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5E Legendary monsters are not solo monsters

Also, if I were a dragon, beholder or other Legendary creature, I'd probably set up traps in and around my lair to make it more uninviting to adventurers too.
How do we know you're not a dragon, beholder, etc.?

Someone mentioned minions. Would adding them to a Legendary monster in its lair raise the CR? Say you add four or eight one hit point servant monsters, for example.
 
Right, but a CR 17 Legendary creature is worth no more XP than a CR 17 non-legendary creature. Since CR is a "you must be this tall to ride" sign, there's no difference between the two creatures when it comes to an encounter budget.
And that is exactly the problem. If you're filling in the encounter with other monsters, your XP multiplier kicks in and suddenly that legendary HAS to be several levels BELOW the party... which makes it easily shredded and anything BUT legendary... at least to the melee. The wizard still can't stick anything on it despite probably being able to melee it down themselves.

The further problem is that while low level monsters are probably overtuned, high level ones, including most legendary, are undertuned and don't really present the threat the encounter guidelines suggest. So if you're throwing a legendary 4 levels over the party to begin with so it has a chance of living long enough to do some damage, your XP budget is already blown.
 

mcintma

Villager
If you're filling in the encounter with other monsters, your XP multiplier kicks in and suddenly that legendary HAS to be several levels BELOW the party... which makes it easily shredded and anything BUT legendary... at least to the melee. The wizard still can't stick anything on it
This is my fear with hi-level casters, DM has to put in minions to give them a good chance to have an offensive impact. Good point about the (now XP budget reduced) BBEG being a joke for the 200 DPR martials.

I wish I could get in a time machine and see the weight of the evidence in a year when enough hi-level campaigns are going and the D&D community has playtested hi-level thoroughly.
 

Fralex

Villager
I want to try working up a replacement trait for Legendary Resistance. It's got to be something always active (unlike Legendary Resistance), is not binary succeed/fail so a spell can have *some* effect or perhaps the slot is not expended (unlike Legendary Resistance), and has flavor/specificity which encouraged creative thinking and unique strategy (unlike Legendary Resistance).

Any suggestions?
Oh! I thought of something! What if activating Legendary Resistance lets a monster take a Legendary Action, or maybe just a regular action, right before the effects of the thing it's responding to occurs? A sort of reverse-reaction. The idea is it uses the action to attempt to block or avoid the attack that's getting aimed at it and will hurt it otherwise. It could result in neat cinematic moments like the sorcerer blasting a red dragon with cone of cold, but then the dragon negates the ice with its fire breath! Call them Legendary Reactions, and have them be another way to spend a reaction. Maybe put some sort of limit on them like it can't take two Legendary Reactions in two consecutive rounds.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
How do we know you're not a dragon, beholder, etc.?

Someone mentioned minions. Would adding them to a Legendary monster in its lair raise the CR? Say you add four or eight one hit point servant monsters, for example.
A couple of things are going on there.

4e minions don't exist anymore. If I recall correctly, minions had to take damage directly aimed at them to go down. So a fireball would leave minions alone. That doesn't exist in 5e, but you could work something up.

Adding minions who are just low level creatures does not change the CR of the boss /solo creature. It adds to the encounter XP budget. If the low level creatures (minions) are significantly lower CR to the point that they do not contribute or are completely wiped out by a fireball or two, then they do not contribute to the encounter XP budget.

For the thread in general:
I think that most people expect an encounter with a legendary creature to be epic. However, as has been pointed out, a creature of a given CR is still just a creature of that CR. If a DM chooses a single creature with a CR at the 4 person party's level, they must expect that it is just a medium encounter and the creature is going to go down quickly. This is even more true if there are more than 4 in the party. For an encounter to be epic, it really needs to be a hard or deadly encounter so that it makes it past 3-5 rounds. That means that the boss / solo has reasonably specced minions (and is no longer solo) or is a CR several levels higher than the party. An 11th level party of four would find a CR 14 Adult Black Dragon to be a hard encounter that would befit the dragon's status as a solo/legendary creature.

I have additional challenges to work through. I am converting a 3.5 adventure path. I also have 6-7 players weekly. For solo / boss combats I either have to add more minions or up the monster difficulty. On nice thing is that now that the DMG is out, I have the information needed to bump the CR of a creature up through increased HP to accommodate the additional PCs. By increasing only the HP, the creature still plays the same, but it lasts more rounds. For instance, I can take that adult black dragon and increase it by 180 effective hp to make it the same hard encounter for 7 11th level PCs. This makes the dragon last longer, but it doesn't hit any harder. So there is less chance of doing 1 shot knockouts with the creature. The beauty of this is that if you find your estimate of how much hp to increase turns out to be too much, you can always make the next hit by a PC be the 1 that takes the creature down. In this case, it isn't really fudging because you already fudged/adjusted hp up to make it a worthwhile encounter.
 
This is my fear with hi-level casters, DM has to put in minions to give them a good chance to have an offensive impact. Good point about the (now XP budget reduced) BBEG being a joke for the 200 DPR martials.

I wish I could get in a time machine and see the weight of the evidence in a year when enough hi-level campaigns are going and the D&D community has playtested hi-level thoroughly.
As history will probably be repeating itself, by then we'll have MM3 where they've finally gotten the math in the ballpark and the legendary mechanics have been replaced, along with lycanthropic damage immunity.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
4e minions don't exist anymore. If I recall correctly, minions had to take damage directly aimed at them to go down. So a fireball would leave minions alone. That doesn't exist in 5e, but you could work something up.
The way it worked in 4E was that they never died from damage-on-a-miss. In 5E-speak, they could take any number of Fireballs, as long as they kept making their saves. The 5E-equivalent would just be a kobold or something, which probably would die even if it succeeded on the save.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
And that is exactly the problem. If you're filling in the encounter with other monsters, your XP multiplier kicks in and suddenly that legendary HAS to be several levels BELOW the party... which makes it easily shredded and anything BUT legendary... at least to the melee. The wizard still can't stick anything on it despite probably being able to melee it down themselves.
It's still "legendary" because it can do more than a creature of the same CR. The very fact that it is tougher, but the same level, makes it legendary. It'll last longer and do more than the balor.

The further problem is that while low level monsters are probably overtuned, high level ones, including most legendary, are undertuned and don't really present the threat the encounter guidelines suggest. So if you're throwing a legendary 4 levels over the party to begin with so it has a chance of living long enough to do some damage, your XP budget is already blown.
CR is a "you should be this level to ride this ride" sign. If you're throwing a legendary 4 levels over the party, you're already off the territory where CR as the game uses it has any meaning for your group.
 

Nebulous

Explorer
As history will probably be repeating itself, by then we'll have MM3 where they've finally gotten the math in the ballpark and the legendary mechanics have been replaced, along with lycanthropic damage immunity.
Yes, by then I fully imagine they will have tinkered with the Legendary mechanics into a completely new form. They're actively looking at US to tell them what doesn't work, and i've seen tons of complaints here (and more helpfully, actual advice and brainstorming) about how to change the rules. I sure hope they're listening. The Legendary mechanics are a great idea, it just needs some more massaging.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
It's still "legendary" because it can do more than a creature of the same CR. The very fact that it is tougher, but the same level, makes it legendary. It'll last longer and do more than the balor.



CR is a "you should be this level to ride this ride" sign. If you're throwing a legendary 4 levels over the party, you're already off the territory where CR as the game uses it has any meaning for your group.
I disagree with this. Creatures of the same CR are roughly the same overall difficulty regardless of whether or not they are legendary. Going off of Ari's monster sorter, a dragon turtle is just as dangerous as an adult red dragon. That is what the CR building guidelines tell us. The legendary actions and resistances are included in the calculation of the creature's CR. So the extra damage and legendary resistance are integral to that creature having that CR, and if a DM does not use those, than that creature is functioning at a lower CR. An adult red dragon without its legendary resistance and actions loses about 90 effective hp and 47 DPR. It essentially becomes around a CR10 creature. So being legendary is making the adult red dragon better than a n equivalent CR10 creature not another CR17 creature.

While CR does on one hand mean that the party might not be able to deal with the creature if there level is not as high as the creature's CR, a solo creature at the same CR as the party's level leads to a medium encounter. A medium encounter at low level or high level is still just a medium encounter. While I disagree with [MENTION=6778085]Chocolategravy[/MENTION] as to low level creatures being overpowered and high level creatures being underpowered compared to the encounter building guidelines, the complaint does point out that a solo creature against a 4-person party of the same level is not going to last long. When we think of solo fights, we think that they should generally last a while. If a DM wants a longer solo fight with the least risk to a party, they need to bump the CR by increasing the creature's effective hp (either through traits or actual hp). The CR bump needs to be enough to make the fight at least a hard encounter. By bumping the CR through hp, there is a reduced risk that the harder creature wipes someone out in one turn.
 
CR is a "you should be this level to ride this ride" sign.
No, it isn't. They didn't stop at CR 20 in the MM for a reason. High level monsters are generally quite weak for their CR. Low level monsters on the other hand are often overpowered for their CR.

If you're throwing a legendary 4 levels over the party, you're already off the territory where CR as the game uses it has any meaning for your group.
It has no meaning for any group. Monsters of the same CR are often WILDLY different threats.

At best CR is a rule of thumb where you should be UNDER the CR of the party until level 7 or so, by level 13 you are generally safe to be at the party level and past that you're more than safe to go well over. But at all levels you have to watch out for the outliers that are WAY under CRed and there are plenty of them.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
How do we know you're not a dragon, beholder, etc.?

Someone mentioned minions. Would adding them to a Legendary monster in its lair raise the CR? Say you add four or eight one hit point servant monsters, for example.
By the book, yes & no. The DMG notes that severely different monsters can be ignored for encounter difficulties. They still count for XP earned.
 

Authweight

Villager
While I disagree with the premise that legendary monsters aren't suitable as solo monsters, I do think you've raised a legitimate criticism of Legendary Resistance in that it can feel overly punitive to spellcaster players.

Personally I think Legendary Resistance is mediocre design for three reasons:

  1. Legendary Resistance is just a buffer window. Its usage is based on #/day. This means that eventually a party will wear down the monster's Legendary Resistance and then the stun-locking can commence. Basically it's a buffer window to buy the monster a round free of stun-locking to do cool stuff.
  2. When Legendary Resistance works, nothing happens. "Nothing happens" is probably the least fun thing for a player to hear from their DM. Which is why players who realize they're facing a monster with Legendary Resistance may prefer to cast spells with "half damage on a save" effects. Spellcaster players who lack such spells are SOL.
  3. There is no flavor to Legendary Resistance. Now, a great DM can make this work by, for example, never using a Lich's Legendary Resistsnce against attacks dealing radiant damage, or describing the Lich's Legendary Resistance as magical wards granted by various magical trinkets (which a thief might pilfer or a ranger might called shot). However, without a great DM what this does is shut down player creativity for workarounds.

I want to try working up a replacement trait for Legendary Resistance. It's got to be something always active (unlike Legendary Resistance), is not binary succeed/fail so a spell can have *some* effect or perhaps the slot is not expended (unlike Legendary Resistance), and has flavor/specificity which encouraged creative thinking and unique strategy (unlike Legendary Resistance).

Any suggestions?
One possible approach would be to make it so using legendary resistance costs hit points instead of being limited to a certain number of times per day. The dragon can shake off the effects of a save-or-suck spell, but takes a decent chunk of damage for it. The spellcaster is still contributing to defeating the monster, it's just in the form of hp damage instead of lockdown.

If you made legendary resistance cost hp, you would probably want to increase legendary monsters' hp to compensate.

This deals with your issues 1 and 2 pretty effectively, I think. As far as number three goes, I'm not sure it helps all that much. For that, you would probably need to handle each case individually, instead of creating a catch-all mechanic for all legendary monsters.
 
Oh! I thought of something! What if activating Legendary Resistance lets a monster take a Legendary Action, or maybe just a regular action, right before the effects of the thing it's responding to occurs? A sort of reverse-reaction. The idea is it uses the action to attempt to block or avoid the attack that's getting aimed at it and will hurt it otherwise. It could result in neat cinematic moments like the sorcerer blasting a red dragon with cone of cold, but then the dragon negates the ice with its fire breath! Call them Legendary Reactions, and have them be another way to spend a reaction. Maybe put some sort of limit on them like it can't take two Legendary Reactions in two consecutive rounds.
I really like that idea! I've actually incorporated it into a homebrew monster I worked up (a flawed lich who can cast a spell as a reaction to being attacked or compelled to make a save). :) The trick, as you pointed out, is figuring out how many Legendary Reactions per round is appropriate. My thinking is to either let it either let it take up the monster's one reaction (therefore 1 / round) or to have it limited by the monster's overall Legendary Reactions (usually 3 / round).

Hmm, I wonder if it would be too game-breaking to remove the "must take these actions at the end of a creature's turn" clause from the Legendary Actions description? That single wording change would allow them to be used whenever a monster damn pleases, which would probably be the easies way to implement this idea.
 
One possible approach would be to make it so using legendary resistance costs hit points instead of being limited to a certain number of times per day. The dragon can shake off the effects of a save-or-suck spell, but takes a decent chunk of damage for it. The spellcaster is still contributing to defeating the monster, it's just in the form of hp damage instead of lockdown.

If you made legendary resistance cost hp, you would probably want to increase legendary monsters' hp to compensate.

This deals with your issues 1 and 2 pretty effectively, I think. As far as number three goes, I'm not sure it helps all that much. For that, you would probably need to handle each case individually, instead of creating a catch-all mechanic for all legendary monsters.
Yeah, I used that idea in 4e for a Kobold Swarm. It's actually full of flavor IMHO! For example, monsters who can sacrifice HP to shake off conditions make the most sense as creatures like swarms, gibbering mouthers, elementals, and crumbling stone golems who you can easily imagining breaking off part of themselves to avoid the hindrance of a spell or effect.
 

Mephista

Villager
I'm one of the people, in other threads, have mentioned that you should add minions to a Legendary encounter if you need something for the casters to do offensively.* That said...

I'm pretty sure that Legendary monsters are supposed to be the new Solo bosses of 5e, and run alone. I'm fairly sure I read one the articles from Meyers, during the playtest, to that effect.

I mean, the OPs own opening paragraph kind of just highlighted how well suited they are to that role - they have HP (sometimes not enough, but that's the problem with power gamers who make very effective damage dealers versus more casual players), they have off turn Legendary Actions to keep up with the action economy, they have a way of avoiding "Save or Die" effects.


I really feel the whole caster problem with monsters is a direct result of the fear of the LFQW problem. An over-reaction. So, rather than try to paint Legendary bosses as being something other than solo encounters, especially in their lairs, I would suggest just... fudging the dice a bit when it comes to the saves with certain spells.

Oh, definitely keep the Legendary Resistance. Keep it specifically so that they don't get hit with Save or Die effects, and don't use it on damaging spells, or a spell that's meant to weaken them by degrees (Bestow Curse, for example). Those spells that only debuff or damage the Legendary? Keep as normal. Maybe let them slip past the monster's natural magic resistance on occasion, or fudge a die roll to let the fireball do more damage.

Those kinds of spells? That's not the kind of thing that the major resistances of the bosses were made to handle. The boss has all the resistances up to prevent automatic, effective 1 turn KO success at the battle. That's the focus we should keep on.


So, in the end, I really think we do need to adjust our thinking on the Legendaries, but not treat them as just another encounter.





* I had a fellow player tell me the other day that they found the idea of random minions in a major boss battle to be a bit insulting, just so they could have something to do. They weren't amused.
 

Joe Liker

Registered User
Oh! I thought of something! What if activating Legendary Resistance lets a monster take a Legendary Action, or maybe just a regular action, right before the effects of the thing it's responding to occurs? A sort of reverse-reaction. The idea is it uses the action to attempt to block or avoid the attack that's getting aimed at it and will hurt it otherwise. It could result in neat cinematic moments like the sorcerer blasting a red dragon with cone of cold, but then the dragon negates the ice with its fire breath! Call them Legendary Reactions, and have them be another way to spend a reaction. Maybe put some sort of limit on them like it can't take two Legendary Reactions in two consecutive rounds.
Along those lines, but slightly different:

An ability that the monster can use 3/day, either as a bonus action on its turn, or as one point of its Legendary Action budget: When activated, it allows the monster to ignore the effects of one condition until the start of its next turn. (If a condition includes sub-conditions, such as paralyzed and incapacitated, the sub-conditions are ignored as well.) Obviously, this action is available even if incapacitated, but not if the monster is at 0 hp.
 

Joe Liker

Registered User
While I disagree with the premise that legendary monsters aren't suitable as solo monsters
I'd like to hear more about why you think the premise is bad.

They've created a type of monster that literally cannot be significantly affected by an entire category of player characters. What other reason can there be for such a move?
 
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Joe Liker

Registered User
Tell me more about Beowulf's use of teamwork against Grendel, and tell me more about Grendel's minions?

D&D is a tool which can be used to tell a wide variety of stories. If you want to disallow solo heroes, and disallow legendary monsters which act alone, then good luck with that... at your table.
D&D is also a game with rules, and those rules have certain assumptions behind them. One of the main ones is that there will be a party of adventurers of varying classes, not a solitary fighter taking on the world.

A legendary monster by itself is obviously a great challenge for a single heroic character. But if you're going to stray that far beyond the boundaries of what the core rules intended, you've found a corner case that isn't all that helpful in the larger discussion.
 

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