An epic adventure in all things nerdy.

(Plus some zombies.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Epic Mistake

The first session of the epic level 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons campaign I am DMing met earlier today, and I have thus far failed to even knock one of my PCs unconscious. I tested the waters with what I thought would be a fairly challenging battle, a Kraken. I pumped up the monster with a couple thousand extra hit points and stronger attacks, putting him around challenge rating 22 or so, nothing big, but still tough enough to be a decent test of their abilities. I see now that I horribly underestimated the Berserker. It took two rounds before I had the Kraken's head appear over the prow of the ship since its tentacles were doing a pretty good job of smacking the party around. As soon as his little squid head peaked up over the railing, the Berserker charged and leaped into the air, landing on top of the Kraken and literally cleaving it's face in half. He did 1,900 damage, which was about 300 more than the poor thing had left.


I mean, I didn't expect the thing to really give them a hard time, but really? The worst part is I wrote into the plot that the ship they were passengers on was smuggling stolen dragon eggs and they just went and took one! Of course I would have done the same thing, but for some reason it never crossed my mind they would and now I have the party running around with a Red Dragon egg that's about to hatch in a few months. Like they really needed to get any more powerful, in a few years they'll have an incredibly malicious pet dragon.

The next thing in the plot for them to deal with is a psychotic, senile Great Wyrm Gold Dragon that's refusing to admit he's reached twilight and needs to go away to die. I figured it's about one step away from deity, since the thing has been around longer than humans and basically has an entire island culture of worshipers, but now I fear it won't be enough. I'm considering bumping up the encounter with the addition of a few extra high level Gold Dragons from his flight, maybe protecting him and his hoard. Either way, I want to make sure they don't get away from this one so completely unscathed and preferably without a second pet dragon.

The poll's up for what I should have them face next, but since I already have most of the session for next week planned, whatever is picked will probably be just a random encounter. However, that doesn't mean I don't want to hear your suggestions anymore, the more ideas the better!


  1. Maybe you should scale it back and jst run a regular, 1st level campaign....

  2. If it's a Frenzied Berzerker, you could use it against the party by using a high level flying invisible warlock who triggers the Frenzy then hides while the party deals with the Berzerker.

  3. A few words of advice:

    Don't just pump monster HP, there's numerous ways to bypass HP and kill targets or just flatout do more damage than the monster had health. In your case it sounds like that chap was playing a uber charger build. For future reference - if he doesn't have ATLEAST 5 ranks in skill: balance then using a grease spell on him while he is raged will prevent him from moving.

    Also stacking miss chances on a creature is a better defence than high Hp and AC. If you give them blinking/blurr/displacement etc all at once the party will have a hard time hitting a creature.

    Also - make sure your dragon has some kind of defence against the spell shivering touch, it does dexterity damage - you don't want your dragon one shotted. Also makes sure your dragon has the feat: Hover so that it can hover in place - because something like the spell solid fog will cause it to instantly crash to it's death if it can't hover.

    Your best bet against the party is going to be magic (when using the dragon), use a spell to take the melee warriors out of the battle (even if only for a couple of rounds) then use a spell like anti magic field to take the casters in melee. Additionally don't be afraid to retreat and come back for another go. Especially if you retreat, cast heal on your self, wait for their buffs to expire then come back in the same day. Prevent them from resting to get back their spells, keep them on the move/awake.

  4. when dealing with berserkers, ability damage is your friend. if he's really minmaxed the char, he dumpstatted either int or cha (or both). the psionic power ego whip deals charisma damage. ( i treasure the memory of how i one-shotted a friend's ogre frenzied berserker with that.^^
    all in all, it pays to play the character's weaknesses. there's a incorporeal rat swarm that deals strength damage for the casters or have a couple of monks with touch of golden ice go after the low-dex tanks. dominate, hold person and the like is great for melees with low will (but look out for the protection from X spell).

  5. this is why i don't play D&D. actually... i tend to avoid d20 games period. there is so much more out there! so many better games!!!

    the last D&D campaign i played in had a similar event to the theft of the dragon egg. we were escorting another PC, an elf with a magic necklace, to a temple. two of the other characters and i saw a shiny object and robbed him in his sleep. the GM (or DM in this case) was furious that we completely derailed his plotline.

    the true test of a good GM is, can you work with that? even if you spent all this time coming up with a plotline, and figuring out exactly what should happen, can you change all that in a flash when your PCs do things that aren't in that plotline?

    a good way to deal with minmax'd jerks in your group is numbers. sent a hoarde after them. put something nasty at the back of that hoarde.

  6. 1,900 damage? WTF?
    How could one do so much damage in D&D?

  7. (Big streng + Rage + Buffs)x 2h. Weapon x Power attack x Leap attack = BIIIIIIgs Dmgs.

    NB feat "elusive target" negate power attack.

  8. @Chris. Flying, invisible warlocks, man. I can't say enough about them.

  9. If in doubt, go to Karate Kid:

    "Man can't fight if a man can't see."
    Not just invisible creatures, but just stuff in shadows. With ranged attacks. Or Banshees they can hear but not see...

    "Man can't fight if a man can't stand."
    This isn't just grease spells and earthquake effects, it goes for reach as well. Crack open the old Ogre-Spiked Chain-Backward Step combo.

    There was another one as well, I think it was "can't breathe." I suppose that means pulling them into the water, although at epic level, characters can hold their breath longer than sea otters. Or you could do a sealed room-poison gas-puzzle combo, but that's mostly just to strip HPs or lower ability score.

    The pet dragon can work against them, too. Firstly, it can try to eat and burn them when they are resting. Then, once they get attached to it, it hooks up with an older evil red and turns on them. Plus, it can be a resource drain in the mean time: food, demanding treasure, causing trouble.

  10. Sounds like an incident we had in our Pathfinder game. We came upon a group of NPCs that were in the midsts of a fight and our ranger stepped out and triple crit one of them in the face. It was kinda like, "Really? Why is my cleric even here?"

  11. There's no Red Dragon out there looking for her eggs? :)

  12. @Chris: The problem is that they have detect magic 60ft and detect life 200ft. Is there anything completely invisible to detection?

    @Grifthin: I like the grease spell idea, although I've been hesitant to use magic in the pas if only because of my unfamiliarity with it outside of the core rulebooks, there's just so many spells out there.

    @Xaeromancer: I'm definitely going to abuse the bratty pet dragon gimmick. I researched some on what it takes to raise a dragon and they require a lot of training and attention, not to mention they throw temper tantrums.

  13. @Game Thug: I'm sure she'll turn up sooner or later, but I doubt one red dragon will be much of a challenge, even if she is really cheesed off.

  14. Doesn't non-detection hide you from everything ? I think if you combine non-detection + Improved invisiblity then they can't see crap.

    Also introduce them to anti magic fields.

  15. @Grifthin: The problem with the Berserker is that one of the other players spent his character build making himself into a really awesome sword that he lives in as a fiend and the Berserker gets all sorts of crazy bonuses from it. Would anti magic make the enchantments on the sword just stop working? I need to find a way to separate them and they'd be screwed.

  16. The Eldritch Spear invocation has a range of 250ft, and you can bypass detect life by making it an undead, but the principle is triggering the Frenzied Berserker at a range that means he's more likely to Frenzy and kill the party than the actual target.

  17. Or do what my dm did to our party. I had a 3.5ed barbarian/fighter half orc high str, rage flaming spiked chain setup The wizard would enlarge him,etc,etc. We were fighting a vampire and the cleric forgot protection from evil. The Vampire dominated my half-orc, you have never seen a pc party run so fast.