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


BTW, for me your OP hit the right balance between "I don't want to nerf him, just take him out of his comfort zone occasionally". I'm with that as well - let them enjoy their character, but toss things up.

They only have two ASI and aren't at the point where CHR adds to saves, so unless it's rolled ability scores they shouldn't have an amazing CON save.

Magic Missile is a wonderful way to blow concentration, especially if you have several junior casters doing it. A number of separate DC 10 checks, ignoring AC and absorb elements. Countered by Shield if they haven't used their reaction yet, but if they do then maybe it's time for the master caster to throw a big area of effect while Absorb Elements isn't handy.

Talking about that, my bet is their DEX save isn't high. Absorb Elements only protects against Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning and Thunder. There are plenty of spells and monster breath weapons and the like that are save based and do other damage types like Poison.

Fliers could be out of range and make the target not worthwhile.

The bane of any caster is enough encounters between long rests. Though spell slots for a 10th level caster are pretty plentiful.

A bunch of giants or other heavy-hitting meatbags who can take the damage without worrying too much about it, have reach so they aren't clumped up to hit lots of them plus still attack with movement penalties, and if if they do go after him will hit hard enough to trigger a tough Concentration save.

A foe that grapples and moves him? Grapple doesn't go against AC, it goes against STR (Athletics) or DEX (Acrobatics), ignores the dodge condition, those reaction spells, and his massive AC.

Terrain and ranged attackers that make it hard to have a lot of foes in his Spiritual Guardians at the same time?

Again, don't do any of these frequently - this is just to occasionally need to adapt to being out of their comfort zone, not to regularly shut down his tactics.
Some good advice. They will be meeting some giants soon (there are some on dungeon level 14).

Just one point: he's a dwarf, so targeting him with poison specifically is worse than targeting him with an element that can be resisted by absorb elements. (As a forge cleric, he's also resistant to fire.) I'll need to target him with radiant/necrotic/force/psychic.

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Suggestion I have not yet seen: throw an assassin or high level rogue at the party. Assassin who starts hidden has advantage on his attack (since the dwarf can’t see the attack). Plus, the high single damage of assassin attacks mean that the dwarf is unlikely to succeed on the concentration save. Assassins also have damage over time poisons that avoid the character’s high AC (and make him happy he’s playing a dwarf!)

If you really want to motivate the party, make the assassin a sub-boss. Every combat, the assassin attacks, takes down spirit guardians, then leaves his minions to fight the party (and joins the next encounter).

I guarantee that by the second time the assassin pulls off the “I hit you for massive damage than retreat while my mooks attack”, the party is going to go all out to try snd lock this guy down.


Immobilize him with:
Hold person
Tasha's hideous laughter
Tangleroot bags
Sentinel Feat

Insert difficult terrain:
Plant growth
Spike growth
Traps (eventually he will fail a roll)
Rough ground
Broken furniture

Knock him away:
Repelling Blast
The special attack of some large monster
The Shove Action

Slap him with a silence spell.
Add pits to the map.
Drop a magical darkness over the room.
Ambush the party and riddle him with arrows.
Use more ranged attackers.
Use higher HP enemies.
Counter him with an evil Twilight Cleric.
Unleash Tucker's Kobolds (or use something tougher like drow.)

Use enemies immune or resistant to radiant damage or damage from spells, or those with good Wisdom saves.

It's a 15' radius. That's 3 squares. Use enemies that don't get close:
Ranged combatants
Anything with reach (they still take damage, but the movement penalty won't matter.)

Break concentration:
(for the record, a +6 to concentration is still a 20% failure chance to 1 point of damage.)
Damage from Magic Missle is not subject to Dodge (but Shield still works)
AOE damage
Damaging traps
Attacking with advantage (help action)
Stunning Fist
Paralyzing, Stunning, and Petrifcation all drop concentration

Don't give him time to use it. Ambush predators or intelligent foes could spring an ambush. At that point, is SG his priority?

Spread out your monsters. Who cares about 3d whatever damage when you have to dash, swim or climb to reach the enemies peppering you with arrows and spells. Then plop a big meaty pool of HP with damage resistance in front of the PCs to slow them down further.

Add smoke. It blinds and chokes, that's worth a concentration check. Bonus points if you use foes that don't breathe and/or have tremor sense.


Unleash Tucker's Kobolds (or use something tougher like drow.)
They've been fighting a lot of drow throughout the campaign (I made one of Halaster's goals be to rid the dungeon of all the drow). One thing we've found in practice is that their ability to cast darkness is a bit of a double-edged sword because they can't see through it either (while one of the PCs can - and of course most of the time, the drow won't know that).

That said, it was also the drow on level 3 who caused a TPK earlier in the campaign. The players successfully cleared out House Auvryndar from level 10, but when they came up against House Freth in their fortress on level 12, they were a bit more cautious. They also balked at fighting Freth's leader, since she is depicted as being heavily pregnant.

Another way to challenge the party: the dearf has a glaring weakness: plate mail and Dex 10 is LOUD. Enemies should hear him from down the hall. Particularly in a party with a berserker.

Have the enemies turn the table on the party: the room is empty when the party arrives and the enemies ambush them two turns later when they are searching the room and out of formation.


Just a quick update. I forgot to mention previously that the PC also has the Lucky feat, so even if I do manage to roll well enough to get through the disadvantage and the high AC, three times per day at least he can just force me to reroll (which generally means I'll miss).

On top of that, the PCs just leveled up, and I see that the player has finally taken War Caster, so now the PC has advantage on his Con saves to maintain spell concentration on top of everything else.

Sigh ...


Limit Break Dancing
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).
The best offense is a good defense, amirite?

I'd go with enemy wizards...preferably abjuration wizards. An upcast Counterspell is the solution to all of the bigger problems you mentioned: shield, spirit guardians, darkness, and so forth. And when that fails, there's always an upcast dispel magic. The best part is that Abjuration wizards get temporary hit points each time they cast these spells, which makes them harder to kill. Upcast magic missile to avoid attack rolls altogether, using your highest-level spell slots to maximize damage and focus fire on the highest AC. When the enemy wizards finally run out of spell slots, they flee and return a few hours later.

Heat metal is another favorite to use against heavily-armored opponents. Send in a troop of enemy druids, mounted on rust monsters...they're armed with nets, two of them have summoned swarms of poisonous spiders, and the rest have all cast call lightning one round ago when they saw the party enter their grove.

Burrowing monsters like ankhegs and purple worms are pretty fun too, because if they need to get away from the spirit guardians and Devil's Sight sniper, they can just burrow out of danger and still be able to "see" their targets...and as cool as it is, Devil's Sight can't see through dirt and rock.

But really, the problem here is just bad enemy tactics. If the party casts spirit guardians, don't have the bad guys just stand in the AOE taking damage from it as if they have no choice in the matter. Have them move out of the area! Or better yet, have them flee from combat until the spell wears off, then return with active buffs. Same thing for the darkness + Devil's Sight combo: if someone in the party casts that, the enemy should either dispel it or flee until the duration ends.

Basically, think of it like this: to make combat challenging for optimized characters, don't focus on "beat the armor class and remove their hit points." Instead, focus on "take away their resources until they're forced to rest...and that's when I strike." Forget about hit points--every time you cause them to cast shield guardians, think of it as "one point of damage." Every time you force them to cast shield, every potion they drink, every limited-use class feature they use, think of it as "points" of "damage." Eventually they will need to stop and rest, and that's when they're vulnerable...especially if they take off their armor to sleep. (And if they don't, enforce the exhaustion rules.)
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Limit Break Dancing
I haven't, but in my experience, nets are hard to use (disadvantage if your target isn't right next to you) and easy to break/cut through. Web is vulnerable to fire, and he's a forge cleric, so fire is his thing.
Yes, that is true...but it uses their action. And that means they can't use their super-duper-power-combo for that round.

Same thing for alchemist's fire. Ever wonder why it's so expensive? It costs as much as a potion of healing, but it does very little damage and can be extinguished easily. Why 50gp for one round's worth of 1d4 damage?

Because it takes an action to extinguish those flames--you can't dispel it, it doesn't wear off, and there's no save throw. And any action that isn't casting a spell or swinging a weapon is a point in favor of the opponents.

So let's say they ignore it and soak the damage: now they're taking 1d4 fire damage every round automatically. No big deal, right? Throw another. Now they are taking 2d4 points of damage per round, and spending their action to extinguish the flames will only stop 1d4's worth...they need to spend two actions to stop taking damage at all. Now the player catches on to their tactics, and decides to cast resist elements. One of the enemies can use their reaction to counterspell it, and still has their action available to throw a third vial of alchemist fire. Now the Human Torch is taking 3d4 fire damage per round...still not a lot, but it's getting harder to ignore it and the player is going to start trying anything they can think of. Maybe other members of the party join in to help extinguish the flames (which uses up their actions too!) Or the roasting adventurer can spend the first of several actions to extinguish 1d4's worth of alchemist's fire, or they can spend their action (and risk another wasted spell slot) trying to cast quench and/or resist elements again, which their opponents will counter and/or dispel. Whatever the party of adventuers decide, the opponents will throw another flask of alchemist's fire...and another, and another.

In short: there's more than one way to challenge a character. If you can't attack their hit points, attack their resources. And if that doesn't work, attack their action economy.
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Personally I would hate playing a character so locked in to one repetitive strategy (especially one involving turns of just taking the Dodge action), and I don't think it really pays off at a lot of tables. But it seems to be what the powerbuilders of the land of Theorycraftia love most, and it seems to be working at your table. And the bad news is that most the downsides of such a character came at those lower levels where he had to play a compromised character whose one trick didn't work yet, not at this lofty level where everything seems to have come online for him.

But the big downside now is that he is in third tier play and Spirit Guardians is all he's bringing to the table, as he plods around trying to get into a melee clump with his allies. He now has unbreakable concentration and unbeatable armor, but all he can do with it is 3d8, or 4d8, or 5d8 radiant damage to creatures that get within 15 feet of him.

So let him have his power fantasies a bunch of the time. He built his whole character to do this one boring thing. And accept that you'll never break his concentration (or not often enough to make a difference). Just make sure there are also lots of fights where he can't get within 15 feet of multiple enemies, or where he can't clump up with the other frontliners. Target him for advantaged attacks by minor enemies, hoping for crits and at least making him burn a few casts of Shield, while having the heavy hitters work on his allies to make him burn through resources on healing.

At some point have him fight a pack of skulks. They are invisible, so they will have advantage on all their attacks, and they are immune to radiant damage (in the MToF formulation, they lost this in the MoM revamp). See how Mr. Spirit Guardians likes that.

And have a high level mage Feeblemind him at some point. There's no way he's proficient in Intelligence saves, and I'm going to guess its his dump stat. Even with Luck getting a 17-19 DC without a modifier is a pain. You can beat up on him with Mind Sliver, Mind Whip, and Synaptic static as well.

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