(4e) Too close to bag of rats?
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  1. #1

    (4e) Too close to bag of rats?

    Hey guys, so I'm pretty new to d&d (about 6 months off and on). And my group alternates between 2 campaigns every week. This week, one of the Dm's can't do it and asked me to make up a campaign to start in on and maybe carry it out for a while.
    So I'm brand new to being a Dm and I'm trying to formulate a good couple of possible encounters.

    One idea I had is the big boss warlock guy (who is an actual built pc by me just in case the story flows that he joins their party as an NPC). So I made him an infernal warlock, and I got an idea of when (and if) they face off against him, he has a few prisoners in the room where they will fight, and basically have them beaten to 1 hp, and chained up, I just don't know yet if they will be hidden behind a wall from the PCs or out in the open.

    So I figure it would make for an interesting twist on the encounter to have a guard by each prisoner, and if the warlock told the gaurd to, the guard would then kill the prisoner, and having been a "cursed enemy" by the warlock, he then regains some temporary hitpoints.

    Now he's only going to have 4 prisoners, so it's not like he will have unlimited health possibilities. But I recently read about a bag of rats trick, that made me think this was not a good idea, so I came to ask what you guys think, is it too close to that cheap trick, or is it just a cool encounter twist?

    Thanks in advance for the feedback.
    Last edited by Ironnipple; Thursday, 3rd May, 2018 at 08:18 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironnipple View Post
    Hey guys, so I'm pretty new to d&d (about 6 months off and on). And my group alternates between 2 campaigns every week. This week, one of the Dm's can't do it and asked me to make up a campaign to start in on and maybe carry it out for a while.
    So I'm brand new to being a Dm and I'm trying to formulate a good couple of possible encounters.

    One idea I had is the big boss warlock guy (who is an actual built pc by me just in case the story flows that he joins their party as an NPC).
    It's a lot, /lot/ harder to stat out a PC or NPC using even /some/ PC rules, than to stat out a monster, PC-class-template monster/NPC, or a companion character (see DMG 2). A whole lot more. Just don't even go there. If you do end up with the NPC joining the party and becoming a PC when the original DM returns, just build it as a PC at that point. Until then, monster if fighting the party, companion character if joining up. Way, way easier on you.

    So I made him an infernal warlock, and I got an idea of when (and if) they face off against him, he has a few prisoners in the room where they will fight, and basically have them beaten to 1 hp, and chained up, I just don't know yet if they will be hidden behind a wall from the PCs or out in the open.
    So I figure it would make for an interesting twist on the encounter to have a guard by each prisoner, and if the warlock told the gaurd to, the guard would then kill the prisoner, and having been a "cursed enemy" by the warlock, he then regains some temporary hitpoints.
    A little elaborate for just that specific benefit (monsters tend to blow through hps a lot faster than PCs, so the Warlocks Pact Boon would actually be a bit trivial in that context). But a monster that kills innocents the PCs would like to save in order to fuel it's abilities is a fine idea.

    You could do an Elite + Minions (guards) encounter (a standard encounter like that is 1 Elite & 12 minions, all of the PCs level, in the Heroic Tier), and have the prisoners /also minions/, but basically helpless, so they're naturally 1 hp. Whether you go with the temps or some other benefit, it should be a 1/round thing, so he doesn't blow through 'em too fast, and the PCs have a chance to be heroic and save at least some of them.

    Saving prisoners could be as simple as killing the guards, or it could take checks to free them, making it a sort of skill challenge that'd also be worth some xp, or the BBEG could be able to use any minion (allied or otherwise) as fuel, and you can just count them towards the minions in the encounter (you could have 8 guards and 4 prisoners, for instance, or 6 & 6... guards fight the PCs, but are likely to be killed quickly, while the prisoners can remain as a resource for the Elite to tap).

    But I recently read about a bag of rats trick, that made me think this was not a good idea, so I came to ask what you guys think, is it too close to that cheap trick, or is it just a cool encounter twist?
    Manufacturing fake enemies to set off conditional benefits was a 3.x trick that could be abused pretty hard in a few combos. 4e makes it clear such tricks don't work, that the 'enemy' targeted needs to actually be one. But, that's a player-side thing, a caution against letting PCs get away with something unintended.
    A monster you just set up the way you want to set up, and a challenge like saving hostages that the monster is slowly killing his way through to fuel his power is a pretty good set-up. It means the PCs are doubly-motivated to save the hostages, as it both is the right & heroic thing to do, /and/ weakens the BBEG they're fighting.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Thursday, 3rd May, 2018 at 09:38 PM.

  3. #3
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    It seems fine from a balance perspective, and not too cheap (since the players presumably are aware of the warlock healing mechanic). I'm not entirely familiar with those rules, myself, but aren't there limits on who a warlock can curse? Like, only the closest enemy, or only one person at a time or something? I remember playing a warlock before, and using a Rod of Reaving to pop minions for some sort of buff effect, but it's been a while.

    Just as a word of warning, though, PC-built enemies don't work as well as you might hope. PCs don't have as many HP as they probably should, in order to balance against the Healing Surge mechanic... or something... so the work that you put into fleshing out the bad guy might not be worth the effort.

  4. #4
    I'll second the point that PC building monsters is probably counter-productive, but then again, it's done so... yeah, just don't do again? I guess...

    As to your subject question - having a warlock gain a benefit from killing captives is as trope as tropes can trope - in other words, it's a perfect fit for this kind of fight!

    I would make having a captive be slain give some significant healing AND a power boost, perhaps allow saves, OR the warlock can transfer conditions to a captive in the "transferance shackles".

    This last one is liable to help out with action denying shenanigans the PCs can bring to bear.

    Make freeing the captives into an SC and you have a pretty dynamic setup there!
    - [Intimidate] to make a guard leave his post
    - [Arcana] to break a magic lock, shackle, containment circle, or to suspend the "life-link" (works as a stall)
    - [Thievery] open lock, shackles
    - [Athletics] get to the top where it's easy to pull a captive free, pull captives free, break down a barrier, break shackles, tackle a guard, etc
    - [something else] there are MANY cool things easy to do here
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    I think this is a fine idea.

    You don't have to make this opponent the way you would make a PC. The DMG outlines how to make monsters that use PC class templates. This opponent would still have a pact and a curse, I believe.

    The only thing about making this opponent work like a PC is that you might put the idea in their heads. The nice thing about having a creature who can gain HP in a similar way (such as by consuming or sacrificing an ally) is that the players shouldn't expect to be able to do the same thing. You could, conceivably, have this opponent be operating via some site or time specific method, rather than just exploiting warlock's curse. The victims could be held in special cells or magic circles, or by the remnants of an ancient spell, or by temporarily loaned infernal minions. The point would be that, after this encounter, the opponent couldn't necessarily do the same thing again later.

  6. #6
    I agree with @MoutonRustique. And I would approach this from the point of view of NPC/monster balance, not PC balance. So look at some other temp hp, self-buffing creatures and take your inspiration from that. If you think your warlock's curse-buffing is going to make it, functionally, have the hp of an elite, then you might want to give it a comparable action economy also.

  7. #7
    I see what you guys are saying, and thank you for the input, I appreciate all of it.

    So along those lines then, do you guys know of any monsters off the top of your heads that have some sort of hp Regen that could work off if this setup?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ironnipple View Post
    do you guys know of any monsters off the top of your heads that have some sort of hp Regen that could work off if this setup?
    I know trolls have regen, and I think the maths assumes that they'll get about 4 rounds of regen as part of their hp.

    If your warlock might miss out on a buff or two due to interfering PCs, then maybe figure it as 2 or 3 rounds? It doesn't have to be perfect! But personally I think monsters with the hp of an elite but lacking the action economy can be a bit underwhelming at the table, so if you think it's buff will keep it around for a bit then look at giving it that action economy (whether via an extra action, or extra targets, or an AoE, or whatever seems flavoursome and practical).

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