Making a Vampire Boss Scarier


Advice


I am using the monster Codex vampire Lord (CR 15) with a lower crit range weapon. Campaign is a homebrew set in the nation of Katapesh. Party is 4 PC's, lvl 10, with some decent magic items putting them at lvl 11 wbl. No full casters, but 3 can cast spells.

I am hoping to make my Vampire harder to hit, or at least able to survive a little bit longer.

Is there a way to gain resistance to Holy weapon damage? Or to mitigate the damage from a Silver arrow tipped Holy bow, wielded by a Zen archer monk?

Is there a way to defend against the Sunbeam spell which has a very good chance of crippling (Blinded and up to 30d6 at CR appropriate level), or outright destroying them?

Is there an easy way to surreptitiously help buff my low WILL party against baleful polymorph and Dominate?

I am hoping to make this an epic, but fun fight the party enters ready for. They know there is a Vampire behind the scenes, and they are currently doing research on Vampires in general. The boss will have Bleed inducing minions, but should i add a lesser vampire spawn as well to soak up some of their abilities? Or should I just stick to regular minions?


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If you want to make the fight feel epic, then make it a multi-staged fight and have some twists that aren't totally unfair.

Let the players have their special damage. Nerfing them against the boss is a real let down. Instead buff the boss to keep the encounter a challenge. Also set up an enviroment where they have a distinct advantage.

Start the 'boss' fight in a room with the typical minions the party is use to facing, and the 'vampire'. But this is actually a vampire spawn that the real boss uses as his public face. Both the minion and the real boss need to be the same race.

Decorate the seen of the combat with several collared slaves dressed in scandalous outfits with obvious bite marks on their necks. Preferably one of the slaves should be a NPC the PCs have met and not an enemy. Start the minion with +20 temp HP. With the slaves behind him this should limit the AoE attacks a bit. Don't actually use the slaves as hostages, even the minion considers that beneath his dignity.

At half HP the minion starts screaming for his 'Master' to allow him to retreat. Permission never arrives and the party destroy the minion here. 2 rounds after the fight ends a secret passage opens and the real vampire lord reveals himself. He is accompanied by armored trolls (half the party number) who show signs of blood on their armor (like they were bit). The trolls charge forward to melee the party and the Lord stays in the secret passage from where he throws a few spells to amuse himself. For protection he has cloak of shadows up. Maybe make it a permanent item in a shoulder slot.

The Vampire Lord at this point has extra HP based on how long the first encounter went. Subtract 3 rounds then give him 5HP for ever round remaining. When he gets reduced to half hp have him shout "How dare you dogs invade my home! Follow me now and be plunged into the pit of despair." As he triggers a lever and dashes into the secret passage.

The passage itself is a staircase that proceeds 30' and then makes a right turn before it continues to descend. This repeats 4 times. At each landing there is a portcullis blocking the path. Each portcullis requires either a DC 30 disable device or 30 strength check to bypass. HP 50, Hardness 10 to break. The passage at the bottom continues for another 30' and is lined with cages capable of holding several large sized creatures. Several sets of manacles are sized for large, medium and small sized humanoids. The passage has a large bronze set of ornate double doors at the end. They are unlocked and easy to open.

Beyond the doors is a large room filled with Deeper Darkness (as the spell). The room is lined with tables and bookshelves. Several sarcophagi are placed around the room. If the party can see in this darkness they can plainly see a human sized black crystal in the middle of the room. The crystal is responsible for the Deeper Darkness. It can be deactivated by damage (hardness 5, hp 50), or 1d4 rounds of either Disable Device or Spellcraft. -20 to the check if they are attempting it blind. While the crystal projects this field the entire room is flooded with negative energy. While the negative energy doesn't harm the living, it does give the undead 10 points of healing each round. A DC 20 spellcraft check identifies the effect when the party enters the room.

The Vampire Lords last 'ally' is in this room. Some time ago he met with a cleric of Norburger and decided to keep him as an assistant. Now the cleric waits in the room for the Vampire Lord to be greviously harmed before he take action. When the lord has significant wounds he channels negative energy to heal him, or casts harm or other cause wound type spells to heal the vampire. He also has a few dispel magic and other buffs to help the Lord. He also possesses a ring of invisibility and he won't break the invisibility. If the cleric is somehow freed from the vampires Domination he'll turn against the Vampire by casting his only prepared Heal spell (which is saved to heal himself in dire circumstances). Through the combat the cleric uses Spectral Hand and a Metamagic Rod of Reach to avoid standing near the Lord so he can avoid AoE attacks. He also has full ranks in sneak and moves after each casting so he can maintain stealth and remain hidden in case any PC has see invisibility.

If the cleric outlives the vampire he'll try to quietly leave. If that doesn't work he'll act very happy and thank the party for freeing him. He knows about the secret treasure vault the Lord has and willingly offers to open it for them. He tries to sneak away at the first good opportunity.


Also, definitely use spells like unhallow and other environmental gamechangers... even higher-level PCs are not always prepared for this.


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

One thing that can work well against a prepared party is a fake out. The Vampire has something that isn't a vampire disguised to look like him. The party unleashes their best spells, some of which have no effect, but the minion is probably destroyed anyway (bonus points if you can figure out a turn to mist effect.)

This is something you have to handle with care though, it can't be overused and you have to give some way that they could theoretically figure it out. The GM is the only method by which the players can perceive the world, and they do need to trust that you are relaying it in a fair manner.


Some great ideas so far.
This is the absolute final big fight of the campaign, after this it is story cleanup and then a ride into the sunset (so to speak).

So I am hoping to keep this from being a 2 round fight. The fake out neutral minion enemy is a good one, that will burn at least a few abilities early on.

The Norgorber Cleric is a brutal idea, though my party will likely hate the heavy doors idea more, they have had a notoriously hard time with locked doors (So I am definitely doing that).

Unhallow is a great idea too, since the Church of Serenrae uses Hallow on their church with the Daylight spell. So it shouldn't surprise them, but it definitely will.

Thanks for the ideas, keep them coming.

Sovereign Court

Guardianlord wrote:
I am using the monster Codex vampire Lord (CR 15) with a lower crit range weapon.

The Magus level 14, correct? So dropping the longsword for a club or something?

Guardianlord wrote:
I am hoping to make my Vampire harder to hit, or at least able to survive a little bit longer.
Well, tactics are Greater Invis + Shield so at least AC 32 and maybe 50% miss chance if they can't See Invisbility. It has a Haste prepared, and casts Expedious Retreat in its tactics instead, which is strange. Have it cast Haste, and all of its buff spells before combat. It also has DR 10/Adamantine for 140 damage thats not listed in its stat block (due to pre-cast Stoneskin).
Guardianlord wrote:
Is there a way to gain resistance to Holy weapon damage? Or to mitigate the damage from a Silver arrow tipped Holy bow, wielded by a Zen archer monk?
If he misses, no damage. Mirror Image on spell list, but not tactics. Pre-cast that too. For the bow wielder, consider swapping out some feats* for Deflect Arrows if you are really worried. Cloak of Winds is another -4 to ranged attack rolls (which includes rays) and is in the tactics.
Guardianlord wrote:
Is there a way to defend against the Sunbeam spell which has a very good chance of crippling (Blinded and up to 30d6 at CR appropriate level), or outright destroying them?
Well, Sunbeam is a ray, so will have to contend with Touch AC (19 with Haste & Cloak of Winds), and Mirror Image(and invsibility) . Corruption Resistance would help against the holy damage. How is the party getting Sunbeam? Its a 7th level spell?
Guardianlord wrote:
Is there an easy way to surreptitiously help buff my low WILL party against baleful polymorph and Dominate?

I am seeing a Will save of +13? Also, Undead Traits makes it immune to Baleful Polymorph(requires fort save and doesn't also affect objects) and Dominate (mind affecting). Wait, you are talking about defending the party from the Boss.

*As much as losing the 5th level spells would be annoying in general, consider dropping a level of Magus for Scaled Fist Monk. This at least will increase its Touch AC (by at least 5) and take Baleful Polymorph off the table. You can pick up Deflect Arrows for free this way, and Combat Reflexes if you take 2 levels. Better yet, also consider the Eldritch Scion archetype, probably Unchained Monk so you have a better Flurry. Drop Int a few points and bump up Cha. Cha is everything for undead, Will saves, hit points, AC (with Scaled Fist), spell casting(Eldritch Scion). Something like Arcane Bloodline for free buffs(Resist X, and Displacement so even if they can see him, still 50% miss chance). Spell Combat and Flurry things for energy drain (though energy drain still only triggers once per round). So something like Primary, Flurry, Spellstrike, and Haste at full BAB, and an iterative at -5. Using Spell Combat to cast Frostbite, that is pretty decent damage to anything not resistant to cold damage. Frostbite alone would be doing 5d6+65 damage if all 5 attacks hit, plus the unarmed strike damage (1d6+15 with Power Attack each), plus energy drain (the save is after 24 hours). Between Fast Healing 5, gaining 10 temp HP each round from Energy Drain, DR 10 Adamantine/Magic/Silver, Mirror Image, Displacement, Greater Invisibility, Resist 10 Cold/Electric, Resist 30 to something, Half damage from Fire... This Vampire is really durable.

Guardianlord wrote:
I am hoping to make this an epic, but fun fight the party enters ready for. They know there is a Vampire behind the scenes, and they are currently doing research on Vampires in general. The boss will have Bleed inducing minions, but should i add a lesser vampire spawn as well to soak up some of their abilities? Or should I just stick to regular minions?

Unhallow was mentioned earlier, and is a good choice. It will give Protection from Good, so hopefully that increases the Boss' touch AC by 1 point (deflection). You can link a spell to it as well, consider Darkness, Dispel Magic (targeting the party), Bane or Freedom of Movement (targeting the Vampire and his allies).

Fire Shield is also on the buff list, but not in tactics.
Frankly though, just running the creature as written but changing the tactics to actually pre-cast all of his buffs/environmental spells (darkness), and other 'buff' options (blood draining some slaves for additional temp HP = max HP), children of the night (1d4+1 bat swarms, blindsense, immune to weapon damage, last an hour, automatic damage that causes bleed). Have it create some spawn to gum up the works.
Even if they do "kill" it, don't forget it has Fast Healing 5, and when dropped to 0 it automatically triggers gaseous form becoming basically immune to all damage "Additional damage dealt to a vampire forced into gaseous form has no effect." And in an hour it will start Fast Healing and become a threat again. And if they can't See Invisibility, they will have no idea what happened.


I did a vampire boss once, made him vigilante, so he had a social side, who the PC's were unaware he was a vampire until he snapped

I gave him a ton of grapple based feats, like body shield, and some vigilante talents I don't remember, but it was sketchy

He didn't do a ton of damage, but he grappled began to feed, and used his victim as a shield

If nothing else it was memorable :D


If you want a master class in how to make a vampire boss awesome and scary, read the original Ravenloft module by Tracy Hickman. If should be very findable online.

Here's a link to an article about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenloft_(module)

Sorry, I don't know how to activate the link.

J

Sovereign Court

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In reading this it sounds like you're simultaneously trying to nerf your vampire and then nerf all of your players' abilities that would affect it. This is a very dangerous road of thought for a GM. Never fall in love with your monsters and never try to nerf your players capabilities. Some encounters they should breeze through as they are prepared and others should be more difficult. If this is not the case, the onus is on the GM to vary their encounters for difficulty.

My suggestion to make the vampire tougher is to remove nothing and add either the Advanced template, the Mythic Agile template or simply add more minions to the encounter. Any one or combination of these three suggestions will work to make the encounter tougher.


There are few things more terrifying in the game than a Vampire who isn't afraid to use Dominate Person to the point of ad nauseum.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Sunbeam is not a ray and therefore would not be impacted at all by AC. It is a "line from your hand".

Otherwise, looks like some very creative and sound advice. Good gaming!


Buff the vampire; not against the PCs specifically but with some general stuff that helps their method of fighting. Use minions/proxies as liberally as possible. Even if you don't want to use Dominate Person spells on your PCs the vampire still HAS that power and should be using it the best way they can to survive.

With a party of level 10 PCs, WBL that puts them at APL 11, without full casters, I'm guessing you've got a lot of DPR monster PCs. This is generally about being in melee, so it's likely that your PCs will want to close to melee with the vampire.

If you want it to be alive more than 2 rounds, don't let this happen.

Use everything you can: a wall of minions, vampire spawn, flight, mist or wall spells, etc. to keep your PCs from the vampire. I say this not because the party will obliterate the boss with damage but also if the vampire attempts to flee through a secret passage to a secondary locale or something, if they attempt this with anything else than Gaseous Form they're taking AoOs and likely dying in the process.

Also check out the vampire's defenses. For example, they've got Resist Electricity 10. Having an environmental effect, like a malfunctioning Tesla coil in the vicinity shooting out 2d6 lightning bolts every round could be fun. Everything in the path of the bolt takes 2d6, save for half, but the vampire doesn't care b/c unless they miss the save AND it does max damage its nothing more than a bright flash to the undead lord.

ALWAYS know your exit strategies. Practice them, study them; run simulations at home before the game session. You need to understand the typical attacks your PCs will throw against this monster, how much damage these are likely to deal in an average round, and how your vampire will get away once cornered. It might be as supernatural as Gaseous Form, it might be as mundane as having tower shields stashed around the room for Cover - know how the vampire intends to use these things to successfully avoid the beat down they will likely receive in melee against this party.

Try to find a way to use EVERY ability of the monster, including the low level ones, to their advantage. For example while the PCs are taking a round to deal with the minions/vampire spawn, having the vampire suddenly call forth 1d6 +1 rat swarms to arrive soon isn't a bad idea. Sure, it'll take them a while but having a mass of rats attempt their Distraction on one of the partial spellcasters is one more action the vampire can take against his foes.

Another way to use Children of the Night is for flanking buddies. If your vampire boss is relying on their own Melee attacks to win the fight, having 7 wolves delivering Flanking and Aid Another to his attack roll for a round can go a long way to ensuring that glass cannon/spell combat-enhanced Full Attack hits and delivers its payload.

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