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D&D General Do I need an attitude adjustment? (They're gonna nova the BBEG)

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I'm in the process of wrapping up a campaign that has lasted all year, and I'm kind of dreading the last few sessions. I could use some outside perspective on what I need to do about that. I'm going to try to put this in general terms to start with, but I'm sure I'll leave out some important detail or other, so I'll add more detail if needed.

Note: I'm running a published adventure, so my options for reworking things are limited. But I'm not sure it matter much even if this were a homebrew, as we're at the stage where there isn't much for the PCs to learn; they just need to confront the BBEG.

My group is eight players--way too big, I know. I had my doubts about that from the start, but I thought I could stay on top of it by just making the fights tougher. That's had mixed success; but more importantly, I didn't anticipate the change in interpersonal dynamics the larger group would cause. About half the group used to game together decades ago, back in high school, and I feel like they're reverting to an immature mentality now that they're all together again. I've seen some of the original group change their playstyle with the return of these new people. They're much more prone to mouth off to the BBEG and generally act murderhoboish than they were when the group was smaller.

As of now, the PCs have entered the BBEG's domain, which is large. Their plan is to explore the place thoroughly and loot everything of value they can find, camping whenever they get low on resources (using Leomund's Tiny Hut). Then, when they feel like they've plundered all the good stuff, they'll take a long rest so they're fresh and then take on the big guy.

I had tried to set up a much more tense situation. I originally thought they would confront the BBEG sooner rather than later, and I'd envisioned a dramatic standoff with him that would bring in some character-specific plot threads that have been building for a while. I actually do think the players of the characters those threads would affect would enjoy having those threads become important, but they're caught up with the energy of these new folks and are now actively avoiding any situation that will make it easy for me to bring in these ideas. (For reasons that would take too long to explain, I can't make the BBEG come to them at this stage.)

Anyway, the main thing is that I feel like the players completely have the upper hand, and I'm not sure what is the best way to respond to that. How do I balance what's fun for my players with what's fun for me?

It's not that I want to kill PCs, but I'd like to make the climax of the campaign tense and memorable. I'd like the players to have to use abilities they don't usually have to pull out, and maybe be inventive sometimes. And yeah, I'd like for the bad guys to get some good hits in, to show off their own abilities and make the situation seem serious. But then on the other hand, it seems like players always remember combats as more tense than they look from my side of the screen, so maybe I'm overestimating the importance of that aspect.

I know that getting attached to the idea of specific scenes happening is always dangerous, but do I try to salvage any of the showdown I'd hoped for, or do I just let it go?

Do I try to make things harder for them? Try to bring back some of the roleplay? Or is that me trying to impose my will and take away their fun?

How do I psych myself up to run a BBEG who's going to go down like an absolute chump when confronted with eight fresh PCs? I'm actively hating the thought right now, but maybe I just need to get over myself and learn to like it. I remember someone saying that the goal of being a DM is not to win, but to lose with style. I'm just not sure even how to do that when I feel so completely outmatched.

Sorry for the long post. Any thoughts or advice will be carefully considered.
 

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What adventure are you running? We might be able to help more if you specified.

Regardless, all good BBEGs should have minions. Lots of minions. Some should come charging out before the PC's reach their master. He knows those ones will die, but they'll force the PC's to use up some spell slots. Then, when the PC's confront the BBEG directly, he ought to be accompanied by his most elite personal guard. That'll help him make up for his disadvantage in action economy, and it will discourage the PC's from focusing all their fire on him immediately, and, most importantly, it'll make the fight feel more epic and grand.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
All I can suggest is just to run what you're gonna run and let them interact with it however they like. If you get your showdown, fine. If not, also fine - says he, who has had the same thing happen many a time, to the point where I'm just used to it now :)

Hard to give ideas without knowing specifics, but maybe some of those character-based plot threads could be raised via the treasure etc. they find afterwards? That said: it seems to me that you've painted yourself into a corner by hard-deciding that this BBEG fight will be the end of the campaign; as this leaves you no room for future developments and kinda forces you to cram everything in right now. IMO this might be a mistake, particularly if the players signal they want to continue on with things after the BBEG is defeated.
 

So they've planned to camp out and get everybody up to full strength before taking on the BBEG. Okay, that's a good plan. But is it a guaranteed success? Is the BBEG aware of the PCs tramping around in his kingdom, looting everything of value? Does he have servitors (or spells) capable of seeking out the PCs where they might be camping out? Could their plans be thwarted by a sudden discovery and a big fight at a point in time they were not necessarily prepared for?

Johnathan
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Wow. Bummer you're not enjoying this as much as you thought/hoped.

Also, yeah: eight players is probably too many--six is my max, and I consider four or five ideal.

Commiseration out of the way, on to plausibly helpful thoughts.

First, yeah, you're probably going to need to readjust your attitude, especially if you're not able to alter the BBEG (or don't have the time, or aren't comfortable doing it, or whatever). That BBEG almost certainly isn't built to fight eight characters--more than four, probably--and is going to go down like a soft sack. You might have to give up on the dramatic showdown you were hoping for.

It's also sounding as though your players (and/or their characters) are being extraordinarily proactive, here--that might be the only thing you can maybe do anything about. They seem awfully confident in their ability to rest: if they're snug in the Tiny Hut, the combination of Dispel Magic and, well, any AOE attack will serve as one hell of a wake-up call. Doesn't have to be the BBEG, but it'd be a terrifying way for him to say, "Howdy."

Much of the rest of what you're less happy about is about interpersonal dynamics at the gaming table, and I don't have as much in the way of advice on that. I will say that published adventures seem ... open, or mabye vulnerable, to murderhobo players, in my experience. There at least don't seem to be as many levers/knobs/dials/switches you can manipulate to make that approach less appealing.

Good luck.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
For any solo BBEG I give them max HP, AC +2, and maybe a couple extra tidbits here and there. Otherwise, terrain, minions, etc. are great assets. Hit and run tactics to whittle the PCs resources down are also good.

Now, for NPC-type BBEGs, at tier 4 we will also grant them boons. In our last campaign, the 20th-level wizard BBEG had the Irresistible Offense boon which allowed him to bypass damage resistance. I LOVED the totem warrior-barbarian player's expression when he was raging but continued to take FULL damage LOL!!! :D Or the fire-resistant Dragonborn who felt all the burn of the wizard's fire-based spells. Sigh.. it still brings a smile to my face. :)

Anyway, to address your point, your job is not to have foes for your PCs to walk all over. Drama, tension, and danger is what makes a battle memorable IMO. If the end of an adventure is a cake-walk, IME this is more disappointing and a let down. When I played in CoS, our party of 10th-level PCs beat the crap out of Straud with no great threat to ourselves. It was pathetic, really.

And either nerf things like Leomund's Hut (what the F*CK were the designers thinking there!) or put in foes who can dispel it, etc. Don't allow them to rest in the BBEG's lair. A short rest, maybe, but not a long rest!
 

J-H

Adventurer
Just because it's a pre-made doesn't mean you can't change things.

#1: Change the bad guy. Give him two turns per round of combat, during which he takes different types of actions (turn #1 melee, turn #2 cast), PLUS legendary actions. Give him more HP, better resistances, and some better debuff options than whatever he came with.

#2: Change the setup. If the party is looting their way through his domain, have him evacuate the loot. Have him call in reinforcements. Wizards or devils or whatnot... anything with Dispel can kick them out of their Leomund's Tiny Hut. Make them feel like they have to really work to hide their presence to avoid this harassment.

#3: Have the NPCs comment on how the party is behaving, and withdraw support/demand they change actions/etc. Potentially, have a rival party try for the boss in the meantime... and fail, and perhaps get turned into charmed/undead minions that make things harder for the party because they lollygagged around.

#4: The BBEG moves forward with his plans. They arrive to find that he actually departed via portal a day ago for the City of Good Guys to carry out his master plan, and now they have to rush to confront him, on his terms, away from where everybody planned for this to happen.

You can set up some fairly simple systems for this to happen by measuring time and having some deadlines or random rolls with higher probability as time goes past for reinforcements, him departing, etc.

Edit: As mentioned above, battle minions. Maybe his Lair actions summon swarms of bats or spiders, or 1d4+1 mephits. Maybe his Fireballs all summon a Fire Elemental when they go off. Whatever's thematically appropriate.
 

MarkB

Legend
If the bad guys are aware of them resting in the dungeon, just have them sit outside the hut playing rock music and flashing disco lights so that it's impossible for the PCs to gain the benefits of a long rest. Eventually they'll either have to break out or start suffering levels of exhaustion.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I have several thoughts on the whole tiny hut issue. First, why are you assuming no one knows they're there? If they do know they're there, why are they not preparing counter attacks? Camping out in enemy territory should not have any guarantee of safety. I don't know the details of the environment but there are nearly endless options, everything from a simple dispel magic to do an ambush to sealing off the area the PCs are in to burying them in a cave-in. Block off all exits except for the one that leads to the room of death and collapse the tunnels behind them (cast a hallow spell to block teleportation first).

When it comes to the BBEG there are minions (as others have stated) but you might want to consider splitting the party. They've effectively given the BBEG 8+ hours to prep so have traps set up. Collapse tunnels as they're marching along or slam impenetrable doors so some of them have to find a way around. Set up ambushes, illusionary doubles, make a goblin look like the BBEG with a spell so they waste their big attacks.

When it does come to the final fight have enemies come in waves, and set up the environment to favor team bad guy. There's a lot of things you can do - but allowing the PCs to rest whenever they want (along with 8 players) is a root of a lot of your problem. Set a timer somehow, whether that's a volcano about to erupt or a doomsday clock/ritual countdown if you don't want to stop tiny hut shenanigan's.

EDIT: I also just nerf Tiny Hut a bit, no attacks or spells can go out of the hut. Not something I would change mid-campaign, but something you might want to consider in the future.
 


Not knowing what the adventure is, I can say you've fallen into the Leomunds Tiny Hut problem. Using LTH in dangerous territory is a stopgap measure, not an automatic success. If they attempt to rest in a hostile area, have someone notice them, who then reports it. After the first time they do this, they watch in horror as an army of bad guys camp outside the hut waiting for it to end. Theoretically they could cast it again before it falls, but unless they can teleport, they'll either run out of supplies or time. If the party can teleport, the next time there's a caster who simply dispels the hut before they finish the rest (they can't counterspell from within). The fight should be in the Deadly category, but just so. If the party doesn't learn their lesson from this, the next time is almost twice as hard. The players should hopefully get the hint.

We're playing BGDiA, and we use LTH for long rests. However, we also seek out secluded areas where we could naturally hide. LTH is the backup plan, not the primary one. One time we were forced to rest in a lair using LTH, and obviously a trap was laid for us. After the trap we were actually worse off than we were before the long rest! You only rest when you can or when you must, otherwise bad stuff can (and probably will) happen.

EDIT: @Oofta you already can't cast spells out of it, per the spell description.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Does the BBEG have the option to...just walk away? If the party is walking around its domain, mopping the floor with its minions, have it just move to another one, where it will prepare better for the next encounter, hopefully.
 


Dausuul

Legend
I'm also among the folks who thinks they're leaning way too hard on Leomund's tiny hut. There are a number of ways to deal with that, even for enemies without dispel. The simplest is just to set an ambush. Gather your minions just out of sight of the hut, wait for it to come down, and then attack at full force the instant it does. Ambushes are brutal in 5E.

As for the BBEG himself, is there a reason to not just crank up his stats to fit the party size? Or, as @DemoMonkey suggested, use a decoy BBEG to soak the party's alpha strike? You can be pretty aggressive with monster stats in the final battle of a campaign.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Not knowing what the adventure is, I can say you've fallen into the Leomunds Tiny Hut problem. Using LTH in dangerous territory is a stopgap measure, not an automatic success. If they attempt to rest in a hostile area, have someone notice them, who then reports it. After the first time they do this, they watch in horror as an army of bad guys camp outside the hut waiting for it to end. Theoretically they could cast it again before it falls, but unless they can teleport, they'll either run out of supplies or time. If the party can teleport, the next time there's a caster who simply dispels the hut before they finish the rest (they can't counterspell from within). The fight should be in the Deadly category, but just so. If the party doesn't learn their lesson from this, the next time is almost twice as hard. The players should hopefully get the hint.

We're playing BGDiA, and we use LTH for long rests. However, we also seek out secluded areas where we could naturally hide. LTH is the backup plan, not the primary one. One time we were forced to rest in a lair using LTH, and obviously a trap was laid for us. After the trap we were actually worse off than we were before the long rest! You only rest when you can or when you must, otherwise bad stuff can (and probably will) happen.

EDIT: @Oofta you already can't cast spells out of it, per the spell description.

The attacks are more for the archer types that peg the bad guys or the "I stick my hands out and cast a spell" schtick.

Oh, and there are at least two other ways of stopping teleport, depending on what's available. Forbiddance is 40,000 square feet and can be made permanent. Many keeps have this in my world - it's just a standard cost of construction. Another option is Hallow which is a smaller area (60 ft sphere) but a lower level to cast.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Well there are two things you can do:

  1. Dispel the Tiny Hut after an hour, allowing for a short rest but not a long rest. (If the PC's are just topping off and barely down any resources totally do this anyway) That way they have to fight for their lives on the back-foot (or at least perceive it that way.)
  2. Make the BBEG Mythic. After the PC's come in and Nova down the First form, Introduce the Second form so they have to deal with a real boss fight without their biggest guns.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
If you want any sort of meaningful help/advice you're going to have to give up some info.
1) WHAT are you running?
2) Why can't you have the BBEG come to the PCs atm?
 

nevin

Adventurer
think like you are a PC. you know the party has retreated to Leomunds Tiny hut.
If you want to force the fight, Dispe] magic, Disjunction, anything that will cancel the spell and boom they are sitting in a circle talking strategy and surprise round.

If you don't want to force the fight. I'd bring in lots and lots of minions surround the area, I'd put glyphs in front of exit, Contingency one wall of force encircles them, Contingency Two Highest level damage spell available. Contingency 3 Acid pit, exactly the size of the wall of force. Contingency 4 Minor Globe of invulnerablity to prevent flight and levitation out of the pit. When they get out of that the Minions start attacking. All of that should require a decent amount of resources to deal with, then BBEG fight, with rest of minions.

If you really wanna mess em up, let em walk into the final encounter and see a mirror of opposition and boom final battle with their doppelgangers and BBEG starts.


Just remember to make it fair.
 

nevin

Adventurer
think like you are a PC. you know the party has retreated to Leomunds Tiny hut.
If you want to force the fight, Dispe] magic, Disjunction, anything that will cancel the spell and boom they are sitting in a circle talking strategy and surprise round.

If you don't want to force the fight. I'd bring in lots and lots of minions surround the area, I'd put glyphs in front of exit, Contingency one wall of force encircles them, Contingency Two Highest level damage spell available. Contingency 3 Acid pit, exactly the size of the wall of force. Contingency 4 Minor Globe of invulnerablity to prevent flight and levitation out of the pit. When they get out of that the Minions start attacking. All of that should require a decent amount of resources to deal with, then BBEG fight, with rest of minions.

If you really wanna mess em up, let em walk into the final encounter and see a mirror of opposition and boom final battle with their doppelgangers and BBEG starts.


Just remember to make it fair.
But fair also includes if you know the enemies watching and you turtle up, they get time to do things as well.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
The adventure is Curse of Strahd, and I particularly hate seeing Strahd go down with a whimper. I do have a souped-up version of him that I was planning to use, but the fight would be more exciting if the PCs didn't have ALL of their tricks.

The reason he can't come to the PCs right this moment is because he's currently getting married. (My campaign is deviating pretty far from the book in some ways.) Not to Ireena--she's being played as a PC--but to Esmae Amarantha, who spent last year's campaign transforming herself into the likeness of Tatyana. He also has a hostage: Ireena's brother Ismark, who has already been bitten twice. My plan was for Strahd to spring a surprise during the ceremony: He'd bring out Ismark and threaten to have Esmae give him the third bite immediately before the congregation unless Ireena agreed to step forward and marry him as well. However, once the PCs got into the castle, they made a beeline for the crypts, which they spent a whole session systematically looting one by one. When Cyrus Belview came down to say the ceremony was starting, the PCs gleefully shoved him into the tomb reserved for Ireena, shut the door, and went back to looting.

Important note:, But the reason I left it vague is because I'm not so much looking for mechanical suggestions on how to make things more challenging ... yet. I have a few ideas about that, but I'm debating myself philosophically as to whether I even should try to make things more challenging, or whether that's just me trying to get in the way of the fun the group wants to have.
 

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