Okay, getting very used to the system, running a game on Friday and Saturday nights.
During the last couple of sessions I have come to realize that the Encounter Building system from the basic rules just does not seem right to me.
For the rules, reference the DM basic rules pdf.
According to that document, the 30 Skeletons, 3 Spectres and 2 Wights the Friday night group is up against is going to slaughter them...halfway through the battle and it is a tough fight, but the PCs are holding their own, next session will finish the battle and we will see what happens.
Overall, at this point I see them winning, minimal losses.
Breaking it down, the encounter building XP, according to the above document, would be 14,000, 35 times the deadly encounter XP allotment. Without the multiplier of x4 (for "horde"), the total XP would only be 3,500; still a "Deadly" encounter.
But if you look at it more in line with the way things were normally done in 1st/2nd edition, we get a little idea.
1st/2nd edition, hereafter AD&D, the method I used was total party level (TPL) = approx total HD of encounter with single creatures no more than 2-3 HD higher than highest level PC.
The TPL of the current group is 17. When I total up the CR of all the creatures involved in the battle we get 6 (2 Wights, CR3) + 7.5 (30 Skeletons, CR1/4) + 3 (3 Spectres, CR1) = 16.5 Total CR.
That seems about right if you look at the old way of doing things.
For comparison, tonights game had two encounters, the first with TPL of 4 (2nd lvl PC + 2 1st lvl PCs) vs a Carrion Crawler (CR2). PCs won with a decent battle.
The second encounter was TPL 2 (2 1st level PCs) vs 4 Cockatrice (total CR2), and the battle was perfect challenge for the 1st lvl Rogue and Ranger.
Both encounters tonight were straight up fights, nothing fancy.
The encounter XP for tonight's first battle, according to the DM Basic Rules, would have been 450, a "Deadly" encounter, for the second battle it would have been 400 XP (200 total XP x2 for 4 creatures), still double the "Deadly" level for 2 1st level characters.
I can argue that the Friday night group is way more experienced, used tactical considerations (cover, for example) and had the benefit of 2 Wizards, a Cleric, and some healing potions.
But tonight's group consisted of my wife (who has not played in years), my 12 yr old (2nd time playing an RPG) and my 10 yr old (also 2nd time playing an RPG). They did not use cover, or disengage options to move to long range, they stood and fought for both encounters; classes being Cleric, Rogue and Ranger; and they were able to mop up pretty well.
For the forseeable future, I will be using the old method of creating encounters, I will share my results here, stay tuned...