View Full Version : Setting up cool boss fights

2015-09-12, 11:36 AM
This is both system and setting independent.

How do you set up cool boss fights? Do you have warm memory of boss fights you've fought or set up before?

Because obviously, just setting up larger-than-usual enemy with with four time the usual hitpoint and two time the damage get boring soon.

If you need a bit of context, I'm planning a campaign that's set around fighting "boss" enemy often, and I'd like to hear some examples or ideas.

I'm not saying what system I'm going to use or what's the setting going to be on purpose, because it's not relevant and might limit the idea I'm getting. But one thing I can say is, go nuts. Mobility of the players won't be a problem, and I think I'm sure I can adapt any idea into the system and setting.

2015-09-12, 03:01 PM
I can't believe that no one replied to this.

I was really looking forward to getting some good ideas.

2015-09-12, 03:02 PM
I've tried doing this once, and I learned a few thigns from it.
1) Use the environment. Don't just rely on your players beating the living snot out of the monster. If it's big, give it extra health and add a few tools the players can use (pits, cannons, bludgeons, etc). Smaller enemies are fine too, make a horde and give them some room to move around in (pits, tunnels, low walls).

2) Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Several smaller foes are harder to fight than one big guy. If you are setting up one monster, give him some smaller minions to harry the heroes.

3) Don't limit the ways to beat the boss. Let the players find different angles. Pushing him off a cliff should be as valid as peppering him with arrows.

4) Don't give him obscure weaknesses. Nothing frustrates players more than not having the right tool for the job.

2015-09-12, 03:11 PM
Using traps can be pretty fun, as are dynamic environments. They can turn even a mundane environment into an exciting combat arena!

Take for example a combat I ran with a demon who lured the PC's into a clearing in front of a barn surrounded by wheat fields. The clear areas consisted of wheat stalks flattened down in a circle around a central patch of standing wheat. He addressed the PC's while standing on some stacked crates behind the central wheat patch to goad them into attacking. Several bear traps were hidden beneath the flattened wheat stalks and he utilized fire magic to set the central patch on fire before entering to buff/heal himself, relying on his fire immunity to keep the PC's away. Several other demons came in from the surrounding field. This is a fairly low-level encounter too, about level 3.

Another is in a central location in a huge sewer system where the water collects and is distributed to other areas. It makes up a bowl-shaped arena with the central area consisting of deep, swirling water (which hides a zombie shark under command of the thief leader), and the central 'island' holds a water control lever that directs water from set areas in the walls (effectively immobilizing opponents caught in the water, or pushing them into the water at the zomshark's mercy).

Basically, try to keep the "you walk into a room and see the boss!" to a minimum. Get creative with environments, end even mundane monster encounters can take on new life. Try to include things like weather, line of sight, cover, civilians, etc.

2015-09-12, 04:06 PM
In addition to the environment, description and mood-setting are vital. Give your players something to remember the boss by, whether personality, physical description, unique or unusual gameplay mechanics, or just the story buildup to the fight.

An epic monologuer, a giant towering hellbeast that looks like living gothic architecture, someone with a fun and unique challenge, or a major villain the players have been lookingforward to killing for weeks or months can all be very memorable.

2015-09-12, 04:09 PM
Make the boss unbeatable in a single go. Consider this a follow-up point to the idea of: "Don't just let your players smack him around until he's dead".

Make the set-up to the fight as important-- maybe even more important, than the fight itself. Perhaps at the beginning, the boss is too strong to fight head on. Maybe your party even has to run away. As the boss chases them, through the collapsing temple, maybe some rubble crashes down on it, damaging its protective hide. The party slams the giant stone door in its face, and it chips its talons trying to break the door down.

By the time the party is finally out of places to run, the creature has been worn down by the chase to a level the party can defeat it head on.


I remember a "boss fight" in my Dark Heresy campaign against an Ork Nob. The Nob himself was not the hard part-- though he was quite difficult, as we'd been stripped of our gear and had to make do with improvised weapons. The hard part was that the Nob was accompanied by about fifteen other Orks, a Mekboy, and several attack squigs. Most of the "battle" was not dice rolling and attacking, but in finding ways to separate the Nob from his giant horde long enough for us to get the drop on him. Even picking the fight with the Nob was important, as figuring out how to get the drop on him was important (obviously running at his face wasn't going to work out very well).

In this way, the boss battle wasn't just: "Roll initiative, now roll your attacks", the prelude, the preparation and the set-up was as important as the boss battle itself.

Incidentally, the Nob STILL almost killed two of us, and was only finally brought down by my character getting an insane double righteous fury, and splitting the damn guy in half with a poor quality short sword.

Scarlet Dragon
2015-09-13, 01:27 AM
(Please excuse my use of the 0 key in place of the o my keyboard is acting up and I don't feel like using my touchscreen every five seconds to type an o)

In a campaign I was in a while back we were expl0ring this temple 0f snake pe0ple and came acr0ss a giant skull 0f s0me ancient snake that had str0ng magical pr0perties that they had enshrined. L0ng st0ry sh0rt we made 0ff with the giant skull and c0ntinued 0n 0ur adventure. We adventually came acr0ss a kind 0f p0rtal t0 all the elemental planes 0f existence which altered pretty much anything that was thr0wn int0 it in s0me pretty strange ways and being the curi0us gr0up we were, we experimented heavily with this phen0men0n such as:
-There were several creatures made 0f practically any kind 0f material 0r substance inhabiting this cave, scuttle crabs made 0f steel, butterflies made 0f fire, flying manta rays made 0ut 0f plant leaves, etc
-the character I was playing accidentally fell in and 0ut came tw0 identical characters which happened t0 freak 0ut 0ne 0f the 0ther party members and they threw 0ne 0f them back in which turned that c0py int0 the 0pp0site gender and turned t0 st0ne (needless t0 say we eventually returned them t0 flesh and I g0t t0 play b0th 0f them but I refrained fr0m playing b0th in the same scene if c0mbat were a p0ssibility).
-An0ther character willing jumped in and became infused with elemental p0wers
- We threw in a c0mbinati0n 0f weap0ns and 0ut p0pped a fused weap0n that still w0rked. I think the weirdest 0f these was a cr0ssb0w that sh0t 0ut self replenishing b0lts that we c0uld plant and gr0w int0 identical cr0ssb0ws that did the same thing
- 0ccasi0nally things we threw in w0uld c0me 0ut as an expl0si0n

But anyways I digress, we eventually decided several in game m0nths later that we sh0uld thr0w the giant snake skull in t0 the p0rtal just t0 see what w0uld happen and 0ut came a fully rec0nstituted snake g0d avatar that we had pissed 0ff s0meh0w (it c0uldn't have been because we had ransacked its f0ll0wers temple 0r that we previ0usly had rebuffed all 0f the g0ds attempts at making us int0 their pawns 0r anything like that). We then had an epic impr0mptu fight with the avatar that 0ur DM had never intended f0r us t0 actually fight. If I remember c0rrectly it nearly killed my character bef0re we managed t0 escape the initial terrifying entrance and had t0 telep0rt away t0 gain a small respite t0 gather 0ur wits bef0re it caught back up t0 us. We eventually defeated the creature but 0nly after a series 0f skirmishes 0f cat and m0use type antics bef0re we finally were able t0 devise a means 0f turning the tables.

The main thing I am trying t0 say here is that a chance enc0unter with a b0ss can be just as fun if n0t m0re terrifying than a planned enc0unter. Mayhaps make an enc0unter table and place a small chance 0f s0me b0ss level creature happening acr0ss the players it sh0uld make an interesting experience when the characters try t0 decide if they sh0uld try t0 parley with it, run in terr0r (I mean retreat t0 a m0re tactical l0cati0n), 0r attempt t0 fight it right then and there.

0ur DM at the time was always placing terrifying creatures in vari0us places ar0und the w0rld that were 0ften as n0t 0ur 0wn fault f0r even c0ming acr0ss them. 0ne example 0f a creature way bey0nd 0ur p0werlevel was this 0ne time we came acr0ss a l0cked d00r that clearly stated "DANGER D0 N0T 0PEN" and we decided t0 take a peak inside and we 0nly managed t0 acc0mplish that by being very unlucky with the r0lls (we succeeded 0n 0pening the d00r), and 0nly managed t0 survive by fast talking the creature int0 letting us g0 and being extremely lucky with the dice and then 0nly barely managing t0 have it agree that we weren't w0rth it's time.