Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Solo Design: Storm Sorcerer

Dominic Matte
Solo Design is a series of articles exploring solos -- monsters designed to engage an entire party -- using monsters I've designed for my own games. 

In one session I wanted my players to fight two back-to-back solo battles with no time to rest, against two almost-legendary knights in my campaign world. More than that, I wanted the two fights to feel very different, and for the stat blocks to match the personalities of the two generals.

The first of the pair is Sir Arthur the Grey Knight, a military general and powerful storm sorcerer who wields lightning and thunder against his enemies, and can turn those elements back on his attackers. Unlike many artillery monsters, he has a couple of tricks up his sleeves to remain mobile and avoid being pinned down by a defender.

Feel free to modify the numbers and flavour to fit your game. Fair warning: I've brought down the numbers a bit already, but this stat block was originally designed to take on 9 player characters at once, so I can't promise that the block is necessarily level-appropriate.

 Sir Arthur is fairly well-rounded for an artillery monster, but does still have a big weakness to defenders. He has a couple of powers to get rid of them, but once expended, a sticky character should be able to lock him down fairly effectively -- a fighter in particular, since a fighter can stop a marked target from moving away. For this reason, Arthur should play the way some PCs do: go for nova rounds at the beginning of combat with the Cyclone/Thunderbolt combo. He won't be able to use those powers effectively if he gets locked down early, so he should take whatever chance he gets.

First up, Arthur has two traits. One is a simple ability that deals lightning damage to nearby enemies while he's bloodied, but the other is more interesting. When Arthur takes lightning or thunder damage, it powers up his next attack of those types, giving it both keywords and boosting the damage. This is a much more interesting way for a stat block to deal with certain damage types than a boring resistance that slows down the combat.

Stormwalk is a beefed-up version of an actual sorcerer at-will. It allows Arthur to stay mobile to an extent when his enemies try to pin him down. His other basic attack is a fair bit more powerful and is more of a primary damage source, allowing Arthur to strike an enemy and adjacent targets with lightning damage. Arthur wants to keep out of melee combat to use powers like this. With Onslaught, he can do this easily, dealing some damage to an enemy locking him in melee and then making a more powerful ranged attack.

Next we've got Chain Lightning, which is another fairly simple but high-damage power. This one-use lightning strike can reach multiple enemies that might be too spread out for an area attack, so save it for a time when Arthur can't hit much with his bursts.

The next two powers, Cyclone and Thunderbolt, are the real meat of the stat block. Cyclone draws enemies from a wide area into a much tighter ball, setting up a powerful combo for an action point to Thunderbolt. Even more deadly than Cyclone, Thunderbolt deals more damage and also stuns and/or deafens, likely allowing Arthur to get in another good shot or two with a basic Lightning Strike. Once expended, Arthur should wait until both are recharged to use the combo again with his second action point. After both action points are gone, he can use both as they come up, since he won't get to use both in the same turn again.

Finally, Arthur has two one-offs to deal with troublesome melee attackers. Thunderburst is quite powerful, but is best used in one of two ways: early on to scare his enemies into giving him some space out of fear that he'll use it again (which he can't), or more likely, as a last resort if he can't get away from a powerful defender or striker. It should not be used to give him space to set up a Cyclone/Thunderbolt combo, since he doesn't have enough actions. That's what Thunder Buffer is for. Once per encounter as a reaction, Arthur can try to knock away a melee attacker, which will allow him to go for the big combo.

What do you think of the stat block? As always, I'd especially love to hear from you if you've tried it out in one of your own games.

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