I wanted to see how this power curve works out for monsters; how flexible is the system? Is the DM really limited to putting his PCs against monsters of their own level or just one or two above?

According to our DDXP cheat sheet, the Gnoll Marauders are worth 250 xp each, making 2 of them a 500 xp encounter. I only used 4 pregens because I wanted to see how they'd do in a "tough" fight.

Also, from the beginning, I decided to avoid using Daily Powers if I could help it. Real players will have to choose wisely when to use their dailies, so I thought in this scenario, the players might have already used them or would try to save them for the next battle. . . After all, these were just 2 gnolls

The pictures here show a snap shot of the START of a round.

The Set Up:

Kathra, Erais, Riardon, and Skamos versus two Gnoll Marauders (level 6 brutes), battling in a tomb.

INITIATIVE:

Erais – 12

Riardon – 10

Gnoll B - 9

Kathra – 8

Gnoll A – 8

Skamos – 6

Round 1: Fight!

Erais: Moves 5 into the room and attacks Gnoll A with Lance of Faith. I give the gnoll +2 Def for being behind the tomb. 8 + 4 vs Ref 15 (17) is a miss.

Riardon: Moves 6 into the room and marks Gnoll B with Hunter’s Quarry. He then uses Careful Shot to attack Gnoll B. I also give this gnoll +2 AC for being behind a tomb. Riardon rolls 18 + 10 for an easy hit, rolling for 9 damage (including the d8 for HQ).

Gnoll B: Moves up 6 squares to engage Riardon in melee. It rolls a 16 + 13 for its Spear attack, easily hitting, however Riardon sees he’s in trouble and uses his Encounter power, Fox’s Cunning to immediately shift back one step and make a basic attack. Riardon rolls a 16 + 6 for an easy hit and deals another 10 points of damage, leaving the gnoll Bloodied at 27 HP.

Kathra: Moves 5 into the room and engages Gnoll B in melee. She attacks with Tide of Iron, rolling 15 + 6 versus AC 17 for a hit, and Marking him. The gnoll takes another 8 points of damage and is shifted back a square, and Kathra follows.

Gnoll A: Moves 4 to engage Erais in melee. It rolls 11 + 13 to hit Erais’ AC of 16. Erais takes 13 points of damage (8 + 4!), leaving him with only 11. Ouch the gnolls sure can hit hard. The gnoll has a follow up attack again Bloodied opponents, but I rule that since Erais wasn’t bloodied when attacked, the follow up can’t activate.

Skamos: Moves 6 into the room and targets Gnoll A with Magic Missile. Skamos rolls an 18 for an easy hit, even with a +2 AC to the gnoll for remaining again behind a tomb. The gnoll takes 8 damage (2d4 + 5).

ROUND 2:

Erais only has 11 hit point so, as a Minor Action, he using Healing Word on himself, healing 6 (for his Healing Surge) + 6 more from the Prayer, for a total of 12 HP. Erais then attacks Gnoll A with Priest’s Shield rolling a 17 + 4 to hit. The gnoll takes 10 damage and Erais’ AC is at +1 until next round.

Riardon: Riardon turns his attention to Gnoll A to help Erais, now marking Gnoll A with his HQ. He steps backwards for 1 to put more space between him and any gnoll and then attacks Gnoll A with his basic ranged attack, rolling a 3 to miss.

Gnoll B: Attack Kathra with its Spear, rolling 12 + 13 against her AC of 19 for a hit. Kathra takes 13 damage (8 + 5) plus another 5 because the Gnoll is Bloodied! The gnolls have an ability called Stabbing Frenzy that gives them +5 damage when they are bloodied, thus Kethra takes a full 18 points of damage!

Kathra: Uses Second Wind as a Minor Action, regaining 8 HP. She then attacks the gnoll with her basic attack, rolling a 19 to hit. The gnoll takes 12 points of damage.

Gnoll A: Shift 5 to get a little closer to Riardon, but still remains in melee with Erais. The gnoll attacks Erais and rolls an 18 for an easy hit, dealing Erais another 12 damage.

Skamos: The gnolls are still too far apart for any area attacks to be of use, so he stands still and casts Magic Missile again. He rolls a 15 + 5 vs the gnoll’s Reflex of 15 for an easy hit. The gnoll takes 8 points of damage, bringing it down to 28.

ROUND 3:

Erais: Uses his standard action as a Second Wind to heal 6 HP and gain +2 DEF for 1 round. He then shifts one square back and to the side. THEN Erais uses his action point to take another standard action, which he uses to cast Cause Fear. Unfortunately, Erais only rolls a 5 (+4) and fails to beat the gnoll’s Will defense. Erais’ goal was to make the gnoll run through both Riardon and Kathra’s threatened squares and end up in the corner with Gnoll B, where Skamos could then pepper them with AoE spells. Alas, no dice.

Riardon: Moves 4 to get away from Gnoll A and then uses his basic bow attack against Gnoll A. 12 + 6 beats the gnolls AC of 17, so the gnoll takes 7 (+ 7 for HQ!) damage and is now Bloodied at 14.

Gnoll B: Attacks Kathra with its spear again, rolling 14 + 13 for a hit. Kathra takes 13 points of damage (3 + 5 + 5).

Kathra: Makes a basic melee attack, rolling 12 + 6 for a hit, and deals 13 damage, leaving Gnoll B with just 2 HP left!

Gnoll A: Smelling blood, the gnoll moves 2 to enter melee range with Kathra! The gnoll rolls a 13 + 13 for an easy hit and does 16 points of damage (6 + 5 + 5). Kathra goes down with -6 HP! The Gnoll technically gets a Follow Up attack on bloodied opponents, but I’m not sure if it applies to PCs that go down. What the hell, it’s a bloodthirsty gnoll! It rolls it’s follow up with 15 + 13 for another hit, dealing 11 more damage (1 + 5 + 5). Kathra is now at -17, which I think is dead.

Skamos: Not one to cry over spilled dwarf, Skamos casts Scorching Burst over Kathra’s corpse, which also affects both gnolls. Attack against Gnoll A is a miss (6 + 5 vs Ref 15), but Gnoll B suffers a crit and takes 11 fire damage, putting it at -8 and out of the fight.

ROUND 4:

Erais: Erais says a prayer for Kathra and then moved forward 2 to get between the remaining gnoll and the rest of the part. Erais then casts Lance of Faith, rolling 9 + 4 for a miss.

Riardon: Uses his Careful Attack on Gnoll A, and rolls an 8 + 10 for a hit. The gnoll takes d10 + d8 damage for a total of 9, bringing its HP down to 5.

Gnoll A: Turns and charges Erais, rolling a 6 + 14 for a hit. Erais takes 12 damage from the Bloodied gnoll, him with only 5 HP left.

Skamos: Needing a good hit, Skamos uses his Wand of Accuracy to gain a +2 to attack, and then casts Magic Missile at the gnoll. Skamos rolls a 16 + 5 + 2 (wand) + 1 (Bloodhunt ability) for a total of 24 and an easy hit. The gnoll takes 11 points of damage to the chest and falls slain.

Victory is at hand, but woe the loss. Kathra will be remembered.

END OF BATTLE PIC

Lessons Learned:

It was a pretty good fight! For being 5 levels above the PCs, the Gnolls still got taken out. However, their high attack bonuses ensured that they'd hit nearly every round and, once they were bloodied, the gnolls could really deal some damage. Because of their Stabbing Frenzy ability, Bloodied gnolls do d8 + 10 damage on a hit! I think Kethra would have survived if I'd used my dailies, or if the PCs would have bunched together more so they could focus their attacks on one gnoll. Skamos wasn't able to use his AoE until the very end, which basically made him a less-effective Striker.

I think this would have been a challenging battle, but a survivable one, in a real RP session. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the slower power curve of 4e, but at least it gives the DM more flexibility in planning encounters. Just think, this could be a "preview" gnoll encounter for a party, establishing a little fear and respect for the beasts. Then, a few levels latter, the PCs could encounter a whole party of gnolls and start the battle with some perspective.

What do you think?