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Old 01-18-2021, 04:32 PM   #1
b-dog
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Default A Boss monster book would be good to have

Most dungeon levels need boss monsters who sort of run their level. So a book of boss monsters would be great to have. Ravenloft had a style of boss monsters that would work well with Dungeon Fantasy IMO. The boss monster in Ravenloft would not be sitting in his room waiting for the PCs to arrive, instead he used surveillance of his area and then reacted to the PCs presence with minions, more traps, and even making an appearance in the area where the PCs are and then retreat if the PCs defeat him. So basically this book would have a unique boss monster with stats and also tactics used in his dungeon level. These tactics would be his surveillance system (a spy, scry glass, or other ways to sense the PCs) and also include ways the PCs can overcome the surveillance. The next thing would be what the boss monster does once he realizes the PCs are on his dungeon level. A lich boss monster might send zombies and other undead, an evil wizard or evil cleric might send demons, and orc boss monster might send goblinkin or activate nasty traps etc. Also the boss monster might also make an appearance himself like Strahd did many times in Ravenloft.

Another part of the boss monster would be ways to weaken him before the final showdown in his lair. A ghost boss monster might have foci that need to be cleansed or destroyed to weaken the ghost so that the PCs can win the final battle. An evil cleric might have various sub temples and evil statues that need to be destroyed to help PCs to be able to win.

So basically the boss monster book would have the abilities of the boss monster and how he rules his dungeon level. The boss monster from a book like this can easily be ported into an existing dungeon too.
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Old 01-18-2021, 10:29 PM   #2
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

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Originally Posted by b-dog View Post
Most dungeon levels need boss monsters who sort of run their level. So a book of boss monsters would be great to have.
Hmmm, not my dungeons. But this road has already been traveled.
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Old 01-19-2021, 06:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

Not to mention the upcoming Nordlond Bestiary: Norđlondr Óvinabókin. Not exclusively Boss Monsters, but... it's big, I'm sure they'll be in there.
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Old 01-19-2021, 03:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

So I had a long missive about boss fight design stuff, but I was dumb and didn't put it in a safe spot.

Anyway, a fun/good way to put together a boss monster is to take a couple of smaller monsters with abilities and attacks that you want and glue them together into the singular boss.

What do you mean by glue? I mean that in a semi-literal sense. Sometimes you don't want to have a boss be multiple things, like a wizard with henchmen. Sometimes you want a singular big bad monster, but you also want it to act more than once per turn. Or you want a smaller monster BE big and scary and bossy. So you take a few monsters and glue them together (on paper) into one entity, but in a fight treat it as though it's several monsters that occupy the same space, and move around as one group. Each monster has an action set, has their own initiative, and has an independent resource pool. But, visually on the board, it looks like one monster. Mechanically, it's several monsters that are stuck together.

Say you want a big boss Orc. Super nasty, doesn't have henchmen (he ate 'em), and is big and scary. But he's just one monster vs. 4-5 heroes. Give BossOrc extra attacks and that's great to balance out the action economy, but it does give the fight a bit of a you-go-I-go feel and the boss is really bursty in that all his actions happen and may unintentionally delete a party member when you'd rather smooth out the damage and give the heroes a chance to react in between the flurry of claws and stuff.

So instead of 1 REALLY BIG ORC, take 3 smaller orcs and glue them together. Orc 1 is the melee orc. Orc 2 is the ranged orc, and has javelins. Orc 3 is the magic boy and has a wand of fire breath. Looking at the Orc stat line you can see that a typical orc has a melee attack, a ranged attack, and for the fire breath wand is just a DX roll to hit. We haven't reached out to other monsters, we're just looking at one orc stat line that has 3 ways to attack.

Using this critter isn't any harder than using three Orcs. Each Orc gets an initiative score, say 6, 5, and 4. Each Orc has a set of actions they can take: movement, some kind of attack, and can defend.
Here's where it differs.
Movement - Instead of having potentially different movement scores, you just record one and use that. All the sub-orcs move as one, and you only use ONE movement action in a round. Possibly two if it makes sense for it to be very mobile, or play with being able to make only one true "move" action but any given BossOrc turn can utilize a step. Probably the most "feel-it-out" part.
Combat - There are 3 orcs, so there are 3 attacks, and any Orc can use any of the attack options, melee, ranged, or magic. Seems like a lot, but it's spread over 3 actions that are interleaved with PC actions, so opportunity to use healing, and are at the single-orc scale. Defenses are similarly spread out, so it gets 3 'normal' defenses (i.e. parry/block) before those degrade or exhaust, which is appropriately Boss-like. It's not all roses for the BossOrc, since it is still only occupying one location it is just as vulnerable to being surrounded and the bad times that brings, giving the heroes a good edge.
Saves and recovery - Any time on one of the BossOrc's initiative spots. Does this mean it may recover quickly? Yes! But it still takes a full action to do so, so at worst a successful magical attack that BossOrc recovers from eats up their action resource. It is a boss after all.
Taking Damage - There are three HP pools, which become three HP breakpoints, and each time one is crossed the BossOrc loses one of its initiative slots. Which one? Doesn't matter! The point is that the BossOrc gets worn down and doesn't act as often, but you don't have to sweat the bookkeeping of tracking which sub-orc is 'killed'. Simply mark when each HP threshold is crossed and reduce the number of initiative slots accordingly.

Rasputin posted a link to a great resource for pre-built and really detailed bosses. I like the above for custom crafting creatures like mini-bosses, monstrous opponents that may have a lot of variety in their abilities, and just having a set of guidelines for putting things together ahead of time that makes keeping track of it all easier.

edit: Oh yeah, this idea came from an article I read somewhere a few years ago. I searched for it so I could cite the original author but I couldn't find it. If anyone knows of this, or runs across it please link it because I would LOVE to attribute this concept to is creator.
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Old 01-20-2021, 02:36 PM   #5
b-dog
 
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

I guess I am interested in the boss monsters security system. Like how does he detect the PCs infiltrating his dungeon? And how PCs can remain hidden from detection. A party of thieves might be able to use stealth to bypass detection and have an easier time finding the boss monster while a party of fighters would make tons of noise and the boss monster would set up his defenses. Also once the boss monster finds out that the PCs are in his dungeon then what will he do? Send out monsters to attack? Ambushes? Make an appearance and attack the PCs and then teleport away when the party is winning? Set up traps? Find the parties weaknesses? And so on.
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Old 01-20-2021, 02:59 PM   #6
Michael Thayne
 
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

Honestly, it would be nice to just have better guidelines for balancing encounters. Something like the Monster Hunters series has ("X jabberwocks are a fair challenge for Y hunters").
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Old 01-20-2021, 03:08 PM   #7
Polkageist
 
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

Oh yeah, then the DF Companion 2 that was linked is the best resource. The details that it'll have filled in about the villain's backstory will likely clue you in to how they'll set up their defenses.

Part of it though I think is reading the party composition and setting up the challenges to, well, challenge them. So that party of thieves will look to use stealth to bypass detection, so the dungeon is set up to provide interesting things to dodge, duck, and bamboozle.

If you're working with premade bosses, and you really want to use say BigOrc the Slayer as an opponent and you have a party of squishy thieves you may have to work a bit harder to make the boss' lair something the thieves can and want to tackle.

I'd have a boss like BigOrc set up his detection and security around having lots of boys standing around as sentries, and generally be in the middle of a giant ork-party all the time. Really that's the place any proper orc wants to be so hardly a bother for BigOrc. Orcs are always looking for a fight so there'll be lots of scouts, sentries, etc. wandering around the area and in the camp in case someone's nearby (they can fight) or trying to sneak into the camp (so they can fight 'em). If a party of heroes are spotted, then the boss response is simple, go fight 'em! With lots of friends, all the other orcs want a fight too! BigOrc is pretty simple, but very hard in a fight so he'll play to his advantage and try to engage as fast and as hard as possible since that's his strength. Subtle traps and ambushes just waste time to BigOrc.

EvilWiz is much sneakier. Magical detection traps will be scattered around everywhere, and he may have enlisted the services of a spirit or three to act as sentries patrolling around. They're invisible wisps so it's unlikely that they'll be detected and once they spot something they'll rush away to report to EvilWiz. Silent alarms abound since EvilWiz likes traps and doesn't want any interlopers to know they're doomed until its too late. If the heroes are spotted on the way in EvilWiz might start taking action, but could very easily delegate it to a subordinate as he is a very busy evil wizard. The lair will probably already be prepped to repel or entrap invaders, so some kind of misleading pathway may appear to lead the heroes into a trap or ambush led by the lieutenant. EvilWiz himself may direct the response, but he'll do so at arms length since the last thing he wants is a direct confrontation. He's knowledgeable, so will gladly use divination to get info on the party before taking action and rely on the lair's confusing layout and preset traps to buy him time. Probably very slippery and the heroes may need to destroy a couple of lairs in order to exhaust EvilWiz's resolve and resources as EvilWiz would rather run away and fight (or seek REVENGE) another day.
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Old 01-21-2021, 10:06 AM   #8
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
Honestly, it would be nice to just have better guidelines for balancing encounters. Something like the Monster Hunters series has ("X jabberwocks are a fair challenge for Y hunters").
Have you tried out "It's a Threat!" from Pyramid 3/77? I'm a big fan.
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Old 01-21-2021, 03:23 PM   #9
Polkageist
 
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

Is that the same system where you boil down the damage, active defense, DR, HP, etc. into an offensive rating (OR) and defensive rating (DR) and use that to balance encounters?

I recall that it was really hard to use off the cuff, like a lot of GURPS things it's front-loaded math.

My close-enough method for a fight is to generally shoot for 1:1 parity in enemies to players, and use the guideline of damage being able to penetrate DR ~50% of the time for the expected PC it'll engage, and for its DR. That puts most of the heavy defensive lifting on the active defenses, and those are easy enough to fudge or use optimally/non-optimally to pace the fight.
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Old 01-22-2021, 01:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: A Boss monster book would be good to have

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Originally Posted by Polkageist View Post
Is that the same system where you boil down the damage, active defense, DR, HP, etc. into an offensive rating (OR) and defensive rating (DR) and use that to balance encounters?
Yes, that's the one.
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