PF2 Creating interesting solo monster encounters

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
Hi

So coming from a 5e background I found that challenging players with a solo or boss encounter usually went well with the inclusion of legendary and/or lair actions, however with this being missing in PF2 I'm finding making the encounters fun, and the right difficulty level quite challenging. I've generally been throwing monsers around Level + 2 or 3 at the group but I find it very dangerous for the group as the bigger numbers means the monsters are critting easier and the group struggles to hit them.
I've toyed with terrain effects but I find they become too circumstantial, and while they add to the encounter I don't always find it works.

For an encounter I'm planning I've done the following, similar to the lines of lair actions. I've taken the Amalgam from Fall of Plaguestone (I won't post the stats here in case it breaks a copyright) and given it a breath attack.
However as this encounter is taking place in a wizards lab where magic is running amok, I've made the amalgam powered by four vats of elemental energy (Fire, Acid, cold and electricity) I've not decided upon the stats for the vats yet, but below is how I plan to implement them:

Lair Actions:
Alchemical Vats:
four vats float around the room, each one represents one of the following energy types: Acid, Fire, Cold and Electricity.
These are tied to the Amalgam, and animate it.
Destroying one gives a permanent weakness(5) to that damage type and damages the creature by 10 hp.
Once per round, they empower the Amalgam, granting it 1HP/vat remaining.
For one of its actions the amalgam can use the energy recharge its breath weapon and gain resistance(5) to that energy type (This ability does not function on the round it’s destroyed, if it’s destroyed before its go, otherwise it doesn’t function on the following round)

What do you guys think? also any other ideas for making solo bosses more interesting
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Personally I'm not yet at the stage where I'm ready for houserules. Plenty rules as is :)

As for level+3 monsters, I feel your (players') pain. Already L+2 is borderline.

For the time being I would settle for throwing in several really low-level adds (not more than L-2). Even if they're one-shotted each time they divert one strong attack away from the BBEG they serve a purpose.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I would look at monsters like the Otughy, Hydra, and Marilith for inspiration. These monsters were designed to be used as solo monsters. They can be also be used at level, but their mechanics were designed specifically to make for compelling boss fights.
 
Trailblazer had a good "solo monster template" for PF1e, and I know they are doing stuff for PF2e as well. You might want to take a look.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Haven’t played PF2 yet, but lookingn at it, it seems like Lair Actions should port over pretty much directly.

One thing I do in 5e is I use the Lair Action and Legendary Action mechanics to model a boss giving commands to their subordinates. So, a merc cpt waylaying the PCs on the road has Legendary Actions he can use to position his allies, get one to heal another (or him), have them go into or change formation (and formations have buffs and debuffs), or make a group attack that functions like the boss making an AoE Attack.
 

dave2008

Legend
I would look at monsters like the Otughy, Hydra, and Marilith for inspiration. These monsters were designed to be used as solo monsters. They can be also be used at level, but their mechanics were designed specifically to make for compelling boss fights.
Are they designed to be solo monsters or are they designed to be multi-limb monsters? I ask because why those three? Hydra I get, but the Otughy and Marilith are hardly traditionally BBEG / Boss monsters. Why not dragons or pit fiends or dragons or balors or, seriously, dragons?

EDIT. I just checked out the Otughy and I am wandering what in the design makes it seem like a boss monster to you?
 
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dave2008

Legend
Hi

So coming from a 5e background I found that challenging players with a solo or boss encounter usually went well with the inclusion of legendary and/or lair actions, however with this being missing in PF2 I'm finding making the encounters fun, and the right difficulty level quite challenging. I've generally been throwing monsers around Level + 2 or 3 at the group but I find it very dangerous for the group as the bigger numbers means the monsters are critting easier and the group struggles to hit them.
I've toyed with terrain effects but I find they become too circumstantial, and while they add to the encounter I don't always find it works.

For an encounter I'm planning I've done the following, similar to the lines of lair actions. I've taken the Amalgam from Fall of Plaguestone (I won't post the stats here in case it breaks a copyright) and given it a breath attack.
However as this encounter is taking place in a wizards lab where magic is running amok, I've made the amalgam powered by four vats of elemental energy (Fire, Acid, cold and electricity) I've not decided upon the stats for the vats yet, but below is how I plan to implement them:

Lair Actions:
Alchemical Vats:
four vats float around the room, each one represents one of the following energy types: Acid, Fire, Cold and Electricity.
These are tied to the Amalgam, and animate it.
Destroying one gives a permanent weakness(5) to that damage type and damages the creature by 10 hp.
Once per round, they empower the Amalgam, granting it 1HP/vat remaining.
For one of its actions the amalgam can use the energy recharge its breath weapon and gain resistance(5) to that energy type (This ability does not function on the round it’s destroyed, if it’s destroyed before its go, otherwise it doesn’t function on the following round)

What do you guys think? also any other ideas for making solo bosses more interesting
I'm not familiar enough with PF2e yet, but couldn't you give them reactions that are similar to legendary actions. Some monsters already have reactions in PF2e so just give them the Reactive trait from 5e (see the Marilith) or the Multiple Opportunities Trait from PF2e (see the Hydra) or the Attacks of Opportunity trait (see PF2e Marilith) and give them however many reactions you need and then set the conditions for those reactions.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
"Why not give them legendary actions or lair actions?"

Maybe because PF2 is different game from 5E, and by adding houserules we admit that Paizo's rules can't handle Solo monsters. In other words, if we can create interesting solo monster encounters using RAW, that would likely be a more satisfying discussion. :)
 

dave2008

Legend
"Why not give them legendary actions or lair actions?"

Maybe because PF2 is different game from 5E, and by adding houserules we admit that Paizo's rules can't handle Solo monsters. In other words, if we can create interesting solo monster encounters using RAW, that would likely be a more satisfying discussion. :)
Well, we don't have monster design guidelines yet, so what is RAW in this case. Are just saying using the bestiary monsters without modification?

If that is the case, then yes I don't think PF2e does solos very well
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
"Why not give them legendary actions or lair actions?"

Maybe because PF2 is different game from 5E, and by adding houserules we admit that Paizo's rules can't handle Solo monsters. In other words, if we can create interesting solo monster encounters using RAW, that would likely be a more satisfying discussion. :)
That’s a short conversation, then.

Being unwilling to hear any suggestion that comes from outside the game at hand is...an odd position if the goal is to simply accomplish the stated goal.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, @Nilbog !

What did you think about porting something like legendary actions and lair actions?

If you dig the idea, I’d be happy to brainstorm some specifics with you.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
So, @Nilbog !

What did you think about porting something like legendary actions and lair actions?

If you dig the idea, I’d be happy to brainstorm some specifics with you.
I think its a good idea< i'm sure solo monsters can be built within the existing framework of PF2, but I think pinching good ideas from other systems is never a bad thing!

I like the idea of terrain hazards, and that is something I do use, but it can be a pit passive whereas I've found lair/legendary actions to be more active
 

kenada

Explorer
I like the idea of terrain hazards, and that is something I do use, but it can be a pit passive whereas I've found lair/legendary actions to be more active
What about complex hazards? Those seem close in spirit to lair actions. With the monster and hazard building rules now available, it should be possible to build ones that look and feel more like lair actions than just fancy traps.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I think its a good idea< i'm sure solo monsters can be built within the existing framework of PF2, but I think pinching good ideas from other systems is never a bad thing!

I like the idea of terrain hazards, and that is something I do use, but it can be a pit passive whereas I've found lair/legendary actions to be more active
Maybe the environment is tied to some of the creatures ‘legendaryish actions’
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think its a good idea< i'm sure solo monsters can be built within the existing framework of PF2, but I think pinching good ideas from other systems is never a bad thing!

I like the idea of terrain hazards, and that is something I do use, but it can be a pit passive whereas I've found lair/legendary actions to be more active
Agreed on all points! Off turn Actions that are simple but impactful reallychange a solo fight from an HP meat grinder into an engaging fight with tactical depth that is easy to grasp yet satisfying to grapple with.

So, what are some critters you’re looking to upgrade? I don’t have the PF2 core book, my buddy does, so I don’t have any statblocks on hand today, but I can do this all day.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Environment: a dynamic environment makes solo type monsters memorable
This was my thought also, dynamic environments that have rockfalls, lava spouts or Moving ground are great (especially if the rockfall is set up as a trap that the BBEG can deliberately trigger). Really the Alchemical Vats in the OP just sound like Magic Items that monster can activate on its turn.

Now I love Lair Actions, theyre a convinient dynamic tool, but things can be done RAW and be fun too
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
Agreed on all points! Off turn Actions that are simple but impactful reallychange a solo fight from an HP meat grinder into an engaging fight with tactical depth that is easy to grasp yet satisfying to grapple with.

So, what are some critters you’re looking to upgrade? I don’t have the PF2 core book, my buddy does, so I don’t have any statblocks on hand today, but I can do this all day.
Well my first encounter is with a Lizardfolk Tribal leader who has taken over the crypt of one of his long dead ancestors and is claiming to be him reborn. I've originally gone with an Elite Lizardfolk defender with two pet Grauladons and a couple of standard lizardfolk defenders. The party is 6 second level characters, and I want to make this a severe encounter so I've 3 creatures of second level (total 120xp) and two of first (60xp) which tallies with the guidelines for a severe encounter, however I'd like to lose the standard Lizardfold defenders and make the boss more interesting.

The terrain they are fighting in a ruined and partially collapsed crypt, pools of water are dotted around the floor as the elements from above have seeped in, also there is piles of rubble and mud.

================================================
ELITE
LIZARDFOLK DEFENDER CREATURE 2
N MEDIUM HUMANOID LIZARDFOLK
Perception +9

Languages Draconic, Iruxi

Skills Acrobatics +7, Athletics +8, Survival +7

Str +3, Dex +2, Con +3, Int –1, Wis +2, Cha +0

Items flail, javelin (3), wooden shield (Hardness 3, HP 12, BT 6)

AC 18 (20 with shield raised); Fort +10, Ref +9, Will +7

HP 31

Attack of Opportunity
Shield Block
Speed 25 feet, swim 15 feet

Melee flail +10 (disarm, sweep, trip), Damage 1d6+5 bludgeoning
Melee jaws +10, Damage 1d6+5 piercing
Melee tail +10 (agile), Damage 1d4+5 bludgeoning
Ranged javelin +9 (thrown 30 feet), Damage 1d6+5 piercing

Deep Breath A lizardfolk defender can hold their breath for 175 rounds (17-1/2 minutes).

Terrain Advantage Non-lizardfolk creatures in difficult terrain and non-lizardfolk creatures that are in water and lack a swim Speed are flat-footed to the lizardfolk defender.
=================================================
 

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