose feedback, knowledge, and experience made this project possible; and toLinus, whose mathematical insight cracked the final code.

Additional thanks to:aldman123, Archer, Az, Booyahg, Busdriver, Caesarr, CanadianCruelty, Dragoncrown Games, Edgetaraz, EpicBlundersRPG, Humanfarmerman, James Lorimer, JazzHammy, nolonunez, Paintknight, PunchingPotato, Rolling For What Now?, Schelling, StoryWeaver, Taffer, The Count, and whatisaplunk for feedback and review.

Image credit to:Wizards of the Coast, used under the Fan Content Policy.Dungeon Master's Guidewatercolor stains by Jared Ondricek.

Designed with:GMBinder.

## Part II. Advanced Guide

### Building an Encounter

#### Step 1. Calculate PC Power

For each PC in the party, complete the following steps.

##### Step 1a. Determine Primary Level

Find the PC's highest-leveled class. This is their **primary class.** (If two or more classes are tied, choose one.)

Write down the number of **level points** (LP) they gain from their primary class using the table below.

Level | LP |
---|---|

1 |
2 |

2 |
7 |

3 |
10 |

4 |
13 |

5 |
18 |

6 |
20 |

7 |
22 |

Level | LP |
---|---|

8 |
23 |

9 |
24 |

10 |
25 |

11 |
28 |

12 |
29 |

13 |
30 |

14 |
30 |

Level | LP |
---|---|

15 |
32 |

16 |
32 |

17 |
35 |

18 |
37 |

19 |
39 |

20 |
40 |

If the PC has no other classes, skip to **Step 1D**.

##### Step 1b. Determine Auxiliary Levels

Determine the PC's **auxiliary classes** as follows:

- If the PC's primary class is a martial class, every other martial or half-caster class that the PC has multiclassed into is an
**auxiliary class.**All other classes are**junk classes**. - If the PC's primary class is a caster class, every half-caster class that the PC has multiclassed into is an
**auxiliary class.**All other classes are**junk classes.** - If the PC's primary class is a half-caster class, every other class that the PC has multiclassed into is an
**auxiliary class.**

Increase the PC's total level points by the number of additional **level points** they gain from each auxiliary class, using the table below.

Level | LP |
---|---|

1 |
2 |

2 |
4 |

3 |
6 |

4 |
7 |

Level | LP |
---|---|

5 |
9 |

6 |
10 |

7 |
11 |

8 |
12 |

Level | LP |
---|---|

9 |
14 |

10 |
15 |

##### Step 1c. Determine Junk Levels

For each level that the PC has taken in a **junk class**, increase their total Level Points by 1.

##### Step 1d. Determine Item Bonuses

First, note the AC that the PC would have if they were still using their starting equipment. Add every +1 **bonus** to AC that the PC has obtained by purchasing or finding new armor. (For example, if the PC began with *chain mail*, which provides 16 AC, and has since upgraded to *plate armor*, which provides 18 AC, the PC has received +2 **bonuses**.)

Then, if the PC has obtained a shield, but their starting equipment does not include a shield, add an additional +2 **bonuses**.

Increase this number by every magical +1 **bonus** the PC has to AC, attack rolls, saving throw DCs, and saving throws. (For example, a *+1 shield* would provide an additional +1 **bonus.**)

Increase the PC's total level points by the number of additional level points they gain, according to the table below.

Bonuses | LP |
---|---|

1 |
1 |

2 |
1 |

3 |
2 |

4 |
2 |

Bonuses | LP |
---|---|

5 |
3 |

6 |
3 |

7 |
4 |

8 |
4 |

Bonuses | LP |
---|---|

9 |
4 |

10 |
5 |

11 |
5 |

12 |
6 |

##### Step 1e. Determine Other Bonuses

If the PC will have **advantage** on all of their attacks, increase their total level points by 2, unless all enemies will also have advantage on attacks against the PC.

If all enemies will have **disadvantage** to attack the PC, increase the PC's total level points by 3.

##### Step 1f. Determine Power

Find the PC's Power on the table below, given their total Level Points.

LP | Power |
---|---|

0 |
11 |

1 |
11 |

2 |
12 |

3 |
13 |

4 |
14 |

5 |
15 |

6 |
16 |

7 |
17 |

8 |
18 |

9 |
20 |

10 |
21 |

11 |
22 |

LP | Power |
---|---|

12 |
24 |

13 |
26 |

14 |
28 |

15 |
30 |

16 |
32 |

17 |
34 |

18 |
36 |

19 |
39 |

20 |
42 |

21 |
45 |

22 |
48 |

23 |
51 |

LP | Power |
---|---|

24 |
55 |

25 |
59 |

26 |
63 |

27 |
67 |

28 |
72 |

29 |
77 |

30 |
83 |

31 |
89 |

32 |
95 |

33 |
102 |

34 |
109 |

35 |
117 |

LP | Power |
---|---|

36 |
125 |

37 |
134 |

38 |
143 |

39 |
154 |

40 |
165 |

41 |
176 |

42 |
189 |

43 |
202 |

44 |
216 |

45 |
232 |

46 |
248 |

#### Step 2. Calculate Party Power

Add together each PC's Power, including the Power of any monster summons or NPC companions (see **Step 4** for this information). The result is the **Party Power.**

#### Step 3. Determine Encounter Difficulty

Find the intended **Encounter Difficulty** on the table below.

Encounter Difficulty | Multiplier |
Cost |
---|---|---|

Mild. The PCs will win without a scratch. |
0.40 | 2 |

Bruising. The PCs will win with minor injuries. |
0.60 | 4 |

Bloody. The PCs will win with major injuries. |
0.75 | 6 |

Brutal. The PCs will win, but some may fall unconscious. |
0.90 | 8 |

Oppressive. The PCs can only win with a little luck or skill. |
1.00 | 10 |

Overwhelming. The PCs can only win with a lot of luck or skill. |
1.10 | 13 |

Crushing. The PCs can only win with an exceptional amount of luck or skill. |
1.30 | 17 |

Devastating. The PCs can only win under perfect conditions. |
1.60 | 25 |

Impossible. The PCs cannot win. |
2.25 | 50 |

Then, multiply the Party Power by the encounter's **Multiplier**. This is the **Encounter Power Budget.**

#### Step 4. Choose Monsters

First, determine which **tier of play** your PCs are in:

Level | Tier of Play |
---|---|

1-4 | Tier 1 |

5-10 | Tier 2 |

Level | Tier of Play |
---|---|

11-16 | Tier 3 |

17-20 | Tier 4 |

Using the table to the right, choose a number of monsters whose total Power equals the Encounter Power Budget, given the PCs' tier of play.

However, if a monster has resistance or immunity to all nonmagical weapon damage, decrease its CR by 2 if all PCs can consistently deal magical damage. If a monster can kill or KO one or more PCs on the first turn of combat, increase its CR by 4.

Note that the following monsters are Special CR and should not be used except by an experienced Dungeon Master: **shadow**, **intellect devourer**, **sea hag**, and **banshee**.

## Why Does Power Change?

Why does a monster's Power vary with the PCs' level? If a PC has a comparatively low AC and attack bonus, the monster hits more often (increasing its effective damage) and is hit less often (increasing its effective HP). The inverse is also true!

##### Monster Power by Challenge Rating

CR | Tier 1 | Tier 2 | Tier 3 | Tier 4 |
---|---|---|---|---|

0 |
1 | 1 | 0 | 0 |

1/8 |
4 | 3 | 3 | 2 |

1/4 |
10 | 6 | 5 | 4 |

1/2 |
16 | 12 | 7 | 5 |

1 |
22 | 17 | 15 | 8 |

2 |
28 | 23 | 19 | 14 |

3 |
37 | 30 | 25 | 19 |

4 |
48 | 38 | 32 | 24 |

5 |
70 | 60 | 45 | 40 |

6 |
80 | 65 | 50 | 40 |

7 |
90 | 70 | 55 | 45 |

8 |
105 | 85 | 70 | 55 |

9 |
110 | 85 | 70 | 55 |

10 |
115 | 95 | 75 | 60 |

11 |
140 | 130 | 105 | 85 |

12 |
150 | 140 | 115 | 90 |

13 |
160 | 150 | 120 | 95 |

14 |
165 | 155 | 125 | 100 |

15 |
175 | 165 | 130 | 105 |

16 |
185 | 175 | 140 | 110 |

17 |
250 | 200 | 190 | 150 |

18 |
260 | 210 | 200 | 160 |

19 |
280 | 220 | 210 | 170 |

20 |
300 | 240 | 230 | 180 |

21 |
400 | 350 | 275 | 250 |

22 |
450 | 375 | 300 | 275 |

23 |
500 | 425 | 325 | 325 |

24 |
550 | 450 | 375 | 350 |

25 |
600 | 500 | 400 | 375 |

26 |
650 | 525 | 425 | 400 |

27 |
725 | 600 | 475 | 450 |

28 |
775 | 625 | 500 | 475 |

29 |
775 | 650 | 525 | 475 |

30 |
850 | 725 | 575 | 525 |

### Building an Adventuring Day

Find the **Fatigue Level** for the adventuring day you'd like to run on the table below. (Resources include hit dice, spell slots, and abilities.) Note down its **Total Cost.**

Total Cost |
Fatigue Level |
---|---|

2 |
Light. The PCs will use few resources. |

4 |
Moderate. The PCs will use some resources. |

6 |
Taxing. The PCs will use a large minority of their resources. |

9 |
Draining. The PCs will use a majority of their resources. |

12 |
Debilitating. The PCs will use nearly all of their resources. |

15 |
Exhausting. The PCs will use all of their resources. |

Then, for each consumable magic item or fully-charged magical item that your PCs can use to deal damage, recover hit points, or inflict debilitating conditions, find the item's **Resource Modifier** on the table below and divide it by the number of PCs in the party. Add the result to the Total Cost. (For a consumable magic item, use the number in parentheses instead.)

Party Level | Uncommon | Rare | Very Rare | Legendary |
---|---|---|---|---|

1-4 |
15 (2) | 120 (17) | 360 (51) | 600 (85) |

5-10 |
2 (0) | 15 (2) | 45 (6) | 75 (10) |

11-16 |
1 (0) | 5 (0) | 15 (2) | 25 (3) |

17-20 |
0 (0) | 3 (0) | 9 (1) | 15 (2) |

Then, build a number of combat encounters whose total cost (as given in the **Cost** column in **Step 2** of * Building an Encounter*) is equal to the Total Cost for that Fatigue Level.

In order to ensure that short-rest classes have as many resources to spend as long-rest classes, aim to ensure that your party takes an average of two short rests per day.

### Example Encounter

Assume the following fourth-level party:

- One 4th-level wizard with a
*wand of magic missile*. - One 4th-level cleric with
**plate armor**and a*+2 holy symbol*. - One Paladin 2/Sorcerer 2 wielding a
*+1 shield*. - One Fighter 2/Rogue 1/Wizard 1.
- One CR 1/2
**scout**NPC ally.

According to Step 1A of * Building An Encounter,* each PC gains the following level points from their primary class:

- Wizard: 13 LP (Level 4)
- Cleric: 13 LP (Level 4)
- Paladin: 7 LP (Level 2)
- Fighter: 7 LP (Level 2)

According to Step 1B, each PC gains the following number of LP from auxiliary levels:

- Wizard: +0 LP (Total: 13 LP)
- Cleric: +0 LP (Total: 13 LP)
- Paladin: +4 LP (Total: 11 LP)
- Fighter: +2 LP (Total: 9 LP)

According to Step 1C, each PC gains the following number of LP from junk levels:

- Wizard: +0 LP (Total: 13 LP)
- Cleric: +0 LP (Total: 13 LP)
- Paladin: +0 LP (Total: 11 LP)
- Fighter: +1 LP (Total: 10 LP)

According to Step 1D, assuming the cleric began with chain mail, each PC gains the following number of LP from item bonuses:

- Wizard: 0 Bonuses → +0 LP (Total: 13 LP)
- Cleric: 4 Bonuses → +2 LP (Total: 15 LP)
- Paladin: 1 Bonus → +1 LP (Total: 12 LP)
- Fighter: 0 Bonuses → +0 LP (Total: 10 LP)

The PCs have no other bonuses, so we skip Step 1E. According to Step 1F, each PC has the following amount of Power:

- Wizard: 26 Power
- Cleric: 30 Power
- Paladin: 24 Power
- Fighter: 21 Power

According to the Monster Power chart in **Step 4**, the CR 1/2 **scout** NPC ally has 16 Power in Tier 1. Altogether, the Party Power is 117.

Let's build a **Bloody** encounter: The PCs will be notably injured, but will win the encounter. Accordingly, we multiply the Party Power by 0.75, the Difficulty for a Bloody encounter, to get the Encounter Power Budget: 88.

Now, we need to choose any number of monsters whose total Tier 1 Power adds up to 88. Let's choose:

- One CR 1
**bugbear**(22 power each) , - Two CR 1/2
**hobgoblins**(16 power each) , - Three CR 1/4
**goblins**(10 power each) , and - Four CR 0
**rats**(1 power each) .

This brings us to 88 monster power exactly.

### Example Adventuring Day

Let's assume that this is the only encounter our PCs will face today. The Total Cost for today starts at 6, which is the sum of all Encounter Costs that the PCs will face.

Now, because our wizard has a fully-charged magic item that can deal damage or inflict debilitating conditions (a *wand of magic missile*), we need to subtract the item's Resource Modifier from the Total Difficulty.

A *wand of magic missile* is an Uncommon charged magic item. As such, its modifier for a party of level 4 is equal to 15 divided by the number of characters in the party (5).

The modifier is therefore equal to 3, which we then subtract from the Total Cost (6) for a final result of 3 (Light).

### Note: Waves of Monsters

For an encounter with multiple consecutive waves of enemies (or a single enemy with multiple phases), build each wave as a separate encounter. Then, add each wave's **cost** together to determine the cost (and therefore the difficulty) of the overall encounter.

### Note: Creature Agency

Creature Power is only one component to evaluating an encounter's difficulty. Monsters and PCs with access to spells and spell-like effects, such as teleportation or flight, can reach even greater heights with the right tactics and strategy. Look out for a companion guide on "Creature Agency" to be released soon on the Dragna's Den Substack.

### Changelog

**Aug. 3, 2022**. Updated*Monster Power by Challenge Rating*table in the Advanced Guide to account for low-CR monster power decay. Revised**Step 1. Calculate PC Power**in the Advanced Guide to account for favorable multiclass combinations.**Aug. 6, 2022.**Updated**Step 1B. Determine Auxiliary Levels**level points table in the Advanced Guide to key off of proper multiclass benchmarks. Updated**Step 1D. Determine Item Bonuses**Bonuses table in the Advanced Guide to account for new Level Point scaling. Simplified**Step 1C. Determine Boost Ratio**in the Advanced Guide.**Aug. 8, 2022.**Simplified**Step 1B. Determine Auxiliary Levels**in the Advanced Guide. Updated values for**Monster Power by Challenge Rating**,**Step 1A. Determine Primary Level**, and**Step 1E. Determine Power**tables in the Advanced Guide.**Aug. 9, 2022.**Fixed table in**Step 1B. Determine Auxiliary Levels**to indicate aggregate Level Points, rather than marginal Level Points. Changed heading of**Step 1C. Determine Junk Levels.**Shrunk table in**Step 1E. Determine Power**to reflect current maximum Level Point value.**Aug. 10, 2022.**Added**Step 1e. Determine Other Bonuses**to reflect level point adjustments for advantage and disadvantage.**Aug. 12, 2022.**Updatedin the Advanced Guide to reflect updated mathematics. Cleaned up Bonuses table in**Example Encounter****Step 1D. Determine Item Bonuses**in the Advanced Guide. Removed**A Point of Reference**text box in the Advanced Guide.**Nov. 17, 2022.**Updated**Example Encounter**in the Basic Guide to reflect updated mathematics.