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D&D 5E The Final Battle - 2 Rounds and 1 Action!

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
After about a year, my Wednesday group finished Curse of Strahd last night.

They found the last of the artefacts at the end of the previous session, and - having already found Strahd - they began the session by confronting him in his lair.

Two rounds and one action later, he was dead.

It turns out that a wizard casting Telekinesis on Strahd works really well, and allows the paladin to smite him lots with a certain sword!

(I also note that the first round was a surprise round, which the party used to cast a lot of spells, like haste, before they attacked). Strahd got to do almost nothing, although he DID get a critical hit on the paladin before the wizard trapped him. His fireball on the wizard did not break concentration, and that was it for Strahd.

The shortness of this fight might upset some groups, but not mine. This is what the main adventure was all about: finding a way to defeat Strahd. They found it, they used it, and he died. Hooray! It's the same thing with Rise of Tiamat. I've run that adventure three times now, and in each case Tiamat does not show up. The players were good enough to stop the summoning, and they walked away very happy.

I do feel that occasionally we put too much emphasis on the final fight. It's got to be epic. It's got to go ten rounds. When, in a lot of cases, it's hard to balance it that way because (a) players will be players and (b) what if it goes wrong? Just as players can defeat the bad guys in two rounds, perhaps a run of horrendous luck goes against the players!

(Not to say that I can't run 10 rounds fights, but that often relies on me knowing the players well. Writing something that works for everyone in a published adventure? Urgh!)

Honestly, if you want longer fights, just put in more foes. Solo creatures, even with Legendary resistance, tend not to work that well on their own.

Oh, and the wizard of our group? He knows what's going on. Telekinesis doesn't have a saving throw!

As we had finished the session after less than an hour, I dove them right into the new campaign (It's a City of Greyhawk game, which really excites me as none of these players has played in the World of Greyhawk before).

But Strahd? He's dead. The paladin becoming the new Count of the realm. The wizard has been corrupted by the Amber Temple and might eventually try to overthrow him - but for now, he's going to research in the Amber Temple to find out if he can become a lich. And the cleric and Ireena are on a trip to see the rest of the Forgotten Realms.

(I dislike the Ravenloft setting. For this game, Barovia is a isolated county, just to the west of Cormyr in the Forgotten Realms. I expect the paladin will have fun trying to explain it to everyone in Cormyr what happened - and explain the lack of taxes for the last few decades. Strahd, as it turns out, finds tax collectors delicious!)

Cheers!
 

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(I also note that the first round was a surprise round, which the party used to cast a lot of spells, like haste, before they attacked). Strahd got to do almost nothing.
Surprise rounds dont exist in 5E.

How on earth was he surprised by the entire party? He's a genius, with a passive perception of 22, and presumably he was also in his lair, and his Stealth bonus is +14.

Oh, and the wizard of our group? He knows what's going on. Telekinesis doesn't have a saving throw!

If only Vampires could assume mist form.
 


Surprise rounds do when Strahd rolls lowest for initiative. :) Strahd was weeping over his brother's tomb and somewhat distracted. He became aware of the party when they started casting spells... but his initiative roll then doomed him.
That's not surprise; that's just losing initiative. Meaning he can take lair actions (on initiative count 20) and legendary actions while he waits for his turn to come up.

One of those lair actions is to float through the floor.

And how did he only become aware of them then? According to the module, he watches them constantly, and is aware of them more or less 24/7, able to troll them and appear where they are largely at the DMs whim. He's exlicitly stated to have been scrying on them (and using his implicit powers as the Darklord of Barovia) to keep tabs on them as they progress.

He forgot to keep tabs on them, even after they obtained the sunsword, allowed them to penetrate deep into Castle Ravenloft, with no minions to confront them or slow them down... just like that?

That's not a supra-genius immortal Darklord. Thats the actions of some nameless chump.
Mist form does not get you out of TK.
If you rule that weightless mist can be grappled by a TK spell then fine. I probably wouldn't, but each to their own.
 

Many years ago I had to stat a mastermind villain in 3.5, to face down a party of 20th level PCs. I really wanted drama and a climactic battle, which wasn't easy before 4e introduced me to the concept of solos and the need to aggressively defend a BBEG's action economy. But I pulled it off, in part due to bonkers epic level feats that let her cast four spells per round, and the fact that she opens with a time stop to summon a pair of fiendish t-rexes. Oh, and she could counterspell with her reaction, so no cheap shots.

And she had Tarrasque-style regeneration that only went away if the party could destroy a relic that was protected under a magical shield that was sustained by five ritual loci.

---

On the flip side, I actually ran Lolth the Spider-Queen in 4e against a party of 30th level PCs, and the party just stunlocked her and kept her prone and basically kicked her while she was down until she was dead.

As for one-shotting boss fights, well, I really should have given the skirmishing shadowdancer a ring of freedom of movement, because anyone can roll a nat 1 against hold person.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
As for one-shotting boss fights, well, I really should have given the skirmishing shadowdancer a ring of freedom of movement, because anyone can roll a nat 1 against hold person.

Trying to counter every eventuality the players might use against the villain is like that. You always miss something. :)
 

toucanbuzz

Legend
As long as the players had a blast, then it's all good.

My Strahd finale was also short-lived, but only because the PCs used lore they collected to understand how to defeat Strahd by understanding him.
Otherwise, his genius intelligence and general background led to a lair action of guerilla hit and run, disappearing through the floors, along with a near-infinite number of minions in the realm to harass any attempts to rest. After a failed foray, they hid in a Leomund's Shelter, went through their notes, figured something out, and then on fumes carved a path through waiting minions to reach the crypt where Strahd had recently turned Ireena into a vampire, then went door to door trying to find the right one while suffering hit and run tactics. Finally, they provoked him where it hurt the most (permanently getting rid of Ireena) and he lost it, abandoned all tactics, just tried to rip their throats out.

Once the PCs have all the artifacts and Strahd abandoned tactics, it really wasn't much of a contest...as it should be (otherwise why bother!)

As to the rules interpretation, Ghosts and other incorporeal creatures specifically are listed as being immune to the Restrained condition. However, neither Strahd's ability nor the Gaseous Form spell grant that immunity, and by granting Advantage on physical saves instead of immunity, it suggests the spell was not intended to grant the incorporeal state but something in-between.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
Once the PCs have all the artifacts and Strahd abandoned tactics, it really wasn't much of a contest...as it should be (otherwise why bother!)
Are you saying it should be a contest or it should not be a contest?

I think the latter, but then I managed to get confused. ;)

Cheers!
 

As long as the players had a blast, then it's all good.

My Strahd finale was also short-lived, but only because the PCs used lore they collected to understand how to defeat Strahd by understanding him.
Otherwise, his genius intelligence and general background led to a lair action of guerilla hit and run, disappearing through the floors, along with a near-infinite number of minions in the realm to harass any attempts to rest. After a failed foray, they hid in a Leomund's Shelter, went through their notes, figured something out, and then on fumes carved a path through waiting minions to reach the crypt where Strahd had recently turned Ireena into a vampire, then went door to door trying to find the right one while suffering hit and run tactics. Finally, they provoked him where it hurt the most (permanently getting rid of Ireena) and he lost it, abandoned all tactics, just tried to rip their throats out.

Once the PCs have all the artifacts and Strahd abandoned tactics, it really wasn't much of a contest...as it should be (otherwise why bother!)

As to the rules interpretation, Ghosts and other incorporeal creatures specifically are listed as being immune to the Restrained condition. However, neither Strahd's ability nor the Gaseous Form spell grant that immunity, and by granting Advantage on physical saves instead of immunity, it suggests the spell was not intended to grant the incorporeal state but something in-between.

To be honest, I'm more intruiged by the 'surprise round' rules interpretations.

It looks like the PCs were (somehow) able to infiltrate Castle Ravenloft, unseen and undetected by Strahd or his minions, sneak up on a Passive Perception 22 Vampire in his Lair that is explicity called out as being a super genius, cunning, resourceful and with all the dues ex machina abilities of a Darklord in his own domain, and wail on him before he could use his lair action to retreat (on initiative count 20).

Doesnt sound very Darklordy to me, and there seems to be some kind of rules disconnect as well.
 

Composer99

Explorer
If one side in an encounter is surprised in 5e, they don't act on the first round of combat. That isn't a "surprise round" in the 3.X sense, but it amounts to the same thing, so I really can't see the problem with the terminology.
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
A creature that is surprised can't use a lair action until after it's first turn in combat. That said, I'd also be interested in hearing the tale of how multiple party members surprised Strahd in his castle...

(It's also a little sad that fireball was the best thing he could think of to try to break concentration or defeat the telekinesis. His spell list isn't extensive, but it does include polymorph and animate objects.)

That said, sounds like everyone had fun, so that's a win.

ETA: My nearly two-year-long DotMM campaign ended with the PCs grappling Halaster in an antimagic field and basically curb-stomping him, so you know...it happens.
 
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toucanbuzz

Legend
Are you saying it should be a contest or it should not be a contest?

I think the latter, but then I managed to get confused. ;)

Cheers!
Shouldn't have been a contest is what I meant! I added a 4th card to the Tarot reading (split the sword into a hilt and blade) to diversify where things would be hidden, and after they braved the Amber Temple and delved into Strahd's castle for stuff, I think it was a great feeling when that stuff paid off.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I don't have a problem with PCs having a relatively short boss fight when they've taken the effort to prepare for it.

But this story does underscore one pet peeve of mine. The telekinesis spell effect shouldn't be based on an opposed strength check vs spellcaster stat check. It should be a strength saving throw. Making it a check undermines the value of the strength saving throw with respect to spells. Spells don't spread the saves around enough.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I do feel that occasionally we put too much emphasis on the final fight.

I think this is true of a lot of media as well. Endings are over-valued as something that potentially retroactively "ruins" the whole experience and I just don't get how/why that should be.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
I think this is true of a lot of media as well. Endings are over-valued as something that potentially retroactively "ruins" the whole experience and I just don't get how/why that should be.
Especially with the longer-form media.

(Is this why the book series of A Song of Ice and Fire will never get an ending? ;) Is not having an ending worse than having a bad ending?)

I like having endings. But I don't always need them to be epic. I mean, it's great when they are. Watching the final battle against Thanos in Endgame is one of the great experiences of my life. But smaller endings can work as well.

Cheers!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Watching the final battle against Thanos in Endgame is one of the great experiences of my life. But smaller endings can work as well.

Cheers!

Right and I found that ending muddled and confusing and a let-down - but I do love Infinity War. It should have just ended there. ;)
 

jasper

Rotten DM
What is better is when a group things a minor battle will be a speed bump and it is. For the monsters. I talking about when every rolled below 10 init and can't hit AC 12 for 3 rounds against common weak encounters.
 

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