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Session 28 - The Challenge Rating

This is part 1 of 4 in our Modern Monsters series.

When a Game Master (GM) is designing a combat encounter, one of the elements to consider is the Challenge Rating (CR) of the foes the party might face. The CR is an indicator of how difficult the foes will be to defeat based on the party’s level and current set of abilities.

Sometimes, there are challenges we aren’t ready to take on yet. And that’s ok.

The challenge rating is there to signal the obstacles where we need more experience to level up or additional support from our party of allies. We aren’t born fresh out the womb ready to slay our life’s dragons.

Understanding the nature of the monsters we face is a form of self-secret: one that reveals itself when we are finally ready to tackle it. After all, you won’t be much use fighting an invisible monster unless you’ve got some truesight to see it for what it is, and where it is posing a threat to you.

When we learn more about the monsters we face, we can start to develop our own strategy and approach to defeating them and create a blueprint for leveling up as necessary. Our toughest foes won’t be defeated on the first try (let alone the first round of combat).

When we think of the “modern monsters” in our own lives, we forget to investigate the challenge rating for ourselves. We dismiss dragons for kobolds and liches for skeletons. We can handle it. We don’t need help. And so we engage in that fight time after time wondering why we come up short. And then looking at our own inability to overcome these monsters as a personal failure.

Instead of focusing on the monsters that threaten our progress, we create something new entirely: a Comparison Rating.

We can’t compare our beginning to someone else’s end. Yet, that’s what happens.

We see those at level 20 able to slay tremendous dragons and forget that they started fending off the goblins attacking their village first. We see the strength of the barbarian raging into battle and wonder if our life of academia studying our spellbook has been worth it. We look at the bard able to chat up any stranger with ease, when all we want to do is spend our time in the wilds with our animal friends.

Now, our energy isn’t focused on measuring our abilities to the challenges we’re facing, but to those around us. We start measuring ourselves against others - comparing our skills, our abilities, our beauty, and even our suffering. Sometimes our monsters are smaller compared to what others might be facing. And that’s totally fine!

We forget that what comes easy to us is someone else’s challenge.

And vice versa.

Instead of entering the comparison rating, focus on the challenge rating. Take an honest assessment at your skills and abilities at this moment and where you hope to grow. Where you have gaps or weaknesses, find the right collaborators and invite them to join your party. And where you see those same party members fighting their modern monsters, lend your aid where you can.

We all have modern monsters that we will face in our lives, but trust us, they are a lot easier to defeat when we have our friends by our side.

Now, slay that big bad, besties!


Autumn & Jerod


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