View Full Version : Would "Defensive Boss type" opponents seem Blatant?

2010-05-12, 01:23 AM
By this, i mean do you personally think that creating a being or villian specifically to be a good Final boss would seem blatant/break suspension of disbelief?

In this, the views of a good "boss" my group generally have are entities with Defenses Disproportionately Much higher than any level of Offense he has, so as to allow for a prolonged, satisfying fight. In D&D, generally things turn into Rocket tag since Any time an opponent has defenses powerful enough to string an encounter out over a period of time, he has Enough raw power to tear a hole in reality or dominate mortals.

If you, As a player, Encountered a being that Seemed to SOLELY be designed to just be Outright designed to be able to counter or bounce back from Save or Die type situations while having enough HP to Soak up ridiculous HP, (but Offenses barely more than a normal CR appropriate encounter) would you Immediately Find it to be Out of place?

Just based upon how many people on this board converse, it seems like such an entity might seem out of place/deliberate.

2010-05-12, 02:04 AM
BBEG's are supposed to be challenging.

Making them challenging is not a crime.

Completely and totally hosing every offensive option the party has till they're forced to simply have the big dumb fighter swing his stick at the baddie till one or the other falls over? That's the "crime."

As long as your players have fun, that's all that matters. The internet certainly doesn't matter.

2010-05-12, 07:23 AM
If you ask me, you are simply trying to solve the wrong problem.

Or at least, I wouldn't it unless the party expressly favours "rocket-tag" tactics such as SoDs, and I have had adequate opportunities to remind/warn them that their foes will gradually catch on and ward themselves accordingly.

Though personally for me, anything is game so long as it is doable by RAW and does not require more optimization than what the party normally favours. For instance, MIC already has a +1 armour property which activates a contingent death ward ability. Dirt cheap, so it is not inconceivable for a BBEG to have obtained one.

I won't really need to go out of my way just to counter what my party can do. But I do prefer to walk that fine line between rendering my party's tactics outright useless, and simply making the foe more highly resistant to their tactics so he doesn't die in the first round. :smallsmile:

The Glyphstone
2010-05-12, 07:28 AM
HP grinds are not fun, anymore than they are in video games. If you go this route, the key is to make the battle dynamic. Add minions, environmental effects, interesting distractions - chances for them to get odd buffs or debuffs that help or hurt them. Just make it interesting, instead of Final Fantasy with dice.

2010-05-12, 11:42 AM
Personally I agree with the notion of avoiding Rocket-Tag, as it completely ruins the ability to have an epic confrontation that is just narrowly won. While upper levels in D&D seem to revert to this state by default, in the prime levels (6-12 in my mind), allowing the party to take max HD seems to help mitigate it. Of course, foes get the same treatment.

This can result in truly epic fights. In the RHoD campaign I currently run, the Sarvith fight lasted close to 20 rounds, with the final rounds being extremely desperate for both sides. One character hit -9, twice. When the PCs won, they literally exploded out their seats in triumph and high fived/fist bumped each other. I simply cannot see this happening in the SoS/mop up fights so common to D&D.

So, to the OP: It is indeed possible to create such drawn out, epic encounters in D&D, but it requires quite a bit of planning. Certain spells must be banned, damage must be scaled such that it is alarming, but can't OHKO on good rolls. The dice gods granting the perfect dramatic dice rolls doesn't hurt either :smallwink:

2010-05-12, 12:03 PM
Make a boss that specializes in misdirection and restriction of movements.

If your boss tosses out Solid Fogs, Walls of Stone and Projected Images just like a GOD wizard, and has clerical and psionic henchmen to back him up, the fight will go a lot longer.

Specifically, BC and SoS affects players far more than the BBEG. Since the BBEG + mooks have far higher action economy than the players, one solid fog shut down half the party.

Against the Dragon was a pretty nice example on how to make fights last longer in high level caster combat.

2010-05-12, 01:18 PM
Yeah in my experience the best way to challenge the party is to try and debuff them naked rather than trying to kill them explicitly. They feel just as helpless slowed and strength drained with saves lowered when you toss out that fireball for average damage as they do when you drop a shock trooper barbarian on them. Only its easier to avoid a TPK.

2010-05-12, 01:39 PM
Yes, defensive bosses are reasonable. They'll seem even more reasonable if you enforce verisimilitude by using lots of them.

MOST of the group encounters I create include a leader-type character who is significantly harder to kill than the other monsters in the encounter. My players have learned that casters and commanders just tend not to die easy. When the big bad at the end of the campaign can take more hits than a Sherman tank and is harder to catch than an optical illusion, they'll just shrug and say "well, he was both a caster and a commander, of course he's resilient."

2010-05-12, 02:37 PM
This popped into my mind because, generally my group has had to Homebrew, wholesale, Milestone type opponents, due to how D&D is set up baseline.

Defense in D&D is generally Outstripped by Offense to the point where the only good defense is making sure nothing hits you at all. A wizard with enough spells to Limit your party taking them out with a couple shots will generally be powerful enough to Decimate them with a wave of his hands.

Due to this, Usually in all the campaigns i've been in the DM or I have Tacked on supernatural abilities to Enemies (oh god, the tarrasque was basically a walking reset button) or monsters that are tailor made to encourage direct damage (or debuffing) rather than Save or die.

I was just wondering if People thought this was the "wrong" way to fix up D&D, since, it retrospect, it does scream "Boss type!" whenever this occurs when everyone else in the universe dies to Save or dies.

2010-05-12, 03:26 PM
I think it would be a very good encounter, though you might want to give him lots of debuffs. You ought to make the mooks resilient too or it would simply turn into the PCs surrounding the leader.
As the PCs batter away, and struggle against the debuffs, the tension should rise.

2010-05-12, 03:58 PM
Case in point: Grax the Paranoid was a BBEG I ran in one of my games. Basically, he was absolutely terrified of being dropped by SoL type spells. Thus he had methods for countering nearly all of them.

Unfortunately, so focused on defense, that he neglected his offensive abilities. He had henchmen and... that was about it. He could boost his henchmen, but other than that, really couldn't do much for himself.

2010-05-12, 08:04 PM
A "multiple form" boss works quite well. Instead of having them beat on the same guy repeatedly, give him multiple forms that they have to "kill" him through.

Each form needs to have enough strength to remain challenging, but not so much a drain on resources as to make defeating him impossible (obviously).

Each time they manage a kill, drop a thousand (apparently) random debuffs and concealments around the battlefield - for extra sadism, make those concealments Cloudkills or something. They should take a few rounds to reheal/rebuff/generally square themselves for round two/three/four, right before you throw the next form of the boss back at them, perhaps with freshly spawned minions.

Doing a boss this way also gives you the freedom to skip a form if they're struggling, or even add additional forms if they're dominating (beyond luck, that is, because punishing luck is stupid). However, the hard part is keeping the forms distinct enough so that it doesn't end up feeling like an XP grind.

For example, start with a humanoid meleetype. Next form is incorporeal harasser, when killed becomes an undead ogre, before finally turning into a dragon. It forces them to exercise

Of course, trying to find a good explanation for said forms is something you'll have to base the campaign on.

2010-05-13, 03:45 AM
BBEG design is always challenging and it depends much on your players skills and their character optimization. In general, low level big monsters should be harder to kill, forcing PCs to use creative tactics to kill them. Hit then hit then hit again usually is not.
In mid levels, I usually prefer antagonists with one or more big defences and one or more main soft spots.
That said, I usually allow players to go beyond 15th level only if they're skilled. So I can use most common save or lose without regret. It is a common rule, by that level, that all PCs (or at least those that have poor Fort save) are protected by death ward. If not, if my banshee kills your PC screaming, is your fault buddy, not mine.

So, depending on your party's level, save or lose are a bad or good idea

2010-05-13, 05:51 AM
For example, start with a humanoid meleetype. Next form is incorporeal harasser, when killed becomes an undead ogre, before finally turning into a dragon. It forces them to exercise

Of course, trying to find a good explanation for said forms is something you'll have to base the campaign on.

I like this suggestion, as long as they're ok with a more JRPG-feeling boss fight, but the last link in the chain throws me completely.

Humanoid (dies) -> Ghost. Ok, I can follow that.

Ghost ("dies") -> Undead ogre. I'd probably go corporeal undead into ghost, and suddenly turning into an ogre is a little odd, but cool. We'll roll with it.

Undead ogre (dies) -> Dragon. :smallconfused:

2010-05-13, 07:09 AM
Some things I use for boss-type enemies:

- Jacked-up HP beyond normal HD limit (in practice the PCs have little trouble going through this quickly)
- Contingent heal spells
- low AC but high attack bonus and saves
- mediocre offensive abilities
- extra actions (I "stagger" its initiative, so if it acts on init. 12, it will also get a turn on init. 7)

2010-05-13, 03:06 PM
In general, here's how I stat my 'named bad guys'...

Grunt: As per normal NPC.

Grunt-Plus: Normal stats with a +2 on one specific stat, and may have levels in a PC class

Sargent: leader of squad-level groups. Maxed HP for HD, Elite stat array. Has levels in a PC class. Has a small chance of having a minor magic item, which it will use in combat.

Lieutenant: The lowest level of 'boss' NPC. Elite stat array, with +6 to be distributed as seen necessary, without breaking any 'caps'. Maxed HP for HD. Either bonus HD or levels in PC classes, including PrC's if it qualifies. May also use nastier tactics, such as 'Gattling Tripper', 'Lockdown Wizard', or use ToB material. Will likely have mostly Grunt-Plus as minions, with perhaps 1-2 Sargent NPC's. Has a decent chance of having a magic item, which will be something it can realistically use in combat.

Miniboss: A dungeon level boss. Not as bad as the BBEG, but perhaps the right-hand dude or somesuch. Not more than 2-3 of them around. Starts with at least 2 18's, and no stat lower than a 14. Bonus HD AND PC classes AND likely PrC's. Will likely have some form of action economy 'bending' tactics to keep up with the party, as well as using any tactics which the PC's take advantage of. Will likely have 1d4 Lieutenants, 2d6 Sargents, and a small mob of Grunt-Plus minions. Will also have synergistic minions whose abilities work well together and are coordinated to employ intelligent group-level tactics. Will likely possess multiple magic items which will be used to maximum effect. CR = ECL + 2 encounter

BBEG: The head honcho, the Campaign Maker, the one, the only... HIM. I roll the stats up as a PC, but stats are at LEAST on par with the Miniboss, and probably superior. Will definitely have bonus HD, PC classes, and PrC's. He will be familiar with, and be able to counter, any SoL effect the PC's possess, and will be familiar with, and can effectively bypass, most of their battlefield control and lockdown tactics. Will have multiple powerful magic items which will be used to their fullest extent, and will not be afraid of escaping if the battle turns against him. Will have several layers of defenses which may require clever tactics on the part of the PC's in order to effectively affect him, although hints will have already been dropped about the nature of said defenses, so the PC's should be able to figure it out. May have a Miniboss with him. Will have multiple lieutenants and lots of sargents, with a small horde of grunt-plus minions. These will work in coordinated teams with mutually synergistic tactics, using buffing rounds, and working as a tight-knit team. The BBEG himself will almost certainly be a Primary Caster, either Wizard, Sorcerer, Cleric, or Druid... with PrC's which compliment his tactics. Initiate of the Sevenfold veil is not out of the question for arcane caster BBEG's, but Incantatrix is... unless one of the party members is an Incantatrix, in which case, he certainly will be.