Brainstorming Solo Monsters: Bayonetta

“I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more dead angels!”

Solo monsters and the way they play in D&D 4e have been on my mind lately. First, I ran a small set of encounters that culminated in the party coming face-to-face with an Orium Dragon. Second, I was throwing ideas back and forth with David Flor about the notion that solo monsters could possible be given more standard actions to make them more epic foes. Third, I’ve played through the first third of the videogame, Bayonetta. Trust me, the last point will tie into my thoughts on solo monsters!

First, the battle with the Orium Dragon was meant to be a challenge for the party, and it turned out well enough, but the dragon did not seem cool enough. Part of the issue was we only had four players that night, so I had to scale down the creature a bit. But overall, the dragon seemed to be limited to the breath weapon and the Draconic Fury, which basically gives the dragon three Standard Actions (2 Claw, 1 Gore attacks). Draconic Fury is a nice attack the first round or two, but the dragon does not have many other options if it’s breath is spent. PCs attack, dragon attacks with Draconic Fury, rinse and repeat. At least for me, the battle felt stale after a couple of rounds. There was likely more drama for the players because several PCs were dying at various points in the battle, but in terms of playing the dragon, it wasn’t as entertaining as I thought it would be.

After that, I was thinking about the next time my group runs into a solo creature and how I could make it more entertaining for them and for me. Between getting Monster Manual 3 in the mail and having some discussions online, I started to think about solos in a new way. Yes, they are a big, bad monster, but they should feel different from the monsters I play as a DM each week. Besides the extra hit points and high-damage attacks, playing a solo should just feel different. I thought about granting solo monsters more standard actions, and that idea seems to have merit. Around this time, I started to play Bayonetta – and strangely enough – that is when something clicked in my brain.

I realize Bayonetta is an “old game” by today’s standards. Between work, spending time with my wife and the two D&D campaigns I’m in, my videogame time is pretty limited compared to my college years. I space out games over time, and switch between genres so playing the games do not get repetitive. For instance, in recent months I played Madden while walking on the treadmill; a couple of mindless franchise seasons that fit well into a 45-minute walk. Before, and after, I played Dragon Age: Origins on my laptop (on the lowest possible settings! I’m still surprised it ran), which was a sprawling game that took me about 80 hours to complete. After that, I bought Heavy Rain, Bioshock and Bayonetta pre-owned at Gamestop. I really dislike doing this because I’m a firm believer in intellectual property and the creators do not get a slice of the secondary market, but getting three games for $50 is too good to pass up.

Heavy Rain was a very intriguing “game” and a nice change of pace from Dragon Age: Origins. However, after sitting through many a cut scene and gameplay right out of the old Dragon’s Lair stand-up machines, I wanted a hack-and-slash experience. So I popped in Bayonetta. And holy hell, the game is bizarrely insane and entertaining!

Granted, I’m only a third of the way through, but it’s basically God of War mixed in a blender with about four or five different genres of exploitation films. Throw in a knockoff of The Baroness from G.I. Joe, and you have a very fun game. While playing last night and raining death on angels (really), I had the thought, “What if you turned Bayonetta into a 4e solo monster?”

Angels (and your players) shall weep.

And then I got to work. I do not understand the full backstory of Bayonetta quite yet (the game is not really explanatory all the time), but the gist is that she is an Umbra Witch that is sent from Hell to destroy angels. She does this with her punches, kicks, guns attached to her arms and legs (yup, really) and an assortment of weapons she can buy from a dude named Rodin or pick up from fallen enemies. She can dish out absurd combinations of punches, kicks and weapon attacks, which climax in a huge witch attack. And where does she harness all of this witch power?

Her hair.

So, yeah, the game is freaky.

I set upon wrapping my head how Bayonetta would translate into a D&D 4e setting. That fact that she is a witch fits rather well, but I had to do away with her guns. Her power is in combinations and building up momentum to unleash more vicious attacks. She can slow down time by dodging incoming attacks at the last second; while time is slowed, she can attack foes before they can respond. I just unlocked an ability that allows her to gain a small amount of health if she taunts her foes while in combat.

By the end of the game, I might realize she is too low of a level, but mid-Paragon felt right for now. Check out the stat block, and let me know what you think!

I think Bayonetta would be a BLAST to play as a DM. Every round, you are bouncing around the battlefield, attacking one, two, three or more enemies each round, and possibly completing a combination attack with one of two magical attacks that automatically hit. One round against Bayonetta and your players may be thinking or saying, “Holy shit, what the hell just happened?!”

I may not have the defenses and hit points exactly where they need to be. I used MasterPlan to build the stat block and templates from Monster Manual 3. I know my group reads this blog, but they are only Level 10 (and have nothing to worry about . . . for now).

And you could do similar things with other videogame stars. Kratos, indeed! If you use this monster as in or reskinned a bit, then let me know how it plays. I believe the “combo” system I used in the stat block could be an interesting design options for solos moving forward.

* Of course, Bayonetta is a character that has copyrights, and I completely respect those. I am just using this character as an example. Same with the D&D Stat Block design.

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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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20 Responses to Brainstorming Solo Monsters: Bayonetta

  1. BrianLiberge says:

    I like the idea of combos for powers. It would be hard to implement on the players side, but with a solo creature it could work quite well. Because she’s so mobile, and her most powerful attacks relay on three attacks hitting, you may find yourself really tempted to ignore the defender while playing this monster. The fact that some of these attack target Reflex instead of AC helps in that regard, but I know some of my players could really lock this monster down.

    I also find the idea that the finishing moves rely on successful hits and then have a recharge confusing. Especially since there’s two choices, we may have one too many mechanics/options here.

    • The Id DM says:

      Thank you for the feedback. I was torn about the Recharge on the big powers as well. But I figured with most of her enemies already taking -2 to defenses, I needed something to balance it out. I went back on forth on keeping it as an At Will of sorts if the combo hits.

      In theory, she could use Demonic Strike, which targets multiple enemies, three times in a row and if she hits at least one enemy each round, then one of the final blows could be delivered. That seemed a bit cheap; thus the Recharge. Plus, she has two “big finishers” to choose from, so if one hasn’t recharged, then she could use the other. There is a high probability that if both get spent, then one of them will recharge the next round.

      The finishing move options could be used when some of the effects are more desirable – immobilizing a striker versus dazing/weakening a defender.

      • BrianLiberge says:

        What might break this up a bit more is if each finisher had to have a specific combo to activate. So maybe one is weaker than the other, and rely’s only on kicks and punches. That’s the one she can always use, as long as she pulls the combo off.

        Then you pur demonic flurry on a fair recharge, like 4,5,6. That means, on average you have it every other turn. Your second finisher allows punches, kicks and the flurry. This way, one finisher is the big one. Since it rely’s on three hits and demonic flurry being active, you’ll be lucky if it happens twice a fight.

        You get to drop the recharge from both your finishers, and it might be more clear what triggers the finisher. It also ensures demonic flurry never happens more than once a round.

  2. wolfRam says:

    Interesting!

    I’ve been working on a very similar solo concept myself and am just about to drop it on the group; it’s a slightly modified version of the Headless Corpse from the Pyramid of Shadows: there, because the room is quite featureless (or, in my case, used to be), the monster needed to be really awesome. Might post the stats if it runs well.

    But there’s one thing to keep in mind with Solos: they’re awesome. Once or twice they CAN make the characters go “WHAT?!!” and the players “Dude, that’s against the rules, isn’t it?!” … as long as it’s cool. Just pretend that it says so in the stat block ;)

  3. Morgoth says:

    Everything Burns…. Even Deamonsfrom hell…..

  4. AJ says:

    Ok, DM mode kicking in. First off, a finishing move is special because it’s unique. A mob with more than one finishing move is not special. It’s over powered imho; this also goes for uniqueness. Unique means it doesn’t happen often. i.e. low recharge by 4E standards.

    When/if it happens it’s suppose to be a “HOLY CRAP, Glad she can’t do that every round moment.”

    The way you have her set now as a level 15 skirmisher, I would rate her way overpowered. This looks closer to level 18-20 range with her demonic flury capable of accessing 3 demonic strikes. Hoenstly, why would you do anything else? 3 demonic strikes with close burst 2, at +21 (technically +23 since she reduces all defenses by 2, no need to have the aura, just add the to Hit numbers since its ALL defenses) to hit vs. reflex… Just shift through the party, finding one hit in each burst would be easy, and BAMO finishing move. That’s just insane.

    You also need to specify attack bonuses for iron maiden and guillotine I see the damage but no attack. And Rodin’s Gift doesn’t make much sense the way it’s worded.. What Ally?

    Wicked Weave should have a recharge, even if it’s 2-5 Because it lets her use that nasty attack. If she just shifted with a melee basic attack I would think it would be fine. The issue with the kick and punch is you have a mechanic breakdown. Wicked weave lets her shift, and so does the kick and punch. That’s a little excessive Imho. Wicked weave should be the shift, she needs a melee basic attack that doesn’t especially for attacks of opportunity. I’d say use the punch, and lose the shift from the punch attack.

    Umbra Kick vs. reflex doesn’t make much sense either since it’s entirely damage related. If the kick perhaps knocked you prone with minimal damage then I’d be fine with a reflex attack.

    Her Aura should target Will since it’s CHA related. Beauty is targeted against Charisma which is defined by the WILL defense. I could make the stretch to reflex for “stunning” beauty, but not Fortitude or AC.

    Flirtatious Taunt I would turn into TEMP Hit points, and in the 20′s. This gives the PC’s a chance to make headway into her HP each round; and doesn’t let her fully heal on a bad round of rolls.

    MOB designing is tough. Especially for newer DM’s. I’ve seen too many TPK’s by DM’s wanting to toss out a “cool baddie they designed”. Especially when they are cutting their teeth on a high level mob instead of a low level one.

    I know this may sound like a tough critique, and it’s not because I’m afraid of the mob, but as a DM, this is definite mark that can alter the way a gaming group percieves how you run a game. permanently.

    So always be cautious. It’s better to have yer cool mob get trounced, than to do the trouncing.

    • BrianLiberge says:

      Well I didn’t comment too much on the stat block previously, because I think its clear this is an experiment in theme, however you bring up some interesting criticisms.

      I think the big difference between a solo that runs well, and a prolonged fight is that good solos have options for keeping the battle interesting. Let’s look at the Elder White Dragon. At level 17 this dragon is the closest solo dragon that has been updated to post MM3 Standards. With Instinctive Rampage and Dragon’s Fury its generally making three attacks a turn. Its also got Tail Slap, which is an at-will attack triggered by an enemy hit while flanking. That’s gonna go off once or twice, but probably not as often as Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave. So on average Bayonetta’s getting one more attack off each turn then the white dragon. However her damage is much lower. Lower than the difference of two levels makes up. Is it perfect, no, but it may be a little more valid then you think.

      I do agree that Wicked Weave doesn’t need the shift, as the attack will provide one for her.

      It looks like MasterPlan doesn’t make stat blocks quite in the way we’re used to looking at them. I was a little confused with the format myself but if you look at the text of the article the author does explain his intent. Iron Maiden and Guillotine are auto-hit (like the current Magic Missile) as long as they are able to be triggered. The ally in Rodin’s gift is part of the flavor text, not the mechanic. Bayonetta is the ally.

      ID DM, it may be useful, in the future, to keep the flavor text in the description and out of the stat block. That seems to be the current setup with monster blocks, as opposed to individual powers.

      Flirtatious taunt is a little high. Especially since both her finishers can make it so a poorly placed enemy can’t make an effective attack on their turn. Lowering it, and/or making it temp makes sense, although as a DM, thp seems like one more thing to keep track of. Maybe 20 hp and one target is marked TENT. That’s easy to track, and may be useful if this fight involves some other element.

      • BrianLiberge says:

        Also ID, you may want to try http://www.power2ool.com for monster blocks. It helps keep Hit, Effect, and like separate.

      • AJ says:

        That’s valid. on the finishers, that could have been the intent, in that case the text should reflect the Auto nature of the finishing move. But you did compare her to a level 17 DRAGON. =)
        She’s set as a level 15 skirmisher. Big difference. Like I said for a skirmisher, she should be in the 18-20 range. I would also point out her damage bonuses. Why the difference between kick and punch? the damage should bethe same, at the minimum they should both reflect bonuses to which the attack is tied. STR vs AC or DEX vs Reflex.
        Demonic Strike with a bonus of 8 doesn’t tie to any stat at all since all her bonuses are above 8 as well. If anything this might be better tied to CHA, or perhaps INT if it’s supernatural in nature. Attacks and Damages must have a source attribute which is important to good Mob design. In some cases I would expect higher ratings than stat adjusters due to feats, but rarely would I expect lower ratings.

        Also due to her “nimbleness” Acrobatics would be a better skill over athletics, or at the very least add it to her; and as a skirmisher, does she really need diplomacy? It doesn’t fit the subtype. Insight I can understand.

        Again, I am nto being mean here, just trying to point out some things to think about with custom char design. It’s not an easy thing to do well. Not even the books do it well all the time.

    • BrianLiberge says:

      I didn’t even look at the attributes and skills as it rarely comes up in a fight and I know they often only vaguely tie to the monsters actual ability in 4e. They do seem a bit off, but that seems minor for the purposes of this article.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the damage after the die. In 4e, we’re looking at average damage and trying to fit into a range for the level. The monsters are rarely able to be rationally reverse engineered.

      Keep in mind that this is not just a skirmisher but a solo skirmisher. There’s almost never going to be more than one Bayonetta. Solo’s are meant to be challenging, climatic and able to take on an entire party. If your solo can’t be compared to a dragon, maybe it should be an elite.

      • AJ says:

        It’s contextual really. Call her an elite if that is what she’s meant to be. I totally understand going for an Average damage range. My point is good mob design backs it up. Again, books don’t always do a good job, so saying “well this is just what I need her to do” isn’t good mob design… It’s making stuff up. We all know if a DM wants to do 30 damage a hit, he’s going to say you take 30 Damage! But again that doesn’t make “good design”, it makes 30 damage.

        If the goal is good mob design, I’m just pointing out ways to do it. If you want her do hit and do more damage, up her attributes. Mix in some feats to justify it. It’s all there.

  5. AJ says:

    One more thing. I’m curious where the 22 to hit comes from on the punch and kick. STR based bonuses would be 10 for STR and 7 for half level, +17 as a STR based attack. Kick based would be 14 for DEX and 7 for level for 21 as a reflex attack. Demonic strike if an INT based attack would be 9 for INT, and 7 for level for a +16 vs. reflex.

    Looking at her in this regard her damage should be increased, but her to hits would be decreased. Which catches her damage up to the dragon, but lowers her to hits. This would impact her ability to “finish” which would bring her down from that 18-20 range, back into a 15-17 range.

    Gullotine damage looks fine since it’s likely tied to STR. Iron Maiden might be better tied to Con with a +10 bonus. Ongoing damage is arbitrary so 15 is fine. I think it would be much cooler to have those Finishing move have attacks rolls. Perhaps if she hit 3 times, the target is dazed, ergo she gets combat advantage. The iron maiden is a CON based Fortitude attack, while the Guilotine is based off of STR? It could be a CON attack also vs. Fortitude really, now that I think about it.

    The idea of these two attacks is one of resisting the hit since she already has produced an optimal attack.

  6. QuackTape says:

    This is definitely a fun concept! I’m running a solo this weekend and might try to throw in a bit of combo-goodness to try this out.

    I do think that there are some ways to spam the powers in an not-so-fun way to players though. Perhaps Demonic Flurry lets her use each attack once to mix it up? She could then mix up the order of her attacks but not spam the burst power.

    I like that the kick targets Reflex since its a slightly better way or threatening a defender. Perhaps add in the ability to push or slide the target 2 squares (maybe even on a miss?). That allows the defender to soak an attack from hitting another PC but then will allow Bayonetta to move on to spread the love. After all, even without a finisher if she hits one PC will all three attacks they are taking an average of 66 damage which will bloody even the defender (having around 120 HP at 15th lvl).

    Perhaps the punch should also get a status effect added to it. If it also dazed until the end of next turn it could make things interesting as another way or throwing off a defender (but they’ll have a high enough AC that this attack might miss) but generally inhibit anyone tactically.

    The other thing that players are going to hate is that Bayonetta as a solo has 2 action points. So in one round she could currently do 2 Demonic Flurry combos and BOTH finishers. Given average damage (rounding every die roll down for ease of math at work) that’s 178 damage on round one IF only one enemy is hit by each Demonic Strike. It could be nasty to do mid-combat (the round after she’s bloodied? Her finishers recharge when bloodied so she can instantly use both?), but in the first half of combat its probably too brutal.

    To counter this, it’d be good to add an additional Standard At-Will to threaten the party with. Given the charisma, perhaps an area burst Charm of Misplaced Wrath equivalent (attack v. will, on hit minor damage and target makes a free attack on an enemy of your choice). This could also be a fun alternative to start the fight with since the PCs will most likely be clumped and cause general chaos in their ranks. Thinking a controller needs to be thwacked, they’ll be taken by surprise when melee combat ends up being the real challenge!

    Personally I’m very cautious about monsters healing. Running with the charm effect, perhaps her Taunt can cause a PC to move (slide Defenders away, squishies closer?) and give a condition like ongoing 10 psychic.

    These charm effects could go well with AJ’s suggestion of the Aura giving a -2 to will instead of all defenses. That way she can have attacks against AC, Reflex, and Will to spread around. She has incentive to be in the thick of things either way.

    Wicked Weave should also be slightly revised. Want to make it more fun? Have her teleport 2-5 instead of shifting and create a new attack instead of recycling the punch/kick/burst.

    I really enjoy this concept and will definitely find a way to work this in soon. Only my party is about to turn level 7, I think it will be fun to make a level 8-9 equivalent of this to try in a one-off fight.

    • AJ says:

      I like the idea of making her use all three attacks and have them hit to trigger the finisher. That makes more sense. Spam bursts would be cheasy.

  7. The Id DM says:

    Great conversation. AJ, don’t worry about offending me. If I was worried about getting critical feedback, then I wouldn’t have asked for it by throwing it up online. I think many of your comments are geared toward things I didn’t even think about, so they are helpful moving forward.

    Many of your comments and suggestions are interesting, and my answer to many of the questions you asked is, “I just made it up.” I looked at templates in Monster Manual 3 and the Damage By Level chart in the new DM Screen. The attack dice and bonuses are loosely based on those sources. For instance, a Level 15 Frost Giant has a +20 to hit. So I thought about her being a Solo Monster and bumped it up. With enemies already taking a -2 to defenses, then it probably makes sense to leave it at +20 instead of +22. To be honest, I didn’t spend one second tying attacks to STR, DEX or any other attribute. I just borrowed stats from other monsters, edited to what I thought made sense, and focused on her defenses. It felt like Reflex should be very high, so I bumped that up a bit compared to other Level 15 monsters. And as Brian pointed out, she’s a Solo so that changes things.

    You are accurate that the damage for punch and kick is different. I played around with different ways to make these attack feel different. I was also taking into account that she would never use just one of those attacks as her Standard Action. So she is really making three attacks (if I went back, I would edit that her Demonic Flurry makes three attacks, but the finisher is only triggered by hitting on all three). I tried to balance out the damage a bit over three (and possibly four) attacks in one round to not make it completely absurd.

    Brian, I was planning to trying power2ool in the future. MasterPlan is good, but the design on the output leaves something to be desired. I wasn’t even planning to include the flavor text in the powers, but I thought I would add it in for those that have never played the game, Bayonetta . . . just to give them an idea of her powers.

    Overall, this was a fun experiment, and I think the idea of a “finisher” if certain criteria are met is intriguing. I like the idea that each finisher is tied to a specific attack. Iron Maiden can only be triggered by combo ending with a punch, while Guillotine can only be triggred by combo ending with a kick, etc. The stats seem to be a smaller issue to me (it’s easy to change a few digits), but perhaps I’m wrong on that account.

    Thanks again for the feedback.

    • AJ says:

      Well, if you never show anyone the mob, then true,, stats don’t matter. But again, I use the phrase “good mob design” is about having data back up your results. Just like data does with analysis in Psychology. Stats are the tie that binds all attacks and damages together in D&D. (and level). Having proof in the pudding is simply good design.

  8. AJ says:

    “To be honest, I didn’t spend one second tying attacks to STR, DEX or any other attribute. I just borrowed stats from other monsters, edited to what I thought made sense, and focused on her defenses.” —- Yikes….

    • The Id DM says:

      Hah, I’m fine with that feedback. It seems that most people start with the attributes and adjust from that. That is already built into the MasterPlan program, so saying I completely ignored them is an overstatement since it was already factored in for me.

  9. David Flor says:

    In one of the games I’m participating in I’m playing a Goliath Tempest Fighter that is *very* inspired by Kratos from GoW. He’s a wrecking ball at close range.

    One of the groups I’m running is slowly approaching their first “boss” encounter, and I’ve modified the monster like six times already. Just doesn’t feel right, ya know? ;)

    • The Id DM says:

      Yes, and of course your players will storm into the room and totally nerf your well-crafted solo in about two rounds. :-(

      I haven’t played God of War III yet, but it’s on my list. I enjoyed the first two games, and Kratos could definitely fit right in to a D&D universe. Perhaps he takes on the Gods of D&D. Someone make this happen!

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