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D&D 3E
Dear Dungeon Master 
16th-Mar-2005 01:22 pm
See that line called 'Organization' under the Battlebriar, Lesser in the Monster Manual 3? Notice how it says solitary? Yes? And do you know why it says solitary? No?

Because it's not cool when a party of six tenth level adventurers dies to six of them without dropping a single one.


Large Plant
Hit Dice: 12d8+72 (126 hp)
Initiative: -2
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 19 (-1 size, -2 Dex, +12 natural), touch 7, flat-footed 19
Base Attack/Grapple: +9/+19
Attack: Slam +14 melee (1d8+6/19-20)
Full Attack: 2 slams +14 melee (1d8+6/19-20)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Impale, improved grab, thorn volley, trample 1d8+9
Special Qualities: Darkvision ft., low-light vision, plant traits, resistance to electricity 10 and fire 10, thorn field
Saves: Fort +14, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 23, Dex 6, Con 22, Int 5, Wis 10, Cha 7
Skills: Hide +11*
Feats: Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Critical (slam), Improved Natural Attack (slam), Power Attack
Environment: Temperate forests
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 7
Treasure: None
Alignment: Usually neutral
Advancement: -
Level Adjustment: -

  Impale (Ex): Whenever a battlebriar succeeds a grapple with a Medium or smaller creature, there is a chance that the creature will become impaled on one of the thorns. After the grapple has begun, a battlebriar attempts another grapple check as a free action to impale the creature on its thorns.
  An impaled creature is helpless until it beats the battlebriar in an opposed grapple check. As long as the only creatures that is is grappling with are impaled, a battlebriar is not considered grappled. When making grapple checks against impaled creatures, a battlebriar takes a -20 on grapple checks.
  Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a battle briar must hit with its slam attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking attacks of opportunity.
  Thorn Volley (Ex): Battlebriars grow and shed their thorns at an incredible rate, and by rearing up on their hind legs and snapping their bodies forward, they can launch a deadly volley. As a standard action, a battlebriar can launching a volley of thorns, centering the volley anywhere within 30' The thorns deal 5d6 points of piercing damage to all creatures within a 10-foot radius (Reflex DC 22). The save DC is Strength-based.
  Trample (Ex): Reflex half DC 22. The save DC is strength-based.
  Thorn Field (Ex): The thorns on a battlebriar protrude into the area surrounding the creature, causing several effects on creatures moving through a battlebriar's threatened area. A battlebriar can make up to four attacks of opportunity each round. (Unlike the Combat Reflexes feat, this ability does not allow a battlebriar to make attacks of opportunity while flat-footed.) In addition, the DCs for Tumble checks to move through a battlebriar's threatened area or through the squares that it occupies increases by 10. Creatures three or more size categories smaller than the battlebriar cannot not move through the area that it threatens.
  Skills: *Despite its size, a battlebriar blends well with its surroundings, and it gains a +8 racial bonus on Hide checks in aboveground, natural environments.
16th-Mar-2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
I dont have a MM3... whats the CR for one?
16th-Mar-2005 05:51 pm (UTC)
CR 7.

They've got this nifty ability called impale, that causes them to make another grapple check when they grab you. If they succeed, you're impaled (no additional damage, but you're treated as helpless).

So here's what happened to my bard (the party's damage output, eerily enough):

Surprise Round: Two creatures advance, one hits, you're impaled.
Round One: Second creature hits with a coup de grace.

The wizard died during the third round when one grabbed him and the another hit a coup de grace.

The barbarian got beat to holy hell (he had low AC and they have +14 to hit), the rogue couldn't tumble through their threatened spaces to get away and get some help (+10 to any tumble DCs = ouch), the priestess got the crap kicked out of her gradually (and wasn't doing any damage output to counter it) and eventually died when they landed a couple of crits on him, and the mystic had to leave but he got impaled anyway, so the DM just had that one leave afterwards with the mystic still stuck.

It was not a fun encounter.
16th-Mar-2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
Pretty shitty DM.

16th-Mar-2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
No, he's good. I think "pretty brutal" would be more appropriate.

I really can't fault him for it, he was stumped for ideas so he asked a friend of ours who was spectating before his night class to pick out a monster and didn't really read the entry before he dropped them in.

A tragic oversight, if you will. But I suppose I can't blame him; based on the damage output we put out, the fight would have been over if there hadn't been a surprise round ;)

I'm just griping because he read the organization info and went "meh, they're only CR 7" and then started reading the abilities as he went.

Random encounters suck!
16th-Mar-2005 06:09 pm (UTC)
wow way too much, especially with that ability. I checked the MM3 errata on wizards.com bu nothing there on this guy... isnt the coup de grace a full round action chock full of AoO ? Kind of a hindsight question, was anyone able to make any AoO during the fight on the rounds where the coup de grace occured?

Side question, was your DM in a cranky mood or something? Most DMs try to make the adventure challenging, not outright overwhelm the characters and not allow them to flee.

One Last Thing(tm): It may also be that the DM in question does not understand the CR thing. The rules can seem a little vague regarding how to calculate it.
16th-Mar-2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
No, none were able to take attacks of opportunity on us.

I was 10' away from the closest PC, and the wizard was at the back and got jumped by one that was hidden as the other two moved up.

The DM understands the CR thing well -- I just don't think he expected it to slaughter us that badly. We took out a CR 14 monster at level 9 with only five PCs, so we were more than capable. It was just a bad combination of circumstances combined with underestimating the power level of these monsters.
16th-Mar-2005 06:49 pm (UTC)
er, "on us" should be "on them".
16th-Mar-2005 07:02 pm (UTC) - CR Thing
As my DM likes to repeat: "the higher the level, the shorter the fight." And as you said, everything depends on the surprise round. For example, my samurai can easily do 60+ damage during the surprise round.

Nothing else can explain why my group of 5 level 10 PCs almost die to a CR14, yet a couple minutes later they drop a CR13 in one round. This phenomena drives the DM nuts as he tries to keep the encounters balanced between deadly and boring.
16th-Mar-2005 06:10 pm (UTC) - A beautiful day in the neighborhood
Killing off the entire party is never cool. It's not fun and fun is the whole point of the game. One or two? Eh, life happens, but everyone?
HOWEVER, assuming the information in the MM as gospel is wrong. Like the Pirate code, it's more like guidlines. Every bit of information in the MM, or any guide book for that matter should be taken with a grain of salt. Solitary creatures may band together under a leader with half a brain.
Stop being a rule hound in a game where there really are no rules. Look to yourselves to see what you may have done wrong. Was the DM dropping hints that you didn't pick up? Where you working as a team or a bunch of cowboys?
Then you can blame the DM for being un-fair.
16th-Mar-2005 06:49 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood

"You leave the town and begin travelling southward *rolls dice* *rolls more dice* Guys, make spot checks."
*group rolls*
"Those of you who made fifteen (espher's note: I think there were two) notice something staring at you from below the tall grass. Before you have time to shout a warning, they spring to the attack. Roll for initiative."
*dice roll*
"One charges at May (espher's note: my bard) as the other slinks in behind it. Roll an opposed grapple."
*rolls, fails*
*two active PCs, the two healers, have to deal with two of their own, blah blah blah, rest of monster movement*
"The rest of you, roll initiative."
"May, roll a fort save."
*rolls, fails*

We were working as a team, there were no hints (it was a random encounter). Can I blame the DM yet?
16th-Mar-2005 06:58 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
If blaming the DM makes you happy, blame away. Some people can DM naturally, and some need a little training. Sitting down and explaining that setting up tough monsters without including ways to defeat said challange isn't fun.
Here's another question: Did at anytime anyone think to run away? "Crap! We're being slaughtered! Cast Darkness and flee!" Re-group and rescue those left behind? Or did you duke it out to the last man? If your DM left no chance of escape, then go ahead and blame him. Then Fire him and get yourself a new DM.
16th-Mar-2005 07:16 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood

If blaming the DM makes you happy, blame away.

No, I was asking because apparently there's a criteria for being able to profess my frustration with the encounter.

Look to yourselves to see what you may have done wrong. Was the DM dropping hints that you didn't pick up? Where you working as a team or a bunch of cowboys?
Then you can blame the DM for being un-fair.

And according to you, I can.

As an aside, have you looked at the stats for these monsters? I'm on my way home from the office so I'll toss a stat block up, just for fun.
16th-Mar-2005 07:30 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
Stat blocks don't matter. Could have been the Grand Master Ancient Red Dragon you faced. You didn't answer my last question. Did you try to run away? As a DM, I give out EXP for smart ideas and not just killing things. A party that fights smart will get more EXP from me than one that kills everything reguardless of their own loses. If your DM or your party doesn't respect that, then that's your game.
17th-Mar-2005 05:16 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
That's your house rule. It's a bit unfair to judge other people's games based on your personal house rules.
17th-Mar-2005 06:08 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
I'm not judging anyone. I'm only tossing out suggestions. Too often I find that players only kill things. I try to encourage a little more creativity. Take it as you will.
17th-Mar-2005 08:27 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
I'm not judging anyone.

You sure fooled me.

Too often I find that players only kill things

Maybe because the game as written is about killing things and taking their stuff? Nah. Couldn't be.
17th-Mar-2005 08:51 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
It's not about killing things and taking their stuff. It's about roleplay. Killing stuff is only a small part of the game. It's about being someone else in another world. It's about riddles, and challenges and doing stuff that we can't do in the real world. It's about interactive story telling.
Most of all, it's about having fun.
Here, let me judge you. Your game is all about killing stuff--everything else is just the wrapping paper.
How dull is that?
17th-Mar-2005 11:36 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
How pretentious. Have you forgotten the roots of the game?

As to my game, it's quite fun. You might find it dull, but you seem to be the type who wants to tell others what they ought to find fun.
17th-Mar-2005 02:25 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
I happy to hear you're having fun. Enjoy!
16th-Mar-2005 07:31 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
By the way, did you mention this to your DM? If you don't tell him, he will never learn to be a better DM.
(Deleted comment)
16th-Mar-2005 09:20 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
If it was the Grand Master Red dragon, I would run the moment I saw it. If it were creatures I did not know, I'd try. The DM should have sensed things were going bad and gave you an escape route. P'raps the party could have used things like Web, or Wall of whatever, or grease spells to help the escape. Tangle foot bags, itching powder bombs, caltrops, a bag of gold. Sometimes simple works best.
17th-Mar-2005 09:40 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
The wizard died. The mystic was grappled. The priestess was the only caster capable of casting anything, and even then, there were two threatening her.

We really were SOL, mate :)
17th-Mar-2005 09:47 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
Ah well, life happens. Better luck next time.
17th-Mar-2005 09:58 am (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
Yeah, well, I've got a solution for that.

It's called "not bringing my MM3 to game ever again so that the DM gets to use it against us".

16th-Mar-2005 07:37 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
The DM concurred that he hadn't expected it to be so overwhelming.

I guess the appropriate answer would be that no, we did not try to run away immediately. The rest of the PCs attempted to retreat around round three. I was dead before I got an action.

PCs tried to withdraw, then got charged and grappled.
PCs tried to run, got grappled with the attacks of opportunity.
The rogue tried to tumble to get back to down, failed because of the +10 to the Tumble Check DC that they provide.
16th-Mar-2005 07:50 pm (UTC) - Re: A beautiful day in the neighborhood
er, back to town.
16th-Mar-2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
While I think the situation was entirely not good at all, I think that the way you wrote that letter was rather amusing.
16th-Mar-2005 08:21 pm (UTC)

16th-Mar-2005 09:06 pm (UTC)
Crappy situation, my friend. Surprise rounds suck the nut, as do random encounters.

I'll admit though, the entire situation is entirely poor planning on the part of the DM. Dropping -six- monsters that are supposed to be solitary is not only a lack of judgement, it's a "Wtf?" moment.

All creatures have traits and habits that determine whether or not they'll be in groups or solitary, not just because of their abilities. 6 solitary creatures coming together sounds like the family reunion that the gods forgot.
16th-Mar-2005 09:28 pm (UTC)
I could've sworn that coup de grace in combat is a two-round affair. One round to set up the kill, and a second round to execute it as a standard action (attack).

I remember when I played RtToEE, my party encountered a ghoul. Once it paralyzed one of us, it took one round afterwards to set up the coup de grace, and then the second round was the actual attack.

That's not to say that it would've changed the outcome of your fight necessarily, but there's a chance someone could've saved you while you were helpless. Those monsters sound imbalanced as is, but adding a one-round insta-death attack into the mix makes it moreso.
17th-Mar-2005 12:38 am (UTC)
From the D&D site glossary:

"coup de grace ... A full-round action that allows an attacker to attempt a killing blow against a helpless opponent."

So no, it takes a full round, though I can imagine a [one round set up + standard action attack] method being house-ruled.
17th-Mar-2005 12:45 am (UTC)
Ah, fair enough then. But I say it's a good house rule. :)
16th-Mar-2005 09:32 pm (UTC)
Sorry to double-post, but I just read the stats of the monster. It says you're helpless until you beat the battlebriar with an opposed grapple check. Something seems wrong about that. If you can struggle, how are you helpless? When I think helpless, I think completely paralyzed, asleep, or pinned (in which case you can't break out).
16th-Mar-2005 10:01 pm (UTC)
The grapple check really isn't a problem: "When making grapple checks against impaled creatures, a battlebriar takes a -20 on grapple checks." And with its +19, this means it now has a -1. Being helpless seems reasonable for someone impaled on large spikes and because of the check, PCs should be able to pull themselves off after their action.

The problem is: this creature was really designed to be solitary. The above text would make no sense if other battlebriars were there. Its abilities are quite dangerous when used in groups, as this TPK demonstrates.
17th-Mar-2005 09:49 am (UTC)
Yep. The greater version is CR 15 and I have no doubt we could have taken that one out, just based on how our party operated. Mind you it had a 30 AC, so it wouldn't have been as easy, but the casters would have been able to use magic.

The combination of abilities is what did us in.

Pseudo-Combat Reflexes, ways to make PCs helpless as a free action as part of an attack, bull rush, a mini fireball-esque attack, and making tumbling to escape that much more difficult...

The bard that has an average damage output of 75 damage a round against 'big monsters with not-so-good AC', died in the first round of combat.

The wizard that is also melee based and can put out a ludicrous amount of damage with a sword got a haste off, and one round of attacks, then when the situation started to turn sour, got bull rushed into a pair of 'em, grappled and coup de graced.

The priestess cast a call lightning spell and moved back, but died in part due to raw beatdown, in part due to their 5d6 mini-fireball.

The mystic got impaled and carried off (and would probably have been chain grappled if she tried to withdraw or run or whathave you).

The rogue tried to tumble off to safety, but couldn't make a 30 Tumble check without rolling a 15. The monsters couldn't hit him during the previous rounds because he was fighting defensively and had haste up, but his AC dropped from 30 (31 vs. the target of his dodge) to 26, and he spent most of the rounds using a standard action to escape from a grapple (I don't think they ever actually tried to impale him).

The more I think about the fight, however, I'm thinking that it was less an issue of the monsters being 'too good' (because they really are in groups), and more of a case of them DM playing them too intelligently.

Ah well, what's done is done. I just needed to gripe out it, and point out that there is indeed both a logical and game-balancing reason why creatures run solo.
17th-Mar-2005 09:50 am (UTC)
Let's not forget the fact that our mystic, priestess, and rogue would have had to do a total of 756 points of damage to finish all of them off.

17th-Mar-2005 10:04 am (UTC)
Well, there was a somewhat logical reason for there to be that many in the region, given their purpose. The lesser ones can be tamed and were designed as defensive/mobile siege engines, and we were travelling near a wooded area not far from a war zone, so it's possible a few druids moved them up there.


Logical, but still not cool ;)
(Deleted comment)
17th-Mar-2005 09:51 am (UTC)
I think this whole book is a balance nightmare ;)

I can see where the monsters are balanced for their CR in some instances, but man, some of them seem a little nuts.
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