View Full Version : Monster Usage in 3.5e

Neon Knight
2008-10-02, 08:23 AM
Since it's a question that can directly affect class balance and similar issues, I'd thought I'd ask the question that never seems to get asked:

In 3.5e, do you tend to use groups of weaker monsters, or lone, powerful monsters?

Feel free to answer for different level ranges if that affects your answer.

2008-10-02, 08:27 AM
Lone powerful monsters get owned hard and fast, unless they're really powerful, and - most importantly - have multiple attacks. Deepspawn work great; bullettes don't. Hydras tend to work nicely.

If the PCs can focus on a single enemy, it will go down very fast.

I prefer using small groups - something like 4-6 - of medium-powered enemies, or larger groups (up to 10-20) supporting a few more powerful individuals.

2008-10-02, 08:28 AM
Eh, the more, the merrier. That said, some creatures need to be "alone" like Dragons - sure, they'll have their thralls and Leadershipped cohorts, bit those are a "part" of the Dragon as they're Dragon's class features. But yea, some climatic final battles I do run with solo monsters if the monster is sufficiently buffed, has sufficient magic access and has circumstances somewhat alleviating the PCs' action economy superiority.

Other than that, I mostly use numbers whenever possible (save for monsters that specifically state they should appear solo, and sometimes lone "guardian beast" or something similar; intelligent opponents are used in numbers whenever possible so that group tactics come into play).

2008-10-02, 09:23 AM
Another vote for big groups. Single monsters either go down quickly or take the players down quickly, depending on the dice rolls. I don't like luck to be so influential in a combat.

Also, I'm from pre-3.0 DMing, so I'm used to having big groups of monsters, which may not be of what is now thought of as appropriate power. Sometimes it's just fun to swarm a party with lots of little things. Also, I think a group allows more use of tactics, and things like morale - on both sides. The party can use hit-and-run tactics, knowing that they are weakening the enemy even if they don't kill everyone on the first try.

2008-10-02, 09:23 AM
I grew up on Final Fantasy, so I have a bad habit of using monsters that way: random encounters and set encounters are usually groups (or one tricky beast) and climactic battles are almost always "Boss Fights" against a solo baddie.

That said, I am learning. My... "minibosses" usually have minions, turf advantage, preset buffs or all of the above, and if the "Boss" is a humanoid or other intelligent planner, I often hand over advantageously placed minions.

That said, sometimes the single monster is all you need. Half-fiend 8 HD krenshar made for a vicious low-level boss monster all on its own.

2008-10-02, 10:17 AM
While groups of monsters are easier to balance, I prefer using big deadly solo monsters when I can, because it tends to make for more epic fights. Killing one giant monster is generally more satisfying for the PCs then killing six medium ones, even if the six medium ones were tougher as a whole.

The problem with group fights is that they tend to produce lengthly "cleanup-and-chase" phases, where you get 3 rounds of exciting combat, then 6 rounds finishing off the no-longer-threatening remaining enemies and chasing down the ones trying to run away.

Probably the best compromise I've found is "leader and servants" - one big guy and a bunch of bodyguards. Having the bodyguards go down first and the leader last keeps the fight exciting right to the end.

- Saph

2008-10-02, 12:05 PM
Both! They pose different challenges and opportunities and call for different tactics. Large groups of greeskins or other humanoids of whatever challenge, while each one may go down easier, have the potential to take more resources (particularly at low to mid levels), and can wear away at the group's hp gradually. They allow the player to make more use of large group tactics and sneak attack, flanking, the cleave feats, etc. A large foe that takes or deals massive amounts of damage often requires even more cooperation, is more immediately threatening on a round by round basis, etc.

Both can leave the players with a huge sense of success: "Wow! Did you see how many goblins the four of us killed?" "Man! We just killed an adult red dragon!"

2008-10-02, 12:52 PM
I prefer groups of mid-difficulty enemies. Lots of weak ones are barely a challenge, and big heavy ones can get taken down quickly with focused attacks and flanks.

2008-10-03, 06:38 AM
Both, but few monster can stand alone for a long time (even dragons).

If the monster is alone, i tend to give him some starting advantage, and to give him the knowledge of the terrain to use it at best.


- A LOT of weak creatures, generally humanoids whit different class. I add ranged weapons, alchemical stuff or similar things to make some bad surprise to the players (keeping in mind wealth). The way they approach the PCs, terrain first, is very imortant

- many creatures and few big ones. the weaker are fodder cannon, and strategies are based to the bigger ones. Anyway, if player ignore the small ones, I focus. I try to use combination of reach/non-reach melee weapons (or natural reach of bigger creatures) to nuke.

- a couple of fairly powerful creatures, better whit high mobility. They attack alternatively if they can stike and regenerate or heal away, otherwise focus to nuke a target

- an unusual creature with higher mobility (teleport or such) able to do few damage but not easy to block. I use it tu create situations where the players are not in actual danger, but people (or stuff) they care are.

-creature (boss?), alone or +adds or +few powerful adds (iconic stupid powerful attendant? :smallwink:)

The amount of spellcasters or creatuers whit spell-like and supernatural abilities vary by the campaign. Strategies whit spell should be coherent with above, but magic is unpredictable..

2008-10-03, 08:32 AM
Both can leave the players with a huge sense of success: "Wow! Did you see how many goblins the four of us killed?" "Man! We just killed an adult red dragon!"

Very true. But multiple enemies can lead to good DM-fun moments. In my group we use pennies for monsters and 2ps for large monsters. It's always good to rummage around in the penny box and then ask 'Have we got any more 2ps?', just for look on the players' faces :)

Kaiyanwang - very good list of examples

2008-10-06, 07:40 AM
Thanks. I only try to make my player's gaming life a neverending nightmare :smallbiggrin:

2008-10-06, 07:48 AM
i use both , but i like using lots of weak creatures better.