Ask the GM to Nerf an Enemy?

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Our recent campaign session ended with a surprise attack. Amongst the attackers is a swarm who I think is drastically overpowered for its level: its basic attack grabs the target, who takes ongoing damage and is dazed until he escapes. Its basic attack does standard damage up-front; factoring in the ongoing, it does 160-200% of expected damage per basic attack, as well as dazing the target. We're at mid-Heroic tier, so we don't have many assured escape options like teleports. Combined with our melee-focused party (who have a hard time with swarms as-is), it's like this swarm is an elite disguised as a standard monster.

I don't think the GM meant for this swarm to be so overpowered. (It wouldn't be the first time he's buffed a swarm into a party killer.) I have an opportunity before the battle proper to bring it up with him. I'm conflicted about whether to do so, though. Should I bring up my concerns about the swarm to the GM and ask him to tweak its damage "mid-combat"? Or should I assume he's got it properly balanced, that it's not my place to mention it, and go through the combat as-is without a gripe or a complaint?
Address your concerns directly with the DM. There is no downside for doing so and potentially lots of downsides for not doing so.

Is this a monster out of the Compendium or one he's tweaked? If it's the former, what's it called so I can look at it?

Do your characters know about the coming threat such that they could reasonably justify preparing close and area attacks - alchemical items, if needs be - accordingly?

What is this swarm's goal? Kill PCs? If it's something other than that, could you simply prevent it from completing its goal in a way that doesn't necessarily mean destroying it?

Could you defeat the swarm in some other way such as a skill challenge to contain it or banish it to the Phantom Zone or whatever?

Could there be an optional objective in the scene where the PCs can complete it to reduce the level of the challenge, perhaps by removing the swarm's damage reduction abilities? 

Could you just avoid the swarm or use control on the swarm to keep it at bay and take on other enemies instead? 

I guess what I'm saying is that there should always be other ways to deal with a potential threat than making base-to-base contact with your minis and rolling dice at each other till one side or the other is dead. 
Is this a monster out of the Compendium or one he's tweaked? If it's the former, what's it called so I can look at it?

Do your characters know about the coming threat such that they could reasonably justify preparing close and area attacks - alchemical items, if needs be - accordingly?

What is this swarm's goal? Kill PCs? If it's something other than that, could you simply prevent it from completing its goal in a way that doesn't necessarily mean destroying it?

Could you defeat the swarm in some other way such as a skill challenge to contain it or banish it to the Phantom Zone or whatever?

Could there be an optional objective in the scene where the PCs can complete it to reduce the level of the challenge, perhaps by removing the swarm's damage reduction abilities? 

Could you just avoid the swarm or use control on the swarm to keep it at bay and take on other enemies instead? 

I guess what I'm saying is that there should always be other ways to deal with a potential threat than making base-to-base contact with your minis and rolling dice at each other till one side or the other is dead. 

I tried searching for it in the Compendium, but I can't find any swarms around Lvl.6 who have a dazing grab attack. Therefore, I suspect it's custom-built. It's also possible he took an existing swarm and tweaked it to make it tougher or more "exciting". Some of those tweaks have made them much tougher than expected; it's amazing how a little change can turn a "decent challenge" into a "potential party breaker".

The setup is our adventuring party is raiding a brothel whose masters kidnap women and break them into servitude. The party entered a pocket plane where they "train" the women. The party approached the women, only to discover they have been drugged/charmed into attacking others who enter the room.

We were not expecting a swarm to attack (well, no more so than usual) and the fact they are charmed women we're trying to rescue hampers our AoE quite a bit. (Our AoEer specializes in fire. She can't use most of it for... obvious reasons.) We definitely didn't expect a swarm of unarmed bathing women to have massive psychic glomps. (Insert killer rabbit joke here.)

The swarm's goal is to incapacitate the PCs, but whether it's to kill them or drug/charm them as well, I'm not sure.

The obvious method of bypassing the fight entirely would be to figure out what's controlling them and break through it somehow, but the GM hasn't given any hints about how we could do it (or whether it's even possible) yet. Sometimes our GM gives us ways of bypassing a fight, other times things we think will bypass or weaken a fight are red herrings and we're locked into the fights anyway. Regardless, we normally don't try to bypass fights, or try to think of ways to use skills to weaken it. This could be a perfect example of a fight we could weaken/break somehow, but without some type of clue that we can, we aren't going to waste actions trying.

Avoiding & using control on the swarm is difficult; our former controller's player quit showing up (we don't know why), and the GM replaced him with a GNPC leader. He might have AoE control abilities, but we don't know. My PC has an Immobilize or two which might work on the swarm, but I don't know if single-target control will work on them and it requires him to be adjacent to them to keep them immobilized. You could argue we were asking for it by using a party without a controller or much AoE, but the GM knew our makeup when he built the encounter.
I tried searching for it in the Compendium, but I can't find any swarms around Lvl.6 who have a dazing grab attack. Therefore, I suspect it's custom-built. It's also possible he took an existing swarm and tweaked it to make it tougher or more "exciting". Some of those tweaks have made them much tougher than expected; it's amazing how a little change can turn a "decent challenge" into a "potential party breaker".

The setup is our adventuring party is raiding a brothel whose masters kidnap women and break them into servitude. The party entered a pocket plane where they "train" the women. The party approached the women, only to discover they have been drugged/charmed into attacking others who enter the room.

We were not expecting a swarm to attack (well, no more so than usual) and the fact they are charmed women we're trying to rescue hampers our AoE quite a bit. (Our AoEer specializes in fire. She can't use most of it for... obvious reasons.) We definitely didn't expect a swarm of unarmed bathing women to have massive psychic glomps. (Insert killer rabbit joke here.)



Hit points aren't a reflection of physical health unless it is established as such. They are otherwise an abstraction and pacing mechanic, nothing more. So establish that the fire AOEs are just heat, not flames, and that their hit points are stress/fatigue, not third-degree burns. When they reach 0 hit points, the swarm is dispersed as the charmed ladies pass out from the heat, but they are not killed in the fiction.

The swarm's goal is to incapacitate the PCs, but whether it's to kill them or drug/charm them as well, I'm not sure.

The obvious method of bypassing the fight entirely would be to figure out what's controlling them and break through it somehow, but the GM hasn't given any hints about how we could do it (or whether it's even possible) yet. 



Ask the DM about the swarm's goals. If he balks, ask to make an Insight check to discern it. 

Then ask how you can break that charm without necessarily attacking the swarm, suggesting perhaps 4 successes on appropriately-justified skill checks (standard action, DC 23) might do it. The thief pretends to be charmed and is left alone (Bluff). The druid uses natural herbs and antitoxins to neutralize the drugs (Heal or Nature). The wizard uses counterspells to weaken the charms on them (Arcana), while the bard tries to get through to them (Diplomacy).

Of course, this largely depends on whether the DM wants you to solve the problem yourselves or find his solution. The latter is an utter GM fail in my view. If that's his approach, figure out a way to tease the information out of him otherwise it's a guessing game.

Sometimes our GM gives us ways of bypassing a fight, other times things we think will bypass or weaken a fight are red herrings and we're locked into the fights anyway. Regardless, we normally don't try to bypass fights, or try to think of ways to use skills to weaken it. This could be a perfect example of a fight we could weaken/break somehow, but without some type of clue that we can, we aren't going to waste actions trying.



That's unfortunate. I wouldn't want to play that way.

Avoiding & using control on the swarm is difficult; our former controller's player quit showing up (we don't know why), and the GM replaced him with a GNPC leader. He might have AoE control abilities, but we don't know. My PC has an Immobilize or two which might work on the swarm, but I don't know if single-target control will work on them and it requires him to be adjacent to them to keep them immobilized. You could argue we were asking for it by using a party without a controller or much AoE, but the GM knew our makeup when he built the encounter.



While I don't think DMs should necessarily design encounters with PC abilities in mind, I also don't think the DM should pick the solutions to problems he presents and then make the players guess until they get it right. Or until he feels magnanimous enough to "let you have it."
I don't think I'd recommend asking about it mid-combat. If he's realized he's made a mistake, he's already working on it, and if not he's unlikely to take it well. Talk to him after the game.

Asking him to tone down the monsters is likely to either not gain much traction (even if you point him towards the rules), or result in the pendulum swinging toward very easy monsters. Instead, I recommend talking in terms of what failure means. Is the character gone for good? Are you stuck sitting out of the game for an hour? Is the DM's story wrecked? These are all things that you and your group can mitigate in the future, by altering your approach to the game, your characters and their deaths.

Basically, death shouldn't be a problem. It should be ok for your characters to die. Otherwise, there's no point in the characters dying. But since DMs tend not to want to focus on alternative goals, character death has to be prepared for.

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

If your DM intended you to slay the enemy in question, you should ask for a nerf.

Anyone remember the Balhannoth?
Anyone remember the Balhannoth?



How does the Balhannoth factor into this? Another mixture of seemingly moderate abilities that turn it into a party killer when combined?
Address your concerns directly with the DM. There is no downside for doing so and potentially lots of downsides for not doing so.

I talked to him about it tonight. So glad I did. It turns out I was completely, utterly mistaken: it's not a high-damage swarm, it's actually an elite regular monster refluffed as a "mob of girls". That means it's doing the expected damage and takes full damage/effects from single-target attacks. The entire misunderstanding came about because it was refluffed to look like something I thought was a swarm.

So, aside from a potential warning to GMs to be careful about how you refluff things, lest your players make wrong assumptions from the description, everything worked out.
Wow, 10 hours and not even two pages yet. That was resolved a lot faster than problems posted here tend to be, good for you guys

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Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
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If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

I talked to him about it tonight. So glad I did. It turns out I was completely, utterly mistaken: it's not a high-damage swarm, it's actually an elite regular monster refluffed as a "mob of girls". That means it's doing the expected damage and takes full damage/effects from single-target attacks. The entire misunderstanding came about because it was refluffed to look like something I thought was a swarm.

So, aside from a potential warning to GMs to be careful about how you refluff things, lest your players make wrong assumptions from the description, everything worked out.



Filthy metagamer.

Glad to hear it worked out. Talking directly to other people has a strange way of being effective.