D&D 5E Quests from the Infinite Staircase TOC and Zargon.

Brandes Stoddard shared the table of contents along with the stats for the elder evil Zargon the Returner.

Brandes Stoddard shared the table of contents from Quests from the Infinite Staircase, along with the stats for the elder evil Zargon the Returner, over on BlueSky. Quests from the Infinite Staircase comes out on July 16th, and is an adventure anthology for character levels 1-13.

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Indeed. I was not trying to make a big argument. Just pointing out that despite the claim that 3 Unoptimized Fighters could kill Zargon in a few rounds, I was just saying that technically they can't kill him.
They only have to apply fire damage once to kill him. Flasks of oil are standard equipment specifically for this situation. They have torches, flint and tinder as default starting equipment. If they really have absolutely no way to start a fire thats just bad playing. What will they do if it's cold at night?

If it was cold damage alone that would kill him, then that would be a problem. But fire? Even fighters should be able to manage that.
 
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He’s not weak for a CR 17.

Well he is dealing about 92 damage assuming everything hits and all saves are failed.

If we use Mike Shea's 7.5 Dmg per CR (which I think is a good guideline) Zargon's damage is on par with a CR 12-13 monster.

For CR 17 we should be looking at closer to 127 damage. Zargon is about 70% as effective as he arguably should be.

Level 20 characters decked out in magic gear could probably be able to beat him.

I reckon any typical Level 20 fighter with average gear beats that Zargon one-vs-one.

Though maybe not as well as one would think due to his ability to turn off all of their magic gear.

Assumes he hits with the horn (which is a very fun attack - I'll give them that).

Overall I think its one of the better designed WotC monsters, but again, the damage just seems low and in many cases trivial. His 'big' recharge attack deals 38 damage, 19 on a save. The breath weapon of an Adult Red Dragon (which has the same CR) deals 63/31.
 

Sulicius

Adventurer
Well he is dealing about 92 damage assuming everything hits and all saves are failed.

If we use Mike Shea's 7.5 Dmg per CR (which I think is a good guideline) Zargon's damage is on par with a CR 12-13 monster.

For CR 17 we should be looking at closer to 127 damage. Zargon is about 70% as effective as he arguably should be.



I reckon any typical Level 20 fighter with average gear beats that Zargon one-vs-one.



Assumes he hits with the horn (which is a very fun attack - I'll give them that).

Overall I think its one of the better designed WotC monsters, but again, the damage just seems low and in many cases trivial. His 'big' recharge attack deals 38 damage, 19 on a save. The breath weapon of an Adult Red Dragon (which has the same CR) deals 63/31.
Actually, the Forge of Foes baseline for CR17 is the following:

CR 17
AC/DC: 20
HP: 246
Atk/Prof: +12
Damage Per Round: 107

It's preeeetty close, even closer if Zargon hits 3-4 characters with its breath weapon. I do think the counterspelling and anti-magic horn attack will make him a lot more tough. I see a lot of folks saying fighters would obviously have a way to deal fire damage, and sure, in a campaign, a party might have learnt about his weaknesses. Otherwise, they will need to deal that fire damage every round, which can be more difficult than you think.
 

dave2008

Legend
The breath weapon of an Adult Red Dragon (which has the same CR) deals 63/31.
Just an FYI, dragon breath weapon damage is likely to go down in the new MM. They have been revising dragon breath weapon damage down ever since the MM. For example:

CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon breath weapon: 91 Fire Damage
CR 26 Ancient Time Dragon breath weapon: 52 Force Damage ( it does have other effect though)
CR 27 Great Wyrm Red Dragon breath weapon: 78 fire damage
 

Stalker0

Legend
Just an FYI, dragon breath weapon damage is likely to go down in the new MM. They have been revising dragon breath weapon damage down ever since the MM. For example:

CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon breath weapon: 91 Fire Damage
CR 26 Ancient Time Dragon breath weapon: 52 Force Damage ( it does have other effect though)
CR 27 Great Wyrm Red Dragon breath weapon: 78 fire damage
Which I simply do not understand. 91 dmg against a 17+ level party isn’t even that big a deal, it’s not even damage to insta kill someone already near 0. And a party like that against an an ancient red isn’t going to throw on any fire resistance or even immunity? Come on
 

Stalker0

Legend
They only have to apply fire damage once to kill him. Flasks of oil are standard equipment specifically for this situation. They have torches, flint and tinder as default starting equipment. If they really have absolutely no way to start a fire thats just bad playing. What will they do if it's cold at night?

If it was cold damage alone that would kill him, then that would be a problem. But fire? Even fighters should be able to manage that.
Agreed. A party that doesn’t have some source of fire is not an “unoptimzed” party, that’s a “totally new to dnd” party.
 

dave2008

Legend
Which I simply do not understand. 91 dmg against a 17+ level party isn’t even that big a deal, it’s not even damage to insta kill someone already near 0. And a party like that against an an ancient red isn’t going to throw on any fire resistance or even immunity? Come on
It is a CR issue and poorly balanced design. If they get rid of the 3 LA tail attacks, you can have the claw/claw/ bite & breath weapon all do more damage - not less.

I'm curious if they fix dragons in the 2025 MM, but I don't have my hopes up. Of course, I've already figure out many ways to "fix" them, so no big deal for me!
 

Stalker0

Legend
It is a CR issue and poorly balanced design. If they get rid of the 3 LA tail attacks, you can have the claw/claw/ bite & breath weapon all do more damage - not less.

I'm curious if they fix dragons in the 2025 MM, but I don't have my hopes up. Of course, I've already figure out many ways to "fix" them, so no big deal for me!
Yep to me the dragon should be the “fireball” of the CR system, the monster that is always “just on the cusp of being OP for its level”. Instead they routinely get slaughtered by appropriate parties.

I agree your dragons are far scarier ;)
 

Stalker0

Legend
Going back to Zargon for a moment, in theory how he should throw down is:

1) grapple the fighter types at his reach and NOT reel them in (ideally put them at 15 feet away) That way they can’t melee attack him without breaking the grapple which at least cost them an attack. Or if they have no reach weapons go for 10 feet so you can still get in other attacks.

2) if there is a caster in reach grab them and pull them in fully, and try to gore them for the AM field. Bonus points if you can position them so that ththey AM field gets one or more of the grappled fighters in the area

3) make sure to keep even reactions in reserve for each notable spellcaster. It’s far better to defend against a nasty spell then do a minor little 7 damage.


Now if that works all to plan, yeah Zargon gets a great start and the party is feeling the pinch. But such things always come down to initiative…because he doesn’t have enough passive defenses. His survivability hinges on getting in some key hits and going first to disable key party members…and that’s shaky ground to build epic creatures around
 

Stalker0

Legend
alright so if I'm going to complain this much about a monster, its only fair I try to offer some solutions.

I talk about an epic monster needing some "passive defenses" rather than the active ones that Zargon has (aka zargon really has to attack and hit the party to reduce their effectiveness, rather than having defenses that can take the pain if he hasn't acted).

So what might that look like? Here is just one example:

Cocoon of Ultimate Evil
Zargon starts with 100 temporary hitpoints. Anytime he regenerates, he also regains an equal number of temporary hitpoints.

As long as he has temporary hitpoints, Zargon is immune from any effects or conditions. If damage brings the cocoon to 0 hp, the remaining damage from that attack or effect is lost.


Ok so what does an effect like this really do?
  • An extra 100 hp isn't that much to a mid to high level party (especially considering his fairly low AC for the CR). But it must be taken down to really impact Zargon with any effects. This means you can't sneak in a hugely impactful condition on Zargon on turn 1 and completely win the fight. It also helps ensure Zargon will at least get in one action before he is tripped up, allowing his "active defenses" to get online.
  • It prevents an early alpha strike. While the barrier only has 100 hp, it specifically notes that damage that brings the barrier down does not move over to Zargon. That means that a PCs massive alpha strike (such as a paladin crit) can't just destroy Zargon in a single round. You have to be a bit more tactical and save your big guns until the cocoon comes down.
  • It makes the regeneration really matter. 20 regen at CR 17 is frankly a whatever ability. BUT....now its regen 40 (as Zargon and the cacoon can regenerate), AND this means that once the cacoon is back up....you have to take it down again to deliver any real pain to zargon. Suddenly dealing with the regen is less an afterthought (something you just do right as he goes to 0 to actually kill him), and now its a true part of the fight.
  • It can allow you to pair Zargon with creatures that provide temporary hitpoints to further buff Zargon should you wish, ensuring that his minions must be taken out before the BBEG can really be threatened.
 

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