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Lists of CR groups

For making D&D dungeons, I have plenty of ready-made maps, map generators, and my own ideas for locations. I also have a treasure hoard generator and my own ideas for custom cool items. I also have so many awesome monster books and my own monster ideas. Traps and puzzles is a little bit harder but I have some. Trappings and dungeon ABC type stuff, there’s also plenty. Also picked some books of just random individual dungeon rooms to slot into almost any dungeon.

When I am prepping, what I’m really missing (and maybe should just make) is a list of monster groups to place into rooms, and an encounter table with monster encounters and with blank lines to put in cool custom stuff like NPCs. These lists should be CR only. Like, “in this room there’s a pair of CR 2 monsters”. Mad libs, paint by numbers. I’d select some cool monsters (I wouldn’t do all Intellect Devourer all the time) and place them where it made sense in the dungeon.

I’d do this keying and placing and monster selection at prep-time, not on the fly, but these “CR group skeletons” would really make my prepping more confident. It’s a huge missing piece for homebrew.

The list should also say like “this is suitable for a tier one (especially level three) party of four.” Or whatever.

One list per level, but, for multi-level dungeons a set of interlinked lists, taking traditional XP curve advancement into account (you don’t wanna make like Lagoon on the SNES, forcing you to walk the dungeons over and over again just to level up properly). Doing all the calculations.

Ideally, it should keep in mind short rests, and a way to hand out the right amount of xp but for treasures instead of for fighting.

Now, it’s my philosophy that 3.x, PF, and 4E got it wrong with over-reliance on the CR system. Having the DM “serve up” encounters makes the party’s deaths the DM’s fault and the party’s victories the DM’s fault too. Instead, I want a pull model: a world full of explorable danger that the party can explore as they want to: push into dangerous places in search of higher rewards. The XP curve is a brilliant invention in service of this model. So, the tier&level recos should be just a vague guide for the DM (place more dangerous stuff further away). The idea isn’t to serve one dungeon at a time to the party and say “it’s a level five dungeon and you’re level five so STFU”. Instead, just use this mad libs / paint by numbers system to make a bunch of dungeons and place them and let the players explore as they wish. Don’t tell them what level this system claims something mathematically is for (until afterwards, if they ask. “Yeah, you defeated a dungeon for level six chars, that’s great for a bunch of level threes.”).