D&D - The Gristhounds and the Prophesy Stone

December 06, 2011

I think the idea for the gristhounds formed in my head the session before I actually ran them. I was laying down some exposition, having an NPC explain how the group needed to kill these animals to extract their power.

And one of the players asked, "Are they cute animals?"

"Yes, they're very cute," I said. And that was that.

I started thinking, "What if they were sort of cute and didn't fight back? Would that be an interesting enough encounter, to have enemies that didn't attack directly and just sort of wandered around and made the players feel bad for attacking them?"

So basically we have a group of level 7 monsters that don't have direct attacks - they just have counter attacks and detrimental auras. To make it more interesting, I created 4 types and gave them all very high defenses except for one defense for each type, which was their vulnerability. The attacks they did make would all attack with that same vulnerability in the hopes that it would help the players figure out what the hounds' vulnerabilities were, because the hounds only counter-attacked against missed attacks, so the players were much better off attacking the right defense.

They eventually figured it out, but once they did, the fight because slightly less interesting because there was no longer a real threat. It wound down so much by the end, I just threw up my hands and said, "And then you eventually kill the last one, which we don't really need to play through because there's no real way he can even hurt you any more." But the fight was really interesting for a while. Here is a map:
The players entered from the left side, though they were free to meander about and start the fight whenever they wanted in whatever position they wanted since the hounds weren't hostile.

The hounds each had 90 hit points, with base defenses of AC 23, Fort. 21, Ref. 21, Will 21 with a -6 penalty in their corresponding vulnerable defense. They each had an "aura" that really functioned more like a close burst attack on their turn, and, again, a counter-attack that was an immediate reaction whenever someone missed an attack against them.

Yellow - Quilled Gristhound, vulnerability AC: Counter - single target +10 v. AC for 2d6+4 damage. Aura - close burst 1 +10 v. AC for 1d10+3 damage

Red - Volatile Gristhound, vulnerability Reflex: Counter - close burst 2 +9 v. Ref. for 1d8+3 fire damage. Aura - close burst 1 +9 v. Ref., target is knocked prone and becomes vulnerable 5 to fire.

Green - Rotten Gristhound, vulnerability Fortitude: Counter - close burst 1 +9 v. Fort. for 5 ongoing poison. Aura - close burst 3 +9 v. Fort. for 1d4+2 damage and dazed.

Purple - Psychic Gristhound, vulnerability Will: Counter - single target +9 v. Will, target is dominated until end of next turn. Aura - close burst 5 +9 v. Will, -2 to all defenses until end of next turn.

They had movement of 4 and generally just milled about aimlessly. It was kind of funny that I was constantly granting opportunity attacks and asking, "Do you really want to attack it?" Which led to some players damaging themselves significantly out of stubbornness.

And then we moved on to the Prophesy Stone, a sentient rock that was my take on the Prophet Skeram from WoW. The basic premise being that it's a fairly easy boss encounter, then you get him down to a certain health percentage, and he splits into three separate monsters, each just as powerful as the original, so that now you've got to bring down the adds before they overwhelm you with their damage and status effects.

And, of course, that happens more than once - both at 66% health and 33% health, each time the clones that the boss creates have a third of the health that he does at the time of the cloning.

I didn't give my players a whole lot of hints about the mechanic and was pretty much banking on the fact that on their own they would suspect that the cloning might happen more than once during the battle, and that they really should kill the adds before resuming damaging the boss, but, true to form, after bringing down one add, they started wailing on the boss again and ended up in a situation with 3 clones plus the original boss all bearing down on them, making the fight much harder than it should have been. They still prevailed, though that might have been because I showed a little restraint. Though, in defense of the restraint, the boss really did have too many stunning and dazing effects to begin with, and getting perma-stunned into oblivion just wouldn't be a very fun way to go out.

Anyway, so here is are the map and the abilities:
The Dark Prophesy - close burst 5, +9 v. Will, 2d6+2 damage, target is slowed and dazed (save ends) - once per encounter
Tendrils of Thought - close burst 1, +12 v. AC, 1d10+3, target is dazed until end of next turn
Bolt of Inspiration - range 20, +9 v. Ref, 2d4+2 and make secondary attack, +9 v. Will, target is stunned until end of next turn and a clone of the target is created in an adjacent space. While the player clone is alive, target suffers a -4 to Will.

The player clone is a minion with the defenses of the player. They can make a +9 v. Will attack with their source's primary weapon for 5 damage.

Oh, right, the Prophesy Stone had 300 hp with a speed of 5 and an initiative bonus of 4. 22 AC, 15 Ref., 18 Fort., 21 Will.

So the players start at the bottom of the map. The light grey squares are rough terrain and the dark grey squares are a higher platform, which can only be accessed by crossing the rough terrain. When the stone reaches 200 hp, as a free action it can split into three, with each monster teleporting to one of the higher platforms. It is always obvious which one is the real one because it had a large red stone at the center of its ectoplasmic mass.

I would definitely change some things about this fight. Remove the stun from the bolt attack and maybe the daze from the prophesy. So there's still the high dps, but it's easier for the players to get out of the mess of multiple mobs up. Also the non-clone prophesy stone had a different dark prophesy attack that petrified people, but that was such a poorly thought-out debacle that I don't even want to talk about it. I think it works if all the mobs have the same dark prophesy listed above.

So, next up, the last two fights of my adventure. One, a happy mix of Netherspite and Fathom-Lord Karathress. The other loosely inspired by Gabe's description of a climactic free-fall fight, though tweaked significantly to make it my own.

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