Was I overplaying the creatures abilities?
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  1. #1

    Was I overplaying the creatures abilities?

    Last night's game was kind of a let down, mostly due to the first encounter. I'm running THE LOST CITY OF BARAKUS so if you don't want any spoilers I'd stop here.






    The Cast:
    Half Orc Barb 1 Fighter 1
    Whisper Gnome Ninja 2
    Sun Elf Necromancer 2
    Dwarf Dread Necromancer 2
    Human Samurai 2
    Human Healer 2
    Half Orc Monk 2



    Well, the party ended up fighting some giant insects in a underground cave that included a lake. The beetles were extremely easy, but during the fight a water mephit decided it would be easier to try to take on the party while they were distracted. The mephit watched the fight with the pc's progress as they start to slaughter the beetles. When only 2 beetles remain, the mephit puts a stinking cloud over the party. Ok, no big deal, I figure they'll regroup and stomp this little guy, but the party suprises me and heads to two opposite sides of the cloud completely blocking vision from one another and leaving the only light source away from the healer and wizard. Mephit's next action is to acid arrow the closest being...now, the mephit is out in the water near the extent of his darkvision and it just so happened that the characters with darkvision were far from the shore, so, at this point no one has still seen the mephit yet.

    The rogue takes a nasty hit from the arrow but is still standing, the rest of the party kind of sits around in confusion, the rogue player doesn't do anything other than yell out. Still in this round, the healer casts light and that in combination with low light vision is enough for some of the party to be able to see the creature. The party fires a round of arrows and finds them ineffective vs its damage reduction, while the mephit rushes forward useing the stinking cloud as cover and flying high. The acid arrow procedes to knock the rogue out but the healer get's him back on his feet. Most of the party readies melee attacks, but the mephit has no intention of going toe-to-toe with these heavily armored adventurers and fly's around for a round using its breath weapon. The party fires some more arrows, and the monk trys to jump and grab the creature but fails. On the creatures turn it flys back into the water to use its fasthealing to heal what damage the arrows did. The next time he resurfaces (on the shoreline) he breathes again on the party, hitting the same three he did last time, the party again trys ranged attacks (although at least 2 characters could have got into melee with it at this point), the wizard casts cause fear and the mephit flees. I figure this will be the end of the encounter but I roll a 1 for rounds fleeing, and the party continues to stay on the waters edge, well within in range of the mephits breath weapon. The mephit comes back, sees the opportunity (I give him 50% chance to give up, even though he hasn't been harmed yet due to the spellcasters, but the roll says he'll try again). He comes back and procedes to breath on the party. This continues for quite a while (breath weapon, going back under water, coming back, breath weapon etc), the stinking cloud has disapeared and the party really hasn't done any damage to the mephit because it won't leave the water, has damage reduction, and the party will not attempt to melee it (arrow's arn't really doing enough to get past the DR and fast healing). Finally the big barbarian rages and charges, and the samurai follows suit taking the critter out in one round.

    The party was really bummed out at this point and there were some comments about the creature not being smart enough to use those kind of tactics. As a result the rest of the game was kind of glum and not much was accomplished. Do you think I was being to tactical with the 6 intelligence mephit? I just figured he'd like to fight from the water where his fast healing was working, besides, it is a water mephit. The party split themselves up and limited their own light sources not him, and the fight would have been over as soon as the creature came in to use its breath weapon the second time if the melee fighters would have engaged it like they eventually did. I didn't say anything though and just let the issue die as it had already drained a lot of people.

    I'm not the most experienced DM and I'm not sure how to handle the issue. On one hand I want to have a fun game, but at the same time I don't want to spoon feed exp to the party in the form of creatures that just charge into melee regardless of their abilities.

  2. #2
    I personally don't see any problems with it, as long as it was clear the party could have done better on their own.

    First rule : never split the party.

    A 6 intelligence creature should know enough to use tactics, and to play to its strengths while limiting its disadvantages. Animals know enough to do that in real life - big cats stalking prey or humans for example, or wolves in packs. Why wouldn't a magic creature know such?

    And as long as the party had other avenues out of the situation I dont see problems.

  3. #3
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    I think you played the encounter perfectly. Just because a monster has a low intellegence dosen't mean it lacks instincts or common sense. remember most creatures have a strongly developed sense of self preservation and will attack useing the method which ar safest for them.

    The party should take an oportunity like this to develop new tactics to prevent a repeat. I suggest playing them against a similar encounter in the next few sessions to see what they have learnt.

  4. #4
    Encounters where the enemy can keep its distance and hammer the party are always a tough issue, especially when said enemy can heal. Usually these creatures *have* to use this tactic or they will die quickly. The mephit's flight, fast healing, and breath weapon are all factors that make up its CR. Yes, it has a 6 Intelligence but one would think it's probably done this sort of thing before. It knows it can heal and knows it can hit the party from afar. Therefore, even a retarded mephit would probably be able to figure this out.

    A mephit would probably know it cannot go toe-to-toe with probably even just two enemies, much less that many. Most any creature except your basic animal should be able to figure that out. Besides, who's to say this was just your "average mephit"? maybe it was a little smarter?

    It sounds like the party made a couple of tactical errors which often happens and isn't usually anyone's fault but is nevertheless unfortunate and makes the encounter harder.

    Though it has more INT, the same problem can be had with the Ogre Magi. It has the ability to fly and turn invisible--two abilities that, at its challenge rating, make it quite powerful when the PCs themselves probably can't fly to get at it. I will be the first to admit that these types of encounters are often both difficult to run for the DM and may not be very fun for the PCs.

    It sounds like you played the Mephit fine. There are ways to counteract flight and the mephit doesn't really have that many hit points as the two melee guys figured out once they charged the creature. Most parties would lob a couple of magic missiles and the encounter would be nearly over.

    But if you'd charged in with the mephit, the combat would have lasted a round and is that worth the CR of the enemy?

    --CT

  5. #5
    The main selling point you could use with the players in such a situation is...

    THE CREATURE DID THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN!

    That, to me, is the hallmark of a low-intelligence (and 6 is pretty low) creature. It will have a strategy that is built on it's abilities, and rinse and repeat it forever.

  6. #6
    Thanks, I felt like I was in bounds with that one but just wanted to make sure. I'll have a talk with the group before the next game.

    I just reread my post and I see that I left out a bit of what some of the party did, the dread necromancer summoned a skeleton at one point and tried to send it into the water after the mephit but it couldn't navigate the murky waters, and to the wizard's credit he was casting a spell each round but the mephit was making saves.

  7. #7
    You did fine. The creature was in its element...nyuk nyuk.

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    You did fine. Just remind the party that when they had two melee characters charge the creature and attack it, it fell in one round.

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    I've been through the Lost City of Barakus, from start to finish. Your party is going to need a very important lesson: SOMETIMES YOU RUN. Seriously. The final encounter in Barakus was quite possibly the most harrowing combat my group has ever faced in D&D. There are many near-TPK moments in Barakus and it's a wise party that recognizes that they may not win every fight.

    You played the encounter perfectly. The mephit is a CR 3 creature, which is pretty dangerous for this party. He may only have an INT of 6, but he also has a WIS of 11. He is, in short, fairly wily. He knows his abilities and while he may not be able to grasp advanced physics or even writing, he knows how to hunt and kill his prey.

    SPOILER ALERT:

    To wit, there are several combats that are just DAMNED HARD that a party can stumble into. The black dragon, the minotaurs, the flesh golems, any number of undead, the aranaea and others all are potentially deadly encounters for the party that they can stumble into long before they're ready to deal with them. The party needs to recognize that retreat is a valid option. When we faced the mephit, we were considerably more powerful and more numerous, but many of the combats (and wilderness encounters) were to-the-wall battles were survival hinged on a couple of die-rolls. And we liked it that way.

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    DarkJezter,

    I think you did fine. As another poster noted, the mephit didn't really express much critical thinking. It had one tactic, and used it again and again. Lioness hunting parties display even more versatility, with a lower intelligence.

    Also note that "stay in the water" is a very, very natural instinct for a water mephit.

    I doubt it would be thinking "I need to be in the water, where my fast healing will be the most tactically advantageous." It's just instinctually staying where it's most comfortable, and its abilities are well-suited for that environment (which is the case for many animals.)

    You may feel inexperienced now, but your recognition that the game wasn't as fun as you'd like and your willingness to analyze your own actions tells me that even inexperienced, your group is lucky to have you.

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