Q: How do you guys set your Target number?

Personally I always try to justify a Target by counting in things that actually make it harder for that particular scene. Other than that I add the EASY/HARD mechanic to most things.
Sometimes casting that healing spell on your fellow party member isn’t as difficult as hitting the mecha behemoth with an arrow IMO.
I want to pick your minds


Here is my method. It by no means the definitive way to do it, but it does seem to work at my tables… ymmv.

Ezzerhardens Rules for TN’s:

  1. Start at 9, Add +1 for every 2 players.
  2. Add +1 for every Heart [over 2] the monster has
    +1 for every special ability the monster has. WHICHEVER IS HIGHER.
  3. Subtract -1 for every category of monsters: Swarms, Minions, Giant/Huge, Spellcaster, and Soldier/Sgt combined forces. If you have monsters with multiple categories, then subtract as many that apply. This is subjective so be careful on what you think a category is.
  4. Lastly, take into consideration the milestones the players have. If the total milestones is more than the number of people in the party, consider dividing the number of players by the number of milestones, adding only whole numbers (round down)… so a high level party has 5 members and the total milestones is 12, then I would add +2 to the TN of the monster. [12 milestones/5 players=2.4; rounded to 2]

Here is an example, an evil necromancer [3h, 3 special abilities] has skeletal guards [1h] and a Minotaur [3h, 1 special ability] minion.
Rule 1. 5 players means the TN starts at =11 (9+2=11)
Rule 2. +3 for the necromancer special abilities. and +1 for the Minotaur extra heart (over 2H) = +4 total (11+4=15)
Rule 3. Minion category for the guards -1, Huge category for the Minotaur -1 = -2 total. (15-2=13)
Rule 4. 5 milestones = +1 TN, (13+1=14)
The encounter would start with a 14 TN. (11 Easy, and 17 Hard)

This scales the TN based on the Milestones and Monster Abilities… So a low level party will have an easier TN than a higher level party… but this is not and should not be a standard.

Scaling the encounter is just another ploy to get the players to buy more books and let the system do the math for you… I agree with Hankerin on his theory. “Dont fall into the D&D method of thinking everything needs to be balanced.”

I have used the system above and it works, but I have also made them up based on my xp as a GM and how hard I want the encounter to be… So, your mileage may vary! … I hope that helps.

Game On!


I start with 12. Then, I adjust from there depending on whether the characters are ragged or cruising.


Defo Cruising for my players
They have fun though and that’s what matters
Also combats are fast as fudge


Damn dude, that’s really neat mechanical way to go about it IMO.
What I do is adjust from 9 and add +1 for everything that would stress them.
Hard winds, Combat, Surrounded, Lighting, Loud noise, Footing, Heat/Cold, Unfamiliar Place etc etc
Never concidered adding a minus (-) to target though.
I’ve not really grasped the concept of Target Damage other than using it for Darkness.


I determine a vague difficulty for a room like “this room should be normal, this one should be easy, this one should be somewhat harder” and totally shoot from the hip to determine the target for the first room - I pick a number that feels right. I don’t touch it for the first room unless players or monster do something crazy that affects the room target. I watch how my players are doing and set the next room’s target accordingly, with keeping the vague difficulty in mind.

Let’s say I want the first room to be somewhat dangerous or hard and my preassigned target is 14. Also let’s say that next room should be normal difficulty (it doesn’t have a target assigned yet). If my players have an easier time than intended in the first room, I say to myself “hmm that was too easy, I should make the next room a bit tougher”. Normally I would set the target at 12, but I choose to set it to 13 to account for their easy encounter to make them sweat a little.


Maybe this is backwards thinking but I always start with the idea that players are going to want to have success be somewhere between 13-20. That’s what, when you roll it, you feel like maybe you succeeded. So you just work backward: if you want them rolling a 13 on their die for a straightforward encounter, you assume they probably have a couple of +1s for good stats and loot–which means a 15 is a reasonable DC for most baseline situations. From there an easy room is a couple lower 12-13 maybe. A harder room might be 17-18. Generally I see this as more as a sign of character fear, fatigue and stress more than anything environmental. A room where the characters feel confident and are in a good strong position with plenty of supplies, freshly rested will give them a nice low DC and a chance to show off. Once they’re ragged, hurt and breathing hard, and can hear something big scraping at the door and are counting their last few sticks of ammo–the DC will be higher. That way it means something, but it isn’t weird that all actions per room have the same DC–because it isn’t situational, as much as it’s the status of the characters themselves.


I’m going to be honest. I need to run way more games to have a justification for my opinion. But I’m playing with this in my head.

I think default should be 5. I feel our hero’s should be competent and know what they are doing 90% of the time. So in a “training room” setting they know what they are doing. TN 5. With standard bonuses of +5 to their attack stat, they hit or are effective 95% of the time. Effort is where the magic happens. How effective are they?

Mind you, I require a effort roll on perception checks. 10 points and they know what they are up against, or at least the pointy bits most likely to kill them, (unless the opponent is sneaking…then it’s effort vs effort). But 2 tells them numbers and vector.

As things get more interesting, storm, mud, low light, lightning, smoke,hunger, slept in armor, well trained opponents…the target numbers start going up. To get TN past 15, and attacking a monster the size of a house…that 15 encompasses a lot. Fear, unknown/unpracticed situations, raw strength of the opponents. But it can also be the 10 angry dwarves armored from head to toe in magic resistant plate armor.

That said, I don’t see the reason to play out most rooms that are less than 10 TN. If the players slaughter the 3 kobolds…it’s pointless to play out. It’s the choices the players make that is interesting, what are they using up?

Sooo is 10 my default? Probably, with my knowing why it’s not 5. I, as the GM, need to why the players have a 25% chance of being ineffective against that zombie? Or if TN 15 against that Vampire? Why? Why 50% chance of effectively engaging?

Kobolds @ TN 18??? Why do they have the PCs soo rattled that they are ineffective 65% of the time? Hidden traps, smoke, patches of slippery ground, a smell that brings tears to the eyes, and bile to the throat? Or are the players playing incompetent idiots?

Are we just making it a game?

Also I’m becoming interested in rolling effort for saves. Dex save at TN 10 vs 7 points of damage…you roll 12 on your dex save, and then that D4 for basic effort to lessen the 7 points.

Analyzing this from the outside…basic effort is under utilized in most games I have played. Loot adding flexibility as opposed to just DPS should be coveted.


Have you run much ICRPG? A target of 15 is gnarly. Targets of 10 to 13 will challenge players for a long time. Once you get past 14, then you’re starting to get into much more difficult play which assumes the characters have several milestone rewards (levels) and loot. I played a character not too long ago that was, by all accounts, top-tier, and he still had trouble with a Target of 17.


Honestly it’s largely theorycraft and my frequent running of similar d20ish games, but my intuition is that between stats and gear folks should have about a +3 to all their rolls making 12s and up successes. And in general when I play, if I succeed off of a roll lower than a 12 my eyes narrow somewhat.

That said if people’s stats end up giving them lower average bonuses than that I’ll likely just give them a few more bits of loot to up their power level so that it works out. Because who doesn’t like more loot?

Again though, it’s been tough getting a Warpshell game together–though it’s a high priority for me so I’ll be able to speak with more authority once I can get a ICRPG group going.


Speaking from experience with lots of hours in ICRPG at this point, try 12 as a starting target. I think that’s going to see players through for a while.

My poor Altered State group … we’re still at Target 12, and they stay challenged a lot.


I usually go between 10 and 12, varying based on character power levels and the competence I want them to feel over the course of the session.

When I want to shake things up, I often pick a chunk of the adventure (begin, middle, end) and make that one a 13-15. Which of those sections you put the hardest Target in really determines the emotional arc of the session.

And for big setpiece sessions, I sometimes come up with a Target based “gimmick”. For example, in the big Space Mercs finale game this weekend, I started at 20 difficulty for these highly competent characters, and let them figure out through the course of a space battle how to drop that Target down to 13, whereupon the NPC announced he had isolated the part of the giant space station they had found codes for, and could now enter.

Another fun gimmick Target mechanic for setpieces has been to tie the difficulty to the Timer. IE It starts at 10 and then goes up with each new timer roll, counting down as the Timer goes down, then back up again based on next timer roll.

In the end, the best answer to Target is very much a function of your Pc’s power levels, your style and intent for the encounter as GM, and the table’s playstyle and preferences.

And when in doubt, 10-12 is gonna be just fine. Because all the other aspects of difficulty are also GM controllable “dials” you can spin: how many foes, how many actions they get, how hard they hit, what resistances and vulnerabilities they have, what detrimental effects of environment etc are automatic vs. partially or fully avoided with a save throw vs. … … you get the picture.

It’s cool to focus on your Target and have a reason for it, but always remember it exists in a system of other game mechanics, and any change to one part of the system will affect the entire system at least a little bit.

ETA: As a sidebar, I personally hold that if at least one person has not rolled Dying by 2/3, the difficulty needs to step up for that last third.


regarding Target Damage: In most games I allow the players to reduce the Target by using light or darkness to their advantage… if they go into a dark room (T15) and light a torch (-1=T14), use a light spell (-3=T12), or light a campfire (-5=10T)… this would apply to any searches for secret doors or hidden items, or maybe let them see more obvious things like climbable walls or mushrooms growing in the crevasses.


I usually use those huge d20s to set TNs tabletop

btw I’m totally in love with the way you use FF sprites for roll20! I actually use Fire Emblem and other pixel art assets the same way!


Hell yeah dat pixel stuff is the shit!

Also, the question about TN was how do You justify the Number :wink:


In the games I’ve run, 3 sessions in I’ve had to run 15 and 16 targets consistently. Sometimes the dice just gives loot that powers up your players. That target is very dependent on the groups power level.


Hankerin’s own podcast episode “Mainframe 32: Target Damage” also helps to address setting Room Target numbers.

I find it especially interesting because he discusses making the Target number dynamic, adjusted by actions of the PC’s and Monsters.


Yep, as Alex said.

I started out escalating the TN up 1 from each subsequent room after the first while starting at 12 (so typically 12-14 in a sesh). But I am now starting to agree with 12 being sufficient much of the time. With it I get the sense that there’s still plenty of swing and it absolutely can see many misses even with higher stats.

Hank himself has recently said he is almost always throwing a 12 on the table now as well. That may be a newer philosophy for him, I’m not sure.


As to your specific question @GMagnus (heh), imo it’s not necessary to justify the target much. Rather just have a reasonable target to be hit a good portion of the time . It can suck if players miss even 50% of the time imo.

So for me, I justify difficulty with the monster or environment. Contrast from the books a Drake or an Entity (Worlds) with Goblins or Carion Crabs. The former examples have serious potential to be very deadly even at a low target number.


The best thing about icrpg is we have been given the official “it’s okay, it’s your game, do what you want to make it fun”. So I start low like 10 or 11, but if we’re into an area and it’s a bit too easy, uh ohhhh, the ground begins to rumble and there are evil screams coming through the ground making it hard to concentrate… Or the enemies sprout extra arms and locust fill the area… Room DC just jumped up by 2. Anything like that.