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Thread: Monster Boot Camp Series: Dragon

  1. #1
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    Monster Boot Camp Series: Dragon

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    OK ... We all love roleplaying, but truth is I always enjoy kicking some "Monster's Butt".

    On the other hand, I have noticed that most of the DMs I've played (including myself) seem to struggle when lashing Multi-ability / Multi-attacks monsters against the players, They (we) never seem to unleash the full power of these monsters against the PCs.

    Therefore, Dragons, Lichs and Beholders seem to die sometimes "easily". May have to do with our INT 9.

    So, please share your best strategies when playing these monsters.

    ----
    - For Dragons I always rule that when they hit their opponents, the PCs are slammed against the nearest wall or thrown away (if fighting in the open).
    Saluti
    Carlos

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    For Dragons: buy the Draconomicon and use the meta breath feats. Dragons with quicken breath and maximize breath are fun. Also, dragons are smart. They usually know that adventurers will be protected from their energy type if people have seen the dragon. Plan accordingly. Dragons shouldn't be afraid to get in the middle of the pcs and mix it up, attacking all out with every weapon at their command. Remember to have the dragon use spells and magic items from it's hoard to protect itself. Shield and Mage Armor raise the Dragon's AC by eight points, very handy for not getting hit. Scintillating Scales, from the spell compendium, changes your natural armor bonus into a deflection bonus to help your touch AC. Cast Cat's Grace to improve your Dexterity score. If you have an energy weakness, use the best spell you have to shield against it (ex. fire shield, protection from energy, resist energy, or energy immunity from the spell compendium if you can cast it). You are a dragon, squish the lesser creatures like the almost god-like being you are.

    Liches: are usually pretty bright. They should pick their battle spot very carefully, be surrounded by minions, have spells cast before the party arrives in the room with plenty of time to spare on their duration, and have nearly fool proof escape plans. Example: A lich's choice of battleground could be a maze filled his servants and deadly traps. Not only does the lich know the maze perfectly, he also has numerous phase doors scattered around so he can jump through a wall (or the floor or ceiling) and not be followed. Also in this scenario, use wall spells to separate the party into smaller groups.

    Beholders: should also have plenty of cannon fodder handy. They should try to get into a position to use as many eye beams as possible. Think three dimensionally as they can always go up and over. Also remember they can turn upside down while airborne. Having a charmed low level arcane caster on hand makes for an invisible beholder hanging out near the ceiling.
    Last edited by starfalconkd; 09-17-2007 at 08:50 AM.

  3. #3
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Enemy Spellcasters: In the play by post game I'm running, the humanoid bad guys wait in ambush while the characters' caravan rambles on with the stealth of a circus caravan. Twice they attacked the caravan while it was crossing a river, hitting the party while they were at their most vulnerable. And when the party finally got the upper hand, they were able to Dimension Door out and escape.

    Don't let the players get the surprise when they don't deserve it. In fact the bad guys should get surprise when the situation warrants it. And just like the player Wizards will Teleport out when the battle starts going bad, so should the bad guys.

  4. #4
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Dragons: Dragons can fly and have a ranged breath weapon at their disposal. They should fight by staying out of range of characters' ranged weapons, and dive to use their breath weapon over and over again until the party is significantly weakened or scatters. Once the party scatters the Dragon should quickly kill one character at a time. Like I killed Moritz' Dwarf Fighter.

    The Dragon's Damage Reduction is very helpful, as is its Sorcerer Levels. Don't pick the spells at random, the Dragon is intelligent. Pick spells like Detect Magic, and Invisibility or Mirror Image.

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    I've never had a problem with not using the monsters to their best potential...I always tell my players I am their Storyteller...their referee...and their enemy I figure we can always roll another character up...it adds spice. Though some players tend to get mad...I had one not too long ago decide to fight Lolth one on one instead of running, and naturally with one swipe he was dead. So he pouted the rest of the game (all of 15 minutes left) and refused to play with us anymore... He's in his mid 40's and he acted like a 10 year old. I told him paper is cheat and rolling is fun, so roll up another character..

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    Quote Originally Posted by starfalconkd View Post
    They usually know that adventurers will be protected from their energy type if people have seen the dragon. Plan accordingly.
    Sage advice, Star. Debuffing spells are your friend. Often, the party will know ahead of time that they will be facing a dragon, and they will dutifully buff up before going into combat. As a dragon, if I have access to cast dispel magic, either from my spells or an item, it's one of the first things I am going to do.
    Robert A. Howard
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    Personal Reminders

    I write myself a lot of personal reminders in order to try and keep myself from failing to use creatures to their full potential. You can see this in the "tactics" area of the Were-Slavers adventure I have posted in the articles. I wrote all those notes for myself. Other things I've done so I don't have to decide what type of attack a creature is going to use is just setup some semi-random guidelines before hand.

    An example from a Samarai/Warblade NPC I wrote had an attact section of:
    Attack: (roll 1d6)
    1-2: Katana +3 +22 (1d10+8 (17-20/x2))
    3-5: Maueuver Attack: Katana +3 +22 Damage: as maneuver
    6: Recover Maneuver (or use maneuver if all recovered)
    Fill Attack: (roll 1d6)
    1-4 Katana +3 +22/+17/+12 (1d10+8 (17-20/x2))

    5: Maneuver Katana +3 +22 - Damage: As Maneuver
    6: Recover Maneuver (or use maneuver if all recovered)

    I didn't narrow down the specific maneuver because the list is small for a warblade and easy to choose.

    I've had some of those random block get long with "if <50% hp" & if "< 20% hp" sections in them, but they do include things like potions(or other item) use, retreating etc.

    My comment to self is, "When in doubt, kill a tree before hand".

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    "Sam" would always whine that it's not fair that the 'enemy' was using tactics, smarter, and had more stuff than he did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    Sage advice, Star. Debuffing spells are your friend. Often, the party will know ahead of time that they will be facing a dragon, and they will dutifully buff up before going into combat. As a dragon, if I have access to cast dispel magic, either from my spells or an item, it's one of the first things I am going to do.
    Another good choice is the Breath Weapon Substitution spell from the spell compendium or the Breath Weapon Admixture spell if you can cast ninth level spells.

  10. #10
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    My Young Adult Red Dragon can only cast spells as a fifth level Sorcerer, which limits it to second level arcane spells. So far it used 'divide and conquer' to kill one character, Detect Magic to nearly kill another, and surprise to severly damage another. It still has some nasty tactics that it can use. Unfortunately there is a reasonable limit to how powereful a monster you can throw at 10 eighth level characters. For now they're all cowering in a hole in the ground, safe for the time being. That may change soon...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Zachary View Post
    My Young Adult Red Dragon can only cast spells as a fifth level Sorcerer, which limits it to second level arcane spells. So far it used 'divide and conquer' to kill one character, Detect Magic to nearly kill another, and surprise to severly damage another. It still has some nasty tactics that it can use. Unfortunately there is a reasonable limit to how powereful a monster you can throw at 10 eighth level characters. For now they're all cowering in a hole in the ground, safe for the time being. That may change soon...
    Obviously I don't know the scenario here but why haven't they attacked the dragon. A group that large should be able to kill it... with minimal casualties.

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    I was just in a campaign where 5, level 4 and 5 characters, were destroyed by a young adult black dragon....none of us could hit his AC without rolling a 19 or 20 and my sorcerer's spells were limited to Daze and Sleep which Daze only worked for one round at a time making the battle just drag out longer since no one could hit him anyway...so they would run, but it would fly and catch them and spew his hellish acid all over us...plus we were on small 20' wide islands that we had to swim between...so there really wasn't too much running going on....a full plate clad Darkguard (yes we were evil) went straight to the bottom...my light-weight sorcerer didn't have the strength to continue swimming so had to stand his ground to the bitter (acidic) end...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by starfalconkd View Post
    Obviously I don't know the scenario here but why haven't they attacked the dragon. A group that large should be able to kill it... with minimal casualties.
    Allow me to answer...

    We arrived at the ruins of an old castle where the dragon has its lair, down in spells and a bit wounded. Most of us made it to a protected tower, except for a certain dwarf who chose to run alone in full plate armor rather than be helped by a Dimension Door spell. He was cut off and easily killed. [Later on we traded two of our prisoners to get his body back, see next paragraph.]

    We were chasing a group of villains who may be in league with the dragon, we're not sure yet. The next day we chose to sneak attack the five bad guys instead of the dragon. We won, but one of them escaped. We didn't count on the bad guys having three Glabrezu with them. Ouch! I think that was the right move, we didn't want to attack the dragon and have five humanoids help it.

    However a few of us strayed or ventured outside the protect tower we were in and got badly burned by its breath. We used up at least half of our spells in our earlier attack, so we can't attack the dragon until tomorrow. If we stay alive until then.

    It has been dropping rocks on our tower to be able to get at us, and has broken a hole in the roof. Once it gets inside it will be able to breath into our underground room. It may even be able to dig though the earth above us.

    I've been trying to kill it with Phantasmal Killer, but it made two of two saves so far. It can't make its saves forever, I just cast a third spell at it. I just need to stay out of range of its teeth and claws. I'm well protected against its fire.

    If we can stay alive until tomorrow and recover our spells, we'll be able to kill it. But that will depend on how Ed plays the dragon, and how much help it will have from its allies. There's at least one that escaped us.

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    You guys beat three glabrezu demons at 8th level? I'm impressed. Amusingly, their individual CR is equal to the dragon.

  15. #15
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by starfalconkd View Post
    You guys beat three glabrezu demons at 8th level? I'm impressed. Amusingly, their individual CR is equal to the dragon.
    That shows that CR is much less than an accurate predictor.

    It helped alot that a Priestess (Cleric) cast Align Weapon for some of the fighter types. The Demons were surprised by well enhanced fighters. They'd probably beat the Dragon easily if they could catch it underground by surprise where it couldn't fly.

    Tactics matter.

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