Page 378 - Exponential Escalation

19th Dec 2013, 6:00 AM
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Exponential Escalation
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 19th Dec 2013, 6:00 AM edit delete
Newbiespud
Ideally, a combat encounter should find that sweet spot just outside the players' comfort zone, just beyond their ability to lock down threats, but not so far as to completely overwhelm them.

Said sweet spot can be somewhat easier to find when you have the magical power to upgrade your creatures and provide reinforcements on the fly while saying, "Yeah, that was totally how they were designed all along."

41 Comments:

Digo 19th Dec 2013, 6:03 AM edit delete reply
I wish that one player in my group understood that comfort zone thing back when he was running Super Hero adventures. Maybe then I wouldn't have been known as the only hero to have locked down Magneto with a car.

Or that time he sent Lobo after us which by comparison was something like a Challenge Rating 4-5 points higher than we could deal with.
ANW 19th Dec 2013, 6:06 AM edit delete reply
Looking at comic. Nope, can't think of...
Got one.
What is your favorite punny D&D Monster?
Me: Don't know. Never played D&D.
Zuche 19th Dec 2013, 6:16 AM edit delete reply
That would be the goddess of an obscure cult mentioned in Dragon magazine's first articles on the humanoid panteons, specifically the one for orcs: Mispigie.
ANW 19th Dec 2013, 8:43 AM edit delete reply
Miss Piggy?? Like from the Muppets?
Well I understand them.
Looks like them, but a lot prettier.
Zuche 19th Dec 2013, 4:45 PM edit delete reply
Yeah, it was definitely her. The same series of articles noted that each dwarven clan had its own minor deity serving as the patron of brewing, with names resembling fairly well-known breweries.
Digo 19th Dec 2013, 6:26 AM edit delete reply
My favorites were always ones I created:

Blue Punch Buggy was an iron golem with a blue tint to his body. Prefered method of attack was pounding PCs with his giant fists. He also had a high DR against bludgeoning... which meant no punch backs.

Kilt Cloaker: A cloaker (like a cross between a manta ray and a black cape), but in a plaid design and looked something like a kilt. A hive of them were hiding on some manniquins when the PCs walked by.

LEGO Dwarves: This was an encounter with some deep dwarves. I used lego bricks because I forgot my miniatures for the encounter. I forget exactly how it started, but they ended up with the ability to stack for size bonuses.
Dugong 19th Dec 2013, 6:26 AM edit delete reply
Story time! Tell a story where what seemed to be a simple fight suddenly escalated.


For me that was with my first character, a duskblade which I "optimised" to be a glass canon and a complete idiot (being new to d&d). Although he did have one unique gift, the ability (in theory) to communicate with zombies, but that's another story.

My duskblade was with a Paladin and Druid fighting a frost worm. I barely passed the knowledge check to know what it was called and we certinly didn't know its special abilities.

The fight was more or less pretty standard from our perspective, it delt a lot of cold damage with its breath weapon in the first round taking everyone to about half health but after that it didn't really do much in comparison. As the fight was nearing an end we considered casting energy resist cold, but chose against it as it was almost dead and we could heal afterwards.

Once we killed it we heard the worst sound a player can hear, the kind of sound that dooms characters.


The DM went "huh".


Turns out he just realised the frost worm had death throes.


Which delt about as much damage as the entire fight up until that point, it didn't matter if we had energy resistance up the sheer ammount of cold and regular damage instantly killed the entire party!

Although there was a happy ending, since we were all new to this and literally no one knew about the ability until after the fight, we kind of wrote it off and mysteriously survived. It wasn't that far fetched since there was an ancient Bronze dragon following and watching us, my headcanon suggests that he interviened to save us since we were helping him.


Digo 19th Dec 2013, 6:34 AM edit delete reply
d20 Modern X-Files campaign:

The FBI team raided an old mansion to stop a cult from summoning... something not of this world. We get into the final battle with the cult and one of their mages goes first.

GM decides the mage will put up a simple fog spell to use as partial cover. He misread the spell the first time so when he rechecked the area of effect, he found out that he just covered the entire room, the hallway, and two adjacent rooms.

So our simple fight turned into a battle royale of Marco Polo... with bullets. Lots of blind-fire, one of our agents pulled off his heavy gold chain and went to town using it to tangle opponents. Somehow I ended up with a shotgun (and no proficiency) so I was taking out toes and floorboards... oh and someone set the room on fire so the Fire Department had to come put that out. :)

At the end of it all, about a third of the cultists were unaccounted for.
NOTDilbert 19th Dec 2013, 4:38 PM edit delete reply
First time I read that through, I thought it said "a simple FROG spell". That's what I would have used, anyway.....
you know that guy 19th Dec 2013, 6:54 AM edit delete reply
Does fog in X-Files have the border-between-worlds quality it does in several supernatural settings?
Digo 19th Dec 2013, 11:08 AM edit delete reply
It can. The fog that does the BBW effect was not a standard spell though. It only showed up when the plot called for it. :)
Rentok 19th Dec 2013, 1:18 PM edit delete reply
Rentok
The DMs I play with almost always use custom made monsters or enemies- sometimes these take the form of new enemies you've never heard of, sometimes it just means that the beholder you're fighting has nothing in common with any sort of beholder you've seen in the rulebooks for any tabletop game you've played before.

This has a few effects- first and most frequently, it means the enemies very rarely have powerful attacks- since our campaigns focus heavily on story, and powerful attacks might kill off players. Generally we tend to face more of a war of attrition, where enemies will have either large groups of friends, or powerful defenses, making it time consuming to kill them- while allowing even our squishiest mages to survive one or two hits.

The second thing, is that there's no real way to tell how much damage we need to do, or how much health the enemy has left. There have been times where we spend a few rounds dealing out 200-odd damage to an enemy, only to have it acting and seeming exactly as it did when we started, only to have it die to when the wizard's summoned centipede hits it for 13 damage.

To top it all off, some enemies actually do have powerful attacks or offensive abilities that they could use- but frequently they will refrain from doing so unless we come up with a tactic that allows us to more or less ignore the enemies other attack options. So if the enemy is ground based, with no modes of flight, then chances are good that if we decide to use flight to safely dispatch it, it will reveal a powerful ranged attack, which it will then continue to use, even if we land and get in close again.

So things tend to be very unpredictable, enemies being one hit from death when we start to worry we'll die before we take them out, or enemies we think we've figured out how to fight suddenly revealing a much more powerful attack.

Oh, and some enemies get multiple turns within a round. Those are always fun.

Now, that's just the primer that you need to be aware of before I can tell you the specific story.
Rentok 19th Dec 2013, 1:55 PM edit delete reply
Rentok
Alright, so, we had been fighting our way through various devils and demons (luckily for us, without their normal defenses, just in large numbers) for a while, on our latest adventure. We were pretty well off, though down a little bit of healing- we still had plenty to allow us to function for a while yet.

We continued on, and reached our objective for the day- a nifty little gnome electronic magitech lab sort of place. Complete with its own security system. Clockwork dogs.

The dogs were a bit tougher than we were expecting, and definitely got us to realize that this was a step up from what we'd been fighting so far. There were enough of them that their numbers made it difficult to take them out quickly, and they may have had a nasty habit of exploding, though that could have been our fault.

We managed to take care of them, and move on into the lab- where we were faced with the main security system- a massive (We never did figure out its exact size category, might have been Huge.) mechanical laser turret/ai/security system. There were large mechanical pillars running along either side of the room, and it was on the opposite side of the room from us- about 120-180 feet, enough distance that we'd have to spend a few rounds getting closer if we wanted to be able to hit it with our strongest people.

Oh, and a few more of those guard dogs just because.

Well, we quickly found out what the pillars were for- the laser turret could fire shots at them, and they would focus the beam, making it thinner as it went- and the beam would bounce from pillar to pillar as it went down the room, each pillar focusing the beam more.

What exact mechanical benefit this gave was never made clear. We thought it might have been to increase the damage at the cost of size, but the unfocused beam was just as damaging- and wide enough to hit multiple people if we let it.

We managed to dispatch the dogs, and some of us made it close enough to hit the turret- but the longer the fight went, the more it became apparent that we were in a lot more trouble than we thought.

Oh, and at some point during the fight, one of us actually got dropped so low he had to bail out in order to avoid dying, we were all out of ranged attacks, and I was the only one left in melee range, because the other people that had made it into melee had decided to pull back, either being too close to death to be in easy attack range of the wide beam, or wanting to avoid becoming too close to death.

That's when we escalated the fight. (What? You never said the escalation had to be DM-initiated.)

Now, my character was an improvised-weapon type character, with moderate melee, ranged, and magic attacks. A bit of jack-of-all-trades setup. I had an ability sort of like the barbarian's rage, to increase my strength and AC, allowing me to be a strong melee threat, at the cost of some of my ranged and magic effectiveness, giving me a more sustainable offensive option. My ranged weapons were bombs, sort of like grenades- they were touch attacks, which was how I was able to use them effectively, and gained bonuses based on my intelligence. So they had about the same damage as my melee attacks do when I use my strength booster. They also have splash damage, so they damage any enemies or allies near the target.

To start the escalation, our casters dumped their best spells into the turret, assaulting it with rocks, fire, and electricity. Our skillful characters messed with the pillars, turning them from focusing the beam with clever sabotage.

I climbed on top of the turret, and- in full strength boosted might- pulled out my last bomb. Grabbing the bomb in both hands, I lifted it up, and in a two handed hammer blow brought it down into the turret, bringing to bear both my full might and intellect to bear in an impact and explosion, dealing roughly twice as much damage as I could otherwise- and catching myself in the explosion.

We were all pretty shaky, but the defense system, while damaged, was still working. Which I guess pissed off the barbarian, because he hulked out, bringing his axe to bear on one of the sabotaged pillars, and with all his might he actually knocked the pillar over- a display of rage and power that shook the very room itself- knocking the pillar into the next, and causing them to fall like dominoes, ending in the final pillar falling and crushing the defense turret- which I had luckily just gotten clear of.


That's when the self destruct countdown started, and the damaged party member who had been forced to leave the fight earlier called out to us from a side room that he had found something.
Digo 19th Dec 2013, 2:54 PM edit delete reply
Custom monsters is usually the way I go when all my players are veterans in D&D. Otherwise they just can't help but metagame a little bit.

Your story is awesomesauce. I enjoyed the hulked out barbarian rage part. I can imagine this domino effect of destruction and that turret just... well if it had a face, it be pretty grim looking. XD
FanOfMostEverything 19th Dec 2013, 8:46 PM edit delete reply
I like making monstrous versions of nature's weirder creatures, like giant mantis shrimp that can still cause sonic booms with their claws. And dire honey badgers, with abilities like "Dire Badger Don't Care" and "Damn, Dire Badger, You Scary."
Anvildude 19th Dec 2013, 10:42 PM edit delete reply
Oh god, Giant Mantis Shrimps- Mantis Shrimp are crazy, man. They can see things we can't even imagine...
silvadel 19th Dec 2013, 6:56 AM edit delete reply
The way I roll, I would take out half the party in that circumstance...

Okay -- you shoot into the mist at what you hope is your enemy... roll...

critical failure

Okay -- lets see what you do hit...

Boden King 19th Dec 2013, 7:33 AM edit delete reply
I got another question for all the DMs out there: do you guys ever use music to help with the mood?

I'm just wondering if it's worth the effort to look through my library trying to find some scary music.

Also if you have a story of your DM using music to help set the mood, feel free to share.

Thank you!
LazerWulf 19th Dec 2013, 8:32 AM edit delete reply
My DM used music to set the mood all the time. Instrumentals only, though. You don't want to distract the players too much. I suggest soundtracks, especially anime soundtracks, especially action-oriented anime like Naruto or Bleach (say what you want about the actual anime, but they've got some great soundtracks).

And, of course, Yakety Sax.
Boden King 19th Dec 2013, 8:43 AM edit delete reply
The campaign ain't complete until you hear the DM go, "As the great Lich lies defeated at your feet, its body turning to ash and dust, you feel a mighty shudder as the cavern starts coming down around you; no longer held together by the lich's foul magic."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnHmskwqCCQ

"... really Bob, really?"
Scootalol 19th Dec 2013, 11:01 AM edit delete reply
This is from a werewolf: the Apocalypse and Vampire: the Masquerade crossover game...

My character and her pack were in Burbank, looking into some vampire-related chaos. What they didn't know was that said chaos was the Sabbat's "festivo dello estinto," basically when that particular sect of vampires just goes balls-to-the-wall psycho for a few nights of celebration.

So anyway, we're trying to poke around, doing our best to be casual and inconspicuous and not stand out, typical "hope they don't notice us while we hunt them" thing... Well, the Storyteller's having none of that! Roaring down the street is a police cruiser, sirens in full blare... and behind it, two cars full of maniacs blasting away at the cruiser, pedestrians, whatever's in the way.

I ask the ST what sort of cars they are. He gives me a funny look and describes an el camino and a Cadillac convertible. I smile and tell him my character is taking a running leap into the convertible.

Somehow, I actually make the athletics roll to pull this off, and so my character lands in with about six vampires armed with automatic weapons. She gives them a smile, saying "Hi there!" before going wolfman on them. The ST judges that since they are in no way prepared for this, she basically has her way with the things.

And then he hits this track:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEhCdiWP_4Y

As he describes this Caddy swerving and bumping all over the road while limbs go flying out of it.
Digo 19th Dec 2013, 11:13 AM edit delete reply
Oh yes, I always make it a point to use music.
I have an old leptop that I loaded with various music for different genres of RPGs. I also installed a second mp3 player so that it could play sound effects at the same time if need be.

Music is half of why my thriller adventures are so successful. I once had the PCs play ordinary folks going through an old research facility with heavy influence from Silent Hill. Music and effects is what made their imaginations run wild end end up killing a mop in a closet. XD
Lyntermas 19th Dec 2013, 9:40 AM edit delete reply
Lyntermas
A recent encounter in my Zilean's Revenge campaign was fairly interesting. My wizard was trying to lead off four zombies from a pit while the other party members searched it. I knew in previous battles that zombies tend to go down pretty easily, so I thought that I could handle them.

What I hadn't factored in was the fact that the zombies in those fights tended to disperse their attacks amongst everyone, rather than focusing them all on one target. And that they have special abilities that boost their attacks against someone already grappled.

Two rounds later with about 4 HP left, I had to run away for a bit until my friends showed up. After that, they went down pretty easily.
Guest 19th Dec 2013, 1:51 PM edit delete reply
That happened with us once. I was DMing D&D Next for our group using the Caves of Chaos module provided, just to get us used to the gameplay before making stuff up for ourselves.

Anyways, the "final boss" of the module turned out to be so underwhelming I had him turn into a demon at the end of the fight then pulled up the stat block for a fairly powerful demon with a few alterations, having more hitpoints (which seemed to regenerate or increase out of nowhere as I realised I'd accidentally given it too few hitpoints to qualify it for boss fight status, but nobody noticed), dealing more damage and having higher defences.

Wisely, they took up the tactic we'd established as a working one for operating in tight spaces: hide behind the dwarf cleric with his AC of 21 as most attacks against AC can't score a hit against that. I let them have that victory for a while before having the demon get tired of the games and spew flames in their general direction, which included our cleric with his -1 Dexterity modifier. Needless to say, he failed the saving throw and lost enough hitpoints that he couldn't stay at the front any more. The ambient tension rose considerably at the thought that the demon just might gain enough ground to start forcing us into retreat. Now satisfied that the fight had qualified for a boss fight, I wrote down in my notebook exactly how many hitpoints the demon had left and stuck to that. It wasn't the cleanest way to make the final encounter more memorable, but it was better than what they would've got otherwise.
Kynrasian 19th Dec 2013, 3:51 PM edit delete reply
Kynrasian
Oops, wasn't logged in. But, yeah, this was me.
AABaker 19th Dec 2013, 3:20 PM edit delete reply
My name is a carnivorous plant monster who looks like a tree stump. It lures in prey by setting a fake rabbit attached by a tentacle on top of itself. So it looks like a rabbit sitting on a stump until you get too close.
Jason Shadow 19th Dec 2013, 6:12 PM edit delete reply
Jason Shadow
So, a Wolf-In-Sheep's-Clothing, then? Wait, was I supposed to guess, or what?
Raxon 19th Dec 2013, 6:37 PM edit delete reply
Raxon
Oh man! I remember that monster! I liked duckbunny better, though.
D'sparil 19th Dec 2013, 6:58 PM edit delete reply
It's all about the monkeybees.
Zuche 19th Dec 2013, 9:39 PM edit delete reply
Dire Pie was, in my opinion, one of the best screen names ever used by a participant on the WotC forums.
Raxon 20th Dec 2013, 1:37 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
Clearly, you people have never seen a dire skeletal vampiric ascended god emperor juggalo duckbunny.
Malroth 20th Dec 2013, 1:45 AM edit delete reply
to be fair the Juggalo doesn't do much for it at this point but at least its not as cheesy as the Phrenic template.
Raxon 20th Dec 2013, 4:29 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
Are you kidding me? The juggalo adds just the right amount of serial killer/psychotic cannibal that makes the otherwise harmless duckbunny terrifying.

Having known a few juggalos, I can honestly say that I would never want to meet one in a dark alley. Gamzee from homestuck is a good representation.
FanOfMostEverything 20th Dec 2013, 7:05 AM edit delete reply
Trip the Wicked Elixir (Su): Whenever a juggalo creature drinks a potion, it may treat it as a potion of rage in addition to its other effects.
DracoS 20th Dec 2013, 7:29 AM edit delete reply
Oi...had to deal with something like this the last time I played Pathfinder. We were guarding a village from bandits and every five rounds or so, a new wave of enemies would show up.

After four waves of bandits coming after us (including a couple of Bards cheering the enemy on) we finally got to the miniboss: an owl bear.

We kill the owl bear and we're feeling good until we're told to reposition ourselves for another wave, which is the boss: a badass Tengu and his two bodyguards that knock me out in the first round 'cause standing in the middle of the road was a REALLY bad idea. D=
Tynach 20th Dec 2013, 1:39 PM edit delete reply
If I were the girls in this comic, I would light a fire. Wood burns.

Light the smaller ones on fire. As they crumble then join in with the big one, it lights the big one on fire.
ANW 20th Dec 2013, 8:10 PM edit delete reply
Light a Timber-wolf, and the magic's gone.
Can't join with the rest.
Good plan, but failed.
sjosten 20th Dec 2013, 8:11 PM edit delete reply
Maybe if they still had Twilight around. As things stand, they would have to make themselves vulnerable in order to get the fire actually started.
Zuche 22nd Dec 2013, 8:06 PM edit delete reply
In an issue of Fables, that strategy backfired horribly once. Wood can burn for a long time.
Akouma 20th Dec 2013, 2:08 PM edit delete reply
Akouma
I once created an enemy spy "monster" for an encounter where the PCs main army camp had been infiltrated. (Proudest moment there was when they found one inside a barrel of drinking water with a block of poison strapped to his belt since they're shardminds and don't need to breathe; the look on their faces was priceless.) They were a sort of super minion. They always took exactly two hits to kill instead of one. They also had a special ability called "God dammit I'm the DM and I say no!" which let them outright ignore crowd control effects. Their damage was useless though, since the challenge was to find them, not fight them.
Tech 16th Jan 2014, 2:24 AM edit delete reply
Plan "B" is "twice as much explosives as plan 'A'"