Dungeon Magazine Monsters seemingly dealing below average damage

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I've been reading through some back articles of Chris Perkins' fabulous "The Dungeon Master Experience" and I came across this article.

In it, Chris reveals a spreadsheet which purports to list the average damage a monster's At-Will and Encounter attacks are expected to do per turn, and the various ways to create a dice expression that can arrive at that average. In the following week's article, Chris then reveals that at the table he sometimes simply uses that average value and adds a d6 to the damage to speed up his turns in combat.  

I love this idea, especially now that my players are entering Epic Tier. We are running the Scales of War adventure path, and so I opened up the adventure to see what average damage values my monsters should be dealing, and found a massive discrepancy.

According to Chris Perkins' spreadsheet, a level 23 non-brute monster should deal an average of 31 damage with an at-will attack.  Below is a snippet of the statblock for a Level 23 Elite Skirmisher (Gwenth, Vampire) printed in the adventure:


 Bloodletter (standard, at-will)  Weapon
+28 vs AC; 2d6+3 damage, and ongoing 10 damage (save ends).



2d6+3 gives an average of 10 damage - an average that, according to Perkins's table, is appropriate of a Level 2 monster!  Only if we add in 2 round of the ongoing 10 damage does Gwenth's damage approach the average.

So perhaps this is an anomoly to account for the ongoing damage.  I searched for a monster with a simple damage expression and foud the Cambion Impaler, a Level 19 Skirmisher.  His basic attack:


 Spear (standard, at-will)  Weapon
+24 vs AC; 3d6+8 damage.



3d6+8 equals 18.5 damage, a value appropriate for a level 10 monster (According to the spreadsheet).

My party routinely goes through level-appropriate and higher encounters with nobody getting bloodied, and some characters never even taking damage. Are the monsters printed in the adventure path underpowered? It certainly seems they are failing to hit these supposed "expected average damage values," and it makes for really boring fights.  

What started as a plan to speed up encounters seems to have opened a big can of worms for me. I really want to finish out the campaign, but if the system is falling apart at the start of Epic, I'm not sure what I can do to fix things to challenge my players for the next nine levels.

Does anybody have any advice on this?  

A quick Follow-Up:

I looked through all the monsters from the adventure and found that the Level 19 Nothic Mindblight had been updated to the new monster statblock in the Compendium.  Comparig the two statblocks, there's a huge difference in damage output for its at-will claw attack:

Old Statblock: 2d6+3 and ongoing 5 necrotic (save) -- average 10 + 5 ongoing
New Statblock:  2d10+6 and ongoing 10 necrotic (save) -- average 17 + 10 ongoing

Average damage for a 19th-level monster with an at-will is 27, so it would appear that ongoing damage is simply added to base damage.

It would appear I'm going to have to do some revising of damage values on most of the adventure path monsters to properly challenge my players.  
I've been running Scales of War and have revised all damage expressions since hitting paragon tier. I've also tuned up a lot of the monsters powers and traits - especially elites and solos.

The plotline for this series is pretty interesting (if your group enjoys the on-rails experience or you are okay with making it your own) but the monsters are woefully underpowered as written.

Example - a level 13 elite soldier that was doing 1d4+3 damage with an attack. Really? REALLY???
A word of caution though. If your PC's have been used to the whiffle ball damage of this mod for a long time, don't just spring the change on them unannounced. They have probably neglected defensive and healing powers because they simply weren't needed. I would tell your players to expect a damage spike after an upcoming point (a session, a level or the beginning of a new mod) and let players retrain powers and feats liberally.
Thanks for the reassurances. I guess I know what I'm doing this weeekend . . .

Definitely not worried about neglected defenses for the heroes.

Long rests come due to lack of daily powers, rather than low healing surges.
The Paladin (AC 36 or so) rarely takes damage, almost never gets bloodied, and only infrequently uses his healing abilities.
The Warden has (I think) 3 ways to use a healing surge in each encounter, and another 2 ways daily.
The Wizard and Bow Ranger have plenty of ways to avoid close combat.

And I can't remember the last time any of them used a consumable healing source, despite the rather large stockpile they've accumulated.

The Avenger might have a bit of trouble, as he's the one who absorbs the most damage; however, these changes might just force the party to be less reckless and work as a team rather than as five individual death machines.  

And *gasp* combats might actually be dangerous again!

 
And *gasp* combats might actually be dangerous again!



Combats can be "dangerous" as-is if you threaten the PCs' goals instead of just their limbs.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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In my expereince, after about 17th level, the Adventure Path starts to come unglued.  Every meaningful encounter in the AP does indeed "threaten the PCs' goals," but has, since late Paragon for us, been a mechanical cakewalk for the party.

All I want to do is put some tangible risk back into fighting.  As it is, there is very low risk in attacking first and asking questions later, as the party has yet to face a foe that can really hurt them, thanks to flawed damage values. With updated damage values, they'll be forced to really think about how to achieve those goals.

In my expereince, after about 17th level, the Adventure Path starts to come unglued.  Every meaningful encounter in the AP does indeed "threaten the PCs' goals," but has, since late Paragon for us, been a mechanical cakewalk for the party.

All I want to do is put some tangible risk back into fighting.  As it is, there is very low risk in attacking first and asking questions later, as the party has yet to face a foe that can really hurt them, thanks to flawed damage values. With updated damage values, they'll be forced to really think about how to achieve those goals.



Death is always a way to threaten their goals because if they're pushing up daisies, they ain't succeeding in their goals. The problem is, as you've discovered, that's not much of a threat (not to mention death is the least interesting of all failures). I dare say even with you working tirelessly to improve the numbers in the monster stat blocks, you're not going to challenge them much at all. You're simply going to get them to expend more resources per encounter, increase the length of the combats, and further encourage optimization/failure mitigation. The arms race will begin anew.

The best way to challenge them in light of this is to look at each encounter, examine the goals/objectives in that encounter for both the PCs and the "bad guys," and then make the encounter focus on that rather than total annihilation of either side. Ideally, the PCs should be able to curb stomp everyone on the map and still lose or hightail it out of there with their immediate goal attained and still win.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I know your group is ahead of mine so there isn't much I can provide that'll be useful to you, but here's an example of a character I restatted for an upcoming encounter. (this is from Haven of the Bitter Glass)

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Pennel (P) Level 14 Elite Soldier
Medium natural humanoid, human XP 2000


Initiative +15 Senses Perception +17
HP 276; Bloodied 138
AC 30; Fortitude 25, Reflex 27, Will 26
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6
Action Points 1


TRAITS


Defender of Telicanthus – When Pennel attacks a target, that target is marked until the end of Pennel’s next turn. While marked by Pennel, enemies lose all resistance and immunity to psychic damage, and deal half damage to Telicanthus.


STANDARD


m Crystal Dagger (standard; at-will) ✦ Psychic, Weapon
+21 vs. AC; 3d6 + 12 damage.


r Crystal Strands (standard; at-will) ✦  Psychic, Weapon
Ranged 10; +19 vs. Reflex; 3d6 + 12 damage, and the target is pulled 3 squares.


M/R Crystal Bloom (standard; at-will) ✦  Psychic, Weapon
Pennel makes two basic attacks.


C Crystal Bloom (standard; recharge when bloodied) ✦  Psychic
Close Burst 3, +19 vs. Reflex. Hit: 3d8+12 damage and the target is immobilized, save ends. Miss: Half damage and the target is slowed until the end of Pennel’s next turn.


TRIGGERED


M/R Cut Off (immediate interrupt; usable when an enemy leaves a square adjacent to Pennel or moves into a square adjacent to Telecanthus, at-will)
Pennel makes a basic attack against the target. If the attack hits, the targets movement ends.


Alignment Evil Languages Common, Deep Speech
Skills Acrobatics +18, Insight +17, Stealth +18, Thievery +18
Str 10 (+7) Dex 15 (+9) Wis 17 (+10)
Con 19 (+11) Int 20 (+12) Cha 23 (+13)


Unfortunately, this is the Scales of War Adventure Path, and I simply don't have the time or energy to completely overhaul the entire thing just to make more interesting consequences for a failed combat.  

Every encounter's goal is to move the story forward; the ojectives for the PCs are "get past the bad guys" or "kill the bad guys" and the bad guys are there to stop the PCs.  It's called an adventure path for a reason, and we're aware that it's railroading and my players are okay with it. 

Your solution is great for a homebrew campaign; it simply doesn't apply here.


Unfortunately, this is the Scales of War Adventure Path, and I simply don't have the time or energy to completely overhaul the entire thing just to make more interesting consequences for a failed combat.  

Every encounter's goal is to move the story forward; the ojectives for the PCs are "get past the bad guys" or "kill the bad guys" and the bad guys are there to stop the PCs.  It's called an adventure path for a reason, and we're aware that it's railroading and my players are okay with it. 

Your solution is great for a homebrew campaign; it simply doesn't apply here.



It would actually be less work to implement the solution I recommend than revising all the stat blocks. I ran Scales of War myself until about the 16th-level mark, so I know how it is. Plus, upping the damage doesn't really make anything more challenging for reasons stated. Just longer. Which would appear to be the opposite of what you intend.

But, as you like. Good luck!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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In general, my players have embraced the railroad. Whoo whoo! But I'm interested in incorporating some of your ideas. If nothing else, I want to think more about what the NPC's want, and whether they are willing to surrender, run away or fight to the death.

EDIT: That being said - the weak monster stats are still a problem. If the heroes are constantly fighting Glass Joe, there is no reason for the heroes to negotiate or do anything but facestab everything that moves.
In general, my players have embraced the railroad. Whoo whoo! But I'm interested in incorporating some of your ideas. If nothing else, I want to think more about what the NPC's want, and whether they are willing to surrender, run away or fight to the death.



I'm not advocating changing the railroady nature of the adventure path here. That would be a lot of work.

I'm simply saying you can both decrease combat length and increase the challenge by making a quick change to how the encounters are approached. These appear to be the goals of the OP. Changing damage will do neither, in most cases.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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EDIT: That being said - the weak monster stats are still a problem. If the heroes are constantly fighting Glass Joe, there is no reason for the heroes to negotiate or do anything but facestab everything that moves.



As above, the encounters can be very quickly altered such that stomping every monster could end up a complete failure for the PCs since doing so could cause them to miss their goal.

It's very logical to assume increasing damage increases the challenge, I get that. But that's not how it works out in practice. I'm a fan of practical solutions myself.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I'm not advocating changing the railroady nature of the adventure path here. That would be a lot of work.

I'm simply saying you can both decrease combat length and increase the challenge by making a quick change to how the encounters are approached. These appear to be the goals of the OP. Changing damage will do neither, in most cases.



Actually, my goal was to make sure that combats were mechanically challenging and accurate for my players.  I mentioned fight duration simply as an aside to explain how I got to my conundrum. I was mostly worried about the mechanical disconnect between the effectiveness of the AP monsters and the supposd benchmarks.  

But I too would like to hear more about your encounter approach ideas.  Perhaps an example from earlier in the adventure path of how you would tweak an encounter?

In the following week's article, Chris then reveals that at the table he sometimes simply uses that average value and adds a d6 to the damage to speed up his turns in combat.  

...

It certainly seems they are failing to hit these supposed "expected average damage values," and it makes for really boring fights.  

What started as a plan to speed up encounters seems to have opened a big can of worms for me. I really want to finish out the campaign, but if the system is falling apart at the start of Epic, I'm not sure what I can do to fix things to challenge my players for the next nine levels.



I mentioned fight duration simply as an aside to explain how I got to mu conundrum.



Perhaps the above (emphasis mine) would illustrate why I approached it from that angle. Presumably, you're still interested in making encounters shorter, right? Well, all of these things are connected. You can increase the damage easily enough, but your encounters will get longer and you'll see some other side effects, too, like increased optimization from the players which will likely lead to even longer encounters for no additional challenge. The real problem is the basic premise that every fight must be to the death. This is a flaw in the design of D&D.

But I too would like to hear more about your encounter approach ideas.  Perhaps an example from earlier in the adventure path of how you would tweak an encounter?



Sure! Which adventure (and encounter) is "up next" for you guys?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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It's very logical to assume increasing damage increases the challenge, I get that. But that's not how it works out in practice. I'm a fan of practical solutions myself.



Iserith, you haven't been in my dining room every other Thursday for the past year, so you may not be aware of this, but it's not just a logical assumption. It's something I've been doing and it has worked. Empirically so.

It didn't create an optimization race because PC's were already optimized to the maximum of the players potential. It didn't slow down fights, because my players had sufficient defenses and healing that they were already able to withstand the increase in damage - along with sufficient control that a lot of attacks never hit (massive to-hit penalties) or never even get made.

What it did do is that, when players did get hit, they felt it. And they greatly appreciated the investments they made in durability.
What it did do is that, when players did get hit, they felt it. And they greatly appreciated the investments they made in durability.



Exactly what I was looking for.  Can't add anything else to that.
Iserith, you haven't been in my dining room every other Thursday for the past year, so you may not be aware of this, but it's not just a logical assumption. It's something I've been doing and it has worked. Empirically so.

It didn't create an optimization race because PC's were already optimized to the maximum of the players potential. It didn't slow down fights, because my players had sufficient defenses and healing that they were already able to withstand the increase in damage - along with sufficient control that a lot of attacks never hit (massive to-hit penalties) or never even get made.

What it did do is that, when players did get hit, they felt it. And they greatly appreciated the investments they made in durability.



Then all we have to do is make sure the OP has your exact players and PCs and we can be sure your solution will work!

Or the OP can consider an alternative way and figure out which he likes better. I'm here to help, not argue about anecdotes.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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It's also worth pointing out that it's "enjoyable" work to me. I've actually taken a good deal of pleasure out of the work of tweaking the monsters...raising damage and adding some extra powers to make them more interesting.It also helps me familiarize myself with the monsters.

In my experience, anything that keeps the DM engaged in the campaign is good.
Sure! Which adventure (and encounter) is "up next" for you guys?



We just started Betrayal and Monadhan (Dungeon 170).  Feel free to take any of the Shantytown (T-series) or Cavern (C-series) encounters and put your spin on them.



Then all we have to do is make sure the OP has your exact players and PCs and we can be sure your solution will work!



That fantastic bit of snark can be turned around to your argument as well, you know.

We just started Betrayal and Monadhan (Dungeon 170).  Feel free to take any of the Shantytown (T-series) or Cavern (C-series) encounters and put your spin on them.



Okay, I'll post some stuff up by tonight sometime. I'll have to give it a read over.

That fantastic bit of snark can be turned around to your argument as well, you know.



Touche. Wink

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Or the OP can consider an alternative way and figure out which he likes better. I'm here to help, not argue about anecdotes.



To be honest, JRedGiant provided me with exatly the information I needed in his first post. 

I never asked for assistance in shortening combats or alternative ways to challenge my players. I welcome alternative ideas, but your responses and suggestions have nothing to do with the question I originally asked - "Are scales of war monsters damage values flawed?"

I'm still curious about your encounter tweaking examples. There's still nine levels left to go.
 
I never asked for assistance in shortening combats or alternative ways to challenge my players. I welcome alternative ideas, but your responses and suggestions have nothing to do with the question I originally asked - "Are scales of war monsters damage values flawed?"



And I don't think they are, at least, not through the lens by which I view encounters. As well, the various things you touched on in your original post are all connected anyway.

Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to look at other options, as you say. Then you can decide what's more fun and achieves your objectives more fully. Who knows, maybe you'll up the damage and use alternate goals/objectives/out, when all is said and done.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I'll take on T4: Desecrated Graveyard, since the motivation of the NPC is fairly obvious. Eat the PC's.

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First off, this is an encounter that could easily be shaved off. The mod basically admits that this isn't related to the plotline. That being said....

Raise the Unholy Smite attack damage to 4d6+17 damage (normal, not necrotic) and OG15 necrotic.

Remove the altered damage for Double Attack. The damage above for Unholy Smite is fine.

Mouth of Darkness should do 3d8+10 damage (normal, not necrotic) and be a minor action, not a standard action.

Dark Plague. Nice - they give half damage on a miss on an attack that doesn't deal damage. Sigh. Okay, ditch the lost healing surge and add 4d6+17 necrotic. Weakened isn't a particularly interesting status effect, since it happens when the only monster is dead (and when he is bloodied). Instead, enemies hit who are taking ongoing damage increase the amount by 5 and take that damage immediately (in addition to their normal hit at the start of their turns.).

Ditch the second wind entirely. Massive monster healing is boring and grindy.

The desecration should get a full additional turn - give it a roll for initiative and have it act on it's initiative minus 10 as well.

It's a solo, so it needs some shrugging. Let it end a harmful condition at the beginning of each of its turn(The desecration decides whether a condition is "harmful" to it or not), but doing so turns off its Aura of Malevolence until the beginning of its next turn.

The terrain is pretty boring for a solo fight also. At the beginning of any PC's turn, slide that PC one space towards a tomb. Any PC who ends his turn adjacent to a tomb loses all resistance to necrotic damage and becomes vulnerable 10 necrotic until the end of the encounter.

That's what I would do, looking at it for about 10 minutes. Of course, I usually end up thinking about this stuff while showering/driving and coming up with better ideas.

EDIT:
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Add Immediate Reaction - Trigger: The desecration is hit with a melee attack. +25 vs. Fortitude. Hit: The descration slides the target 4 squares.

That will mess with some multiattacking, and bring the tombs into play more. Note that there's no inherent damage, and of course as an immediate it can't use it every time.
I'll take on T4: Desecrated Graveyard, since the motivation of the NPC is fairly obvious. Eat the PC's.

First off, this is an encounter that could easily be shaved off. The mod basically admits that this isn't related to the plotline. That being said....




All great ideas, but I plan on cutting this encounter altogether, with a very RP-heavy encounter with Rolain ending in a beefed up combat encounter (maybe undead swarming to his aid, etc.)  

I'm ditching a lot of extraneous encounters these days; got rid of the two wilderness encounters in Betrayal right at the start, and just had the players walk into the Shantytown.  This is another reason I want the combats to be more dangerous - with fewer game-daily drains on PC resources, they have more to bring to bear against each enemy.

I am looking forward to the Caverns, as I just know they're gonna use the Solace Bole ritual to take a long rest in the caverns.  Too bad the areas will rearrange while they're in there . . . Not sure if they should wake up in a new cavern, or same cavern in a different position . . .
Yeah, I can't blame you for giving this one the axe. Still, you see kind of an example of how I deal with solos. In addition to the higher damage overall, I make sure they get:



  • Status shrugging

  • Extra turns

  • Some sort of immediate that isn't an encounter power

  • Minor action attacks

  • Things happen on triggers

  • Cool terrain


Another thing I've played around with is Angry DM's boss monsters. Google his blog and give it a read. Makes for some interesting fights.

All great ideas, but I plan on cutting this encounter altogether, with a very RP-heavy encounter with Rolain ending in a beefed up combat encounter (maybe undead swarming to his aid, etc.)  

I'm ditching a lot of extraneous encounters these days; got rid of the two wilderness encounters in Betrayal right at the start, and just had the players walk into the Shantytown.



Interesting. I was just having a discussion with someone about this impetus. Have you ever really examined why you want to drop those encounters? My take on that is that it's a symptom of the same underlying issue. Hence my "all connected" claptrap.

This is another reason I want the combats to be more dangerous - with fewer game-daily drains on PC resources, they have more to bring to bear against each enemy.



You won't have to worry about what kind of resource drain issues the PCs have given an alternate goal/objective setup. I used to get frustrated when I couldn't "challenge" a PC by the numbers. Now I don't care because that doesn't matter with this design method. It's very freeing.

I do have a game tonight to play in, so might not have your encounters up till tomorrow, but I will work on it, for sure.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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T1: Seer's Hut


BEFORE the PCs can get any big secrets out of Sarissa, this encounter happens.

Monsters have two goals in this encounter: (1) Kill Sarissa/turn her into a vampire and (2) Scan the PCs brains to find out what their story is.

Rather than start invisible and flying (save it in case he takes some ranged heat), the cambion soulthief is flying around above pointing a skull at the PCs and copying their memories. PCs can try to resist that using skills at the start of their rounds. If half or more of the PCs fail a skill check to resist, the cambion has all he needs and completes that objective. He goes invisible and flees to take the information back to Kas.

Sarissa dies or (is turned into a vampire) if she starts her turn next to a vampire 3 times. The PCs will then have to figure out a different way to get the information they need.

Challenging, meaningful, and stomping every monster (or the monsters stomping the PCs) isn't the focus. The PCs can defeat everyone with damage and lose at least part of the encounter. There are at least a few possible outcomes here that will drive the action.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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That looks like fun and I'll probably steal it in several levels. Good stuff!

But the monsters will still do higher damage.
That looks like fun and I'll probably steal it in several levels. Good stuff!

But the monsters will still do higher damage.



Thanks. I'll do one more from the other series later today.

You could certainly up the monster damage, but to the extent they're not interested in killing the PCs because of their objectives, their damage doesn't really matter. They just need to get to Sarissa and don't have to make attack or damage rolls to do that. Same goes for the cambion. I doubt I'd even make an attack roll against the PCs unless it would let me force-move them out of the way to focus on other objectives. 

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C2: Cavern of Cliffs (Slightly Different Take, Same Results)

The devils seek to be released from Arantor's servitude almost as much as they want to do it in a way that betrays either Arantor or the person who frees them from Arantor's bonds. Hopefully both. They do not necessarily engage in combat right away, choosing to parlay with the PCs and offer them a deal:

Each of the devils will share a helpful (and truthful) secret about Arantor with an individual PC if that PC will promise to speak its True Name and banish it back to Hell. If the PCs don't want to make the deal, they're otherwise content to allow the PCs to pass through this area unharmed, then reporting on the PCs, granting some tangible benefit to Arantor in the final battle. You could even impart a mechanical bonus in the battle against Arantor to underscore the usefulness of the devils' secret information. If it comes to a fight, the devils oblige and, without adjustments to their stat blocks, it's probably a quick fight. During the fight, they continue to offer a deal.

Speaking the True Name of a devil isn't easy, of course, and certainly not without risk. Skill checks ensue. On a higher DC, the PC succeeds and the devil that told him a secret is banished. Asmodeus grants the PC a boon (ruh-roh!). On a middling DC, the PC banishes the devil back to Hell, but it's sloppy and alerts Arantor who gets a little edge on that PC later on. On a failure, the PC banishes the devil back to Hell, but has to take his place... as a servant of Arantor. (Whatever that means.)

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

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First off, I find it fun that changes to encounters always seem to divide DMs into two categories; the 'goals achieved' DMs and the 'mechanically more dangerous' DMs. I'm usually a bit of both, but it's fun to read about it.

About the skill checks for speaking the devil's True Name. Checks implies multiple skill checks. Is this correct or would a single check for a single PC be sufficient? If not, what would a (mini-)skill challenge for speaking a devil's True Name look like? It is the principle of speaking a couple of syllables, so it could be accomplished easily. However, some fun might be had for making it a small skill challenge in which players can come to the same end result together, though I'm having a hard time imagining the type of actions needed for that.
Heroic Dungeon Master
First off, I find it fun that changes to encounters always seem to divide DMs into two categories; the 'goals achieved' DMs and the 'mechanically more dangerous' DMs. I'm usually a bit of both, but it's fun to read about it.



I hover between both categories. I just take issue with the notion that upping damage increases challenge. Given the resiliency of 4e characters, especially at these levels, my experience is that it simply makes combats longer, not more challenging. You spend an extra surge or an extra daily and problem solved. No real choice other than the order in which you use the same powers you've been using in previous adventures and levels. Another 15 to 30 minutes tacked on that might have been better spent.

About the skill checks for speaking the devil's True Name. Checks implies multiple skill checks. Is this correct or would a single check for a single PC be sufficient? If not, what would a (mini-)skill challenge for speaking a devil's True Name look like? It is the principle of speaking a couple of syllables, so it could be accomplished easily. However, some fun might be had for making it a small skill challenge in which players can come to the same end result together, though I'm having a hard time imagining the type of actions needed for that.



I'd do it as a single check per PC. You could certainly do it as a skill challenge if you really wanted to, but I wouldn't see the need.

In C2, I'm kind of poking fun at it. I don't do resource-drain encounters in my games because draining their resources is not how I choose to challenge the PCs. Is resource management really a challenge? Do I really have to think about it much? What sort of angst does that produce when I have to decide between one encounter power or another or whether to Second Wind? None, in my book.

It has all the look of a "throwaway" encounter, something there just to drain the PCs' resources ahead of other fights later. I wouldn't doubt that this one was on the chopping block to be cut by the OP as extraneous (unless he was enamored by the terrain which is kinda cool). Knowing that the PCs may realize it's a throwaway, my approach offers them a real choice here: Save your resources and get a little boon (maybe!) or waste a couple surges and dailies on a pointless fight that doesn't add much to the fiction on its own. (Not to mention time spent on this encounter means less forward momentum on more "important" encounters that session.)

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver  |  Three Pillars of Immersion

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

In response to something that was part of the OP:

> So perhaps this is an anomoly to account for the ongoing damage.

Ongoing damage is fairly straightforward: the ongoing amount is subtracted directly from the 'average'. IE: 2d6 + 7 becomes 2d6 + 2 and ongoing 5, or perhaps 1d8 + 5 and ongoing 5.

Other traits can also be drawn from the base damage, but that mostly case-by-case.