Beholder Encounter VS party of five at level 8

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Hi,

my group will be facing a Beholder (Level 9 version from the MV) next session and I am slightly unsure on how tough the encounter will be on them.
The Party:
Human Slayer (build using the OP forums, Gauge and Rain of Blows available)
Dwarf Cleric (mordenkrad melee cleric, heal power: healing word, bastion of health, word of comfort, healing strike)
Dwarf Chaladin (3x Lay on Hands, using his surge value + cha modifier 5, has cloak of the walking wounded)
Elf Storm Sorcerer (kinda not optimized, but can still bring some pain)
Hamadryad Witch (Illusion/Charm powers, plenty of them. 1 dazing power, one stun/daze on miss)

The encounter builder says it is a moderate encounter and I usually need hard encounters to challenge the party. So I thought about adding a Zombie Hulk of Orcus to have a meat shield for the Beholder, but on the other hand, I am afraid this thing might kill someone just being solo.

So the question is: is the Beholder alone scary enough? Or should I add the meatshield. I also have to pools next to him which COULD have very nasty effects when someone is pushed in.

Whats your oppinions on this? The group uses tactics reasonably well.
A single zombie hulk is liable to be shoved to the side and mostly ignored. Minions that arrive a few at a time for the first few rounds would probably have more of a tactical impact, especially if they have some sort of synergy with the beholder.

Otherwise, the main issue is ensuring that the environment is a significant part of the encounter: you don't want the thing to come down to 'surround it and swing/blast!', so the encounter needs some other dynamic that the PCs (and potentially the beholder) have to deal with.
So you think the encounter is in fact to easy and need to add stuff?
Make the pools even nastier. Make the beholder's goal to push at least one character into the pool and then back off to see the effects. Have the effects be some sort of disease or other affliction. If it kills an exposed character, it won't get to see the outcome of its experiment.

If it proves too difficult to push any PCs into the pool, have the beholder back off and wait for easier subjects. It could float out of range and then try negotiating with the party, appealing to their senses of scientific curiosity.

I don't see why a flying creature would be very threatened by your party. A beholder in particular can just stand back and blast. Normally, this would be a pretty cheap move, so give the players a reason for have to be around the beholder other than just killing it. Back to the pools, maybe they need to collect a bit of each one, or retrieve something at the bottom of one of them. If the beholder stands back and blasts, it's a race against time: complete the objective before the beholder damages the party too badly.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

That will be easy. The pools have a direct connection to the groundwater and the beholder has been using them to corrupt the nearby woods. So the party needs to take out the beholder to stop that. So I will give the pools some necrotic effect, is there a nice disease that I could connect to it?

I am just afraid that the beholder, baring some luck, petrifies players quickly and may kill them with his deathray. Afterall, its just 2 saves.

edit: I am probably going with foul rotting if a player spends more than 2 turns in the pools.
The pools aren't an active part of the encounter. They just sit there waiting for someone to be pushed in.

With a solo encounter, you want active features. They don't need to be particularly dangerous, they just need to add a dynamic element to the encounter, preferably one that isn't fully under the control of either side but that both can potentially leverage.

IE: four pools (one per corner). Each round, a 1d4 roll determines which one of them begins to bubble. It will erupt the round after that, drenching everything in that quarter of the map (including the beholder, if present) and pushing them away.

That's a very simple example, and it might not be the best one to apply with a flying monster, but it gives you the general idea.
Make the pools even nastier. Make the beholder's goal to push at least one character into the pool and then back off to see the effects. Have the effects be some sort of disease or other affliction. If it kills an exposed character, it won't get to see the outcome of its experiment.

If it proves too difficult to push any PCs into the pool, have the beholder back off and wait for easier subjects. It could float out of range and then try negotiating with the party, appealing to their senses of scientific curiosity.

I don't see why a flying creature would be very threatened by your party. A beholder in particular can just stand back and blast. Normally, this would be a pretty cheap move, so give the players a reason for have to be around the beholder other than just killing it. Back to the pools, maybe they need to collect a bit of each one, or retrieve something at the bottom of one of them. If the beholder stands back and blasts, it's a race against time: complete the objective before the beholder damages the party too badly.



+1. Give the monster a goal other than "slaying intruders in its lair." You mentioned it's trying to poison the woods with these pools, so that suggests a goal, instinct, or impulse. It's also an intelligent, if supremely evil creature with an alien logic and no conscience. I would most definitely make those pools nasty in some way - poisonous, diseased, or mutative - and spend my actions pushing PCs into it from the safety of a high vantage point.

Once the PCs are infected, mutated, poisoned, whatever - perhaps it offers them a cure... if they'll do something terrible for it first.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The pools aren't an active part of the encounter. They just sit there waiting for someone to be pushed in.

With a solo encounter, you want active features. They don't need to be particularly dangerous, they just need to add a dynamic element to the encounter, preferably one that isn't fully under the control of either side but that both can potentially leverage.

IE: four pools (one per corner). Each round, a 1d4 roll determines which one of them begins to bubble. It will erupt the round after that, drenching everything in that quarter of the map (including the beholder, if present) and pushing them away.

That's a very simple example, and it might not be the best one to apply with a flying monster, but it gives you the general idea.

Good idea. Instead of pools, they could also be clouds of oddly clinging gas, mobile dimensional rifts, or anything else. Heck, even mutated beholders that this beholder experimented on. They float around and either their eyes have been replaced by the "pools" or their eyes emit some effect that must be avoided (represented as a moving spot on the battlefield).

Really, most battles need active features. I'm tired of characters getting into position and just standing there.

I am just afraid that the beholder, baring some luck, petrifies players quickly and may kill them with his deathray. Afterall, its just 2 saves.

The beholder doesn't have to perform its triggered action. If nothing else, it can just keep more than 5 squares away from the PCs. That still leaves them in range of all of its eyes. Then, depending on its goal, it might use charm, sleep, telekinesis, slowing, brilliant, or terror. The petrification ray is "save ends," so the beholder might use it to keep characters from interfering with its experimental subjects, or to keep its subjects in place once they've entered whatever effect the beholder is studying.

Which gives me another idea: the beholder wouldn't sit around waiting for subjects to drop by. It would actively try to find them, and so it would make sense (setting aside that I don't know anything about your game) for there already to be subjects in the room. One goal of the PCs could be to rescue these subjects.

The number one thing is to make sure that both failure and success are interesting. When you've got that down, it really doesn't matter if the PCs swoop in and succeed handily, or if the monsters win easily. As a general rule, death is not all that interesting, though in a fantasy game it can be. Still, if you give monsters interesting ways to win (and thereby give the players interesting ways to lose), you can start worrying a lot less about how powerful your encounters are, which I find very freeing.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The number one thing is to make sure that both failure and success are interesting. When you've got that down, it really doesn't matter if the PCs swoop in and succeed handily, or if the monsters win easily. As a general rule, death is not all that interesting, though in a fantasy game it can be. Still, if you give monsters interesting ways to win (and thereby give the players interesting ways to lose), you can start worrying a lot less about how powerful your encounters are, which I find very freeing.



This. This is literally a game-changing concept. You will not look at 4e D&D and all of its formulas and equations and encounter balancing acts the same way again if you adopt this kind of design. Not only do you get to stop worrying about whether the encounters will be challenging "by the numbers," you'll get to have a lot more fun in the DM's chair because suddenly the encounter isn't about grinding everything down to 0. Everything has something to do and it tells a story on its own as the goals of the monsters come into conflict with the goals of the PCs.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Thanks for all your suggestions, I did run the encounter now and just want to tell how it went.
Firstly, more details:
The Beholder itself was trapped in the room by an evil cult who wanted the waters to be poisened. They fed him left over body parts from their efforts to raise an undead army. Since the beholder was bored, it not only corrupted the waters, but added a distinct flair to the waters, making the waters very good for Beholder skin (he thought he was quit beautiful)!
When the party finally arrived, he started to talk to them and tried to get them to try the pools for their own skin complexion, knowing that the results would be quit interesting indeed.
The party declined and immediatly engaged, stopping any further fooling around, so for the fight:

The beholder floated up to the ceiling (10m) and started using his rays to convince pcs to go skinny dipping in the pools. However, I placed 3 levers in the room, and one of them started spikes coming out of the ceiling to force the beholder to the ground. When those spikes got triggered (1st round, my players are smart like that), the Beholder started to magically make the pools errupt (2 pools, on pool a round) splashing the vile fluids around 1 or 2 squares. Those fluid erruptions would heal the beholder by 20 HP and cost players a healing surge. Also, every player once hid by the fluids would get the foul rotting disease after the encounter.

My backup for the party losing was that they would wake up in the food chamber behind his pool chamber, to be slowly consumed or tossed in the pools for more experiments (if anyone would have died, they would have also found some survivers there, close to death of course).

The encounter worked fairly good, and most turn stealing powers (petrification, sleeping, dominating or immobilizing for melees) were triggered by the random eye power  and not by me (players rolled a d10 and I told them what happend).

It was a fairly close call at the end with some players being close to 0 HP and one being hit by the death ray and being bloodied. Lucky him, he saved . However, every single party member got the disease, sadly 4/5 saved on their first extended rest, the last PC is now back to stage 1.

I think the players liked the encounter because there was lots of stuff todo. Just one player did not like it, she found it to boring. This came from her being the controller who usually uses monsters to attack each other.. well with only one baddy, nothing much to be done. Also the party wasted her full round stun by retreating in the first round and trying to lure the beholder in a trap which he actually new about.. well did obviously not work, daily wasted.

Thanks for all the feedback
That sounds excellent. I like your backup plan.

It's a shame one player found it boring, but perhaps this will be some incentive to broaden her tactics a bit.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I'm swiping that encounter, just so you know. 
Heroic Dungeon Master
I'm swiping that encounter, just so you know. 

I can email you the map if you are interested.
Mind PMing it to me as well? I've been looking for some ideas for my campaign and I love the sound of this.
I guess I better take the legal way here . Its map 10 from the Kingdom of the Ghouls map gallery. You can access that if you have someone in your group who has an online subscription, it is in the artical archives, just search for E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls.

I used Gimp to remove the markers (usually just paste similar looking tiles on top) and than printed the map on A3. I had to cut off the backroom so it would fit. So if you want the full map, you need to go for A2.

The room is excellent, since it is quite small (9x12 squares), giving the beholder good chances of getting many PCs within 5. I did not utilize the statues, but I suppose you could have fun with them, too.

I added the levers by simply pointing out the squares were they are to the players. All in all, great map.
It can be challenging to keep every player engaged when you have specialty builds like that. So, if she only shines when there's multiple targets, at a minimum splash in some minions. You can always have a portal, a summoner, or just a door to introduce more if need be.

However, sounds like a great encounter. I know my group would love it. 
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