I have been working on encounters for my rewrite of the Pyramid of Shadow, and there was some interest in one of the encounters and my thinking in developing it, so decided to blog about it.
For anyone who has not read some of my other posts, I didn't like Pyramid of Shadow being location based, so I am reworking it. My plan now is to heavily use aberrant creatures and the Pyramid of Shadow is block to a Far Realm incursion and is failing.
This encounter is with a Beholder Gauth. I wanted to use a Gauth as a minor Beholder, with greater beholders to come. So that is the basic core of my encounter.
The Gauth is a little low in level, so I increased it to be equal with my PCs. Much of the data was changed, but I had to modify the eye rays because of the way they are implemented.
Now here I will say that my PCs are heavy on strikers. There are three strikers, a ranger, warlock, and rogue. I also have a tank Dragonborn paladin, and a cleric. So some of my thinking is going to be different then other DMs because of the way this party works. Always know your party.
For the Gauth one of the important abilities is the Exhaustion ray, in order to weaken the strikers. The central eye will be good for keeping the paladin and rogue from getting into melee or to flank. The sleep ray is just good against anyone if those saves fail.
Now at this point I actually thought of the minions I wanted to use, but I am going to jump ahead to the other support as the minions are a new creature and I will talk more at length on that later.
I needed something big and wall like to protect the Gauth, and with so many strikers I find brutes are a good choice. As I am using aberrants I looked throughthose to see if anything caught my eye. I settled on Dolgarr Berserker. The reasons for this are that it is large and reach 2 giving it the ability to shield the Gauth, and can command a good amount of the battle field. But what really caught my eye was the Foe-hurler power. Basically it grabs a PC, and throws them into another PC damaging both. I like this because my PCs sometimes tend not to move a lot, and I can use this to mess that up. I can throw the paladin or rogue away from the Gauth, or pull PCs from cover or good position with that nice reach. So this seems a great choice. Again the Dolgarr as written is too low a level, so I adjusted it up and I will put two in the encounter, giving lots of flesh to get in the way and increase the possibility of the Foe-hurler recharging.
Now for my adventure I have been thinking about minion support for my beholders, and what I wanted to do with them. To me minions should be there to do something other then use their attack. They can of course, but they should be supporting in some other way. I have had some great battles with minion constructs that were there to heal nonminion constructs in the previous adventure. In that case the strategy was to destroy the minions first before attacking the big stuff to waste the healing, so this time I want to reverse that plan, making it so that the minions are a problem and attacking them later is the best way to go. I also wanted something related to beholders as these were going to be to support beholders. I settled on floating eyes, trailing a bit of nerve tissue.
I thought about various things my eye minions could do to help beholders, and what I settled on was that the big thing of beholders is their eye rays, so if they could give extra attacks with the eye rays that would really bring out the beholder power. So I came up with the idea that these minions when they are killed allow a nearby beholder to make a random eye ray attack. To bring this connection home I will be describing the trailing nerves of the eyes always pointing back at the Gauth, and when one dies there is a spark of magical energy at the eye and at the Gauth to bring home the connection.
Now for the minions they are not as high a level, the reason for this is I want to use more, like 8 for the encounter. Although my group does not have a controller, with the ranger double shots, the warlock often splashing damage, and the dragonborn's breath they can clear a lot of minions quickly. Eight is a good number in my experience for my group. Also it doesn't really matter how powerful the minions are because they support the beholder so the death power is as powerful as the lead beholder not the minions. And I don't want them so strong that it is better to take the eye ray.
The minions will be used in future encounters, so I want them to find out what they do here in an early one, so when things ramp up they have some experience to draw on for strategic thinking. I like to try to give information or foreshadow so the players have something to work with in planning, I find that more interesting.
The stat block for my Eyestalk is below (I called it minor as I made one of higher level before deciding to drop them for the reasons above)
Now with some monster I have to think about the environment. Always important to consider terrain and hazards. I have to think a little loosely as where this happens depends a lot on the path of the PCs, but it will most likely be outdoors. I am thinking cover for the Gauth, although the Dolgarr provide some, and it may be better to keep it basically open to allow the large creatures to move around. The Gauth and Dolgarr move things, so I want to put some hazards, but nothing too dangerous as I don't want to increase the level of this encounter much. I often don't worry too much about power level of hazards because my players are pretty clever in using the terrain and hazards to their advantage as much as anything.
But something like shallow pits to keep someone out of a round might be good. I am also thinking that as I am already going with a Far Realm theme, I will pick out some different "stones" like blood stone, rage stone, lodestone that may have some advantage to keeping, but the forced movement of the monsters can move the PCs off them and use them. I think that will make for some dynamic movement during the battle.
So in the end the basic encounter:
1 Improved Beholder Gauth
2 Improved Dolgarr Berserkers
8 Minor Eyestalks
Terrain, various stone types scattered around, with a few shallow pits and places of cover.
Overall I like the powers of the creatures, I think it will be a good match for the PCs and opens a lot of dynamic movement in combat. So I am pretty excited to see this one play out!