Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monsters of the Trollhaunt IV: Encounter W1

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This is a series of articles about the monsters included in the adventure P1: King of the Trollhaunt Warrens- so you may want to stop reading, if you intend to play the module anytime soon.

The adventurers finally get to the main dungeon. I update the opponents in the first dungeon encounter, and suggest a new monster to spice up the fight.

The most defining feature of this encounter is the gate of the Great Warren, which can create a huge bottleneck if blocked by a Warren Troll (or by the PCs). This can easily degenerate into a static fight at the gate, with half the trolls being unable to get to melee at the narrow passage. Because of this, I replaced two of the Warren Trolls with soldier trolls armed with spears, with enough reach to fight behind the Warren Troll at the gate.

Warren Troll (Level 11 Brute)

This is a big, dumb brute. It’s slightly more interesting than the baseline Troll, in that it has a respectable encounter attack, so I just added a push effect to its melee attack, and updated the stats.

1. Issues identified:
- Outdated stats.

2. Changes introduced.
- Toned down Troll Healing - see previous article about trolls as a race.
- Added push to claw attack
- Increased damage and accuracy
- Fixed defenses. These were way too low for a monster of its level. I brought them up to be on par with the standard guidelines.

Warren Guard (Level 11 Soldier) - New Monster

1. Issues identified:
I needed some of the melee trolls to have reach, so that they could fight from the back lines in the Warren Gate encounter

2.Design goals.
A straightforward melee troll with reach. The soldier role seems fitting for this theme, and a marking melee attack and a punishing power would have great synergy with the reach, and be quite interesting to play.

3. Implementation Notes
- Take Warren Troll as baseline, changing stats to match Soldier role.
- Give it melee reach 3.
- Greatspear (melee basic attack) - A simple attack that marks for a turn, whether it hits or missses.
- Troll Revenge (immediate reaction) - A basic attack that triggers when a marked enemy ignores the troll. It can trigger from a range of up to 3 squares, and it knocks prone on a hit for added fun.

4. Gameplay notes
I half feared, half hoped that I could use these trolls in some sort of phalanx, with the brutes blocking the way and acting as a meatwall, and the soldiers hitting from behind and being all kinds of annoying. That was not to happen, though, as my paragon tier party proved to be far more mobile than I had expected. On the first round of combat, the Assassin teleported through the gate troll, while the Monk ran over the walls past it, and the Sentinel summoned a critter in the middle of the room. So it ended up as a chaotic skirmish where the troll guards’ reach didn’t matter much - but the monsters themselves performed quite well, doing soldiery things all around.

Marrowmaw Impaler (Level 9 Artillery)

The Marrowmaw Impaler is an artillery monster without artillery stats. The usual accuracy boost is nowhere to be seen, as are the reduced AC and HP. Add to that its Troglodyte Stench trait, which significantly improves its survivability in melee, and you end up with a ranged monster with a better ability to resist melee attacks than the average soldier of its level! This clearly needed a revision.
Apart from that, I found that I liked the concept of the monster’s main attack (Impaling Shot, a rechargable ranged attack with a chance to restrain the target), but not its execution. The restrain trigger is both very powerful and very random, making for a monster whose effectiveness swings wildly depending on how the dice roll. I knew I wanted to make this effect easier to control, at the cost of requiring some setup.

1. Issues identified:
- Stats don’t match artillery role.
- Impaling Shot mechanics too swingy.

2. Changes introduced.
- Lowered AC, Fortitude, HP. This brings these stats much closer to what is expected for an artillery monster. I still has slightly above average HP, and the Troglodyte Stench aura to make it sturdier than other artilleries.
- Removed Claw attack. I guess this was there for flavor reasons, but a second melee attack that is strictly worse than the alternative is a waste of space.
- Increased base damage and accuracy. To match its role, and the new damage guidelines. I left damage for its basic attack a bit below expectations, to compensate for the added effect and the great rechargable attack.
- Redesigned Impaling Shot. I removed the secondary attack roll, so that the attack now always restrains on a hit. The catch? It now can only be used against enemies granting combat advantage, which isn’t easy to pull off at range. Of course, I very conveniently changed the base Javelin attack to cause the target to grant combat advantage. Because of this, the Impaler should now present a sequence of attacks: use basic attacks until you hit, and then Impale the target. It also makes multiple Impalers focusing on a same target a deadly proposition...

All images are (C) 2010 Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved. The formatted statistics blocks have been generated using the D&D Adventure Tools. But not with the last version, which lacks a Monster Builder. The one before that, which works despite the billions of bugs.

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