Help: DM screw-up!


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Two things could easily save this situation.

1)As someone suggested, have the dragon be arrogant and play with the adventurers, purposely pulling its punches for a couple rounds. Once the players are in the right position and get into the tactics of it, the fight begins in ernest.

2)Have the dragon fly away once it has been taken down to half or so hit points. It's not a dumb animal. Make sure you play up any damage the players do to it like "the dragon reels from the blow and has a look of surprise on its face". Etc.

You can make them feel they've defeated the challenge without actually killing the dragon.

The Exchange

Wasn't there a "save the dragons" group or some such somewhere? I am unclear as to why "punches need to be pulled" etc. if it's about the PC's surviving every encounter, might as well just not bother with "stats" and such and just let things fall dead whenever you feel is the appropriate time.

Decisions have consequences; fighting, not running away from, an ancient dragon has consequences. If the players think they are in over their head, let them decide to run; if they decide to fight, then let them do so; if they think they can parlay to save their skins, then let them try that; if they come up with some other clever idea then let them do so.

I keep getting the feeling that you don't trust your players' decision making, and that's a whole different issue all together. If they are chomping at the bits for this fight, then why cheat them out of it?


I'm in agreement with BobChuck... if the party doesn't have time to prepare, it doesn't matter if they have pre-knowledge. The characters simply won't be prepared for this kind of fight.

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Here's a few suggestions:

Give the players the opportunity to even the fight.
If you haven't fully described the terrain, let them know there are some very large trees around. Even if you have described it, let them know now.

Then, let them have Knowledge checks (Engineering, Nature, Survival), to realize that those trees are rotted, and one good damaging hit could knock one down on this Dragon.

Let them time it, or goad the dragon into position, or even let them have the initiative to do it before the Dragon has a chance to get out of the way.

When the huge tree falls on the dragon, it can cause damage (bypassing need for AC), and pin it.
It can still cast spells and maybe even flail, but will need to spend a round lifting it (a tree weighing over 2 tons will be a max load lift for a Str 33 creature).

Then, we can assume the Dragon wasn't fully rested before this fight and subsequent heavy lifting, and apply the Exhausted effect (-6 Str, -6 Dex).

That's an overall -3 to hit/CMB and 3-4 damage loss, as well as -3 AC and -6 CMD. This could even the playing field a bit, letting flanking PCs have something of a chance to land a blow.

Plus, if this happens after a few rounds into combat, the time spent escaping the tree will give the PCs a moment to wail on him, and recover from the initial blast.

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Does the Dragon have to fight to the death?
As long as the PCs get some damage in, the Dragon won't necessarily want to fight until death.

There's no younglings to defend. His treasure is probably in some underwater cave or at the bottom of a fetid pool someplace.
There's no reason to die, or even risk crippling damage (low hitpoints) at the hands of PCs he has no personal quarrel with yet.

After doing a decent amount of damage, and maybe after a fairly big blow from one of the PCs to make it cinematic, you could simply have the Dragon toss off a parting Forcewall to cover his escape.

With his fly speed and swim speed, he can likely retreat to safety within 1 round.

This way the Dragon can recover, and the PCs can recover, and be truly prepared for the CR 16 fight. At which point, the Dragon can go full out.

This lets the party have a taste of the encounter, with half xp awarded, with the promise of a full encounter's worth of experience, an ancient dragon kill under their belts, and a full treasure hoard on the horizon.

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Is the Dragon the only thing here?
Maybe the Dragon wasn't leaping up to confront the party, but instead was being chased by a mottled green worm!

Yeah! That's right! The party just stumbled across two gigantic creatures, mid-fight!

The mottle worm (swimspeed variant of the purple worm), isn't a match for the Dragon, but you can have it biting/grabbing the tail of the Dragon, and surviving two rounds of focused attention from the Dragon.

This gives the players time to recover from the Frightful Presence at DC 25 (scary for some at lvl 10 I'm sure), and even damage the worm as it's being grappled.

You can also lower the hitpoints of the Dragon by any amount, since there's no real indication as to how long or how much damage the worm got off before dying.
This gives you the chance to have it die (or run) sooner, if the players start rolling poorly or dying too much.

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Personally, I like option number 1, with number 2 if things go really badly for the party.

It gives the players the option to proactively level the playing field, and feel clever about using the environment. It also gives the players resource free damage, and a slight breather partway into the fight, which is exactly what they need.

Combined with option 2, you can show them how dangerous this thing really could have been... so they might feel lucky that they survived, feel a thirst for revenge and gunning for a rematch, and gives them a chance to learn and prepare for this dangerous enemy.

Dragons are very cinematic, and very cliche (in a good way). I like having the fight be so epic that is lasts beyond just a single 5 round encounter.

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Anyways, good luck! And stop hogging all the players! Heh. =)


prashant panavalli wrote:

Wasn't there a "save the dragons" group or some such somewhere? I am unclear as to why "punches need to be pulled" etc. if it's about the PC's surviving every encounter, might as well just not bother with "stats" and such and just let things fall dead whenever you feel is the appropriate time.

Decisions have consequences; fighting, not running away from, an ancient dragon has consequences. If the players think they are in over their head, let them decide to run; if they decide to fight, then let them do so; if they think they can parlay to save their skins, then let them try that; if they come up with some other clever idea then let them do so.

I keep getting the feeling that you don't trust your players' decision making, and that's a whole different issue all together. If they are chomping at the bits for this fight, then why cheat them out of it?

Why do fights always have to end with one side completely dead? With both sides basically stumbling upon each other, this could really just be the initial encounter... a taste of what's to come.

What's more epic.. 5 rounds of combat where the party basically gets frightened and blasted, unprepared, with tons of damage and wipe?

Or a scary, cinematic combat with an obviously more powerful enemy, followed by a promise for an even greater combat later now that both parties prepared to slug it out?


Captain Marsh wrote:

So here's the situation: I'm running a big group of 10th level characters. Should be 8-10 PCs on the board for the next session.

The players know they're going up against a very powerful ancient black dragon.

Because one of the players succeeded at a bardic knowledge check, and because I knew they would need some serious strategy prep, I let on that they would be facing the CR16 black dragon in the PF bestiary.

Full confession: I didn't read the stat block carefully enough and didn't realize that the beast's AC and SR were that high.

My players are really excited about the idea of confronting an iconic and awesome monster.

They'll be really bummed if I simply downsize the dragon.

On the other hand, I don't see how their PCs have a chance of landing blows or spells before going down in a hail of ugliness.

Any graceful suggestions for evening the match a bit without gutting the drama?

-Marsh

Well first off unless your PC's are beginners this encounter should fairly easy. 8-10 Level 10 PCs? If they have average wealth level progession and mix /maxed even half way decent this should be a joke. There are ways of getting past the SR and if the party has a level 10 wizard there are spells that could take it almost instantly.

I had 4 Level 9 PC take out a Two CR 10's and a CR 11 in one battle and no one died and I played the monsters all out. Put in possibly 10 Level 10 PC's and this should be easy. Unless they have no party balance. I assume you at least one Cleric and two fighters hopefully at least one Wizard. I do not see how they could not defeat it.

If they play it smart and can prepare for it especially if you allow time for a level 10 Wizard prepare for it it shouldn't be a problem.

The Exchange

Quote:

Why do fights always have to end with one side completely dead? With both sides basically stumbling upon each other, this could really just be the initial encounter... a taste of what's to come.

What's more epic.. 5 rounds of combat where the party basically gets frightened and blasted, unprepared, with tons of damage and wipe?

Or a scary, cinematic combat with an obviously more powerful enemy, followed by a promise for an even greater combat later now that both parties prepared to slug it out?

Neither side has to end up completely dead. An ancient wyrm has lived a long life, probably because it knows a thing or two about survival.

What I am trying to point out is that one should play encounters as they are and not try to force any outcome; if an NPC is a snivilling grovelling coward, then that's how you play it. If it is an ancient black dragon then it should be played as such and the same goes for the PCs- they should be given the chance to decide as they would; not as the DM would.

If the two advesaries end up parlaying and end up having tea and crumpets because that was the natural outcome of whatever the decisions and actions were, then that's how it should be; if decisions have their natural consequences, one would be surprised at how cinematic the outcomes can be.


prashant panavalli wrote:


Quote:

Why do fights always have to end with one side completely dead? With both sides basically stumbling upon each other, this could really just be the initial encounter... a taste of what's to come.

What's more epic.. 5 rounds of combat where the party basically gets frightened and blasted, unprepared, with tons of damage and wipe?

Or a scary, cinematic combat with an obviously more powerful enemy, followed by a promise for an even greater combat later now that both parties prepared to slug it out?

Neither side has to end up completely dead. An ancient wyrm has lived a long life, probably because it knows a thing or two about survival.

What I am trying to point out is that one should play encounters as they are and not try to force any outcome; if an NPC is a snivilling grovelling coward, then that's how you play it. If it is an ancient black dragon then it should be played as such and the same goes for the PCs- they should be given the chance to decide as they would; not as the DM would.

If the two advesaries end up parlaying and end up having tea and crumpets because that was the natural outcome of whatever the decisions and actions were, then that's how it should be; if decisions have their natural consequences, one would be surprised at how cinematic the outcomes can be.

Now that would be funny. "So, what you chuckleheads are telling me is that the ten of you sat down to tea and crumpets with an ancient black dragon?" "Well ... yeah. Turns out the old boy is a clothes horse and a fan of sculpture and dance. Who'd have thunk, eh?"

Liberty's Edge

That is a very good point. This fight doesn't have to be a fight; just a preview of what to expect a few levels down the road when they're actually ready. When they reach that point, you might wanna toss in a few minions to sweeten the deal.

I also like the idea of the dragon (against all odds) being not immediately hostile. It might be bored or looking to trade for something it wants/needs, and just might be willing to sit down for tea.

If the party is out for blood though, it'll be happy for the excercise/snack. It might just kill a few people then fly away scoffing "Come back when you've grown up or learned some manners!"


1) Get that wall of force up. A choice must be made here, but for giggles, I'd put it up roughly between the melee & casters.

2) DD to aforementioned casters.

3) Take a grab, you should at least get two. Maybe pull an Acidic Pool of first for some spell disruption while unleashing frightfull presence.

4) Fly away with your two caster/low CMD types.

Now here the fun begins.

The players will KNOW that dragon is trouble. It’s big, it’s strong and it just took out two of their friends. Preparations are in order. Looking for revenge or just licking their wounds, who do they meet roaming the swamps/walking into the inn? Their two little buddies.

And options are plenty here;

One is replaced by a doppelganger to find out ‘why the party attacked and what’s their secret weapon’. (Hell, if you chose the right player, just hand him this as a new character sheet)

One has been made ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’. His story; He was used for his arcane prowess, could barely escape while snatching a ‘secret map’. Just ad a mind link and the party might go and get this unattainable item for their scaly black friend.

One has just been released. (paranoia much?)
They’re both hugely scarred with acid as a warning.
They don’t remember anything.

It shows of the dragons STR.
It keeps ‘most’ of your players alive (never hesitate to pull a killing blow)
It adds a certain tension to the group.


10 PC's, Sounds more like a strike team or band of thugs than it does an adventuring party. i'd reccoemend giving the dragon the following templates, Giant, Advanced creature and the toughness feat. it's main issue will be it's hit points. too low. that's what beefing them up is for. spell resistance shouldn't be an issue, (only 2 arcane casters). any smart caster, finds ways to screw spell resistance over. the methods i shall not explain. as most of the malready were, oh yeah, reserve feats are a good one too.


Nice breakdown Kaisoku.

I'm on the side of "let'um have full blast". I've done this kind of seemingly over kill encounter, and played in more then enough of them, to appreciate player creativity under duress.

If you want to give the player's 'easy it up' options I suggest looking to terrain features as your answer. Provide options for cover to avoid breath weapon sprays (and some of the line of sight spells), and similar tactical advantages. An important one is that many attack spells do not penetrate water line.

I'm actually less worried about the SR. If the PC casters think they are going to explode the Dragon with magic then they aren't worthy dragon hunters. Same deal comes up when fighting Golems. If the casters get wind of the stiff SR they should (hopefully) look for other options. The two ways to go are spells without Resistance (few but if you make them work very fun) or party buff magic. I don't know how many casters you have out of your 10 but even with say 3, the PCs should have more then enough elemental damage protection to last them the fight.

Nothing like a windup Barbarian (or *shudder* Paladin) enchanted to the point of being blinding under Detect Magic and letting him or her go. No SR, no Saves, just rage/smite.


You can always see the party rush the dragon's base while the dragon isn't there. They find a captive who has fought the dragon and lost. He tells them the dragon's strategies.

With 10 characters I really think the dragon is in trouble.

S


The reason one spellcaster is close to terminal is that he accidentally dimension doored directly into the path of the dragon.

He's basically all alone, 800 feet from the rest of his companions, directly under the creature's dripping maw.

He has fly, but no more teleportation spells. If he wins initiative when we resume on Thursday, he has a chance at survival...but a thin one.

-Marsh


Options:

1) Fight it straight and kill the party. TPK. Yuck

2) Make the Dragon weak - let down your players. Yuck.

3) Have the Dragon run away/leave - players are let down. Yuck.

4) Dragon slaps around the players taking little to no damage until the party realizes they are sunk. They use quick thinking to develop an escape plan, get away badly hurt, vow revenge - and you have a reoccurring villain.

Seems to me there is only one good option. Pre-plan an escape option for the players to use. Hint to the Bard just how difficult this dragon is going to be, and maybe hint he may want to plan some kind of escape plan if things go badly.


Captain Marsh wrote:

The reason one spellcaster is close to terminal is that he accidentally dimension doored directly into the path of the dragon.

He's basically all alone, 800 feet from the rest of his companions, directly under the creature's dripping maw.

He has fly, but no more teleportation spells. If he wins initiative when we resume on Thursday, he has a chance at survival...but a thin one.

-Marsh

OH! Well that does change the situation more then a bit. They're looking the scaly reptile in the eye already...

Forget what I said before, my player sense says grovel like your digging to the underdark. Then as my group likes to put it "run away, then come back and BURN the place down!" Yes I realized black dragons live in swamps that are typically very damp and hard to light on fire... still burn it ALL down.


I agree with Treantmonk but also...

I think of dragons like cats. Rather than going head to head with the party have him use hit and run tactics that are low risk for the dragon. This will inflict less damage on the party and possibly give them a chance to escape. 10th level they should have a few bail out options.

The Exchange

Treantmonk wrote:

Options:

1) Fight it straight and kill the party. TPK. Yuck

What makes you think that if a fight does break out:

1. The players' use smart tactics to defeat the dragon

2. The two sides decide to parlay

3. The players retreat when things are going badly

4. some other option that they might choose (call a friend etc.)

There appears to be very little trust in "players choice" from what I can tell.


Viletta Vadim wrote:
There is the option of having the dragon eat the penalty and deal nonlethal damage (after the lethal damage breath attack, of course) to take the party down and capture them, and go from there. If the dragon doesn't consider the party a real threat, it could be a realistic decision. More toying with the party.

Hoohoo, this is how I learned to stop worrying and love the Black Dragon. The black dragon has a serious sadistic streak and does this pretty often. If the party goes down, they can probably look forward to being held in captivity for at least a few weeks and they can go from there...not that they're gonna like their captivity.

Scarab Sages

has anyone made an illusion check yet ?

if no here what happened to my players & my solution when I stuffed up on a monster -

the ancient black dragon (different monster in my game) rises out of the swamp & the PCs make a knowledge check identifying it (which is what you have said you are up to) when they come back to the game table they should already have an escape plan - my players didnt they thought they could win

the players attacked the monster - I pulled a few punches for the first few rounds & let it be obvious that they were not doing much to the monster but they still didnt get the hint so on round 4 (I think) I went full force & dropped 2 members & continued to drop member after member until the party of 6 was down to 1 & he tried to escape but it was too late as I didnt allow him to escape - I felt it would not have helped & was not a realistic option - why would the dragon let it happen when it didnt have to

after the last member "died" & they were all chatting about how stupid/arrogant they were thinking they could defeat it I interrupted them all as said "Can I finish the encounter now?" (I deliberately let them chat about it first but made it out at the time that they were interfering in what I had planned) they apologised & I told them that they woke in a barred cell but the door was unlocked - they find their gear in another room down a hall & go upstairs to find a wizard who upon seeing them asks for their help & that his illusionary monster was a test for the real thing & that he wants them to destroy it
this gave them the chance to get revenge, choose better tactics & equipment & more time to prepare without losing the the chance for the encounter & gave me the new plot hook

it also had the benefit of dropping the arrogance level of the players down several notches & let them know I could kill them if I wanted - I also let them know they were not interrupting me earlier as I wanted them to realise they were arrogant about winning & they needed to be brought back to earth but that I also stuffed up on how powerful it was to let them realise I am human too

the players appreciated the honesty & they were given an out but due to arrogance they ignored it & continued on anyway, they got a reall good fight & a chance to fight it again later

anyway that was my solution & my players loved it


If he's feeling really sadistic he can have the dragon capture as many female characters as possible. The dragon has polymorph as one of its (many) 'spells known' options. Combined with Ye Olde Sadistic Streak and there is likely to be more than a few half-dragons in the campaign's future.

After all, for certain dragons at least, there's a reason that they want 'maidens'.

One of the dragon's items, after all, could be a 'Wand of Quicken Stabilize' that it uses expressly to capture critters...

The men are likely to get a draconic version of a Death Roll or worse, be 'involuntarily polymorphed' into women and left to marinade for a few days. The paladin ... best hope he dies. ^_^


prashant panavalli wrote:
Treantmonk wrote:

Options:

1) Fight it straight and kill the party. TPK. Yuck

What makes you think that if a fight does break out:

1. The players' use smart tactics to defeat the dragon

2. The two sides decide to parlay

3. The players retreat when things are going badly

4. some other option that they might choose (call a friend etc.)

There appears to be very little trust in "players choice" from what I can tell.

Is this a question? I don't think I follow.


Without knowing a little more about the players, and their characters, I can't say for sure, but I do know they are all going to die if you put them against this CR 16 Dragon. Can it possibly miss them (while power attacking?) Can they hit it's 42 AC? Can they out-run a 200' fly speed? They may think they want to fight this thing, but they are going to be very disappointed when the realize how little they can affect it.

The DM in me thinks this encounter needs MORE huge black dragons, not less. Here is what I'm thinking...

Black dragons become huge at old age. A old black dragon has 4 less strength, and 2 less on most other abilities, 4 less HD, and 6 less natural armor. It is a 7th level caster (vs 11th), and has 2 less SR. It's acidic bite is 2d6 (vs 4d6) and it lacks the highly nasty acid pool ability.

OK, the dragon is out, and has almost wasted the wizard. Once the rest of the party arrives, and combat begins, that is when the dragons 3 young kids join the fray. In round 5 or six the mother (another old) comes out to round up her kids and finish off the ones who attacked her mate.

This way the party gets to fight 2 huge black dragons, and 3 smaller ones. Everyone in the party can do something without needing to roll a natural 20. Plus, the DM gets to play the dragons well without feeling guilty, and can even outfit the dragons with some of that "triple" treasure (drool). If the combat is too easy, make the 'kids' Adult dragons, or throw in some animated wyvren zombies, or kobold witches. If it is too hard, leave off the last dragon, or make it a large.

A single monster against a group of 10 is not going to be a fun fight on either side of the screen. Add more monsters, add more fun!


Good suggestions. I've shared some of these ideas with the player group leaders.

For better or worse, my entire gaming group is buzzing.

This is the best cliffhanger I've ever managed. We'll see if it ends in a big splat or a cool new chapter of the story.

I'll let everyone know how it turns out Thursday night.

--Marsh.


Captain Marsh wrote:

Good suggestions. I've shared some of these ideas with the player group leaders.

For better or worse, my entire gaming group is buzzing.

This is the best cliffhanger I've ever managed. We'll see if it ends in a big splat or a cool new chapter of the story.

I'll let everyone know how it turns out Thursday night.

--Marsh.

Awesome!


Could you tell us a little more about the characters and players involved... The gambling community is very concerned.

Right now I would give 5 to 1 for a TPK, by round 10.

Shadow Lodge

Wim Scheers wrote:

Spoiler:
1) Get that wall of force up. A choice must be made here, but for giggles, I'd put it up roughly between the melee & casters.

2) DD to aforementioned casters.

3) Take a grab, you should at least get two. Maybe pull an Acidic Pool of first for some spell disruption while unleashing frightfull presence.

4) Fly away with your two caster/low CMD types.

Now here the fun begins.

The players will KNOW that dragon is trouble. It’s big, it’s strong and it just took out two of their friends. Preparations are in order. Looking for revenge or just licking their wounds, who do they meet roaming the swamps/walking into the inn? Their two little buddies.

And options are plenty here;

One is replaced by a doppelganger to find out ‘why the party attacked and what’s their secret weapon’. (Hell, if you chose the right player, just hand him this as a new character sheet)

One has been made ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’. His story; He was used for his arcane prowess, could barely escape while snatching a ‘secret map’. Just ad a mind link and the party might go and get this unattainable item for their scaly black friend.

One has just been released. (paranoia much?)
They’re both hugely scarred with acid as a warning.
They don’t remember anything.

It shows of the dragons STR.
It keeps ‘most’ of your players alive (never hesitate to pull a killing blow)
It adds a certain tension to the group.


THIS! I like this option better than the others I have seen.

And as for the gambling community... 5gp, 3-1 the party tries to run after one of their own dies.


OK, the only advice that I'm going to give is that no matter how this fight turns out (TPK, pyrrhic victory, or the players pull a miracle out of their collective buttocks and beat the thing down) it will be a night of gaming that all will look back on fondly.

Plus, in the case of a TPK there's always the follow-up 'revenge' campaign to kill that monster what killed me pappy!

Shadow Lodge

Pale wrote:
Plus, in the case of a TPK there's always the follow-up 'revenge' campaign to kill that monster what killed me pappy!

Always a nice way for the PCs to bond. At least it's better than some old guy hands you a map and an hour later 2-10 strangers are suddenly the best of friends...


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I say blast'em, those damn PCs are always more clever than we give them credit for;) The frightful presence is going to be a problem to overcome for the party. I'd suggest a flyby with a snatch of one of the fighter types, fly away, chew on him/her a little bit, then return to trash he rest of the party. In the mean time the party can buff a little and maybe put up a respectable showing. No way the dragon should be killed though. Sounds like fun, let us know how it turns out.

I just ran 4 13th level PCs against a CR 17 Green, gave the party the assistance of a CR13 Bronze, and plenty of prep. Had to let them kill the poor beast (the green), as if he had escaped it would have resulted in a TPK. Long story short...the PCs had encountered this dragon before, the Sorceror was dominated, the party figured they were outmatched--my fault because they really were. Got sent on a mission in return for their lives. Pro from evil was cast to subdue the dominate and they teleported into attack, it was a nice battle, killed the cleric, dropped the ranger and bronze, everyone else was beat up pretty well.

Those dragons are fun aren't they!!?

J


Captain Marsh wrote:
Full confession: I didn't read the stat block carefully enough and didn't realize that the beast's AC and SR were that high.

Here's what I'd do: Use the stats for the adult black dragon, but make it's hit points equal to the number of PC x 161. This knocks AC, SR, et cetera back down to party-appropriate levels, but still keeps the fight in the Epic Battle category. If and when a PC drops, deduct 161 hit points from the dragon's total unless doing so would take the dragon out of the fight. Don't tell the players you've done this.


10 level 10 players versus a CR 16?

Yeah, no holds barred. The PCs have picked a very nasty fight, and any D&D fan would be done a disservice to experience this encounter in a diluted way. Balance-wise, it's not a good fight for the PCs, but it should be possible -- in theory. Yes, players will die -- but that's part of the fun (:

I'd have heroism and mage armor pre-cast.

Break the fight up into "phases" -- initially pure air assault with breath lines, cone of cold, and flyby melee bites while 15 ft. up (thanks Greater Vital Strike!) -- a brief ground assault (focusing on whoever has done the most damage) -- and a water-based finale.

In melee, make sure to use swamp stride + insect plague (lure melee into quicksand, then put 6 wasp swarms on them) and crush a hapless small PC when he lands. In the water phase, use acid pools on the water instead of lines.

I'd focus on hitting heavily armored individuals with a breath weapon, blast the party with cones of cold when the breath weapon is down, and introduce any caster types to black tentacles.

The dragon has a number of escape options (invisibility, dimension door, swamp stride, etc.), so there's no reason the dragon should actually die. Just make sure you don't get surrounded by melee for much time. If the dragon actually does die -- congratulations go to the PCs (:

*Carefully* read the fly skill. You're going to be doing a lot of maneuvering -- so you'll need to have this info practically memorized.

Yes, it's mean, but the encounter is always a mean fight (: The PCs have access to plenty of escape options (teleport), so no mercy should be granted. If they get a TPK -- oh well, don't start a fight you can't finish q:


Treantmonk wrote:

Options:

1) Fight it straight and kill the party. TPK. Yuck

2) Make the Dragon weak - let down your players. Yuck.

3) Have the Dragon run away/leave - players are let down. Yuck.

4) Dragon slaps around the players taking little to no damage until the party realizes they are sunk. They use quick thinking to develop an escape plan, get away badly hurt, vow revenge - and you have a reoccurring villain.

Seems to me there is only one good option. Pre-plan an escape option for the players to use. Hint to the Bard just how difficult this dragon is going to be, and maybe hint he may want to plan some kind of escape plan if things go badly.

Decent option.... but I think I like this one better.

AC 38 is nuts for them. Sr 27 is pretty high too, as is 20d6 breath.

An Ancient Black Dragon is likely to have seen some SERIOUS fighting in its time... it could be that yours hastaken to its cave(whatever) in a kind of forced retirement. It's been wounded over the years, leaving it with brittle scales and partial blindness. (maybe it was attacked by a powerful angel, mighty hero, or good dragon)

You could lower it's AC to something a bit more hittable (say 30) and say that due to a wound in its maw that never healed some of it's acid is constantly pouring out, lessening the breath weapon to 10d6 acid, and lowering it's extra acid damage by 1 die on all attacks. The damaged eye could give the players a 20-40% concealment.

Alternatively, keep the lowered acid damage and reduced AC and pull the Leibdaga *spoiler* the dragon is not at full power and can only take a standard OR move action every turn unless it spends a turn focusing, after which it could then make a full action... if you go with this I'd reccomend that the acid pools up around it when it's spending the turn "focusing" to give it a better defensive measure... until it's at half strength then it regains full actions.

Maybe let the bard make a check to recall the creature that wounded the dragon, and use some kind of illusion to cause the dragon to go berserk on the image for a turn, giving the players a freebie?

I would NOT kill the pc's, but I'd scare the CRAP out of them if you can.

Oh and DEFINATELY get some Shadow of the Colossus music for the fight.


Hey when is this fight scheduled to happen, anyway? Keep us updated, I'd like to know what you decide to do and how it works out.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

With that many PCs they have a really good chance of taking down the dragon.

If you downgrade the dragon then it won't be one of those memoriable role playing situations they will talk about for year.

You have given your players a challenge, one they remember for years to come if they can win. How great that memory depends on how many PCs survive.

Think of how awesome that dwarven fighter with his potion of fly will feel when the party is all dead and the dragon is almost dead, and he charges in criting with his greataxe as the dragons corpse slips deep into the murky depth of the swamp.

Not to mention the phat loot that survivors are going to have! All the dead PCs gear and the dragon horde!

If I was in that group I would be salivating and the possible loot and prestigue of the fight ahead!

The only way you make memoriable moments is to be on the razors edge between success and a TPK. Just make sure the reward is worth their risk.

Plus if the fight goes bad some should be able to escape, find some more people to help them seek revenge for the death of X Y and Z. So now the dragon's horde is full of loot plus the loot from your dead friends.

Downside, you may end up getting too much magical gear in the party and them becoming too powerfull. For instance Johnny the dead barbarian decides he wants to play another barbarian, he picks up the two handed +1 dragon bane greatsword and some other good dragon hunting gear knowing full well that the party will let him have all the gear from his dead barbarian. Now he has twice the gear! eek! That would be my biggest worry.

Oh the swamp could be very deep with muck and gear gets lost to help you there.


Cautionary note, with a AC of 38 the parties fighters, assuming weapon focus and greater weapon focus, and a 22 strength,and a +2 weapon, are hitting at +20 with the primary attack, needing to roll an 18+ to even touch the Dragon's HP. The SR will all but nullify magic. I might only lower the Dragons AC by 3-5 points to keep the hit percentage around 25%.


nathan blackmer wrote:
Cautionary note, with a AC of 38 the parties fighters, assuming weapon focus and greater weapon focus, and a 22 strength,and a +2 weapon, are hitting at +20 with the primary attack, needing to roll an 18+ to even touch the Dragon's HP. The SR will all but nullify magic. I might only lower the Dragons AC by 3-5 points to keep the hit percentage around 25%.

Mind conditional modifiers; flanking, charging, and summons for Aid Another, plus whatever buffs go up. Flanking alone would be sufficient to advance from 15% to 25%.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Oh and if you want to lower the CR of the creature, you said its a CR 16, if you add the Young Creature template it is now a CR 15 and may be just the drop in ability you want.

The following is cut and paste from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Reference Document

Young Creature (CR –1)
Creatures with the young template are immature specimens of the base creature. You can also use this simple template to easily create a smaller variant of a monster. This template cannot be applied to creatures that increase in power through aging or feeding (such as dragons or barghests) or creatures that are Fine-sized.

Quick Rules: +2 to all Dex-based rolls, –2 to all other rolls, –2 hp/HD.

Rebuild Rules: Size decrease by one category; AC reduce natural armor by –2 (minimum +0); Attacks decrease damage dice by 1 step; Ability Scores –4 Strength, –4 Con, +4 size bonus to Dex.

If you are most worried about the AC then do not give the Dex Bonus to it. So a clumsy Young Creature.


Dittio to Viletta. For the spell casters the high SR means more buffs should be sent the warrior's way. This increase the likelyhood of them hitting over the long term and does not blow spells. I do belive there is a paladin in this group, which will likely become the focal point of the battle.

The dangerous part for the PCs at this point is that they blundered into the creature and are not nessisarally optimized (spell wise) for this fight. It is sad, because in one more level this Dragon against this party would be more the diced. Aura of Justice,11th level Pali ability, makes a warrior top heavy party into an Evil killing machine on a single target. Add buffs of Strength and Cha spells for double the to hit bound fun.


Viletta Vadim wrote:
nathan blackmer wrote:
Cautionary note, with a AC of 38 the parties fighters, assuming weapon focus and greater weapon focus, and a 22 strength,and a +2 weapon, are hitting at +20 with the primary attack, needing to roll an 18+ to even touch the Dragon's HP. The SR will all but nullify magic. I might only lower the Dragons AC by 3-5 points to keep the hit percentage around 25%.
Mind conditional modifiers; flanking, charging, and summons for Aid Another, plus whatever buffs go up. Flanking alone would be sufficient to advance from 15% to 25%.

True, but you're not likely to flank a dragon if the DM is playing it right, at least not for more then a turn. I think if he applies the young template his players might begrudge him that. Clearly (as its my idea lol) I'd go with what I said, but any of the ideas are valid.


nathan blackmer wrote:
True, but you're not likely to flank a dragon if the DM is playing it right, at least not for more then a turn. I think if he applies the young template his players might begrudge him that. Clearly (as its my idea lol) I'd go with what I said, but any of the ideas are valid.

Pretty much any round you don't flank, you can probably charge, so one or the other will probably apply for the +2.


Viletta Vadim wrote:
nathan blackmer wrote:
True, but you're not likely to flank a dragon if the DM is playing it right, at least not for more then a turn. I think if he applies the young template his players might begrudge him that. Clearly (as its my idea lol) I'd go with what I said, but any of the ideas are valid.
Pretty much any round you don't flank, you can probably charge, so one or the other will probably apply for the +2.

That I agree with.


charge has a habbit of provoking attacks of oppurtunity, also it is in a swamp terrain might not be great for charging even 5 foot steps might be hard depending on specifics.

in a normal situation these players are dead meat, pickled and left to rot for e few days before the dragon eats them.

one of the best things to do might possibly set up an encounter to distract the dragon at some point.

maybe some local lizardmen hunters whose tribe has long been on the receiving end of the dragon's fury, might await a good moment to help take it down, the dragon is too mighty for them alone.. but it might be their one shot to get rid of this threat to their continued existence.. yea a bit out there.. depending on situation, but it is an alternative to cut them a little slack.


Tonight's the big night, right? Can't wait to read about how this plays out! :D


Viletta Vadim wrote:
nathan blackmer wrote:
True, but you're not likely to flank a dragon if the DM is playing it right, at least not for more then a turn. I think if he applies the young template his players might begrudge him that. Clearly (as its my idea lol) I'd go with what I said, but any of the ideas are valid.
Pretty much any round you don't flank, you can probably charge, so one or the other will probably apply for the +2.

Charge = AoO = pain


Finish the story, grandpa!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Remco Sommeling wrote:
charge has a habbit of provoking attacks of oppurtunity, also it is in a swamp terrain might not be great for charging even 5 foot steps might be hard depending on specifics.

Well this is taken care of with a 3rd level spell. Drop a water walk and then the party walks across the water of the swamp as if it was solid ground.

The black Dragon burst out of the swamp, so the water is pretty deep in areas. Being a black dragon it may like to dive into the water then pop up under the dock sending the PCs flying in the drink. Much to the shagrin of the dragon when the PCs hover inches above the water.

Plus at 10th level hopefully the party has some of those "rainy day" items. Well it is friggin pouring! Time to pull those high level scrolls out. Time to drink that potion of displacement, and fly the fighter has been saving. So the mage does not have to cast fly on the fighter.

Anybody have a rod of splendor so they can tent the dragon?

The rogue recalls, "I did have that cursed item, the dust of sneezing and choking I saved us from. Maybe we can use it to our advantage today."

This list goes on of those items you have had tucked away on your character sheet you thought you would never get to use. Well time to cowboy up and use them.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

lol well got a great visual aid if it does come down to a fight. Have a bottle of Scope (green of course)under the table by you. Have the dragon grab a pc, pop poor sod into his mouth, you take a swig of scope then with closed teeth spray it out into a cup making screaming pc noise at same time, and roll damage on the pc.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
OgeXam wrote:
The black Dragon burst out of the swamp, so the water is pretty deep in areas. Being a black dragon it may like to dive into the water then pop up under the dock sending the PCs flying in the drink. Much to the shagrin of the dragon when the PCs hover inches above the water.

Course this would also let the dragon attack the pc's from beneath their feet. Also if a target of water walk is tripped do they fall in the water or land on their side and stay there? If the latter, what would prevent the dragon from dropping them onto a height to go splat on the water that is solid to them? Corner case but throwing it there. I'm at work and don't have books with me.


by all means they should be dead, cant see how this would end well, the moment they fail their fear saves they are even more useless.

a dragon worth anything will have mage armor up, going by the standard dragon, a vital strike bite with power attack will do nearly 80 damage on average, acid pool breath is nasty, well.. let me know ^^


It really depends on the terrain in which the black dragon is found. If it's in a marsh setting the dragon might be able use it's swim speed to attack the party from below.

If it has room to fly it can also be problematic as I assume that not everyone in the party has access to fly magic and that the spellcasters don't necessarily have enough flight spells to buff everyone. If the dragon can do flyby attacks and dive bombing runs with his breath weapon the PCs could be in bad shape. Even with resistance spells that acid breath is going to do some pretty significant damage especially if the dragon can take down the spellcasters first.

I'm not saying that it's a definite TPK, because 3 clerics in the party should be able to buff like crazy, but played intelligently the dragon will likely retreat and use hit-and-run attacks until the action economy favors him. At that point he'll move in for the TPK unless the PCs can withdraw effectively (basically teleport type retreat).

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