View Full Version : Bestiary "Cinematic" boss battles.

11-02-2010, 02:46 AM
*Just as a quick disclaimer, I'm not against the MM or normal bosses! My goal is variety for the bosses!* ^_^

In most campaigns that I've been in, the bosses were just big monsters with a bunch of HP. They were pulled straight from the monster manual. I want to veer away from that.
Just fighting *insert any boss monster* on *insert generic flatland* isn't quite as cinematic as I am going for.
In my campaign, the heroes are facing aspects of the seven cardinal sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony). I don't think anything in the monster manual would quite cover what I'm going for. Besides, I'm trying to stay away from the MM on these important battles.

I've been throwing out ideas for such bosses. I'm rather pleased with what I came up with for Gluttony. The players will be heading through a dungeon to their initial goal on a magical levitating boat (long story behind that, it's pretty much that dungeon's puzzle). The giant fleshy beast representing Gluttony will show up and start taking huge bites out of said boat. He will continue to do so until the players manage to either fend him off long enough to reach their destination or kill him. They have precious few turns before Gluttony completely eats the boat (and probably the players as well).

But now I'm not satisfied with the other Vices. I want the same sort of drama, but I'm pulling blanks for a few of them.

So here's some questions for you if ya need a little motivation to respond. Feel free to stray from them as you like, they're just there for those like myself who have trouble forming a response out of nothing.
1) Have you ever created/encountered a "cinematic" boss in tabletop gaming? Describe the awesome.
2) Have you ever encountered a really awesome boss in a video game that fulfills my description? Gimmie the game's name and the name of the boss so I can look it up on youtube.
3) Got any suggestions for a Vice? This includes Gluttony! I'm okay with dumpin'/altering him if something better comes along.
4) How do you like to set the mood for bosses? Utter darkness save for the flickering lights of the bold adventurers? Or p'haps a little jazz and the salsa?
5) Is there something horribly wrong with this idea? If so, what is it? Am I a total NOOB for not realizing it?

As always, thanks for your help! I really appreciate your input! :D

11-03-2010, 12:52 PM
The greed boss fight should take place in the garden outside an emperor's palace. Golden statue golem, maybe? Or Envy...

Remember that ideas can be cinematic (epic?) too. James Bond playing cards against Le Chiffre was intense. But there wasn't a single pistol or shirtless dude in the casino.

Evil Nosferatu
11-03-2010, 03:13 PM
If you want cinematic boss battles then the first thing that you may be forgetting is to speak with your players beforehand. The only real way that you’re going to be able to pull off a boss battle that feels cinematic (which I’m really getting that you’re wanting it to be extremely climactic and inventive rather than feel like a ‘scene’) then you might want to entertain the idea of taking control of player actions for short scenes during the fight intermittently.

Think about your favorite video game monsters for example… Whenever fighting with some of them they might bash through walls and enter into a new chamber filled with horrors and traps that they’re hiding behind because they’re realizing how much more powerful their opponent, the protagonists, are in the first place.

I would say for epic monsters that one of the best games for you to look up source material from is probably “Shadow of the Colossus”. There are NO mini monsters in that game and that means that the monster bosses have to be that much more epic. There is nothing wrong with planning no monster minions at all and throwing only random wandering monsters at your players if they’re seeming bored instead… while description leading UP to the monster might give more of the heightened effect you’re wanting if you cannot really think of what must be done to create your boss fight to be as epic as you’re hoping. Like all the designs of the tomb that the party is venturing into, including writings and runs from thousands of years ago that tell the tale of why it is that wrath came into being in the first place… The anger and hatred of the first murdered soul that went unanswered due to its inability to seek justice on the other side of the veil created its spirit, and hatred in the form of bigotry formed its body in the hearts of men…. And so forth.

I’m kinda rambling now, so I’m going to stop.

I wish you the best of luck with your epic designs.

11-04-2010, 03:03 PM
@ DMMike
OoooOOOoh! I can definitely work with that scene! Mweheheheh!

That is absolutely true. I hadn't considered that epic battle might not even need any sort of scuffle. A "Boss Fight" was a concept I was rather stubbornly holding onto, but many possibilities open up when I let go and try something else. I can definitely work with that! Thanks! ^^

---------- Post added at 02:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:34 PM ----------

@evil nosferatu
I picked high-roleplay for this campaign, and my current players are fantastic at it. When larger monsters are reduced to 0 or lower, I allow the person who sent them over to take a last strike for bonus exp (only awarded if they roleplay it creatively). I do the same sort of thing for entrance scenes for dungeons and introducing bosses. Completing the scene is something they do well (usually without asking, especially now that they figured out that I hand out exp for it! XD).

Building tension is difficult for me. It's something I've been working on. I've been having moderate success lately, but I'm still aiming for a bit higher. I'll keep trying on that front. Especially because it heavilly supports climactic bosses. >>

Thanks for your input! :D

11-04-2010, 04:06 PM
what system/edition. For gluttony, there is a devil/demon in MM that is all about eating. I'd modify him to get the challenge you want (but his mechanics will aid in the mechanics of gluttony).

with the greed one, it could steal the player's wealth (absorb it into his system making him more and more powerful like a magnet or something).

Envy, you could have a distorted mirror image of the party (the enemy envies the party). Or at least creates envy amongst the party members.

Pride, gladiatorial matches where they can't run away

Sloth - like the doldrums in the phantom tollboth (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Xd9fAEtUV0&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1)

Wrath - takes revenge by targetting people they love.

Lust - no comment in fear of forum policies.

Evil Nosferatu
11-05-2010, 12:14 PM
For a PC version of lust, do you think that you could pull off a slight bit of metagaming that might be alright? Perhaps one of them has in their backstory an opposite gender lover who died, or someone that was a childhood friend they loved but didn't really think on much of them in that period in time but now they've become much more worldly and more lovely? Perhaps a demon, succubus/incubus has taken this person's place and has 'miraculously' been brought to life by the gods thanks to the good deeds of the character, or come back 'home' or been looking for PC for X amount of years? All of course a ruse thanks to magic and such.... and of course they seduce said character.

It can probably only work if you haven't told your players about fighting the 7 deadly sins, and if they haven't figured it out... but you could make the encounter entirely fatal.... Not necessarily a one shot if they do fall victim to their wonton love, but a 1 vs. 1 scene for the poor unfortunate if he/she and the party hasn't figured it out by then?

11-06-2010, 03:53 PM
A cinematic fight should probably use cinematic tricks. Close-ups, slow-motion, and drama.

Close-ups: spend extra time describing the details of a boss's face, or his weapon, or the fearful faces of nearby NPCs.

Slow-motion: similar to the close-up, but describe things that are moving - like the blood trail left behind a gruesome swing.

Drama: maybe your rules system doesn't support a wounded character, stumbling in shock, holding his guts in. Doesn't mean you can't make it happen when he gets killed, though.

Soft Serve
03-21-2011, 11:29 AM
There is some ultimate goal to be had here right? They're fighting against something? If there's a time limit on how they get this done, use this with Sloth.

Sloth could possibly trap them in some kind of odd demi-plane that they "break-free" of a little too easy into a world where the thing they're trying to stop has been well accomplished. Where they were too late.

Of course it's all an illusion but the mind-screw will open windows for good role playing, story progression (maybe the illusion includes something about the end they don't know yet? A key in preventing it could be revealed), and in a case the whole world actually transforms you'll get to test your descriptive power.

The way out could be anything also. Fighting the embodiment, a series of riddles, whatever you need. Hope that helps.

03-21-2011, 10:12 PM
For Pride, you could use a highly-ranked cleric.

Imagine Gary Oldman's portrayal of the Vicar in Red Riding Hood - he was TOTALLY full of himself. You can bump up the CR by making him the "stuff of legend" and have lots of rabid followers that can't see how Prideful he is acting. Another source would be the Priest-King of Istar in the Dragonlance books. He thought his position of authority made him even more important than the GODS!

Imagine the crowd reaction if someone wanted to take out Bishop Desmond Tutu... yeah, that's LOTS of CR that the party would have to defeat.

I rarely use monsters for iconic "cinematic" bosses - I like fallible people for those roles.

03-22-2011, 01:08 AM
one of the more epic battles i heard described was the party found themselves trapped in this odd series of conjoined tubes. they eventually discovered an exit only to find that they were not outside of the adamantine golem they had been climbing around inside! which golem was falling through the air from very high up... the villain was waiting for them outside and thus began an arial battle of truly epic proportions. they were shoving off of the golem, it was swiping at them, the boss was a dual wielder slashing away and caster dispelling on them... all as the ground gets closer and closer. they tracked vertical movement too, so it got pretty intense, especially since there was a hard (pun intended) time limit on the battle. ^^

03-22-2011, 08:06 AM
Envy might be fun to have an absorption effect to it. Perhaps have it absorb the characters abilities, like a recharge power that absorbs their attack and lets Envy use it back against the party. Not quite a reflect, but rather Envy can absorb the power and save it for a while to fire back at the party. I suppose for single target attacks a reflect might be fine, but blasts and bursts might be more fun to save a bit.

Lust I think could be some sort of mind control effect. You could have a number of thralls in the room that the boss controls to send at the party. For some extra tension make these thralls people that the party are supposed to save, this way they can't just slaughter them to get to the boss.

Greed can touch various statues or objects around the room to draw abilities from it; like touching a stone statue to gain a few rounds of damage reduction or touching a torch or brazier to gain extra fire damage for its attacks.

For Wrath I'm copying what you did for greed a bit, in thinking that he could be chasing the party and knocking down pillars that collapses some portion of the ceiling. I guess this could either shrink the room, or cut off the various exits trapping the party. Perhaps the goal could be to outsmart him; have him either bring the roof down on himself or crush some idol thats giving him his powers or some such.

Sloth would be an odd one. My initial thought would be to have him be able to cast webs about the room to slow the party or create walls in their path to deter them. To keep him from doing the work perhaps there's a crew of lackeys that will attack the party. Sloth's only actions are to keep the party from reaching him while his lackeys do the hard work of killing the party. My concern for that would be that the encounter would drag on for a very long time though.

Pride I see as more a role play boss than anything. His demeanor and actions would show his vanity; he'd be giving them the "You're not worth my time" and sending his lackeys after the party instead. Making the encounter more of a chase through a gauntlet of weak foes instead of a brawl in a single room. It might be fun to have the boss actually be the weakest foe in the encounter, he talks himself up the entire time but when the party face him he's dead in less than a round.

I normally do try to make boss fights far more interesting than just grabbing a sack of hit points from the monster manual to throw at the party. Now having said that I tend to draw up the encounter and include some special element to it, then grab something from the monster manual to act as my boss. For example in one fight I had the party hunting down an undead lich who had a bunch of townspeople held captive, during the fight the lich would try to get to his prisoners drain their life and use that energy to unleash a powerful attack. This gave the party something more to think about than just beating the boss to death, they now had to control his movements since letting him get away let a captive die and got them blasted with a powerful hit.

I don't normally have the time to create a brand new monster for the party to fight, so I use something from the monster manual to fill in the stats. Then I'll make the encounter special by putting in something unique in the environment that adds to the fight makeing it a bit more memorable.

05-13-2011, 06:21 PM
I have a "sort of" idea for wrath...make a creature so repugnant and distasteful, pathetic, slovenly, ext. that the player will want to kill it. The twist is that they can only "win" by not killing, thus resolving to abandon their own wrath whether it be justified or no, you decide. This could be set off by the monster killing innocents or anything else that will rile the part up for blood. Or perhaps backwards, racist ext. town folks will mislead the players with their ignorance and bigotry and the players will have to be judged on their actions. Could play out for much drama and have melee be, or not be the final goal as you see fit.

BTW great idea the 7 sins an all :) Good luck with it, let us know how it turns out.

P.S. I am aware that this idea is not cinematic in nature but it's the idea that popped into my head.