Rise to the Challenge: how do you balance encounters in your system?
Game balance is a funky thing. Some games--like 4e D&D--are hinged directly upon it. Sitting down to run a session, a GM has an XP budget to spend, with finite boundaries representing easy, moderate, and difficult challenges. Other games, particularly those that are less combat-focused, tend to use a more laissze-faire approach, offering only rough guidelines.
With Cold Steel Wardens specifically, I wrote towards the latter approach. Mooks, Made Men, and Masterminds don't actually have any XP-based representation by rule, as a character's development--whether NPC or PC--doesn't necessarily represent combat acuity and ability. A character like DC Comics' Oracle might have incredibly limited combat use, though her investigative and research abilities more than make up for it. As such, a numerical representation of "She's a 120 xp character" is a misnomer.
|Rise to the challenge! Push those players!|
But, the biggest thing to remember is that challenge is something to be embraced, not feared. Challenge breeds conflict. When an encounter provides a beatdown on your players, they have to come up with new strategies, new tactics, and new ways of using their already-existing resources to rise to that challenge. And, even if they lose, that can only bring up more potential conflicts in the future. When the heroes are forced to retreat from the would-be supervillain's death fortress, they've made an active enemy who's going to seek them out for any number of reasons. And that? That makes memorable NPCs and that makes great gaming.