by Mike Shea on 26 October 2009
Welcome to the first article in our new series: Monster Optimization. Players might have all of those fancy character optimization forums and wikis with seventeen rulebooks worth of ways for their paladin to hose every challenge you pit him against. Why can't we DMs have the same?
Of course, our goal isn't for the PCs to die, just think they're going to die!
In this series we're going to find some of the best combinations to truly challenge your players. We're not out for annoying with monsters that can seem to avoid all possible damage like weakening insubstantial ghosts that take 1/4 damage. We're out for blood. We want creature combinations that hit your players like a rock golem and make them rock back in their chair.
Our first example is a great one: Bodaks and Wights.
Bodaks, shadowy demon undead nasties from some gawd awful corner of the Shadow Shadow Bo Badow, have a really tough attack: Death Gaze. This target can only hit a weakened creature but if it DOES hit, it drops that creature straight to 0 hit points. The only problem is, how do we get them weakened in the first place?
That's where the wights come in. Most wights, like the Slaughter Wight, have a basic melee attack that weakens their target. Throw four wights into a battle with a pair of bodaks and you're sure to get a chance to invoke that death gaze. To make matters worse, the wights also drain a healing surge every time they hit (damageequivalentto 1/4 their hitpoints give or take).
But that's not all. Here's the real killer combination - the delayed action of death!
A pair of bodaks stand in the back or on a rise in the back of your kill room. Up ahead, four to half a dozen slaughter wights wade into your PCs. On the Bodaks' turn, they ready an action with the following trigger "The first enemy within 10 squares that becomes weakened will eat my Death Gaze". Worse yet? The Bodaks get that as an at-will attack. Update: It looks like there's an error in the D&D Compendium online which lists it as at-will when every other source lists it as "encounter". This is likely meant to be an encounter power. I'd likely change it to a reliable encounter power so it doesn't get wasted. Thanks to Manuel for pointing this out.
So your PCs wade into the room and get attacked by six or so slaughter wights. The bodaks ready their delayed action of death. As soon as a wight weakens someone, the bodak's delayed action triggers and bam - down the PC goes. A couple of these will put any party into a big scramble. Use six slaughter wights and two bodak reavers for a level 21 encounter that will knock your PC's socks off.
Of course, we don't do this just to be mean. This combination, like all monster optimizations, should only be used when your group really needs a tough challenge. Hang onto it for that special day or keep it in your back pocket just so you know that, if you really need to, the party can eat the dirt.
If you have your own Monster Optimization combinations, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org where they might get added to a future article.