Building Encounters

A lot of the time, encounters in SGS are determined not by what would get the characters the right number of experience points, but by what makes sense in the situation. Sometimes the group just runs afoul of an adversary they weren't prepared for. Sometimes they have to wade through a mob of weak enemies that will do little more than slow them down.

Regardless, you as the GM still need to be able to calculate whether a given group of enemies is going to be hard, easy, deadly, or meaningless.

Fortunately, SGS makes these sort of comparisons very easy.

XP Values

All entities in SGS have xp values, which are calculated from their stat values. XP values are designed so that they're linearly equivalent: two 100 xp elements are roughly equal one 200 xp element.

XP value describes an entity's overall value, which is not the same as an entity's value specifically in combat. Some entities are not designed for combat (ie a merchant, blacksmith, or even a support enchanter) because they've spent their XP in areas that aren't directly applicable to fighting. That's where focus comes in.

Focus

Focus is how much XP an entity has invested in the different skill groups. It will help you select adversaries that are appropriate to the PCs.

Entities are listed with on their most important focus groups. Each focus group includes an XP value, which represents (approximately) how much XP they've invested in that group.

Focus is calculated by summing up the XP value of all skills the entity has access to in that category, including the skill values on equipment. No modifiers or limitations are applied to the xp values.

You can use the focus groups to gauge how effective an enemy will be in combat in several ways. First, you can use it as a yardstick to estimate how focused an entity is in combat or some other group. Given a group of PCs with the same as their adversaries, if the adversary they're facing is heavily focused on combat and the group is very generalist, they're going to have a hard time. Second, if your PCs calculate their own focus values, you can do some direct comparison between the group's combat values and the enemy combat values.

Focus is not listed on entities that have the no actions limitation; you don't need to know the focus of a sword, you want to know the focus of the one swinging it.

Generic Mage: 273 xp, 66 Special, 38 Combat, 27 Academic, 12 Social, range: 3–12

Generic Rogue: 289 xp, 44 Combat, 42 Espionage, 28 Social, range: 3–10

By comparing the groups of these two entities, we can see that the rogue's got a bit of an advantage in combat, the mage has a huge advantage in special skills, and the rogue has a major advantage in espionage.

Range

Range is a pair of numbers that give you a rough idea of what the entity is capable of numerically. The higher number is the total value of their best skill, and the lower number is the total value of their worst skill, excluding skills they don't actually have. This gives you a range that can be compared against the range of the PCs to give you an idea of whether the PCs are massively outclassed or not.

If the difference in the max for the PCs and the enemy is more than 1/2 the size of the Main Die, the chances that one side will generally not hit the other increase dramatically.

Generic Rogue: 289 xp, 44 Combat, 42 Espionage, 28 Social, range: 3–10

Swarm of Rabble: 200 xp, 47 Combat, 29 Social, range: 3–8

Epic Character: 2,592 xp, 143 Espionage, 133 Combat, 80 Academic, 67 Social, range: 11–28

In this example, we can see that the swarm of rabble's range overlaps with the rogue's quite a bit, so they're likely to be fighting on even footing. We can also see that the epic character's range doesn't overlap with the rogue's at all so the rogue bately stands a chance of even hitting, let alone defeating the other character.

Challenging Your PCs

How difficult a group of enemies will be to fight or overcome is a function of the enemy's total xp vs the PCs' total xp.

Let's describe three categories of situation as simple rules of thumb. That way, you can quickly apply them in the middle of the game if need be.

Keep in mind that the following challenges assume a relatively even range and focus between the enemies and the PCs, so if that's not the case, things might lean one way or another.

Massive Enemy Favor

When the enemy has double the value of the PCs, things are likely to go very bad for the PCs. It's likely that at least one PC will be knocked out, and a total wipe or complete capture are possible.

In these sorts of situations, the PCs will likely either need to retreat, or spend tremendous resources to overcome the enemy.

These kinds of conflicts are usually reserved for when the PCs either encounter the boss or mastermind, or kick a hornet's nest they didn't fully think through. Do not throw this kind of challenge at them for no reason.

Even Matchup

When the enemy and the PCs are roughly equal in power, the PCs will need to expend a fair amount of resources. It's possible in this situation that a PC or two might be knocked out, but it's unlikely to be a total route. These kinds of fights can be very knock-down drag-out, and may be resolved by the literal last person standing.

These kinds of conflicts are fairly rare in most kinds of action-oriented storytelling, and only usually happen when the heroes are up against a known, dangerous threat.

While this even matchup is superficially similar to a a D&D matchup where the CR is equal to the PC's level, this kind of battle is much harder and would be more similar to a deadly encounter in D&D. That's because CR is not the same thing as level. The odds in a Medium D&D encounter are substantially tipped in favor of the PCs. The odds in an even SGS matchup are literally 50/50.

Massive Player Favor

When the PCs have double the value of the enemy, the conflict is likely to be a cakewalk, unless there are very few PCs. The PCs will likely not have to spend many resources in this conflict unless they're avoiding teamwork or the enemy has some kind of situational advantage. The enemy is unlikely to win here.

These kind of conflicts can often occur when the enemy is trying to delay or distract the PCs from their goal, or the PCs stumble into an unprepared group of adversaries who throw down more out of principle than out of strategy.