I find these threads about encounter difficulty interesting, because as a very experienced GM, I started gaming in 1985, I really don't have issues with that problem at all.
I do think beginning GMs need all the help they can get so they can avoid a TPK event that could ruin their game and even disgust new players from the game altogether, but for WFRP, this help isn't really about numbers that much.
Of course, learning to compare S, T, Wounds and Soak, as well as Damage output helps a lot. Taking the time to evaluate how much damage per round the Ogre mercenary will likely deal to the party's strongest fighter (and weakest) makes the threat level much more obvious and guides the GM.
But this basic mathematical evaluation will only help avoid TPK or undesired PC deaths, it won't tell you how to make an encounter thrilling, challenging but not too deadly, which is the hallmark of memorable encounters.
So here's my two cents to starting GMs:
Start by creating the encounter in your head as you would story points. Imagine how you would like it to play out, dramatically speaking. Which PC will probably shine during this encounter? Is there a time limit to this encounter, something to retrieve or a person to save before the enemies flee or do something terrible? Are there NPCS in the vincinity of the encounter that could be involved either to hinder or help the PCs? What is the layout and what game effects could this layout have? How brave, organized and determined are the opposition?
Once you have the story of the encounter, you need to draw a quick map, jot down the game effects of the layout, and think about defining enemy stats.
Here's the veteran GMs' trick: to run a thrilling encounter, you need the right ingredients, but you don't need to throw them in all at once.
Example: The PCs have broken into a corrupt burgher's mansion, they know the man is a cultist, possibly a powerful one. You know he's a beginner, but has good bodyguards. There are also a lot of servants and such in the house. The encounter will develop in the house, room to room fighting with the burgher retreating to his strong room at the third floor where he will sound a bell to alert neighbours and town watch.
Here are the tools you will use to make the encounter interesting and thrilling for all players and make sure it is so.
Encounter starts with an infiltration, PCs must sneak in the domain, silence night watch servants. You planned that they would jump a wall, pick lock a door and silence an old maid.
Veteran GM trick if it they do all that too easily: add a second locked door with servants in a room chatting, or one of the bodyguards seducing a servant directly in the path of the PCs. IE.: you add one more hurdle on the fly and make it slightly harder to overcome than the first.
If the infiltration scene is too hard, here' the trick: If you walk around the house you will find a ladder leaning on a neighbours house that can help climb the wall. Or if you have good Guile players in your group, have the night door man of the domain be a gullible old fart who thinks the PCs are the doctor come to see the sick stable hand.
Then do the same with the rest of the scene, every element of a scene can be scaled up or down on the go to make sure the session is enjoyable. Respect your player's successes, if they overcome an obstacle easily by being clever or rolling an incredible hand, don't add more of that kind of obstacle. Only add more if you realize you didn't properly evaluate the difficulty of the obstacle and the pcs just went through it like a breeze.
For combat, same thing, you can add waves of attackers, you can decide that the last dude is wearing half-plate, you can have reinforcements "on the way", that stresses the pcs and you get to make these reinforcements arrive when you want.
As long as you give a dramatic, interesting and logical encounter for the players to interact with, they won't mind that you tweek some fine points on the fly.
Oh, and oh, last veteran GM trick, never tell your players what you are doing behind that screen, never. They might suspect, but it's none of their business.
They will quickly learn to forget about the very existence of this screen and they will only be concerned with the story. Story, story, characters, story. That's what makes the game so memorable.
Edited by Jericho, 20 July 2014 - 06:33 AM.