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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Hello everyone! I'm once again in need of your help and guidance (and I know I rarely respond to threads I post, but I really do appreciate your help!).

    So, I'm doing my first bit of real DM'ing in a while to give my normal DM a break, and decided to let everyone run Tome of Battle classes, just to prove we should allow them in normal campaigns. The results so far have been...well, my DM is more convinced then ever that ToB needs to be banned. Here's the party (all 6th level):

    Elf Rogue 1/ Swordsage 5 (thinking of going for Assassin)
    Warforged Crusader 6 (sword and board with Adamantine Body)
    Human Cleric 6 ('zilla cleric and Archery-focused, but no DMM: Persist)
    and two NPC's they hired: Human Rogue 4, Gnome Druid 3 (Hawk companion)

    As you can see, they aren't even very optimized, yet they still kill everything without any effort or any real fear of dying. Their first two encounters were a joke: no trouble what so ever:

    Encounter 1: 9 Skeletons, 1 Skeleton Wizard 5, 1 Skeleton Troll (admittedly undead versus Cleric is dumb; he killed 6 skeletons in one action)

    Encounter 2: 5 Feral Goblin Warrior 3, 1 Chain Devil (they didn't kill the Devil since no one had good or silver weapons and the cleric failed his Planes check, but they smashed it to negative 40 and chained it up. It'll be a recurring villain. It still did 0 damage to them)

    Encounter 2 was supposedly a 10th level encounter, and the Warforged (S&B) got a +4 Heavy Steel Shield to put his AC at 26. I don't even have the comfort that more encounters/day will kill them, since they can spend 5 minutes and recover all their powers.

    So, how do I challenge them? To be clear, I don't want this to be player versus DM, or I'd just drop an Ancient Dragon on them and call it a day. But I want them to actually have to think and be smart in encounters, instead of laughing their way through them. The party entered a giant dungeon that is vaguely modeled off of Diablo 1, so any monster from MM1 goes, but Aberrations, Undead, and Devils are preferred.

    Also, quick rules question: I thought I read that the Warforged with his Adamantine body gets to apply DR twice thanks to "Damage Pool"...is that correct? Cause it just makes things that much harder...

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    If your players don't optimize, ToB is quite a bit more powerful when you're comparing it to fighters or typical blaster wizards or whatever else. Compare it to a batman, a DMM persist cleric, even an optimized blaster wizard (Maximized Scorching Ray without any spell level adjustment, etc), not so much.

    Biggest thing is you can't just send waves of stuff at them. Magic (not too cheesy), tiny guys flitting around the ceiling shooting them and retreating, an assassin waiting to mash the cleric in the back while the others rush headlong into combat, sticking them in a place where they can't see and/or move freely. If you just set 10 guys in the middle of a big, open room, they win.

    EDIT: As for 26AC, ray spells, wraithstrike, flanking + assist actions, anything that target Will saves.
    Last edited by lsfreak; 2009-04-30 at 02:12 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Wait, they chained up a chain devil?
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Part of challenging a party, no matter the composition, is not to keep throwing things at them that they're designed to handle. I mean, you've got a melee brute, a flanking rogue-type buddy for him, and a ClericZilla, as you say. Don't throw stuff at them that they just beat to death or vaporize with turning.

    An aboleth, for instance, would wreak havoc on the party. If they get close, they lose the ability to breathe air for 3 hours. Several dragons are in your CR range (CR 6-8 for a balanced encounter, CR 9-10 for challenging/difficult ones), and they can be tough. Especially if they've got decent casting, which you're lacking in your party. Furthermore, they fly, which makes things much harder. Bulettes can burrow, and using two that keep switching which attacks each round could make for a fun, if confusing, encounter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk7915 View Post
    Also, quick rules question: I thought I read that the Warforged with his Adamantine body gets to apply DR twice thanks to "Damage Pool"...is that correct? Cause it just makes things that much harder...
    Here I think you've made a mistake. I'm AFB and can't check on ToB stuff, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work like that. The DR should come into play when the actual attack happens, and then what's left goes into the delayed damage pool (or to actual HP when the pool is full). Next turn, the delayed damage takes effect - it isn't being DEALT again, so I don't think DR applies a second time.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    It sounds like you're just swarming them with non-threats over and over.

    Add mobile combatants (Archer Scouts/Swift Hunters/casters).
    Use terrain wisely (best done with lockdown builds/casters)
    Give monsters real class levels (make them ToBers/manifesters/totemists/casters).
    Add casters.
    (A gimped level 10 hobgoblin/Fighter isn't a threat to anybody in a moderately high-powered level 6 game. A level 5 Wizard can be.)

    ToB is great for groups where a natural attack Psychic Warrior is the norm because its classes optimize themselves.
    ToB is terrible in groups where a sword-and-shield Paladin is the norm because its classes optimize themselves.
    Last edited by Bluebeard; 2009-04-30 at 02:56 PM. Reason: did I mention spellcasters?

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Your group is very melee-heavy and is from ToB.

    Which means they will tear apart any foes that are also melee heavy. Why? Because Monster Manual came out before ToB did and as such monsters like that are supposed to go against monks and fighters and not swordsages and warblades. Besides the Skeleton Wizard melee-enemies are all that you served them with.

    So get enemies that cast spells or are ranged. Use enemies that have battlefield control - a single Solid Fog or Wall of X can seriously cramp the style of a melee heavy group. A single enemy Conjurer with Abrupt Jaunt(or one that isn't afraid to use Benign Transportation) can be a nightmare. Read the Batman Wizard guide for suggestions on good spells to use against them.

    Don't use Dungeon environments because they work perfectly for melee. Use open environments where the enemy can fly away or start the battle from half a mile from them.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    The biggest problem I've seen people have with challenging the ToB is trying to challenge them like you would a fighter - IE, make the numbers bigger and the threat goes up. Tob gives meleers options and th ability to adapt, so you need to get versatile. Adding a few more hobgoblins is no threat at all. Give them strategic challenges.

    Try locking down the crusader, while having a scout-type that can see the swordsage through stealth. Try casters, with a troop of defensive bodyguards - pseudonatural dwarves? Try a stealthy lurker that doesn't fight them, but leaves nasty surprises for them. Something tiny and flying, with ranged attacks - Pixie Warlocks?

    They aren't overly powerful at all (Sword and Board? Rilly?). Those encounters seem custom-designed to make their life easy. I'm a cleric! Those are undead! I'm a Warforged Crusader! I rock against mundane damage, and evil! These are goblins, and an evil devil! Etcetera, etcetera.

    Throw some more diverse challenges at them, and you'll be fine.

    EDIT: Seriously. These encounters are like matching cats v. mice. Me vs. a plate full of puff pastry. Chuck Norris v. anything at all, ever.

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    Last edited by streakster; 2009-04-30 at 03:17 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    i do think it might be a bit overkill to give the monsters ToB levels, but a couple of levels in a fitting pc newer hurts.

    if you want to challenge your pc's a bit, try sending this after them.

    2*Beardet Devil with 1 level fighter, taking improved toughness, and wearing leather armor to buff their ac to 21.

    1 infernal summoner (wizard conjurer) 5.
    start casting slow, then have fun with ray of enfeblement and vampyric touch.

    4 advanced Lemures (4hd) these guys are only there to act as a living wall for the wizard.

    or, what im trying to say is, dont annoy your party with a pixie warlock, thats just mean, you can still challenge them, just put a couple of class levels on the monsters, maybe put in a caster once in a while, and just make sure you use some proper tactics.
    Last edited by lord_khaine; 2009-04-30 at 03:01 PM.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    How are you getting that the second encounter was level 10? I count 5 CR 3's and a CR 6, which makes a level 9 encounter. Additionally, you picked monsters that have overrated CRs - goblin warriors above level 1 are not anywhere near as much of a threat as their official CR would suggest, and a Chain Devil isn't much better. Replace each goblin with a standard ogre and the chain devil with the 4th level ogre barbarian statted out in the monster manual and you will have an encounter with almost the same nominal encounter level and the same structure and type, but its actual challenge will be much higher - provided you don't do something stupid like have all the ogres concentrate on the guy they need an 18 to hit.

    The Crusader's DR does not apply twice. Once the damage has gone into his delayed damage pool it no longer has any type and ignores all resistances. Any reduction to the amount of damage has already been applied, the delayed pool only allows him to ignore some of it for 6 seconds, not to reduce it again.

    If you're trying to show that ToB is not overpowered, I think the best way to do that would be to throw a mirror party at them with the ToB characters replaced with similar non-ToB versions with a suitable (but not excessive) amount of optimization. Make sure you analyze relative power levels before the encounter, possibly even doing a test run or two by yourself, to make sure that you got the level of optimization right. Optionally, replace one or both of the ToB characters with casters instead. Note that ToB is objectively more powerful "out of the box" than the core equivalents. If the baseline they're being compared with is a straightforward unoptimized melee party, they will come out on top and seem overpowered. If you want to convince your normal DM that ToB is balanced, you will have to cast the comparison in terms of casters and optimized melee.
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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Oh, another is be sure you're playing enemies to their intelligence. If they see a walking robot with a huge shield, they're not going to run up and hit - they're going to stay the hell away and hit the cleric or swordsage. If they see the cleric just using a bow, they lure the other two where the cleric can't hit from. They see the swordsage using flanking to sneak attack, they get themselves into places where they can't be flanked (clustered, using terrain).
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Encounter 1: Wait, what? An Ettin skeleton is 10 HD and it's only CR 5. Add 1 HD and it's literally impossible for the Cleric to turn it since it'll be out of his level+4 range. It's even easier to challenge them with undead if you do away with the mindlessness and give them skeletons or zombies with class levels. I had a ToB party who had to face off against zombies using Tiger Claw to leap around. It's both fun and challenging.

    Encounter 2: That sounds more like a mistake in the area. Chain Devils have this awesome power called Dancing Chains which gives it 4 attacks as a standard action. Add a bunch of chains into the encounter area when you run a chain devil. If you want it to hit more often, just advance it's HD. It should still be a threat to ToBers if it uses trip and grapple attacks with it's chains.

    You really don't need to add casters to the game as any remotely unoptimized but well played caster will wipe the floor with melee. You also don't need to have enemies who fly and thus only get hit with readied actions. You do need to change your encounters to match their tactics though.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Hm... a way to smash ToB. Well... first, I recommend dropping a fireball on them. Only the rogues should have a good enough reflex to dodge. Then, have a caster summoning (wait a second) random crap around the crusader. That gives flanking. have a rogue or ninja or something with a very high sneak attack drop down and nail the crusader then, for high damage (maybe fudge the roll if it's close). They won't get the extra XP that ends up being a pain because the monsters are all summoned, and with that many monsters, a few devils or pseudonatural creatures with levels in rogue etc could sneak attack into oblivion. Or maybe pseudonatural devils? So...

    1 Wizard that has been assumed to be scoping out the PCs strengths, and has all the spells needed.

    Maybe 1 Sorcerer summoning a ton (I mean using the large number summoning every round) in the middle of the PCs

    Perhaps a wall of advanced lemures, as mentioned above.

    devil/pseudonatural (or flying!) rogues to sneak attack.

    probably will be an EL above their level, but your goal is to show them that ToB is not so horribly overpowered, right? So make the encounters difficult and with interesting strategies. Always give at least one or two monsters (this is solely my opinion, not necessarily a good idea) that are meleers just so they feel good about them selves.

    Also, when making casters (this only really applies when at higher levels though), an easy way to get good AC is Abjurant Champion. It lets me, with a third level and a first level spell, hit AC 30 (all types of AC) as one round of action. Good for against fast (monk, barbarian, mounted, etc) PCs.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk7915 View Post
    Elf Rogue 1/ Swordsage 5 (thinking of going for Assassin)
    Warforged Crusader 6 (sword and board with Adamantine Body)
    Human Cleric 6 ('zilla cleric and Archery-focused, but no DMM: Persist)
    and two NPC's they hired: Human Rogue 4, Gnome Druid 3 (Hawk companion)
    Well, having extra NPCs does help them. Do you include them for battle calculations? It should raise how much they can fight a tiny bit at least.


    Describe the Druid: is he using much save or sucks spells?
    Okay, Crusader means hard to hit/damage especially with Adamantine body.

    Rogue/SS: Basically Shadowhand focus or desert wind?
    As you can see, they aren't even very optimized, yet they still kill everything without any effort or any real fear of dying. Their first two encounters were a joke: no trouble what so ever:
    I think the Crusader and possibly Rogue is pretty optimized.

    But I'm not sure since it is just possible by loking at class/race.
    Encounter 1: 9 Skeletons, 1 Skeleton Wizard 5, 1 Skeleton Troll (admittedly undead versus Cleric is dumb; he killed 6 skeletons in one action)
    Yeah, that one is obvious...
    Should have been something else ordering them around.

    Even a low level (4th?) Adept Cultist: could have cast something on party to weaken them as minions attacked.
    Like web, invisibility (self so he can cast more stuff like buffs), and Darkness (it denies sneak attack).

    Really I think the issue was group type of monsters: they were all brutes no controllers or lurkers (to use a 4E term).

    Encounter 2: 5 Feral Goblin Warrior 3, 1 Chain Devil (they didn't kill the Devil since no one had good or silver weapons and the cleric failed his Planes check, but they smashed it to negative 40 and chained it up. It'll be a recurring villain. It still did 0 damage to them)
    What did the Chain Devil do?

    Okay, so a couple skirmishers (I like the terms from 4th) with an an elite soldier.

    The issue here was all you had was melee attacks. The Party is made to defend versus melee attacks.

    I am surprised you dealt no damage... do you mean you dealt some but they healed it or some how no damage at all?

    Encounter 2 was supposedly a 10th level encounter, and the Warforged (S&B) got a +4 Heavy Steel Shield to put his AC at 26. I don't even have the comfort that more encounters/day will kill them, since they can spend 5 minutes and recover all their powers.
    I really think it is the group of monster roles that is the issue not the monsters you are using.

    Try a Hell hound, 2 Dretches, and a Archaeirai is around a 8th encounter.

    The hell hound can breath fire on them group: ensuring some damage.
    The Dretches Scare the NPCs or Stinking Cloud the Party.
    The Archaeirie is wild card. He can use his black cloud of death (unblockable damage). Also causes 3 hrs Insanity.

    I think that fight one be at least a decent challenge.
    You've got some controlling (Dretch), some striker (Hell hound), and a wild card (Archaerie).

    Also, quick rules question: I thought I read that the Warforged with his Adamantine body gets to apply DR twice thanks to "Damage Pool"...is that correct? Cause it just makes things that much harder...
    Well, no the damage pool lets him not take the damage till next round.
    You apply damage reduction before applying the pool in my reading:

    "When you are attacked, any hit point damage the blow deals is added to delated damage pool."

    It is possible that means you apply pool but DR only after the end of next turn, but that seems more work to remember than applying first.

    Example:
    Round 1: hit for 20 damage, as a lv 6 Crusader, he can absorb 10 in Steely Resolve. But first he has DR application.
    Adamantine body is DR 8/adamantine if I remember right (right?).
    So he takes 12 damage, but he can put it in Steely Resolve.
    So he only takes 2 damage this round.

    Assuming no one or him cures it... he currently only lost 2 hps

    Round 2: At end of this turn he takes the 10 damage to his hp. For some reason he still isn't cured. The turn if over: he now lost 10 more hps.

    So he has now taken 12 damage total.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Do you have Fiendish Codex II? If so, here's how to beat them at melee with a swarm of low-level monsters, since you like doing that so much. Employ legion devils.

    Seriously, they're a pain. They pool their HP, all of them take the highest rolled result that any of them make on any save, if one is targeted by a mind-affecting ability they all roll saves and if any one of them succeeds none of them are affected (drawback: if they all fail, they're all affected, even if it was a single-target spell), and most importantly, each one gets a +4 bonus on attack rolls for each other one within 60 feet. Individually they suck, but throw a swarm and suddenly they're cleaning up. It rocks, and the best part is that the players will never see it coming; they'll think it's just another swarm of mooks to kill.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Hit their saves too. Few level 3-5 Wizards laying the smackdown with Glitterdust, for example, could make for a very interesting encounter with a relevant portition of the party Blinded (only the Cleric & the Druid are unlike to fail that save). Web is another big one, and Stinking Cloud could be interesting.

    In general, hitting 'em with melee brutes constantly is really not the way to go; while a large beast can indeed just wipe the party, that's their strongest area (although their weakness is that they don't really attack much beyond the creature's AC & HP; only the Cleric & Druid can really hit saves, with some Swordsage maneuvers working too but requiring an attack first). Best challenge is to hit them with magic.

    It's worth noting that their Reflex-saves are poor across the board (save for the Swordsage & possibly the Rogue), so spells like Bands of Steel, Web, Grease, Ray of Ice et co. could be extremely effective. I'll pretty much echo the general consensus here: make mixed bags of opponents with casters combined with few brutes to layeth the smackdown while the casters weaken the party. Alternatively, a higher CR self-buffing Cleric, for example, could be a good challenge. Or a level 6-8 Druid (that Druid & Animal Companion vs. the party should be a pretty even fight, especially if it has Greenbound Summoning, Fleshraker+Venomfire, Beads of Karma and stuff like that).

    Really, I think the best way to make for an interesting encounter and prove the point would be have a solo Druid of equal level take on the party and give them grievous issues - no reason to kill them (while it's certainly within a Druid's power, it obviously accomplishes nothing), but a Druid of average optimization should be able to give them a run for their money.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    If you need to prove that ToB isn't overpowered, throw a fighter at them. An ubercharger if you want to be picky at terminology. Hit one person for nonlethal, use a magic item to get the heck out of there. Then bring in the swarms of humanoids, they are a little more impressive when you have to prevent a fallen ally from being killed. Add in a crumbling room, where parts of the ceiling collapse, maybe even have water above. It will be memorable.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Tucker's Kobolds 3.5, EL 6, Use a mix of 3-4 creatures per encounter:

    Kobold Dragonfire Adept 3 (CR 3); Entangling Exhalation and Combat Reflexes; longspear and masterwork studded leather; Endure Exposure, See the Unseen, and Lightning Breath; assume every creature friendly to this one is under the effects of Endure Exposure at any given time, he's always under See the Unseen.
    Spam entangling breaths every round and use combat reflexes to make AoOs against slowed foes, even a 5' step requires a move action and provokes.

    Kobold Adept 6 (CR 3); substitute Familiar for an Animal Companion at a reduced level; Shield Proficiency, Natural Bond, Shield Specialization; masterwork studded leather, heavy wooden shield, masterwork heavy mace, two tanglefoot bags; 0- Ghost Sound, Create Water, Cure Minor Wounds; 1- Bless, Burning Hands, Cure Light Wounds; 2- Web, Bull's Strength.
    Animal Companion: Medium Viper (6 HD), Ability Focus: Poison and Mage Slayer, +1 Con at 4 HD, poison DC 16.
    Buff the encounter ahead of time with Bless on everyone and put Bull's Strength on the animal companion. Cast Web, then Scorching Ray on anyone in sight, then Burning Hands, using cure spells where needed and resort to tanglefoot bags or melee attacks if necessary.

    Draconic Kobold Warrior 6 (CR 4) (+2 Str, Con, Cha; +1 natural armor; +2 Intimidate and Spot; 2 claws 1d2); Intimidating Strike, Mage Slayer, Imperious Command; Never Outnumbered skill trick; Chain Shirt, Masterwork Heavy Pick, Large Steel Shield, Psionic Tattoo of Biofeedback.
    Buff with the tattoo prior to battle, use Intimidating Strike or full attack each round. Use Never Outnumbered if it will hit at least half the opponents, try to block the invaders from attacking his allies.

    An encounter should always have at least one warrior, and at least one adept or dragon shaman. Two warriors and one caster, or two casters and one warrior, or even two warriors and one of each caster four a group of four. There should be small passageways between rooms that would be too small to accommodate a medium creature, the kobolds should always scatter and flee to regroup if they get to half hp, if another one of them flees, or if one of them dies. Include pit traps that the kobolds aren't heavy enough to trigger if they cross one at a time. Put small passageways that medium characters won't fit through, to bypass them there's a 20' wide hallway that's just deep spiked pit with a narrow walkway down the center, once the intruders are halfway across windows open at the sides and the kobolds fire crossbows and use breath weapons on their balancing foes. Use any nasty trick you can think of that kobolds would have included to defend their lair. Once an alarm has been raised that there are invaders in their home they should all be at the ready to defend, they should sweep in a few at a time to deal damage and hinder the PCs' progress before all running off in different directions to regroup in the next room and do it again.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    First of all, why on Earth did you give the Warforged a +4 steel shield? That's nowhere near appropriate for someone of his level.

    All of these classes, (even the rogue/swordsage, who probably has a decent save but lacks evasion) are vulnerable to blasting. Hit 'em with some fireballs.

    Well, except for the NPC rogue I guess...
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    One question that has to be asked before I give any advice:
    Are they taking maneuvers of the right levels?

    In my experience, people often think that just because they're a 5th level crusader, they can take Giant Stance, a Crusader/Swordsage/Warblade 5 stance, or if they're an 8th level warblade, they can take Adamantine Hurricane, an 8th level maneuver. They should remember that initiator levels and maneuver levels work the same way caster levels and spell levels do:

    IL 1-2: 1st level maneuvers
    IL 3-4: 2nd level maneuvers
    IL 5-6: 3rd level maneuvers
    IL 7-8: 4th level maneuvers
    IL 9-10: 5th
    and so on.

    "Smashing a monster with DR and regeneration to -40" at level 6 is not a mean feat. I'm pretty sure these guys have maneuvers that they actually shouldn't have yet. Furthermore the chain devil should've used its dancing chains to continue attacking even while chained up.

    Also, I'd like to ask why the Warforged has a +4 shield at Lv 6. A +4 shield will cost 16000 GP plus the cost of a masterwork shield. A Lv 6 character shouldn't have that much money, as a rule. This leads me to believe the party is using gear that is way beyond WBL.

    In any case, I've found the following to make things difficult for a ToB-using party:
    1. Constricting terrain. If they flank and mob your monsters, they monsters are good as dead. Last week I ran a train encounter (Eberron), and they got stuck in a position where the crusader was behind the party's softies, while the Naityan Rakshasa (low-CR ToB Rakshasa) was close enough to hurt them. The whole time the warforged scout rogue was trying to tumble past the rakshasa's space to flank, and the crusader was unable to charge because there was always someone in the way.

    Many dungeons have really tiny rooms that make it extremely difficult for even the most powerful martial adepts to get to the softies in the back.

    2. Unreachable ranged attackers. Flyers. Archers on walls. Monsters that can move much faster than the characters. ToB characters are melee characters; if they're straight-classed they wouldn't even be able to use ranged weapons (excepting elves and other racial proficiencies).

    If ever you find yourself running a flying magical beast or dragon, avoid landing at all costs. Keep out of range, strafe, attack from 10 feet above, use Flyby Attack.

    3. Beat them at their own game. Using martial adept monsters is fun and usually challenging, as non-humanoid races get very helpful stat boosts and their racial hit dice give them feat advantages. A pair of first-level skullcrusher ogre warblades dual-wielding Large longswords would be utterly terrifying, even if either is only CR 6.

    However, you should use this wisely: A hobgoblin horde is probably going to have a high-level warblade general, but the mooks will not be a legion of first-level warblades. In fact, IMO---a bunch of 6 1st level warblades will be even less effective than 6 3nd-level warriors---and ultimately a bigger hassle to run.

    Also take note that it's a very bad idea to run even an overwhelming encounter (EL = party level +5) with only a single Medium-sized martial adept monster or villain. My party of 5 level 6 characters was able to mob and nearly kill a recurring villain, who was an 11th level warblade, in less than 3 turns.
    Thankfully I gave her enough gear to actually facilitate a quick escape.
    Remember that they need to be in melee, and that as powerful as martial adepts are, they still aren't casters, and therefore don't have esoteric means to get themselves out of sticky situations, Iron Heart Surge be damned.

    4. Drawn-out fights. These can get really boring, I know---but while martial adepts can recover really quickly between encounters, they can run out of tricks in the middle of combat should the initial monsters prove too tough to handle with the first application of their strongest maneuvers. This is easy for crusaders (with their random recovery) and swordsages (with their slow recovery; watch out for Adaptive Style, though). Warblades have it easiest, but their repertoire is the smallest.

    5. Casters. 'Nuff said.

    One of the most challenging encounters I've set up for a 9th-level party (Crusader, Ranger/Swordsage, Rogue/Swordsage, Cleric, Wizard) was an attack on a heavily-fortified castle wall. An entire squad of hobgoblin archers, a hobgoblin warcaster (with 3 wizard levels for a total CL of 7th), two hobgoblin 6th level warblades, and a single skullcrusher ogre fighter 3 were holding the wall. The PCs had to scale the wall to even attack the defenders. The PC Wizard, stationed hundreds of feet away from the wall, cast glitterdust on the warblades and the ogre.

    That was his biggest mistake ever: The warblades simply spammed White Raven Tactics on the hobgoblin warcaster, who blanketed the battlefield with solid fog and scintillating spheres, making it very difficult for the PCs to even get to the wall. The ranger got up alone and almost died fighting the two warblades (the warcaster was able to dispel the glitterdust), and the other characters got up almost too late.


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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Don't forget that non-magical enemies can still carry around a potion or two for a choice magical effect.

    A potion of true strike or invisibility is perfectly reasonable for a monster to have and it vastly increases their combat ability. Generally a monster should only use one potion in a fight because otherwise by the time they're done quaffing the dang things the fight's already over.

    This pretty much goes along with what everyone else is saying but when face by large numbers (5 enemies in this case) it makes sense to toss out some Area of Effect spells.

    And that +4 shield? Yousa. Try hitting his touch AC. While normally I would be loathe to say it's time to bring out the rust monsters... that's a heck of an item.

    I've found that ToB doesn't have much in terms of handling ranged, and especially flying, opponents. I mean, warblades aren't even proficient with ranged weapons. And to be the millionth person to say this... sending melee against this party is like sticking meat in a grinder.
    Last edited by Thrawn183; 2009-04-30 at 07:19 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Thanks for the help, everybody! Clearly I've made some mistakes and I probably didn't have cause for as much alarm as I feel. A few specific responses:
    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross
    One question that has to be asked before I give any advice:
    Are they taking maneuvers of the right levels?
    I believe so. They started at 6th level (probably unwise in hindsight; starting at 1 would have given me more wiggle-room to figure out ToB), so I may have let them trade too much but they both only know up to 3rd level maneuvers and stances, and both only have 2 3rd level maneuvers known.
    Quote Originally Posted by douglas
    How are you getting that the second encounter was level 10? I count 5 CR 3's and a CR 6, which makes a level 9 encounter. Additionally, you picked monsters that have overrated CRs - goblin warriors above level 1 are not anywhere near as much of a threat as their official CR would suggest, and a Chain Devil isn't much better
    Well, note the goblins in addition to having 3 levels have the super-cheesy Feral template from Savage Species. Of course, I misread the template and forgot the +6 armor and the fast healing . But on at least 3 of the 5, it didn't matter: They only have 21 HP, so a Shadow Garrote from the Swordsage insta-killed one, and a Bonecrusher to the face from the Crusader killed another one. The third went from 21 to 0 thanks to a full attack from the crusader plus a quick shot from the Cleric. Still, part of this was me screwing up .

    On the Kyton in general:
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    He only used his Dancing Chains once, and I guess I exaggerated. He did pop the Swordsage for 10 HP (considerable when he only has 41 HP), and he almost killed the Rogue. He also used his terrifying glance thingy, but everyone except the Animal Companion made their save (Warforged was out of range, bogged down by goblins). The Swordsage basically soloed him down to 14 or so HP though (I think there was a single shot from the Cleric fired for like 5 damage after DR). I don't recall all the details, but it was something like:

    Round 1: Shadow Jaunt in to avoid all the nasty AoO's. Kyton swings twice for a hit and a miss.
    Round 2: Full flanking attack thanks to Hawk. With Shadow Blade Technique and Insightful Strike, he gets to add STR, WIS, and DEX to damage as long as he's in a Shadow Hand stance and using a Shadow Hand weapon (he TWF's with a Short Sword and Dagger). He invoked some Desert Wind thing for extra fire damage, and just pummeled the demon for like 1d6 +9 +1d4 + 9 + 6d6 (Sneak) + 2d6 10 Fire. Oh, and Prayer is up, so probably more than that.

    Kyton counterattacks, using his Dance of Chains to smack the Swordsage twice and the Druid twice, and 5' steps out of flanking. However, he only hits each once and not for much damage (Prayer is up). In response, Swordsage throws out Fiery Riposte for 4d6 more fire damage.

    Round 3: Swordsage uses that "roll twice, if both hit extra cold damage" Shadow Hand maneuver for a little damage. Doesn't matter though: Warforged Charging Minotaur's the guy for a solid hit and the cleric fires off another arrow to "drop him".

    Now, perhaps I misunderstood the rules, but at this point the creature had 64 subdual damage but only 52 HP, so I determined that he was unconscious and unable to act. It's at this point that the Warforged, noting that he is healing and they don't know how to stop it, decides to just Bonecrusher the helpless devil for thirty something damage (he rolled high). They chain him up, but the devil won't even need to make checks to beat their "Use Rope" when he regains consciousness...oh, so unwise players .


    Quote Originally Posted by kjones
    First of all, why on Earth did you give the Warforged a +4 steel shield? That's nowhere near appropriate for someone of his level.
    So, I probably need some enlightenment here as well. I did random treasure for the first time ever. I looked at the "10th level encounter", whipped out my d%...and rolled 100. Well, that's 150 platinum and a "major item"...so I roll and it's supposed to be an armor. So I roll and get a +4 Shield.

    Now, maybe my danger sense should have told me to say "No, that's dumb, re-roll time", but here's my reasoning. Like Diablo, treasure is random and wonky. Sometimes, like this first time, the players will end up with an absurdly powerful item that is useful to them and it'll be bad for me. Sometimes? They fight an Aboleth and then get 1000 copper and a few crummy potions. Sometimes they get a +4 item...but it's a +4 Scythe, so no one in the party can really use it. I'm hoping it balances out in the end.

    Anyhow, like I said, I loved all the encounter advice. I don't want to kill them, so the Aboleth won't happen (yet ), and I'll probably avoid Pixie Warlocks and Uberchargers that insta-kill one of them. However, more casters sounds like fun, and I already have a Feral Goblin Scout 4/Ranger 2 that I'm hoping will give them fits with its 50' movement speed, 14 Tumble to avoid AoO's, Skirmish, and 22 (23 with Skirmish) AC . I also find it funny that the character op board's first and best suggesion is to chuck lots and lots of Fireballs at them . Lastly,
    Quote Originally Posted by streakster
    EDIT: Seriously. These encounters are like matching cats v. mice. Me vs. a plate full of puff pastry. Chuck Norris v. anything at all, ever.

    EDIT2: O-Chul v Shark. Snuggles v. that pansy Good Cat. Pun-Pun, full stop.
    Even though it's a bit of a dig on my DM'ing skills (which admittedly need work), I found this really, really funny. Mind if I sig it?

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk7915 View Post
    Even though it's a bit of a dig on my DM'ing skills (which admittedly need work), I found this really, really funny. Mind if I sig it?
    Go right ahead.

    And I really have no room to talk - if it makes you feel better, I once pitted some cold something or others against a Jade Phoenix Mage. Heavy on the Desert Wind. Warmage base. Flaming weapon (falchion, IIRC), with a phoenix crystal.

    Yeah, not exactly the greatest challenge he ever faced.
    Last edited by streakster; 2009-04-30 at 09:37 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk7915 View Post
    I did random treasure for the first time ever. I looked at the "10th level encounter", whipped out my d%...and rolled 100. Well, that's 150 platinum and a "major item"...so I roll and it's supposed to be an armor. So I roll and get a +4 Shield.
    Instead of rolling from a CR10 encounter, roll for how tough it was. If it was a significant but survivable encounter, roll as if it's equal to the party level; if it was easy and had low danger roll as if it's less than the party level. Don't base it off CR because CR is completely broken/misleading anywho, especially when you throw in optimized anything.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    Something to think about: the Swordsage will be more adversely affected by high AC opponents than the crusader because the crusaders strikes will always be at his highest attack bonus. I've found that temporary hit points, especially a way to get more of them every round, work really well against at ToB'er using only the standard action strikes. Just something to think about in case the crusader starts to run away with the show.

    Lastly, you might want to consider that you are right around the sweet spot for where ToB characters are strongest relative to other classes.

    Actually now that I think about it, try showing them what happens when you run into a simple orc barbarian 6 under haste. Don't have him power attack so that he doesn't just wipe somebody out in a single full round attack with a lucky roll, but show just how devastating a normal full round attack can be at level 6. Maybe give him a +1 weapon or an adamantine one. Maybe a 16 starting for strength? That would end up with 25 Str while raging. Hmmmm, full attacking at a minimum of +15/+15/+10 for 1d12+10 a pop (and this is really selling a barbarian 6 short, I mean I assumed only a MW weapon and no feats at all). I think you might be surprised by the results.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    O-Chul would not have survived if instead of a shark it were an octopus.

    An acidborn giant octopus on a giant acid pool.

    That one is a killer.

    ----

    Also, your party is heavy on melee. Ever considered trying a gargoyle with a bow?
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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    The problem is will the orc barbarian GET to make full attacks? The fact that ToBers get their offense with Standard actions is a huge deal. Strike. Tumble away (two out of three ToB classes have tumble). Orc charges and only gets one hit. Rinse and repeat. Sure the orc can Power Attack, but...

    And the Warforged Crusade can probably tank it out even if he takes an AoO by abusing Stone Power if he has it. 10 extra HP per turn? Heck yes. Bonecrusher for +4d6 damage. Revitalizing strike to keep up the healing between offenses. Lots of options depending on the feats.

    Don't get me wrong, a raging orc barbarian is a scary thing at level 6, but relying on a full-attack still sucks balls.
    NS2...it's time to evolve again.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    A barbarian can use the lion spiritual totem to get pounce, thus making a full attack on a charge.

    ToB classes can't spring attack with their standard action maneuvers, so they're sort of dependent on opponents moving up on them. Beefy opponent charges ToB character and attacks, ToB character uses a strike and tumbles away, repeat and the beefy opponent loses. Give the beefy opponent a reach weapon or make them large size and now the ToB character has to 5' step up to attack and can't move any more, and the beefy opponent can 5' step back so he's in reach again if need be and full attack. Or the beefy opponent decides to leave that character alone and charges one of the squishy back row characters. Better tactical maneuvering and positioning do wonderful things in just about any RPG, use them against strong PCs to even the odds.

    As everyone has already said, AoE damage, debuffing effects, and ranged attackers are what's going to challenge this party. Going toe-to-toe with melee opponents is what the ToB classes do best, of course they're going to look overpowered if that's all they ever face.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    True. It shows that lion-totem is very good, but that barbarians or other non-ToB stuff is good. Lion totem is in fact the complaint of many players (justified or not) as being far too powerful.

    Also, larger size and reach weapon is also always very good. Spiked-chain wielding Crusaders can be scary indeed. With Thicket of Blades and a spiked chain, opponents now can't 5-ft step in to do a full-attack. So yes, out-reaching )either by reach weapons or by projectiles) is always good against melee characters even ToBers.

    Squishy back row people do need to be very careful of course, but it goes both ways. The enemy's squishies can be charged too, and again the ToBers have an advantage because they don't need to rely on full attacks, so even if the squishy tumbles/runs away, they can follow and do good damage.

    The best thing to do really is try to do things like Entangle or Slow to try to make it so the melee people can't move up and hit you.
    NS2...it's time to evolve again.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    That's why I recommended kobold encounters including dragon shamans spamming entangling exhalation, adepts with web and tanglefoot bags, and warriors with intimidating strike and imperious command.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Help me challenge a ToB party

    As has been said, you need to hit them with more spellcasters or the equivalent. Wizards, psions, monsters with spell-like abilities, whatever. They're set up for physical fights and while you shouldn't eliminate physical-fighting enemies, you need to mix it up a bit more. Also, if you don't want to redo enemies with ToB classes, remember that all non-ToB classes get a initiator level of half their HD so you can always swap out some of their feats for copies of Martial Study to give them a quick boost. I think I remember a thread awhile back where someone gave the Tarrasque a bunch of maneuvers. It was scary.

    Also, that shield is why I never do random treasure. Or at least, why I never do random treasure live. I might roll ahead of time to get some ideas, but if I get something like that it's getting a do-over. Enemies should always carry roughly appropriate treasure. Wealth by level isn't law, but it should be at least loosely followed. The game's balance depends on it.
    Last edited by Waspinator; 2009-05-01 at 01:03 AM.
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