View Full Version : Balancing Bosses

Business Scrub
2014-01-07, 12:21 PM
Greetings Playground!

I'm going to run a campaign where the PC's, (and only the PC's) are gestalt. To compensate for this, they will either fight more or higher level NPCs. However, the plot revolves around them taking out 6 monsters that I'm making.

They will typically fight these monsters alone, and I'm having a bit of trouble deciding what CR I should base them around.

A PC party of 6 gestalt characters will be facing one at levels 3, 6, 10, 12, 15, and 20.

Going by the SRD, I'm making a monster at the party's level + 1, to account for the extra 2 PC's, +2 because they are gestalt, +1 for being a boss, and therefore harder than normal.

Problem is, this is the first gestalt campaign I've ever run, so I don't know how much more to expect from PCs. Can 6 level 3 gestalts realistically take down a CR 7, and so on?

Frog Dragon
2014-01-07, 04:46 PM
Firstly, I don't think this belongs in "homebrew design". You probably want the 3.5 sub-board.

A lot depends on the optimization level of the PCs in question. Gestalts may either be dramatically more powerful than normal characters (For example, Factotum//Wizard) or only slightly better (Fighter//Monk). Gestalts are typically more resilient than normal characters, particularly compared to casters, but I still see this coming down to an artillery duel which they may or may not be able to handle.

There's a twofer of factors that will probably cause these bosses to one-shot your PCs with alarming frequecy. Firstly, there are a lot of PCs. While they do have a lot of offense, the individual defenses of a level 3 character are going to be very lackluster compared to the offense of a CR 7 creature. With the gestalt adding 2 to the CR, you're left with even more glass-cannony fighting because while gestalts are good, a third level gestalt typically can't muster the tankiness of a fifth level normal character.

Whether they can take a CR7 down depends on builds (do they have classes that compliment each other, without running into the theurge problem of only having one action to attack with each round?) but they probably can. The 6 to 1 action advantage will take down your bosses very quickly. The only problem for the party is taking the boss out before the boss' offense kills one or more of the party members, which it will likely be capable of doing in one hit.

I recommend toning down individual bosses. Is it absolutely necessary for them to be fighting the PCs solo? If you weakened the bosses and gave them mooks, you'd remove the offensive overkill that one-shots PCs while also removing the PCs ability to completely destroy the encounter in one round of massed attacks.

2014-01-08, 06:00 AM
My advice would be to design the bosses around three principles:

- They need to break the action economy to be an interesting fight. Its better for them to be able to attack two separate people for 10 damage each than one person for 20 damage. I would just outright give them a third type of action (a self-buff or battlefield effect or something - but specifically a multi-target focused effect) that they can do at the end of each round, and then make them a little weaker to compensate.

- If these six bosses are the spine of your campaign, then make them focus on doing something to the PCs that lasts longer than a single fight. Maybe the 1st guy inflicts a point of 'Dread Fate' on each PC it manages to hit during the fight. The 2nd boss then has a bonus to hit people equal to the amount of Dread Fate they have accumulated. The 3rd boss deals extra damage equal to their Dread Fate, the 4th boss has some aura effect and PCs take a Dread Fate penalty to their saves against it, and so on. This way, even if the party is more powerful than one of the bosses, they have to take them seriously since fighting the enemy efficiently is important, not just winning. It also will make the PCs really nervous about those particular fights, since accumulating some sort of permanent damage is a very scary thought to most players.

- Make the bosses a bit more defense-heavy than offense-heavy. Perhaps give them one very nasty attack, but have it be very constrained (the last attack in their Full Attack sequence deals 3x damage, or their AoOs deal 3x damage, or whatever) so that the party can purposefully try to avoid it. Ideally the defenses should be things that can be disabled, and act as a sort of meta-hitpoints for the boss. For example, the boss has a 50% miss chance based on being able to micro-teleport around all the time, but the boss can't micro-teleport when holding/attached to another corporeal object (so you just have to grapple the boss/hit him with a paint bomb/etc to disable the miss chance).