Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Solo Design: Thunder Barbarian

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.

Looking for a monster that terrifies the characters and their players? Fear effects and massive damage are the way to go.

Sir James the Black Knight is a ruthless military general who believes in quick victory through intimidation and overwhelming force. In combat he's fairly straightforward but uses his stature and rage to terrifying effect, barreling through his enemies with powerful combo attacks. And if you think that's scary, wait 'till he gets really mad.

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 damage numbers are necessarily level-appropriate.

Sir James was built as the second of two back-to-back solo battles against a pair of extremely powerful characters from the world's history. As an almost legendary figure, I wanted James to be scary to both the players and their characters, so fear mechanics and massive damage were the way to go.

There's a player class that works this way, actually: the thunderborn barbarian build. The thunderborn barbarian build is all about intimidation, and so is Sir James. His fear effects reflect the characters' intimidation mechanically, and massive damage will freak out the players when he drops someone in the first round of combat. Fortunately, he won't be dropping someone every round. His most damaging attacks all require a standard action, so he'll only get two really big rounds with his action points.

The first things you should notice are James' traits. As a terrifying juggernaut he's immune to fear and has an expanded crit range, which is very dangerous given his high damage numbers. He also applies a -2 attack penalty to enemies who get too close. It's a small aura, but here's the fun part: whenever he drops someone, the aura gets bigger. This reflects the increasing fear at the power of this big scary guy.

James' basic attack is simple, but deals a lot of damage and knocks the target prone. The really dangerous bit is the combo this sets up with Scythe Spike. Once James has knocked an enemy to the ground, he drives the point of the scythe straight down. This attack deals massive damage -- up to 70 in a single blow. At recharge 6, he won't be using it too frequently... but the party doesn't know that yet. Plus, if he does down an enemy, he can use Roar of Triumph to throw yet another attack into the mix, clearing his negative conditions at the same time. Opening with an action point, James could potentially down the party healer and knock the defender prone on the first turn of combat, leaving the rest scared and scrambling.

If James gets surrounded (or moves into position), he can do a low sweep with his scythe. On a hit, the target chooses either to take a big chunk of ongoing bleed damage, or to dodge the attack by stepping closer to James. If they come closer, that opens up the possibility for opportunity attacks if they later try to escape. And as an encounter power, James can make a big attack and then shout, scaring away nearby enemies to open his movement options.

Speaking of movement, James has an average speed and only one movement power, but it'll let him plow right through is enemies. When he does, he forces them to choose between making an opportunity attack at a big penalty or to step out of his way. A good use of this power could scatter a tight formation, but even if the party chooses to attack, it can allow him access to the party backline.

Last but definitely scariest is James' barbarian rage. When he's bloodied, James makes a huge scythe sweep, clears all negative conditions, and for the rest of the encounter can make two attacks per turn and shouts thunder damage whenever someone hits him. Ouch! If the party thought he was scary before, now they'll really be terrified.

As a pure melee attacker, James has a couple of big weaknesses. While he's extremely resistant to conditions, a single fighter could potentially lock him down by preventing movement with opportunity attacks -- a scenario that isn't too unlikely given his low AC. When faced with a very sticky defender, James should try his luck with Thundering Charge, and if that doesn't work, make a big combo Scythe Spike attack to hopefully knock the defender down.

He'll also have a hard time with highly mobile ranged attackers like warlocks or sorcerers, and especially controllers with effects that don't apply a "save ends" condition. James should place a priority on slippery ranged attackers early on, because if he gets locked down he'll never get a good shot. Fortunately, when he's bloodied, he can strike back a bit, but 5 points of thunder damage per attack won't exactly dissuade a paragon-level character from attacking.

I'd like to know what you think, particularly with respect to balance -- I've already brought it down, but this block was intentionally overpowered from the beginning. I'd especially love to hear what you think if you've playtested or used James in one of your games.

No comments:

Post a Comment