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House Rule Advice: The lone wolf template


Advice


Greetings,

I'd like peer advice on a template we are considering for our current campaigns.

This template borrows a bit from 4th ed and 5th ed, and kinda doesn't make sense. It's meant to be a solution to the action economy problem of solo bosses.

I know that the current reasoning is that solo bosses don't work and you should simply add minions, but I feel that sometimes that takes away from the feel of the boss. A dragon can have his kobold followers but then you dont feel like you're fighting the dragon...

So i've written up the lone wolf template, please tell me what you think:

+ 0 CR template.
automatically applies to any monster that fights alone vs a party of 3 or more.
**ALTERNATIVELY** In an event where a player fights alone vs 3 monsters or more he could benefit from it.

Roll 2 tracks of initiative, the highest is the full round in which the monster can perform, the lowest is a standard action and a swift action (no move, no full round).

At CR 13+, the monster gains a third standard action that automatically starts at the beginning of the round, with the following caveat: The monster can use any 1 action that can target only the monster, even if it could normally affect other or multiple targets. Spells cast in this way ignore somatic components and do not provoke attacks of opportunity. The monster does not need to have a free hand to cast a spell in this way. The Monster is still considered flat footed for the purposes of the first round.

At CR 20+, the monster has 2 initiatives, and 2 full round actions.


I have found that the number of actions should typically be based on the number of players its fighting(typically 3/4 to 1/2 of n) rather than CR

Other modifications I make
1. A LIMITED number of saving throw rerolls. Gives a kind of HP system against save or die/lockdown effects without just giving immunity or stupid high saves
2. More HP. At high levels rocket tag is very very accurate. Even beefy enemies typically get diced within 2 turns if the players focus fire
3. If they move with their move action I allow them to break up their ms between their initiative counts. Flyby attack etc allow them to do so on an initiative count


Dastis wrote:

I have found that the number of actions should typically be based on the number of players its fighting(typically 3/4 to 1/2 of n) rather than CR

Other modifications I make
1. A LIMITED number of saving throw rerolls. Gives a kind of HP system against save or die/lockdown effects without just giving immunity or stupid high saves
2. More HP. At high levels rocket tag is very very accurate. Even beefy enemies typically get diced within 2 turns if the players focus fire
3. If they move with their move action I allow them to break up their ms between their initiative counts. Flyby attack etc allow them to do so on an initiative count

1. I do agree that some rerolls are in order, but at the same time boss saves tend to be very high, and it can feel unfair when you finally manage to land a debuff despite type/spell immunity and the boss just rolls it away. At the same time, landing a stun 1d4 round on a boss is pretty much game over for him. I wonder if instead something akin to ''tenacity'' in Lol would be better? Perhaps the boss has a chance of downgrading the condition? Dazed becomes dazzled, exhausted becomes fatigued, cowering becomes shaken and so on?

2. How would you go about the more hp though? should the template give a 2 per HD temp hp barrier? Should it refresh every round? the standard action at begining of round was meant to adress this,a llowing monsters to heal themselves.

3.I like this, I'll add it.


I agree with Dastis, but also like your suggestions (in spirit) Alastar.

Personally, I would do a kind of combination of the two:

Solo Monster Template

1) Roll initiative equal to the number of separate "actions" the creature can take
1b) Creatures get separate "actions" based on the number of enemies present. For every 2 enemy creatures beyond the first two the solo monster gets an additional standard & swift action (round the number of actions up)

# Enemies # Bonus actions
1 Normal
2 Normal
3 +1
4 +1
5 +2
6 +2

2) Solo monster can use their remaining movement at any time they could act. So if a monster has 50' movement, it could use 10' to move to an enemy and a standard to attack. It could then use it's remaining 40' of movement as it saw fit (basically this works a lot like spring attack in practice).

3) A number of free rerolls on saves equal to the number of enemies beyond 2. They can be spent to reroll a previous reroll.

4) Maximize HP per die and increase by 50% (this is mostly a rough estimate but works well in my experience).


Alastar, I see your concern about rerolls on saves...

Honestly while I can understand players feeling it's unfair when their trick doesn't work, remind them that it worked but the Boss Monster used his limited resource to negate the effect. The problem is that in general a failed save can completely end an encounter, so the boss monster needs a way to try to beat it.

Adding to saves is potentially much more unfair (and outright immunity is just too good).

Besides, if you've targeted the monster's weak save it could potentially use up all it's rerolls trying to save against the effect because it's save is low enough that it doesn't have a great chance of success in the first place.

Ultimately the whole idea is to make it so boss fights don't end on the 1st round.


An extra Standard Action practically doubles the combat effectiveness of an enemy (less so if relies full-attacks). Why would it be considered +0 CR?

The problem with solo encounters in Pathfinder is that any enemy powerful enough to survive two rounds of attacks by the PCs is probably an enemy who can kill a PC every round, because of the relative rates at which hit points and offensive strength increase with CR.

Giving an enemy more actions mitigates this to some extent, because the enemy gets more actions even if he's dead after two rounds. But you could achieve something similar with a 'resilient' template that gives them extra HP and saving throw boosts / hero points.


I think the CR increase isn't terribly relevant. The idea is to be able to use what would otherwise be a CR appropriate creature to fight against the party, but due to action economy isn't actually viable.

I would call it a +0 to CR because its more a correction for the fact that a lone monster should probably have a CR penalty when fighting a party.

Also, as a GM who doesn't use experience to level up, and uses WBL to "set" characters wealth at each level increase I find the exact CR of monsters doesn't matter except to help in determining if a fight would be "too hard" or "too easy".


Matthew Downie wrote:

An extra Standard Action practically doubles the combat effectiveness of an enemy (less so if relies full-attacks). Why would it be considered +0 CR?

The problem with solo encounters in Pathfinder is that any enemy powerful enough to survive two rounds of attacks by the PCs is probably an enemy who can kill a PC every round, because of the relative rates at which hit points and offensive strength increase with CR.

Giving an enemy more actions mitigates this to some extent, because the enemy gets more actions even if he's dead after two rounds. But you could achieve something similar with a 'resilient' template that gives them extra HP and saving throw boosts / hero points.

For the standard action problem, in a way it does, but at the same time it doesn,t because most standard actions by monsters have either a pool limit or a round limit, or a day limit on their abilities.

Consider the following monster:

Juvenile Red Dragon:
Juvenile Red Dragon CR 11
XP 12,800
CE Large dragon (fire)
Init +5; Senses dragon senses, smoke vision; Perception +18
Aura frightful presence (120 ft., DC 18)

DEFENSE

AC 25, touch 10, flat-footed 24 (+1 Dex, +15 natural, -1 size)
hp 149 (13d12+65)
Fort +13, Ref +9, Will +12
Immune fire, paralysis, sleep
Weaknesses Vulnerability to cold

OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +20 (2d6+12), 2 claws +20 (1d8+8), 2 wings +18 (1d6+4), tail slap +18 (1d8+12)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with bite)
Special Attacks breath weapon (40-ft. cone, DC 21, 8d10 fire)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 13th; concentration +15)

At will— detect magic, pyrotechnics (DC 14)
Spells Known (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
1st (6/day)— magic missile, shield, true strike
0 (at will)— arcane mark, bleed, light, magehand, read magic
STATISTICS
Str 27, Dex 12, Con 21, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 14
Base Atk +13; CMB +22; CMD 33 (37 vs. trip)
Feats Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Vital Strike, Iron Will, Multiattack, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Appraise +18, Bluff +18, Fly +11, Intimidate +18, Knowledge (arcana) +18, Perception +18, Sense Motive +18, Stealth +13
Languages Common, Draconic, Orc

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Smoke Vision (Ex)

A very young red dragon can see perfectly in smoky conditions (such as those created by pyrotechnics).

Damn, that is a scary looking dude!!! Except vs a party of level 9 characters he will probably go down in a round of focused fire. You can't up the CR cause then you risk frying your PC's in one round.

Adding an extra standard attack here doesn't double his output, but it diversifies it. If he uses his breath, he can't reuse it, and a dragon full attacking is often a death sentence, but with a standard he cant. Now however he has some options that are fun. He can cleave two PC's and then fly away. He can vital strike one PC. He can fly farther than medium range to avoid retaliation. He can buff or heal. You've upped both his versatility and his presence, but his offensive power is still mitigated by the standard action. Also, this helps for when bosses or solo creatures are taken by surprise. It's rare, but sometimes PC's run a successful stealth group and that can REALLY mess up solo encounters, who rely on buffs to up their stats. One of the things I like to do in printed modules is to make a lot of noise in front of the room I deduced is the bosses room, and then wait 15 minutes before going in. Really messes with my GM's mind. In this case, that strategy would work, but the boss could throw up some 1round/level buffs pretty quick when I go in.

Upping toughness is definitely something to consider here, and I like the max HD rule. Perhaps the template should give maxed HD as well as a forcefield like effect of HDx2 temp hp at each round begining, no on hit effects that don't bypass the Forcefield? it's not a hard counter, rather a subtle one. Can't throw tanglefoots, can't throw ray's, first attack is gonna be either diminished or nullified? I don't know...

a number of rerolls is certainly in question, and it's probably the best fix I've seen so lets put it in. As a guy who usually only plays controllers I rarely try to hard debuff bosses anyways, since it has a tendancy to not work. On a dragon I'll usually go with no save effects(Battlefield control, or suck on save effects) or damage. How do we mitigate those?

As for the no CR increase, it's because this is meant to be a fix to solo encounters not being interesting rather than a way to gain more XP. The houserule would be to always have that template on solo creatures, weither they're bosses or random encounters. But at the same time, I don't want to derail the party power balance that printed modules strives for.

Loving the summary you posted Claxon, I think we should apply it to an iconic CR 8 boss, an iconic CR 14 boss, and an iconic CR 20 Boss and see what happens. Anyone has suggestions? I'll do the math. I'd put it agaisn't an iconic party (Fighter, Slayer, Cleric, Wizard. Why slayer? Because rogue is a trash class)


Claxon wrote:

I think the CR increase isn't terribly relevant. The idea is to be able to use what would otherwise be a CR appropriate creature to fight against the party, but due to action economy isn't actually viable.

I would call it a +0 to CR because its more a correction for the fact that a lone monster should probably have a CR penalty when fighting a party.

Also, as a GM who doesn't use experience to level up, and uses WBL to "set" characters wealth at each level increase I find the exact CR of monsters doesn't matter except to help in determining if a fight would be "too hard" or "too easy".

Imma go ahead and give you the old facebook like here.


Claxon wrote:
I think the CR increase isn't terribly relevant. The idea is to be able to use what would otherwise be a CR appropriate creature to fight against the party, but due to action economy isn't actually viable.

Don't think I agree with that. Solo enemies are perfectly viable in terms of threat to the party, but the battles tend to be short and swingy.

Let's look at that dragon: If all attacks hit one target, it will do an average of 92 damage. A level 9 PC might have 76 hit points?
If he gets hit with the breath weapon, that could be another 44 damage.

In the normal run of things, this dragon is dangerous, but dies right away if the PCs are optimised and know what they're doing. If they get unlucky or careless, he might last long enough to full-attack the same guy twice, which would probably be fatal.

If we give the dragon an extra standard action, the battle lasts the same number of rounds, but now we have a dead PC.

And that's an enemy that doesn't benefit much from an extra standard action because he relies on full attacks for most of his damage output. A vampire sorcerer could hit you with two fireballs per round while flying around invisibly, or dominate two PCs in the first round. A T-Rex could bite you twice, doubling his power.


I see what you mean. However this could perhaps shift the offense/defense balance here ? Offense is favored precisely because of rocket tag strategy, where if you win INI you don't have to care about defense because the monster will most likely be dead. If you want players about this house rules, they can strategies around it and come up with ideas.

That dragon used a move action to move up to the party and a standard to breath, your fighter failed his save and took massive damage, and you know the dragon will probly finish him off with his next ini action, so you put up a force sphere around him, or use that heal scroll you always carry around to top him off.

While I agree it makes some monsters much stronger, I think the players response would maybe be to apply more precautions. And maybe if DM's had this template they wouldn't use convoluted justification to have monsters buffed to the brim for PC fights, and wouldnt deny PC's their 1 round/level buffs through s!~+ty plot point just to average the encounter (I know my DM had us open a door for a minute because he was scared of what we'd do to his boss if we were at maximum output.)


And to answer your two scenarios:

The vampire sorcerer throws double fireballs? Perhaps a good action use instead of going "GAAAAAHHHH" would be to cast resist energy fire mass.

He dominates two people a round ? Now's a good time for those potions of protection from evil!!

By shifting the focus from rocket tagging to a more balanced offense/defense optimal approach you prolong the fight and make it more enjoyable.

Although I'm not saying a few PC's won't die in playtesting....


I have been discussing this with other people and an idea has come forward instead of rerolls.

The ability to clear debuffs with ressource expenditure.

Perhaps we could add the following (SU) power to the template:

Tenacity (su)
The lone wolf can spend a move action to remove any action inhibiting status (Frightened, Cowering, Stunned, Dazed, Nauseated, Dominated, Charmed) by paying a number of hit points equal to his HD. This move action can be spent even if his normal move actions cannot be used.

Or

Immunity (su)

The lone wolf has a barrier that protects him from action inhibiting statuses (Frightened, Cowering, Stunned, Dazed, Nauseated, Dominated, Charmed). this barrier can be taken down by a successful sunder or dispel magic attempt aimed at the barrier. This sundering attempt does not provoke attacks of opportunity. This barrier can be refreshed as a move action.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Claxon wrote:
I think the CR increase isn't terribly relevant. The idea is to be able to use what would otherwise be a CR appropriate creature to fight against the party, but due to action economy isn't actually viable.

Don't think I agree with that. Solo enemies are perfectly viable in terms of threat to the party, but the battles tend to be short and swingy.

Let's look at that dragon: If all attacks hit one target, it will do an average of 92 damage. A level 9 PC might have 76 hit points?
If he gets hit with the breath weapon, that could be another 44 damage.

In the normal run of things, this dragon is dangerous, but dies right away if the PCs are optimised and know what they're doing. If they get unlucky or careless, he might last long enough to full-attack the same guy twice, which would probably be fatal.

If we give the dragon an extra standard action, the battle lasts the same number of rounds, but now we have a dead PC.

And that's an enemy that doesn't benefit much from an extra standard action because he relies on full attacks for most of his damage output. A vampire sorcerer could hit you with two fireballs per round while flying around invisibly, or dominate two PCs in the first round. A T-Rex could bite you twice, doubling his power.

You're the GM applying a template to make solo bosses scary. Of course if you attempt to probe the edges of the system where you know it's weak you can reveal problems. But there is no perfect solution, and as a GM you goal shouldn't be to kill the PCs but challenge them. That means you don't necessarily do the most optimal thing to do, especially when with a template like this you can diversify your actions.

When a PC goes down, there is no reason to continue attacking and kill them, and hopefully PC health (in my general experience) doesn't often land in the area of outright dead instead landing in unconscious. (And if you're really worried about it you can give players hero points.)

I'm not disagreeing that the combat is more dangerous than it was before. Actually, that's the entire point of the template in the first place. I'm simply saying that a lone monster vs a group is disadvantage that it's not necessary to recalculate the CR of the monster anyway, because theoretically your just making up for the disadvantage.

Remember, CR +4 encounters are supposed to be a 50% chance of a TPK (mathematically speaking) if you made the party's dopplegangers to fight them.


I don't believe a solo enemy is less dangerous than a group of weaker enemies of the same CR. Most encounters I've been in where the PCs had to flee, or were wiped out entirely, it was a single enemy that was the threat.


Matthew Downie wrote:
I don't believe a solo enemy is less dangerous than a group of weaker enemies of the same CR. Most encounters I've been in where the PCs had to flee, or were wiped out entirely, it was a single enemy that was the threat.

Then I can only see two reasons:

1- the PC's in your party don't know how to use action economy effectively

or

2- this is due to the inherent disbalance of solo monsters, they are either overpowered, or a pushover, depending on the RNG sometimes.


The only time I've experienced a situation where PCs had to flee from a single enemy was when the monster was already around +5/6 above the party's CR.

And to clarify, in general the group I play with CR +2 encounters are usually the equal of CR equivalent encounters as the book intends them, due to the optimization of PCs setting the bar higher than Paizo APs do.

But yeah, the only time we've ever had a lot of trouble (other than RNG) from a boss encounter was when they were significantly higher CR to begin with, and that has only occurred when GMs weren't using Paizo material and got upset with how easily the party tended to steam roll things.

But my experience says that if I'm using a monster with the bonuses that were talking about from this template that is CR +2/3 it should be just about perfect. Which means party members should go unconscious, and it should be challenging but it shouldn't be a TPK.


AlastarOG wrote:

1- the PC's in your party don't know how to use action economy effectively

or

2- this is due to the inherent disbalance of solo monsters, they are either overpowered, or a pushover, depending on the RNG sometimes.

Both, probably. Although 'not using action economy effectively' often just means having a character who is useless for the situation.

Some examples:

Demi-Lich wipes out characters at a rate of one per round while they can't even hurt it.

Lich hits us with maximised fireball, pushes one character into negative HP, paralyses another character, a third stands about being useless because he's a crossbow specialist who can't penetrate its DR, two-sword fighting specialist also struggles...

CR+4 Giant Cyclops starts clubbing the party into submission, able to knock off most of a character's health in one round, while they struggle to hit back...

Carnivorous Blob launches an ambushes, things go bad fast...

Ghost mage hits low-level party with magic missiles while they're already exhausted from too many encounters.

Flail Snail (CR4) fights level 1s; they can barely effect it, and it can kill a character per round.

Vampire Sorcerer turns invisible when it hears party coming, hits them with fireball in surprise round, wins initiative and fires second fireball before they can even act, putting half the party into negative HP...


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some of the problems with solo enemies are action economy, but others are more baked into the evolution of the game. In Pathfinder, hit points for characters has scaled up from previous editions for PCs and damage has scaled up as well (and even more so) but Hit points for monsters are pretty much the same. That means it generally takes dramatically fewer hits to take down a monster than before. This is somewhat mitigated in the case of multiple monsters, since often a fair amount of damage is 'wasted.' For example, if I do 25 points of damage to a monster with 10 HP remaining, 16 points of that damage didn't really matter. If that was my first hit on a full attack, and I can't reach another bad guy, even more potential damage is mitigated. With one bad guy, their is never any 'wasted' damage.

Similarly, with Pathfinder their are more ways to increase DCs of spells and similar things. Their have always been feats for this, but now there are other class features that increase this as well. Generally speaking monsters are more vulnerable to save or lose than previously.

Other problems, when compared to an organized party are related to, but not exactly the same as action economy. A well organized party would try to 1) take down the foe, usually with damage (strikers) 2) prevent the other guy from doing damage (controller) and 3) enhance capabilities of your team/keep your team in the fight (support). No matter how capable a single creature is at any of these things, in most cases they can only do one of them on any given turn, leaving them at a severe weakness compared to a party, not so much because they have less actions, but because coordinated actions that address all of these needs are more effective than the sum of their parts.

Lastly, the base CR for everything is more or less calculated against relatively unoptimized PCs. If your players are fairly experienced and make relatively optimized (for combat anyway) characters, you will probably find that all monsters, whether solo or in groups are 'too easy' for your party.

Solutions to fix things should take into account all of these issues. First off, to address the last I pretty much add the advanced simple template to everything (I use story based level progression, not XP, but if I did use XP I wouldn't give any extra XP for this adjustment as it is to adjust CR to be appropriate to the challenge the party is actually facing.)

For solo monsters, the problem is more complex. First off, I'd just add between 50% and 100% of the hit points to try and balance out the higher damage of PCs and lack of wasted damage against solos. The advanced simple template will have helped some with the spells, but an additional +2 bonus to a weak save isn't a bad idea here. Then, I really think you need to look at each monster specifically, and analyze it's ability to strike/control/and support (which for a solo monster really just means recover.) Some monsters already have 'free' things that help with this, most notably auras the exert a control effect (and these monsters are often quite good solo monsters without further adjustment.) I wouldn't add in blanket immunities, or even standardized condition removal abilities to all solos, because I don't want to invalidate certain builds, but adding something extra once in a while, that varies, along those lines can make a solo more memorable and challenging. In general though, adding an extra 'action' of a specific type, or free action ability that complements the strengths of a monster, and more importantly shores up its weaknesses can go along way toward making a solo monster an appropriate challenge.

I guess, the real takeaway I have is that making a solo monster the challenge you want it to be isn't something that I think can be accomplished by an 'all solos get this' without really distorting the game. I think you need to tailor the approach to each monster, and to a degree your players and their characters (although you don't want to tailor 'against' the characters, making their build choices invalid).


Yeah single monsters tend to get wrecked unless they are really overstated and I've even had a few of those die on me.....

I would just add flat hp. Typically I go for around double but the ratio needs to increase with level as hp scales so much slower than damage

There's alot of debate on how to best handle save or suck/die and really I get why. There's no fun in an OTK and no fun in playing a save or meh character. I really enjoy 5th editions method of a limited recourse that you expend by hitting them successfully. Having played on both sides of the screen 2 or 3 rerolls seems pretty fair and feels like I'm just attacking a seperate hp bar. One idea I've started using recently was making that recourse something that can also be used offensively similiar to mythic power so that you have actively limited its options anyway. In other game systems I've seen rules that allow bosses to recover from CC effects quicker by treating each of their turns as a round for recovery purposes. A slightly different version of this is allowing them to remove a condition as a standard action. While I don't like them, my players really enjoyed hero points so they get their own resistance to Save or Die. In M&M they avoided fights ending early by allowing the GM to bribe players with hero points to reroll a villain's save

Sovereign Court

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One solution I've tried was the Agile Mythic Template, which basically gives the monster a second turn in the initiative order. It worked well to offset action economy advantages, but it created its own problem: after all the players delayed for something, the monster ended up having two turns in a row. And that's really abusable, because you can corner someone and then do a full attack too. IMO bosses should not be getting too many actions immediately in a row.

Another problem I see often with bosses is getting boxed in, for example by trip/reach melee builds.

Taking some ideas from the thread above, what about the following?


  • A Solo Monster has a pool of 3 Solo Points. It regains 1 SP per round just before its turn but never has more than 3 in its pool.
    Okay, you can increase these rates at high levels when the party starts throwing quickened SoS spells. But if you increase the pool size, you should probably set a maximum expenditure per turn. The point is to stay flexible, not to nova.

  • In between players' turns, it can spend SP, similar to coming out of Delay. It cannot spend SP directly before or after its turn; if it wants to spend SP when its turn comes up then it has to Delay its turn until at least one player has gone.
  • It can spend 1 SP to remove a temporary condition, or suppress a permanent/long-term one one (like a curse or disease) for the rest of the encounter. It can do this even if the condition normally prevents action or decision-making. It can use this to stand up from Prone without provoking AoOs.
  • It can spend 1 SP to cast a spell/SLA on itself without provoking, like a war priest.
  • It can spend 1 SP to take a standard or swift action. This also entitles it to single-speed charge and withdraw actions and 5ft steps. This also refreshes its pool of AoOs.

Inflicting conditions on the solo monster helps: it ties up its SP budget. Otherwise it could easily attack twice per round. The monster has a lot of flexibility in when to use SP, so that players can't easily predict "well he's just gone so now all of us get a turn before he can do anything to react". If any player leaves an opening it could exploit it.

This should meet the criteria mentioned for a good solo template:
- SoS spells are useful but not OTK.
- Prevents the monster from being boxed in.
- Gives it a counter to action economy.
- Makes things unpredictable.
- Doesn't automatically overwhelm any single PC with action economy.

(Also, sure, this would raise CR. CR is a diagnostic of how scary something is. If you make it scarier, CR goes up.)

Sovereign Court

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Another perspective is to ask: where is this creature getting its "solo" power from? In the Iron Gods campaign I'm running the answer is simple: the ones with the template are iron gods.

Especially when dealing with nominally normal humanoids, that's a fishy explanation. "Why can't we do that?" would be the question players ask.

So another idea would be to think: what abilities do I really need to fight one against many? I recently ran The Ruby Phoenix Tournament and it has a lot of solo opponents. Some held on for quite a while, others got taken down ingloriously. At some point though, there did develop a bit of a rut in how they defended themselves against the PCs' superior numbers:


  • (Greater) Invisibility to avoid being targeted in the first place, and to be able to move away without provoking even when their location was pinpointed.
  • Flying high enough that melee PCs need to spend a round activating Fly potions and such. Buys time.
  • High enough AC that not all rolls hit.
  • Miss chance and/or Mirror Image to negate a % of potential hits. Blink was also used.
  • Stoneskin and/or Righteous Might to gain DR, so that "hit often" tactics get punished.
  • They were built as if they knew exactly at what battlefield they'd be fighting, while the PCs were surprised with it every time.

The problem here was that most enemies were not that powerful so there was a lot of repetition of these tactics, which makes it grindy. Particularly Invisibility felt very over-used, and that leads to PCs always bringing anti-invisibility tactics, which is lethal if you rely on Invisibility to offset your action economy problems.

The solutions here then would be:


  • As a GM, develop a list of possible tactics, big enough that you don't have to overuse one of them. Clearly, there are more options than just the ones that Ruby Phoenix overused. Auras are action-efficient for example.
  • Not everyone has solo boss potential. If you can't exploit any action economy tactics, you're not solo material. Although many of these things can be bottled in items.
  • As a solo boss, choose your battlefield carefully. If the battlefield causes enough interference for the PCs, it's still "one guy", but has action economy more like a conventional fight. This includes traps that the boss knows about.


Don't forget if calculating CR that a solo monster should be significantly under the books rating due to the inherent disadvantages of being alone against a group


I will address your excellent additions soon, I've just been swamped with work, but thanks for the input and keep the dialogue going :-)

Sovereign Court

Dastis wrote:
Don't forget if calculating CR that a solo monster should be significantly under the books rating due to the inherent disadvantages of being alone against a group

Yes but lower compared to what? Compared to 2, 3, 5, 8 monsters? What is the "standard" number of an enemy, that we can say that a solo is comparatively weaker?

And to make that answer more meaningful, what is the default party size? 4? 5? 5 and a pet? 6 and two pets?

The CRB mentions raising or lowering the EL for an encounter based on whether the terrain favors the monsters or PCs. I suppose you could argue a similar modifier for "fewer than normal monsters", but what is "normal"?

PFS seems to write adventures with a "CR budget": each encounter should have about CR = APL+2. This assumes a 6-player party with good access to gear, so it's a bit different from the CRB setup.

If the party is APL 3, you could do that with 2 CR 3 monsters; 3 CR 2 monsters, 4 CR 1 monsters, or one CR 5 monster. But the 3+ monster encounters are often much easier because those critters are individually so weak that they can't reliably hit the party's front line. The single CR 5 monster is likely to suffer from solo boss problems (inflated stats, hampered action economy). The pair of CR 3 monsters is probably going to be a more fun encounter.

So if I had to guess, I'd say 2 monsters is probably the gold standard. If you use only a single monster, and it doesn't have crowd control powers, then it starts to make sense to discount it's CR for bad tactical situation.


Ascalaphus wrote:
Dastis wrote:
Don't forget if calculating CR that a solo monster should be significantly under the books rating due to the inherent disadvantages of being alone against a group

Yes but lower compared to what? Compared to 2, 3, 5, 8 monsters? What is the "standard" number of an enemy, that we can say that a solo is comparatively weaker?

And to make that answer more meaningful, what is the default party size? 4? 5? 5 and a pet? 6 and two pets?

The CRB mentions raising or lowering the EL for an encounter based on whether the terrain favors the monsters or PCs. I suppose you could argue a similar modifier for "fewer than normal monsters", but what is "normal"?

PFS seems to write adventures with a "CR budget": each encounter should have about CR = APL+2. This assumes a 6-player party with good access to gear, so it's a bit different from the CRB setup.

If the party is APL 3, you could do that with 2 CR 3 monsters; 3 CR 2 monsters, 4 CR 1 monsters, or one CR 5 monster. But the 3+ monster encounters are often much easier because those critters are individually so weak that they can't reliably hit the party's front line. The single CR 5 monster is likely to suffer from solo boss problems (inflated stats, hampered action economy). The pair of CR 3 monsters is probably going to be a more fun encounter.

So if I had to guess, I'd say 2 monsters is probably the gold standard. If you use only a single monster, and it doesn't have crowd control powers, then it starts to make sense to discount it's CR for bad tactical situation.

Pets are factored into the base power of the player who has them AFAIK. Are they insanely good ? Yes, but they're still a class feature or a feat. (Age of worms was a lot easier with our pets giant chameleon and spinosaurus.)

As for a base reduction I think a CR -1 baseline is decent, then that means we could safely say the lone wolf template is CR +1. this is all out of my ass but let's stick to them unless someone feels thats unfair.


+ 1 CR template.
automatically applies to any monster that fights alone vs a party of 3 or more.
**ALTERNATIVELY** In an event where a player fights alone vs 3 monsters or more he could benefit from it.

1) FASTER Roll 2 tracks of initiative, the highest is the full round in which the monster can perform, the lowest is a standard action and a swift action (no move, no full round).

At CR 13+, the monster gains a third standard action that automatically starts at the beginning of the round, with the following caveat: The monster can use any 1 action that can target only the monster, even if it could normally affect other or multiple targets. Spells cast in this way ignore somatic components and do not provoke attacks of opportunity. The monster does not need to have a free hand to cast a spell in this way. The Monster is still considered flat footed for the purposes of the first round.

At CR 20+, the monster has 2 initiatives, and 2 full round actions.

2)BETTERSolo monster can use their remaining movement at any time they could act. So if a monster has 50' movement, it could use 10' to move to an enemy and a standard to attack. It could then use it's remaining 40' of movement as it saw fit (basically this works a lot like spring attack in practice).

3)HARDER Maximize HP per die, add 2 Hp per HD, solo monsters get toughness as a bonus feat. The proper equation to calculate is : (HDx#HD)+((Cons mod+3)*HD)

Exemple: The Juvenile red Dragon has hp 149 (13d12+65) normally. You apply the solo monster rules and now his HP becomes:

(12*13)+((5+3)*13)=260 Hp. He will definitely last longer vs a group of optimised PC's

4)STRONGER

Pick one of the following as a defensive measure for your solo monster.

Tenacity (SU)
The lone wolf can spend a move action to remove any action inhibiting status (Frightened, Cowering, Stunned, Dazed, Nauseated, Dominated, Charmed) by paying a number of hit points equal to his HD. This move action can be spent even if his normal move actions cannot be used.

Immunity (SU)

The lone wolf has a barrier that protects him from action inhibiting statuses (Frightened, Cowering, Stunned, Dazed, Nauseated, Dominated, Charmed). this barrier can be taken down by a successful sunder or dispel magic attempt aimed at the barrier. This sundering attempt does not provoke attacks of opportunity. This barrier can be refreshed as a move action.

Willful (SU)

A Solo Monster has a pool of 3 Solo Points. It regains 1 SP per round just before its turn but never has more than 3 in its pool.

In between players' turns, it can spend SP, similar to coming out of Delay. It cannot spend SP directly before or after its turn; if it wants to spend SP when its turn comes up then it has to Delay its turn until at least one player has gone.

It can spend 1 SP to remove a temporary condition , or suppress a permanent/long-term one one (like a curse or disease) for the rest of the encounter. It can do this even if the condition normally prevents action or decision-making. It can use this to stand up from Prone without provoking AoOs.

It can spend 1 SP to cast a spell/SLA on itself without provoking, like a war priest.

It can spend 1 SP to take a standard or swift action. This also entitles it to single-speed charge and withdraw actions and 5ft steps. This also refreshes its pool of AoOs.


I am loving the feedback on this, this template is looking better and better already.

So I'm going to elaborate a bit on what I,m trying to do here. I'm trying to put together a short guide (I'm very busy so I might have time to add to it as years go by but for now it's a 2-3 page guide I have in mind) with tips and tricks for DM's to make games more challenging and interesting by providing tools.

I already have a vast collection of mini houserules that we use at our table (the gentleman's agreement) but I'd like to expend, create more stuff. More importantly, I'd like to create stable, peer reviewed tools that a majority of these forums greatest minds think are adequate and balanced, within the perspective of the game. They would also have to be playtested, with results centralised here.

Now I know this is all a fix you could easily implement in your games because you're all great DM's, this is meant as a base recipe. As in: sure you can put red pepper flakes in your lasagna even if the recipe doesn't say so, but if you're a bit unsure on how to make a lasagna, you just stick with the recipe.

With that in mind, is the above template something that some DM's or players here would consider trying out in their games and posting the results in here? I'd love to get some playtesting on this. I'll definitely submit it to my 2 current DM's, and I'll also submit it to my more green DM who's game I've been wrecking (group of 4 fighters... they roll stats... I rolled an elven exploiter wizard... a lot of fights ended with monsters desperatly trying to get out aof a grease pool while fighters play drums on them, the DM was under the impression I was only going to cast burning hands...) as a comparison and a baseline.

Thanks for telling me if you plan on playtesting a bit. I'll also try to code a theoretical study using EDV but that takes some time so maybe more during the holidays.

Sovereign Court

Theory will only get you so far, these things always need testing. So when you're GMing just take a not that scary solo enemy and try it; don't use it on a full strength boss until you know how hard it punches for real. And be honest with your players, ask for feedback.

One thing: I don't really understand what you're after when you say "the beginning of the round", since in practice PF rounds are really circular. The highest initiative determines who starts at the beginning, but after that initiative numbers are pretty meaningless.


Ascalaphus wrote:

Theory will only get you so far, these things always need testing. So when you're GMing just take a not that scary solo enemy and try it; don't use it on a full strength boss until you know how hard it punches for real. And be honest with your players, ask for feedback.

One thing: I don't really understand what you're after when you say "the beginning of the round", since in practice PF rounds are really circular. The highest initiative determines who starts at the beginning, but after that initiative numbers are pretty meaningless.

A theoretical infinitely high initiative would be the best way to describe this.

Round are circular indeed but they are usually agreed to end after lowest ini and start before highest ini.

I will definitely test the template in my own games :-)


I like what you've done with your template. One possibility that maintains the feel of a solo monster while being similar to having multiple monsters is to make the solo monster actually be multiple monsters.

Angry GM Boss Monster Starter Article

The Angry GM isn't for everyone, but he wrote some excellent articles on solo bosses for 4e and then later 5e, and the advice is applicable to Pathfinder (I've tried it).

You've basically identified a lot of the same issues he did: a solo monster doesn't have enough action economy, it's easy to focus fire it down, and status effects can end the fight immediately. His solution was to basically have what appears to be a single monster (a CR 11 Red Dragon, for example) is actually two or more monsters (it's actually two CR 9 dragons, but they have the same spot on the battle map). It may be worth checking out if you want to maintain the illusion of a solo boss.

Here is a rework I made of a creature from an AP using this system in Pathfinder (I also used some 3rd party stuff, but it's still pretty close to the original).

Grazuul

The 3rd party and the Paragon rules turned what would have been a quick fight against a lone monster that could only stab people into a slightly longer fight where the monster tried to fling people around while dragging others under water. But it was still about as difficult as it should have been.


Another thing to consider:

Those housrules come along with deep cuts in the simulation dimension of the game. Now you have entities in your gaming world that use another set of rules not accessible by PCs. Thats weird. If you're players are all up for gameism thats not a problem but for those who also want to part of a consistent gsme world this bears problems: Enemies don't only have other abilities, they also use a different framework of action economy.


OK I will run some fight scenarios here to test some things.

I'll run a CR 15 fight with the template vs my level 13 party, then a CR 16 fight.

I will then run a CR 5 fight vs my elven level 3 party and then a CR 6 fight.

These parties are decently optimised so we'll have a good idea.

Level 13 party vs CR 15 Oni, fire Yai STATS:
This box is to figure out how a decently optimised party would fare agaisn't a CR 15 Oni,
Fire Yai, a decently versatile monster that has a solo feel. Out of the defenses picked above, he will go with Barrier, since that feels thematical.
Here are his stats:[spoiler=Oni, Fire Yai]http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/outsiders/oni/oni-fire-ya i

XP 51,200
NE Large outsider (fire, giant, native, oni, shapechanger)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +23

DEFENSE

AC 29, touch 10, flat-footed 28 (+8 armor, +1 Dex, +11 natural, -1 size)
hp 357 (17d10+136); regeneration 5 (acid or cold)
Fort +18, Ref +10, Will +15
Immune fire; SR 26
Weaknesses vulnerability to cold

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft., fly 60 ft. (good); 30 ft., fly 40 ft. (good) in armor
Melee +1 katana +27/+22/+17/+12 (2d6+16/18-20) or 2 slams +26 (1d10+15)
Ranged fiery missile +19 touch (4d6 fire plus burn)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks burn (2d6, DC 26), smoke form
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +17)

Constant—fly
At will—darkness, invisibility (self only), scorching ray
3/day—charm monster (DC 16), deep slumber (DC 15), fireball (DC 15), fire shield (warm shield only), wall of fire
1/day—incendiary cloud (DC 20)

STATISTICS

Str 31, Dex 16, Con 26, Int 14, Wis 17, Cha 15
Base Atk +17; CMB +28; CMD 41
Feats Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Great Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Overrun, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Bluff +22, Craft (weapons) +12, Craft (armor) +12, Diplomacy +11, Disguise +11, Fly +14, Intimidate +22, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Perception +23, Sense Motive +23, Spellcraft +11, Use Magic Device +14
Languages Common, Giant
SQ change shape (Medium or Large humanoid; alter self or giant form I)

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Fiery Missile (Su)

As a swift action, a fire yai can launch a bolt of fire from its third eye. This attack has a range of 180 feet with no range increment.

Smoke Form (Sp)

As a standard action, a fire yai can turn into a cloud of smoke. This functions like gaseous form, except the cloud has the properties of the smoke cloud from a pyrotechnics spell (Fort DC 26 negates the effects of the smoke cloud). The fire yai can end this ability as a standard action.

Immunity (SU)

The lone wolf has a barrier that protects him from action inhibiting statuses (Frightened, Cowering, Stunned, Dazed, Nauseated, Dominated, Charmed). this barrier can be taken down by a successful sunder or dispel magic attempt aimed at the barrier. This sundering attempt does not provoke attacks of opportunity. This barrier can be refreshed as a move action.

FASTER (Ex) Roll 2 tracks of initiative, the highest is the full round in which the monster can perform, the lowest is a standard action and a swift action (no move, no full round).

The solo monster also has a free standard action at the beginning of the round to perform a self afflicting spell (buff heal tele)

BETTER (Ex) Solo monster can use their remaining movement at any time they could act.


To oppose it we will fave the following party
Raomora, Nagaji Paladin:
[SIZE=+1]Raomora la brave ''The shredder''[/SIZE][/URL]
Female Lawful good Nagaji Paladin, Level 13, Init 8, HP 138/138, Speed 20
AC 36, Touch 13, Flat-footed 33, CMD 34, Fort 26, Ref 22, Will 21, CMB +21/+16/+11, Base Attack Bonus 13/8/3
+2d6 vs evil +1(+4) Keen Holy Dueling Nodachi +26/+21/+16 (1d10 + 16(28), 15-20 x2)
Mwk Composite Longbow str +7 +16/+11/+6 (1d8+7, 20 x 3)
Jousting, benevolent Benevolent Mithril Full plate mail +5, +1 animated mithril shield (+14 Armor, +3 Shield, +3 Dex, +6 Deflect)
Abilities Str 27, Dex 18, Con 18, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 24
Condition
Smite provides + 7 to Hit, +7 to AC, +18 to damage, +36 on first strike vs evil outsider.
Inspire Courage provides +9 to hit, +9 to damage, +1d6 sonic to damage.
Greater Magic Weapon (CL 20)
Barkskin (CL 19)
Hunter's Blessing (CL 19, Open Duels plain, Evil outsider favored ennemy)
Heroism (CL 13)
Tess, Tiefling Bard:
[SIZE=+1]Tess Ouran[/SIZE][/URL]
female T/N Tiefling Bard 13, Level 13, Init 16, HP 127/127, Speed 30
AC 40, Touch 18, Flat-footed 34, CMD 28, Fort 15, Ref 21, Will 12, CMB +10/+5, Base Attack Bonus 9/4
Brace, Reach +1(+4) Dueling Celestial Mithral Agile Keen Undead Bane Elven Branched Spear +14/9 (+23/+18) (1d8+10 (+19), 19-20 x3)
Mwk Composite shortbow str +1 (+4) (50 bolts) +18/13 (1d6+5, 20x3)
Mwk Spiked Gauntlet +8/3 (1d4+1(3), 20 x2)
Celestial Armor, Mithral Buckler +5 (+11 Armor, +6 Shield, +6 Dex, +2 Natural, +5 Deflect)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 22, Con 18, Int 14, Wis 5, Cha 26
Condition
Staff of Battering Blast (10 Charges)
Banner of the Ancient King tied to the staff
Flagbearer Feat
Provides +9 to hit +9 to damage, +1d6 sonic damage
Greater Magic Weapon (CL 20)
Barkskin (CL 19)
Hunter's Blessing (CL 19, Open Duels plain, Evil outsider favored ennemy)
Heroism (CL 13)
Zayed,Druid summoner:
[SIZE=+1]Zayef Ouran[/SIZE][/URL]
M Aasimar (Garuda blooded) Druid 13, Level 13, Init 9, HP 104/104, Speed 30 ft/Fly 60 ft.
AC 44, Touch 18, Flat-footed 35, CMD 26, Fort 17, Ref 20, Will 26, CMB +6, Base Attack Bonus 6
Slam +9/+9 (1d8+13, 20x2)
Ranged Touch +15 ( , )
+3 Wild White Dragonhide Full Plate, +3 Wild White Dragonhide Heavy Shield (+12 Armor, +5 Shield, +9 Dex, -2 Size, +1 Natural, +9 Deflect)
Abilities Str 11, Dex 28, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 29, Cha 10
Condition Inspire Courage provides +9 to hit, +9 to damage, +1d6 sonic to damage.
Greater Magic Fang (CL 20)
Barkskin (CL 19)
Hunter's Blessing (CL 19, Open Duels plain, Evil outsider favored ennemy)
Heroism (CL 13)
See invisibility (CL 13)
Wild Shaped into Huge Air Elemental

Bugzy, Zayef's Spinosaurus AC:
Bugzy
N Large Magical beast (Celestial template)
Init +2; Senses: scent

DEFENSE

AC 32, touch 11, flat-footed 27 (+3 Dex, +16 natural, +4 Mage Armor, -1 large)
hp 105 (10d8+60)
Fort +12, Ref +9, Will +4

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft. 20ft. Swim
Melee 2 claws +27 (1d8+28 ), bite +27/+22 (2d6+28)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Uses Power Attack

STATISTICS

Str 31, Dex 17, Con 20, Int 3, Wis 13, Cha 3
Base Atk +7; CMB +20; CMD 30
Feats Power Attack, Toughness, Improved Natural attack x2, casters champion
SQ: Evasion, Share Spell, Link, Res A/C/E 10, DR 5/evil, Smite 1/day,
Skills Perception +7, Acrobatics : +7, Stealth: +7, Survival : 5, Climb: 8

Tricks: Heel, Attack, Guard, Serve (Tess), Hide, Defend, Flank, Search, entertain, play human, speak, sneak, fetch, grab, push, trip

Inspire Courage provides +9 to hit, +9 to damage, +1d6 sonic to damage.
Greater Magic Fang (CL 20)
Barkskin (CL 19)
Hunter's Blessing (CL 19, Open Duels plain, Evil outsider favored ennemy)
Heroism (CL 13)
Air Walk (CL 19)

Angelina, Raomora's Chameleon Mount:
Angelina (Charger Archetype Chameleon)
LG Large Magical Beast
Init +3;

DEFENSE

AC 39 touch 12, flat-footed 32 (+3 Dex, +15 natural, +12 +3 Fullplate -1 size)
hp 85 (11d8+40)
Fort +11, Ref +10, Will +3

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft. 40ft. Climb
Melee Bite:+26/+21 with power attack and bardic song (2d6+25)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (15ft with tongue)

STATISTICS

Str 22, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 6, Wis 11, Cha 7
Base Atk +7; CMB +14; CMD 27
Feats Power attack, Improved overrun, Greater overrun, Caster's Champion, Combat Reflexes, Bodyguard
SQ: Tongue Share Spelll, Link, Dr 10/Evil, Resist Cold, Acid, Electricity 15, Smite 1/day
Skills Perception +11, Acrobatics : +5, Stealth: +5 (15), Survival : 5, Climb: 14

Tongue (Ex)

A giant chameleon can grab a foe with its tongue and draw the victim to its mouth. This tongue attack has a reach of 15 feet. The attack does no damage, but allows the creature to grab. A giant chameleon does not gain the grappled condition while using its tongue in this manner.

Inspire Courage provides +9 to hit, +9 to damage, +1d6 sonic to damage.
Greater Magic Fang (CL 20)
Barkskin (CL 19)
Hunter's Blessing (CL 19, Open Duels plain, Evil outsider favored ennemy)
Heroism (CL 13)
Air Walk (CL 19)

Tricks: -


Fight:

Initiative
Oni: Infinite (Buff action)
Zayef: 30
Oni: 26 (full)
Tess: 25
Raomora&Angelina: 17
Oni: 14 (standard)
Bugzy: 9

-Oni starts 60 feet from party, casts fire shield.
-Zayef Starts Summoning Summon Nature's Ally 7
-Oni swift action fire eye: 26 to hit, 14 damage to Zayef
Zayef Concentration Check DC 31: Rolls 32
-Oni casts incendiary Cloud on party, 21 damage
Zayef saves (evasion)
Raomora Saves
Tess Saves
Bugzy Saves (evasion)
Angelina Saves
-Tess move action inspire courage
-Tess swift action Haste
-Tess Standard action casts greater dispel magic on cloud (34 to dispel, succeeds) Concentration check DC 31 to succeed, Rolls 35 didn't see the oni so can't dispel him.
-Raomora Smites as a swift action and uses move action to activate her animated shield, waits for mount to move before doing standard
-Angelina smites and initiates an overun on Oni using Air Walk, CMB roll: 44 vs Oni's 41, succeeds, AoO provoked from Angelina and Raomora.
Angelina AoO: 33 hits, deals 54 damage (takes 16 from fireshield)
Raomora AoO: 46 hits, deals 93 damage (takes 21 from fireshield)
-Raomora Standard action hit
47 Hits, deals 74 damage (takes 17 from fire shield)
-Oni decides he doesn,t want to get full attacked, but knows his free standard is coming, uses his standard to cast scorching ray
21 misses
36 hits (12 damage)
25 hits (18 damage)
-Swift action burning ray on Raomora
21 misses
-Bugzy charges the Oni
Nat 1 misses

*** NEW ROUND ***

-Oni casts invisibility, thinking he doesn't want to get full attacked by the paladin
-Zayef Finishes his summon, summons 4 huge (Gargantuan with rod og giant summoning) Air Elemental (rolled 3 on d3, superior summoning, e (Flanking pattern 1 above 1 bellow, 1 to each side)
-Zayef uses standard to cast faerie fire revealing the Oni(has see invisibility up as a buff)
-Elemental one attacks:
44 hits 31 damage
42 hits 25 damage
-Elemental two attacks:
Nat 20 Crit, confirms, 63 damage
41 hits, 37 damage

****ONI DIES****

The first fight while expected was actually a bit more involved on the Oni's part! The free buff at rounds beginning made sure he still scored some damage on the group, and the additional actions made sure he had a bit more presence. He tried his best to control the group, but he could also have full attacked, however the lowest AC in the group is in the 40's and his best attack is at +27 so I don't think it'd have worked. Death would have been at about the same time however as a full attack by 4 gargantuan air elementals buffed by a bard is pretty much a death sentence.

I will do other scenarios in later posts, i gotta go and i don't wanna lose my coding.

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