View Full Version : [3.5] Too much for them to handle?

2009-01-18, 08:37 PM
Devoted Defenders were a prestige class from the Sword and Fist book (yeah, back from version 3). A few years back, me and a friend created a character pair, both of us taking different routes but taking Devoted Defender.

And now I'm reviving them as NPCs meant to challenge the PCs.

Both are 12th level, taking 8 levels in either Fighter or Barbarian, and then 4 levels in Devoted Defenders. The Fighter is Dexterity-based, and dual-wields kusari-gamas, while the Barbarian is currently dual-wielding Bastard Swords (with help from Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting), though I'm thinking of choosing something more generic-Barbarian: maybe a Greatsword...

Now, the Devoted Defender is focused around the basis that the character is a sort of bodyguard, and gets bonuses and extra options when protecting his "charge." So, as a tactic that I devised when I made the characters three years ago, they would generally select each other as their charge, and stick close together, since all of the abilities really revolve around being within 5 feet of your charge. Their updated versions are a bit more specialized.

Fighter: "Jack the Reaper" (originally dual-wielded scythes thanks to version 3's Monkey Grip; now he's a throwback to when the Grim Reaper used a sickle). Dual-wields kusari-gamas, took Weapon Finesse (kusari-gama), and all of the Two-Weapon Fighting feats in the PHB, plus Improved Buckler Defense from Complete Warrior. Lower HP, will be easier to hit. Will take advantage of Devoted Defender's Defensive Strike (get AoO against an opponent who just attacked your charge) -- thanks to Combat Reflexes -- and Deflect Attack (Reflecx DC 20 + magic modifier of attacking weapon) which negates an attack altogether (usable 1/round).

Barbarian: "Jack the Ripper" (the player was reading a book on Jack the Ripper; plus, "the Ripper" can refer to his brutal attacks). Could only afford Two-Weapon Fighting due to his Dex, but thinking of swapping out TWF feats and his Bastard Swords for a Greatsword. Will be much more heavily armored, has more HP, and can dish out more damage than Jack the Reaper. Will take advantage of Harm's Way (after an attack against his charge is declared, but before the attack roll, he can put himself in the way of the attack, as long as he's within 5 feet of his charge; no specified use limitation), and, to a lesser extent, Defensive Strike (also gave him Combat Reflexes, but only gets two extra AoO per round; thinking of swapping Combat Reflexes for something else).

As you can see, these NPCs are built around defending each other. This is supposed to be a tough encounter for the PCs, who should be level 8-10 at the time. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if one of them died from this encounter. (The campaign's main plot is riding on it, or else I need to think of another reason for them to go to Cania, the eighth layer of Baator (Hell), and I'd probably need to rewrite the entire campaign after that. I do have a backup plan, but it's not as good.)

My question is this, however: is it too much? I know they're not optimized, but I didn't want that. I just wanted enough to give them a serious challenge, one that they're highly unlikely to win. And when the party will consist of one Fighter (he's planning on going into Occult Slayer), one Binder (no idea what he's planning for the future of his character), and one Truenamer (she's planning on going into Fiendbinder (making it Truenamer friendly), and will have a custom-made unique devil at her command (counts as "half a PC," as I like to say)), I'd think that they don't have much of a chance. In my mental plan of the campaign, they might have a couple of low-level NPCs assisting them at the time, but they're likely to get wiped out early in the fight.

Opinions? Suggestions?

Edit: The campaign world is a medium-low magic setting. In my own words, divine magic is the most common, but still rare (when NPCs say "cleric," they're most likely to be referring to a normal, non-magical priest); magic is uncommon. There are arcane schools, but they're for the rich, and few such schools exist. Magic is still vibrant on other planes, however.

In short, they might have a magic weapon each, which would most likely be a gift from a divine power. Overall ability won't be less than a party in a "normal" game universe.

2009-01-18, 09:08 PM
No healing in the party? Much fun ...

2 level 12 melee NPCs vs 3 level 8-10 PCs who are horribly undergeared, yeah the fighter will die, unless he is a cheesed out spiked chain tripper/disarmer. I'd make both of those opponents a little more mobile (4 levels of scout?) so they have the option to go after the soft targets instead of just focusing on the poor fighter.

PS. you are aware you are screwing both the fighter and the truenamer horribly with the low gearing? The skill bonus items are required for the truenamer to stay playable at higher levels and melee characters are very gear dependent ...

2009-01-18, 09:25 PM
PS. you are aware you are screwing both the fighter and the truenamer horribly with the low gearing? The skill bonus items are required for the truenamer to stay playable at higher levels and melee characters are very gear dependent ...

It was a decision I made before they chose their characters. I was planning on them having access to magical items after this point in the plot, and I'm going to quickly level them up from level 3 up until this point... The use of Binder and Truenamer is a first experience for most of us, and as for the fighter... He knew what he was getting into.

Honestly, if there's one person that I'll focus on, it'll be the Binder. He knows this is coming, and even suggested that I revive the Brothers Jack... He's also a good friend of mine, and we often discus our campaigns with each other, so there's also a good amount of trust between us.

2009-01-18, 09:46 PM
Well since the Truenamer is a first, be warned that their casting requires skill checks with DCs based on CR ... DCs balanced only when the characters actually have an amulet of the silver tongue at appropriate levels. So that one magic weapon you are giving them, I'd make it give the Truenamer a bonus to Truename checks.

At level 10 the binder will be pretty much untoucheable to these guys, because he gets flight. Before level 10 he can get invisibility, gaseous form etc. Unless he doesn't play the class competently or if they one shot him he is not going down.

2009-01-18, 10:14 PM
If you need one player to die, but not two - I suggest giving these guys a hidden weakness that you drop hints about as you go. You start dropping the obvious ones after the first person dies, so that presumably they take advantage of it just when it is too late for that person but still very applicable to the rest of them. Ideally, the weakness should be one that is exposed by the actual act of killing the player. In some cases, you can decide not to trigger this easy out if the PCs do better than expected. How to do this is harder to figure out, but here are some ideas:
-These guys lose their Devoted Defender abilities or a lot of their AC when they are attacking. Therefore, PCs should ready an action to counterattack when they are attacked. In this, you could have the killed PC get a "death throes" counterattack that is pretty successful or you could describe how exposed the NPC is when he goes to deliver the killing blow or you could describe the killed PC taking off a piece of the armor of the NPC which is only exposed as he attacks.
-One of the PCs is religious but not a cleric. One of the NPCs is a vampire. As the vampire goes to deliver the final blow to the religious PC, the religious PC pulls out a holy symbol (say a necklace charm) and prays for his/hers soul's salvation. The vampire NPC staggers backwards and the other NPC quickly realizes what is happening in the confusion and steps in to kill the PC. There happens to be a convenient mechanism to expose the vampire to sunlight or running water which makes the battle much easier (to make it even easier, don't give the NPC vampire stats and just decide that the vampire is whichever one has more hp when the PC dies). Needless to say, you might have to work some of this out with the PC that you chose to die beforehand.
-One (or more) of the NPCs is vulnerable to loud noises (you should describe this one as wearing a thick helmet). When the PC dies, he/she cries out and in doing so incapacitates the NPC with the sensitive hearing (clasping ears, maybe blood running down the nose). From there, it is a much easier fight (again, if you decide to make it ambiguous beforehand you can have the stronger one be the one who is incapacitated by sound).
-One of the PCs has a hidden power. When he/she dies, it releases a power explosion or a spiritual ancestor that takes out one or both of the NPCs. Certainly all the PCs will be stunned, and this is your next big plot hook (besides the whole Baator thing).
-The PCs fight the NPCs either in a wooden building or a bridge. In the former case, you need to make sure the PCs are carrying torches or lanterns; in the latter case, you need to make sure the fight remains on it. If the PCs don't think of burning down the building or cutting the bridge (as appropriate) have this accidentally occur when a PC dies (as the torch falls with the person or as a blade carries through to damage a bridge support). If you wish, the fight is rigged for it (there is oil in the floor cracks or that the bridge has evidence of sabotage). If the PCs do it, the battle separates but there is great danger to some of the PCs (burning alive or falling into the pit below) - if none of the PCs die before the fight begins that have the PCs fight the NPCs again or use another mechanism of character death. The NPCs set the trap, you can have either the NPCs do it accidentally and perish as a result or you can have the NPCs escape to become a much hated return-nemesis. In either case, the death should be epic and leave the character and (some of) his/her equipment quite finished.

2009-01-18, 10:50 PM
We're really not an optimizing kind of group. In fact, the original Brothers Jack used to be the extent of "overpowered" in our group (dual-wielding scythes/greatswords, thanks to version 3 Monkey Grip, TWF, and Twin Weapon Fighting (effectively Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting)). I think the Binder is looking into the Knight of the Sacred Seal PrC, but he might not go into it; he's a bit of a wild card in the long-run). Is is fairly intelligent, however, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did pull something like that off.

Honestly, I've already told him that there will be a certain time in the campaign that I will ask a favor from him, via a note. I won't ask for him to needlessly cause his character's death, but... Well, still. You do make a good point. As for the Truenaming items, I'll keep that in mind (really, thanks for the heads up). I wouldn't have known about that sort of thing if you hadn't mentioned it. I was thinking of giving these guys some special abilities, granted to them by the power of Chaos, since I'm having them as part of a demon & demon cultist force that besieges a LE city that happens to be very valuable to the infernal Archduke of Cania...

Well, Reaper has a high Initiative bonus, and Ripper has a very low Initiative bonus. I even realized a few years ago that having them move through 5-foot steps would be... well, it would limit their effectiveness. The PCs are going to notice that they'll stick together, and will probably take advantage of the separation of the two. I'm considering going as far as to make Ripper "take a 1" on his Initiative roll, which will almost guarantee that he'll he last (and, chances are, Reaper will be first). Reaper's the "brains" of the operation, with Riper being, in a sense, a lackey. He moves after Reaper moves. That was my intended weakness.

My good friend, the Binder, knows the capabilities of Devoted Defenders. Meta-wise, he'll know that's the best chance to strike. Even then, both Jacks only get a +2 dodge bonus to AC at 4th level of Devoted Defender, so it might not make a big difference, but they won't have to worry about getting counter-attacked, or hitting the wrong person, or getting their attack deflected.

If you look at raw stats, Reapers the most likely to die first. With their strategy, Ripper's got a decent chance of going down first (I'm considering getting rid of Combat Reflexes more and more for him...). If Ripper goes down, Reaper's got less of a chance of surviving. If Reaper goes down, I'll probably have him go into a rage from the death of his half-brother and start smashing everything in sight (including inanimate objects, if possible)...

In fact, if they fight in a building that has weak structural integrity, then... I might just have to borrow your idea, or at least use it as influence.

Actually, I'll consider all of your other ideas. Thanks. It makes disengaging the fight easier, rather than a "convince the remaining PCs to run for their lives." And more epic. My campaigns always need more epic...