The impetus for this blog began when three events occurred rather quickly one after another: The Unspoken Tower, a blog about Minions by Gargs454, and rereading the suggestions for level limits in the Rules Compendium. Is a DM cruel and malicious to send a 19th level Haunted Armor Animus against a 1st level party of five adventurers?
On one side, we have Bedknobs the Haunted Armor Animus. On the other side, we have five randomly generated 1st level Essential PCs: Heian male Elf Mage, Jen Half-Elf female Sentinel, Ootah female Half-Orc Slayer, Reed male Halfling Scout, and Regdar male Human Knight.
The adventurers are marching down a dungeon corridor. Bedknobs floats out from the shadows in a scary fashion. What happens? Heian steps forward at the first opportunity and casts magic missile. Bedknobs is defeated. All the high defenses in the world mean nothing to that spell of spells. I suggest if you make a party, then include a mage and make sure said mage knows how to cast magic missile.
Okay, but what if the party does not have magic missile. What happens?
Broomsticks, Bedknobs identical twin sister waits just down the hallway. She has learned from her brother’s mistake. She uses her untrained Thievery: stealth (+12) to hide herself in the shadows around a corner in a side passage. Jen and Reed lead the party with their high passive perceptions, followed closely by Ootah. Regdar acts as the rear guard. Heian is second to last. Broomsticks Perception: listen Check 28 hears Jen’s Thievery 14, lets her pass-by; Reed’s Thievery 23, lets him pass-by; and Ootah's Thievery 18, and lets her pass-by. Then Broomsticks steps around the corner and charges Heian in a surprise round.
Surprise Round: Broomsticks hits AC 38, Heian AC 15, for 12-necrotic damage. “Broomsticks” immediately bloodies Hein who has only 24 hit points.
Initiative: Broomsticks 20; Heian 11; Jen 1; Ootah 10; Reed 9; Regdar 19 (Three rolls with highest and lowest removed to give some meager account to randomness; will continue this practice with all rolls.)
“Broomsticks” goes first in combat. She attacks Heian and hits AC 38 for 12-necrotic damage. Heian drops to zero hit points and falls to the ground unconscious. Regdar takes the poised assault stance and moves up on Broomsticks. Regdar hits AC 20 for no damage. Heian makes a death saving throw 12 for no change in his condition. Ootah takes the mobile blade stance, charges “Broomsticks” to a flanking position with Regdar and hits AC 21 for no damage. Reed takes the aspect of dancing stance, moves up on “Broomsticks” and hits AC 14 for no damage. Jen moves adjacent to Heian and Broomsticks and casts Healing Word. Heian regains eight hit points.
“Broomsticks” is furious and attacks Heian striking AC 44 for 12-necrotic damage. Heian drops to the floor unconscious at -4 hit points. Regdar has a plan and drags Heian to a safe distance. Heian makes a death saving throw 12 for no change. Ootah utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack to Regdar. Reed utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack Regdar. Jen utilizes “aid attack” giving a +2 attack to Regdar and casts Knack for Success (minor action) giving an additional +2 attack to Regdar.
“Broomsticks” knows something is up and the threat is going to come from Regdar. She attacks Regdar and hits AC 36 for 12-necrotic damage. Regdar’s allies have given him a +8 attack. Add the flanking position (+2) and he has a +10 attack with his own +10 attack for a total attack +20. Regdar charges ontop of it and is ready to use his Heroic Effort if need be (total +26 attack). A roll of nine or better will hit Broomsticks. Regdar hits AC 36 for 1 point of damage and destroys “Broomsticks”.
Unfortunately, Broomsticks gets the last laugh. She explodes in an Ectoplasmic Burst that strikes each party member for 12-necrotic damage and dazes. Unconscious Reed would have immediately died, the plasma melting through his body like alien blood through steel, had he not been dragged to safety.
So, even without a mage and that spell of spells it is possible with teamwork to hit an incredibly high AC. The suggested level limits in the Rules Compendium seem overly restrictive. Open up the levels and let your players face some unexpected encounters.