Posts Tagged ‘megaman’

That moment when we as DM’s get to reveal the boss monster at the end of a dungeon or story arch is always thrilling for us. I don’t just mean the final battle against Tiamat or Orcus at the end of a campaign. I’m talking about the boss monsters our players face at the end of almost every session before coming down from their Doritos crash. These baddies are the Crash Man to your campaign big bad’s Dr. Wily.

Have you ever been excited about a climatic reveal of one of these boss monsters only to have your players be unimpressed? Why should they be? They haven’t been thinking of this foe for a week or more the way you have. They might not know the villain’s backstory which is the reason the baddy had to monologue for five minutes before throwing down. They don’t know that the Monster Manual tells you that their blood should be running cold when they see a grell for the first time, which is why your description of a floating brain with tentacles was more confusing to them than intimidating. Odds are this is the first time they’ve met this enemy and I believe that is the problem.

Consider this. In almost every great movie the hero and villain meet several times before the climatic end encounter. That makes the fight personal and gives it meaning. Odds are that many of you are doing this with your big bads, but what about your medium bads? A big monster at the end of the dungeon is not necessarily as scary as you think when the players have no idea what they’re up against. This is even more true if you’ve got experienced players. They’ve taken down dragons in the past. Why should this one be any different?

In this blog post I’m going to give you some tips and tricks for introducing your boss monsters to players before the climax of the adventure so that your battles with these foes have some real dramatic weight. Many of these tips can easily be applied to published adventures, which often have boss monsters who players meet for the first and last time in battle at the end of a sprawling dungeon.

The One That Got Away

If the player characters can meet your baddy in combat once or twice before their final battle that’s always great for the story, but it’s also tricky. Odds are you don’t want your boss monster to die early or run away badly injured with the PCs laughing. On the same hand you probably also don’t want your players to get so throughly trounced that they all die or run away from the challenge thinking the villain way out their league. You also may not want your villain to reveal every trick and ability in its repertoire so the battle needs to be properly staged.

There’s a few way to handle meeting the baddy in battle before the winner-take-all-climactic battle.

During the first battle with the villain…

  • The boss monster is under-powered. The first time our heroes meet the boss monster in battle, the villain is not at full strength. Maybe the baddy is coming fresh off another battle and has used some resources. Maybe it has weaknesses in the environment where the first battle takes place (like a drow wizard fighting in the daylight).  Maybe it’s a creature that grows more powerful overtime and is rapidly evolving like in the video game Evolve. Maybe the villain doesn’t have all the minions in tow it plans on having during the final encounter. When the PCs reduce the foe to somewhere around half its hit points, it flees vowing vengeance and the culmination of a dastardly plan the PCs must stop. Giving this foe an ability, consumable item, or spell to aid their escape is not a bad idea. Flight, teleportation, and invisibility come to mind as options. You can always fudge the numbers to let the boss monster get away. Make it clear to them they caught the fiend unawares and next time they will not be so lucky.
  • The boss monster is over-powered. This is the opposite of the last idea. The PCs run into the boss monster at the peak of its power, perhaps on terrain ideally suited for the baddy, after the heroes have used lots of their own resources in other battles, during an encounter in which the villain gets a devastating surprise round, at a time when the enemy has some powerful artifact that’s powering it up, or at a time when this foe has many, many minions in tow. Make it clear to the PCs this is a fight they probably can’t win (at least without heavy casualties). I like to have a reason ready for the baddy to leave and not kill the PCs in case they don’t take the hint (like being suddenly called away or deciding the pathetic characters aren’t even worth its time), but that choice is yours. Maybe you even want to run a chase scene after such an encounter. When the PCs meet the villain again, this time they’re more prepared because they’ve got more resources, aren’t surprised, have powered down the foe in some way, or have thinned the ranks of enemy minions. Do this well and the climatic battle is tense, personal, and deadly.
  • The boss monster is in a vehicle. Much like Liquid Snake in Metal Gear Solid who is first fought in a helicopter, then a bipedal tank, and then hand-to-hand (and then in a truck), put your villain inside some sort of vehicle for the first battle and then have the baddy escape by disappearing mysteriously from the wreckage of appearing after an explosion no one should have been able to survive (without magic and/or mad skills). If the villain is in a vessel equipped with weapons, maybe the PCs don’t even get a taste of the boss monster’s real abilities as it uses those weapons instead of its own to attack. You might want to try one of Exploration Age’s mechs if you go this route.
  • The boss monster is just trying to accomplish a specific goal. When the PCs first run into the boss monster it isn’t too concerned with them because it has bigger fish to fry. Maybe the villain is stealing items from a magic shop for profit or to build some doomsday machine. Maybe the baddy appears to kidnap or kill a specific target. Whatever the reason once the goal is accomplished or clearly thwarted by the PCs, the enemy leaves, promising more mayhem to come. The boss monster might even leave some henchmen to battle the PCs and ensure its escape.
  • The boss monster has a pressing reason to leave. As the PCs engage the boss monster in a battle, something pulls its attention away from the PCs. Maybe it’s a higher-ranking villain contacting the boss monster with new, pressing orders. Maybe the boss monster’s lair is being attacked by a third party and it has to return to defend it. Maybe something shiny wanders through the battle and the boss monster chases after it. As the baddy leaves it promises some future pain for the PCs.

A Tense Meeting

Of course the PCs don’t have to battle the boss monster before the climax. Sometimes it’s even better if they can meet the villain in some way and have a face-to-face conversation. If the PCs first meet the boss monster in a crowded place where battle might hurt a lot of innocent people, while the baddy has a hostage or two, in a place the foe has prepared with lots of snipers and undercover agents ready to attack the PCs, or during a time which they don’t yet know the evil-doer is indeed evil, the PCs can be convinced or tricked into have a conversation without drawing steel. Make sure your villain has a reason for confronting the PCs in such a way other than you wanting them to meet before hand. Ask yourself, “Why does the boss monster need to talk with the PCs?” There’s plenty of answers to that question – to call a truce, to brag, to lure them into a trap, to arrange a trade of hostages or items, to get some information from them, etc.

Beyond Face-to-Face Communication

An easy way to have the boss monster meet the PCs before their climatic battle, is to give the villain some magical means of communication. If you’ve ever player Arkham Asylum, you know the fight with the Joker doesn’t happen until the end of the game, but that during the entire experience the Clown Prince of Crime is taunting Batman over the PA system and watching him with security cameras. Maybe the boss monster has a magical technology or connection with the dungeon the PCs are crawling through which allows him similar capabilities. If you don’t like that idea, maybe the villain has enhance telepathic abilities which allow it to speak to the characters in some way and it’s up to you as the DM whether or not they can respond. If all else fails, you can give the villain access to a spell such as dream, which allows it to enter the PCs dreams and speak to them while they sleep.

I Know You, But You Don’t Know Me

If the PCs don’t have a chance to directly interact with the villain, it helps the boss monster’s story if they have seen it in action or heard about it in some way. A tyrant queen gives a speech from a balcony right before executing innocent villagers. The PCs pass through a torched town and hear the people’s tale about the great dragon that burnt it to the ground and demanded gold. Rumors about the hag who lives in the swamp at the edge of town speak of her child-eating appetite. The PCs have never seen a mind-flayer, but by the looks of the former thralls they just found, the monster they are going up against is something entirely alien and terrifying. Giving the PCs a lot of little facts and rumors to go on will increase their fear and respect of the boss monster. Ask yourself what you’d like to have your PCs find out about the villain before facing it, and then make sure they have some way to get that information in a scene which also displays a good reason to fear the villain.

Sometimes It’s Ok to Surprise Them

Of course sometimes it’s ok to leave the boss monster’s identity a secret until the end of a dungeon or story arch, but make sure you have a good reason and that the surprise is a great twist that’s actually surprising. The PCs think they’re hunting a red dragon only to discover it’s a gold wyrm gone mad. The werewolf they’ve been tracking is actually the son or daughter of the patron who hired them to take it out. Finding a bugbear chief at the end of a tunnel full of bugbears is expected and boring if you haven’t given the PCs any reason to fear or hate the leader. Finding a kobold chief  who is surprisingly good at spellcasting leading the bugbears is surprising and fun just on its own.

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How great are mechs? So great! Wait, wait, wait… I can see you shaking your head and closing the browser tab. I know, I know. You don’t want fancy, overpowered suits of armor ruining your epic fantasy campaign. I’ve already walked a dangerous line with firearms, swifty gear, and airships. Now I’m asking you to adopt some thinking about mechs into the game?!

Well, in my defense I have this to say – Mechs are fun! I think I’ve got an idea of how we could hold onto that without them breaking every game.

I mean, you got to admit… that looks fun!

Inspiration

I can remember playing Megaman X series back in the day on the old PlayStation. How fun was that game? There were a lot of levels where you got to jump into a big suit of armor and really punch, shoot, or drill the crap out of baddies.

These ride armors were tons of fun to use. You tromped around in them fighting some baddies and eventually the armor blew up or you got to a place where the mech couldn’t go because it was too big or too immobile and so it was left behind.

I want to apply the same principle here with mechs in Exploration Age.

Mech Guiding Principles

Still looks really fun to me.

Here’s a lit of design points I used while creating the mechs.

  1. Mechs are badass! These mechs should be powerful and more fun than a whole barrel of monkeys. Big, honking, damaging attacks and then some cool flashy attacks with fun effects.
  2. Mechs are slow. You don’t need to run from danger when you are the danger. As fun as busting some heads in a mech is, making them slow means they aren’t going to be anyone’s main mode of transportation. They’re big, heavy, and you can’t just park one in front of a tavern. These are not made for travel, but rather for being badass (though, I have no doubt they are a chick magnet).
  3. Mechs are big! Mechs being big is lots of fun and helps bring balance to the game and make it more interesting. Imagine a troop of adventurers meeting a hobgoblin army out in the field. The adventurers are outnumbered, but they’re all driving mechs, so the hobgoblins are outgunned. Being big is also a disadvantage. Once those hobgoblins run back to their tunnels, good luck getting a mech suit to fit and fight in those cramped hallways.
  4. Mechs are expensive. I’m pretty sure this speaks for itself. These things ain’t cheap. ‘Nuff said.

The idea here is that mechs are well beyond the means of low-level adventurers and even if they do find one, they don’t have anyway of taking it everywhere they go due to the mech’s slow speed and Large size.

Mechs in Exploration Age

Come on! This one is even called Steam Golem. It’s a sign. Open your heart to mechs!

So without further adieu, here are the mechs from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide

There are a variety of mechs in Exploration Age used for everything from war to mining. Every mech has its own AC, HP, Speed, and Mech Modifier, a bonus applied to attack and damage with mech weapons. A driver who has mech proficiency may apply their proficiency bonus to attack rolls made with the mech’s weapons as well. An attacker using individual ranged and melee attacks may choose to target either the mech or the driver. Once a mech is reduced to 0 HP it ceases to function.

Here are a few of the mechs one may come across in Canus. All the mechs below are Large in size and have a 10-foot melee reach, unless noted otherwise.

Mech HP AC Speed Right Arm Attack Left Arm Attack Mech Modifier Price Special Abilities
Lifter 30 14 10 ft. Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning +1 20,000 gp Grab, Rend
Lumberjack 50 15 10 ft. Chainsaw – 3d8 slashing Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning +2 35,000 gp Grab
Miner 75 16 10 ft. Drill – 2d8 piercing Pick – 3d8 piercing +3 50,000 gp Drill Press, Scoop Kick
Gladiator 125 16 15 ft. Trident – 3d8 piercing, 15-foot reach Net Thrower – see Special Attacks +4 75,000 gp Net Throw
Destroyer 150 17 10 ft. Cannon – 4d12 piercing, Ammunition (range 50/150) Hammer – 3d10 bludgeoning +4 100,000 gp Explosive Shot
Pyro 150 17 10 ft. Flame Jet – see Special Attacks Axe – 3d10 slashing +4 100,000 gp Flame Jet
Knight 200 20 15 ft. Sword – 3d12 slashing Shield – 2d8 bludgeoning +5 150,000 gp Sword Sweep, Shield Defense
Lifter

This mech suit was created by Bragonian dwarves to do some heavy lifting. These mechs can be found all over Canus – in shipping yards, warehouses, mines, forests, and more. The huge suits are equipped with two strong arms meant for lifting everything from lumber to boxes.

Grab A creature hit by a Lifter’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If one of the Lifter’s arms is being used to restrain a creature, that arm cannot attack a different creature without first letting go of the creature it is currently grabbing. A Lifter cannot restrain more than two creatures this way at once.

Rend This attack requires the Lifter to be restraining its target with one arm and have no creature in the grip of its other. The Lifter attacks the restrained creature with both arms dealing 4d8 bludgeoning damage to it on a successful attack.

Lumberjack

This suit was crafted by the elves of Taliana to aid in their lumber industry. One arm of the mech is a mechanical saw, made for cutting down trees. The other is a large, two-pronged claw made for picking up several logs at once.

Grab A creature hit by a Lumberjack’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A Lumberjack may only restrain one creature this way at a time. While restraining a target, the Lumberjack cannot attack any creature with its slam attack other than the one it has restrained.

Miner

Another Bragonian creation, these mechs were built to carve tunnels through the hearts of mountains. As a result, they are heavily armored to avoid damage from the debris their pickaxe and drill arms kick up. The feet of the Miner mech suits sport large scoops and can kick debris in several different directions to keep their path before them clear.

Drill Press The Miner may use this attack against a prone creature only. If the Miner makes a successful drill attack against a prone target, that creature is pinned to the floor and restrained. At the start of the Miner’s driver’s turn, if a creature is restrained in this way, the target automatically takes damage from the drill and the driver may still use its action to attack with the pick, cast a spell, etc. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 15 Strength check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If the mech moves more than 10 feet from the restrained creature or attacks a different target with the drill, the restrained condition ends.

Scoop Kick The Miner’s driver may use the mech’s scoop kick as a move. The driver attacks a target adjacent to the Miner using its Mech Modifier and, if applicable, proficiency bonus. If the Miner hits, the target is pushed 5 feet and knocked prone.

Gladiator

The Gladiator is one of the first mech suits ever designed for combat, built by the dragonborn of Marrial. The Gladiator stands tall, is quicker than most mechs, and has an impressively long trident arm. The mech suit sports a second arm capable of launching nets into throngs of enemies.

Ammunition A Gladiator can hold up to 10 nets at once. During a rest the Gladiator’s net launcher can be reloaded.

Net Throw As an action, a Gladiator’s driver may launch one net. When launched, a single net covers an area 15 feet by 15 feet. Creatures within the net must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). Those who fail the saving throw are restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A creature may attack the net, which has AC 5. If the creature causes 20 points of damage to the net it can itself or another creature free. A net which is dealt 100 damage becomes useless.

Destroyer

The heavily armored Destroyer is a bipedal tank designed by the empire of Bragonay. Its slow speed doesn’t hinder it as much as other mech suits, since it has a powerful cannon which can shoot a ball a far distance. For those creatures which get too close, the Destroyer has a backup defense – a mighty hammer arm.

Point-Blank If the Destroyer attacks an adjacent creature with its cannon it has disadvantage on the attack.

Ammunition The Destroyer can carry 10 cannon balls at once. During a rest the Destroyer’s cannon can be reloaded.

Explosive Shot Every Destroyer has a special space for a special explosive ball which can be loaded into its cannon. As an action, this ball can be fired with the same range as a regular cannon ball. The ball explodes on impact in a 20-foot radius and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 6d6 fire and piercing damage on a failed saving throw, half as much damage on a successful one.

Pyro

Sometimes it’s all about making your enemies fear you. That’s certainly what Parian’s inventors had in mind when they created this mech suit. The armored Pyro mech moves through the battlefield, spouting flame out of one arm and hacking down enemies with the axe in its other.

Ammunition The Pyro can carry 30 alchemical charges at once. During a rest the Pyro’s flame jet can be reloaded.

Flame Jet As an action, the Pyro can be made to shoot a 15-foot cone of flame from its flame jet and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 2d8 fire damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The fire ignites any flammable objects in the area that are not being worn or carried.

Knight

Aeranore’s contribution to the world of mechs is the most expensive and powerful suit of mechanized armor Canus has to offer. The Knight is fast, super-armored, and ready to cut through anything with its powerful sword arm. Its heavy metal shield arm protects the driver and companions alike.

Shield Defense When a creature the Knight’s driver can see attacks the driver or a target within 10-feet of the Knight, the driver can use its reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll with its shield arm.

Sword Sweep As an action the Knight’s driver picks four creatures within 10 feet of the mech. It makes a sword attack against all of those creatures.

So there you have it. Remember, the idea here is that mechs are a sometimes food. As always, please let me know what you think, and if you haven’t yet, please fill out the survey below. I’m trying to see if I should turn all this hard work into something more. Thanks!

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