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D&D 4E 4e limit of beatability

Badwe

First Post
In a few months time I have cooked up special encounters for my PCs to usher them into paragon level and cover the gap between H3: Pyramid of shadows and Revenge of the Giants. I wanted a little change of pace and something unique, so the idea is that each encounter is meant to showcare the story behind a particular PC. To that end, i sort of envisioned them exiting the transdimensional pyramid in H3 in something akin to "The end of time" from chrono trigger, which had incredibly tough encounters that had no consequence for losing.

That's where I'm looking for some crowd-sourced advice. Since there's no (or at least, not as bad as usual) consequence for losing and since they will reasonably attempt to restore all their daily powers in between, what's an encounter level that will still be decently challenging? I'm looking for a point at which the chance of TPK hits about 50/50. I know the book says level + 4 is about the limit before character death becomes a serious possibility, but i'm wondering how much farther i can go.
 

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Are you thinking the party might try repeatedly to achieve victory, or is this a one-off thing, where if you fail, you just move on to the next encounter and don't have to try again?

If it's a Groundhog Day style combat, you'd want it to be fast, so I'd say have an elite of party level +6, and give him some niche but serious vulnerabilities that the PCs can exploit if they memorize his pattern. You want to limit it to just one opponent so that combat doesn't drag.

If it's a one-off encounter, do you just want to smash the PCs and show them how bad-ass a given opponent is so that when they face him later, they'll know what they're up against? In that case, level +12, just to get the pointless fight over with faster. Even then, it'll take the bad guy 3 or 4 rounds to kill each PC.
 

renau1g

First Post
If you use the MM3 monster guidelines and terrain properly plus synergizing the monsters well an n+4 is a good barometer. I killed 4/6 with an n+3 encounter where enemy had a slight terrain advantage at the start of the fight and were synergized well.
 

Brys

First Post
To answer: I dunno. But maybe this is a chance for you to figure that out and report back with empirical data. If you're open to the idea, I would suggest some sort of arena scenario. The party takes on challenges of various strength for audience amusement. "Dead" characters are removed from the arena via teleportation and revived for the next fight. They only fight once per day (and know that going in, so they know not to save dailies).

Start the challenges at L+4 and see how tough you can make them. Let them know that some fights are going to be outside their range, and they get rewarded for putting on a good show (take risks, try fun/dangerous tactics). Maybe give an XP boost to the crowd favorite for that fight. Everyone gets full experience whether they live or die (so no consequences) and with battles that tough they should be levelling in half the normal time (5 fights or fewer).

After a few weeks, they are no longer as interesting as the new kids that just showed up and the hosts teleport them back to their own time and place (or is it...?). And it's just in time for the giants to rise up.

Now that I've layed that out, I may try it in my own game. Has a very Star Trek-Q-messing-with-Picard feel to it.
 
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renau1g

First Post
Oh one other thing, if the players know this may be like a one fight in a day situation they may throw out all the stops, i.e. all their dailies, item powers, etc. so that would likely have a pretty big effect on the challenge level. Especially if you have a wizard or other encounter-long daily PC's/
 

KidSnide

Adventurer
It's also worth noting that the ability of a party to max-out for a single encounter is heavily dependent on player skill. A tactically effective party with optimized characters can experience the same challenge with an encounter 2-4 levels higher than a less tactically-inclined less-optimized party.

-KS
 

UnknownAtThisTime

First Post
I just wanted to say that this is a neat idea, and exiting "PoS" is a nice and plausible way of executing it. (I hated that place).
 
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jester_gl

First Post
I had an idea while reading this thread. What if only the character related to the ongoing fight could uses his daily. That particular character would look awesome for his own storyline, and it would partly eliminate the problem of the 5 minutes workday.
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
Similar to renau1g above, I TPK'ed a 5-man party this week (40 sessions into the campaign, at 19th level) with a level+3 encounter, with some terrain advantage.

I used the new "essentials" Red Dragon, as shown on the WotC site. I found dragons, in general, are pretty nasty opponents. You don't have to go crazy-stupid with the encounter difficulty to make it brutal. You just have to play them to the hilt, and then some.

  • Stay in the air. Keep out of reach of melee opponents.
  • Grab opponents with claws or bite; fly into the air (high), and drop them.
  • Go for the Leaders first, and any ranged Strikers. Ignore the Defenders.
  • Always go for the coup. When a PC drops, take the time to finish them. Don't give them a chance to "kick up", and don't give them a chance to be healed. If you need to, use an Action Point to make sure of it.
  • Go for the Uber-Round. Don't use Action Points at the start of the combat. Wait until the dragon is nearly bloodied, then Breath Weapon - action point for a big melee attack - move to provoke one or more opportunity attacks - get bloodied - and Breath Weapon again as free action.
  • Make sure you're using a MM3 or later dragon, and/or update older dragons to the new damage format.
  • Use terrain that really works to the dragon's advantage. I used lava pools to drop PCs into from a great height (falling damage, then ongoing 30 fire per round until the crawl out of the lava) and a wall of fuming smoke cutting the battlefield in half (the dragon would fly from side-to-side, forcing the PC's to "chase it" to keep it in line of sight).
I wouldn't recommend this for a non-expert party or if the stakes are "real". But if the stakes are "non-real", you should use the opportunity to show the party just how deadly dragons can be if you play them like most players play their PCs.
 

Mr. Wilson

Explorer
I've found that if a party knows that it is there only encounter for the day, and thus are free to 'nova, then encounters ranging from n+3-7 is where the party really feels like they are in a fight for their lives.

N+5-7 is usually done for Solo fights or fights where the PCs have some terrain advantage, and using pre MMIII figures.

N+3-4 taxes PCs using MMIII figures and terrain that places PC at the disadvantage.
 

  • Go for the Uber-Round. Don't use Action Points at the start of the combat. Wait until the dragon is nearly bloodied, then Breath Weapon - action point for a big melee attack - move to provoke one or more opportunity attacks - get bloodied - and Breath Weapon again as free action.
woe that changed from immediate action to free action... so dazed or stun won´t prevent it...

edit: it vever was immediate... hmmh....
 
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Badwe

First Post
great advice all. for those curious it is a theater of the mind, so the players will in some sense be hallucinating somehow to create these theatrics. Similarly, the mechanic will be they pick whos story they focus on and then if they succeed that hero will get some sort of boon (as described in AV2) and if not it's gone forever. I have the following plans:


1) our eladrin warlord wants to become a shadow captain so we will be doing the classic "fight your own shadows" trope. Initially I planned to use their characters exactly except for healing surges and action points, but i might skip that.

2) our hybrid fighter/ranger is optimized for damage (he's a bit of a math nut) so i'm cribbing a bit from WoW and using a gruul style encounter where a solo does more damage after every round. this will challenge them to maximize their damage per round or be crushed.

3) speaking of WoW, another player is a wow fanatic, and though he plays a swordmage with no obvious wow class analog, he injects a lot of the terminology (tank instead of defender, etc.) into the game. For him I'll be attempting to reproduce an exciting raid encounter using D&D monsters. Current plans are Razorwing using an elder blue dragon, which alone would be enough to rout a level 11 party, but with it flying around and pelting you with bolts until you can harpoon it down, double fun.

4) not all my players are wow fans. My wizard player loved shadows of the collosus, and his character is a human racist. Oddball as it is, it'll be up to him (and the party) to stop a bizarre and gigantic contraption built by the various savage races (goblin, hobgoblin, orc, drow, etc.)

5) finally for some non-videogame themes, our warlock is fey pact and focused on striking from stealth. They'll have to infiltrate a small elven tree fort while being pelted by a flurry of arrows if the elves ever get a look at them. they'll have to dodge roving pillars of light while shadowy stalkers follow them on the ground.

6) yes, i have six players. the sixth is a deva artificer who is going to take the deva racial paragon path. what will seem to start out as a diplomatic cotillion (SP?) with famous devas will turn out to be a ruse perpetrated by rakshasas and wicked devas who have not yet reincarnated as rakshasas to demonstrate the price of impiety.
 


Gort

Explorer
Badwe;5368733 3) speaking of WoW said:
Good for you. So many DMs would be offended by WoW references and try to "fix" the player (basically a futile effort) - it's nice to finally see someone stealing its good ideas and putting them to good use.
 

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