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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    I'm running a campaign with 3 gestalt characters, one of which has gone incantatrix. They're in the midlevels right now, 10 or 11 I think. The constant persistent spell abuse means the steam roll a lot of encounters, but it also means that about a third of the party's spells are used up in the beginning of the day.

    Challenging them isn't hard- I've almost killed them a half dozen times. The problem is throwing challenges at them that make sense and don't kill them due to their lack of disintegrate or a Balor's blasphemy spell. Right now, I've just been making really optimized NPCs, but that is time consuming, and the fact that they all happen to use the same repertoire of spells to thwart the PCs bothers me, as a DM. OTOH, what sort of dragon WOULDN'T use scintillating scales? Also, I have a tendency to send non-gestalt monsters with more spell casting levels than they have at them, like a 13th level minotaur cleric. They handled it fine, and as an NPC, it made sense. But later, how am I going to explain the existence of uber-powerful NPCs wandering around like bumpkins? Do it like Faerun?

    Any non-caster NPCs get shredded, unless they have spells backing them up, since the HiPS rogue with wraithstrike & blur effects bypasses armor. This isn't a problem in and of itself- I'd just like to have a reason for NPCs to wear fullplate and be badasses in heavy armor. Even with full fortification or being undead, the rogue's damage bonuses and crapton of attacks adds up fast, and with wraithstrike, he only need hit a 3 or 4. In other words, if wraithstrike exists in my world, as do lots of powerful casters (which they do), how do I make fullplate attractive for anyone? I don't want to toss out a staple of fantasy archetypes for stupid mechanical reasons. I've already ruled that wraithstrike counts as incorporeal touch attacks for some purposes (namely mage armor), would making special ghost touch armor for important NPCs (ie, anyone that can afford it and doesn't want to get shanked by someone with a level 2 wand) be to anti-rogue?

    Now, I have a few solutions.
    The first is just to build gestalt NPCs that are very powerful- killer gnomes and the like. These will follow the rules. The problem here is my time investment, as well as the fact that there are mini-caster deities running around everywhere.

    The second is to use brutal, under CR'd monsters with either gestalt PC levels or PC levels at the end. The problem is finding the monsters, inserting them sensibly into the campaign setting thus far, as well XP considerations*.

    The third solution is a combination of the first two, but disregarding prereqs for PRC and feats. So I could have a level 10 NPC with all 10 levels in PRC which it doesn't meet the prereq for. I feel bad about doing this, as D&D forums have made me feel bad about this sort of DMing. This would be less work, though, since I wouldn't have to care about as much BS.

    My last solution would be to just scrap the rules for making monsters and giving them saves/attacks/ac that the PCs can make a set % of the time. In other words, I build challenges around what the PCs have on their char sheets. Other than the amount of work involved, I would feel even worse about doing this than #3.


    Thanks!


    *XP, how do I do it? My initial goal was just to give xp based on the listed (or calculated) CR of what they fought, but I've had too much PC growth in terms of levels. This shouldn't be a problem, since I run relatively freeform, sandbox stuff, with a loosely connected set of (what I think are) sweet encounters and locations, but gaining a level after each encounter and/or session pretty much keeps me from planning more than one session in advance.

    Should I just ad hoc, and just give them, after any encounter, a fraction of xp required to get to the next level? A hard encounter gives 1/3 xp, a moderate gives 1/6 xp, and easy encounters give 1/12?

  2. - Top - End - #2

    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Encounter: 2 enemy casters, 2 enemy psychic warriors.

    Surprise round, enemy is already buffed:

    Caster 1: Chained(by rod) Disjoin, remove buffs.

    Psychic Warriors: Dimension strike to the party. One activate null-psionics field, the other grappling the incantrix.

    Caster 2: Forcecage around the party, containing the psychic warriors.

    Following rounds: Psychic warriors (heck, soublades might be useful here, since they can keep their blades in the amf), attack targets.

    Casters use that metamagic feat that lets the spells "bounce" through obstacles via the astral plane, to cast orbs.

    If the forcecage goes down, the casters use celerity to bring it back up. If the amf goes down, the psychic warriors re-manifest it.





    Other ideas:

    Enemy casters attack. They all use invisible spell metamagic, along with still, silent and spell thematics. The party has to make successful checks just to notice they are under attack. Determining who in the area is attacking them is even more difficult.


    Keep pressing them. Give them no chance to rest and restore spell slots. Harrass them constantly. When they use rope trick/ mansion/whatever, the BBEG has his army camp their spawn.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Quote Originally Posted by quick_comment View Post
    Encounter: 2 enemy casters, 2 enemy psychic warriors.

    Surprise round, enemy is already buffed:

    Caster 1: Chained(by rod) Disjoin, remove buffs.

    Psychic Warriors: Dimension strike to the party. One activate null-psionics field, the other grappling the incantrix.

    Caster 2: Forcecage around the party, containing the psychic warriors.

    Following rounds: Psychic warriors (heck, soublades might be useful here, since they can keep their blades in the amf), attack targets.

    Casters use that metamagic feat that lets the spells "bounce" through obstacles via the astral plane, to cast orbs.

    If the forcecage goes down, the casters use celerity to bring it back up. If the amf goes down, the psychic warriors re-manifest it.
    If I wanted to wipe the party with 17th/18th level casters chain disjoining and using force effects the party can't remove, sure, that strategy is great. But that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid, as it tends to be so bloody easy.

    Your suggestion to use psychic warriors is a good one. I should use more gishes.





    Enemy casters attack. They all use invisible spell metamagic, along with still, silent and spell thematics. The party has to make successful checks just to notice they are under attack. Determining who in the area is attacking them is even more difficult.
    I've done that one. Had a banelor (which is an INCREDIBLE monster) firing invisible magic missiles at them, which, combined with arcane thesis & empower & maximize, did a lot of damage. It's a good one, though, esp. combined with arcane thesis.

    Keep pressing them. Give them no chance to rest and restore spell slots. Harrass them constantly. When they use rope trick/ mansion/whatever, the BBEG has his army camp their spawn.
    That's one thing I like about gestalt, is that the characters have a lot of endurance. The wizard, when he's out of spells, is still a factotum, the cleric still has full BAB and a big hammer, and the rogue is still a rogue. Anyway, when they do take a long time to take down a BBEG, it always gets tougher, since he learns their tactics and beings planar binding/calling in favors. So going nova, then taking a 24 hour break is fairly well discouraged.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Specifically for full plate working against Wraithstrike, the feat Deflective Armor in Races of Stone makes the armor bonus (including any enhancement) of any heavy armor you wear count for touch AC. It's a psionic feat, but that just means Wild Talent is a prerequisite for anyone who doesn't dip a psionic class or have a psionic race. The feat Parrying Shield in Lords of Madness does the same thing for shields and has no prerequisites. There's another feat that does it for shields in the PHBII, but that one has a prerequisite and some additional effects. It would break verisimilitude to have everyone using these feats, but they would work quite well as an occasional surprise.

    For the general solution, I have an intense dislike for your third and fourth options. It's ok imo to build challenges around the PCs the some extent, but it should be done following the rules.

    If you're just doing a bunch of essentially random, unassociated, yet coincidentally level appropriate encounters, I don't think there's any good way to make that work without just deciding that there are a lot of high level characters in your campaign world.

    There are, I think, two reasonable ways to explain high frequency of high level challenges: a) high level characters are Just That Common; b) some organization or plot is actively gathering high level characters for some nefarious purpose and the PCs are interfering. Option a sounds like it doesn't appeal to you, so you need to come up with something for option b. Extraplanar members and aid to the nefarious organization is one obvious explanation for where a lot of the power is coming from, though you may certainly come up with others.

    Basically, you need to set up a Myth Arc with some serious power behind it, then accept that challenges not involving that will rarely actually challenge the party. In a world without tons of high level optimized characters and monsters, significant combat at high levels should actually be fairly rare. Shift the game away from a heavy combat focus and more into investigation and social interactions if you can. Let them curb stomp things regularly if they feel like it, maybe even let them get used to it, all the while dropping hints about the grand conspiracy. The contrast between their regular easy victories and the challenge of finding and eventually fighting the real villains should help make it especially memorable.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    just take away some of their advantages...

    oh your rogue also casts spells?
    he probably sucks in a grapple

    your fighter is also a cleric?
    when he walks through the door in the dungeon he triggers a trap that causes the door to close, leaving the skill monkey to get it open, and him to fend off a couple of flesh golems.

    all you have to do is think about their individual weaknesses, and poke at them.

    gestualt characters aren't deific, they just have a couple more bases covered than most, and remember that when you are building encounters. just be glad that they dont have an army of undead thanks to an evil cleric in the party.

    and remember, when you don't want them to carry something off, encase it in stone.
    sometimes you just want to play something completely overpowered and kill things, other times you want to play a bard with a point-buy 18...

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    They're not high enough level to take on the Emerald Legion, but you could start leading them up to it. In a few more levels, bam! Voidmind Half-Dragon Trolls or whatever the template is. Now they need to find the Illithids making them and put an end to the factory, which won't be an easy task.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    Specifically for full plate working against Wraithstrike, the feat Deflective Armor in Races of Stone makes the armor bonus (including any enhancement) of any heavy armor you wear count for touch AC. It's a psionic feat, but that just means Wild Talent is a prerequisite for anyone who doesn't dip a psionic class or have a psionic race. The feat Parrying Shield in Lords of Madness does the same thing for shields and has no prerequisites. There's another feat that does it for shields in the PHBII, but that one has a prerequisite and some additional effects. It would break verisimilitude to have everyone using these feats, but they would work quite well as an occasional surprise.
    Oh wow, that's great. Thank you.

    For the general solution, I have an intense dislike for your third and fourth options. It's ok imo to build challenges around the PCs the some extent, but it should be done following the rules.
    Well, there's either a) arbitrarily adding HD to monsters until they have the feats I want, or b) just giving them the feats I want. I do believe I'm going to start giving NPCs levels in PrCs that they don't meet the prereqs for. This is so they have the right flavor and suite of abilities (as well as novelty for the metagamers in my group) without being level 15. On the other hand, my NPCs need to be about level 15 to make their saves or have enough HP. I was thinking about just giving everything ten fighter levels. So I would build a level 14 lich wizard, then give it 10 fighter levels on top of that. That way it wouldn't get ubercharged, etc.

    If you're just doing a bunch of essentially random, unassociated, yet coincidentally level appropriate encounters, I don't think there's any good way to make that work without just deciding that there are a lot of high level characters in your campaign world.
    I think, unfortunately, you are correct.

    There are, I think, two reasonable ways to explain high frequency of high level challenges: a) high level characters are Just That Common; b) some organization or plot is actively gathering high level characters for some nefarious purpose and the PCs are interfering. Option a sounds like it doesn't appeal to you, so you need to come up with something for option b. Extraplanar members and aid to the nefarious organization is one obvious explanation for where a lot of the power is coming from, though you may certainly come up with others.

    Basically, you need to set up a Myth Arc with some serious power behind it, then accept that challenges not involving that will rarely actually challenge the party. In a world without tons of high level optimized characters and monsters, significant combat at high levels should actually be fairly rare. Shift the game away from a heavy combat focus and more into investigation and social interactions if you can. Let them curb stomp things regularly if they feel like it, maybe even let them get used to it, all the while dropping hints about the grand conspiracy. The contrast between their regular easy victories and the challenge of finding and eventually fighting the real villains should help make it especially memorable.
    This is a great idea, and to a large extent, I'm already doing it. Sort of. My players don't like sandbox that much- most of them are WoW players, they look for golden exclamation marks above NPCs and whatnot. I've started making up reasons why there's a black dragon here, or what this is doing there, or whatever, so they can follow a storyline as opposed to making their own. If you've read MM4 or MM5, there's a sort of game that dragons play like chess, except with the campaign world as the back ground. That is playing a major role so far, since it can pretty much explain anything, like why an extraplanar tarrasque might be marauding. Dragons also make excellent opponents, since they get good saves, HD, feats, spells, attacks, stats, and there are so many supplements out there for them.

    Devils and mind flayers are also really great behind the scenes villains, and make perfect sense to be optimized to the teeth.

    Also, this campaign is very kick in the door and smash faces. I'm not that good at doing dialogue or interactive story exposition. I wish I had another DM that was good at that sort of stuff. Elaborate story arcs and brutal monsters I can do; actually having it all explained IC gives me a lot of trouble. I'm going to start having to write pre-scripted stuff down if we change tone to less "bludgeon the crap out of it".

    Quote Originally Posted by bobspldbckwrds View Post
    just take away some of their advantages...

    oh your rogue also casts spells?
    he probably sucks in a grapple
    He would, if he didn't have umpteen ranks escape artist and a persisted freedom of movement up.

    your fighter is also a cleric?
    when he walks through the door in the dungeon he triggers a trap that causes the door to close, leaving the skill monkey to get it open, and him to fend off a couple of flesh golems.
    Or the cleric just smashes a hole in the wall. Or the rogue floats through in gaseous form. Or they just dimension door. Etc. They have SO many options that terrain doesn't make much of a hazard, unless I use ludicrous traps, and frankly, I don't use traps because I'm not a good enough DM to implement them properly.

    all you have to do is think about their individual weaknesses, and poke at them.
    Which I do, to some extent, but unfortunately, they're weaknesses are so well covered that if I poke at them hard enough to matter, it's crippling. That, and I have a tendency to poke too hard. Why wouldn't the first thing an invisible dragon do is blood wind the unaware wizard to -30?

    and remember, when you don't want them to carry something off, encase it in stone.
    You don't know my players. If I don't want my players carrying it off, I simply don't include it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    They're not high enough level to take on the Emerald Legion, but you could start leading them up to it. In a few more levels, bam! Voidmind Half-Dragon Trolls or whatever the template is. Now they need to find the Illithids making them and put an end to the factory, which won't be an easy task.
    Not yet, anyway. I think a reflavored emerald legion would fit in really well with my campaign, actually. In Elder Evils, there's a "zerg infestation" armageddon campaign with a hive mind and stuff, and I could use those troll monsters as extensions of the hive's will. The hive in the book is dumb; I'd change it to be of Abyssal origin- the slumbering avatar of a slain Obyrinth which cultists have awoken. This would be a good reason for Balor hit squads to show up, martial initiated Devils , and just about anyone with interest in not seeing the world become a sentient, planet sized demon that devours worlds, as well as a bunch of folk that do.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    You can have the BBEG actively calling, binding and hiring any creatures and blades-for-hire with a chance against them, not wanting to risk a direct combat himself. That way you can especially throw a lot of tough extraplanar things at them with an easy explanation.

    Also, try to make as many of the things they face escape as possible. Give them some contingency to get out of there if things go wrong; after all, they do care for their own lives too. This allows you to use them as recurring monsters that are constantly growing in power just like the PCs and they might join forces with a bunch of other agents sent against them.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Here's a number of ways to deal with your problems:

    Outthink them. Using each of their weaknesses against them is a great way to do it. There's 3 of them, and one of you, you're at a disadvantage, but you know their characters and therefore, their weak saves stat points etc.

    Great way to deal with rogues is either the Blindsense feat/Undead/Construct. I'm not sure how you're rogue is doing damage, but I would assume not being able to sneak attack is a big part of it. If that still doesn't do it, have the NPC attack the rogue (greater dust of appearance + will saves (he doesn't have dexterous will I hope) or you can just add some DR/- to negate what little damage he does without sneak attack/impromptu sneak attack).

    With spellcasters the normal Golem strategy will most likely work fine, or put a dungeon with an antimagic zone in place. They're level 11, a decent spellcaster with 7-8th level spells should be able to knock out your party anyway if your playing him well.

    In terms of XP, my group just gets a lot of it and we like it that way. At any given level (say 11) our encounters are generally +4-5 and we are given xp accordingly, needless to say, we level quickly, but you could easily tone it down since they're all powergame and just award less XP or take time and powergame the NPCs.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    You could use more noncombat challenges. You could also try to extrapolate some of the long term consequences of the PCs' victories, for example: they destroy the local dragon with laughable ease only to discover sometime later that the dragon was guarding the hidden entrance to a dragon cemetery and now a necromancer is wrecking havoc with a bunch of undead dragons; sure they might just mop the floor with them too, but it could hurt their reputations if it got out that the countryside had been wrecked because of the heroes' carelessness/greed/blood lust. It might cause them to occasionally look for alternate methods to achieving their goals.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Quote Originally Posted by Ire View Post
    Here's a number of ways to deal with your problems:

    Outthink them. Using each of their weaknesses against them is a great way to do it. There's 3 of them, and one of you, you're at a disadvantage, but you know their characters and therefore, their weak saves stat points etc.

    Great way to deal with rogues is either the Blindsense feat/Undead/Construct. I'm not sure how you're rogue is doing damage, but I would assume not being able to sneak attack is a big part of it. If that still doesn't do it, have the NPC attack the rogue (greater dust of appearance + will saves (he doesn't have dexterous will I hope) or you can just add some DR/- to negate what little damage he does without sneak attack/impromptu sneak attack).

    With spellcasters the normal Golem strategy will most likely work fine, or put a dungeon with an antimagic zone in place. They're level 11, a decent spellcaster with 7-8th level spells should be able to knock out your party anyway if your playing him well.

    In terms of XP, my group just gets a lot of it and we like it that way. At any given level (say 11) our encounters are generally +4-5 and we are given xp accordingly, needless to say, we level quickly, but you could easily tone it down since they're all powergame and just award less XP or take time and powergame the NPCs.
    Negating sneak attack works great, since that also negates his int to damage from swashbuckler (not the dex to damage from shadow blade).

    Of course, it kinda makes him feel picked on if I make his damage output drop from a lot to almost nothing, while everyone else is still kicking ass and taking names. Well, the wizard has a harder time with the save-or-be-feebleminded approach, but you get what I mean.

    Blindsense is a good idea to negate sneak attack, and also put the rest of the party in a horribly disadvantageous cloud of magical darkness or solid fog or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ovaltine Patrol View Post
    You could use more noncombat challenges. You could also try to extrapolate some of the long term consequences of the PCs' victories, for example: they destroy the local dragon with laughable ease only to discover sometime later that the dragon was guarding the hidden entrance to a dragon cemetery and now a necromancer is wrecking havoc with a bunch of undead dragons; sure they might just mop the floor with them too, but it could hurt their reputations if it got out that the countryside had been wrecked because of the heroes' carelessness/greed/blood lust. It might cause them to occasionally look for alternate methods to achieving their goals.
    Honestly, I would be at an even greater loss if they tried an alternate method to their "we hit it till it's dead, then take its head for good measure" approach.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    Specifically for full plate working against Wraithstrike, the feat Deflective Armor in Races of Stone makes the armor bonus (including any enhancement) of any heavy armor you wear count for touch AC. It's a psionic feat, but that just means Wild Talent is a prerequisite for anyone who doesn't dip a psionic class or have a psionic race. The feat Parrying Shield in Lords of Madness does the same thing for shields and has no prerequisites. There's another feat that does it for shields in the PHBII, but that one has a prerequisite and some additional effects. It would break verisimilitude to have everyone using these feats, but they would work quite well as an occasional surprise.
    On the contrary, I'd think that in a world where a wizard's easiest backup spells (most people agree that while not optimized, an Orb to the face is an Orb to the face) and any warrior with wraithstrike or flame blade can target touch AC, making it to high level would require some decent touch AC boosting. Sadly the Deflective Armor feat requires Heavy Armor Optomization, a bit of a throwaway, as well as a power point reserve.

    The solution is simple: use Psychic Warriors instead of fighters, you should be anyway. Since you're counting wraithstrike as an incorporeal touch, inertial armor and force screen (psionic mage armor and shield) will give you a +8 to start, and there are other powers to get deflection and insight bonuses to up your touch AC. Even without that there's the deflection and insight powers, force screen+Parrying Shield for +4, and H.A.Op+Deflective Armor+full plate for +8. Even if you just need the pp to get psionic focus for Deflective Armor, a level is cheaper than a feat (and even comes with another bonus feat!

    Woa. Fighter 2/Psychic Warrior 2. Four feats and gets you past an annoying prereq.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Another way to deal with powergamed characters is to target them individually.

    Really cheap way: Have powerful magic to make them fight each other for a quest (I killed my one of my party members in one of these things, evoker vs summoner wasn't very fair).

    Slightly cheap way: Find the rogue, mind control him, have him kill your party.

    Decent way: Have dimensional anchor up and grapple the spellcasters

    Really nasty way: Set up a large room, and convince them there's a battle (have some giant npc in the back maybe an undead caster such as lich/demilich) once they begin combat, the odds of them searching for traps are low. Pop a trap that puts up a Forcewall in the middle of the room after the melee characters charge past it, then blanket the back of the room (where your casters will probably be) with antimagic field. Blanket everything with faerie fire/glitterdust/dust of appearance. The rogue is not hiding anymore, the mages are stuck in an antimagic field, and your melee are stuck by themselves with a caster who most likely can drop them below 0 using only reflex save based spells (empowered cone of cold works fine). This is a really nasty trap designed specifically to make things difficult, but this is the kind of stuff a self-respecting big bad evil end boss (read DM) should come up with.

    Oh and I forgot, the book of challenges has a bunch of good ideas for this. If I remember, there was a quest where at the end you fight a red dragon disguised as a white dragon. Since your casters will most likely lob fireballs at a white dragon, and not go up close, they aren't entitled to will disbelieve saves. By the time they realize their mistake, they'll have spent a round or two thinking that it was energy buffer and taking some damage.
    Last edited by Ire; 2009-02-25 at 12:47 AM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    The answer is always illusions. See if you can get them to blow spell slots on mere figments via a caster using shadow and insidious casting. Alternate between real hits, simulacrums and mere figments. A single encounter with a skilled illusionist in his home turf can drain even a full party of casters at no cost.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    What about hit-and-run tactics?

    Get a party of baddies together, which have been hired specifically to harass the PCs, and have been briefed on the PCs' abilities.

    1. A psychic warrior with a skin of proteus, the metamorphosis power, Linked Power (a feat from CPsi), and a psicrystal. Oh, and a psionic greatsword of suppression. He can sneak into the middle of the party and get the drop on them before they have a chance to retaliate. This might interest you, if you don't know how to make an optimized psychic warrior (though you may not want to give him so much gear; give him a dorje of metamorphosis, rather than a psychoactive skin). The suppression weapon should help considerably with taking down Persisted buffs.

    2. A wizard, whose job is to scry on the party, and cast illusions and battlefield control. But make sure his companions have access to countermeasures, so they aren't similarly fubar'd.

    3. A cleric archer, who can use chain of eyes on the psychic warrior, as well as Persisted guided shot and a bow with brilliant energy arrows (even through walls). Get as much archery distance as you can out of his equipment, so you can do sniper-shots while the psychic warrior is nearby. This can easily be done while the party is unawares, especially if they encounter a place with extradimensional travel barred through the unhallow/dimension lock spells (so they can't teleport, and can't use rope trick, etc.

    You don't even need a full party; just those three. They can constantly harrass the PCs over the course of several encounters. Just give them several escape abilities each. Give the psychic warrior access to the astral seed power, or maybe a contingencied psionic revivify, and the wizard and cleric access to things like the clone spell. Have them study the group through the use of the scry spell and some well-placed simulacrums. Have them tailor their abilities to the PCs' (all three can tailor their abilities to match the situation; the psywar can get psychic reformation, and the other two can change their spell lists from day to day). Have a days-long running battle, where the evil party is constantly poking at them, without ever being pinned down.

    Annoy the hell out of the players for a few sessions. Have the evil party lay down traps ahead of them (Team Evil scouted it first, and laid down some spells here and there). Have the wizard cast some explosive runes spells on some strips of paper tied to the cleric's arrows, then toss out some area dispel magic to get some nigh-irresistible damage to waste party resources (and the dispel attempts might just knock a few buffs out, too). Vary your tactics to keep things 'interesting'. Don't aim to kill - aim to poke and prod to gather information on their fighting tactics.

    And make sure the players get that this is the same group pestering them. They won't know who it is, or how many there are, until at least the final showdown. Maybe force the PCs to become proactive by spending some resources on hunting them down, rather than fighting on Team Evil's own terms.

    Sneakthievery, misdirection, debuffing, and indirect attacks. Keep 'em guessing.

    Muahahaha.

    [edit] Also, don't forget legions of minor undead. The wizard and cleric both should have access to them, meaning they can send waves in at odd times to crank up the paranoia factor.
    Last edited by Lycanthromancer; 2009-02-25 at 02:24 AM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Here are some easy-to-make challenges appropriate for your PCs;

    1) Elementals;
    Elementals have lots of HD and thus lots of feats, some DR and HP. Specifically, the CR 11 elementals all have 24 HD, DR 10/- and over 200 HP without any items and just with base stats. What the elementals lack are spell resistance but you can bypass that by adding phrenic, half-celestial, half-fiend or half-farspawn templates.
    On feats, just add Thick Skin. Every application of the feat increases DR by 2. Then add Improved Unarmed Strike, Deflect Arrows, Exceptional Deflection and Infinite Deflection. You end up with the following stats for an Elder Air Elemental;
    STR 26, DEX 35, CON 22, INT 12, WIS 13, CHA 15.
    252 HP, DR 20/-, SR 34, laughs at ranged attacks and orb spells, flies and has reach.

    2) Dragons;
    Dragons have almost as many HD (and thus lots of feats) but better stats except for dexterity. The mature adult black dragon is a nice example. Pack Awaken Spell Resistance (several times) and flyby attack to make the encounter alot harder. With enough "awaken spell resistance" feats, the dragon should never be affected by a CL 11 spellcaster except for Orb spells. That, however, is not a problem for the Dragon's 21st lvl feat should be Fast Healing. Once it begins losing, it flies away, waits 2-3 minutes to heal and comes back.

    3) Shades;
    Creatures with the "shadow creature" template get a special ability every 4 HD or levels. These include evasion, fast healing 2 and a luck bonus to saves. Choose according to the creature. But the most important ability is their Shadow Blend; at all conditions except broad daylight (rainy days, underground, in a forest, at night) they have total concealment--which means they are effectively invisible. Neither Invisibility Purge, nor See Invisibility nor True Seeing helps against this.
    The players can't see their attackers so they can't target them with spells or ranged attacks at all, meele attacks will miss half the time, sneak attack won't work and, much more importantly, they will be surprised, flat-footed and they won't be able to metagame. The last part is what will make a huge difference in the fight.
    Shades have a CR increase of +1 so almost any enemy can be a shade.

    4) Undead Swarms;
    Ever faced a swarmshifting, savage, unholy vampire lord? 11 class levels (like your PCs), CR 15. But that's where the fun ends for the players and begins for you;
    1) It's undead. 75% of batman tricks fail.
    2) It has its charisma modifier to HP. That means easily 170 HP.
    3) It easily has a dexterity of 28, a charisma of 26 and a strength of 36.
    4) It can become a swarm; immune to all targetted effects and meele/ranged attacks.
    5) It can use Telekinesis at will. Cue in 15d6 hurled boulders every round, no save, no SR.
    6) Its touch confers 3 negative levels. With improved lifedrain and lifeleech feats that's 40 negative HP and -3 to all rolls for the target, 40 bonus HP and +3 to all rolls for it.
    7) It has an insane racial bonus of +24 to hide and move silently. Add +9 dexterity bonus and 14 ranks and that's a healthy +47 without items.
    8) Immune to holy symbols/water/stakes, only weakened by sunlight.
    9) Immortal. If they decapitate it, burn it, tear it to pieces, disintegrate it, melt it with acid and the like it will still return at the next midnight to eat them. Only if they separate head from body, burn them in separate fires, spread the body ashes over running water and entomb the head ashes in holy ground will they keep it dead.
    10) It can fly at will and control weather.
    11) It treats every single cave in a 50-mile radius as its coffin. So if they defeat it at night and escapes via gaseous form, they never find the resting place. 1 hour later it can attack again.


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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    I would echo Lycanthromancer's setup, with one addition to his roster if you can get yourself setup for dialogue and what-not.

    A succubus.

    Hear me out!

    Have her take levels in Spymaster to better hide her identity, and you can have her cause all kinds of drama with them. Get her into the party (they rescue her from a monster or something, whatever you want) and have her play the guys against each other for her affection until she gets one of them alone, and then makes the attempt to kill via make-out session.

    The one awkward part of this, though, is if you're a guy, flirting with other guys. It'll be a memorable event at the least.

  18. - Top - End - #18
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    How do the characters stack up for social skills? Not every "challenge" has to be a monster they fight. Set things up so that the challenges have to be overcome by out-thinking them. Some social consequences to their actions might be appropriate, too.

    The party Cleric should be easiest to rein in, in that manner. He will always have a superior (the deity himself, if absolutely necessary). Pull some good old-fashioned Church Politics. The other high clerics are becoming concerned that his flashy actions are going to cause a backlash against their operations. Some of the other religions have their spheres of influence, and if they see one church stepping on people's toes, there's likely to be some sort of cooperation against the character's church.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    If I'm understanding you correctly, you're more concerned about the dissonance inherent in your world if you start throwing tons of high-level, optimized NPCs at the party than you are about challenging them with encounters. If that's so, might I suggest nudging them off the Prime Material Plane? The outer planes are full of baddies that would just as soon kill them as look at them - there will be challenges aplenty. Seriously, see how they do in Sigil, where they're at the bottom of the food chain.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Everyone else has already given lots of mechanical advice, so here's my suggestion for the IC "What the hell are all these high-level guys wandering around for?" question.

    The Monsters of Faerun book (Forgotten Realms setting) has a monster called a Deepspawn. When a Deepspawn eats something, it gains the ability to spit out an exact copy of it in 1d4 days, under the mental command of the Deepspawn. It can do this as many times as it wants. And when I say exact copy, I mean exact copy, levels, XP, and all. So if a Deepspawn eats a 10th-level psychic warrior, it gains the ability to produce 10th-level psychic warriors at the rate of one every few days.

    Basically, it's a living clone generator. See where I'm going with this?

    Make up a set of NPCs. One high-level gestalt fighter type, one high-level gestalt caster type, etc. Then just duplicate them over and over again. A group of deepspawn have built up an army, and the PCs are going to come into conflict with them.

    This both saves on work (just reuse the same character sheets) and provides a plausible IC reason for where they're coming from (it's the Clone Wars in D&D).

    - Saph
    Last edited by Saph; 2009-02-25 at 09:07 AM.
    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and Book #10 in the series, Fallen, is out as of September 2019. For updates, check my blog!

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Belial & Lycan- that's some really great advice. The cleric sniper with wall hax sounds so awesome I almost am peeing my pants. I think I'll make them flayers of thoon.

    Saph- that sounds super brutal & hilarious. Monsters that clone other creatures? Good lord.

    Wall traps in a battle sounds like a good idea. The wizard has 100ft of telepathy with the mindsight feat, so illusions aren't going to be doing much unless the enemy is mindblanked. Until it becomes a bit more fair to use casters with 8th level spells on them, illusions aren't going to work.

    I'm finding that things like mirror image & displacement effects give my creatures a heck of a lot more staying power. At least, until the wizard gets true sight :/ Other than the Shadow template, are there easy ways of getting miss chances that aren't negated by true seeing?

    I'm also thinking of having lots of quasi-deities that are tied to specific locations in the campaign world, so as long as the worshipers of Pualu, Goddess of the Volcano, are actually in their volcano, they get super duper spells, but couldn't use those spells to go take over their neighbors.

  22. - Top - End - #22
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Quote Originally Posted by Myrmex View Post
    Wall traps in a battle sounds like a good idea. The wizard has 100ft of telepathy with the mindsight feat, so illusions aren't going to be doing much unless the enemy is mindblanked. Until it becomes a bit more fair to use casters with 8th level spells on them, illusions aren't going to work.

    I'm finding that things like mirror image & displacement effects give my creatures a heck of a lot more staying power. At least, until the wizard gets true sight :/ Other than the Shadow template, are there easy ways of getting miss chances that aren't negated by true seeing?
    Check out concealing amorpha, greater concealing amorpha, and blink. Also, incorporeals, cover, and concealment.

    The Bluff, Hide, and Disguise skills won't be affected by mind blank or true seeing. Think about how to use them to your advantage to get the drop on the PCs. Add in feats to augment them, such as the Darkstalker feat (from Lords of Madness). Also remember that you can Take 10 or 20, so long as the opponents have time and there are no negative consequences for failure (at least, on the Take 20 option). Even lower-level foes should be able to present a decent DC if they do.

    You might also want to think about augmenting powers with Transdimensional Power, from CPsi. It allows psionic characters to attack from a coexistent plane (such as the astral, ethereal, or plane of shadows). Assassins striking from other planes FTW.

    You should probably also check out hauntings from Libris Mortis. Undead tied to a location or an object, that cannot be destroyed permanently without an exorcism.

    Send them out on a quest to retrieve a holy sword that is guarded by a lich (or a dracolich, or a hydra with a template similar to that of a lich - hydralich?). They find the sword, destroy the lich, and begin their return. What they don't know is that the sword is the lich's phylactery, and so it continues to regenerate every few days to target them. One of them will eventually figure it out, but swing things so that the PCs can't just destroy the sword; maybe it's an artifact, or is too important to a power struggle to destroy. The challenge is to either continually fend the lich off when it appears, hoping that no innocents (or important people) are killed in the crossfire, or to remove the lich's soul from the sword using alternate means.

    About the hit-and-run tactics: use it somewhat often (but in varying ways), and make sure the foes in question have ways of maneuvering, healing, and going to ground that don't eat up resources. For instance, adding the evolved undead template from Libris Mortis will give any undead you create fast healing. Imagine sending a bunch of evolved shadows at the party with Flyby Attack; they hide in the walls, fly out, attack, then retreat into the walls. Any time one is damaged due to a readied action, it merely waits in the wall for a few rounds while its companions chew down the PCs' Strength scores. Even high-level parties will likely run from this one.

    Be clever in how you negate (or reduce) the party's effectiveness. If you allow clever tactics to overcome the challenges, it'll teach them that there's more to D&D than just steamrolling through an encounter.

    You might also want to reduce the XP to ECL-appropriate levels, as their builds are far stronger than their current level would suggest (especially given that they are gestalt). Give less XP for straight combat, and more XP for roleplaying and for clever use of abilities. But make sure they know about it ahead of time (through hints, if nothing else).

  23. - Top - End - #23
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Sorry. Double-post.
    Last edited by Lycanthromancer; 2009-02-25 at 01:14 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    Check out the link in my sig about how to effectively challenge the party.

    Don't challenge them in a fight, challenge them everywhere else!

    Joker Bard is effective because it is like trying to fight smoke... sure, if they could FIND him, they could pound him like a tent-peg. The problem is trying to find the bastage.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Challenges for Overpowered Characters

    You can never go wrong with making the players fight copies of themselves - some evil mage created their clones that are under his command, have all their abilities (including duplicated effects of the items the characters use) and lock the two groups in some dungeon, filled with relatively weak creatures. The fun part is, you can use all the cheese against its makers

    Of course you still need to make it look sensible, perhaps the mage is a major bad guy experimenting with a new spell, maybe he's an ancient, bored dragon, who knows...

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