Solo Encounters - Good/Bad for LFR mods?

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I\m interested in other's opinions on Solo encounters they have faced in LFR mods.


My opinion of the Solo encounters so far, is that they just don't work for LFR. Reasoning why -

Solo Encounters are supposed to be a challenging, tough fight for the group of adventures. Only problem is that in LFR mods they either a (A) cakewalk, or (B) a party killer.

This is becouse, for solo encounters to really work, they need to be tailored, somewhat, to the party. With a LFR table, you don't always know what classes you'll be setting and playing with. So the mods solo encounter could end up being underpowered or overpowered for the table.

Here's a couple examples -
Party facing a Solo Brute. Party's Ranger able to take on a -2 to hit, Wizard able to take on a -2 to hit, fighter with his mark able to tack on a -2 to hit, and fighter with shield bash able to tack on another -2 to hit.
Brute facing a high AC fighter at -4 to hit or going after someone else with a -8 to hit.
GM screams in frustration as Brute can't hit anything.

All melee group facing a Solo Flying Skirmisher. Party not able to do decent damage at range and no way to pin the flyer down in one spot.
Party screams in frustration as the Flyer zones in and out, killing the party one by one.


So most of the solo encounter in LFR I've seen so far, have been, 'Let's have fun with killing this guy.' With a few 'ARG! We need to run or we'll all die'. :D dramatised:D
The vast majority of solo encounters I've seen have been cakewalks, and I haven't been terribly impressed with them on either side of the table.

The main problems, and I think it's symptomatic of solo encounters in 4e in general, rather than an LFR thing, are twofold.

Firstly, most solos simply don't dish out enough damage to be a threat. A solo in a 7-10 high tier mod I encountered did 1d10 + 4 damage on a melee basic, with it's non-recharge basic swing going at +16 vs AC and making that attack twice. Against a 'typical' level 9 or 10 frontliner that's a 10 or 11 to hit (worse if they go after the defender that's marking them), for a total of around 9 damage per round. Ok, of course said solo can do other things, and has action points, but if the DM rolls poorly for recharge for a couple of rounds...

Secondly, status effects can be piled on making the solo unable to do anything useful. 'Action denial' powers, be they immobilise, daze, prone, big penalties to hit, or whatever, are approximately five times more effective in the solo encounter than the 'normal' encounter. Look at the powers your PC has - unless you're a controller (and even then), the chances are that if they impose status effects, they'll be better vs. a solo than a normal monster. Ok, you have to hit, but hitting isn't a problem for reasonably well kitted out PCs, and combat advantage is very easy to come by against a solo.

As a result, nearly all the solo fights I've fought and run have seen the DM screaming in frustration because it can't do anything, while the players scream in frustration because despite the fact that they're in no real danger, they have to grind down 400 odd hitpoints, which becomes boring.

There have been exceptions. Core1-4 and Core1-5 both contain enjoyable solo encounters (the latter mostly because of imaginative use of terrain; the solo itself suffers from having a too low 'to hit'), but those are the only two I can think of. Ironically enough, every dragon encounter I've fought has been an absolute walkover for the PCs. And dragons are supposed to be scary.
Put me on the "Solos don't really work" club too.

I think that you can often get the effect you're after by placing two Elites rather than one Solo. Two Elites really opens up the options for the DM.
All melee group facing a Solo Flying Skirmisher. Party not able to do decent damage at range and no way to pin the flyer down in one spot.
Party screams in frustration as the Flyer zones in and out, killing the party one by one. dramatised:D

Hmm.

1. Ready standard action (grab) for soly flying skirmisher to come within melee range.
2. Grab skirmisher.
3. Rest of part beat held skirmisher to death.

or (more simply)

1. Ready melee attack for skirmisher to come within range.
2. Skirmisher makes fly-by attack.
3. Readied action interrupts, melee attack hits/misses.
4. repeat.
My experience with Solos -- on both sides of the table -- is that they make a boring encounter when SOLO. In other words, Solos are far more interesting when combined with several non-Minion allies; Minions just die too quickly so, after round 2, the Solo is usually alone anyway.

To stay within LFR XP budgets, I either steal some XP away from another encounter's budget or downgrade the Solo's level for an XP "refund" from which I can purchase more monsters or traps. Is this cheating? Maybe, but I believe this technique still maintains the "flavor" of the encounter and I am still within the total XP budget for the module.
Hmm.

1. Ready standard action (grab) for soly flying skirmisher to come within melee range.
2. Grab skirmisher.
3. Rest of part beat held skirmisher to death.

or (more simply)

1. Ready melee attack for skirmisher to come within range.
2. Skirmisher makes fly-by attack.
3. Readied action interrupts, melee attack hits/misses.
4. repeat.

There are two difficulties with this.

First, without a grasping weapon, grab is usually an exercise in futility past the level 1-4 mods. Why? Because you are making an unmodified Str attack. The monsters' defenses have gone up by two (vis a vis) level 1 by level 4. Your grab bonus has only gone up by 1. By the time you're level 10, your attack bonus with grab will have fallen five points behind the progression in the monsters' defenses. And that's assuming that you are a strength attacker to begin with. For most swordmages, charisma paladins, etc, it was futile at level 1. Since the monster is a solo, you weren't very likely to hit to start with.

Second, in many such cases, the monster has no reason to ever come close enough to grab. Flying artillery, for instance, can sit 12-20 squares up and blast anyone without being exposed to much worse than javalins and magic missiles. Even skirmishers with reach can be problematic.

In any event, such instances are a good example of why I am coming to believe that a grasping javalin/skyrender javalin/orb of undeniable gravity/ebony fly is mandatory equipment in LFR much like a scroll or potion of fly was mandatory equipment in previous editions. Furthermore, it is essential that at least a few party members have powers that can knock prone or immobilize at range.
To stay within LFR XP budgets, I either steal some XP away from another encounter's budget or downgrade the Solo's level for an XP "refund" from which I can purchase more monsters or traps. Is this cheating? Maybe, but I believe this technique still maintains the "flavor" of the encounter and I am still within the total XP budget for the module.

"Solo" is a really unfortunate name for the monster class. Since most of the encounter groups listed in the monster manual for solo monsters actually show other non-minion monsters with the solo, I don't think this is close to cheating.
There are two difficulties with this.

First, without a grasping weapon, grab is usually an exercise in futility past the level 1-4 mods. Why? Because you are making an unmodified Str attack. The monsters' defenses have gone up by two (vis a vis) level 1 by level 4. Your grab bonus has only gone up by 1. By the time you're level 10, your attack bonus with grab will have fallen five points behind the progression in the monsters' defenses. And that's assuming that you are a strength attacker to begin with. For most swordmages, charisma paladins, etc, it was futile at level 1. Since the monster is a solo, you weren't very likely to hit to start with.

Second, in many such cases, the monster has no reason to ever come close enough to grab. Flying artillery, for instance, can sit 12-20 squares up and blast anyone without being exposed to much worse than javalins and magic missiles. Even skirmishers with reach can be problematic.

In any event, such instances are a good example of why I am coming to believe that a grasping javalin/skyrender javalin/orb of undeniable gravity/ebony fly is mandatory equipment in LFR much like a scroll or potion of fly was mandatory equipment in previous editions. Furthermore, it is essential that at least a few party members have powers that can knock prone or immobilize at range.

When i was playing my garrote rogue, he has a 23 or so to grab. This was because he had very high str and all the bonuses and stuff the garrote has actually does increase your chances to hit when using it with a grab attack.
I'd get along more with people if they didn't jump onto a hyberbole every single time you say something they don't understand.
Garrotes act similarly to grasping weapons, so yes. A garrote works too...it's just far more limited.
There are two difficulties with this.

First, without a grasping weapon, grab is usually an exercise in futility past the level 1-4 mods. Why? Because you are making an unmodified Str attack. The monsters' defenses have gone up by two (vis a vis) level 1 by level 4. Your grab bonus has only gone up by 1. By the time you're level 10, your attack bonus with grab will have fallen five points behind the progression in the monsters' defenses. And that's assuming that you are a strength attacker to begin with. For most swordmages, charisma paladins, etc, it was futile at level 1. Since the monster is a solo, you weren't very likely to hit to start with.

Second, in many such cases, the monster has no reason to ever come close enough to grab. Flying artillery, for instance, can sit 12-20 squares up and blast anyone without being exposed to much worse than javalins and magic missiles. Even skirmishers with reach can be problematic.

In any event, such instances are a good example of why I am coming to believe that a grasping javalin/skyrender javalin/orb of undeniable gravity/ebony fly is mandatory equipment in LFR much like a scroll or potion of fly was mandatory equipment in previous editions. Furthermore, it is essential that at least a few party members have powers that can knock prone or immobilize at range.

Good points. Of course, even without grasping, a simple +1 Javelin can ruin ranged artillery's day. (Heavy thrown, basic attack from a fighter). Dex based characters have easier choices with crossbow (simple ranged). Even a paladin can challenge and hold the attention of ranged artillery by throwing rocks.
Solos I've seen in LFR were only able to take one or two actions + APs at most a round, which when compared to a party taking 4-6 actions +APs puts them at a severe disadvantage in the action count. Solos really should be encounted with other supporting creatures that can divide a party's actions.
Solos should never be 'solo', despite the name.

Most of them can be trivialized, if alone, by a competent controller.

I've brought up before what should have been a deadly fight with a Beholder. With a wizard present, the party mostly ignored the Beholder due to it being locked down, and was able to concentrate on the other monsters. The poor beastie actually died from stacked ongoing damage before the party got around to facing it.

The fight was interesting due to there BEING other monsters - if it had just been the Beholder it would have been a mere boring speedbump of a fight.


-np
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric
Solos should never be 'solo', despite the name.

Most of them can be trivialized, if alone, by a competent controller.

I've brought up before what should have been a deadly fight with a Beholder. With a wizard present, the party mostly ignored the Beholder due to it being locked down, and was able to concentrate on the other monsters. The poor beastie actually died from stacked ongoing damage before the party got around to facing it.

The fight was interesting due to there BEING other monsters - if it had just been the Beholder it would have been a mere boring speedbump of a fight.


-np

Yeah I've played that mod the Beholder was annoying because it was hard to pin down but in the instances when that did happen we ripped it apart. Even though we had other enemies in the room taking that thing down first was still our primary objective. Once the Beholder went down we mopped the rest in short order. It was actually pretty funny because the Beholder sort of did us a favor it immoblized my Paladin then moved so it provoked and because it's AoE didn't include my charactor it triggered my Divine Challenge. After the battle we dragged it out of the mine and thought about keeping the corpse to mount on a couple of Tensors Floating Disks can you imagine the intimidation bonus if people think there is an undead Beholder floating next to the party HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Solo monsters haven't really been fixed, a true solo needs to have multiple immediate interrupts, with the base line ability to negate daze, stun, and criticals on an 11-20 when they happen. That will fix up the current system in play and allow solo monsters to be solo monsters. That along with the system in place in MM2 should rebalance the current sway of power that this game is steadily ramping to.
(PC's doing 260+ damage in a round in paragon tier due to crits is simply unacceptable without a way to control how a monster can receive critical's.)
I'm fine with the potential for damage to be there, but the only way to counter paragon and very soon epic level characters without removing their ability to do anything via control monsters is to simply change the way current monster defenses work.
I run a lot of specials, heck I helped Marshall and run the special at Gen Con this year, and the feedback I have received is, players want to have their actions, not have every ability removed because its the only way to stop them from doing anything.
Simply change the format around, let the monsters have better ways to mitigate what the players do while allowing them the ability to do their turns and I think a lot of players will be much more pleased. Because as it stands, tricked out tables have a 50% chance to roll through things without breaking a sweat due to massive damage, initiative rolls etc, or they die because of immobilization, dazed, prone, being thrown out continuously.
Just some feedback on the entire state of combat / solo monster thing for you wotc type people to mull over.

Skip
-Pot Stirrer. -Because I can. Co-Author Neth 3-3 Seek and Destroy. (Now with 10% more diplomacy!) Author ELTU 4-3 Minutes to Midnight (Waiting on Release) ABSO 4-2. (I really am working on this I promise!)
Solos should never be 'solo', despite the name.

Most of them can be trivialized, if alone, by a competent controller.

I noted just this at GenCon over the weekend. We faced what I thought was going to be a *very* challenging encounter against a Solo. We had a Wizard at our table, who was very good at what he did. With a few spells, he was able to severely limit the monster's tactical options against us. (And, with two leaders in the party, we were able to keep from even being seriously wounded by it.)
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
It's a tough balance, though. Give the monster an ability to shake off daze, stun, etc., and the warlock player who's invested a lot in single target control sulks.

And I'd never have a 'negate crits on an 11-20' thing. Crits are great, and no-one wants to be told that the natural 20 doesn't crit. That's not fun.

Solos already have 5+ saves, so should shake 80% of conditions in the first round, but as long as one member of a five person party hits with a debilitating condition each round, they're locked down. OTOH, if you let the solo save at the start of its turn, there's an 80% chance that daily you blew did nothing but damage, which sucks.

No easy solution, really. The best one, IMO, is to build encounters featuring lower level solos + grunts. Individual solos equal to party level are rarely a threat.

PS 260+ damage on a crit? Really? That must involve some serious cheese; given that most CharOp rubbish is highly item dependent, I wouldn't have thought that much would show up in LFR, at least not until epic.
And I'd never have a 'negate crits on an 11-20' thing. Crits are great, and no-one wants to be told that the natural 20 doesn't crit. That's not fun.

Just because this came up recently in a local game; natural 20s aren't automatic crits (though they are automatic hits). The modified attack number still has to be enough to hit the given defense.
Just because this came up recently in a local game; natural 20s aren't automatic crits (though they are automatic hits). The modified attack number still has to be enough to hit the given defense.

I know. That's not a fun situation to be in. You should never be facing an enemy that you can't even hit except on a (non-critting) natural 20.
I know. That's not a fun situation to be in. You should never be facing an enemy that you can't even hit except on a (non-critting) natural 20.

Oh, absolutely. Though, to paint a slightly more complete picture of the particular situation I have in mind, a weakened wizard probably has better options than charging to bull rush a brute.
It's a tough balance, though. Give the monster an ability to shake off daze, stun, etc., and the warlock player who's invested a lot in single target control sulks.

And I'd never have a 'negate crits on an 11-20' thing. Crits are great, and no-one wants to be told that the natural 20 doesn't crit. That's not fun.

No easy solution, really. The best one, IMO, is to build encounters featuring lower level solos + grunts. Individual solos equal to party level are rarely a threat.

PS 260+ damage on a crit? Really? That must involve some serious cheese; given that most CharOp rubbish is highly item dependent, I wouldn't have thought that much would show up in LFR, at least not until epic.

My cleric this weekend with the right feats, did a 4w attack that critted for a 140+ damage, then followed it up with a basic attack due to a feat, recharged a monsters ability that it then used, it made me bloodied, and I used a daily item to get two free basic attacks which I used. (Mind you my free attacks were doing 2w due to a stonekeepers utility) Then with my action point I hit with a 3 weapon power. So all around with one crit and 5 hits due to circumstance I did over 300+ points of damage at paragon.

I've also seen a paragon ranger hit for over 200 damage with a single power usage and a crit.

So yes, if PC paragon paths can allow for crit reduction, giving higher level paragon monsters crit reduction isn't too bad. It has to be something along those lines or else you'll see solo monsters with heroic tier paralyth's, or other creatures with severe character control powers to balance the power spread.

So yes, I'd thoroughly recommendthat whenever a solo monster gets critted, they can roll 11-20 to negate the crit, if they are hit with a stun, daze, or unconscious effect to have a free 11-20 to negate that ability. But thats it.

But, this solution is much better (understanding players get unhappy when they crit, or daze an oppenent, but they get more unhappy when they start their turn, dazed, prone, immobilized, taking ongoing damage, and restrained - which is where this will go as the only way to slow down high paragon, low epic level characters.)

Monster defenses have to be changed, but not in a way that will tpk lower end, less optimized characters. This situation presents a unique way of not adding additional damage options like the mm2 provides, without increasing the over all effectiveness of a solo monster. It just now has a better chance of not simply melting agaisnt the cheese table, while still providing the same level of challenge for a un-cheesed table.

Skip
-Pot Stirrer. -Because I can. Co-Author Neth 3-3 Seek and Destroy. (Now with 10% more diplomacy!) Author ELTU 4-3 Minutes to Midnight (Waiting on Release) ABSO 4-2. (I really am working on this I promise!)
Hey skip I had been meaning to ask you, what item power was it you used to do those 2 melee basic attacks when bloodied?
Blah blah blah
It was an aquamarine, along with sleep deprevation, my only fault was thinking I had to be bloodied.
The basic flow went this way

Critical Hit = 2 free attacks due to aquamarine, and reckless attacker feat both follow ups to the crit. critical hit, with power, 2 basics from aquamarine and feat, then a 3w power which was a 19 that I lucky shoted into another crit, which accounted for the three basic attacks.

Sorry for the confusion. 8)
-Pot Stirrer. -Because I can. Co-Author Neth 3-3 Seek and Destroy. (Now with 10% more diplomacy!) Author ELTU 4-3 Minutes to Midnight (Waiting on Release) ABSO 4-2. (I really am working on this I promise!)
Very good points, and I largely agree. One minor thing;

Secondly, status effects can be piled on making the solo unable to do anything useful.

That's why solos get +5 to saves. Granted that doesn't mean much to 'until end of turn' effects applied round after round (Marks, Illusionary Ambush, Dishearten, Psychic Lock.)

My only experience so far with solos have been with my Battlerager Dwarf Fighter (both before and after the update). The only one that gave much of a challenge was for a 1-4 MyRealms adventure ran at a GameDay for 2 tables. Some kind of dragon I don't remember (I want to say Black Dragon). That was a tough (but workable) fight. The first table that did it lost one player. The second table (the one I was in) the player that died was playing it again with a new player. It almost killed a few of us, but the party's clerics had just used the 'Class Feature' rebuild rule to get Healer's Mercy and Pacifist healing, and was able to heal the entire party at a critical moment and follow up by casting Healing Word on my character, bringing me from 11 HP to full (and full was a lot when I was only level 4 due to 21 Con)

The thing with that is, Cory (the store owner and Senior DM for the cons), even though he doesn't know what party composition we have, does know almost all characters people have, except for people rolling brand new characters.

My only other experience with a solo has been in Shades of the Zhentarim (anyone whose played this knows what I'm talking about). This was under the old battlerager rules and the bard used her daily power that allowed us to regain HP whenever we hit it, and we smacked it down in short order.

In other words - yes, solos seem to be better when the DM selects one he knows will appropriately challenge the party.
Very good points, and I largely agree. One minor thing;
That's why solos get +5 to saves. Granted that doesn't mean much to 'until end of turn' effects applied round after round (Marks, Illusionary Ambush, Dishearten, Psychic Lock.)
.

This does not mean that a solo doesn't get screwed for that round. Screwing over the solo for a round = win (and this is really easy to do.) Dazing is very common, and stuns are becoming increasingly common. I'm frightened to see paragon tier, when players start getting encounter powers that stun. Solos won't stand much of a chance IMO.
I\m interested in other's opinions on Solo encounters they have faced in LFR mods.

My opinion? I've never had a solo encounter in LFR that wasn't boring.

Early in heroic, solos simply weren't a credible threat in terms of what they could do to the player characters. In late heroic, from the first round onward the solo gets hit with so many status conditions at the same time that its mini falls over, and is not a credible threat because it's constantly slowed, dazed, immobilized, marked, quarried, cursed, and prone.

On the flipside, solos tend to be either hard to hit, and/or have way too many hit points, so the battle becomes a slow grind where everybody repeats the same actions over and over again until they finally got it down to zero HP. And of course, all tactics go out the window as the players simply surround it for perma-flank and spam their basic attacks.

Overall, I don't think 4E can handle five-PCs-vs-one-solo-monster very well. So yeah, solos should be accompanied by a bunch of minions or low-level monsters to make things interesting.
I think that in general they should avoid solos for LFR, as it's too easy to screw them up.

For example, at Gen Con I believe I fought three solos in different mods. In one of them, the lvl + 2 solo was accompanied by 8 minions and 3 lower level normals... and that worked out pretty well from my perspective, though I think it would have worked better if the solo was only of level and the rest of the xp went into other things (the solo never missed, not even once, against max-defense targets, and was a soldier so was quite hard to hit for a couple people).

The other two solos were _horrible_. Immense bags of hit points that had abilities that let them avoid being hit, or even attacked at all, and fights that we had no chance of losing but went on and on and on...
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director

I heard various stories were the players and the DM had fun with solos on higher levels in LFR adventures. It all depends on the players, DM and PCs. Wink


Still, the designers have mentioned several times in various seminars that they are aware of the solo issues. Their advice is to give the solo two "rounds" of actions within a single round (and one solo has this in a recent LFR adventure) and to give them saves at the start of their round AND the end of their round. They also increased the damage output in the new solo's and gave them special abilities once the solo is bloodied to remove the boring whack-and-repeat effects. While these kind of changes are hard to implement retro-actively on older monsters (we are not allowed to truly change monsters without direct permission from R&D). Still, if your players agree you can make these changes on the fly. Of course, officially such changes are not allowed, so discuss this beforehand with your players and be ready to run the adventure as written.

Personally, after thinking about the idea that solo monsters are supposed to replace 5 average monsters for that level, the biggest oops was IMHO they need 5 attacks!  Imagine having 5 standard monsters standing around and only one or two actually attack in any given round.  That is NOT going to be challenging at all.  Likewise for Elite, they should have two attacks each round.


 


Keith

Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep

I have plans to try making a solo monster that gets an attack when it is attacked.  On its own turn, it does very little damage, but puts status effects on the players, making them easier to hit or shoves them around, letting it use the environment better.  I'll post the results of that when I get a chance to try it out on some characters.

What makes me sad - no more compiled magazines: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/27580349/Dungeon_and_Dragon_Magazine_PDFs&post_num=24#495423645

One nice fix would be to give Solos a save at the start of their turn in addition to at the end, similar to a Warden. They really need to be able to shrug off conditions (especially daze/stun).

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Good point about the daze/stun (condition) problem.  If you compared to a set of 5 std monsters of the same level, and the attacks were at the nominal of about 50% hit, then 2-3 are reduced threat or out of action for one round, but the others still have attacks.  If you gave a save (but without a big plus) at the start of their turn, then statistically, it would be like half the time they get to shrug off the condition and attack.  Might be another way to handle this, but definitely the designers left some holes in the design on solos.


 


Keith

Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep


One nice fix would be to give Solos a save at the start of their turn in addition to at the end, similar to a Warden. They really need to be able to shrug off conditions (especially daze/stun).




My problem with this is that it makes it possible that a player will send down a daily on a solo, only to find it has no effect whatsoever. It's not fun when dailies fizzle.


Possibly limit what they can shrug off to daze/stun/immobilise/slow, or possibly have a warden-like mechanic (so they can choose to attempt to save against one condition only)?

There are two difficulties with this. First, without a grasping weapon, grab is usually an exercise in futility past the level 1-4 mods. Why? Because you are making an unmodified Str attack. The monsters' defenses have gone up by two (vis a vis) level 1 by level 4. Your grab bonus has only gone up by 1. By the time you're level 10, your attack bonus with grab will have fallen five points behind the progression in the monsters' defenses.


I'm not following you.  At heroic levels, you are maybe losing 1 or 2 points from your grab attack due to lacking a magic weapon for the attack (but there are items that can overcome this, I think.) and maybe another 1 for weapon expertise. 


I would discount the loss of proficiency as you are attacking a NAD.


A flying skirmisher is not likely going to have a great Fortitude defense (so reach may be your real obstacle here if the monster has flyby and reach)

WATE4-1 Paying the Piper (co-author)

My problem with this is that it makes it possible that a player will send down a daily on a solo, only to find it has no effect whatsoever. It's not fun when dailies fizzle.

Possibly limit what they can shrug off to daze/stun/immobilise/slow, or possibly have a warden-like mechanic (so they can choose to attempt to save against one condition only)?



Using the warden-like rule on saves is probably is best if you are working with the older solos, but in that case I would keep the bonus on those saves.

Note that the designers more often go for solos with multiple rounds of actions within one round. That way a stun or daze can diminish 1 set of actions, but not stop the monster from acting at all. Doing that on existing monsters is a bit more problematic...

I'm not sold one way or the other, but I am suspicious of solos. I've had some great solo combats, but especially at low levels. Multiple attacks are a key. In every combat, you need to dish out some real damage. A solo has a tougher time, because it has to really wreck a bunch of PCs easily and quickly in order to be a credible threat. A dragon's stun power is a big part of this, as is the bloodied power. It needs an extra round and essentially 2-3 free breaths on everyone to be a real threat. But, you are largely at the influence of random nature with recharges and you have to deal with the potential for that solo to get pounded by conditions. Even slow can be insane if you have a ranged party and the wrong tactical situation.


I'm just watching this, but I'm starting to get concerned...

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Keith, I'm disturbed that this is the conclusion you reached after 'thinking about' the issue.  This solution fails to solve the original problem, which is that the solo can be shut down too easily, while further punishing parties who lack the shut-down mechanisms.  Parties who lack those tools are most likely to be unable to handle the increased challenge anyway (as by lacking them, they are demonstrating a lack of understanding of 4e/5800 years of military theory) so why make the battles even harder for those struggling without challenging the competant parties.  If you judge competant parties, you will see that it is often that indeed, 3 of the 5 opponents _will_ be standing around doing nothing because they've been shut down, so only 2 will be attacking.  That is simply how you defeat encounters in 4e, possibly in every non-modern combat system with battlefield control!.


Here is a good test for you:  Take the recommended level 16 encounter on MM2 page 151 for a good example of an iconic multiattacking solo:  the hydra.  The recommended encounter throws in a minotaur cabalist to abuse 'Call out the beast' to give the hydra when bloodied at least 12 attacks a round and maximum of 14 attacks a round (21 if it action points), each of which does effectively stacking ongoing damage.  Also, it is effectively immune to Daze or Stun.


Now take a balanced party of 16th level characters and run it against that level 16 encounter.  I can guarantee that if and when the party wins, it's not because giving the hydra more swings would have mattered.  The party won because the hydra never got to take meaningul swings.  You give it twice as many attacks and the same thing will happen.  If the party cannot keep from getting hit by the hydra, all you've done by doubling the attacks is hastened the inevitable.


Thus, Keith, I think your solution is not only not a solution, but it makes the fundamental problem worse:  How do deal with the great and growing disparity in PC and player strength?  Your solution makes the weak weaker (and yes, I do consider action denial more potent than damage in this game) while not harming the strong at all.  Possibly worse, the analysis provided suggests a failure to consider the important factors.


That is hardly what I'd hope for a considered conclusion from a LFR staff member.


Brayden Glad



Personally, after thinking about the idea that solo monsters are supposed to replace 5 average monsters for that level, the biggest oops was IMHO they need 5 attacks!  Imagine having 5 standard monsters standing around and only one or two actually attack in any given round.  That is NOT going to be challenging at all.  Likewise for Elite, they should have two attacks each round.


 


Keith



Dealing with WotC customer service is like milking an emu... You might get scratched, bitten or kicked, or might simply be ignored, but you won't be successful... and people will think you odd for trying.


That is hardly what I'd hope for a considered conclusion from a LFR staff member.




I suspect you are taking one comment in a vacuum. Keith (and Claire) is (are) one of the smartest guys (couples) writing LFR I know.


It is true that a solo can have difficulty dealing damage. It is true of any combat, actually. You really have to carefully examine the monster(s) to see if the damage level will be sufficient (if the intent of the encounter is to be a strong challenge).


It is also true that 4E has rapidly given lots of classes a lot of shut-down options, from movement to conditions to defensive situations. A solo just worsens the situation because they can end up dazed by the wizard, granting HPs by a bard, with weak defenses due to the warlord, and suffering a ton of damage from the strikers, while up against a defender it can't hope to bloody in it's current state. Throw in some damage-mitigating interrupts from the bard/warlord and you are in a sad state. Not every solo combat goes this way, but there are enough options for PCs that it can happen.


In a home campaign, I would really look at granting at least one save at the beginning of each round, but probably more than that. In any setting I would look at how terrain can truly work to the advantage of the solo, would look at how the monster could use tactics to guarantee some solid damage and defense, and would still probably end up pairing it with something else (a trap, other monsters).

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granting saves alone wont do it.  the extensive array of save penalizing effects needs to be adressed, and IMO removed completely.  but further, you need to ask if you actually ever think it is fair for a solo to be stunned, or dazed?


there is an old rule of design, if you dont like what the results of a circumstance are, then dont allow the circumstance to happen.  ever.  game balance has to trump what a player finds fun. dnd 4e is a fun game, the player will find something else fun instead, trust me!  solos should just be straight up immune to all status effects or immune after suffering one round of them, and they should be hard capped on how penalized they can be to hit.  for that matter the extensive array of untyped hit penalties needs to be adressed as well!


monsters in general are much too weak period.  minions are an especially problematic, and certainly outrageously overvalued past level 3.  this is not fairly mitigated by the variety of encounters where minions have some form of 1 round invulnerability or special dying attack.  that is simply treating the symptom rather than the problem.  minions should never be encountered past level 3.


finally, all encounters should be balanced for a party made up of optimized terminators, regardless of what the party is actually made up of.  otherwise you trivialize the importance of being effective, encourage poor play and overall weaken the play experience, but that is the classic issue of optimized characters vs every one else.  you might as well be debating religion for all the rational responses you would get to that question.


finally, all encounters should be balanced for a party made up of optimized terminators, regardless of what the party is actually made up of.  otherwise you trivialize the importance of being effective, encourage poor play and overall weaken the play experience, but that is the classic issue of optimized characters vs every one else.  you might as well be debating religion for all the rational responses you would get to that question.




That's an arms race authors and admins won't win, and which will be un-fun for non-optimal parties. LG did that, to the detriment of the game. One of the really nice aspects about low-level LFR is that anyone can play. I hated some of the ridiculous intro mods in LG with all sorts of nasty creatures the intro player might be overwhelmed by.


I'm all for escalating XP budgets at higher tiers. I think that actually brings the game in-line. And I'm fine with player cheese. But I really don't think the game should aim to please the cheesed-out player. I've never seen that be good for a campaign. Instead, you have the option of playing high, you have the option to ask the DM to up-level monsters and use better tactics, etc.


I'm really not seeing that current LFR needs to be more challenging. It seems about right. I wouldn't mind seeing level 1-4 mods get a bit easier, more inline with the first wave, and to steer clear of any really difficult encounters for that tier.

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monsters in general are much too weak period.  minions are an especially problematic, and certainly outrageously overvalued past level 3. 


Minions arriving in waves, however, or minion archers standing behind decent cover (and dropping prone behind it every other shot) or over 10 squares away and not bunched up, can be quite challenging.  They are one-hit kills, yes, but if you only hit them 2/3 of the time, you're burning 3 actions to kill 2 of them. With 4 minions, that's one player's action for most or all of the combat. Minions require a fair amount of careful GM play. Bunches of stupid minions, yup. XP gifts. Clever minions, much more fun!


 

Solo are like minions.  They can be useful but hard to use them correctly.  Adding more creatures to the encounter makes it interesting. Yup.  Though making it immune to stun and crit is BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD.


Rather, the encounter should be designed so that EVEN IF the solo gets crit and stun spammed, the encounter is still interesting to play.