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D&D 5E Challenging a tanky one-trick pony PC

ECMO3

Hero
Hi all,

I am running Dungeon of the Mad Mage for one of my groups. The PCs are pretty close to hitting level 13, and one of my players has found an annoyingly effective combination of class features and combat tactics that make his PC something of an unkillable one-trick pony who makes fights too easy more often than not. The other players all love how effective his PC is at making fights easier, of course, so I'm looking for some ways to shake things up so he can't always rely on the same tactic.

The PC in question is a dwarf forge cleric 7 / watcher paladin 4 / storm sorcerer 1. He has an AC of 23 thanks to his plate armor, shield, cloak of protection and class features, and what he likes to do is wade into melee next to the fighter and the barbarian, cast spirit guardians, then dodge to impose disadvantage on anyone trying to attack him to disrupt the spell. He also has the Protection fighting style, so once per round he can reduce incoming damage to one of the other PCs standing next to him. If he doesn't use that, he also has the option of casting either shield or absorb elements to further protect himself (and lessen the likelihood of losing spirit guardians).

One way I could deal with this is have the group face more enemies who can cast dispel magic. Another way might be to use the same tactics against the PCs and see how they like a taste of their own medicine. Has anyone got any other ideas?

Again, I'm not looking to punish my players or take away their cool toys. I'm just looking for ways to shake them out of their habits and get a little more variety into the way they approach combats in the dungeon.

In case it matters, the other PCs are a human evoker 12, a dwarf berserker 12, a half-orc samurai 12, and a half-elf swashbuckler 7 / hexblade 5 (who likes to use the other annoyingly effective darkness + Devil's Sight combo).

Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

I see nothing wrong with that build. SG damage is not that great if all he is doing is dodging IMO. I love builds that combine synergies like these and play against stereotypes. I went with a weaponless Dwarf Order Cleric10/Enchantment Wizard4 in plate with an 8 str and 8 dex (Dwarf so no movement penalty). It was a pretty awesome build, great AC, at will Hypnotic Gaze, Casting Enchantment spells as a bonus action due to order cleric.


A few comments and recommendations for countering:

1. He can't Dodge on the turn he casts spirit guardians, wail on him to break concentration THAT round. Take AOOs to run across the battlefield and make it happen.

2. Pay attention to the Rogues darkness and remember darkness will almost always cancel the disadvantage from dodge. If EITHER the Paladin or the guy attacking the Paladin are in darkness the attack must be straight up with no advantage and no disadvantage. If the Paladin is in darkness then he is blinded and this gives attacks against him advantage which cancels disadvantage from dodge. If his attacker is in darkness then that attacker has advantage against the Paladin because he is unseen and again this cancels the disadvantage from dodge. Also note that once you have a single case of advantage and disadvantage the roll is straight up, stacking more disadvantages does not turn it back to disadvantage. So a monster who is blinded (disadvantage), poisoned (disadvantage), frightened (disadvantage), attacking a dodging enemy (disadvantage) at long range (disadvantage), from inside darkness (unseen attacker-advantage), would still make the roll normal with no advantage or disadvantage.

3. Remember Spirit guardians hurts allies too. When he casts spirit guardians he can designate "a number of targets he can see" that it does not effect, but he needs to both SEE them and DESIGNATE them WHEN he casts the spell. Make him say who it is not affecting when he casts it. So if the Rogue is hiding, guess what he can't be seen and excluded, also anyone inside the Rogue's darkness also can't be seen and excluded. If he beat the Barbarian in initiative and the Barbarian is around the corner he can't see him to exclude him. If the Wizard summons some allies after the SG is cast, guess what they were not excluded when he cast it. If he just forgets to about the Wizard's familiar then it is dead as soon as it enters SG. God forbid the C/P/S himself is inside the Rogue's darkness when he casts it; then under a strict RAW it even effects him!

4. Don't forget concentration saves, make sure he rolls every one.

5. Grappling and shoving can be good at countering SG. The action economy favors the monsters because you can use an attack to grapple or shove but you need to use an entire action to break a grapple. Shove prone then grapple and he is in a world of hurt, he is prone and can't stand up. Being prone means disadvantage is canceled for enemies within 5 feet. He needs to use a whole action to try to break it and needs to use half move just to stand if successful at breaking the grapple. If he breaks the grapple he is not dodging that round .... so put him down again and now monsters within 5 feet have advantage. Finally you can drag him across the battlefield and put him where you want him so he is not affecting as many bad guys

Alternatively if there is someone he did not designate for one of the reasons above, grapple that person and drag them into it (possibly doing double damage since they would take damage moving in off turn and at the start of their turn).

5. Affect his movement with things like caltrops or difficult terrain.

6. He only has 3 3rd level slots, so if he is doing this every fight he is burning some high level spells.

7. Frightened condition. If your monsters can do this use it. It prevents him from moving towards you.
 
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pukunui

Legend
I see nothing wrong with that build. SG damage is not that great if all he is doing is dodging IMO. I love builds that combine synergies like these.
No, there's really nothing wrong with it. I've just been finding it annoying for the reasons stated above.

A few comments and recommendations for countering:

1. He can't Dodge on the turn he casts spirit guardians, wail on him to break concentration THAT turn. Take AOOs to do that and make it happen.
True that.

2. Remember Spirit guardians hurts allies too. When he casts spirit guardians he can designate "a number of targets he can see" that it does not effect, but he needs to both SEE them and DESIGNATE them when he casts the spell. Make him say who it is not affecting when he casts it. So if the Rogue is hiding, guess what he can't be seen and excluded, also anyone in the Rogue's darkness can't be seen and excluded. If he beat the Barbarian in initiative and the Barbarian is around the corner he can't see him. If the Wizard summons some allies after the spell is cast, guess what they were not excluded when he cast it. IF he just forgets to designate the Wizard's familiar then it is dead as soon as it enters SG. God forbid the C/P/S himself is inside the Rogue's darkness when he casts it; then under a strict RAW it even effects him!
Yep. They're pretty good about paying attention to those sorts of details.

3. Don't forget concentration saves, make sure he rolls every one.
I do.

4. Grappling and shoving can be good at countering SG. The action economy favors the monsters advantage because you can use an attack to grapple or shove but you need to use an entire action to break a grapple. Shove prone then grapple and he is in a world of hurt, he is prone and can't stand up. He needs to use a whole action to try to break it and needs to use half move just to stand if successful at breaking the grapple. On top of that for monsters within 5 feet it cancels the disadvantage from dodge. Finally you can drag him across the battlefield and put him where you want him so he is not affecting as many bad guys
The issue here is that the monster has to cross 15 feet of difficult terrain that also deals damage in order to get to him (unless they can also teleport). And usually the dwarf barbarian and/or the half-orc fighter are standing next to him. Probably not the most effective tactic.

Alternatively if there is someone he did not designate for one of the reasons above, grapple that person and drag them into it (possibly doing double damage since they would take damage moving in off turn and at the start of their turn).
Would a reasonably intelligent monster know that this might work? I'm not sure.

6. He only has 3 3rd level slots, so if he is doing this every fight he is burning some high level spells.
He's also got three 4th level slots and two 5th level slots, thanks to the wonders of multiclassing.

7. Frightened condition. If your monsters can do this use it. It prevents him from moving towards you.
He's got a +7 on his Wisdom saves. If a monster has a fear ability, it will certainly try and use it on him, but he's likely to make his save. (Meanwhile, the berserker is immune to fear while in a rage.)

Even banishment isn't that great a tactic since he has a +6 on his Charisma saves.

EDIT: An enemy with the Mage Hunter feat and a bonus action teleport might work, though!
 
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ECMO3

Hero
The issue here is that the monster has to cross 15 feet of difficult terrain that also deals damage in order to get to him (unless they can also teleport). And usually the dwarf barbarian and/or the half-orc fighter are standing next to him. Probably not the most effective tactic.

The Barbarian is going to need to get close to be effective and he is going to need to be within 5 feet of that to use protection. Let them come to you, then grapple/shove him (potentially doing it as ready actions with 2 enemies).

Would a reasonably intelligent monster know that this might work? I'm not sure.

Remember DOMM is a dungeon created and managed by an Arch Wizard. If he is going around doing this 7 times a day, then yes they are ALL going to know. There is a pretty good argument that even beasts with an intelligence of 2 have been trained/conditioned/enspelled by Halister to do this in response to the players antics.
 
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Hope you saw the answer here:
Errata: October 2016 | Sage Advice | Dungeons & Dragons. Search for "moonbeam". The section also lists Spirit Guardians as following the same rules.

In short you can't cast the spell ON foes to damage them, you have to wait until they enter the spells area...on the second round the spell is active.

Otherwise:

1.More foes. This is easy. Roughly you can double the foes. Add in extra monsters, like orcs with wolves. But also orcs with a xorn. The best is something like 15 orcs, of all different types and CRs. Of course, a single big foe also works....

2.Don't shy away from creatures with...immunity to radiant/necrotic damage, good saves, or healing abilities....or any other such things. At near 13th level they SHOULD be encountering such monsters. Intelligent foes will have magic items and spells vs this type of effect. Things that add to Will saves or give advantage, for example.

3.Drag out time some more. Any spell has a limited number of uses. Let them cast the spell....then run out the duration before the next fight. Repeat. Don't have three combat encounters in 10 minutes. Remember characters should be active some 16 hours a day, and might have a combat encounter at any time.
 

The PC in question is a dwarf forge cleric 7 / watcher paladin 4 / storm sorcerer 1. He has an AC of 23 thanks to his plate armor, shield, cloak of protection and class features, and what he likes to do is wade into melee next to the fighter and the barbarian, cast spirit guardians, then dodge to impose disadvantage on anyone trying to attack him to disrupt the spell. He also has the Protection fighting style, so once per round he can reduce incoming damage to one of the other PCs standing next to him. If he doesn't use that, he also has the option of casting either shield or absorb elements to further protect himself (and lessen the likelihood of losing spirit guardians).

AoE's. From spells to Breath weapons, many critters have access to them.

Also save or suck spells. I assure you his Int and Dex saves are crud (he needs Str, Cha and Wisdom of 13+ to qualify for that MC, definitely did not dump Con, and only has 2 x ASI).

I wouldn't be surprised if his Int and Dex saves were not +0 (accounting for the cloak).

A Mind Flayer (Psychic blast, Stun) would be hilarious against him. 4 of them vs a 13th level Party is only a Hard Encounter.

Remember he needs a hand free to cast shield. It lacks M components so it cant be cast with a 'Shield bearing a holy symbol' in one hand, and a weapon in the other (without warcaster of course).
 

RainOnTheSun

Explorer
I'm with the people saying ranged attacks and difficult terrain. If they've just about won as soon as they get into melee, then getting into melee is the part they have to solve to win the fight. And at the same time it's probably good to give them big melee fights sometimes, so they can feel good about their characters and what they can do when someone plays to their strengths.
 

In short you can't cast the spell ON foes to damage them, you have to wait until they enter the spells area...on the second round the spell is active.

Not technically correct.

They take damage at the start of their turns. Not straight away, but there is no escape for them if you catch them in the area (barring someone pushing them out before their turn starts of course).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Dispel magic is your best bet. NPC spellcasters with level 3 spells start at CR 2.

So 4 of them are an easy fight but just stock them up with a stupid amount of damage. 32d6 overload them.

No ranger combat with flees and cover like arrow slits (+5AC).

Dragons using hiu and fade breath weapons.

Basically don't melee.
 

Besides the excellent advice of doing less melee, more ranged (spells, AoE, and ordinary archers), you can check out monsters with an anti-magic field (example: the Beholder's Antimagic Cone). This also deals with the darkness.

A word of warning though: As a player who enjoys playing spellcasters, I personally very much dislike that anti-magic field, as it reduces the true spellcasters (sorcs, wizards, etc.) to glass cannons without ammo. It's fine once in a while, but there is preciously little that a spellcaster can do against it so it's annoying if it would be used a lot.

Also, once every now and then, have your NPCs dig a trench, fill it with spikes, and cover it up. Now have your NPCs taunt the PCs and fart in their general direction. Let's see how the Spirit Guardians are going to help climbing out of that pit.
 

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