Am I running things wrong or does 'surprise' not work?

Shackled City Adventure Path

Silver Crusade

If the players can see the bad guy, (and the sorceror has permanent see invisibility up, which means I can scrap 90% of the tactics in the book) the bad guys can't surprise the players in the bad guys own base of operations.

My players just pantsed Dyr'ryd before he, mindbite or the other he, got chance to do anything.

The initiative thing* really has hampered my bad guys. if they can't do anything before at least half the party goes, they're dead.

1) Bad guy is talking to the players, his conjoined twin starts casting a spell (a standard action) and initiative is rolled.
2) The players get good initiatives (one character has initiative of +12, another +11, that's the Gunslinger and the Sorceror respectively) and the bad guy goes last out of 6 participants.
3) Sorceror launches the fighter with telekinetic charge, or the Gunslinger does a full attack, or the fighter (who may have rolled well) does a full attack. The fighter is kicking out 250 damage in one round WITHOUT A CRITICAL, the gunslinger does about 150 and the sorceror does about 80 unless he throws the fighter in, then he can claim credit for the fighters damage.
4) After 2 characters have gone, bad guy is nearly toast or dead.
5) Eventually the bad guys spell (that one that was meant to start the fight) is cast, unless you know... he's already dead.

The only way I managed to get a spell off before the players knee-capped the bad guy, was with a still, silent, enthrall... Even then they all passed the will save (except one).

Average lifespan of my CR17-CR19 bad guys is about 12 seconds...

Partly this is because I'm sure shackled city has more on the wealth-by-level than normal, but I can't find the table with that on, so to mitigate this, I started adding 'blessings of Adimarchus' (ie. Curses) to some of the big-bad's loot. Mostly this has just pissed my players off. The belt of Str +4, Dex +4 and Con +4 turns you into a woman. The epic armour the werebaboon is wearing gives you lycanthropy, the arcane archer's bow makes you fall in love with the next person you see... none of this interests my players, they just want the loot, so they can buy more stuff at sigil.

*is a bit pissed off*

Frustrated GM is Frustrated.

Mrs. C.

You're following the book's script too closely. Why was Dyr'ryd even alone? He's got a whole sanctum full of allies and (more importantly) expendable mooks. At the very least Shebeleth should be present to buff his ally and draw fire. Even better would be a bunch of lesser demodands getting in the way.

There are like a million posts in these forums about never letting your BBEG fight alone. If Dyr'ryd is toast just plan ahead for the next showdown.

How are your players getting full attacks off during the surprise round?

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

+1 on not allowing the BBEG to make his final stand alone. The action economy is really against solo bosses.

BBEGs need to have their defences up before they even meet the party, and they need to have a good initiative modifier.

If your players have PF characters, then I hope that you have re-vamped their opponents as much as possible (PF classes, more hp, etc.). If the party is larger than normal, then that requires some re-adjustment of the foes too.

If you're still looking for the PF Character Wealth by Level table, it's on p. 399 of the CR. Maybe a treasure/wealth audit is due, to find out how much exactly each character has? In some parties, certain players are good at grabbing the good stuff (thus making their PCs extremely effective) while others are not/just lend other PCs the gp necessary to equip them beyond level norms. Also, I've instituted "treasure cards" - pieces of paper, each with a specific magic item described upon it - to avoid duplication (unintentional or otherwise) of items.

I can't remember off the top of my head, but is there any way to defeat See Invisibility? It's a measly L 2 spell, so there should be something ... <checks CR book briefly> ... Dust of Disappearance should do the trick, as will a good Stealth result.

And no BBEG should be surprised if at all possible. Sound carries from combat (noisy attack spells, warriors in full plate, guards shouting), and the BBEG should have warning spells and guards with signalling devices in places (from a simple gong to a pre-cast Telepathic Bond). Even if the BBEG can't cast those sorts of spells, he could easily have a suitable spellcaster on hand to do it for him.

Surprise round comments ... if the party and foe(s) are in conversation and someone starts spellcasting, that can be tricky to adjudicate. Is the spellcaster obvious or hidden? Is the actual spellcasting obvious or hidden? If nothing is obvious, then the other side either has no chance to perceive it, or has to make very good Perception checks (and know what they are seeing).

Needless to say, everyone who is surprised does not get to act in the surprise round (and are flat-footed until their initiative in the next round), and those who are not surprised may only take one "half-round" action (a standard or a move/move-equivalent action) in the surprise round (and are flat-footed until they do so). But I'm sure that you knew that already. :)

The 3.5 version of Dyr'ryd is capable of spider climbing while invisible and moving from wall to wall. Both that version and the PF Bestiary version give a shaggy demodand a crapload of fog-based spells that could blanket the whole room. You can't see invisible if you can't see at all!

Remember, Dyr'ryd's goal is to fight a delaying action - not directly engage the party. I'd give the 3.5 version Ventriloquism in place of one of his other sorcerer spells.

Silver Crusade

One PC had see invisibility up, one had invisibility purge and IIRC the fighter had some kind of staggering feat. So surprise round he stuns/ staggers the bad guy, he then full attacks doing silly damage.

I tried to figure out what mobs to give him but short of more were-hellhounds, nothing really worked.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

My solution to the action-economy problem is something I call the Defiant template. It basically is a template that you can apply incrementally. Each application gives the monster another block of (maximum) hit points. The monster has also got one free reroll per template application on saves (though each use basically gives it an effective negative level) - though I very rarely use this instead of the following options. It can also expend a whole (i.e. undamaged) block of hit points to immediately ignore any instant death or instant lose effect (e.g. paralysis, stun, Maze etc etc). It can also as Swift action at the end of it's turn, expend a whole hit block to get rid of any effect on it that it doesn't like (like Iron Heart Surge should have worked).

And of course, you can quietly add it - or remove it - on the fly...!

This works great for me, as I have well-optimised groups of up to eight characters nowadays. It means that the whole party generally can't just nova the boss in one round. I means Save-or-lose effects are reduced from anti-climatic effects without being rendered useless - and indeed, there's some arguement for keeping them as finishers.

This way, it keeps the boss' defensive abilites up long enough they get a chance to put a few holes in the PCs before they finally go down - but without the correspondingly too-big rise in offense, which I found was the problem in just making them higher level (and often sub-optimal offensively).

Defiant template in detail, from conveniant post I made the other day.

(Note that I treat CR as solely a value of "how much XP does it give out" and I've never used EL as anything, so I wouldn't swear by +1CR/template application as a rigid formula for determining encounter difficulty.)

As I've been adjusting APs for said number of players, I've been absolutely abusing it for all the bosses, because in practise - at least or me and my players - it works stupendously well.

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