View Full Version : [3.5] Evaluation of a Big Bad

2010-05-10, 07:53 AM
(Note: If you are currently playing in a tabletop campaign in which the phrases "Nethel's Lair", "freakishly tall", and "jade pyramid" are relevant, this thread probably is not for you.)

I've been running a campaign for a fair while now, and the PCs are reaching 12th level. They've been through a fairly long and hideously convoluted plot, mostly because I run the majority of the sessions on the fly, with vague ideas of what's going to happen. However, everything's starting to come to a head now, I've got a very good idea of what state the world is in, and what problems they're going to need to overcome.

One such problem is the figurehead of the bad guys' army, an Ancient Black Dragon they've thoroughly vexed. Specifically by killing his child, skinning the corpse, and selling it to make dragonhide armor while he was out. In any case, the details aren't too important so long as it is known that both he is aware of the party, and the party is aware of him. However, he believes (for good, logical reasons) that the party is invulnerable to Scrying and Divination magics of all kinds.

Unfortunately, I hit a snag here in that one of my players (the Whisper Gnome Druid) knows the rules a good deal better than I do - not to the point that it's bad for the session, I know the rules reasonably well, and am happy to have a better rules lawyer alongside me to give answers I'm not aware of. However, I certainly don't know all the Druid spells, and nor would I say I know all the options available to the party - they're pretty well-optimized though notably lack an arcane caster.

In any case, they'll be up against this Big Bad, but they'll have -lots- of time to research him, so they'll know almost all the relevant stats and abilities he's used in the past, being a famous figure and all.

So basically, what I wanted to ask was if there were any really obvious weaknesses I should address in the following character:

Nethelihidhaurokosh, Arch-Tyrant
Ancient Black Spellhoarding Spellstitched Phrenic Loredracolich
Huge Undead
Hit Dice: 31d12+186 (387 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 60ft; Fly 150ft (perfect), Swim 60ft.
Armor Class: 40 (-2 size, +32 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 40
Base Attack/Grapple: +31/+50
Attack: Bite +42 melee (2d8+11 plus 1d6 Cold, Paralysis 2d6 rounds (DC29 Fort negates))
Full Attack: +42/+37/+32/+27 bite (2d8+11 plus 1d6 Cold, Paralysis 2d6 rounds (DC29 Fort negates)), +40/+40 claw (2d6+5 plus etc), +40/+40 wing (1d8+5 plus etc), +40 tail slap (2d6+16 plus etc)
Space/Reach: 15ft/10ft (15ft bite)
Special Attacks: Breath weapon, control undead, darkness, corrupt water, plant growth, insect plague, crush, frightful presence, paralyzing gaze, paralyzing touch, spell-like abilities, psi-like abilities.
Special Qualities: Damage Reduction 10/Magic, 5/bludgeoning, 5/magic and silver, Blindsense 60ft, Undead Traits, Immune to Acid, Cold, Electricity, Polymorph, Poison, Mind-Affecting, Sleep, Paralysis, Srun, Disease, Death Effects, Critical Hits, non-lethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, massive damage, low-light vision, Spell Resistance 29, Power Resistance 41, Turn Resistance +2
Saves: Fort +17, Ref +21, Will +23
Abilities: Str 33, Dex 10, Con -, Int 26, Wis 19, Cha 26
Skills: Autohypnosis +14, Concentration +42, Craft: Arcanum +42, Decipher Script +32, Disable Device +34, Forgery +42, Intimidate +42, Knowledge: Arcana +42, Knowledge Geography +42, Knowledge: History +42, Knowledge Psionics +42, Knowledge: The Planes +42, Search +42, Sense Motive +38, Spellcraft: +47, Use Magic Device: +42
Feats: Multiattack, Practiced Spellcaster, Quicken Breath, Stand Still, Dimensional Jaunt, Power Attack, Flyby Attack, Adroit Flyby Attack, Leap Attack, Shock Trooper, Survivor's Luck, Unbelievable Luck
Environment: The Isle of Thanatos
Organization: Massive army.
Challenge Rating: -
Treasure: Enough.
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Advancement: Best not.

Breath Weapon: 20d4 acid, DC31
Frightful Presence DC31

Spell-Like Abilities:
Conviction 4/day, resurgence 4/day, divine insight 4/day, lion's charge 4/day, magic vestment 2/day, greater mage armor 2/day, freedom of movement 2/day, delay death 2/day, swift etherealness 2/day, dispelling breath 2/day, swift dimension door 1/day

Psi-Like Abilities: (as Phrenic (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/monsters/phrenicCreature.htm) template)

Wizard spellcasting, caster level 19. 6 0th, 8 1st, 8 2nd, 8 3rd, 8 4th, 7 5th, 5 6th level spells. Signature spells include Benign Transposition, Baleful Transposition, Scintillating Scales, Chain of Eyes, Scrying.

I can see a fair few obvious weaknesses (orbs of fire in particular) but without a dedicated arcane caster, that still ought to make for a reasonable-length fight, which the PCs will find difficult - and he's massively over-CRed for their level simply because they get to prepare like that. He's got immunities to a lot of the typical dragon-slayers (shivering touch is blocked by immunity to ability damage, and cold immunity :smallwink:) and save-or-die spells are weakened by his relatively okay saves (fort aside) as well as four immediate action resurgence effects, the immediate action psionic powers like empty mind, intellect fortress, and tower of iron will, plus those three saving throw rerolls from Survivor's Luck and Unbelievable Luck. There's a couple of dodgy feats in there that he doesn't qualify for, but that's what Rule 0 is for...

However, I have this horrid nagging feeling that I'm missing a really obvious weakness. So my question is - as an ECL 12 party, given this much information about this enemy, how would you go about mopping up the opposition?

The Glyphstone
2010-05-10, 10:12 AM
Hitting him in his Touch AC. Touch AC 8 is trivial to hit. Touch AC 40 is not. You need Scintillating Scales, from Spell Compendium - turns natural armor into a Deflection bonus.

Never mind, I misread your Spell-Like Ability list as your Spells Prepared list.

2010-05-10, 10:25 AM
Do you use the psionics is different variant? Because under transparency, his SR and PR take both take the higher value, I think.

Out of curiosity: Do you intend to use the Phrenic Fission?

2010-05-10, 10:47 AM
Aside from the Druid, what is the party composed of?

2010-05-10, 11:30 AM
When you say he "believes that the party is invulnerable to Scrying and Divination magics of all kinds" -- are they? With those mental stats, I would be reluctant to say he believes anything that's actually untrue, unless the apparent evidence is truly overwhelming and has no holes whatsoever in it.

Also, if he has a personal vendetta against the party, assume he has researched them every bit as thoroughly as they have researched him. If the party has any weaknesses that are evident from public knowledge of their past exploits, have him prepared to exploit these weaknesses just as they're trying to exploit his, especially if he knows when and/or where the ultimate confrontation will happen.

2010-05-10, 03:29 PM
Touch AC - it's a weakness, even with scintillating scales there's always the possibility of that being dispelled, which leaves him as you say with a massive weak spot. Would that be a decent use of his contingency option? Not really certain I want to get into craft contingent spell overkill, but I'm definitely inexperienced building the type of omni-prepared wizard assumed in so many threads. :smallredface:

SR/PR - Yes, that should ordinarily be the case so far as I am aware, but I was intending to make an exception here. SR 29 is pretty unforgiving at 12th-15th level, but SR 41 would simply be impossible. Would that be a bad plan? Obviously it weakens the creature, but is that likely to be overloaded and hit with something to one-shot end the fight?

Phrenic fission - Was intending to use it as a means to gain a disposable, hard-as-nails minion - usually for the purposes of attacking things powerful enough to resist the construct army he'll be working as a figurehead of, but which aren't powerful enough to merit the effort of actually going in person. Draconic arrogance, and whatnot.

Party Composition - I should have mentioned this in the first place! We have an on-again-and-off-again Rogue, who has amongst other things a variant allowing him to use Pathfinder sneak attack (i.e. it's usable against the Undead), a Crusader/Paladin-type who can do some rather nice things with White Raven, and a ranged archer-type with excellent defenses who tends to be around at the end to pull them out of messes. Plus the Druid, who is the one I'm actually worried about - the others have a set list of tricks I'll be anticipating - he's got three A4 sheets of spells and summons, of which I'm certain a few will be specifically designed to handle my encounter. :smallsmile:

Scrying & Divination - There are plot reasons for it, which I can get into if you like, but suffice it to say that I don't think it's a massive stretch for a Dragon to assume that if he has tried all his divination spells against a group of feeble humanoids who only just about managed to kill his whelp of a child, and none worked, they -must- be immune: why else would a mighty dragon be incapable? At the least, they have somewhere that grants them immunity, if not an outright immunity on their own. He also doesn't see them as a credible threat - yet. Without the research, I suspect they're not.

Thanks for all the replies! I'm getting so much I need to think about - which is definitely appropriate, since if I were Int 26 in real life and could do all the fore-thinking on my own, I'd probably be ruling supreme in a New World Order of some sort, rather than GMing a campaign. :smallwink:

2010-05-10, 04:49 PM
I have just sort of skimmed through the dragons stats but, uhh... couldn't the paladin just turn it? Like, if things start going badly, he's probably going to turn it, get the party healed up, than go tackle it again. Rinse and repeat. I might have missed something, in fact I'm pretty sure I did, but, hey, I'm just trying to help.

2010-05-10, 04:55 PM
I have just sort of skimmed through the dragons stats but, uhh... couldn't the paladin just turn it? Like, if things start going badly, he's probably going to turn it, get the party healed up, than go tackle it again. Rinse and repeat. I might have missed something, in fact I'm pretty sure I did, but, hey, I'm just trying to help.

A level 12 paladin isn't going to be able to turn a 31 HD undead dragon of doom.

You might make a cleric build that could do it. But it would be epic and twinked for turning alone, most likely.

2010-05-10, 05:10 PM
it has 31 HD, and I think the limit on turning is Cleric Level +4. So he will be unable to turn it, unless he invests heavily in items that add to his level for the purpose of turning.

I'm not aware of any druid methods to raise there CL for purpose of SR, so 29 should suffice.
There might be shenanigans to get other classes methods though - True Casting is Sor/Wiz 1 and adds 10 to the CL for purpose of beating SR for one round, and Assay Resistance does the same for 1 round/level.

Also, it would be nice if you pointed out where spellhoarding and loredracolich can be found. I don't remember for the first and haven't actually heard of the second.

2010-05-10, 05:25 PM
You can also stack Dragon Skin on top of normal Natural Armor, which becomes deflection with Scintillating Scales.

At first glance I'm not seeing any glaring weaknesses. However, a dragon of that age and power is not going to simply sit in a giant cave/swamp/whatever and wait for people to come over and kill it. It's going to have traps, and counter measures, and thralls, and servants, and quite probably kobolds worshiping it.

It should be a huge ordeal for them to even find this thing. (I didn't read your whole post, sorry if there was this already included)

Also, it would be nice if you pointed out where spellhoarding and loredracolich can be found. I don't remember for the first and haven't actually heard of the second.

I think he's just compounding Loredrake (Draconomicon) and Dracolitch (IDK, probably Draconomicon and/or Libris Mortis)

2010-05-10, 05:27 PM
Honestly, I think your bigger issue will be making it so the party can kill this thing. Rogue? Paladin? Ranger? I mean, if they want to play those classes... sure, whatever. But without having an entire optimized party (and even then!), I don't understand how they'd face this creature at all.

He has a bite attack which can hit anyone (+42? I've seen level 20 Gestalt characters who have less AC than that), deals long term Paralysis with a DC 29 save (unless they have really high saves or some form of immunity, that's going to be devastating), his full attack damage is absurd for someone their level, especially considering that he will- and yes, he will- hit every time. On top of this, they cannot outrun him (150ft perfect fly), they cannot hide from him (60ft blindsense, plus probably see invisibility and true seeing from being a wizard), and he's effectively a level 19 wizard. Also, he can cast as a 19th level wizard.

Did I mention he has 19th level wizard spells?

Seriously, that alone spells doom to your party unless you're giving them some kind of crazy benefit. I don't care if they've researched him, he's effectively 7 levels higher than them in the most potent class. Also, has the minor benefit of being a 31HD undead dragon.

Unless you play this thing like a pansy, it will not only win, it will crush them, destroy them, and make them die so hard they never existed in the first place.

2010-05-11, 05:22 AM
Okay, that's pretty much the response I was hoping for, so thanks a lot to everyone who read. :smallbiggrin:

For the templating issue, yes, I ought to have cited sources! Dracolich is in the Libris Mortis, Loredrake I am told is in many places, but I'm using what's in Dragons of Eberron, which is fairly brief. Spellhoarding is in a Dragon magazine, and thus probably best looked up on Crystal Keep - its main function here is simply changing the spellcasting from Sorceror to Wizard.

As for their chances of beating him - I would sincerely hope they intend to cast freedom of movement for the paralysis, and furthermore his caster level is 19, but that's only with Practiced Spellcaster - he'll be marginally better at spellasting than their ECL, but only three levels - that's managable. At least, to this party, I believe it is - and I know one of the players is a lot better than I am at tactics.

My plan, for what it's worth, would be to slap a few dispel magic spells out (SR: no) to be rid of Scintillating Scales, and then nuke from orbit with touch attacks. No resistance, even, to fire. But I shall wait to see what they do. :smallsmile:

Thanks again!

Lord Loss
2010-05-11, 05:27 AM
dracolich is in LM? What else is new? ( Out of curiosity, what page? I can't seem to find it?)

2010-05-11, 05:29 AM
As far as I can tell, Dracolich is in Draconomicon, not Libris Mortis.

2010-05-11, 05:33 AM
Its bite shouldn't have iterative attacks. Undead shouldn't get bonus hp, but just about every high-lv undead in age of worms got unholy grace, so don't see a problem there. :smallbiggrin:

To be honest, I think your dragon is way over-designed and overall just not very fun for the PCs, since it has quite a number of save-or-die abilities which they have to be immune to or it will be a veritable TPK. An ancient black is already a nigh-insurmountable fight, now you have one with wiz19 spellcasting, SLAs from spellstitched and loredrake?!?

You may want to consider rebuilding it using the xorvintaal template in MM5. Slap it on a normal dragon, give it some cheap magic gear from MIC to round out its options and let rip. :smallsmile:

Lord Loss
2010-05-11, 05:34 AM
As far as I can tell, Dracolich is in Draconomicon, not Libris Mortis.

Ah. That's what I thought. Does it also make an appearance in Forgotten Realms or Monsters of Faerun or am I mistaken?

2010-05-11, 05:52 AM
Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book (which is 3.0- the Draconomicon version is 3.5).

Monsters of Faerun doesn't have stats for dracoliches- but it does have stats for various other types. Archlich (humanoid, nonevil) Baelnorn (elven, nonevil) and Banelich (clerical).

2010-05-11, 07:38 AM
My plan, for what it's worth, would be to slap a few dispel magic spells out (SR: no) to be rid of Scintillating Scales,
Dispel magic on something with a significantly higher caster level, okay... and if he doesn't have Scintillating Scales prepared multiple times, he's just asking for it anyway. Anyway, this should reasonably take more than one turn, which is bad.

and then nuke from orbit
Somehow, I doubt you're going to get out of range of a dragon with 150ft perfect fly. 300ft charge in any direction, 600ft run... that's going to be longer range than most of your attacks, so even if you were faster, you'd not be able to get away if you wanted to attack it.

with touch attacks.
A Ray Deflection a day keeps the wizards away.
But wait, you don't have a wizard. You have a Druid.
So what SR: No touch attacks can he use?
Fire Seeds... and... nope, as far as I can see, just Fire Seeds.
That's approximately 54 damage per turn. If he hits, of course, and once he's gotten the Scintillating Scales down.
Presumably he could prepare some of these ahead of time and give them to his friends, too. Which could be a viable strategy...
Except it only lasts 2 hours, and he's not going to be able to cast more than 3 per day, unless he has a truly ridiculous Wisdom (and if he does, he gets 4 per day. Woohoo.)

So he can't even kill the thing with this strategy, even if he has a really, really high Wisdom score, all of the attacks hit, and he deals max damage (it comes up about 50hp short).

But then consider the fact that...

No resistance, even, to fire. But I shall wait to see what they do. :smallsmile:

Thanks again!

A creature who has 26 intelligence and 19 wisdom, who has survived ages and has significant levels in wizard.
Yet, he has no fire resistance, despite this being the only real area where he is defenseless.
All of my spellcasters prepare ways to get out of Energy Damage. If that's the only thing that can hurt this guy, why doesn't he do it? Even if he doesn't have it constantly active, he should have effects prepared to deal with it, if he's even a half as smart as you claim he is with those stats.
So the party maybe gets in 100 fire damage, then the guy kicks in his fire resistance and it goes downhill from there.

There are some other methods to damage him of course (mostly Sandstorm spells, from what I can see), but they will not be nearly fast enough to keep up with his ludicrous full attacks.

No, I'm pretty sure your party is screwed. Even if they use your strategy, and you play this guy as dumb, they just don't have enough resources.