Meet the Monster Vault solo

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…

And then the dragon emerged.

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, or leave a comment below.

10 thoughts on “Meet the Monster Vault solo

  1. It’s surprising to hear that those Stormlizards were the same level as us – anything they managed to do was completely overshadowed by the dragon during that encounter (not to mention I underestimated them due to their unassuming token image)! I think the only thing they ever managed was a couple of hits on our defenders – makes me wonder what they were capable of. They especially didn’t seem to be doing brute-level damage, from my recollection (though like I said, maybe the dragon just overshadowed their actions by being awesome).

    • I think the Bluespawn Stormlizards looked unimpressive for two reasons. First, they were mainly attacking the two defenders in the party, who have really high AC. They would need to roll a 15 or higher to even connect with the swordmage, and 16 on the fighter(+12 versus AC).

      Second, their impressive ability involved charging, and the fighter locked them down pretty well and kept them from effectively being able to charge.

      So, if the fighter had gone after the dragon right off the bat, it’s possible that the Stormlizards would have wreaked more havoc. Their charge ability does 3d10+5 damage and knocks prone on a hit, so that could hurt (though it’s an encounter power).

      I think also forgot their Counterbolt ability, which lets them shoot lightning at an enemy who attacks an ally, until the very end. Oops.

  2. Hello.

    I’m a new reader. I like your blog and online gaming is an interesting subject that I think is going to have huge growth.

    I was wondering; have you considered recording your sessions as an actual play podcast?


    • No, I’ve never thought about recording our sessions for an actual play podcast. Do you think it would be interesting? Do you have any advice on how to go about doing it? I have no experience with making podcasts.

      • Well, it’s a bit of an endeavor. And you have the potential to have good sound quality since everyone has their own mic, which is why I thought of it.

        I also thought of it because I ran War of the Burning Sky and would love a different take on it, since I mangled it. 🙂

        Since it isn’t something you’ve wanted to do before, now I hesitate to recommend it. You can do it on the cheap, using the free Audacity program, but then you have to have hosting and that isn’t free, and it’s quite a bit of labor to set everything up.

        For mine I did finally get some equipment, but it’s still so much time, but I’m not dming, so that’s ok for me.

        Anyway it’s something to think about and thanks again for the interesting blog.

      • Gotcha. If it were easy and cheap and I had a lot of interest, I might go for it. It sounds like that’s not the case, though!

        I do post about our game here from time to time, so you can use the War of the Burning Sky tag to see how we’ve been running the game. It’s not the same as an actual play podcast, true, but it gives you a view of another take on the campaign at least.


  3. Hey guys! So your in need of a Friday night defender? Pooh I’m very interested! I run a home brew 4E game on Saturday nights and would enjoy the opportunity to get in on some PC defender action. I’ve been a DM doe around 15 years or so now, and a PC since I could /chuck. LEt me know what time you usually run as later is better for me.

    Let me know what ya think! I already have a dwarf fighter I can level up to 8th at a blink of an eye!



    • Haha, in my excitement to find out if I’m in tomorrows game or not, I came back to check the thread. Looks like the Apple iPad autocorrect ninja strikes again! Mwahahaha…

      Oh? And I sent you my character sheet….. 🙂

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