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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Fitz10019's Avatar

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    Default workshopping the Hydra

    I've encountered hydras as player in 3.5e in different groups, and we never handled the creature in the classic Herculean way. Instead of severing heads and cauterizing the necks, we focused all attacks 'on the body' to defeat the monster. To me, this makes what should be an interesting encounter just another bag of hitpoints.

    I'd like to tweak the hydra so that any encounter with one feels more like the Hercules story.

    Design Goal: make sever-cauterize the best approach to handling a hydra, at least part-way

    Method 1: give hydra regeneration per head, maybe 10 or 20. Regeneration fits the theme of the monster well, as it can regenerate heads.

    Method 2: give hydra a dodge bonus per head, maybe 5. The cumulative dodge bonus of all heads applies to the body, but each head only has it's own dodge bonus.

    Method 3: distinguish the heads and have each head give a different immunity or resistance; for example, the hydra has 20/bludgeoning until you remove head #1; head #2 cold immunity; head #3 20/slashing; head #4 fire immunity; etc.

    Method 4: distinguish the heads to have different attack styles, including ranged attacks (acid spit? paralyzing spit?). Front-liners can 'save' the archer or the mage by eliminating those attacks. A melee-attacking head is vampiric, healing the hydra as it does damage; another attaches for a grapple effect; etc.

    Method 5: while most heads attack normally, the hydra can 'fight defensively' with one head, upping it's AC by those rules. Two heads 'fighting defensively' give it the equivalent of 'total defense'.

    Method 6: give hydra cumulative spell resistance per head, maybe 5. The melee fighters have to whittle down the number of heads before the casters can effectively contribute.

    Do these ideas inspire any others? How would you approach the design goal?

    What CR change would you assign to any of these methods?

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    nonsi's Avatar

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    .
    Sometimes the synergy is worth more than the sum of the individual benefits. Sometimes less.
    Example: a single immunity would probably be very situational. OTOH, a plethora of immunities could pose a serious challenge.
    It would be much easier to assess the whole package for evaluating its CR.

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    Elves's Avatar

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    #1 is by far the best approach here. The basic problem of the hydra is that its HP pool doesn't justify spending extra actions to cut off the heads.

    As with a lot of things, the hydra design just doesn't reflect how short 3.5 combat is. I would shorten the head regeneration to 1 round after being cut off for the same reason. The truth is that the shortness of combat is very limiting in terms of 3.5 encounter design, and there's a reason 4e and 5e made it last longer. The problem people have pointed out is that just increasing raw hp totals makes SOD effects that circumvent hp even better than they already are. So without heavy modification, fast combat is just a quirk of 3.5 and it does at least have the advantage of more realism than the "styrofoam swords" of 4e etc.
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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    I'm not qualified to judge CR, but I wanted to comment more generally on your thread.

    The issue, as I see it, is that the Hydra was a specific monster made for a specific story about a fight against a specific person. And D&D is none of those things, specifically.
    I've said this before, but some things that work well in a STORY, where a single author controls the actions of every character, do not translate well into games. The Hydra is, I think, one of these.

    The head-chopping off thing only comes up because it's needed to show off the Hydra's special ability to regrow multiple heads. Hercules (if I recall my greek myths correctly) didn't defeat any of his other enemies by chopping off their heads, and decapitation is not normally a standard tactic in D&D either. Even disabling special-abilities isn't usually considered; MOST fights treat the enemy just like a giant bag of HP.
    As another similar example, its fine to have vampires in D&D, but not ever vampire needs to be Dracula with all his crazy abilities (controlling the weather, size-changing, summoning rats & wolves, etc etc etc).

    I would honestly throw out the story of the Hyrda, and ask yourself what about this particular enemy is something that makes it special? And then how do you bring that across to your players? In the original myth, the Hyrda was at least in part a puzzle to be solved- how do you incorporate that?


    To just take what you had and run with it, maybe something like this: the Hyrda starts with 1 head, and any time it takes more than a specific amount of damage, it grows a second head. It's not just decapitation- the Hyrda will sprout new heads from it's stomach, back, knees, wherever. Also like you suggest, boost it's attacks and AC and fast-healing per head, so that the hydra is very difficult to kill by normal methods, and if you spend to long trying to chip away at it then the fight only gets harder.
    So you give players an out- each hyrda is vulnerable to one specific type of energy, like fire or frost or whatever, that doesn't grow new heads and that the hydra's fast-healing doesn't work against.

    And the explanation for why the Hyrda only starts with one head is that the heads aren't in agreement with each other, and when not fighting another enemy will attack and kill each other (every hyrda is also vulnerable to itself) until only 1 head is left again.

    This makes the encounter solvable a couple different ways if you want, while still being memorable (sort of like an amped-up troll on steroids).
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2020-09-24 at 01:41 PM.
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    Fitz10019's Avatar

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    inspiration:
    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    ... any time it takes ... damage, it grows a ... head... the Hyrda will sprout new heads from it's stomach, back, knees, wherever...
    Method 7: Damage done 'to the body' also results in new heads.

    Interesting! However, I'm not entirely sure this would lead players to the sever-and-cauterize tactic. Ah, my goal wasn't your goal. That's okay.
    Last edited by Fitz10019; 2020-09-25 at 07:54 AM.

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    Well part of the thing, is that in the old legends of the Hydra there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a body to attack. The body has gotten more pronounced and draconic as time goes on, with D&D being one of the more full-bodied versions I’ve seen.

    Even in the old Herculean myths, the Hydra is mostly underwater, with only the heads coming out to attack Herc. The problem is presented that the only solution to fighting the beast is to attack the necks. And no matter what Herc did to the creature it regrew the head. He crushed the heads, choked the necks, grappled and tried to drown them. It didn’t matter they just regrew. Sometimes only one, sometimes up to three new heads per head lost.

    Anyway, I would approach the design goal from the GM standpoint. Hydra is a puzzle as Deepbluediver points out. I’d set up a situation where the players can only attack the heads. I would furthermore even make a reason to want to attack the heads. The basic package gives 1d4 rounds per head regrowth. And very little would make the players more want to stop attacking it than if the heads grow back the next turn and suddenly two heads are attacking.

    I’d give it a straight 2 rounds to regrow the heads, and they can attack on the 3rd round. The players know killing a head gives a bit of a reprieve while they think of a solution to the puzzle.

    Now the answer to the puzzle can be “find a way to get to the body” so they can just start hacking at it. Or it could be find a way to capture the creature completely. Or find a way to stop the regeneration. Though for that last one I’d mix it up. Fire and acid is now such a well known answer it doesn’t make the players even realize they’re in a puzzle.

    So I guess I advocate for method 7 interesting encounter design.

    But of your options I like 4. It keeps the puzzle element of the encounter. But I worry how to satisfactorily foreshadow what each head does to the players.

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    Deepbluediver's Avatar

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    Quote Originally Posted by Fitz10019 View Post
    inspiration:

    Method 7: Damage done 'to the body' also results in new heads.

    Interesting! However, I'm not entirely sure this would lead players to the sever-and-cauterize tactic. Ah, my goal wasn't your goal. That's okay.
    Like I was saying earlier, the issue is that targeted shots aren't NORMALLY a thing in D&D, so there's no reason for players to try for encounter-ending decapitations in the first place. If you want this facet of the monster to make an appearance, then you have to find some way to have the normal tactics not work. That was what I was really getting at. If that's not your concern, then oh well. I wish you luck.
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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes View Post
    ... I worry how to satisfactorily foreshadow what each head does to the players.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    ... there's no reason for players to try for encounter-ending decapitations...
    Well, I figure a Knowledge check is likely to reveal what the heads could do, and each round will provide concrete details. I expect that to lead the party to the decapitation approach. Maybe I'm leaning too heavily on that die roll.

    I'm now leaning toward a mix of M3,M4,M5, where the M3 and M4 factors are rolled randomly (and M5 is just a matter of tactics, but which heads go into defense mode changes the creature's attack options from round to round).

    The heads could each have horns that individually respond with a glow when that resistance is applied, so a resisted attack yields info that informs the party's later actions.

    And/or the head that resists acid makes an acid spit attack, and the head that resists cold makes a cold breath attack, etc.

    I appreciate the contributions, everyone. Thanks.

    I am likely to use that body-underwater angle.
    Last edited by Fitz10019; 2020-09-25 at 07:33 PM.

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    Default Re: workshopping the Hydra

    My own suggestions would be giving it a poison (probably Dexterity damage) so you have a very big reason to cut down its attack volume, give it a Shield AC per-head so going after the main body first is very difficult, and having it possess some manner of head-related stat bonus that makes keeping the heads pruned a good use of the Martials' time, perhaps Constitution score and a mild amount of fast healing, like 2-5 per head, while the body itself has 5-10 Regeneration. This means that hammering the body with the Regeneration weakness isn't shutting off the Head healing, so to entirely stop it from recovering HP you have to take off the heads, and each head constitutes a significantly more impressive threat that's exponential in the overall damage being done.
    Last edited by Morphic tide; 2020-10-06 at 06:24 PM.

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