If they are coordinating their builds be familiar with and prepared for the Teamwork feats - in isolation they aren't always good choices (except for classes that get them for free w/a way to use them reliably) but if a whole team actually coordinates there are some Teamwork feats that get stronger if everyone in the party has them.
The more teamwork feats they have, the less real feats they have. Unless they're going to crazily overspecialize and leave holes in their party composition, which would be even better for you.
I love the flooding the dungeon idea.
How about a dungeon without an atmosphere? Or a dungeon in which, for some reason, the air is pure oxygen or something else which will explode?
but there are some Teamwork feats which are very very strong if the whole party or at least a core group is built to take advantage of them. And in many cases it only takes one teamwork feat to have a great deal of impact:
Amplified Rage (only half-orcs and orcs) - but really powerful - gives a +4 to your morale bonus to STR and CON if you are raging next to or flanking with an ally with the feat. There are some other fun rage teamwork/coordination tricks that can be done to make for a pretty strong team.
Specifically the Orc racial feat "Sympathetic Rage" ("Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who is raging, you may choose to enter a similar but less powerful rage as a free action on your turn. This weaker rage gives you all the benefits and penalties of a barbarian's rage, except your morale bonus to Strength and Constitution is only +2. There is no limit to how long you can rage, as long as you remain adjacent to a raging ally (for example, you could take a 5-foot step away from one raging ally toward another raging ally and maintain your rage). As with a barbarian's rage, when this weaker rage ends, you are fatigued. You cannot use this feat if you are fatigued."
Sure this full build would take two feats - but it makes for a party that can all rage but isn't all barbarians or bloodragers. If you have a few party members with abilities to grant teamwork feats you don't all have to take Amplified Rage. For more fun, combine with effects that play with moral bonuses (1st level spell Moment of Greatness for example would mean that every member of the party would have a moment when their bonuses from raging would be +12 to STR & CON or even greater if they were the character raging normally)
Elemental comixture - really complex feat but with the right party a couple of spellcsaters suddenly become extremely flexible (and some of the combos essentially grant some metamagic like feats for free w/o many penalties - i.e. "steam" effect makes the primary spell non-lethal AND can impose blindness. Works really well for spontaneous casters (like a sorcerer) combining effects with a divine spell caster who has extreme flexibility in spells they can prepare in any given day. Also requires the coordination of casting (vis readied actions) - very complex but also I think pretty nifty
Shake it Off (up to a +4 to all saves if they are all adjacent) - far far stronger for a group to all take this than say take Iron Will or other single save boosting feats (unless needed as prerequisites). Remember as well that there are now some ways to grant familiars (and I think animal companions for some archetypes) your teamwork feats - so a few characters w/familiars with the archetypes that get teamwork feats and this feat could make it pretty easy for a couple of casters to stand next to each other and get +3 to all saves (assuming two casters w/two familiars = 4 allies with the teamwork feat....) add in a third and it is pretty strong.
I'm sure a creative party can come up with some other coordinated builds - whether using all teamwork feats or a combo of builds that grant free/shared teamwork feats and other feats/racial abilities and select magic items - there are many ways to get very strong synergies which would have a really big impact at lower levels but could persist and be strong even at higher levels.
My favorite monster ever would work in this situation...
A Cat with nine lives, each stronger than the last. the ninth and final life basically a chimera with one head...
This can of course be upgraded to a different monster, but cats just make sense with the nine lives thing. But a dragonne or a sphinx are sufficiently cat like to go with.
PCs are elementally weak to terrain features. Slowed movement that the enemy can ignore, locations that inflict damage against which the enemy is immune, damaging devices that go off on a set area every turn.
Their also weak to effects that don't offer a save. Ranged touch attacks are pretty good, as are effects that destroy equipment. Take into account environmental effects on gear. Wands burn, potion flasks break. Backpacks rip, belt pouches get ruptured. If you really want to make them sweat, make orb-shaped keys an important feature of the dungeon, flood the place with orbs, and make 99% of them Spheres of Annihilation. Sooner or later, they'll give up or run out of lives.
If you fill it with undead and constructs, you can have the air be filled with various poisons. This works for isolated chambers too, actually.
You could also make it a maze. The area seems to be completely white, but in reality, it's filled with illusory walls and stuff. Mirrors show you things that aren't in their proper place, and there are walls that you can't see through, and then illusory one-way screens.
However tricky a maze etc might be I would also keep in mind that the adventure will only be fun for everyone if movement etc is fluid at the table - don't get so tricky and complicated that game play slows down to a crawl.
Instead I would suggest focusing on a map/maps that you have readily at hand and/or can quickly pull together - and instead of highly complex mazes or obnoxious traps (like the infinite spheres of annihilation) I would just focus on combining terrain, environment and nearby encounters in ways that will challenge the party - while also incentivizing them to keep trying to move forward. I know that timers are really popular advice for this type of situation (and indeed for high level play in general) but as a player and DM I'm actually a fan of letting them have some flexibility - but make the environment and their enemies use the time they take.
i.e. don't impose an artificial time pressure (dungeon flooding etc) but let them create their own pressures - chasing an escaping enemy, spells/buffs that will wear off, finding a defensible position to set up camp etc. One advantage of this approach is you let players and characters with abilities that only really shine with that extra time take full advantage of their class abilities.
For example - multiple day adventures lets divine casters who can change up their entire spell selection from day to day take full advantage of that - one day focusing on blasting and the next on buffs or control spells etc. It also lets divination spells/abilities start to matter as they really should at higher level play (but are frequently under-utilized)
If the party tries the one-encounter adventuring day however find ways to punish them (wandering monsters, planned nighttime events, effects from the aftermath of their encounters etc (i.e. other monsters in a complex may notice what has happened and start preparations etc)
A new DM friend of my once let the power level of his level 7 evil group get out of control. He couldn't challenge them with encounters that were ECL+5. He asked me to build him a BBEG (BBGG?) to challenge the party.
My solution was another party. I created a 6-man good party to hunt down the 6-man evil party, and make them pay for their crimes. They were legal builds, or adapted from 3.5 material, and had the same WBL as the party, (which is to say the wealth of level 12 characters. Like I said, my new GM friend let things get way out of control.)
I also built in roleplaying weakness to compensate for the Good NPCs very high power level and coordination, and gave them warning/background by having the evil party stumble across a town that held these 6 adventurers as town heros. Predictably, the evil characters pillaged the town, and only one player paid any attention to the giant statue of 6 NPCs in the town center, or the background the villagers were giving before they all got slaughtered.
Anyway, the party was:
A Half-Orc Paladin who had sworn a vow against doing lethal damage, only non-lethal. Provoking him into lethal damage causes him to fall and become an ex-Paladin.
A ranged specialist Ranger, who was naive and trusting to a fault. She would let you "surrender" even without laying down your weapons, only to let you get close and attack her.
An evil Cleric who had messed up summoning a demon and was accidentally possessed by an angel instead. I used 3.5 rules for demonic possession, only reversed. The evil party could freed him from angelic possession and flipped him to their side with anything that banished good outsiders, or even using protection from good on the cleric.
A Synthesis Summoner that looked like a wolf, pretending to be ranger's animal companion. Perception check to reveal it as a non-normal wolf.
A neutral Dwarf Wizard who felt overlooked and overshadowed by the rest of the party. He would have betrayed the party if the evil party made him a good offer.
A Druid who prefers to shapeshift into an owl (pretends to be the wizards familiar), and cast spells while flying above.
The first fight, the Good NPCs caught up with the Evil party as they were breaking camp in the wilderness. The NPCs were given a chance to surrender (or pre-buff), as the good NPCs shouted at them from 60 feet away. The evil party thought they were fighting 4 NPCs (not 6) and thought it would be a cake-walk. like everything else they had encountered. so far. They were wrong. They were quickly knocked unconscious and put in jail. My friend ran a few sessions where they broke out of jail, got their gear back, and, in traditional villain fashion, kidnapped the Half-Orcs loved ones.
The second fight, they were prepared for the Good NPCs, used good tactics, and it was close. But they still lost. They were once again thrown in prison.
Finally, for the third encounter they set up a well planned ambush and managed to kill the wizard in the 2nd round, leading to the evil victory. I was disappointed that they never used the roleplaying hooks I tried to provide, but they still enjoyed the challenge.
Moral of the story:
A well planned party with good tactics (the good NPCs in this case) will have a significant advantage.
In order to challenge them, you will need to match them in planning and number of actions. You can't match 6 move, standard, and quick actions a round with 1 BBEG. Either the BBEG needs powerful minions to back him up, or make your BBEG another adventuring group.
Huh. I'm a bit confused why people are so annoyed at the DM not looking at player sheets. I mean, most DMs I've seen don't look at player sheets anyway. Pbp is a little different, but then pbp isn't the common thing.
As for the amplified rage trick upthread, that is a fun thing to do, I adapted it to the giant smurfs once, gave them a barbarian level each, was good times.
Archers can really mess a spellcaster's day up by shooting when they try to cast.
Gunslinger 5/Fighter 1 with vital strike isn't particularly optimized, but can still be fun if you put 3 of them with double hackbuts into turrets spread out across a dungeon room(put lots of chasms and height differences in there, will force them to spend resources on flight), while you spice it up with some (flying) melee dudes to keep the party occiopied.
I once saw a 6th level summoner delay a cr 8 demon for several rounds by summoning five ponies and clever positioning. Having disposable chaff that can get in the way of angry cavaliers out to hurt your dear monsters is a good idea.
As for when you really want to make them sweat, turn the tables on them with action economy.
AoE in cramped conditions is one way to do this.
Actually, at level 9, the party would be silly for walking into a deathtrap without some means of restoring the dead. Letting the level 1 aristocrat housewife die, then carrying her body to the finish line and using raise dead would be a mostly painless way of completing the escort mission.
Wouldn't they still be dead? The negative levels from the raise dead is an issue when you only have 1 HD isn't it? And restoration has too long a casting time.
|Jayson MF Kip|
Trolls are too weak to be a threat to 9th level optimized characters - and besides, they'll just drop them far enough into the negatives that they can just leave them behind.
Not if they are half-dragons, have potions of immunity to whichever of acid and fire their dragon didn't give immunity to and toss on some levels of barbarian for extra pain.
Become vary familiar with swarm tactics for small to tiny creatures. Swarms of rust monsters is always an evil thing to do to PCs.
Become very familiar with environmental conditions. Wind stops any archer build. Water stops most speed builds. Sand bogs down almost anything, dust makes vision impossible past a few feat.
Give the BBEG a staff that has Disjunction as a spell so he can readily and easily attack their crazy magical equipment a lot. Players guard their equipment zealously, trash it all.
I had a friend volunteer to GM for a mid level party; any character build was allowed. This party of 5 9th level characters was eating him alive and he asked me how to handle them. I told him, let me GM for two months (we played every week) and he can bring in any 9th level character he wanted. I then drug the 6 of them into Ravenloft, put them up against the lich Azlan (20th level necromancer), and disjointed them at the start of every game session to strip off the crazy excess of magical equipment. They had a blast because suddenly they were being challenged but I wasn't throwing stuff designed to kill them each encounter. Few things just ran up to slug it out with them. Evrrything sniped from a distance or snuck up on them through walls (you can't hear ghosts sneak very well) and challenged their abilities without neutering the actual characters.
In simple terms, I carefully read Azlan's spell list, and played him and his minions as very, very smart and cautious antagonists to make the module a challenge. And every so often sent swarms of advanced skeletons and zombies at them just so they got to have a few good fights. Got to keep the melee types happy with some raw meat every so often; and then challenge them to catch or stop everything else. It was fun; and as close to GMing a party blind as I've ever come.
|SmiloDan RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32|
Swimming against shadows. Strength drain makes Swim checks harder.
Sneak attacking archers while climbing (most PCs lose Dex bonus to AC when climbing). Combine with ranged touch attacks, like produce flame, scorching ray, ray of frost, acid splash etc.
Poisonous fungus coating the walls, floors, ramps, etc.
Use lots of conditions, like confused, stunned, nauseous, etc.
And remember to make the fights FUN not just HARD!!!!!
An annoying grudge match with lots of ineffective attacks gets really boring and unfun fast.
Use a lot of variety. Don't make every room a 30 foot cube.