In my campaign, one of my players is a hybrid rogue/assassin gnome. (Some of you can see my issue already.) He's level 2 and dishing out 30 damage.

He gets hit and triggers the gnome racial ability Fade Away. This allows him to become invisible and gain combat advantage. Since he has combat advantage, he can do a rogue Sneak Attack on his next hit (with the Backstabber feat adding +2d8). He also uses Assassin's Shroud as a free action (with the Lethal Shroud feat adding another +1d8). So he's doing 3d8 after becoming invisible -- that's not even including his attack.

What the hell am I supposed to do about this? I'm making bosses at level 3 that I consider overpowered, and they do overpower the other players in the campaign, but he comes around and does 1/3 the bosses' health in one round if he hits, which he usually seems to.

This is ruining my experience as a DM. I don't want to make every monster too strong, because it's not fair to the other players. Yet if I make anything with a remotely average amount of HP, he kills it in only a few rounds. It would not be fair of me to cater everything to his strength and make the other players suffer. He's a glass cannon, and it's hard to make monsters with high enough hp to withstand his damage and a high enough damage output to take him down without completely overpowering the other players in the campaign.

So what do I do about this? I have monsters and players doing 10-15 damage on average, then he comes along and doubles it almost whenever he wants. How can I bring him down a notch without affecting everyone else?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great first question, welcome to the site! :D \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2012 at 23:37

4 Answers 4


First off:

SNEAK ATTACK (HYBRID) This class feature functions as the rogue class feature, except that you can deal the extra damage only when you hit with a rogue power or a rogue paragon path power.


ASSASSIN'S SHROUD (HYBRID) You gain the assassin power assassin’s shroud, except you can subject a target to a maximum of two shrouds and you can invoke your shrouds on a target only when you attack with an assassin power or an assassin paragon path power.

So he won't be able to stack those d8s (enforcing this rule may be a cause for respec). Hybrids are tricky in general - you may wish to go through his other abilities, just make sure it doesn't seem like a punishment. Next, Fade Away is an encounter ability, so he'd need to look for other ways of generating Combat Advantage - something that can be tough at lower levels.

However, he is a striker, and damage is what he should be doing. Him outclassing a leader in dps is perfectly fine. Doing twice the damage of another striker in the party is a problem, though. So give him something to use that damage on. Change up your encounters: use more brutes, have reinforcements arrive to replace the ones he kills quickly, etc. Use controllers to make it tough for him to get into a position for Combat Advantage, unless the party helps to set it up. Use sticky soldiers to pin him down and prevent him from going after the boss, unless the party helps. Winning combat is not always about dealing most damage (though it is the easiest way). Experiment. And resign to your monsters dying - such is their purpose.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Too true, I just want them to last longer. He wasn't aware of the Assassin's Shroud requirement you pointed out, thanks for that, neither was I. I'm going to bring in reinforcements in some upcoming encounters and use controllers more. It's my first time as a DM, I really respect them more, there's a whole lot of work to be done! \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Apr 23, 2012 at 1:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now he's going to respec. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Apr 23, 2012 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, if he hops by chat, I'm willing to help him spec into something that will both meet his needs and not (look like) it overwhelms the party, as @magician can attest :) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2012 at 12:12

In my current planescape campaign, the hardest fight my players ever were in was against a bunch of level one and level two goblins (they were level 5).

As you noted, the striker's specialty is doing a lot of damage to a single target. Therefore, make single targets less important.

In 4e, boss monsters are often less of a challenge than multiple smaller opponents, not only because of damage, but also because of stun/daze/... Use many minions or lower level fighters to challenge the gnome, and add one or two controllers to slow/hinder him.

But, as noted in the other answers, he is supposed to do a lot of damage.


It won't help for your bosses, but a way to balance out encounters against insane DPR characters are using two-hit minions. These non-canon creature types function entirely as minions on every aspect of the rules (including no damage taken for "miss") with three important exceptions:

  1. The minion has 2 hit points instead of 1.
  2. Whenever the minion takes damage, it only takes 1 point of damage.
  3. Critical hits destroy the minion, even if the minion is at full health.

You can naturally extend this to 3-hit minions, but that's as far as I think you can take it. Such a setup would help limit your high DPRers in combat.

Further you can attempt to hunt down monsters that apply the weakened status effect, or apply attack penalties.

I'd be careful, however, of attempting to nerf the player's character too far as that can be extremely frustrating. I've seen my players grow impatient and defeated (and rightfully so) during the course of a single encounter where they feel their characters aren't anywhere nearly as useful as they /should/ be. Two-hit minions are a nice go-to for this reason because they'll get the thrill of carving through enemies while you both combat high DPR and keep the encounters balanced.


Don't sweat the damage output (too much)

He's a striker. As magician noted, he can't combine his shrouds and sneak attack, so is going to be hitting for something like [W] + Dex + 2d8 damage per round (assuming combat advantage each round, which will probably require help from the rest of the party).

A Slayer (the essentials striker figher) will be hitting for [W] + Str + Dex + 2 (assuming the battle wrath stance), with a bigger weapon (probably worth +2 damage per hit), and no help from the rest of the party.

A Barbarian using howling strike will be hitting for [W] + Str + 1d6, again with a bigger weapon, and again with no help from the rest of the party.

Assume the Slayer and Barbarian both take a feat to be proficient in a superior weapon, so can claim +3 damage on average over the gnome for a [W] attack (short sword is 1d6, fullblade is 1d12 to keep with +3 proficient weapons), and assume the weapon focus feat, so +1 additional damage.

That looks like 2d8 for the gnome vs. 8 or 9 static damage for the slayer vs. d6+4 for the barbarian.

Which puts all three doing similar amounts of damage.

So that leaves the "how do I balance the fight" part of your question.

First, keep in mind that as the striker, the gnome should be dealing lots of damage, and should be kicking some serious butt. It's what he's there to do.

Secondly, make sure that the other characters are getting to do what they are there to do.

Make sure that there are fights where the controllers have minions to pop with their blasts and bursts by the barrel load.

Make sure that the defenders feel like they are being defender-y by both having monsters obey the mark even when a softer target may be available (defenders will LOVE IT when the monsters flail away at them, barely making a nick in their armor) and by disobeying the defenders mark and allowing the defender to get their punishment in.

If you feel like the party isn't being challenged, I wouldn't look at going with higher level monsters, or adding hitpoints to the monsters, as both options can tend towards combat dragging on longer than is fun. If you want more threat from your monsters I would just have them do extra damage, which in addition to accelerating combat, and adding danger, also means that leader players will feel that their characters talents are more necessary as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your last point is actually something to note. If you aren't already using MM3 math, upgrade your monsters to use the data expressions laid out in that book rather than the older ones. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 24, 2012 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ All the answers everyone has provided me with are so great, I haven't even thought of most of them. Thanks everyone, this will greatly improve my campaign!! \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael
    Apr 25, 2012 at 2:21

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