Frusterating the GM by Curbstomping thier Boss


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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So a while back we were playing our weekly session, and there was going to be a boss encounter down the pipeline that our GM had dreamed up for us (no official adventure, this one is pure homebrew, though our GM has ran this setting multiple times and written up an ungodly amount of material for it, so it's pretty well fleshed out and quite fun).

Quick party rundown and backstory.

The party consisted of: A Human Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer, specialized in lightning magic (like 90% of his spells are lightning, though, and this is important, he does have Ray of Enfeeblement).

A Halfling Bard. She's our party healer, buffer, and resident cute. She took the archetype that lets her channel positive energy. She also like sweets.

An Elf (sea-elf) Oracle. Token evil teammate, she took the Inflict tree of spells, has the Dark Tapestry Mystery, and is quite creepy.

A Vanara Monk of the empty hand, who has an enchanted bottle that he smacks people with. It technically counts as an improvised weapon, which is why it works with the empty hand archetype, even though he carries it around and his hands most certainly aren't empty. Our GM is nice.

And my character, a Human Summoner and her Eidalon, Mr. Floofy, who takes the form of a medium-sized mangy housecat. The summoner has lots of support spells and all the summon spells, while Mr. Floofy is speced out for insane single-target damage, and he and the monk are the main damage dealers for single targets, while the other casters are adept at dealing with large groups with lightning and flamestrikes.

The situation was that we had basically accidentally opened a portal in the middle of the ocean under the waterline that lead right to the BBEG's castle (by breaking a magic item of some sort when we blew up the ship it was being shipped on with a lightning bolt to the powder storage bay). The portal closed after a few rounds of seawater pouring into BBEG's throne room.

He was not pleased.

Fast forward a few days, and we're adventuring through a temple when we encounter an assassin that has been kitted out specially to combat our group. "The Chaos Mage is displeased!" he shouts, waving a wand at Mr. Floofy. A wand of banishment. Quadruped Eidalons have an absolutely laughable will save so poof, Mr. Floofy is gone in the surprise round, and as one of our main damage dealers, that was a big thing. (I have subsequently evolved spell resistance so I have at least one layer of defense against that kind of thing)

Initiative started, I was up last. The monk, who is always first, was first. He goes in, and instead of doing his usual beat-it-in-the-face-with-as-many-ki-points-as-i-can-throw-at-it technique that the GM was probably prepared for, he did something unorthodox for us. A trip. Mr. Assassin does a faceplant, shouting that we will rue the day we flooded the Chaos Mages inner sanctum. It's at this point we notice that most of his clothes are magical, and when the Sorcerer's turn rolls around, the lightning bolt bounces harmlessly off of him. Someone remembered their rubber underwear, and he was immune to lightning, almost completely negating the sorcerer. Bard sings, swings, and misses due to critfail (it happens).

The Oracle goes, and tries out her Interstellar Void Revelation, and HEYGUESSWHAT it seems he's just straight up immune to elemental damage because immunity to cold was in his super-suit too. The oracle says she's fine with this, as nothing blocks the holy half of flamestrike. We didn't want to test to see if he somehow had a way of absorbing negative energy.

Instead of standing up and incurring AAO's from the monk and bard, the Assassin stays lying down that turn and casts defensively, passing the concentration and flinging a Hold Person from another wand at the Monk. He manages the will save though, and it goes around to my turn, with the assassin still on the ground. The GM asks what I do, since I normally buff Mr. Floofy and have him go at it, he's curious as to how I'll change my tactics. As a side note, I do not have the Summon Eidalon spell because I'm dumb.

My summoner was pissed. Her best friend had just been banished! So she does the normal thing in this situation, using the summoner ability to cast Summon Monster as a spell like ability if their Eidalon isnt up. "I summon a Succubus."

He's lying down and prone, so my newly summoned Succubus easily grapples him and starts making out. Level drain was something he was not prepared for >:D

The fight got a lot easier from there, with the Succubus draining a level every turn. What made it a cakewalk when it shouldn't have been was when the Sorcerer cast Ray of Enfeeblement and knocked 8 points of his STR. He couldn't break the grapple, and the monk was making sure he kept down even if he made a little headway. Also the Oracle had no problem flamestriking both him and the Succubus (I told her I didn't care if she damaged my summon, My character has a habit of mistreating her summons sometimes. Not Mr. Floofy though). He died due to level drain, sonic damage from the bard, and holy damage.

Long story short, my GM's boss was... less effective then he probably could have been (the GM's plan was to banish Mr Floofy, Hold the monk, and then break out the damage spells and some activated traps in the room to incapacitate us, relying on his defenses to protect him from the rest of the party. Also it turned out negative energy did actually damage him). All because the monk tripped him, basically, because after that he couldnt move. It was amusing to all of us that even though he was immune to our usual tactics, all we had to do was change up tactics just a little for it to be a compete cakewalk, even without our major damage sources.

TL;DR We stomped a boss who was immune to most our stuff because we tripped him. Does anyone else have any stories about fights that should have been tougher but wern't because of unorthodox tactics or unusual actions? Any GM's been on the receiving end of this? (I know I have, tale for another day ;) ) How about just amusing boss fights in general?


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What level is the party?

Banishment can't be made into a wand, maybe it was a wand of dismissal?

What is a critfail?

The (un)holy half of flamestrike's damage has nothing to do with positive
and negative energy.

When you use wands you don't provoke AoO so you don't have to cast defensively.

Did the GM tell you what class the "assasin" was?


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The GM's problem is likely that he is using a single enemy instead of multiple. Single enemy bosses are really bad ideas. Also getting immunity to cold and electricity damage is pretty hard. Even my level 20 Wizard isn't immune to *all* elemental (Well.. if you count sonic) damage and it uses magic jar to get a good body then buffs it up with tons of spells. Sounds mighty fiat-y.

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leo1925 wrote:

What level is the party?

Banishment can't be made into a wand, maybe it was a wand of dismissal?

What is a critfail?

The (un)holy half of flamestrike's damage has nothing to do with positive
and negative energy.

When you use wands you don't provoke AoO so you don't have to cast defensively.

Did the GM tell you what class the "assasin" was?

Maybe it was dismissal, I just remember that banishment works on Eidalons, so that's what I said. It was probably Dismissal.

I know, I mentioned the Negative energy part because I didn't want people wondering why she didnt go up and cast Inflict on him. We know that some effects (such as being undead, though this guy wasnt) cause you to heal with neg energy, and we didn't want to risk it, because it would be just like the BBEG to outfit his guy with a magic item that absorbed it.

A critfail is a natural 1 on the D20.

Huh. Didn't know that about wands. Our group just treated them like casting normal spells sans components, cause the components were used in the creation of the wand. Okay :P

And no, but from his actions I think he was a UMD Rogue. He might have been something else. Also I can't quite remember, but I think we were around level 9 or ten. It's been a while, this party is now level 14.

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Anzyr wrote:
The GM's problem is likely that he is using a single enemy instead of multiple. Single enemy bosses are really bad ideas. Also getting immunity to cold and electricity damage is pretty hard. Even my level 20 Wizard isn't immune to *all* elemental (Well.. if you count sonic) damage and it uses magic jar to get a good body then buffs it up with tons of spells. Sounds mighty fiat-y.

Yeah, we've discussed this with him, we now face more opponents, so things are more challenging now. Also his setting has some interesting magic items that he fiat-ed, this campaign would be thrown out the window of any serious by-the-book Pathfinders. But is still fun, and the party all enjoys it ;)

Silver Crusade

I recently saw a GM give up in disgust and end the campaign when the PCs curb-stomped his BBEG. It was 2/3 through Kingmaker. The party was about level 10. The PCs were outrageously munchkin-style hyper-optimized. I was observing. The boss in question had a bunch of mooks and about 250 HP. The first few PCs to act killed all the mooks and the boss on Round One, with massive overkill. The GM had had enough, and quit right then and there. For which I blame him not at all.

I think the problem is that the AP was designed for non-optimized PCs, such as the Iconics. I had previously encouraged the GM to multiply all foes threefold, with double HP, but he didn't want to do this. Frankly, given the PCs hyper-power, even such a six-fold increase in the power and number of foes would not have made a difference.

Liberty's Edge

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We had the same 1-boss-gets-curbstomped thing happen recently when one of the players decided to GM. We had a nice discussion about how the solo boss simply does not work in Pathfinder, and that any sane person would run away if faced with the prospect of fighting a full party solo, or possibly solo at all.

Now we face lots of multi-enemy encounters, with 2-3 mini-bosses, and it's a blast!

Before: DM tosses out his uber-boss, an invisible CR15, against the party of level 10s. Blind-fight fighter hits him with limning weapon, then squishing happens.

After: DM tosses out two CR13s and 8 CR 5s. After 15 rounds of intense back-and-forth strategizing, we emerge victorious but in pain. No-one died (unless you count 3 very potent summons), but we certainly felt it and the fight was a lot more interesting.

Dark Archive

StabbittyDoom wrote:

We had the same 1-boss-gets-curbstomped thing happen recently when one of the players decided to GM. We had a nice discussion about how the solo boss simply does not work in Pathfinder, and that any sane person would run away if faced with the prospect of fighting a full party solo, or possibly solo at all.

Now we face lots of multi-enemy encounters, with 2-3 mini-bosses, and it's a blast!

Before: DM tosses out his uber-boss, an invisible CR15, against the party of level 10s. Blind-fight fighter hits him with limning weapon, then squishing happens.

After: DM tosses out two CR13s and 8 CR 5s. After 15 rounds of intense back-and-forth strategizing, we emerge victorious but in pain. No-one died (unless you count 3 very potent summons), but we certainly felt it and the fight was a lot more interesting.

Yeah, we had a similar discussion with our GM. Sometimes for story purposes we still face single targets, but us breezing through those is now to be expected.


Well, there was this one time a pack of level ones I was rolling with managed to kill a dire tiger. We were lucky, and we did some of the math wrong, but to be fair the GM was dropping a dang CR 8 ambush on us when we were sniffing around for some CR 1-3s. It's not like you can run away from them either, at their speed you only get away if you sacrifice a party member or they just decide to not follow, and it was in the mood to follow.

Grease, ranged attacks, in-combat healing, sneak attacks...we survived, because it was one foe.


So your DM thought a single rogue* even prebuffed** could even hope to do something against a party of 5 (6 with the eidolon) of level 11+? I am surprised your eidolon lost the DC 16 will save.
No, a single enemy doesn't stand a chance at those levels, especially against such a big party.

*or ninja or something having the rogue class as his chasis

**i assume that the "immunity" to electricity, cold and fire came from potions of protection from energy and resist energy (both bought at high CL)


One of my major bosses in a 3.x campaign 8-9 years ago was taken out with a grapple followed by a failed save against a helm of opposite alignment they found along the way.

In a campaign I started in high school, in the first session the two 1st level heroes used ray of enfeeblement and grapple on my level 18th wizard I made as the token quest giver and knocked him out. That ended in fury for me, as I had never encountered anyone who would do that, so I was caught completely offguard. I caught on very fast once I was able to start another campaign in college.

Unorthodox tactics (from the perspective of the victim/target) will catch you by surprise and work very well. Combat maneuvers can be very dangerous when thought out. My player had his wizard cast mad monkeys, which makes a monkey swarm with a free disarm/steal attempt. They also do damage to said item. Destroyed the NPC's bag of iron pellet grenades.


SirLeadhead wrote:


TL;DR We stomped a boss who was immune to most our stuff because we tripped him. Does anyone else have any stories about fights that should have been tougher but wern't because of unorthodox tactics or unusual actions? Any GM's been on the receiving end of this? (I know I have, tale for another day ;) ) How about just amusing boss fights in general?

Casting from wands does not provoke and they have crappy saves.

Bosses without minions are generally not much of a threat. It is better to have minions.

To answer the question I had a caster that also had a good attack/CMB bonus, but I kept rolling 1's and 2's to escape a grapple, and I only needed a 4. That led to my BBEG also getting his butt kicked via grapple. This went on for about 4 rounds. I even had some ability that allow me to do one reroll, so I had 5 straight rolls of less than 4. There was no offensive output.


So his plan hinged on the monk failing a will save. . . from a wand?


Lots of fights should have been tougher, but if the PCs have fun doing it it's alright.

Back in 2nd edition I had a bbeg cleric ambush the party with his mega-awesome-summoned earth elemental...only to watch it get banished on round 1 and he get polymorphed into a tortoise. He became the party mascot, though, and we still talk about him 20 years later.

Solo bbeg encounters don't always turn into roflstomps, either. I had a dragon encounter in Pathfinder planned against 6 PCs only to have one PC (and a monk at that) fail over and over and over again his entangle save. He missed the entire encounter with the dragon which nearly became a TPK. If he had been there and gotten in even one hit during the affair, the dragon wouldn't have been staggered with 0 hit points just as his breath weapon came back around and he killed 4 of the 5 party members on the scene. It fell to the only remaining PC (a rogue) to kill the dragon, which he did. That was a great encounter.

Generally I agree, though, that solo encounters are not all that challenging unless they are so high that they are not much fun.

Sovereign Court

Magda Luckbender wrote:

I recently saw a GM give up in disgust and end the campaign when the PCs curb-stomped his BBEG. It was 2/3 through Kingmaker. The party was about level 10. The PCs were outrageously munchkin-style hyper-optimized. I was observing. The boss in question had a bunch of mooks and about 250 HP. The first few PCs to act killed all the mooks and the boss on Round One, with massive overkill. The GM had had enough, and quit right then and there. For which I blame him not at all.

I think the problem is that the AP was designed for non-optimized PCs, such as the Iconics. I had previously encouraged the GM to multiply all foes threefold, with double HP, but he didn't want to do this. Frankly, given the PCs hyper-power, even such a six-fold increase in the power and number of foes would not have made a difference.

I can see how this goes wrong. If your players are system-savvy, they can use that in several ways. One is to become uber-optimized for the AP. Another is to spend resources on diversifying, adding character depth, all while staying sufficiently effective in combat.

The latter approach is probably nicer, but it carries with it the expectation that all that character depth is gonna get screentime at some point. If the GM is just sticking to the AP, what's the point? So then you gotta go off-script as a GM too.

I do think that's totally worth it though. I think if the players are ready for it, treat the AP as a "core" for the campaign, and add lots of sidetreks.


SirLeadhead wrote:
Does anyone else have any stories about fights that should have been tougher but wern't because of unorthodox tactics or unusual actions? Any GM's been on the receiving end of this? (I know I have, tale for another day ;) ) How about just amusing boss fights in general?

This might be an odd story, because it was very different from the two sides of the screen. And might actually show how your GM should have handled that one to keep it fun.

My party has a habit of being... indecisive. We tend to argue about what to do next, even though we really, really shouldn't.

So we're (gestalt) level two/mythic one, sweeping a ruined fortress for some bandits that have taken up camp therein. It's also, rather irritatingly for us, infested with mindless undead. We've already gone through three encounters this day (almost four, since in the process of taking a roundabout road to get to grips with some archers my character got ambushed by a trio of skeletons).

We're kind of middling on resources at this point; our Druid/Barbarian has burned through all of her heals for the day and we're still at about half-health. Our other caster (my Magus/Sorcerer) is at about half capacity. The other two, fortunately, don't really use a lot of resources (Fighter/3.5 Warlock spec'd for archery, Alchemist/Kineticist spec'd for fire), so they were pretty much okay. The Alchemist does his sneaky thing and scouts ahead a bit, comes back. There's a hallway up ahead with a couple rooms leading off, but we don't know what's behind the doors. One door stands out for being made of wood, so we decide that's probably a good place to start.

So we all go parading through the hallway, stop in front of the door... and stop to argue, there, about whether or not we should really open it.

Yeah. Not a great plan, that. A patrol of three immediately investigates the noise and spots us. The guy with a big sword charges, the dwarf with a crossbow blows a horn to alarm the bandits, the mage (we think) readies an action.

Our Barbarian hits back... and down like a chump goes the melee guy. My Magus throws out a Daze and gets counterspelled. The dwarf starts getting bombarded by our ranged fighters.

More enemies start to flood in while the mage retreats (to show up later as a general irritation, but not in this fight). Six behind us, and the door we'd been debating over opens with a gang of four or so inside. Two of the six behind us move in and get slaughtered; I fall back to hold the door open in case we need to retreat by dealing with the other four. One Color Spray later and it's one spearman versus my Magus. My Magus-- the party tank with AC23 at level 2-- tries to conserve spells by spamming Spell Combat-Daze and banking on her AC to avoid damage. Cue being knocked down to 8 HP by the spearman as his lowest roll was a 15.

Meanwhile, our Barbarian is tanking the group inside the room by standing in the doorway with the ranged fighters firing past. That group is being reinforced; over two rounds they get about four more fighters-- one of which is an intimidating-looking guy in black full plate, another is a woman packing magic that gets promptly double-teamed and cut down. Around this time the GM comments to me that the fight is not as difficult as he expected-- in no small part because us arguing and getting attacked where we did had turned into a really nice position.

Aside from the spearman nobody is lasting more than one round, and most of them aren't accomplishing much, but we're burning a lot of resources just holding their numbers down... and then the man in fullplate steps in.

He shoves our Barbarian back a step and proceeds to absorb a ridiculous amount of damage as the last of his allies (save the spearman) are killed off. Between having a credible AC and soaking up something like 40-50 damage (remember, we're level two), as well as dishing out attacks big enough to dismantle us in one or two hits, we're kind of starting to panic. The Barbarian is hurt badly enough to fall back, the Alchemist chugs a mutagen (for Dex, and thus +4 AC) and steps in and promptly gets hit hard enough to get knocked out.

My Magus finally polishes off the Spearman and moves in, burning off almost everything she has left for a Fleet Charge (mythic) paired with a Spell Combat -> Shocking Grasp. And he stays upright. Barbarian gets a crit in to finish him off, but in the process of dying he does enough to knock the Magus and Barbarian both into the negatives. Only the Warlock is left standing.

So: The fight proper? GM called way too easy (and looking back I'm inclined to agree, after being told what the spearman rolled). The boss? Uprooted the traditional action-economy issues to punish us hard.


We fought a single decent level barbarian as a sort of boss once. Wildshape druid grappled first thing and the two weapon fighter tore it apart. Two rounds tops, and it never had a chance to act.
The we almost died to the exploding zombies in the very next room after the fighter was gloating about the barbarian.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Sounds like my latest game, where the GM was concerned about our cavalier being able to kill the boss in one hit, and bumped the enemy up a few levels.

It survived the greatsword crit, but not the second hit a round later.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Once upon a time, many moons ago, in an old epic 3.0 or 3.5 campaign (can't remember which right now), I had spent two days making an epic sorceror aboleth savant. 60 HD creature with class levels. Literally spent 12-15 hours making this enemy, picking its spells, double checking all of the math, etc. Party makes it into the aboleth's chamber, and the cleric one-shots it with an Implosion spell before it even gets a single action off. I was so pissed. Damn you Swamii!!

Another campaign in the same homebrew world, the party has come face-to-face with one of their old mentors (a retired group of adventurers, of which the rogue had gone bad and joined the death-cultists who were stirring up trouble in the region again) and as he is delivering his 'you puny children can't defeat me' speech, the force mage lets loose with a quickened sphere of force, followed by a maximized sphere of force. Squashed the rogue-turned-traitor like a bug. That one didn't upset me as badly. I had spent considerable effort making them hate this guy, to the point where they were literally out of their seats once he appeared. Damn you Loretta!!

Both great moments we all love to reminisce over.


Ascalaphus wrote:

I can see how this goes wrong. If your players are system-savvy, they can use that in several ways. One is to become uber-optimized for the AP. Another is to spend resources on diversifying, adding character depth, all while staying sufficiently effective in combat.

The latter approach is probably nicer, but it carries with it the expectation that all that character depth is gonna get screentime at some point. If the GM is just sticking to the AP, what's the point? So then you gotta go off-script as a GM too.

Seconded. As a general rule, I like anything I invest in making my character good at to be useful. If I lowered Throg the Barbarian's strength so I would have enough skill points to invest in Craft (basketweaving), then I would like to have at least one situation where Throg's basketweaving abilities are a useful asset.

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