Query: How to determine Villain PL?

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Query: How to determine Villain PL?

Post by StarGuard »

Is there a an easy to read or conversion method to determine what PL my villain set-up should be in a challenging combat?

I have 7 players who are starting at on average PL10.

Many are new or like me very rusty with the MM system.

I want to start them out against a bunch of very skilled standard human bad guys. This way they get a feel for their current power vs non-supers.

Then I want to put them up against 3 supers who are a bit more powerful than them.

The first story arc will end with a tough boss fight of one against many.

I have a DnD CR generator for building combats, I has hoped someone smarter than me had done the same for MM

Thanks for any ideas
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Re: Query: How to determine Villain PL?

Post by Davies »

Basically, one hero should be an equal match for one villain of the same PL, and it's reasonable to pit a group of PL heroes against a single villain of (PL+[number of heroes-1]). Beyond that, you have to guess a lot, and remember that an NPC's PL doesn't mean they have to be built on the same number of points as a PC. (You can have a PL10 villain who has 200 points of abilities, and they will be a serious threat to a PL10/150 point PC.)

For your situation, I would recommend a group of 3 PL 11/12 villains, with the final boss being PL15.

(Seven players? Yikes!)
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Re: Query: How to determine Villain PL?

Post by StarGuard »

A key supposition is that an NPC of a given PL is essentially just as strong as a PC of that PL. However, this assumption is often suspect in M&M because PL isn't a great predictor of raw combat ability.

The basis for the specific numbers here is the assumption that combat power roughly doubles when you add 2 PLs. Watch out for a villain who is "PL 12" because of PL 12 offensive abilities, but only has PL 8 defensive abilities. This villain is nowhere near as tough as his PL suggests (I'd average these two numbers and treat him as PL 10). If there are few villains, villains with area attacks tend to be stronger, as they are not constrained by potentially hitting their allies.

PCs generally have an advantage in that they start with 1 hero point, while each use of GM Fiat to duplicate the effects of a hero point for a villain gives them an additional hero point (and this is even greater if PCs have the Luck feat or have accumulated additional hero points in play). However, sometimes even though players have several hero points between them, some PCs are out of hero points and vulnerable; this won't happen to the GM's individual villains.

Over the past few day, I've been tinkering with a set of guidelines for designing encounters for GMs to use. M&M's flexibility is a huge advantage in many ways, but it can make tweaking encounters more difficult, as it becomes more of a "feel" than a science.

To that end, I've put together these guidelines for approximating how many enemies you need to challenge a group of PCs at vary levels of difficulty, and how powerful you need to make those NPCs.

Step 1: How Dangerous?

Encounters are rated by how dangerous they are, or how difficult it will be for the players to overcome them:


Danger Rank: Description

-: No Danger; there is almost no possible way that the PCs could suffer injury, much less defeat

X: Minimal Danger; the PCs have almost no chance of being defeated

XX: Modest Danger; the PCs stand to suffer some injuries if they're not careful

XXX: Significant Danger; the PCs are likely to win the fight, but it will require smart play to come out on top

XXXX: Serious Danger; the PCs are going up against a real threat and could just as easily win as they could lose, and will need to play smart to win

XXXXX: Severe Danger; The PCs are going to be outmatched and without very clever gameplay and teamwork, they're more likely than not going to lose

XXXXXX: Overwhelming Danger; the PCs are very likely to lose the encounter, and only tremendous luck or playing at the top of their game can see them through

Step 2: Challenge Rank

Next, you need to figure out just how many NPCs to challenge your party with (and just how powerful to make them). Depending on how challenging you wish to make the encounter (see Step 1), you can have more or fewer NPCs of higher or lower power level. To determine this, you need to determine the total Challenge Rank for the encounter:

Encounter Challenge Rank = Danger Rank x Number of Party Members

So if a group of four PCs is going to face an encounter of Serious Danger (XXXX), then the encounter will have a total Challenge Rank of 16.

Step 3: How Many NPCs? How Strong?

The total Challenge Rank of an encounter can be distributed in any way you like among the enemies the PCs will face. You can divide the Challenge Ranks to many NPCs, or only a few. Depending on how many ranks you assign each enemy, it will change what Power Level that NPC is.


NPC's Challenge Rank: NPC's Power Level

Challenge Rank 1: Party's PL -4 or lower

Challenge Rank 2: Party's PL -2 or -3

Challenge Rank 3: Party's PL -1

Challenge Rank 4: Party's PL

Challenge Rank 5-6: Party's PL + 1

Challenge Rank 7-9: Party's PL + 2

Challenge Rank 10-13: Party's PL + 3

Challenge Rank 14-19: Party's PL + 4

Challenge Rank 20+: Party's PL + 5

So long as the total Challenge Ranks of all of the enemies put together are equal to the Danger Rank x the number of PCs in the party, you'll still have an appropriate encounter for that Danger Rank. A Challenge Rank 16 encounter for a party of four PL 10 PCs could consist of four PL 10 enemies, or two PL 12 enemies, or one PL 14 enemy, or two PL 10 enemies and one PL 12 enemy, or eight PL 7 enemies, or just about any other combination you can imagine.


A helpful aid for this stage, especially if you're trying it for the first time, is to put a stack of poker chips or pennies in front of you for each enemy's Challenge rank. As you add or subtract enemies, or increase or decrease their power level, you can track it easily with the tokens.

Minions are weaker than villains of the same PL and their challenge ranks reflect this. Using the above notation, minions would often be worth a fraction of a challenge rank; to avoid this, minions are listed as minions per challenge rank. The minions come out of the same challenge rank budget for the encounter. For example, if you want to include challenge rank 4 worth of minions of Party PL-3, use 3 minions per challenge rank * 4 challenge rank= 12 Party PL-3 minions.

The power of minions can vary greatly with how spread out they are combined with the area attack/Takedown Attack capability of the party. Minions may not be as challenging to a particular group as these numbers suggest. This table is based on the idea that 4 minions= 1 villain of a given PL. Besides the formal minion rules, minions tend to be weaker in other ways; e.g., they generally don't have abilities like Mental Blast!

Party PL-8= 16 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-7= 12 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-6= 8 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-5= 6 minions for 1 challenge Rank

Party PL-4= 4 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-3= 3 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-2= 2 minions for 1 challenge rank

Party PL-1 to Party PL= 1 minion for 1 challenge rank

Found this on reddit. Does anyone have experience with using this formula?
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Re: Query: How to determine Villain PL?

Post by FuzzyBoots »

^_^ You could have quoted that. As it was, I thought you were trying to take credit for JackelopeKing's formula from the old forums.

I've used the formula a few times, and it's not a bad way to rough things out. Although, really, M&M involves a lot of the GM just fiddling with things to make combat sufficiently challenging without being overly so.
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