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D&D 3E
The Final Battle 
16th-Jan-2007 03:14 am
How high do you usually raise the CR of the "final battle" in your campaigns? We all know that the standard battle should have a CR equal to the average level of a group of four PCs, which is supposed to consume about 20% of their usable power. What about those last blasts where you aren't as concerned about the party having power left over after the battle, as much as having a dramatic ending clash?
16th-Jan-2007 08:55 am (UTC)
well, I'd go 3-4 levels higher....more if you have an idea of what magic they have on them..the right items in the PCs hands can seriously upset that particular balance... what would be a serious mountain to climb for one group, another group of the same party level could lay waste to without the need of so much as a single potion of CLW, if they're equipped properly
16th-Jan-2007 11:18 am (UTC)
I like things to be non-linear. I want the pcs to run into enemies who they could take with their bare hands and who they couldn't take for another half dozen levels. The goals are realism and an attempt to make the characters think outside of the hack and slash box. Sometimes they have to run, talk their way out of it, or think of some strategy to boost their chances somehow. With that in mind, the campaign i am working on now involves an endgame with three villains who are above CR 20 by the time the pcs become aware of the puppet masters behind all the trouble they've been up against they should have a few months before they really HAVE to stop the villains plans. So they have time to prepare and train/level, find spells that might help them, get allies, maybe even get the villains to work against each other of their smart enoough to think of that strategy.
16th-Jan-2007 01:19 pm (UTC)
We all know that the standard battle should have a CR

EL, that is.

Watch out for what they have left coming in, even if you don't care what they have going out. And unless the scenario is structured exactly like a CRPG imitating a bad RPG, it is not certain that the "boss monster" will be encountereed last.
16th-Jan-2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice, but I have to disagree on one point. I can think of many well-planned and exciting non-linear scenarios where it'd be fairly certain the party will encounter a certain battle last.

Whether they're guarding something, rescuing someone, discovering the truth behind something, retrieving an object, or what-have-you, it's very likely that something powerful was put in place to guard it, invade it, or finally snaps at being thwarted X number of times and full-out attacks. Powerful defenses are realistic and logical. With said defenses compromised and the campaign-focus item/person/knowledge retrieved, the only thing that remains is going home for the victory parade.

I can't think of anything more anti-climactic than, "You've defeated Great Gnarrl the Dark and Ugly and retrieved the Scroll of Ancient Wisdom, and are journeying home triumphantly. A bugbear attacks. You're killed, the end." I'd wonder if that DM was trying to provide an entertaining experience, or teach a lesson.
16th-Jan-2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'd have to guess that the BBEG's CR is usually 1-4 higher than the PC level. But then, CR isn't a very accurate system, so it could be more or less. I look at the creature's abilities and estimate how much of a challenge it would be to the PCs, rather that just trust the CR.
16th-Jan-2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
What you may be forgetting here is that the Last Battle should be happening last - as in, AFTER all (or at least most of) the other battles. Thus, if the party has already faced 4 other "even CR" battles that day, they should be at roughly 20-30% of their resources - which would make this "last battle" seem a bit more difficult. They'll have to give "all they've got left" to get through it - including strategic thinking to make the best use of what they have left.

OF course, some players stop to sleep after reaching 50%, so that might make things difficult. Then again, that's what wandering monsters are for - that, and pointing out that "it's been 30 minutes since you woke up! How, exactly, do you plan to force yourself to go back to sleep for 8 hours?"

If you want that "last battle" to be in the morning, after everyone's all freshened up and fully supplied, then yes - up the CR (or, more "realistically") throw a few "guardians" between them and the Big Evil Baddie to wear them down).

16th-Jan-2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
I kind of bump up the players cr anyways. Ive taken to reverse engeneering it as to 4 12 level charictors have a cr of 16 therefore i can use 16 cr monsters for a boss fight and that high in gewneral to make it challinging
16th-Jan-2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
Well, every battle in my campaign can be "final" or fatal is better word... Sometimes players have a choice to fight or not to fight and retreat. But sometimes don't... If a 1st level party is going dragonhunting - well, they don't have a chance %)

Even ordinary battles I usually enhance 1-5 levels (and not only by monsters - weather, terrain, obstacles and so on).
16th-Jan-2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
I'm a big fan of having the final battle be with a villian who's been recurring over and over again in various situations at various levels, or perhaps with some big horrible thing that comes about as a result of said villian's actions (like, say, a very evil outsider that has plagued the PCs for a good while awakens some horrible ancient demon god thing that then eats him, leaving the PCs to clean up the mess). This complicates things a little, as I generally have to make sure they don't get lucky and kill him before I've planned, so I've usualy built in abilities that allow quick escapes or negate real death (like a lich's phylactery). For the last big battle, I make it something epic. The villian is the same as ever, but the conditions have changed--maybe he's mounted on some kind of monster, or has some crazy item or army at his disposal. This generally adds up to be somewhere between 3-5 levels higher in EL, adding in all the additional monsters, powers, or crazy environmental conditions. I mean, it is a final battle--it should be something epic and memorable.
19th-Jan-2007 06:15 am (UTC) - It depends...
Two major factors come into play (before I go any further, take this with a bucket of salt): number of opponents & how smart/effective can they fight.

With one single creature, you could get away with an EL up to 2 higher than the average party level. Reason being is that your heroes can concentrate their power into a single target.

If it's multiple opponents, it gets a little tricky -- moreso if the opposing force out numbers the PCs.

In either case, though, things can backfire. Badly. Here's two examples:

From my long running (ie 6 year) campaign, the heroes were trying to rescue a friend from the Drow. 13th level PCs at the time, they got jumped by a large band of Dark Elves, although the highest level opponent was a 10th level Cleric. Support included a Bard, two Wizards, and one Mind Flayer. Since they had the advantage of intelligence (both as a characteristic and as advance information), they went invisible and took up ambush positions.

They got out of that one, but not without some casualties due to bad luck. You see, the party's Fighter charged the Drow Cleric, who in desperation cast Slay Living. Wouldn't you know it -- the Fighter rolled a one on the Fort save... *thud* Things got desperate after that.

The second case involved the same party at 18th level facing a CR 20 Dracolich. The party was fully rested, but didn't take any special precautions as they didn't know what they were about to face. Once I started calling for Fort saves with every hit the Dracolich mage, the party Cleric (the field commander) decided not to retreat, and proceeded to make the call to wail on the damn thing. The Cleric, the Fighter and the Ranger all failed their saves, leaving the Wizard to make a desperate grab for the artifact they came for. While said Wizard did that, the Dracolich started doing coup de graces on the paralyzed PCs. The Wizard managed to escape and get help, but it cost the party greatly.

Then there's the case where the heroes make your plans backfire:

The OpFor consisted of:
* The Giant Queen: Cloud Giant FTR8 (CR 20)
* Her Retinue of four Knights and four Berserkers (EL 18)
* Two Drow Clr16 (EL 18)

Between her and the PCs (at first)
* Two Cloud Giant Death Knights. (EL 15)
* Two Drolem (EL 15?)
* A Wiz 17 with an axe to grind.

That latter part was meant to be the first wave, but the PCs decided to take on everyone at once. If forget what two spells the Cleric used, but it involved him getting beat for a full round while turning himself into a Celestial being, and then unleashing hell on the sinners. The latter spell: if you failed your save, you died. If you made it, you took ability damage. The one Drow Cleric got Nerf'd down to a 14 Wisdom.

Meanwhile, the enemy Wizard put the Fighter in a Maze while trapping the Ranger in a Force Cage. So long story short, I had no idea who would survive the whole thing...
21st-Jan-2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
The one game I actually ever got around to running had one of these end-all battles, although I ran it a little differently.

I pretty much fudged everything until the PCs were mostly depleted (I had tracked all of their resources expenditures throughout the day and played around that) and had the fight end with a bang.

I wanted the cinematic-style ending. :)
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