PF2 Creating interesting solo monster encounters

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.

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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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So, one way I like to make enemies with underlings more interesting is to make the underlings the vehicle by which the boss deploys their legendary actions. So, things like “allies within 30ft can move their speed”, or “up to X allies within 60 ft who can hear the boss make a single melee attack against a target within their reach”, etc.

If you would rather ditch the underlings, then I’d look to things supernatural, using the tomb as a resource. Maybe they can cause spirit voices to cry out, forcing a save vs fear.

Or, he could simply have the ability to attack, move, and switch between a defensive and aggressive stance as legendary actions.

I’ll try to come back with more ideas tomorrow. I been up way too late. 😂
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
So, one way I like to make enemies with underlings more interesting is to make the underlings the vehicle by which the boss deploys their legendary actions. So, things like “allies within 30ft can move their speed”, or “up to X allies within 60 ft who can hear the boss make a single melee attack against a target within their reach”, etc.

If you would rather ditch the underlings, then I’d look to things supernatural, using the tomb as a resource. Maybe they can cause spirit voices to cry out, forcing a save vs fear.

Or, he could simply have the ability to attack, move, and switch between a defensive and aggressive stance as legendary actions.

I’ll try to come back with more ideas tomorrow. I been up way too late. 😂
They are great initial thoughts, I think using the actions to command his pet Grauladons would be a good start
 
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm wondering what problems you're observing using +2/+3 foes as solos? So far its been working out really well- I've had my parties fight a Wraith at +3, a Wyvern at +3, and again at +2, and a Blue Dragon at +4, and they mostly felt like apropo solo encounters.

The fixes to counter 5e's bounded accuracy and action economy woes seem unnecessary here (though additional mechanics can always add to an especially novel fight)
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm wondering what problems you're observing using +2/+3 foes as solos? So far its been working out really well- I've had my parties fight a Wraith at +3, a Wyvern at +3, and again at +2, and a Blue Dragon at +4, and they mostly felt like apropo solo encounters.

The fixes to counter 5e's bounded accuracy and action economy woes seem unnecessary here (though additional mechanics can always add to an especially novel fight)
Well admittedly I've only had a small sample size, and admittedly could be the result of me coming to terms with a new system, but both fights felt a bit unbalanced, the first one the group almost tpk'ed and if I hadn't fudged the rolls I'm sure they would have. Perhaps I over compensated for the second one but they cake walked it.
Looking at the monster building rules, it may well be than rather than legendary actions the abilities can just be baked into the monsters action economy, and reading back over my texts things like command minions would definitely fall into that.
I still do like the idea of lair actions though, something a little more than hazardous terrain that ties in with the adversary that lives there
 
Well admittedly I've only had a small sample size, and admittedly could be the result of me coming to terms with a new system, but both fights felt a bit unbalanced, the first one the group almost tpk'ed and if I hadn't fudged the rolls I'm sure they would have. Perhaps I over compensated for the second one but they cake walked it.
Looking at the monster building rules, it may well be than rather than legendary actions the abilities can just be baked into the monsters action economy, and reading back over my texts things like command minions would definitely fall into that.
I still do like the idea of lair actions though, something a little more than hazardous terrain that ties in with the adversary that lives there
how were you rolling? we had a very tough +3 encounter, because I was rolling amazingly, but then they managed to take on the +4 without using up all of their resources.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
how were you rolling? we had a very tough +3 encounter, because I was rolling amazingly, but then they managed to take on the +4 without using up all of their resources.
Well about the same for both, to be fair on the second encounter the players rolled well, the rogue criting twice.
 

dave2008

Legend
The fixes to counter 5e's bounded accuracy and action economy woes seem unnecessary here (though additional mechanics can always add to an especially novel fight)
Legendary actions don't have anything to do with bounded accuracy and they solve the same action economy woes that PF2e suffers from. I don't know why you can't just import them directly into PF2e to improve some of the more boring "boss" PF2e monsters. They are the one advantage the 5e MM monsters have over their PF2e Bestiary equivalents. Heck, there is already precedent for similar things in PF2e (see the Hydra and Marilith). Currently the +2/+3 model of PF2e just means the monsters are harder to hit, hit you easier, and do more damage. Not a lot different from using a +5 to +10 monster in 5e.
 
Legendary actions don't have anything to do with bounded accuracy and they solve the same action economy woes that PF2e suffers from. I don't know why you can't just import them directly into PF2e to improve some of the more boring "boss" PF2e monsters. They are the one advantage the 5e MM monsters have over their PF2e Bestiary equivalents. Heck, there is already precedent for similar things in PF2e (see the Hydra and Marilith). Currently the +2/+3 model of PF2e just means the monsters are harder to hit, hit you easier, and do more damage. Not a lot different from using a +5 to +10 monster in 5e.
Legendary actions are designed to give Solos a way to keep up with PC action economy, since bounded accuracy prevents monsters in that game from utilizing being hard-to-damage to nullify those actions. In PF2e solos don't need it because they hit lower level foes harder, and are harder for the PCs to hit- you need the extra actions for your hit chance and crit chance to overcome enemy HP.
 

dave2008

Legend
Legendary actions are designed to give Solos a way to keep up with PC action economy, since bounded accuracy prevents monsters in that game from utilizing being hard-to-damage to nullify those actions. In PF2e solos don't need it because they hit lower level foes harder, and are harder for the PCs to hit- you need the extra actions for your hit chance and crit chance to overcome enemy HP.
I'm not sure what you are getting at, but Legendary actions do not change a monster's CR. They simple make it more dynamic and allows it to get an action (or two or three) off turn.

However, bounded accuracy doesn't prevent higher CR monsters from anything. 5e is balanced around HP not AC. The monster may be able to be hit easier (WotC seems to think that is more fun than missing), but the monster should have higher HP to compensate. Higher CR monsters are more difficult to take down and hit harder in 5e. The accuracy of those attacks just don't scale as much. The big difference with PF2e is that it happens about 2x as quickly vs 5e (which I personally don't like, but whatever). Higher level monsters are harder to hit, have more HP, hit harder, and do more damage in PF2e, while the advancement on 5e is primarily through HP and DPR (though I think they went low on the DPR scale). So if a solo is 2-4 levels higher in PF2e it is about 4-8 (personally I use 5-10) CR higher than party level on 5e. However, they achieve very similar results.

This holds true whether or not a monster is a "solo" which isn't a term in 5e anyway. If you take a balor against a lvl 10 party in 5e I can assure it feels like a boss fight without legendary actions (I know as it was the boss fight for when my group of 6PCS were 10th level). But it would be even better if it had legendary actions.

White room example of 4 10th level PCs vs balor (CR 19)
Very basic and rudimentary look at this type of boss battle just to show how close numerically the battle can be. FYI, I left out damage resistance in this which would obviously skew the result widely in the balor's favor.

10th lvl fighter (4)
HP 90
AC 20
Attack bonus +9
DPR 6.5+5=11.5 x 2 = 23 (46 w/ action surge)

Balor:
HP 262
AC 19
Attack bonus +14
DPR: 35 +10 + 28 = 73 DPR

RD 1
Fighter x4 = 46x4 = 184*.5 = 92 damage (balor at 204)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 1 at 39 HP)

RD 2
Fighter x4 = 23x4 = 92*.5 = 46 damage (balor at 158)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 1 dead)

RD 3
Fighter x3 = 23x3 = 69*.5 = 34 damage (balor at 124)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 2 at 39 HP)

RD 4
Fighter x3 = 23x4 = 69*.5 = 34 damage (balor at 90)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 2 dead)

RD 5
Fighter x2 = 23x2 = 46*.5 = 23 damage (balor at 67)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 3 at 39 HP)

RD 6
Fighter x2 = 23x2 = 46*.5 = 23 damage (balor at 44)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 3 dead)

RD 7
Fighter = 23 = 23*.5 = 11 damage (balor at 33)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 4 at 39)

RD 8
Fighter = 23 = 23*.5 = 11 damage (balor at 22)
Balor = 73 *.7 = 51 damage (fighter 4 dead)
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Legendary actions are designed to give Solos a way to keep up with PC action economy, since bounded accuracy prevents monsters in that game from utilizing being hard-to-damage to nullify those actions. In PF2e solos don't need it because they hit lower level foes harder, and are harder for the PCs to hit- you need the extra actions for your hit chance and crit chance to overcome enemy HP.
That’s a partial misread on legendary actions.

What they do is make boss fights engaging, and allow the boss to impact the battlefield throughout the round, instead of once per round.

That isn’t replicated by number advancement.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Yes, a Solo and a high level monster are two completely different things. If Paizo offers the latter as the only approach to the former, that is a pretty poor offering.

Not compared to d20 and Pathfinder 1, since they offered just as little support. And not compared to 4E (even though it offered specific and robust support for solos).

But compared to 5E, the game everyone uses as a baseline nowadays.

Bottom line is, if Paizo thought they could offer up a brand new game in 2019 without making concessions to what 5E does well, they have another think coming...
 

CapnZapp

Hero
White room example of 4 10th level PCs vs balor (CR 19)
My takeaway from your example: give that party just one out of three things: an extra level, feats, or magic items, and they will trounce the balor. Give them all three (which is the way loads and loads of gamers play and have played D&D) and the Balor becomes a joke.

Despite a nine (okay, eight) level difference!

Not only is this indicative of how pathetic the 5E Monster Manual's high-level support really is, it really highlights the difference to Pathfinder 2.

Obviously the math is changed so the party won't stand a chance against a monster nine levels higher, but more importantly Pathfinder gives its Bestiary denizens the tools they need to actually challenge the players and their characters.

Sure not even in 5E will a high-level fight play out as in a white room experiment, but it isn't that far off. Far too many level 10-15 monsters are in essence glorified bruisers with no capacity to overcome the hurdles competent PCs set up for them. The Monster Manual comes across as written by a designer that understands the base game (such as "a level 10 fighter has 23 DPR") but wasn't then informed about the absolutely enormous wealth of special tricks the PHB's various chapters hand out like candy to PCs!

In Pathfinder 2, however, the monsters have their pockets full of exactly the same "unfair" tricks that 5E only gives player characters (and then some!!) and just maybe a very select few monsters (and demons aren't among them).

In it in this context "Pathfinder 2 offers robust support for monsters in general but high-level encounters in particular" that the apparent complete lack of Solo support stands out as jarring.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Actually, pages and pages of tables is crunchy enough.

The problem is that there's very little prescription (direction, precision).
 

dave2008

Legend
Actually, pages and pages of tables is crunchy enough.

The problem is that there's very little prescription (direction, precision).
Yes, that is what I meant by crunch. In fact, I think they could have fewer tables with more prescription and get the job done better.
 

Eltab

Explorer
There is a better-described model for this in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes:

Off-turn Action
Attack, My Pretties! The lizard tamer utters a command to his beasts. As a free action, each of them may make a basic attack against an adjacent target (preferring the target they attacked on their last turn).
 

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