A lot of this for me is deprogramming my D&D instincts. I appreciate the advice!Not really. The closest thing to that you'll find is the section "Opposition", at page 11 in the Gamemaster's Guide.
However, here's something to consider: you don't need to design dungeons with balanced fights. Populate the dungeon with what you think it would make sense from the perspective of verisimilitude, keep it real, and lay lots of clues to the players about what their characters should expect if they enter the dungeon.
If the dungeon seems to be too strong and the characters still decide to enter, let the players deal with it. If they get lucky, they'll manage to retreat and maybe come up with a smarter plan. On a different note, a dungeon may seem super creepy and menacing, but actually completely abandoned for centuries - with some forgotten treasure still inside!
Keep your players on their toes, don't let them think they are going to always face balanced fights, D&D style.
I like the idea of using a schedule here, and the system makes that a lot easier I think with the quarters of day. Very cool.Just as already mentioned, populate the dungeon with what make sense not so the player can fight it.
My first dungeon I did was a goblin cave. I populated it with 13 goblins and 5 ogres. The cave had 9 rooms. I wrote down a small schedule for what the various group do. During the day for example most goblins are asleep, most ogres are awake. During the night, two goblins are digging a well. They aren't digging that much (they are suppose to). If the players scout the area, they can see the two goblins sitting and nagging about the dig. They can also see an ogre looking at some ants. The ogre isn't actually keeping watch or anything. I wrote a little twist for the ogres. They refuse to be slaves anymore. They will plunder, but they will not work for the goblins with anything else. They do take food and water from the goblins. This is also the reason the ogres aren't digging. The ogre that is awake at night is an outsider. He is bullied by the other ogres (that is the reason he is awake night). Also during the night a small group of goblins are getting water and food.
This is most likely to much for a starter group to fight, but the size needed to be a fairly good size (they where suppose to be a threat to a village nearby). But a smart group can use the two groups against each other (technically, three groups). Timing will also be big factor. I wanted to give the players choices how to deal with this.
(edit: I wrote this for three players, but due to sickness only two players played it).
This. Very much this. The dungeon designer is really good in asking the right questions for its tables. Who built it? Why did they build it? Who lives here now? What’s their purpose? The answers to those questions tell you what it might be populated by.I came from a 4 year campaign in Pathfinder (dnd 3.5) and always felt that the way dnd handle dungeons is weird. Like the others said, dont think about a fair fight. Create the dungeon with a purpose for function, not for CR level or challenge. Make it interesting from a roleplaying perspective. The players are not heroes, they are adventureres and thus need more incitement to do things. ”lets go for XP!” Is not valid for this game really. Often the players might ignore the dungeon completely since exploring it serves no purpose for their goal.
Ok. I get that not every encounter should be winnable. Arguable, you could use this Challenge Rating to design a difficult or unwinnable encounter as well. It might even be ”in the spirit of the game” as this is a low prep game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing we ”should” use this mechanic, I’m just curious since I’ve never even heard of it before.It wouldn't be hard to set "Challenge Ratings" for monsters and NPCs in Forbidden Lands, but the appropriate question is "why?". This concept exists in D&D because in that game, generally speaking, every encounter should be designed as survivable - and, more important, winnable - in one way or another.
Of course, you are free to design D&D-like encounters in Forbidden Lands if you want to do so... but "every situation the players get into should be winnable" is not part of the Principles of the Game.