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D&D 5E Fake Monsters, Real Experience: Balhannoth

Stalker0

Legend
Welcome to "Fake Monsters, Real Experience".

In this series of threads, we are going to look at actual DM and Player experience with various 5e monsters. No white room analysis, no theorycrafting, but how did the monster actually fare in real player encounters? So whether a monster gave your party the experience of a lifetime, or was a total dud, tell us about it. remember, if you have not encountered this monster in a real game, than you shouldn't be posting about it, no theory!

Our first monster is the Balhannoth from Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, CR 11.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
My party encountered the Balhannoth in their last game. I had a dungeon (which was actually someone's mind), which was crawling with Aberrations, and I wanted a few aberration "minibosses" in various places. So I intentionally used some legendary monsters solo for the effect, with the lead up to the big boss with his personal army of minions.

The party is 5 8th level characters and at this point are pretty drained, running very low on spells and resources. They encounter the creature invisible, who then immediately attacks them as its guarding the room from unwanted attention. The room is filled with computer banks (the mind's "math center"), and there is electricity running between them. Every time someone moves (or is forced moved) through the banks, there is a 50% chance of taking 4d6 elect damage (DC 15 reflex for half).

Overall the bard and druid polymorph/wildshape and charge the creature (the druid has scent so at least knows where it is, even if they still take the invis penalties). They both get grappled, and the druid starts taking bite damage from the main attack and legendary actions. The cleric tries to command the creature, who has an abysmal will save but whose legendary resistance kicks in. The fighter also runs on top of the banks and engages as well. Warlock has witchsight so sees through the invis, and just blasts it to hell.

Long story short I did some good damage to the druid, knocking it out of wildshape and scaring the player a bit (I got lucky on the 50% chance so when the tentacle grabbed him and pulled him in I got in some elect damage as well.). But the creature's HP are got low for a CR 11 legendary, and the party smacked it down in 2 rounds.

Overall: A disappointing showing overall, made a bit better by how low the party is on resources, adding in a fear factor. I think at full strength this wouldn't have registered as a real combat. Once again showing the old saying, no mini boss without minions!

Highlights:

1) The creature is very "vanilla". Its just grappling and damage, no special effects.
2) The creature really really relies on its invis as a defensive measure. Otherwise it has low HP and saves for its CR. So if the party can thwart that, its easy pickings.
3) I feel that the creature's schtick works against its stats. The fact that it can go invis a lot doesn't work well with its desire to grapple all the time (which basically reveals its location). The fact it pulls creatures into it goes against how squishy it is. The best way to make it interesting is to make the reel in effect combine with something (I used the electricity thing, others could use a pit or something).
4) Offensively it was alright once I got my grapple on. The 25 damage bite did solid damage especially when my legendary actions let chomp 3 extra times.
 



Faolyn

Explorer
Once again showing the old saying, no mini boss without minions!

So what sort of miniboss minions would work well with a balhannoth? I'm thinking illusory creatures made of shadowstuff, because they don't seem like the type to recruit your standard thugs and brigands. These figments appear like part of the illusion until they strike.
 
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NotAYakk

Legend
So a Balhannoth in the 4e parlance looks like a Lurker.

If you play it as a brawler, it will melt.

The area it is in should look like the place they most desire, but have lots of nooks and crannies and sight lines.

As you approach, you start making wisdom saves. Those that fail become unable to see the Balhannoth. Then they start getting teleported around and split up. These are not attacks.

The Balhannoth attacks and grabs a PC. Because the Balhannoth debuffed the other PCs, only the one grabbed can see it. They then teleport away and vanish, and the party should be spending most of their actions doing perception checks and running after it.

The scent and see invisible helps, but the Balhonnoth can move 205 feet/round to keep distance away from the PCs (including up cliffs and over valleys) while still tearing the one PC apart.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
@Stalker0 Good thread idea! This could be a good long-term resource for DMs. Are you intending it to be a communal sharing of experiences / play reports of various monsters? Or are you intending to be sharing your table's experience primarily?

If the former (communal), then does ENWorld still have an option to make an opening post editable by the community? Because that would be a great place for a hyperlinked table of contents - really helpful if a thread gets big with balhannoths, goblins, chained devils, etc. I know we've done that on a couple threads in the past... just not sure if the board's infrastructure does that anymore?
 

Stalker0

Legend
@Stalker0 Good thread idea! This could be a good long-term resource for DMs. Are you intending it to be a communal sharing of experiences / play reports of various monsters? Or are you intending to be sharing your table's experience primarily?

If the former (communal), then does ENWorld still have an option to make an opening post editable by the community? Because that would be a great place for a hyperlinked table of contents - really helpful if a thread gets big with balhannoths, goblins, chained devils, etc. I know we've done that on a couple threads in the past... just not sure if the board's infrastructure does that anymore?
Community experience, and others are welcome to start new threads. I will of course start threads based on the monsters I utilize.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
Did the players have fun? If they did, it's a good monster.

Second, where were the minions? Ahem, computer technicians.
 

dave2008

Legend
My party encountered the Balhannoth in their last game. I had a dungeon (which was actually someone's mind), which was crawling with Aberrations, and I wanted a few aberration "minibosses" in various places. So I intentionally used some legendary monsters solo for the effect, with the lead up to the big boss with his personal army of minions.

The party is 5 8th level characters and at this point are pretty drained, running very low on spells and resources. They encounter the creature invisible, who then immediately attacks them as its guarding the room from unwanted attention. The room is filled with computer banks (the mind's "math center"), and there is electricity running between them. Every time someone moves (or is forced moved) through the banks, there is a 50% chance of taking 4d6 elect damage (DC 15 reflex for half).

Overall the bard and druid polymorph/wildshape and charge the creature (the druid has scent so at least knows where it is, even if they still take the invis penalties). They both get grappled, and the druid starts taking bite damage from the main attack and legendary actions. The cleric tries to command the creature, who has an abysmal will save but whose legendary resistance kicks in. The fighter also runs on top of the banks and engages as well. Warlock has witchsight so sees through the invis, and just blasts it to hell.

Long story short I did some good damage to the druid, knocking it out of wildshape and scaring the player a bit (I got lucky on the 50% chance so when the tentacle grabbed him and pulled him in I got in some elect damage as well.). But the creature's HP are got low for a CR 11 legendary, and the party smacked it down in 2 rounds.

Overall: A disappointing showing overall, made a bit better by how low the party is on resources, adding in a fear factor. I think at full strength this wouldn't have registered as a real combat. Once again showing the old saying, no mini boss without minions!

Highlights:

1) The creature is very "vanilla". Its just grappling and damage, no special effects.
2) The creature really really relies on its invis as a defensive measure. Otherwise it has low HP and saves for its CR. So if the party can thwart that, its easy pickings.
3) I feel that the creature's schtick works against its stats. The fact that it can go invis a lot doesn't work well with its desire to grapple all the time (which basically reveals its location). The fact it pulls creatures into it goes against how squishy it is. The best way to make it interesting is to make the reel in effect combine with something (I used the electricity thing, others could use a pit or something).
4) Offensively it was alright once I got my grapple on. The 25 damage bite did solid damage especially when my legendary actions let chomp 3 extra times.
Did you make any use of its Teleport lair action? With the right environment that could add an interesting rinkle.
 



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