D&D 5E Anticlimactic Boss Fights

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
There's always the option to use Disintegration beam and Telekinesis beam to cause either a cave in on the PCs or break the ground around them to make them fall in a pit. Or throw stuff at them.

IIRC the Darkness zone isnt very large, so just throw Large object at them; that'll teach them to bundle up in a small zone.

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Last night, three of my players’ 14th-level PCs went up against a death tyrant in its lair.

They quickly discovered its weakness. Without the antimagic cone that a living beholder would have, the death tyrant had no way to get the PCs to stop turtling inside the warlock’s sphere of darkness, from which she could snipe the tyrant with impunity.

I had given the tyrant the Alert feat, so the warlock didn’t get advantage on her attacks, but with three attacks per round and a minimum of 11 damage with each eldritch blast thanks to Agonizing Blast and Hexblade’s Curse, she was trashing the tyrant while it could do nothing in return.

Why? Because all the tyrant really has is its eye rays, all of which require line of sight. Its three lair actions weren’t of much use either.

Yes, it had a horde of 40 zombies as backup, but the cleric happened to position his dawn spell by the tunnels the zombies came from. The zombies didn’t stand a chance.

What was supposed to be the epic big boss fight of the dungeon turned into a pretty one-sided affair. Halaster wasn’t happy so he threw in another monster with blindsight to shake things up. The PCs still won.

Have you got a similar story where the PCs happen to stumble on a boss monster’s weakness that turns what should be a deadly encounter into a triviality? And how did you deal with it?

(In this context, I appreciate having the excuse of a god-like antagonistic NPC who can interfere to raise [or lower] the difficulty on a whim.)
My advice is roll with it and sense if your players are enjoying it. I think we get hung up on the boss fight has to play out a certain way but quickly defeating the bad guy through cleverness can be very rewarding and not knowing how these fights will play out adds a lot of excitement


Were the players disappointed? If I'd come up with the perfect combo to take down a major foe, I'd think it was awesome.


Yea, I've experienced anti-climatic boss fights too.

My solution is to first assume upfront that my players will curb stomp the BBEG if I play them as written.

I think of the PCs strengths and abilities, and I will add/adjust the BBEGs abilities to counter their most used tactics.

In addition, I will give the BBEG additional powers and abilities not found in official materials, as well as buff up their HP and AC.

And I will always give the BBEG an escape plan.


For those of you suggesting that the beholder should be allowed to “fire blind”, I think that’s an easy solution but one that can potentially lead to players saying “That’s not fair! Why can’t I ‘fire blind’ with my spells that require line of sight too?”
If the PC's spells were a ray or line (scorching ray, lightning bolt and the like), sure, let them do it too.

<Edit> Of course, if you've already set the precendent this can't be done, stay consistant with the ruling. But this is something I would have allowed from the start, regardless what the rulebook might have said about it.
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I'm sure I have had a few. The dragon in the end of the Essentials box went down rather fast. I recall some skill rolls and some extra allies from somewhere, but the fighter was able to get close and go nova even without feats, but we do use flanking rules. I think I gave it an extra round to do do something, but it was not a big threat in the end.
When I ran that encounter, I had the dragon start on top of a rampart on the keep above the players so it had some time to get a breath off and make a couple passes flying by before it decided they were softened up enough to close for melee combat. It managed to down 2 of the 6 players before they took it down in about 6 rounds.

Not sure if you continued on to the material available on DDB, but I ran that as well and the final encounter ended up being in Ebondeath's Mausoleum for my group. I was concerned Ebondeath and the High Priest on their own would be trivial at that point to my group, so I merged the encounters into 1. The result? The wizard counterspelled everything the High Priest did and while Ebondeath did manage to possess a PC, that didn't really help much and the encounter ended with the PCs never really being in any meaningful danger. We all agreed the end of the campaign probably should have been during the siege of Leilon when they fought a possessed Claugiyliamatar and half the party was unconcious before they managed to free the dragon from Ebondeath's control.


I don't believe in the no-win scenario
And I will always give the BBEG an escape plan.
Oh man, I had this trio of enemies that I sent against the PCs once. They had very little ability to hurt the PCs but loads of get away ability. Drove the players mad how often they ran into this group before finally finishing them. In fact, one got away and they are still mad to this day to not get the last one.

Though, I agree, a "boss" fight shouldn't be so easy for a myriad of reasons. Environment, minions, tactics, escape plans, etc... As a GM I put a ton of thought into boss fights because I expect as much from the PCs. I mean, if they say, "plans shmanzs", and just march in its going to go bad for them. Shouldn't be any different for a boss NPC.

It seems a lot of responses are focusing on this one encounter, and not the broader question about things not going as planned.
It was an undead beholder defending its lair. No way was it going to run away. Even if it had run, though, the PCs would have tracked it down as they needed to kill it in order to be allowed out of that dungeon level.* So having the beholder run away would have only served to drag out the un-fun encounter even longer.
I'd have had to rule that the tyrant had an exception to Halaster's "only I can alter the shape of the dungeon" rule,
Just to close the circle on this part of the discussion:
shrug ok, just as long as all these things you say are "rules" you understand that you are the one making up those rules, you are the one who can change them if you want.

Back to the bigger question, yes it happens. It's ok that it does. Let the players celebrate if they do, or let them think this was just a part of the daily encoutners and nothing special. They don't have to know :)

Honest question: is line of sight actually broken by darkness?

Yes it seems so says my google...

I think, as they are all rays, I'd let the tyrant just try to hit someone inside the darkness bubble, just as a bowman can shoot blindly too.. Might be a bit free interpretation but this would be rule as fun.

You can rule what you want, but then invisibility stops being the spell it is (it also totally stops many spells and effects from targeting you). Sets a rather dangerous precedent.

There was nothing stopping the Tyrant from moving in, grappling a PC and moving out (with that PC), including dragging them upwards.

What I would have done is a DM is make use of its disintegrate and TK rays (both of which can target objects) - like the pillars in the room.

I'd have it use its Telekinesis ray on a 300lb object (one of the pillars in the room perhaps, possibly after disintegrating the base of the pillar with another eye ray), dropping it on the PC's, or having it toss the object into the darkness, trying to dislodge (Shove) a PC out and into the light.

Either would likely result in a Dex save for damage for a few of them, or for one to be pushed out of the radius.

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