PCvNPC combats

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In the last 4 campaign sessions of my homebrewn campaign I incorporated 2 encounters where the party fights other 'adventurers' (read: characters I created with the character builder).


  • The first time was when they were level 1 (6 PC's) and I had them pit off against 3 lvl 3 characters

  • The second time they were level 3 (6 PC's still) and I had them fight a single lvl 8 dragonborn Paladin (Blackguard)


I liked the change of pace this offered and especially the second encounter seemed to achieve its goal: they chose to challenge the town 'hero' and were well aware how powerful he was. He only had 68 HP, but quite a few ways to get THP and defense bonuses atop his already high defenses. This made for a combat that lasted about 6-7 rounds before they finally defeated him, with most of their attacks missing. In my opinion this made him much more impressive than had he had lower defenses and more HP (since they would just slap him with some status effects).

Question: Did any of you try to face your party against other legal characters and what were your experiences?
You say your experience with it was successful, if that's the case than props to you. In most cases it doesn't work. It's not really balanced to work.

PC Builder and Monster builder operate under different mechanics specifically for the sake of balance. In my experience you can create powerful enemies using the monster builder, have more free reign of it, and still make them seem as important as any PC.  Just my two cents, if it worked for you that's great...it won't most of the time. It makes the battles slow and heavy, unless your players like that sort of deep pure battling aspect, most people don't enjoy it.

Kudos and best of luck in the future.
You are correct about the encouters being quite heavy. I have a story-heavy campaign, but when there's combat encounter I try to make them feel important. So far I haven't been using the Monster Manual/Builder either. I create all monsters from scratch with a clear concept in mind.


An example of this is an encounter I have planned in the near future where I want them to feel the consequences of their alignment. Most of the party members consider themselves of the good alignment (and actually keep this in mind during play). When they arrive in the temple of a cult devoted to Beshaba they see the leader of the cult on a raised platform, the stairs leading to them guarded by a few enforcers with reach weapons. 

Also present in the temple are some villagers, enthralled by the cult: they will be commanded to take position in front of the enforcers, effectively blocking the melee characters (5/6 characters are melee) from getting into range for their attacks unless they force their way in, example: a strength check to push the villager aside. One villager per turn will be designated the 'martyr' by the cult leader, if the PC's attack anybody next to this villager the attack will instead target the villager. An 'evil' party would be able to strike the villagers down, they are minions with minimal defenses and a single AoE attack would wipe out most of the villagers, trivializing the rest of the encounter.
I don't use the monster builder either.

I pick a couple cool abilities, slap it on a modified DM cheat sheet chassis and run with it.  It makes my encounters take between 10-15 minutes to prepare from start to finish. 
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
I am aware of the mechanical possibility, but don't consider it particularly noble should they choose to act that way. They are still attacking helpless villagers, they just don't kill them, which is hard to justify as a truely good-hearted character.
I think part of my issue with the suggested solution (non-lethal damage) is that I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that characters who are normally unable to control their damage output (since you roll damage) can somehow stop themselves from mortally wounding an enemy. 

A stun-grenade or some other form of non-damaging control would be perfectly acceptable and a very viable and well thought-out strategy in my book. But to me non-lethal damage is a bit iffy.
I think part of my issue with the suggested solution (non-lethal damage) is that I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that characters who are normally unable to control their damage output (since you roll damage) can somehow stop themselves from mortally wounding an enemy. 

A stun-grenade or some other form of non-damaging control would be perfectly acceptable and a very viable and well thought-out strategy in my book. But to me non-lethal damage is a bit iffy.



Its not iffy at all.  Non-lethal damage is a core mechanic in the game.  If you don't like it, feel free to house rule it, but then it is you not liking part of the game.  Erachima is exactly right.  If you can stun-grenade (or sleep, or thunderstorm) everyone and then just pick the baddies out of the mess without killing anyone that seems the best all around.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
I am still deciding on my view on non-lethal damage:


  • I can imagine a fighter hitting the targets hands, which means it is unable to continue fighting (represented by the target having 0 HP), but still alive. Which is a reason why non-lethal damage is feasible. 

  • On the other hand I think NLD is a way of streamlining the game: in my mind, if you damage the target and it drops to (below) 0 HP and is dying. (unless he drops below his negative bloodied value, in which case the target instantly dies) In this case it should make death saving throw until either the target gets stabilized or dies. Of course it it impossible to roll DST's for every single monster, but I am considering house-ruling that when the players say 'non-lethal damage' it means I start rolling DST's and don't consider it an automatic kill.


What is your opinion on this?
I am still deciding on my view on non-lethal damage:
 I can imagine a fighter hitting the targets hands, which means it is unable to continue fighting (represented by the target having 0 HP), but still alive. Which is a reason why non-lethal damage is feasible.

Or a variety of other reflavorings. Tripping, punching, disarming, sundering, etc. Anything that effectively removes the monster from the fight.
On the other hand I think NLD is a way of streamlining the game: in my mind, if you damage the target and it drops to (below) 0 HP and is dying. (unless he drops below his negative bloodied value, in which case the target instantly dies) In this case it should make death saving throw until either the target gets stabilized or dies. Of course it it impossible to roll DST's for every single monster, but I am considering house-ruling that when the players say 'non-lethal damage' it means I start rolling DST's and don't consider it an automatic kill.

You're right, NLD is a way of streamlining the game. It does this by removing the arguments that would come up regarding player wishes to avoid killing certain targets. Earlier versions of the game just tried to make it harder to do, which met with grumbles. Now, it's not up to the DM anymore. No one has to kill anyone, if they don't want to.

You can still have your scenario, though. Have the townsfolk in some kind of a deathtrap, or something, such that if the enemies are killed or even knocked out, the townsfolk will die. Or just state that enthralled townsfolk who fail to defend their master (i.e. are knocked out) slit go into convulsions and die. But don't count on the PCs blaming themselves for that.

If your players would have used non-lethal damage on the enthralled townsfolk, then they probably aren't fans of being given moral conundrums. Maybe talk with them about the kinds of alignment knots they do like to untangle, rather than cut in half.

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

Also, assuming this is 4e: don't build PCs to fight PCs.  That's what monsters are for.  Don't use things which are overlevelled to add extra challenge; all that happens is the fights drag and the PCs miss a lot, which is boring.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.