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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? Lvl 9

    Adventuring conditions: assume that each fight takes place when the party is teleported into a 100'-diameter cavern underground, dimly lit, no terrain obstacles or cover and no exits available until all of the monsters are dead. PCs and monsters will be randomly distributed around the cavern when the fight starts. PCs will be able to short rest between encounters if they wish before taking the teleportation device to the next cavern and may choose to pre-cast spells before teleporting. All monsters fanatically fight to the death and never retreat.

    Challenge: What is the nastiest adventuring day you can create for 4 9th level PCs while not exceeding 30,000 adjusted XP total and not exceeding 9599 adjusted XP for any particular fight (because 9600 is Deadly) or more than 10 creatures per fight, and not repeating any monsters between fights?

    Example:

    10 Kobolds (625) Half of them attack in melee, Dashing if necessary. The other half hang back and throw sling bullets at whichever target is easiest to hit, especially those to whom Pack Tactics applies.

    1 Abominable Yeti (5000) Will attempt to paralyze at least nearest PC and rip it to shreds with melee attacks. Will switch to a new target next round if paralyzation attempt fails. If hit by a fire attack will respond with its Cold Breath AoE to deter repeats fire attacks. Will also Cold Breath if swarmed by 4 or more attackers.

    3 Wolves and 6 Flying Snakes (750) Wolves attempt to knock targets prone, flying snakes dart in and bite before zipping away, preferring prone targets for advantage if possible.

    1 Neogi Master + 2 Star Spawn Manglers (9400) Neogi will cast Hold Person IV while Manglers rip paralyzed targets to shreds with Flurry of Claws; Neogi will attempt to Charm any PCs who are not paralyzed, then bite paralyzed targets or shoot Eldritch Blast beams; Manglers will either Flurry of Claws and withdraw out of strike range if possible, otherwise will make regular attacks and Hide with their bonus action.

    5 Stirges and 5 Star Spawn Grue (937) Stirges will fasten themselves to whatever target they can while Grues impose disadvantage on attack rolls. (Stirges are also subject to disadvantage from Grues on their initial attacks if a Grue is nearby but will try to target those already disoriented by Grue bites.)

    8 Boggles (500): Use sticky oils and teleportation to try to separate the party, then swarm the weakest-looking PC.

    1 Young White Dragon, 2 Intellect Devourers, and 4 Shadows (9500) Dragon will try to breath on any PCs who are clustered in a group, and will preferentially attack weak-looking PCs with its claws and bite before flying away to avoid melee attacks (accepting opportunity attacks if necessary). Shadows will Hide in darkness with their bonus action and try to gang up on any PCs who are isolated from the others. Intellect Devourers will attempt to Devour Intellect on a brawny-looking PC and then steal the body, working together if possible.

    3 Ghouls and 7 Hobgoblins (3250) Ghouls will paralyze targets if they can, and Hobgoblins will attack paralyzed targets in melee for auto-crits if possible, otherwise will shoot arrows at easiest-looking target.


    Total: 29,962 XP
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 04:09 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    I'd put the kobold fight at the end. As far as I know, traps and pre-fight set up by the opponents don't technically count towards challenge rating. Have them go through that gauntlet, then at the end, they hit the kobolds. As they start laughing at the "last encounter" they realize the entire arena is pockmarked with kobold size tunnels, traps, and other machinations (see Tucker's Kobolds). Those little guys are experts at hit and run commando tactics and making life hell.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeRoxTheBoat View Post
    I'd put the kobold fight at the end. As far as I know, traps and pre-fight set up by the opponents don't technically count towards challenge rating.
    For purposes of this challenge, the environment is fixed: kobolds won't have the chance to set up traps before the adventurers arrive. (If you like you can imagine that the kobolds just came out of temporal stasis at the instant the PCs teleported in.)

    You can pack one of the fights with Kobold Inventors and let them set their own "traps", but remember that you can't use the same monster in multiple fights and can't use more than 10 monsters in a given fight, or create any Deadly fights.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Are we allowed to use monsters from pre-made modules?

    EDIT: And to make sure, each group cannot exceed 9,600 exp total? While you have a max of 30,000 total exp.
    Last edited by sithlordnergal; 2019-10-15 at 10:02 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by sithlordnergal View Post
    Are we allowed to use monsters from pre-made modules?

    EDIT: And to make sure, each group cannot exceed 9,600 exp total? While you have a max of 30,000 total exp.
    Yes and yes. Monsters from any WotC-published modules are fine (although I didn't buy Ravnica, Saltmarsh, or Acquisitions so if you use monsters from those I'll be slightly sad that I couldn't run your encounters at my table). Cannot hit the Deadly threshold at 9600, 9599 is therefore the highest adjusted XP you can go, and cannot go over 30,000 adjusted XP total. For purposes of this thread Kobold.club's math is definitive.

    Edit: oops, the White Dragon encounter in the example violates the Deadly threshold rule. I'll edit the OP to remove the shadows when I get home and can recompute the math. Will have to be 10 Shadows in their own, separate encounter.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 12:09 AM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Alright, lets do this then! My goal was to get as close to the target of 30,000 as possible while making battles that would be an extremely difficult challenge. I think I did pretty well. There are only 4 battles in this arena, but what I lack in number I make in deadly efficiency. At least two of these will instantly kill an unprepared party. In fact, without the right spells or abilities, the 3rd encounter will outright kill a party if things go poorly for them, and there will be nothing they can do about it. Yet I kept all of them within the Hard or lower category:


    Rune Forged Guardian, White Dragon Wyrmling(9525): We're opening with the big guns, and what guns they are! So, first things first, the White Dragon Wyrmling isn't actually here to fight. It is purely support, nothing more and nothing less. Its job is to occasionally fly in, breathe on the guardian, then GTFO till it can do it again. The real threat is the Guardian, and if you haven't seen it before, well you're in for a treat cause this thing is a tough CR 10! First and foremost, it is immune to non-magical weapon damage, poison, and psychic damage. It has Legendary Resistance (3/day), Magic Resistance for advantage on saves, is Immune to any spell or ability that would change its form, and its attacks are considered magical. It has a slam attack that does 4d8+6 and a rock that does 3d10+5, both with a +10 to hit. It can also cast Slow on anyone within 10 feet of it with a DC 17 save and that recharges every time you roll 5-6 on a d6.

    If that wasn't enough it has the ability Elemental Absorption. If it takes Fire, Ice, Acid, or Lightning Damage, it can use its reaction to activate a Rune. When activated, the Rune Forged Guardian is healed for half the damage dealt, then gains immunity to that damage until another Rune is activated. Each Rune also buffs it. For example, the Fire Rune adds Cold Resistance and 2d6 Fire Damage to all of its attacks, the Ice Rune gives it Fire Resistance and Immunity to the damage from next Bludgeoning, Piercing, or Slashing attack it takes, the Acid gives it a 20ft poisonous cloud that deals 6d6 Poison damage every round someone starts in it, with a DC 17 Con save for Half, and the Lightning Rune gives it a 60ft Fly speed, resistance to all ranged weapon attacks and said attacks have disadvantage, and at will Mist Step.

    But WAIT, there's STILL more!!! It can take 3 Legendary Actions, and has 5 options to choose from! The first lets it activate a Rune of its choice, the second lets it make a Slam attack that adds 2d6 damage type of whatever Rune is active at the time, and an ability that lets it move its speed and make a Slam attack without provoking attacks of opportunity. And those just cost a single Legendary Action. The next costs 2 actions, and allows the Guardian to make 2 slam attacks against a single creature. If both hit, the target is pushed 30 feet and is knocked prone. If the target is pushed into another creature, the second creature takes 3d6 bludgeoning and must make a DC 17 Strength save or be knocked prone as well. And FINALLY, last but certainly not least, it can use all three Legendary Actions to breathe a 30ft cone with the element of its currently active Rune. Anyone caught in it must make a DC 17 Dex save or take 6d6 damage, save for half.

    Oh yeah, it also gets Lair Actions, which may or may not be applicable here. Personally, I think they'd apply since this thing is the Guardian of this trial. These add three more powerful abilities to the Guardian that make it even more difficult to face, ranging from AoE cold ability, a thing that can restrain and suffocate creatures, and a Hypnotic Pattern effect.

    ----

    4 Thugs of Mammon, 1 Star Spawn Mangler (4,400): This is a battle that is far, FAR deadlier then it seems. If you don't have Mordenkainen's, then the Thug of Mammon is a normal Thug with the Mammon Cult properties added. As a result, it has a Short Rest ability that allows it to give up to 5 allies advantage on all Attack Rolls against a single target, pack tactics, and the ability to disarm an opponent by stealing one item they are holding from anyone within 15 feet of them, but they still have the normal thug cr of 1/2. Next is the Star Spawn Mangler.

    The Star Spawn Mangler has three special abilities. First, it can hide as a bonus action in Dim Light or Darkness. Second, if it makes an attack with advantage, it deals 1d8+4 slashing and 2d6 psychic. Third, it has a recharge ability that allows it to make 6 claw attacks in a single round. You might be able to see where this is going. The Thug gives the Star Spawn Mangler advantage against a target, the Star Spawn pops out of hiding, then it makes 6 attacks against whatever it has advantage against. Those 6 attacks can be devastating too. A +7 with advantage means it is likely going to hit its targets, and the advantage lets it add +2d6 to each of those attacks. You're looking at 6d8+12d6+24, for an average of about 93 damage, with about 42 of it being psychic. The best part? It can skitter away and bonus action hide in the darkness, AND its Flurry of Claws is a recharge ability.

    ----

    1 Mind Flayer Psion, 4 Rot Grub Swarms (8,600): Yet another battle that is deadlier then it appears. Not only can the Mind Flayer stun the party, but it has several spells up to 5th level. Fear is especially dangerous, since the area prevents the party from fleeing to a space where they can't see the Mind Flayer to break the Fear effect. On top of that, if the players are stunned, the Rot Grub Swarms can move in and start attacking the stunned party members with advantage, and those who are stunned won't be able to flee. If the Rot Grubs manage to hit, even once, then its essentially game over unless the party has a way to cure disease since they will continue to take 1d6 damage until then.

    ----

    1 Orc Blade of Ilnneval, 1 Orc Red Fang of Shargass, 3 Orc Nurtured one of Yurtrus, 4 orcs, 1 Orc Hand of Yurtrus (7,375):

    Here it is, the final battle. My hopes for this is to overwhelm a tired out and somewhat drained party. The Orc Blade of Ilnneval is key here, as it can make up to three allied orcs make attacks on a 4-6 cool down. Meanwhile the Hand of Yurtrus provides a bit of healing, while the Red Fang acts as sort of a Warlock/Rogue. The 4 normal orcs are there to provide fodder, while the Nurtured Ones add a bit of deadly AoEs upon their deaths.


    Grand Total: 29,900 EXP, and the knowledge that you just went through one hell of an arena.
    Last edited by sithlordnergal; 2019-10-16 at 01:21 AM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    So let's start off this party with some long-term debuffs for the party.

    Spoiler: If your players are using nonmagic metallic weapons & armor
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    1 Otyugh + 9 Grey Oozes: 6750 XP.

    You will be grappled or poisoned for the entire day by the Otyugh. And then you will be carried back into range of nine oozes who will destroy any metal armor you have, and any nonmagical weapons.



    3 Guardian Portrait (Curse of Strahd) + 7 Shadows: 3250 adjusted XP

    Each Guardian Portrait has not one, not two, but three casts of Hypnotic Pattern each, plus three castings of Counterspell! My recommendation is that one Portrait uses Telekinesis to lift the Cleric out of 30ft of the Shadows, while the other Portraits cause the party members to become incapacitated before being swarmed by 7 strength-reducing Shadows.

    Spoiler: If your party is using magical weapons and armor
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    7 Pixies + 3 Quicklings: 2375 adjusted XP

    This is pretty straightforward. The pixies act as absurd levels of battlefield control while the Quicklings murder the party.

    1 Starspawn Mangler + 4 Thugs of Mammon: 4400 adjusted XP, see above poster for reasons.


    1 Hobgoblin Devastator + 9 Flying Snakes: 3312 adjusted XP.

    The Devastator casts a 4th level Fog Cloud to cover the vast majority of the cavern in fog. At which point the Blindsight capable snakes are flyby attacking the PCs with advantage and incredibly high damage, and the Devastator is free to lay on Fireballs without fear of hitting his snakey friends.

    It's basically a free, no-save Blind on the PCs against some of the nastiest summons in the game. Expect fatalities.


    1 Medusa + 9 Skulks, each using Disguise Self to look like a Medusa: 8000 adjusted XP.

    It looks like 10 Medusa. If you look directly at all of them, you will be making a Con save every round vs Petrification. If you avert your gaze, all the Skulks get Sneak Attack on you. Can be nasty.


    1 Gauth + 4 Intellect Devourers + 1 Vargouille: 8600 adjusted XP.

    The Gauth has a few particularly nasty powers, namely Stunning Gaze, Paralyzing Ray, and Sleep Ray. All of which apply the Incapacitated condition to PCs. Which allows Intellect Devourers to replace party members.

    Vargouille is in there for another AoE save and long-term risk of death.

    Total XP: 29912 for nonmagical metallic weapons & armor, otherwise 29937.
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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Fable Wright View Post
    1 Medusa + 9 Skulks, each using Disguise Self to look like a Medusa: 8000 adjusted XP.

    It looks like 10 Medusa. If you look directly at all of them, you will be making a Con save every round vs Petrification. If you avert your gaze, all the Skulks get Sneak Attack on you. Can be nasty.
    Skulks are invisible anyway (except in mirrors, or to children, etc.) and don't have Disguise Self. Did you mean another monster?

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    Skulks are invisible anyway (except in mirrors, or to children, etc.) and don't have Disguise Self. Did you mean another monster?
    Shoot. I had a DM run that encounter, and I could have sworn he said he used the Skulk stat block for them. That one's on me for not checking MToF.
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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Fable Wright View Post
    Shoot. I had a DM run that encounter, and I could have sworn he said he used the Skulk stat block for them. That one's on me for not checking MToF.
    No worries--just leave them as Skulks and they get advantage + extra psychic damage anyway, unless the party drops Darkness or Fog Cloud or something.

    So far all of the suggested adventuring days look like fun to run, and it's hard to spot which one is deadliest although I suspect stuff like the Guardian Portraits one will not be as bad as you predict due to the random placement of monsters and PCs plus the low AC/HP on the Portrait.

    Interesting that everyone so far has used Star Spawn Manglers. They are the ultimate glass cannons in 5E and it seems almost a shame to waste them on a combination with merely 1 Mangler and some advantage-granting cultists, especially when Manglers usually get advantage in the first round of a combat anyway. Hold Person IV and 2 Manglers costs more XP but deals potentially ~312 HP of damage to the party in the first round, instead of merely 90.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 10:35 AM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Where do I find the Rune Forged Guardian? Is it home brew?

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    So far all of the suggested adventuring days look like fun to run, and it's hard to spot which one is deadliest although I suspect stuff like the Guardian Portraits one will not be as bad as you predict due to the random placement of monsters and PCs plus the low AC/HP on the Portrait.
    False Appearance does a number, giving them essentially a free surprise round despite the low initiative. Regardless, though, they're counterspellers, and good for placing an early resource drain on the party. If there's a cleric in the party I'd maybe move them a bit later in the day to try and burn off a few of those Channel Divinity uses.

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    Interesting that everyone so far has used Star Spawn Manglers. They are the ultimate glass cannons in 5E and it seems almost a shame to waste them on a combination with merely 1 Mangler and some advantage-granting cultists, especially when Manglers usually get advantage in the first round of a combat anyway. Hold Person IV and 2 Manglers costs more XP but deals potentially ~340 HP of damage to the party in the first round, instead of merely 90.
    With the realization that Skulks don't have Disguise Self, I'd change up the lineup a bit.

    Spoiler: Changed
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    3 Guardian Portrait (Curse of Strahd) + 7 Shadows: 3250 adjusted XP

    Each Guardian Portrait has not one, not two, but three casts of Hypnotic Pattern each, plus three castings of Counterspell! My recommendation is that one Portrait uses Telekinesis to lift the Cleric out of 30ft of the Shadows, while the other Portraits cause the party members to become incapacitated before being swarmed by 7 strength-reducing Shadows.

    7 Quicklings + 3 Pixies: 3875 adjusted XP

    This is pretty straightforward. The pixies act as absurd levels of battlefield control while the Quicklings murder the party.

    3 Hobgoblins + 6 Wolves: 1500 adjusted XP

    Not too nasty, but fills the budget. Straightforward resource drain. Wolf Trip + Martial Advantage & ranged support

    1 Hobgoblin Devastator + 9 Flying Snakes: 3312 adjusted XP.

    The Devastator casts a 4th level Fog Cloud to cover the vast majority of the cavern in fog. At which point the Blindsight capable snakes are flyby attacking the PCs with advantage and incredibly high damage, and the Devastator is free to lay on Fireballs without fear of hitting his snakey friends.

    It's basically a free, no-save Blind on the PCs against some of the nastiest summons in the game. Expect fatalities.


    1 Neogi Master + 2 Star Spawn Manglers: 9400 adjusted XP

    See OP

    1 Gauth + 4 Intellect Devourers + 1 Vargouille: 8600 adjusted XP.

    The Gauth has a few particularly nasty powers, namely Stunning Gaze, Paralyzing Ray, and Sleep Ray. All of which apply the Incapacitated condition to PCs. Which allows Intellect Devourers to replace party members.

    Vargouille is in there for another AoE save and long-term risk of death.
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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Oooh, that Quickling + Pixie encounter is cheap and very nasty! I haven't reviewed the stats on the Gauth + Intellect Devourers but that is also potentially very nasty. I would move that one earlier in the adventuring day actually to increase the odds of having to fight e.g. the Quicklings when they're already down one or more PCs.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Vorpalchicken View Post
    Where do I find the Rune Forged Guardian? Is it home brew?
    It is from the adventure Forgotten Traditions, you can find it on DMs guild. Its an AL legal module, so the AL admins felt it was a fair thing to fight.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by sithlordnergal View Post
    It is from the adventure Forgotten Traditions, you can find it on DMs guild. Its an AL legal module, so the AL admins felt it was a fair thing to fight.
    Huh. I have to admit, when I said "published" I was thinking of actual publishing, in a book, not stuff on DM's Guild or UA. I didn't realize that's what you meant by "pre-made modules".

    I don't think the monster looks overpowered compared to some, but for the sake of keeping everything uniform could you replace that encounter with a different one?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fable Wright View Post
    False Appearance does a number, giving them essentially a free surprise round despite the low initiative. Regardless, though, they're counterspellers, and good for placing an early resource drain on the party. If there's a cleric in the party I'd maybe move them a bit later in the day to try and burn off a few of those Channel Divinity uses.
    What I expect to see is that PCs start fighting shadows (keeping their distance as best they can), and then one of the paintings casts Counterspell or Hypnotic Pattern or Telekinesis, and then the PCs immediately nuke that painting and all of the others (they're only AC 5 and 22ish HP IIRC) then finish killing the Shadows. That first Counterspell could certainly be a nasty surprise for the PCs if they were counting on it to stop the Shadows, but a lot depends on where everybody gets randomly placed.

    It's definitely a creative encounter within the constraints!
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 02:33 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Does the party know what the fight is going to be before they teleport into it?

    And how much should we assume about the party's capabilities? If we know of any weaknesses in the party composition, we could build towards those (for instance, a lot of low Int scores favors Mind Flayers and their pets).
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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
    Does the party know what the fight is going to be before they teleport into it?
    No. They just know that they go through the teleportal gate each time and find themselves in a new arena. Neither does the adventure writer know anything about the party except to expect four 9th level PCs.

    And how much should we assume about the party's capabilities? If we know of any weaknesses in the party composition, we could build towards those (for instance, a lot of low Int scores favors Mind Flayers and their pets).
    You don't know any specifics. This module could be re-used by multiple parties--maybe I'll roll up three separate parties and run them each twice through each set of encounters, for example, and see which one is deadliest on average. If I do I'll do my best to do it without thinking about any of the specific encounters, although it's going to be hard for me not to at least remember that everybody loves Star Spawn Manglers. : )

    It's fair for you to assume though that that party will avoid total cheese that would never happen at the table, like a whole party of Necromancers with Skulker and Prodigy (Stealth) who spend the whole adventure just hiding in the dim light with +11 to Stealth while 96 Skeletons kill all the monsters. Any players who did that would give up and reroll new characters out of sheer boredom after one session.

    I'm not promising to do any of these playtests, mind you, but full disclosure: I kind of want to. Or maybe someone will beat me to it and will post the results here for us to look at.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 03:45 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    I'm not going to write a full set up, just note some nasty creatures or abilities that are a bit OP when used en masse.

    The lower the CR you go, the higher the threat becomes.

    Eagles are CR 0, worth 10 xp, you could put 239 of these in an encounter with an "encounter difficulty" of 9560. Eagles have 60 ft flight, +4 to hit 1d4+2 damage, odds are a good amount of the eagles would beat the player in init (if somebody actually tried to run an encounter with this number of creatures in the first place), and players only get a reaction each, so eagles can move attack move, so as not to block other eagles spot for attacking.

    Using Ludic's DPR calculator, 239 attacks at +4 for 1d4+2 each means 300 DPR vs AC 20, 462 vs AC 17. Its very unlikely that the party can win such an encounter if the casters die before they can get an area spell off (eagles shouldn't know this though). This encounter is weighed as "hard", when in reality is a save or die init roll for the casters.

    Anyways, there's always mass Magic Missile, don't focus targets, since that way a single Shield spell can block the entirety of the damage, split the darts, no more than 1 for each party member, that way those that can cast Shield have to spend a slot and a reaction to prevent 1d4+1 damage, or they just have to accept the damage. The lowest CR creature I could find that can cast it are the Rock Gnome Recluses from Dragon of Icespire Peak, those are CR 1/4, meaning you can fit 47 of those, I don't think these are as much of a threat as the eagles, less mobility, and less number of creatures implies higher chance of nukers to act before dying.

    Disclaimer: These are obviously cheesie and unfun strategies, no one should drop this kind of encounters on a regular unsuspecting party
    Last edited by Rukelnikov; 2019-10-16 at 06:21 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Rukelnikov View Post
    I'm not going to write a full set up, just note some nasty creatures or abilities that are a bit OP when used en masse.

    The lower the CR you go, the higher the threat becomes.

    Eagles are CR 0, worth 10 xp, you could put 239 of these in an encounter with an "encounter difficulty" of 9560.
    Illegal. That's why you're restricted to only 10 creatures per encounter, per the OP, and cannot reuse the same monster in multiple fights. If there were 120 different types of eagles, you could do 120 encounters with 10 eagles of each variant respectively, but since parties can short rest in between encounters that still might not actually wind up being very deadly at all: it might just wind up being 120 counts of "Battlemaster Action Surges with Precise Strike and kills 4 Eagles, then the Warlock Fireballs 5 more, and the Cleric and Wizard mop up the last eagle with cantrips," at least for some parties. Or perhaps a Druid casts Conjure Animals and the cleric casts Spirit Guardians and then the party hammers their way through 20 Eagle encounters in a row in 10 in-game minutes.

    Anyway, that's why there's a cap of 10 monsters per encounter, in this contest, and no monster re-use allowed. It keeps things looking more like what you'd face in an actual game.

    Anyways, there's always mass Magic Missile, don't focus targets, since that way a single Shield spell can block the entirety of the damage, split the darts, no more than 1 for each party member, that way those that can cast Shield have to spend a slot and a reaction to prevent 1d4+1 damage, or they just have to accept the damage. The lowest CR creature I could find that can cast it are the Rock Gnome Recluses from Dragon of Icespire Peak, those are CR 1/4, meaning you can fit 47 of those, I don't think these are as much of a threat as the eagles, less mobility, and less number of creatures implies higher chance of nukers to act before dying.

    Disclaimer: These are obviously cheesie and unfun strategies, no one should drop this kind of encounters on a regular unsuspecting party
    Sidenote: Dragon of Icespire Peak is not legal for this challenge. In the interest of keeping this contest restricted to encounter construction and not gaming the CR system, only published WotC sources are allowed, and by published I mean in a book, not on the Internet. I'm not saying you can't find something equally-deadly at low levels (flying snakes come to mind) but Rock Gnomes Recluses are out of bounds. They're not even on Kobold.club anyway.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 06:58 PM.

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    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    Illegal. That's why you're restricted to only 10 creatures per encounter, per the OP, and cannot reuse the same monster in multiple fights. If there were 120 different types of eagles, you could do 120 encounters with 10 eagles of each variant respectively, but since parties can short rest in between encounters that still might not actually wind up being very deadly at all: it might just wind up being 120 counts of "Battlemaster Action Surges with Precise Strike and kills 4 Eagles, then the Warlock Fireballs 5 more, and the Cleric and Wizard mop up the last eagle with cantrips," at least for some parties. Or perhaps a Druid casts Conjure Animals and the cleric casts Spirit Guardians and then the party hammers their way through 20 Eagle encounters in a row in 10 in-game minutes.

    Anyway, that's why there's a cap of 10 monsters per encounter, in this contest, and no monster re-use allowed. It keeps things looking more like what you'd face in an actual game.



    Sidenote: Dragon of Icespire Peak is not legal for this challenge. In the interest of keeping this contest restricted to encounter construction and not gaming the CR system, only published WotC sources are allowed, and by published I mean in a book, not on the Internet. I'm not saying you can't find something equally-deadly at low levels (flying snakes come to mind) but Rock Gnomes Recluses are out of bounds. They're not even on Kobold.club anyway.
    Ahh didn't notice the 10 creature cap per encounter. Ok I'll think of something like many flameskulls or something like that :P

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Rukelnikov View Post
    Ahh didn't notice the 10 creature cap per encounter. Ok I'll think of something like many flameskulls or something like that :P
    One fairly nasty way to get lots of creatures: eight CR 2 lizard shamans, each of which can cast Conjure Animals for 8 reptiles. But in the arena it might be pretty easy to just break the shamans' concentration.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-16 at 10:48 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    One fairly nasty way to get lots of creatures: eight CR 2 lizard shamans, each of which can cast Conjure Animals for 8 reptiles. But in the arena it might be pretty easy to just break the shamans' concentration.
    Yeah, that's why I was doubful of encounters that relied on Pixies polymorphing stuff...
    Last edited by Rukelnikov; 2019-10-17 at 10:40 AM.

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    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Sometimes very simple encounters can be challenging because the DM doesn't have to use a complicated strategy to be effective.

    Encounter: Flamesull x2; Magma Mephit x4 = 2,600 xp = 5,200 adjusted xp. Hard encounter for 4 level 9s.

    That's 2 fireballs (16d6) and 4 heat metals (8d8) if all of them survive the first round of combat, and they might depending on initiative. Heat metal is nasty and the save for it basically doesn't matter if you target metal armor, resulting in damage AND disadvantage on attack rolls/ability checks.

    Since each arena is different, this could have a fire/volcano theme which could plausibly allow each of the fire mephits a chance to go in the first round because "when motionless, it is indistinguishable from an ordinary mound of magma."

    The flameskulls can also be simply played, with a baked in advantage vs spells and the potential to cast blur, they can impose disadvantage to most attacks. However, I would make them go fully offensive in the first round with that fireball if the rules prevent precasting blur beforehand.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonaynay View Post
    Sometimes very simple encounters can be challenging because the DM doesn't have to use a complicated strategy to be effective.

    Encounter: Flamesull x2; Magma Mephit x4 = 2,600 xp = 5,200 adjusted xp. Hard encounter for 4 level 9s.

    That's 2 fireballs (16d6) and 4 heat metals (8d8) if all of them survive the first round of combat, and they might depending on initiative. Heat metal is nasty and the save for it basically doesn't matter if you target metal armor, resulting in damage AND disadvantage on attack rolls/ability checks.
    Just a note on the Fireballs: due to random placement within the arena, Fireballs on the first round are probably unlikely to hit more than 1-2 PCs.

    Heat metal is indeed nasty, so you have to kill the Mephits to stop the ongoing damage/disadvantage. Ideally you'd want to put the mephits is an encounter where that puts the PCs between a rock and a hard place.

    Since each arena is different, this could have a fire/volcano theme which could plausibly allow each of the fire mephits a chance to go in the first round because "when motionless, it is indistinguishable from an ordinary mound of magma."
    No, they're all just 100'-diameter caverns with dim light and no other interesting features. (Arena spectators must be watching via clairvoyance or something.) I want to keep terrain from becoming a deciding factor so the challenge could focus on monster synergies instead of Combat As War tricks from both sides.

    The flameskulls can also be simply played, with a baked in advantage vs spells and the potential to cast blur, they can impose disadvantage to most attacks. However, I would make them go fully offensive in the first round with that fireball if the rules prevent precasting blur beforehand.
    PCs can precast before they teleport but they have no idea what's waiting for them and are randomly placed on arrival. Monsters are randomly placed and do not know when PCs will arrive. So no, there's no way to precast Blur beforehand but you can zoom into the air as soon as you see the PCs arrive.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Assumptions:
    1: The PCs do not abuse the many oppurtunities for short rests that much.
    2: The Monsters can precast some abilities
    3: The Monsters are fought in a specific order

    The Monsters:

    1 Phase Spider (700): Starts in the ethereal, tries to surprise the party.

    2 Banshees (3300): Resource drain via reduction to 0 hp.

    6 Quicklings (2400): Lots of attacks for killing anyone that didn't heal properly after the last fight. Assumes the quicklings don't run out of daggers

    5 Intellect Devourers and 1 Lizardfolk Shaman (5400): Use upcasted fog cloud to cover the Devourers with conjure animals as backup.

    4 Martial Arts Adepts and 2 Manticores (8400): The adepts spam stun on all enemies they can reach, the manticores deal with flying enemies.

    1 Ki-rin (8400): Precast freedom of movement and true seeing. Start by upcasting banishment, kill all that do not get banished, then spam guardian of faith before letting the PCs return.

    10 Thugs (1200): In case the party gets this far.

    Total (adjusted) XP 29 800
    Last edited by Waar; 2019-10-17 at 04:42 PM.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Waar View Post
    Assumptions:
    1: The PCs do not abuse the many oppurtunities for short rests that much.
    If you mean "PCs are not built specifically to abuse short rests," then yes. It will be a party you'd see in real life, not a party of pure warlocks.

    2: The Monsters can precast some abilities
    Nope.

    3: The Monsters are fought in a specific order
    Yes.

    The Monsters:

    1 Phase Spider (700): Starts in the ethereal, tries to surprise the party.
    Can't be done. PCs know there's a threat in every room due to the arena format, so they cannot be surprised. You can go ethereal on your first round though.

    2 Banshees (3300): Resource drain via reduction to 0 hp.

    6 Quicklings (2400): Lots of attacks for killing anyone that didn't heal properly after the last fight. Assumes the quicklings don't run out of daggers

    5 Intellect Devourers and 1 Lizardfolk Shaman (5400): Use upcasted fog cloud to cover the Devourers with conjure animals as backup.

    4 Martial Arts Adepts and 2 Manticores (8400): The adepts spam stun on all enemies they can reach, the manticores deal with flying enemies.

    1 Ki-rin (8400): Precast freedom of movement and true seeing. Start by upcasting banishment, kill all that do not get banished, then spam guardian of faith before letting the PCs return.

    10 Thugs (1200): In case the party gets this far.

    Total (adjusted) XP 29 800
    Ki-rin pre-casting isn't legal but otherwise looks good, thanks!

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    If you mean "PCs are not built specifically to abuse short rests," then yes. It will be a party you'd see in real life, not a party of pure warlocks.
    Well, I was mostly refering to the number of short rests, since between moon druids, warlocks, fighters, inspiring leader and healer, there are a lot of possibilities that scale extremely well with unlimited short rests (and having just one or two in the party isn't unresonable for a real life party).

    Nope.

    ...

    Can't be done. PCs know there's a threat in every room due to the arena format, so they cannot be surprised. You can go ethereal on your first round though.
    I would have hoped that things that have an unlimited duration would have been an exception, but it is probably easier for you this way.

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Waar View Post
    I would have hoped that things that have an unlimited duration would have been an exception, but it is probably easier for you this way.
    I was building with this in mind tbh. Would creatures with unlimited invisibility (like will o wisps) have to start out visible too?

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by Waar View Post
    Well, I was mostly refering to the number of short rests, since between moon druids, warlocks, fighters, inspiring leader and healer, there are a lot of possibilities that scale extremely well with unlimited short rests (and having just one or two in the party isn't unresonable for a real life party).
    Expect PCs to behave rationally. They'll short rest if it would help them unless it would hurt them more (e.g. they want to keep Spirit Guardians/Fire Shield/Conjure Animals up for multiple fights).

    Quote Originally Posted by Waar View Post
    I would have hoped that things that have an unlimited duration would have been an exception, but it is probably easier for you this way.
    Hmmm, okay, good point. Unlimited-duration stuff like going ethereal is probably fair. Phase spider is a go--PCs still won't be surprised but you can start off ethereal.

    Still no pre-cast Blurs from Flameskulls though. The monsters aren't the ones entering the room so should not know when the PCs will arrive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rukelnikov View Post
    I was building with this in mind tbh. Would creatures with unlimited invisibility (like will o wisps) have to start out visible too?
    Unlimited-duration stuff... You've talked me into it. Go ahead on the will o wisps.
    Last edited by MaxWilson; 2019-10-18 at 02:26 PM.

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    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: [DM challenge] What is the nastiest arena-style adventuring day you can create? L

    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    Just a note on the Fireballs: due to random placement within the arena, Fireballs on the first round are probably unlikely to hit more than 1-2 PCs.
    I think 2 PCs at once would be good enough to justify it. The randomness of PC placement will certainly impact the overall efficacy.

    I was actually pretty curious about that so I ran some numbers to cover a few different possibilities.

    D 12 10 8 6
    Con 3 3 2 2
    Lvl 9 95 85 66 56
    Total Party HP = 302

    Abandoning table format now...

    Fireballx2| Avg Save: 14 | Avg Fail: 28 |
    Heat Metalx4 | Avg: 9 |

    So a single character could be hit with both fireballs and 1 heat metal and they make both fireball saves = 37 damage or 12% of the example party's HP or they fail both saves and take 65 damage or 22% of the party's HP.

    If 2 characters can be hit with both fireballs and 2 heat metals
    ->Best case: 37 damage each, 74 total or 25% of party HP
    ->Worst case: 65 damage each, 130 total or 43% of party HP

    Don't read too hard into my use of "best case" and "worst case" as they are just how I labeled making all saves and failing all saves for the average damage roll. Obviously the worst possible case is failing both saves on two maximum damage fireballs but I thought using averages would be more instructive.

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