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D&D 3E
So, dealing with high-level psionics 
6th-Feb-2009 02:49 pm
In my game, I've had a boss encounter I've been leading up to for 16 levels now, where the players will be fighting a gnoll leader named Kolaar who has managed to unite the gnoll and bugbear tribes, teach them agriculture, strategy, and trade, and has led them to conquer key cities. Kolaar's secret was that he had an invisible spirit named Oal that could spy and do tasks for him in addition to casting spells to defend him or to serve him.

After a defeat that ended in Kolaar's forces losing control of a port city, he was able to salvage his forces and take them into the Underdark. By inspiring revolt in the drow slaves coupled with strategic attacks, Kolaar's forces have seized a drow city. In the last adventure, the players met a human wizard outside the city who claimed to have studied here and wishes for this threat to be gone. With his help, they gain the alliance of some previously-captive dwarven spirits who go and kill Oal.

Now defenseless except for his tactical mind and fighting prowess, the players can move directly against Kolaar. I am sure you can see that I want this confrontation to be epic and interesting.

Here's the problem. One of the players is a psionicist. A psionicist who likes to use the psionic equivalent of Disintegrate. Were he a spellcaster, I would have Kolaar use tactics like a stone with Silence on it (much like drow have Darkness cast on stones wrapped in clay) to help disrupt or hinder the player's spellcasting. But as far as I can tell there is nothing short of stunning or knocking the player out that can disrupt psionics. And even then, this feels wrong, because I don't want the player to not be able to do anything. But if I let him do something, he's going to sever the boss' spinal cord or teleport its brain to Nebraska.

Any ideas? I don't want to just say things like, "Oh, well, your ability doesn't work for some reason." That seems cheap.
6th-Feb-2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Two words: Mind Flayer.
6th-Feb-2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Ha ha. Tempting. But what a gnoll would be doing partnering with a mind flayer I don't know.

My strategy at this point is to basically ask the player not to use any insta-kill spells. Or make up a talisman for the boss that absorbs any spell or ability that would instantly kill or permanently incapacitate the wearer and give the talisman a handful of charges.
6th-Feb-2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
mind flayer is appropriate given the setting. he could have encountered it, and it decided to tag a long with him because it thought he would help it reach some goal. or it thought it could manipulate him. mind flayer's are supposed to be inscrutable. it has motives of it's own that no one knows.

if you don't like mind flayer, you could have him teamed up with a mage who cloned him. if they do an instant kill, it was the clone. or a cleric. a powerful leader like him ought to have a cleric or two in his retinue by now. he dies, they resurrect him.

i'm not all that familiar with psionics because my group never uses it, but if you use the "psionics are the same as magic" rules he could just have an antimagic shell up or something.

keep in mind that if a player has the ability to do something he ought to be able to use it. unless he teleported one of the gnoll's follower's brains some time, the gnoll wouldn't be prepared for this. also, most powers like that allow some sort of save, or have some sort of countermeasure. if that power is in the psionics guide then there's got to be a power or item that can be used to protect him from it.
6th-Feb-2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
You don't need to do that. Railroading a player like that, even if you're polite about it, will only work against you.

Here are some ideas:

* Drow sleep poison can take the psion out easily enough if he fails his save. The gnoll could have acquired some particularly potent stuff (ie higher than listed save DC).
* Psionic Items work, as do items that help the enemy's saves and touch AC.
* If you play psionics as counterable by magic, as in Dispel Magic works on psionics, then an anti-magic/dead magic area will be good. So could a ring of Spell Turning.
* The Gnoll should have some allies still with him. I wouldn't think he'd be that isolated. Climactic encounters with a single opponent tend to be the opposite (unless it's a dragon, or major demon) because the PCs can focus on it. Even screening troops can be used to absorb spells and even limited use abilities.
7th-Feb-2009 02:57 am (UTC)
Agreed. Mindflayer.
6th-Feb-2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Give him a high Fort save, then he won't take much. A high touch AC will help as well. Also, cover/concealment/etc. Hell, give him Mettle and then when he makes the save he won't take any damage :p

There are a couple of lower-level powers that can impede psionics (brain lock, as well as other stun-style effects like crisis of breath--both of which come in handy throwable pearls). But a 16th level psion will almost assuredly save against those, unless you bump the DCs in weird ways.

CPsi also has a power Dampen Psionics that makes any ability that targets you deal minimum damage. That could help some--at least until your BBEG runs out of PP.

Finally, just use good tactics. If he knows about the PCs strategies, he'll go for the Psion first. Have some followers swarm and down the PC (who I imagine doesn't have a ton of HP either). Or grapple him so that he needs to make concentration checks to manifest (a DC 26 concentration check could still be significant even at 16th level). Or have him ready actions to attack the Psion when it tries to cast to disrupt the power (it works the same way as magic in that regard). Stuff like that. Getting any fight to last longer than a couple rounds at high levels is difficult in my experience.
6th-Feb-2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Coming just from my memory of playing a psion myself, I would suggest that you check out the expanded psionics handbook for the magic items - there are items there that help suppress or counter psionics. And if this gnoll met the PCs in the last battle, he would be wise to recognize the danger a psion presents and prepare accordingly. ;)
6th-Feb-2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
Throw some other powerful encounters at them beforehand. I'm sure he has big, muscled gnoll champions to do his dirty work. These guys will, if done properly, tempt the players into using up some of their powers.

Also, if Kolaar has been ransacking that many cities, he's probably got a magic item in every possible slot. So yeah, I second beefing him up with items that can protect him not just from psionics, but ANY instant-death ability he or his acolytes might be aware of, because nobody wants their empire collapsing because some gnome got too close with a finger of death.

Also, you are allowed to fudge the die in his favor to keep things entertaining. Maybe don't let it work until he gets lower on HP? Sure, it's not exactly optimal, but I would rather have an entertaining boss fight that pushes the characters rather than let the entire climax of the campaign fall flat because of a single bad die roll.
6th-Feb-2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
Are you using Spell/Psi transparency or not?

1) Give him a Power Resistance item. Something that is in the neighborhood of the PC needing a 16 or higher to succeed.

2) As someone mentioned, give him Mettle. There are a number of classes that give Mettle, and if not, it would be equivalent to an item that gives evasion (there is no Greater Mettle, though).

3) (Greater) Spell/Power Immunity. If he knows the PCs, this is an obvious one to get a one time item or to have his high-level spell casting minion take.

4) Apopsi. Ditto

5) Null Psionics Field.

6) Acid or other attacks that do ongoing damage (Psicraft check every manifestation)

7) Grapplers or other close fighters that are Always There to ready to disrupt.
6th-Feb-2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not that familiar with psionics, but what if the character can't concentrate? Suppose the party camps for the night. It's been raining, they are forced to sleep outdoors, on wet leaves. The next morning, a couple of characters are a little itchy -- some sort of rash? Nope, it's a parasite that gets progressively worse throughout the day. If at least one other character contracts the parasite, it doesn't look like you are targeting the psionic. By the time of the encounter, maybe the psionic has to save vs. my-god-make-the-itching-stop to concentrate enough to use his abilities -- the low level abilities should work most of the time, but the higher ones not at all.

That way, you don't have a gnoll artificially consorting with mind flayers (or other psionic critters), nor does the baddy have access to devices that he normally wouldn't even know about. You get rid of the unbalancing powers without making the player feel like a target, and without making him completely useless.
7th-Feb-2009 03:40 am (UTC)
And this is why psionists should haven't disintegrate.
8th-Feb-2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
There is, I think, a clerical spell that makes you immune to X number of specific effects. If he's fabulously wealthy, there are opun stones and the like that absorb spell levels.

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