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Can we stop with the "solo" encounters?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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I like solo-boss style encounters. I think they could be improved though, partly through better rules designed specifically for solo-encounters.

More HP
More actions, though maybe not just for attacks/damaging spells
Reactionary abilities

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

I'm OK with swingy-ness, especially in dramatic boss encounters.

Nothing makes a group of PCs fear--and fight harder and more desperately--like one of them getting smoked in the surprise round.

I'm not, by the way, known as a "killer GM," but especially in a boss fight, I tend not to pull punches.

The flip side of extra actions for a solo boss is action denial against the PCs. Debuffing bosses can be maddening to fight, in a good way.

STAP spoiler:
In Into the Maw, I converted the marilith fighter boss to PFRPG. She had big reach, a bazillion attacks, and used Stunning Assault and critical feats to keep the party debuffed and stun-locked. It wasn't strictly a solo boss fight, but there were 7 PCs, a couple friendly NPCs, and the adds were defeated pretty quickly. Had it just been the marilith and the PCs, it would likely have played out much the same way.


Typing off phone so sorry for ugly text.

I think solo encounters can work very well, but they depend on a few thinks.
1. The bad guy has to be defensively built and a fair bit stronger than the pcs. This severly reduces swinginess and means the fight will last longer.
2. The bad guy must be prepared and the pcs should only have limited preparation.
3. The bad guy has to have favorable terrain. Fighting a red dragon in thick smoke can be hell.
4. The bad guy has to have good crowd control and no obcious big weaknesses. Gishes and similar work well (dragons and fiends anyone?)


On a side note, I must say the new mythic rules seem like they would work very well to make powerful solo enemies, especially the "act twice in a round" part.


In my custom games, having a solo encounter at the end of a string of encounters works really well. I don't do it every time or even most times. However, it works because the string of lead-up encounters are designed to eat up the party's resources, making the solo monster a viable threat. I also don't allow my players to rest before they really need it by having "wandering" monsters interrupt their rest or by repopulating the "dungeon" when they return perhaps even with reinforcements. My players know it is not worth resting until the party is completely spent or all the bad guys have been defeated. Also, I'm tailoring the encounters specifically to the party.

Published adventures are an entirely different story and I agree that largely solo encounters simply don't work. Sure, a savvy GM can make it work, but "low-tier" GMs seem to go hand-in-hand with published adventures, especially PFS adventures. Too many times the PFS GM is the guy who drew the short straw or lost at rock-paper-scissors and is stuck being the GM (not necessarily the most qualified person).

No matter who the GM is, I think the problem with published solo encounters is the author/encounter creator has no idea what the party makeup will be. And it is nearly impossible to pick a single monster that will present a proper challenge to any combination of 4-6 characters played by people who range from die-hard role-players to min-maxing munchkins.


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RainyDayNinja wrote:
It can be good for variety though. You use different moves when you're fighting half a dozen people, than when you only have to be worried about one.

IOCAINE! I'd bet my life on it!


@Mark_Hoover: No Comment...

On-Topic: What if the boss has a lot of attacks? After all can't you split attacks between multiple targets in range?


I've seen other people mention, but no one was satisfied; why the hate against combining solo boss + trap/hazard/area effect etc? I ask b/cause I have a couple fey bosses written up with some haunt-like hazards in the area and had planned them as solos for epicness, but if they're worthless then I want to bag them or add some mooks.


@Mark_Hoover: If setup correctly those bosses would be fun. The key to an effective solo in my groups tends to be the Solo being at an advantage of some kind.

Such as my Dayborn Dhampyr Ranger/Sorcerer/Arcane Archer. She fights them from high ground and uses Withdraw liberally when needed.


Azaelas: Having many attacks is clearly better than having just a single one. However, it's generally better to focus fire - so a smart opponent would not fire like one arrow each at the fighter, cleric and ranger - it would fire three arrows at the wizard. The line between a pushover encounter and an insta-kill of a character can be very fine in some cases.

Some attacks are "forced" multiple target attacks, such as breath weapons, a lot of spells, and Cleave. Those work better.

Generally though, building the boss so it survives several rounds - through defensive feat choices, high level/HD, and good battlefield control - is more effective since it will give more opportunities to attack several different characters simply because the players will want the boss to attack different (so they'll shield each other etc).

Say for example that the players have been trying to resolve a series of murders and you want an evil cleric as a solo boss for a 4th level party. You want the fight to be "epic" so you use a CR7 monster, or a CR6 monster with favorable circumstances (comparable to two CR 5's or three CR4's).

Example solo boss encounter:

This is such a CR 6 cleric from the bestiary:
http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/npc-s/npc-6/mattie-red-human-cleric-7

A few changes though:
- The racial bonus is moved from cha to wis to allow an extra 4th level spell and higher DCs
- The channeling feats are changed to improved initiative, lightning reflexes and toughness.
- The +2 chain shirt is switched for +1 chain mail, and the dagger for a +1 spiked heavy shield. AC is 20.
- On prepared spells, the extra spell is Symbol of Slow, Poison is dropped and Aura of Doom is prepared instead. Lesser Restoration should be dropped for another invisibility.

The setup: The cleric has been spying on the party for quite some time to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Now he's set up an ambush to take them out and prevent them meddling in his affairs.
The ambush should take place somewhere normal and well-lit, but preferably without other people around. Not in a dark dungeon where the party will be completely prepared for it. Some basic deception should be used to lure them into such a situation. When he knows they are closing in on the ambush, he prepared by casting aura of doom, disguise self (so they won't recognize him, should they survive), protection from good, nondetection, symbol of slow on his shield, and finally invisibility.

Standing still and waiting, unless detected: As soon as they get within 40 ft of the cleric, he opens up with Confusion. The offensive casting also dispels his invisibility, subjecting the party to the Symbol of Slow. Hoping there's some confusion in the party, he moves in to allow the Aura of Doom to set in, casting Bestow Curse on the target he finds most fitting - after this, he tries to channel negative energy to damage the party without getting killed himself, using copycat as much as possible. If things go bad, he'll try to escape by casting invisibility (or if that fails for some reason, sanctuary) and running away.

This is a fight that can be fairly tough. The idea is to even out the action economy by using Confusion and Slow to limit the party's actions, and using an ambush to get that sweet surprise round. Improved Initiative also helps with the action economy. Getting defensive feats like toughness and lightning reflexes prevents the party from using weak points as easily (a clerics louse reflex can often cause them to fall to grease or create pit at these levels).

Take into consideration that this NPC is only moderately optimized, so a very optimized party will have an easy time. against such a party, the character also need further optimization (more one-time gear for buffing up, using point buy instead of array etc).


I was thinking more of a Boss that can attack two foes with 2-3 attacks each.


Azaelas Fayth wrote:
I was thinking more of a Boss that can attack two foes with 2-3 attacks each.

That works, but if it can instead attack a single target with 4-6 attacks, why wouldn't it? So it depends. I think it's a good goal, but it has to make sense too. For really stupid creatures I could see that working but for anyone with int 4+ and for many creatures with instincts, focus fireing is high priority.


Not necessarily. an Arrogant Dragon might think it is invincible and can't be killed.


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Yeah, _maybe_ until it's hit for the first time. But dragons that are old enough to be that arrogant are also experienced and intelligent enough to take threats seriously. Especially threats that has managed to kill it's minions. Even most adult dragons have managed to stay alive in a world that generally despises them for over a century and have an intelligence far above the average human, so if a group of adventurers has managed to kill all it's minions it has to be _very_ arrogant to not take them seriously.

Also, since dragons main strength, at least when they've aged a bit, is their spellcasting and special abilities, they might not be very inclined to do swoop down and claw people to death when they can take them down from afar.

Generally, meeting a solo boss that is dumb will work very badly for the bad guy. If a solo encounter is to have any difficulty at all, you need to either work the strengths of the monster, or you have to put a monster that is unhealthily close to easy TPK.

EDIT: But dragons, more than most other creatures, can easily work with their environment. A red dragon will have a home completely filled with heavy smoke, because it's quite hard to see in smoke but the dragon sees perfectly. A black dragon will try to encounter the party underwater where there's bad lighting, using it's superior vision and movement to attack them from further than they can see.


It's also a matter of perception from the players. Defeating an opponent due to it having bad tactics takes a lot from the satisfaction. I know I feel more accomplished if I beat an adult dragon that uses great tactics and really tries to kill me, than if I beat an old dragon due to it being arrogant.


It depends on how you play it. It takes finesse.

Some times the dragon thinking you aren't a threat and then you proving you are a threat can be just as satisfying if not more so.

Really the Dragon was just an example.

Though at lower levels a Wyvern would fulfill that role well.


Yeah, wyverns might work well, since they're not at all as intelligent. But they also know they're not the biggest fish in the pond, and so might be careful.

As always, there are exceptions and I do not doubt that you can set up awesome encounters this way. I would say however that care must be taken since most partys are pretty smart, so a stupid or arrogant creature might be very easy to outsmart for the party, making the action economy horrible for the boss.


Truly arrogant enemies will be using there strongest attacks to show their power.


Speaking of low levels...

My party is 3rd level and one of their main villains right now is a pack of worgs. They're going to meet an outcast from the pack, a scrawny runt called Winter's Grip. They might just kill him (he'll be trapped in a hunter's snare at the time) but if he's allowed to live he betrays his pack to them then runs away... smack into the fey lands.

Long story short they'll eventually have to fight him at level 4, when he'll be a CR 7 threat. At that point he's going to be a witch 5 (white haired witch) with the fey creature template. When I'd envisioned it he's tricked a bunch of minions into working for him so he since he's used up all his pawns by the time the party gets to him he'll be solo.

Now he'll have 2 primary natural attacks (bite, hair) and he'll be able to maintain the grapple while also making other attacks. His familiar will be a fox reskinned to resemble a tiny fey worg and he'll use it to deliver chill touches to the grappled foe. Is this enough, or should I throw in a terrain/hazard/trap to threaten the party as well?

Bear in mind that instead of the heroic array for stats I've basically just taken the stats for worg and re-worked them so he's heavily weighted on dex and int insead of str and con. I dumped wis. This means he'll have great bonuses to hit but little damage, so I figured he'd spend all his attacks on a single foe.


I may add an extra mook or two but I dont really juice up boss encounters.

what I do is make the world more dynamic. if the mooks in other rooms are getting slaughtered they may fall back and fight with the boss.

if your fighting a boss in one room and his sub boss is 2 rooms away the sub boss is going to join the battle meaning you will rarely face one guy in one room and then his buddy in the next. when you start fighting the guy in room 1 the guy in room 2 will hear it and come join while probably calling for help from room 3.

this ends up making my fights really large drawn out situations where the enemy tends to come in chunks with just enough time for a healing and buffing round or two in between.


@Mark_Hoover: That actually seems fairly reasonable challenge if the Worg is smart with how he fights. Say Isolating a PC KOing them then moving on.

Now this also depends on how he is met and such.


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I think the problem of solo encounters is a low level one, and a PFS one.

Use DM Fiat.

Imagine a fight against a blood based demon lord in her personal throne room. You waded through her minions a minute ago, burning a couple spells and some item charges. She clearly has a custom Unhallow, cast from the mcguffin the PC's want to destroy, that grants her extra saves vs ongoing effects and one extra move action a round. Of course she has Wall of Blood as a move action at will.

Being a demon lord, Wall of Blood is a custom spell that acts as a wall of force for 3 rounds before it detonates in a 30 foot (on each side of the wall) cone that deals split force/unholy damage and bull-rushes at +50 cmb.
The Demoness is immune to her own walls.

There. Tack on solid saves and AC, a juicy health pool, a full attack full of bleed effects and you have a dastardly encounter that will rapidly fill with kill boxes of bloodwalls that throw the party around. Perhaps force them to combat heal to wipe out stacking bleeds. Ensures that the one wizard with his 40 DC save or die wont immediately end the encounter. If the PC's reseached even a little for this BBEG fight it wont even be a "rocks fall everyone dies" bs encounter.

This inst a static game that you can't change. Come up with creative and reasonable encounters that rock.


@Jax: whoa. That sounds awesome and it would obliterate my APL 3 PCs.

However that hits at the point I was wondering about - what is so lame about traps/hazards etc going on in the background instead of mooks to boost a solo?

Considering the white haired worglock encounter I'm planning: by the time they go toe to toe w/the thing the party will be APL 4. Like I said above the worg will have SOME minions, so that may eat up some spells/HP. As well one of the worglock's patron spells is Unshakable Chill, so at the outset he'll target one of the PCs so (hopefully) they've taken some d6s of cold non-lethal damage.

So then when they meet the beast, to go with some of your stuff above, maybe give him a patch of slick frost on the ground level and a narrow precipice he's holding down overhead. That would delay the party a round, give him a chance to lob some damage or a condition.

Then the melee types actually reach him and he activates some lever that dumps a bunch of giant icicles from the ceiling. This not only damages adjacent targets but seals in him and one PC so he and his familiar can wail on them. That actually sounds kind of fun and would be entirely survivable by my estimation.

Just make sure 1. they get the icicles in the description of the chamber, 2. if they put 2 and 2 together and reason out its a trap they will have whatever their normal chance is to disarm/bypass, and 3. the icicles only inflict a few d6 damage; not enough to murder APL 4 characters but enough to drain some resources.


Traps & Hazards are good ways to buff up a solo encounter.

I have a Evil Cleric and his two Undead lieutenants. They are surrounded by explosive tiles with only a few safe squares forming a winding path to the Cleric.


@ AF: so... minesweeper?

GM: you step on the tile; as you guessed, it does not explode. However, several glowing numbers appear, hovering just over the tiles on either side of you - all of them the number 1

Player: Aw man...now I gotta start over!

Anyway yeah, don't discount terrain. I once had a single mook kobold hold an entire party at bay for 3 full rounds and even do some damage just by standing in a narrow cave opening with a spear. Granted he did also manage some lucky rolls while the fighter rolled pretty poorly, but still.

Then again there's times when mooks just aren't cutting it. I had some savvy players come up on a nicely laid-out mites + mite ranger leader setup in an earthen cave with roots and such - I had forgotten that the party cleric had another Entangle up her sleeve. One spell and some well-considered placement later and the 7 mooks were reduced to a meat grinder while the leader fled in terror.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mark Hoover wrote:

@ AF: so... minesweeper?

GM: you step on the tile; as you guessed, it does not explode. However, several glowing numbers appear, hovering just over the tiles on either side of you - all of them the number 1

Player: Aw man...now I gotta start over!

Anyway yeah, don't discount terrain. I once had a single mook kobold hold an entire party at bay for 3 full rounds and even do some damage just by standing in a narrow cave opening with a spear. Granted he did also manage some lucky rolls while the fighter rolled pretty poorly, but still.

Then again there's times when mooks just aren't cutting it. I had some savvy players come up on a nicely laid-out mites + mite ranger leader setup in an earthen cave with roots and such - I had forgotten that the party cleric had another Entangle up her sleeve. One spell and some well-considered placement later and the 7 mooks were reduced to a meat grinder while the leader fled in terror.

Omg I have to do this

Andoran

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

I think another thing to remember is that an encounter at the level of the characters really isn't meant to be a 'fair fight'. Meaning that a well made team should be able to take out an encounter at their level, but the question is, "How much of their resources did they spend to finish that encounter?". i.e. How many spells did they cast? How many potions did they use? How many rounds of Rage/Inspire Courage?

It idea is that a CR 4 encounter shouldn't be able to go toe to toe with 4 lvl 4 characters, but it will slow them down. String enough of them together and eventually they need to rest.


there should honestly never be any such thing as a solo encounter. almost every encounter includes a much of minions before the boss. even if those minions are not a part of the BBEG fight they should do a good job of depleating party resources from spell and special attacks per day to heals and hitpoints.

in other words even if the book throws out a solo encounter you can make the solo encounter more challenging by ensuring that the party GETS to the encounter the game equivilent of exhausted.


blue_the_wolf wrote:

there should honestly never be any such thing as a solo encounter. almost every encounter includes a much of minions before the boss. even if those minions are not a part of the BBEG fight they should do a good job of depleating party resources from spell and special attacks per day to heals and hitpoints.

in other words even if the book throws out a solo encounter you can make the solo encounter more challenging by ensuring that the party GETS to the encounter the game equivilent of exhausted.

Why "should" there be no such things? Who decides that?

Because it's not challenging? That depends on the solo encounter in question. There's a big difference between "it's hard to make good solo encounters" and "there should never be any such thing as a solo encounter".


sure... it can be done.

but due to the mechanics of the game the following thing happens.

A) you have a boss that gets destroyed in 2 rounds by the playes most powerful all out attacks

B) you have a super powerful boss to make it more challenging but the boss has a tendency to one shot players and the battle still usually ends up pretty short.

C) The GM creates an encounter that is long and exciting against a solo monster but changes are made which make it more complicated than a simple solo encounter. A multi stage solo boss for example, or a solo with beneficial environmental benefits, a solo that summons. etc.

its not that solo encounters CANT be done, its that they SHOULD NOT be done. in my games I dont even run most random travel encounters. if the players are traveling across a long distance I am not going to waste the time running a random encounter against a random hill giant. either the players can stop him or he can stop them but the end result is usually a less than wonderful encounter. I may give them a running battle through hobgoblin territory, or a pack of winter wolves or maybe even an overwhelming enemy like a giant or dragon with the chance for a diplomatic resolution that advances the game.

but never a 15 min adventure day.


So, they can be done, but they just should never be done because... you don't like them? If that's your point then it sounds better to say "I don't like solo encounters than "there should never be such a thing" because quite many people like the thematic of solo encounters, they're pretty common tropes in myth/cinema/literature etc.

A) Only if you build the monster heavy on offense and/or use a far too weak monster

B) Only if you build the monster heavy on offense and/or use a far too strong monster

How do you mean it's more "complicated" with beneficial environments? Shouldn't ALL good boss fights have things that make it more interesting than "you start 60 ft from the monster in a bland room. roll initiative".

If I play in a campaign and the boss battle is in a completely normal area without any "complicating" factors it's going to feel a bit like an anticlimax, regardless of if the boss is an old red dragon or three young reds.

If it's in a boiling volcano where there is no floor but lava, in a constant heavy smog where we cannot see beyond 60 ft or so and the "roof" of the area is a portal to the positive elemental plane, it's going to feel pretty darn good regardless of if it's one old or three youngs. But depending on the story, one old might fit better and if the DM can pull that off I'll be wonderfully happy.

I don't see solo encounters as having anything to do with 15 minute adventure days.


I know your bound and determined to say I am a horrible and un-intelligent person because I seem to see things differntly but if you calm down you will notice that it seems we are kind of on the same sheet of music.

A and B represent the fact that balancing a solo battle is extremely difficult. They generally require the battle to go a CERTAIN way. You dont know if what you have planned is too easy or too hard until the battle is over.

as for C, to me the SOLO encounter is essentially an encounter where you approach the baddy and fight him. there is nothing supporting the baddy.

to me a fight against a red dragon in a lava filled room is not a solo encounter. even though there is only one enemy the environment itself is his ally and he uses that to his advantage.

Other one monster but not solo encounters include elaborate multi stage encounters where the nature of the enemy changes or the enemy has established a series of traps, illusions and other such complexities to make the encounter more interesting and lasting. Or the simple fact that although you are facing the baddy alone you had to spend a lot of resources just getting to the baddy.

thus. I think you will agree that a simple solo encounter of 'party sees big baddy roll initiative' should never happen.

SOMETHING should be used to make the encounter more effective and entertaining.

and if you dont /shrug/ you play one way and I play another.


Uhm... I've not in any way said you're unintelligent. I understand we have different views on it, I'm not saying you should have solo encounters - I'm saying such generalizations as "there should never be" seem to insinuate that those that actually do them are "doing it wrong".

I don't personally feel A & B are that difficult, but they require a different thinking. One has to make most offensive actions non-lethal (if you see my example cleric above, the main ways ze disables the party is through debuffs) but still helping with action economy, one has to drop the most offensive feats and pick defensive ones instead. Just such a simple thing as dropping Power Attack and Weapon Focus and replacing them with Imp. Init and Toughness can really change how a battle plays out. YMMV, of course.

As for C, then we have different definitions. For me, solo encounters means the boss monster is the only monster/npc/whatever there, not that there aren't other things going on. Basically that the monster and the players are the only _active_ participants in the fight. I don't feel a monster that summons an army is a solo encounter, but a boss that's surrounded itself with traps is.


Coridan wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

@ AF: so... minesweeper?

GM: you step on the tile; as you guessed, it does not explode. However, several glowing numbers appear, hovering just over the tiles on either side of you - all of them the number 1

Player: Aw man...now I gotta start over!

Anyway yeah, don't discount terrain. I once had a single mook kobold hold an entire party at bay for 3 full rounds and even do some damage just by standing in a narrow cave opening with a spear. Granted he did also manage some lucky rolls while the fighter rolled pretty poorly, but still.

Then again there's times when mooks just aren't cutting it. I had some savvy players come up on a nicely laid-out mites + mite ranger leader setup in an earthen cave with roots and such - I had forgotten that the party cleric had another Entangle up her sleeve. One spell and some well-considered placement later and the 7 mooks were reduced to a meat grinder while the leader fled in terror.

Omg I have to do this

I actually wish I would have thought of that...

Mine, They could pretty much tell do to the types of runes on the floor.


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I want solo encounters, because they're just iconic; some stories just work best with a single BBEG instead of a committee. A showdown with the vampire elder waking from his slumber (per se), or the red dragon in his lair. You've fought your way past his guards, and now it's just him and the PCs. That's a nice dramatic premise for a fight.

The point isn't IF you should have a solo battle. Sometimes the story wants a solo battle.

The problem is: how do you make it work, keeping in mind the mechanical issues of action economy?


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I think what I'm hearing in this thread is that there shouldn't be a point that the party walks in on the BBEG, fully rested w/all spells and resources, and then take the thing on it's lonesome. Not that it's impossible nor that GM's shouldn't challenge themselves to allow it and see what happens; just that such an optimal situation on the side of the PCs MAY in fact cause an extreme reaction.

To this end I submit a caveat: solo adventures are fine, so long as there's SOME other factor, anything that might also challenge/hinder/confound/deplete the PCs, unless the GM is willing to accept whatever outcome might result no matter how extreme.

Here's my examples:

To illustrate the going in = extreme results, a few games ago when I had the opportunity to play, I was running a wizard. At mid-levels we incurred the wrath of a demon and were forced to infiltrate his pleasure palace on the material to get the mcguffin. We had all sorts of mini-encounters, got to know our villain and then we hit the books, did our homework. Long story boring we got into the palace with minimal resource depletion, had a couple lucky encounters along the way and by the time we got to the guy we were near-optimal. We then broke for 10 and while the GM had a beer we pooled all our brainpower, crunched the numbers and formulated a good plan. In the end the GM didn't make us roll a single roll. We went down, defenses in place, got the mcguffin, and slew the demon. Only in the end the GM decided this was ordained, bigger demon could now come out and play, and getting the mcguffin back was all part of the plan. Man that was fun!

On the other hand consider the humble 5-room dungeon model. At least 2 of the rooms are specifically there to deplete SOME resources before the party meets the "final battle" scene in room 4. However in several of the adventures posted in the challenges on Johnn Four's site the final battle is a solo encounter; against a superior foe sure but solo none-the-less. Why? Because the party has already spent some of their blood getting there.

Sorry so wordy above, but the point is I think, for my games solos are still ok. They need to be epic, decisive, and shouldn't just be thrown in frivilously. Also again, IMO, they should be woven into the larger tapestry of the adventure in some way, even if just thematically.

In my games you'll never find 4 1st level adventurers happen upon a single goblin dog, in the wilds, in a straight toe to toe fight with no other context other than "you're walking along and poof - a goblin dog appears." No, instead IF this were to happen there'd have to be a reason: you carve the thing in twain and it's carcass issues a foul black spray - congrats you have the plague! or with it's last death throes it manages a baleful shriek...and suddenly from the woods you hear dozens of returning calls, all around, and growing louder...

Context.


Mark Hoover wrote:

I think what I'm hearing in this thread is that there shouldn't be a point that the party walks in on the BBEG, fully rested w/all spells and resources, and then take the thing on it's lonesome. Not that it's impossible nor that GM's shouldn't challenge themselves to allow it and see what happens; just that such an optimal situation on the side of the PCs MAY in fact cause an extreme reaction.

To this end I submit a caveat: solo adventures are fine, so long as there's SOME other factor, anything that might also challenge/hinder/confound/deplete the PCs, unless the GM is willing to accept whatever outcome might result no matter how extreme.

Oh, just to be contrary I'm going to say that even "the party walks in on the BBEG, fully rested w/all spells and resources, and then take the thing on it's lonesome" is just fine, as long as the GM knows what they're doing. It just shouldn't happen every time, or even the majority of times. But honestly, sometimes I let the party go nova on one APL+4 or 5 encounter, because why not?

The important thing about running an important, climactic encounter is to at least put some thought into it ahead of time. Don't run it on CR-autopilot. Bust out the PCs stats, remember the tactics they prefer, and plan accordingly.

As long as you're willing to do that work, one boss in the fight or three, doesn't matter.

Just like the 5-room linked encounter model you mention... sure it's a fine idea. But so is a 1-room dungeon! And so is a 20 room dungeon. The encounter balance assumptions *do* presume at least a few consecutive encounters, but that doesn't mean the game has to be that; it just means that the further you get from that baseline, the more thought the GM will need to put into "manually" balancing encounters.

Sometimes people mistake CR for the rules. That's a little like complaining that your bike isn't maneuverable enough with the training wheels on.


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Oh EL...thanks for helping me. In my wall o text (I know it was a pain to get thru so thanks to anyone who did) that's kind of what I said. If you're throwing in a solo...give it some thought, some context, some meaning, even if just thematic.

Yes Mr President; as at evil Gettysburg and as now, I concur with your astute oration.


Violent agreement!


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

I think what I'm hearing in this thread is that there shouldn't be a point that the party walks in on the BBEG, fully rested w/all spells and resources, and then take the thing on it's lonesome. Not that it's impossible nor that GM's shouldn't challenge themselves to allow it and see what happens; just that such an optimal situation on the side of the PCs MAY in fact cause an extreme reaction.

To this end I submit a caveat: solo adventures are fine, so long as there's SOME other factor, anything that might also challenge/hinder/confound/deplete the PCs, unless the GM is willing to accept whatever outcome might result no matter how extreme.

Oh, just to be contrary I'm going to say that even "the party walks in on the BBEG, fully rested w/all spells and resources, and then take the thing on it's lonesome" is just fine, as long as the GM knows what they're doing. It just shouldn't happen every time, or even the majority of times.

The important thing about running an important, climactic encounter is to at least put some thought into it ahead of time. Don't run it on CR-autopilot. Bust out the PCs stats, remember the tactics they prefer, and plan accordingly.

As long as you're willing to do that work, one bossin the fight or three, doesn't matter.

Just like the 5-room linked encounter model you mention... sure it's a fine idea. But so is a 1-room dungeon! And so is a 20 room dungeon. The encounter balance assumptions *do* presume at least a few consecutive encounters, but that doesn't mean the game has to be that; it just means that the further you get from that baseline, the more thought the GM will need to put into "manually" balancing encounters.

Sometimes people mistake CR for the rules. That's a little like complaining that your bike isn't maneuverable enough with the training wheels on.

I have had a BBEG who insisted on the PCs resting and meeting him on a Open Battlefield...

I always plan my Big Boss battles around my players stats.


In your solo encounters, does the screen go black and then it side-scrolls with a still of the BBEG, followed by a brief moment of action, then the battlefield view returns, flames erupt around one of the characters, and finally the number of HPs lost hover over them in the air for a moment before fading? Maybe that's just in mine...


Mark Hoover wrote:
In your solo encounters, does the screen go black and then it side-scrolls with a still of the BBEG, followed by a brief moment of action, then the battlefield view returns, flames erupt around one of the characters, and finally the number of HPs lost hover over them in the air for a moment before fading? Maybe that's just in mine...

I see that whenever any special attack is used... Not just the BBEG or PCs. Which isn't helped by the way my group does movement...

Andoran

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've had some success with a monster with very high hit points and an almost full immunity to 1HitKO spells, and made a couple good fights out of that, but overall I much prefer a fight with several enemies. In a video game, such as a raid, a massive room sized boss can safely tank the PCs while fight mechanics are executed, but in any simulation type game you don't normally end up with a good encounter with just one powerful guy versus the four PCs.

If the enemy team is similar in power to the PCs but revolves around a powerful enemy, that is much more interesting. I wouldn't even say "mooks"- simply allies that are also strong. It also makes the encounter work via the same rules that the PCs themselves do.

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