No Assembly Required – Durgauthbalavoar, Ghost Dragon

My monthly monster-building column, No Assembly Required, has once again returned to This Is My Game as the site has been taken over by Randall Walker and Tracy Barnett. They are eager to maintain and improve the site, so I am excited they will be hosting the No Assembly Required series moving forward!

The column, No Assembly Required, features a monster that can be inserted into a Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition campaign. Each monster in the series includes comprehensive information including Origin, Lore, Combat Tactics, Power Descriptions and Stat Block. Visit This Is My Game to review this month’s monster, Durgauthbalavoar, Ghost Dragon. Durgauthbalavoar is an Epic-Tier monster who should provide the foundation for a dynamic combat encounter for any group of adventurers.

The mechanics for the dragon were inspired by my frustration of having too many combat encounters turn into static slugfests where enemies and players rush to one spot in a room and then trade blows until one group dies. Durgauthbalavoar is surrounded by various Auras – some that effect PCs nearby, and some that effect PCs far away – in addition to a teleportation power that will shift the flow of battle.

As always, the fantastic artwork is provided by Grant Gould. Visit This is My Game for the full description of Durgauthbalavoar, the spirit of an evil dragon slain long ago only to return to terrorize the lands once again! Please post any questions or comments about the monster here or at This Is My Game, and come back next month for another ready-to-use monster.

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.

Continue reading “Brainstorming Solo Monsters: Bayonetta”