three elites in one combat.

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Hello There

Tonight I want to makes combat a bit harder for my players, as we near the end of the campaign.
I want to make use of 3 elites in one combat. They party is lvl 16 and I want to use 3 lvl 19 elites. Xp-budget wise this is possible but hard. Will this kill my players? Does somebody have some experience with having 3 elites in one combat?

Thanks in advance,
Kees 
Depends on your party; I played in a game lvl 5 and we took on two solos (not sure the level) and some minions; we rocked through all of them but mostly because our party was well trained in working off each others characters weakness and strengths.

I'd just do some mock rolls for the first two or three turns; if it looks like they would deal enough damage to kill someone w/in two turns might be a bit much. 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

Yeah, should be no problem. I'd probably pile on some minions on top of that to hinder the PCs and aid the elites with Aid Attack/Defense and Heal checks to grant saves as needed.

It's even less of a problem and potentially more challenging if you have those three elites trying to accomplish some kind of goal other than killing the PCs. This way, you make it harder (because the players will need to come up with tactics to stop them other than touch base-to-base with their mini and grind it out) and you remove a great deal of the possibility of PC death if something is "off" about the difficulty. The monsters can succeed at their goal, the PCs fail, the scene ends and the world changes for the worse.

Also, if you're using level +3 monsters, make sure they aren't soldiers and be wary of brutes. Big defenses and big bags of hit points can mean a grind is coming. 
When dealing with elites, avoid using overleveled ones generally, not just the brutes and soldiers.

I'd stick to two elites at most though. Thre is liable to become a slog, not just because of how durable they are, but because they'll go through all of their interesting tricks too quickly given how long they'll last. On the flip side, there's also the danger that you'll get bogged down with tracking things in the early part of the encounter.

Two at-level elites with some (4 at-level) standard and (8 at-level) minion support is probably a better model, assuming a 5-player group. This will still produce a very difficult encounter but it's a lot less likely to turn into a slog.
Two at-level elites with some (4 at-level) standard and (8 at-level) minion support is probably a better model, assuming a 5-player group. This will still produce a very difficult encounter but it's a lot less likely to turn into a slog.



I'd cut this down by 1 standard for an additional 4 minions myself. Gives people with lots of close and area attacks a chance to be cool looking, and keeps the threat high with aid actions and lots of flanking chances without keeping the total enemy HP count high.

Happy Gaming
On the topic of slogs and grinds, the reason they become such is because at a certain point, the dramatic question has been answered. When the dramatic question has been answered, the scene is over and should be narrated to a conclusion in my view. When you don't do this, you are entering what everyone perceives as a slog or grind - we see the ending on the horizon and we're just filling out paperwork till then. In most standard D&D encounters, that dramatic question is "Who will prevail in this fight?" I find that this question is generally answered well before the last creature is laid low.

So as far as any concerns about slogs, here's how you deal with that: If at any point you think that the outcome of the battle is a foregone conclusion (outside determining whether or not someone loses an extra few hit points or whatever), ask the players if they think the dramatic question has been answered and whether they think it's prudent to move on.

Encounter design shouldn't really weigh into whether or not something is a slog or not. This is something you can judge during play and, if there's consensus, wrap it up and narrate the ending - did the enemies get away or get slaughtered or surrender, etc.?

What happens if you don't have consensus you may ask? Continue playing out the scene, but encourage the players who see the remainder as a grind to come up with some side goals and benefits for achieving said side goals. "The Oni is watching me via his crystal ball. If I can take out my third standard or better monster in this fight, I get combat advantage against him in the first round next time we meet." What DM would say no to that in order to keep the players engaged?

Anyway, a bit off-topic, but something to consider when building encounters.
Last time I was DMing a group at mid-paragon level, I did what to me was the unthinkable and only seemingly "fair" on paper while my gut told me it was going to kill them.

I tossed them against 3 Volcanic Dragons at once in a large, rocky, outdoor area.
They were an Adult, a Young Adult, and a Young respectively, so one was hard for their level, another normal, and the last easy.

They managed. (And I wasn't pulling any punches)

It was a loooooong fight and yet they didn't completely expend all their resources. So aside from being a long match, I know that properly balanced and fit party can handle quite a lot of punishment.
This weekend, I threw two elites, a solo, two standards and some minions, all at or above level, at my group of 3 PCs and on companion creature. In 6 rounds, they killed the minions, and the two standards both achieved their goal and kept the enemy from achieving theirs. The group is not particularly well optimized. One elite and the solo were undead, and I don't recall the cleric even using Turn Undead.

The encounter was on a 6 round timer and it did take our whole session, but it was never dull and literally came down to the last useful action by the PCs.

If the monsters' goal is to kill your PC then, yes, you will kill the PCs, sometimes even when you don't expect it. If you don't want to kill the PCs and you don't want the game to slog, then the monsters have to have some other goal.

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

Depends on the elites, depends on the PCs. If in doubt, get copies of the players' character sheets and run their PCs through a mock combat. At the very least, it'll help you notice glaring imbalances in the encounter.
The question a DM needs to answer for themselves is: What if an encounter kills the characters?

For some groups, it's nothing. They either resurrect the old character, or take the next one off the stack, or start playing a henchman or NPC or even a convenient monster.

In other groups, death is a bigger deal. The players take it very personally and rebel against it, or the DM needed a particular character alive for story purposes. Even if resurrection or character replacement is allowed, DMs might not allow the character to come back or be replaced quickly, leading to lengthy downtime for the player.

Unless you're going to carefully reinterpret some of the baseline assumptions of the game, you're going to be stuck with the baseline assumption that characters can and will die, even when an encounter is as balanced as possible (which is never very). If you aren't up for that, as I never was, you have to find other ways to challenge the players. If the players are okay with their characters dying, then you really don't have to worry about balance at all.

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

I've done the whole Angry DM 3-stage solo statblock thing on elites to good effect, though ymmv.  If you're doing an encounter where the goal is to reduce one side's HP to 0, this helps keep the battlefield dynamics in flux.
I've done the whole Angry DM 3-stage solo statblock thing on elites to good effect, though ymmv.  If you're doing an encounter where the goal is to reduce one side's HP to 0, this helps keep the battlefield dynamics in flux.



Not to mention it gives you an excuse to add/remove powers mid-battle for mid-game tweaking.

"Oh, you brought it to Stage 2? It drops the aura (that was causing your party way more damage than I expected...)"
....is kind of encounter my rogue/lock hybrid grins, wets my lips and jumps right in. Let's see what these 3 elites can really do.
My kind of combat. My kind of odds. Lol


Also, if you're using level +3 monsters, make sure they aren't soldiers and be wary of brutes. Big defenses and big bags of hit points can mean a grind is coming. 



The soldier advice is pretty reasonable, a level 19 soldier will have a 35 ac, and most level 16 pc's will have about +22 to attack rolls (24 with CA). Dending on the type of leader, party makeup, short term buffs, etc, this may mean that most party members are hitting on much lower than an 11.
At this level of the game, it's probably fine.

Big bags of hit points? Where? A level 19 brute has about 35-40 more hp's than most other mobs, that's like 1 hit from an at-will at this level. And since his ac is 4 points lower than the soldier's, it makes him considerably easier to hit - he should die much faster. (Possibly in the first round if he is ganged up on). 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
The soldier advice is pretty reasonable, a level 19 soldier will have a 35 ac, and most level 16 pc's will have about +22 to attack rolls (24 with CA). Dending on the type of leader, party makeup, short term buffs, etc, this may mean that most party members are hitting on much lower than an 11.
At this level of the game, it's probably fine.

Big bags of hit points? Where? A level 19 brute has about 35-40 more hp's than most other mobs, that's like 1 hit from an at-will at this level. And since his ac is 4 points lower than the soldier's, it makes him considerably easier to hit - he should die much faster. (Possibly in the first round if he is ganged up on). 



Perception tends to trump reality at the table and an extra bit of hit points can, in a traditional game with not particularly optimized characters*, make it seem like a bit of a slog especially if damage or accuracy aren't up to snuff.

* I'm assuming the PCs in this game aren't CharOp forum regulars considering the question being asked.
The soldier advice is pretty reasonable, a level 19 soldier will have a 35 ac, and most level 16 pc's will have about +22 to attack rolls (24 with CA). Dending on the type of leader, party makeup, short term buffs, etc, this may mean that most party members are hitting on much lower than an 11.
At this level of the game, it's probably fine.

Big bags of hit points? Where? A level 19 brute has about 35-40 more hp's than most other mobs, that's like 1 hit from an at-will at this level. And since his ac is 4 points lower than the soldier's, it makes him considerably easier to hit - he should die much faster. (Possibly in the first round if he is ganged up on). 



Perception tends to trump reality at the table and an extra bit of hit points can, in a traditional game with not particularly optimized characters*, make it seem like a bit of a slog especially if damage or accuracy aren't up to snuff.

* I'm assuming the PCs in this game aren't CharOp forum regulars considering the question being asked.




Likewise, but you know i wasn't referencing charop, in this forum i only reference baseline (designer) math...

30 damager per hit in mid-paragon tier is lower than designer baseline. Designers expect a striker to kill a standard in 4 rounds, and they expect said striker to miss at least once. So really, they are expecting a striker to kill a mob in 3 successful rounds. A level 16 standard has about 150 hp's - meaning 40-50 damage has to get through every round that actually connects. At -will, encounter, daily, in turn attacks, off turn attacks, no difference.
Extrapolating down, i said doing 30 with at at-will is a reasonable expectation at this level (CharOps expect 40-60 from at-wills at this level).

Similarly, Level +6 to attack rolls isn't a charop benchmark, it's designer baseline. 
16th level? Starting with an 18 in primary stat...
8 (half level) +  6 (stat) + 2 (proficiency) + 4 (enh) + 2 (Expertise) = 22 (24 with CA).
If you started with a +3 proficiency weapon, 20 primary stat, and have some form of class accuracy bonus (prime shot?), you get up to 25.


Again, it's really not hard to meet baseline.
Sure, if the pc's are drastically under baseline, things are much worse for them. But that's a different issue entirely.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis