Dark Wizards and not playing fair

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Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Rasputin » Thu Jul 09, 2020 4:53 pm

Came out of the stairs on level 3 and got ambushed. A metric crapton of Hill Giants, Dark Wizards, Trolls, Clerics, Assassins, Ettins, and warriors. After the head bad guy monologued, my party leader said "We're doomed", and for once I believed her.

First thing I noticed was that the Dark Wizards had 77 hp. "Wow", I said to myself, "that's a lot of hit points for a wizard. Wonder how that happened?" I checked their stats. No Toughness feats. 9th level Wizards. 17 Con. They should have 51 hit points on average. Even if they had MAX, they should only have 63 HP. So, boo, hiss, foul.

While I'm at it, let's calculate the EL of the encounter and see just how ridiculous they have stacked the odds against us.

First off, a 9th level wizard should be a CR 9 enemy, yet they are listed as a CR 8. So that's wrong. Let's see if any of the others are off:

Level 8 warrior is listed as CR 6: wrong. Should be CR 7. On page 38 of the 3.5 DMG, their CR is equal to their NPC levels -1.

General Grighor listed as CR 11: wrong. He's a 12th level half-giant Death Knight. He should be CR 12.

Pizarra listed as CR 9: again, wrong, she's a level 10 Warlock. Should be CR 10. Starting to notice a trend here.

Evil Drake Cleric: Level 9, listed as CR 8.

Hill Giant: listed as CR 7, which is correct, but it is advanced thusly: Higher stats, a couple bonus feats, higher saves and HP (probably from raised stats). I would probably put him closer to CR 8 due to the modifications.

Ettin: now here it gets kinda weird. The one in the MM is a CR 6 and the one in KOTC is 7. However, the one in the game is remarkably similar to the book except for the feats. Pounce?!? Improved Grapple and charge? Superior Two-Weapon Fighting? He doesn't even have a high enough dexterity to qualify for that one. You've basically got a glass juggernaut here. He will charge up to you with his reach and pounce upon you with all his attacks. If your AC isn't up to snuff, you will be snuffed. Very likely, he will just run up to you and grapple your spellcaster so his buddies can smack him to death.

Troll Death Knight: ouch! From the looks of the stat block, he has two levels of Death Knight. CR 7 is actually appropriate for this one, although once again he gets Pounce, which is way overpowered for an ability which is why it is relatively difficult to get in P&P.

Cultist Assassin: Level 8 Rogue, should be CR 8, is listed as CR 7.

Now to figure out the EL of the encounter. Keep in mind that I have done virtually all the sidequests up to this point. I am level 8. A tough boss battle should be between EL 10-12. Anything higher and we're guaranteed a player death, higher than 6 above the party's level and it's probably going to be a party wipe.

6 Evil Cultist Warriors
General Grighor
Pizarra
8 Dark Wizards
3 Evil Drake Clerics
2 Hill Giants
1 Ettin
3 Trolls
4 Cultist Assassins

We'll calculate what the EL should be using his current numbers, then figure it based on what the CR numbers should actually be.

Using the calculator found at http://www.d20srd.org/extras/d20encountercalculator/ (because I am lazy), I am somewhat hampered by the sheer number of enemy types. It only has fields for up to 6 different enemies. Entering everything except for the Ettin, Trolls and Assassins, the calculator says that the EL is 17. Using D&D Math (tm), I can plug that EL 17 into the first field and calculate the rest as if it was one creature. That gives me a grand total of an EL 18 using the CRs listed above (which are nearly all artificially deflated by 1).

If I use the CRs as they really ought to be reflected, it comes to the same EL of 18. Guess we pegged the meter. Still a guaranteed party wipe.
OS: Windows 10 Pro Version 1909 OS Build 18363.900
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Dark Wizards and not playing fair

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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Rasputin » Thu Jul 09, 2020 8:33 pm

To add Insult to Injury, after the first round of combat, Pizarra summons an Ice Devil. As if the odds weren't already stacked way way over our heads already.

Let's take a look at Mister Gelugon:

CR 13. Same as the book. On the right track.
Size: Huge instead of Large. Interesting. Doesn't seem to affect his strength, so maybe it's mostly for the benefit to reach and grapple.
AC: 31. Here is where most of the problem is going to lie. He's got spell resistance and elemental resistances, so good luck using offensive magic. You're not going to beat him with grapple, so that leaves brute force. How many out there can reliably hit an AC 31 at level 8? Not many. And there's no grinding, at least not by this point in the game, so you can't just go back and build up your party level until you can handle him.
Feats: the one in the MM has five. He's got 8. I would say that, between being size Huge and the three extra feats, he should be a CR 14. Now, since Pizarra is only a Level 10 Warlock, and they are not nearly powerful enough to summon a CR 13 or 14 Ice Devil, I would also say that the devil doesn't get to benefit from the fact that normally summoned creatures don't add to the EL of an encounter--they are counted in to the ability of the summoner already.

The encounter calculator pushes the total to an EL 19. For 6 8th level characters. Somebody's got a sense of humor.
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Rasputin » Thu Jul 09, 2020 8:55 pm

Now on round 4 of the same battle, with one dead party member, six CR 8 orcs have joined the fight against us. 'Cause I guess they hadn't managed to kill all of us yet.
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Rasputin » Thu Jul 09, 2020 9:00 pm

Another round, and now 3 CR9 Vrock have joined the fight. According to the combat log, nobody summoned them--they just crashed the party on their own.

Starting to look like an EL 20 encounter.
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Delvaron » Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:07 am

This encounter made me start back over I beat it three times but a particular thing happens at the end of the encounter that bugged every time I beat it that made me almost throw my computer through the wall. Grand total I had probably 6-7 hours on that fight because it takes about 45 minutes to play out. Granted I was a level ahead of you for it I was 9th and had picked up the companion in the lower sewers and he was 8th. I used every single scroll they gave you right before the fight especially the earthquake one and the acorns of earthquake from the lower sewers. Plus the meteor shower and True resurrection scroll. Plus some of the scrolls I got from doing the riddles for the Hags
The party I was running was

Northerner Human Champion 9 sword and board build with summons and buffs. With the concentration and improved bull rush feats

Half giant fighter 9 Trip, Two Handed Build

Kobold Rogue 9 one weapon Multi attack build so far

Dwarf cleric 9 Magic and Turning domains buffer healer Holy Smite caster

Halfling Druid 9 Water cosmos this might be my favorite character runs good ac the improved ice storm spells and summoning natural creatures with move action makes this character a true force with healing to boot

Elf Blue Wizard 9 Lots of controls and sleeps plus evocation spells with no saves
Can’t wait to get the +4 to saves and 2 extra spells per level after transformation

Kobold Companion Sorcerer 8 Phoenix build area blaster with divine healing and buffs as needed

But this encounter and the Hydra in the lower sewers are wildly to powerful. I would start the fight and if I didn’t win initiative I would reload because it was the only way to win.
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby BlueSalamander » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:36 pm

the Dark Wizards had 77 hp. "Wow", I said to myself, "that's a lot of hit points for a wizard. Wonder how that happened?" I checked their stats. No Toughness feats. 9th level Wizards. 17 Con. They should have 51 hit points on average. Even if they had MAX, they should only have 63 HP. So, boo, hiss, foul.
Well, here's how they get their HP.

Wizards in KotC 2 get a D6 on level up. So a level-9 Wizard without constitution bonus can have 9d6 HPs: minimum 9, maximum 54, average 31.5.

Constitution 17 provides a constitution modifier of +3, so they get a HP bonus of 3 HP per level. Over 9 levels, that's 27 points.

The Dark Wizards are wearing a Vest of Vitality +10, giving them +10 HPs.

The total of the averages is 68.5, not too far from 77. The maximum would be 91.
a 9th level wizard should be a CR 9 enemy, yet they are listed as a CR 8. So that's wrong
It's as intended. I don't follow the 3.5 rules on this. See, CR x means that the creature (or encounter) is an appropriate challenge for a party of four characters. But a single wizard of level x is not a good challenge for a party of four x-level characters, in my honest opinion.

Hopefully the encounter is more fun now that you can get help from the Angel + Inevitables, or from the Giant Spider + Monstrous Centipedes.

But yeah, it is intended to be a tough boss battle where you just have to use the most powerful spell scrolls with abandon. :twisted:
'Say there is a chunk of meat. Pirates will have a banquet and eat it! But heroes will share it with other people. I want all the meat!!' - Luffy in One Piece
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby Noumenon » Thu Dec 31, 2020 3:59 am

That's really funny that the encounter was balanced around using scrolls. I put every scroll I found in a bag to learn later and I never even considered using them. A textbook case of TV Tropes' Too Awesome to Use.

I also got a little mad about the difficulty, but the spider helper made things feel more fair. Also from playing the last game I learned to trust you, not to complain about encounters like these and instead to get good. Here are all the things I tried over days and days of playing the encounter before I beat it:

• Making a spreadsheet with a column for each character and which moves to do in which order
• Learned to copy the combat log to the clipboard with Ctrl+C, Ctrl+C so I could use Notepad++ to check who saved and so on
• Made a table of which elevation squares you can reach from which others, and surprising effects like forced 5-ft step
• Recorded the stats of various summons to decide which was best
• Discovered re-speccing on the character sheet
• Discovered the spider's Chaos spell, which I could never have won without
• Discovered the Centipedes' SLA for Acid Blast, a great wizard hoser
• Crafted my first armor, bows, arrows, including big helps like an extra 30 hp
• Noted big demon-killing effect from Holy and that I could add it to an existing weapon instead of having to craft from scratch
• Tried every tactic from sending everyone to Pizarra’s ledge to huddling together with protection from energy to rushing down the center with Greater Invisibility looking for some kind of hidden escape route or caged ally, to putting everyone on anti-caster duty
• Learned how critical the extra attack from Haste is
• Used Long range to disrupt casting for the first time
• Learned how to scroll over the initiative order to see who was coming up next and where they were
• Learned to watch out for flaming armor on the General
• Learned that Gold Ingots aren’t used for crafting (I think) so I could get money after I’d already sold all of my other stuff to do crafting
• Turned on Easy difficulty for the only time so far (I think I learned about that on the forums -- it didn't help much)
• Used the Bard songs for Arcane bonus and Silence for the first time (I wasn’t regularly using songs at all)

All of those things and I never even considered using the consumables, not even the acorns. Nor did I consider you might be able to prevent the scripted ice devil summon, any more than you can prevent the Vrocks from porting in.

I didn't ask myself, "How does BlueSalamander think I could win this without the spider helper?" I assumed that was an option for minmaxed parties. Or I thought, maybe turning on the "no gold cost to level up" option at level 1 means I earned less XP over time because all my characters were always at a higher level than the game expected. When I beat it, I had three level 8s (Cromwall, Xifralia, and Ghorda) and three level 7s (Griswack, Suave, and Tiarra). Is that the expected level to be at? I really struggled with several encounters after this, and I didn't want them all to be that hard, so I turned on "ability score point every level" and "feat every level" until I caught up.

I tried my scroll of meteor swarm right away in that one spider encounter. I think it's because there was a big cache of scrolls in the room right before it and I read that as "Here's some stuff to use in the next battle". It might be worth having an NPC give the party the scrolls "to help you defeat Pizarra" just as a signal that "It's OK, this isn't your only opportunity to learn Meteor Swarm, you'll get another chance if you use it here."

I'm glad I didn't quit the game over this, although I think many people would have. The difficulty level is insane sometimes, but there's a real payoff to that: it gives you a reason to learn how to use all the game features. You did a great job of making all those meaningful subsystems I listed above. Every one I learned and explored gave me a little more power. None were useless, tedious, or buggy. So the entire time I was trying and failing I was learning and growing, not just fighting the RNG. It's a great game.
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Re: Dark Wizards and not playing fair

Postby BlueSalamander » Thu Mar 04, 2021 7:08 pm

When I beat it, I had three level 8s (Cromwall, Xifralia, and Ghorda) and three level 7s (Griswack, Suave, and Tiarra). Is that the expected level to be at?
Probably, I can't remember exactly.

I tried my scroll of meteor swarm right away in that one spider encounter. I think it's because there was a big cache of scrolls in the room right before it and I read that as "Here's some stuff to use in the next battle". It might be worth having an NPC give the party the scrolls "to help you defeat Pizarra" just as a signal that "It's OK, this isn't your only opportunity to learn Meteor Swarm, you'll get another chance if you use it here."
Yeah, maybe I will do something like that. It could be Erzimon pointing it out when you find the scrolls, or Asharzaelle, or the spider / angel ally when the fight begins, or maybe even an escaped orc slave. Cheers :)
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