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I don't know what to do with these guys. I liked their fluff enough that I put them in the campaign and now, when it's time to use them, I'm at a loss.

The Keeper

One of the power groups the PCs have encountered is the keepers (Fiend Folio 111-2). Admittedly, being a keeper has quite a few advantages. These include...

  1. The type outsider.
  2. A speed of 40 ft. and a 20 ft. climb speed.
  3. A +4 natural armor bonus and proficiency with light armor and shields.
  4. DR 10/magic and a laughable SR 13.
  5. The extraordinary ability mimic weapon, granting it the ability to turn each of its 2 arms into the same or different simple, martial, or exotic melee weapon it's seen that then act like natural weapons.
  6. The extraordinary ability poison spit, granting it the ability to spit a 20-ft. cone of contact poison every 1d4 rounds (but it's not a breath weapon).
  7. The extraordinary ability blindsight with a range of 200 ft. and scent.
  8. The extraordinary ability dissolution, mandating it turn into a pile of contact poison (therefore killing it) automatically if captured, pinned, or rendered helpless for more than 1 min.
  9. The extraordinary ability hive mind, granting a keeper constant communication with all other keepers within 500 ft. No keeper within 500 ft. of another keeper is flanked or flat-footed unless all other keepers within 500 ft. are flanked or flat-footed, respectively.
  10. The extraordinary ability to have immunities like a construct.
  11. Resistance 10 to each of acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic.
  12. A +8 racial bonus to Escape Artist skill checks and Jump skill checks.
  13. The feat Spring Attack as a bonus feat (although the printed keeper nonetheless takes the feats Dodge and Mobility).
  14. The following adjustments to its ability scores: Str +8, Dex +6, Con +4, Int +4, Wis -2, Cha -4. (A keeper's favored class is rogue if it matters.)

...Also the Supernatural Ability Body Switch
This how keepers actually become a problem. A keeper can take a standard action and exchange places with another living keeper within 500 ft. The special ability hive mind means this needn't be the keeper engaging the PCs. In other words, A starts the engagement and takes his turn (a swift action and either a full action or a move action and a standard action) then B, who's not even there, takes his standard action to trade places with A, but B can still take a move action and a swift action when he arrives and so can C through K on the same turn. That's interesting, but I don't know what to do with it, because here's...

The Problem
A keeper has but 4 Hit Dice yet a Challenge Rating of 7.

That's his I'm-over-CR-ed sad face.

The Question

I feel like there's a trick to using these monsters--a tactic I've overlooked, a feat that makes them awesome, a magic item every keeper should have, a prestige class they qualify for automatically, or something--that I'm not seeing that explains their looks-too-high-to me Challenge Rating.

What combination of classes and prestige classes, feats, and equipment can I give a solitary keeper or up to a squad of 6-11 keepers (so you know, 6 keepers are EL 12, 9 are EL 13, 11 are EL 14) that will make it or them a reasonable challenge for a highly optimized level 11 party consisting of a barbarian, beguiler, ranger, rogue, and warblade all of whom have ranks in the skill Use Magic Device? Alternatively, what tactics should these creatures use to justify their Challenge Rating?

I'm okay with this encounter being overpowering (i.e. EL 5 or higher than party level) if that's what it takes to make these guys cool. The PCs are tough. They're used to that 5% chance of an overpowering encounter happening surprisingly often.

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Have you considered that the CR may just be some time-pressed designer's die roll result? CRs are sometimes like that. 3.0 CRs in particular... –  Ernir Aug 1 at 16:06
@Ernir I did, but before I house rule it I want to know if other folks are seeing something I'm not. –  Hey I Can Chan Aug 1 at 16:16

3 Answers 3

They don't justify the EL as written

As written? They're not that dangerous for your party. 26 HP and +8 attack? That's not going to threaten a level 11 party unless you line up a lot of them and all use the poison attack at the same time (someone is likely to fail a DC 20 check if you have enough attempts).

The trouble with body swap is that they can't attack after doing it. So sure, a new one swaps in. Then what? The PCs get to whack him for a turn before he can harm them, and at level 11 the odds are reasonable that they can kill him in one hit so he can't swap back out. This just isn't that dangerous, since once the new one swaps in he is on the initiative order and doesn't have his standard action until next round.

It'd be more dangerous the weaker the party is, due to the lower odds of killing one fast enough that another one can't take its place.

So just using the base stats, I really don't think they justify that EL.

Making them dangerous

If you modified them so they have some kind of attack that only requires a move or swift action? Then they are far, far more dangerous. Consider this:

  • Party comes into an area and Keeper A ambushes them, he attacks.
  • Keeper B swaps in (standard), and attacks (move/swift)
  • Keeper C swaps in (standard), and attacks (move/swift)
  • Keeper D swaps in (standard), and attacks (move/swift)

At some point in there the PCs will get a turn, but every keeper can attack every round in that scenario while only a single one is in harms way. So the PCs kill one and the swapping ends, until the next room when they encounter another one and the keepers can do it all over again.

Granted, the standard ways of getting that kind of swift attack would raise their CR as well. But it's the only way I can ever see your party being anything but irritated at these things.

You could accomplish the same thing more easily by making Body Swap a swift action, which would leave them their standard and move to fight with. Swap, poison spray, repeat. That can be rather nasty.

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Or, alternatively, just make it a swift action to swap. –  Bobson Aug 1 at 19:11
@Bobson That's an even better idea. –  Tridus Aug 1 at 19:12
@Bobson There's no official way to quicken a supernatural ability, though. The spells fiendish quickening [trans] (BV 95) and quickshift [trans] (BE 104) provide a somewhat decent guideline, though, but spell creation guidelines peg such a spell at 6th-level, pushing the lone keeper who could cast it to the edge of epic (CR 18) by most reasonable standards, but I think a keeper ur-priest could be as low as CR 13... –  Hey I Can Chan Aug 1 at 19:35
@HeyICanChan - True, but since the monster's challenge is below-CR as written, there's room to simply handwave a buff. –  Bobson Aug 1 at 19:40
@HeyICanChan The spell Benign Transposition might help with that? –  GMJoe Aug 4 at 4:52

I had this problem. I think the trick is that any keeper who is injured even slightly will be be replaced, meaning that to kill a keeper, you have to deal enough damage to kill it in one blow, or it will be replaced by a colleague standing by before anyone can strike again. Because you're using initiatives outside of the round system, you can just assume the keeper is replaced immediatley after taking damage by another. Make it clear to the players what's happening with them wearing different shirts or whatever and maybe they'll get the idea.

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But if you only have 6 of them in an EL 12 fight, eventually already injured ones are going to cycle back in. So while it's going to extend the fight, it's not going to extend it indefinitely with an infinite supply of full HP guys. –  Tridus Aug 1 at 18:02

I think the problem is that they are too powerful to put against low level characters (hence CR 7) but rubbish vs high level characters.

SR 13 and resistance 10 to all energy types will make a level <=6 wizard pretty useless, but isn't going to give a level 11 wizard pause.

8 to hit is fine to be attack level <=6 characters, but will start to look quite pitiful vs level 11 AC values.

DR 10/magic will be very effective against a lot of level <=6 characters, but meaningless against a level 11 party.

I don't think you're missing any tactics that would make them as good as a 'normal' cr 7 opponent against a party of level 11s.

If you buff them by taking prestige class levels etc, I think most of their initial abilities are going to be completely overlooked.

I would just add "DM Magic" values to their SR, poison DC, BaB, AC, HP, change what can get through their DR etc instead of taking a prestige class.

Maybe throw in some spell like abilities (deeper darkness could work well with their blindsense and ability to swap out creatures for new ones)

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