Thursday, November 12, 2009

Running a Raid, Part III

First, an aside: I figured out an easier way to handle agro. The boss must spend a number of threat tokens equal to the taunt value of the main tank on attacking the tank before he can spend them on any other attack. Makes the sequence of events much smoother. And a clarification: taunt tokens are exchanged within a given range, and only work within that range. I mention that because there might be 3 tanks in the last phase of the priest fight.

The Fallen Cardinal

I'm calling this guy level 10 because it's an easy number to work with. I was struck by the idea of the ghost of a crumbling cathedral while I was thinking about ways to bring in the environment. A transition from corporeal to ghostly to demonic seems to offer a great way to call for very dramatic transitions between fight phases.

Since he's level 10, he starts with 50 "health", gets 10 menace points per turn, and has an effective attack roll of 25. Quick math in my head says a Paladin of that level probably has an AC somewhere around 24-25, and assuming that's true, I may have to take that as an argument to move the base attack to [L]+10 and make spending menace point son accuracy something outside of the cost of the power. This has the additional benefit of giving the boss something to do with the spare one or two menace points he might be sitting on, so I'm going to call that the new rule for now.

Quick math also reveals that 50 health might be low. Let's assume a 20 man raid: even doing badly, they'll probably accrue 10 "hits" minimum per round, which makes for a quick fight, probably 2 quick. 100 would probably better, and for purposes of scaling with the number of players, the new yardstick is [L]*(number of players/2). So for our assumed 20 man raid, that's 10*(20/2), or 100

I envision this fight having three phases: the first against his physical form, a rotting corpse in the regalia of his faith (giant hat and all). This will probably be pretty straight up, with a lot of his abilities focused around summoning up other undead minions to go after people, and maybe gaining some health back from their attacks, so taking him down requires managing his minions. The next phase will be his ghostly form, rising up from his body, and this will probably be rough to fight because of the whole incorporeal thing, so he'll shrug off a lot of attacks, but he'll also probably take extra hits from radiant attacks. Last, he'll call upon his demonic masters to pull the whole cathedral into hell. This is partly because I love the visual - lit by flames and magma, with parts of the cathedral merged into the rock walls, the floor falling away to reveal magma below, leaving only a few places to stand, with the cardinal turning into a towering physical demon in the classic mould. The physical part of this fight will be the most straightforward (giving the strikers a bit of a chance to shine) but the environment will be the big challenge.

Designing Stage 1:
Ok, I want a melee attack, a ranged attack, and a summon, all bearing in mind that his usual budget is 10 menace points.

For the melee attack, I envision him just laying about himself with his ornate staff. For 1 menace point, that would be single target, 20 to hit, 1d8+5 damage. Let's jazz that up a bit, and see what he can do with 4 menace points: let's keep it single target and just jazz up the damage with a 3 point bump, bringing it to 3d8+5. That's a hefty hit, but I admit it feels like it's expensive - taking that as a note to self to possibly consider upping damage a bit.

For range, we'll make it a smite, and we'll call it 6 points, 1 base, 2 for range, 1 to shift the defense to reflex, and 2 to bump damage, so it's a single target base 20 to hit against reflex for 3d6+5 damage. Again, feels expensive for what he gets, and I think this reveals to me the problem - the damage scale I'm using (from page 42) is really scaled for single attack, but I need to scale the raid boss for _group_ attacks. He should be attacking multiple targets every round, and the way these things are pricing out, that's not an option.

So that calls for another tweak: Attacks will get priced assuming they're area attacks. If they're single target attacks, they get a free two level bump to damage. That reduces those two attacks to 2 and 4 menace points respectively, and I'm good with that.

At this point I feel like we've shaken loose most of the clunky bits, so rather than continue to show you all the work, let's get to the end point.

The Fallen Cardinal

Initial Phase: During this phase the priest is a rotting human form in the rich regalia of a cardinal. He summons forth defenders from the mausoleum beneath the cathedral to fight for him, and he draws strength from their service.

Undead Priest Phase

Health: 30
Success Threshold: 10, extra success threshold at 20 and 30.

Unholy Staff
The priest lashes out with his ornate staff of impossibly tarnished gold.

2 MP- Near, single target, vs. AC. Base attack: 20, Base Damage 3d8+5

Dark Smite

The priest calls down a column of darkness to strike an enemy.
3 MP - Long range, single target, vs. Reflex. Base Attack: 20, Base Damage: 3d6+5 (necrotic)

Dark Reckoning
A wave of dark energy washes over the priest's enemies
7 MP - Long range only, all targets in a single area, vs. Will, Base Attack 20, Base Damage: 4d8+5 (necrotic)
Notes: This is his ugly attack, and if he isn't taunted enough or he gets too much menace back from his minions, he'll spam this.

Call Minion
The Priest summons an undead warrior to harass his foes, then crumbles to dust, releasing a stream of black energy back to the priest.
4MP - A 3 token, 8/16/24 threshold minion appears in any area. At the beginning of the Priest's next turn, the minion is removed from play and he gains any remaining tokens as menace tokens. If a minion "cashes out" for any number of tokens, it also heals the priest for one point.
Notes: The priest will try to spam these whenever possible (especially if he end s up with 12 menace points) , preferably into unoccupied areas like the middle distance, and use the payout to explode in Dark Reckonings.

Phase transition: Once the priest's physical body is destroyed, his ghost form rises up to strike down his attackers.

Ghostly Priest Phase
Health: 30
Success Threshold: 10/20/30
Special: Insubstantial. Takes no damage from attacks which do not also Push, Pull or Slide, unless those attacks have the radiant keyword, in which case it takes an extra point of damage.
Environment: Lighting one of the cathedral's candles and saying a prayer will inflict one point of damage. This can only be done from the medium range area, and requires a DC 20 religion check. Failure on this check grants the Priest one MP, just like a failed attack.

Dark Radiant Burst
Blades of shadow blast out from his ghostly form, striking all nearby enemies.
5MP - Short range, all enemies in area, vs. AC, Base Attack 20, 4d8+5

Shadow Spear
A spear of shadow launches at an enemy
3MP - Long Range, single target, Vs AC, Base Attack 20, 2d6+5

3MP - The priest floats up into the air, out of melee reach, and remains there for the duration of the fight, or until he takes a 3-threshold hit (30 points of damage in a single hit)
Note: he cannot use Dark Radiant Burst while floating, so he will freely throw around Shadow Spears.

Circle of Shadows
The Priest draws a circle around himself that shields him from all attacks, and in fact draws power from their hostility.
11 MP - For the duration of the round, the priest takes no damage. Each time he is attacked, he instead accrues 1 MP.

Shadow Apocalypse
The priest has gathered enough shadows to unleash an unholy storm
18 MP -All areas, all targets in all areas, vs Will, 8d10+10
Notes: This is the classic "Do not screw up the tactics, or we all die". If the priest uses Circle of Shadows, and people keep attacking him, he'll have enough points to bust this out, which will suck immensely.

Phase Transition:
As the priest falls, he calls out to his demonic master, and the earth shakes and cracks, stone walls shoot up on all sides (or perhaps the Cathedral falls, it is hard to say). In then end, the scene is now a great stone chamber whose features echo the cathedral. Much of the floor has fallen away, leaving only three stable areas, and the Priest has transformed into a demonic figure, ten feet tall with fiery skin and a great flaming sword.

Demonic Priest Phase
Health: 40
Success Threshold: 12/24/36
Special: Fiery: Gains Resist 20 to fire attacks.
Environment: The close, medium and far ranges are now physical locations (the three remaining stone platforms). Moving between them now requires a movement power or an Athletics check with a difficulty of 20. On a failure, the character still moves, but his desperate scrabbling to hang on and the distraction it provides grants the priest 1 MP.

Notes: On paper, this is a pretty simple phase with simple powers, but the demon's mobility paired with the fact that you can't let him get off on his own, should allow for things to shift pretty easily, as the demon will always move to the weakest group. His powers are priced with the assumption he'll jump than use them. Nod to Bartoneus for sending me down this particular direction of thought.

The demon makes a mighty leap form one platform to the next.
2 MP - The Demon jumps from one platform to another, and is now considered in melee range with the PCs in that range category.

Blade Sweep
The Demon sweeps his blade in a fiery arc through his enemies
4MP - Short range, all enemies in area, vs. AC, Base Attack 20, 3d8+5 (fire)

Blade Hammer
Powerful overhand blows rain down on a chosen enemy
4MP - Short range, single target, vs. AC, base attack 20, 4d10+5

The Demon incants a powerful fiery ritual that engulfs another one of the pillars in flame and falling rock
8MP - Any range but short, all enemies in area, 4d10 + 5 (fire) and 4d8 +5 damage (falling rock).
Note: This ability can only be used if the Demon is alone in a given area

So there it is: Does it make sense, and can you see it? This was, honestly, MUCH longer than I expected, so I no longer have any true perspective on it. Normally, I'd sit on it for a week or so to polish, but I'm working on this out in the open, warts and all, so I'm curious as to impressions.


  1. I must tell you, even before I read further, how much I love "The Fallen Cardinal" as a name.

    I'm writing a post for tomorrow about characters and using an economy of language, and boom, that does it for me, right there.

    -- c.

  2. This makes tonnes of sense and looks like it'd work — though it doesn't dispel my concern that this is barely 4E. The things you've stuck with are, arguably, inherent to D&D, but they aren't hallmarks of 4E. You've essentially designed a separate game here, which characters from 4E can be converted to play.

    I'm not saying that's a bad thing, necessarily.

  3. @chuck Heh. Glad you like - it had been "Fallen Priest" originally, but I really wanted to capture the big-hatted catholic imagery, and priest felt flat. I thought Cardinal popped much more, and I'm glad you agree.

    @will I'll totally cop to that - I really am primarily attached to keeping enough of the D&D trappings that you could move in or out of this sort of model with the same characters and information you'd have for your 4e game. That said, it would probably get more 4e specific if I tied damage to healing surges rather than hit points, but that never quite ended up working.

    That said, I also like to look at this as demonstrating how much space there is inside the other end of the box for 4e. All this stuff is not too far removed from the skill challenge rules as they exist, which can be pretty abstract and wonky if a group gets comfortable enough to run with them.

    That said, I fully concede that the reality is that few groups will ever do so - the straight up fighty rules are too much fun, to push the envelope that way.

    -Rob D.

  4. I think in many cases this style of staging combat scenes is more interesting to me than a dozen rounds of grind, so congrats. :)


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