I’m writing this post at the urging of two of the players in my Friday night online game in the War of the Burning Sky campaign. That’s unusual – I’ve never had someone tell me, “I can’t wait to see what you write on your blog about this!” but that’s exactly what happened this evening.
Well, I hate to disappoint my players – and I loved the solo I used from the Monster Vault tonight, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.
Lots of people have written elsewhere that solo monsters from the Monster Vault are vicious and exciting, and I have to say that I agree. My players had a run-in with a slightly modified Young Blue Dragon – a level 6 solo artillery creature. Since my party consisted of four level 8 characters, I nudged the dragon up toward level 7 (raising the defenses and attacks by a point or two, as I saw appropriate). I left its hit points alone, though. Also, since the encounter with the dragon was taking place in a semi-submerged temple, I gave it a swim speed equal to its fly speed.
I also threw two Stormlizards (level 9 brutes) into the mix. The encounter began with the party seeing the Stormlizards coming out of a hole in the temple floor. The dragon was sleeping farther down in the hole, and I intentionally gave it an initiative at the bottom of the first round. The Stormlizards emerged, the PCs set up their strategy and positioning for fighting them…
This was the first solo my party has faced, and they’re at level 8 now. I wanted this to be special, and it was. The things that I especially loved about this monster were:
- It gets an instinctive action at 10 plus its initiative roll, which lets it move its speed and make an area burst 2 attack. If it’s dazed or stunned and can’t make that attack, it instead shakes off the condition.
- Both its breath weapon and its at-will lightning burst (area burst 2) deal lots of damage on a hit and half damage on a miss. They also target reflex, which was a scary surprise for my AC-heavy defenders.
- When it becomes bloodied, it becomes scarier. It recharges and uses its breath weapon, and it develops an aura that deals lightning damage to anyone who ends their turn in the aura. Nasty.
The fight would have been easier if the dwarf fighter in the party would have been able to get to the dragon and mark it earlier, but he was stuck dealing with the Stormlizards. This initially left just our warlock and our shaman to face the dragon, and they were quickly bloodied.
I had a few simple terrain features in this encounter as well. I hand-waved the difficult terrain for the waist-deep water in the chamber – I didn’t want everyone moving at half speed throughout the battle. I included an altar that PCs could climb on for an attack bonus. I also had the dragon’s chamber include a magic fountain, which had long since stopped running, that contained two doses of magic water that would fully restore HP and shake off any negative conditions. My PCs used up both doses during the battle (and ironically didn’t get attacked again after that).
This was probably the most challenging fight my party has faced in eight full levels of play, and I think we all enjoyed it. The dragon fought hard – he was out to kill the PCs – but the heroes fought back harder. Winning was in doubt right until the end, and the party definitely considered fleeing. Victory was hard-earned and sweet.
In short, I really like my experiences with Monster Vault solos so far.
Post Script – farewell Thorfin!
This was the last session for the player who runs Thorfin, our dwarf fighter. He’s taking a job on the other side of the world that’s going to make it impossible for his schedule to line up with the rest of the gang for gaming, and we’re all sad to see him go. I tried to send him out in a blaze of glory by killing Thorfin off tonight, but the heroes wouldn’t be denied. Thorfin lives to fight another day, just in case our friend returns in the future.
And on that note, we now have an opening for one more player in our Friday night MapTool game in War of the Burning Sky. We could really use another defender. If you’re interested in joining the game, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.