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I've got a very strong group:

  • Lvl 3 two weapon ranger noble drow AC: 26 (10 base + 6 from dex + 10 from armour the armour is an artifact with dragonskin as material))
  • Lvl 3 elf magus AC: 20
  • lvl 1 taininim sorcerer (true blood) with a shapechanging amulet
  • lvl 1 tiefling alchemist

The group itself is quite strong especially the lvl 3 chars, and I'm running a bit out of ideas how I can challenge them without one hitting them (the lvl 1s are easy for them I just add a few low lvl traps/enemies but the lvl 3s are a problem).

As example in the current adventure I've based things on the theme of undead and thanks to their high attributes and also luck of roll (the noble drow usually does 1-2 crits in a combat) they have beaten everything I've done so far with such an ease that they are playing around even. Thus it is no real challenge and I want to change that. As examples:

  • Zombie lord (total fighter level 5) + 12 skeletons were down in 4 combat rounds with one of the lvl 3s slightly hurt (the skeletons werent able to even hit them aside from rolling a natural 20 and even the zombie lord had troubles....came to a +8 in total thanks to high strength and a magical sword so still needed 16+ or 18+ to hit).
  • A word of pain trap was spotted the drow ahs trapfinding as a feat and managed to take care of the trap with 2 attempts while managing all of the fortitude rolls (the others also managed but had to spend one hero point).
  • Undead tried to ambush them right after the trap leading with a ghost and then 3 ghasts. Those were down by 3 rounds with only the drow taking one blow thanks to the ghost.
  • An imp councelor who served as familiar for the necromancer that is the end boss in this adventure went invisible and tried to warn his master of the party but the drow managed to beat the stealth test and got enough info where the imp is to shoot him down (the strongest perceptionwise are the drow and the taininim with +13 each for perception)
  • In another adventure they attacked a single manticore and tore through it within 2 rounds (with the drow almost one hitting it in the first thanks to crits with botwh weapons).

The above are typical examples. They are extremely lucky with dice rolls and have high values. Normally I throw things at them that are 2 lvls above them so that combat and traps are not over in just 1 single roll / turn but still they are not even challenged.

So comes my question: What could I do to challenge that group....without one hitting them into oblivion (thus they should have a chance but be challenged)? (for example in the current adventure it is an undead theme about a necromancer who raises an army, in the next adventure it is going against nonundead (we are playing then the last baron and even with that lvl 5 adventure I fear it will be WAY too easy for them),...).

As a comment here though: My players come from shadow run and thus they also act like in shadowrun. They are mercenary like and extremely cautious, thus always looking for traps and the drow using his detect magic ability to detect magical threats ahead of them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Quick question: how did the drow get Trapfinding as a feat? Wasn't that a rogue talent? \$\endgroup\$ – Cryptangel Sep 17 '14 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ no (also I confused ranger and figther above as I just saw as he has a ranger not a fighter). Rangers have an archetype which can have trapfinding. post changed \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 17 '14 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, cool. That also explains him having more skills than expected. Still no diplomacy, though =P \$\endgroup\$ – Cryptangel Sep 17 '14 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember that armor has a max-dex bonus. Make sure it's being enforced with the armor. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert P Sep 28 '14 at 6:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ How did level 3 character get 22 dex? \$\endgroup\$ – DanceSC Jun 2 '15 at 23:58
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A Ball!

If the PCs are that powerful in combat (and wouldn't be nice to know where the Drow got the cash to buy a dragonhide magic armor at level 3!), then you may want to put other kinds of challenges in front of them. No amount of armor will help them make a good impression during the official meeting with the noble of the land they saved, or to convince the princess to flee the castle with them because her foreign fiance has been replaced with a doppleganger that wants to use her in a ritual sacrifice during their honeymoon. After all, the fighter and magus can't have that many different skills maxed out, so they'll have to roleplay it the old fashioned way =)

That is, of course, if your group is willing to roleplay a more social adventure; if they're only looking for a good brawl, then I'd advise to let them enjoy their combat advantage while it lasts. In a few levels, the nature of the threats they face will begin to expand, and they will find that a high armor is just not enough to keep them safe, and they can't thrash everything in 2-3 rounds.

Independently of the way you proceed to challenge them, you should follow the advice of auditing their character sheets. They may resent it a bit if you correct them if they're using rules wrong (like stacking Mage Armor with actual armor, for example), but it's better to do it now, because if they keep going like that, it will only get worse when they get more resources to their name.

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High AC, Low HP

At low levels, it is significantly advantageous to optimize AC over other forms of defense. There exist ways to add various stats to AC in addition to spells such as Mage Armour and Shield (or even in addition to actual full plate).

This leads to a problem for the GM - more powerful monsters that have higher attack bonuses will outright kill the PCs if they hit, just increasing the attack bonus of everything the party encounters removes any reward for smart play and lets the party know that their tactics and choices don't matter as you'll give the enemies the same chance to hit regardless, and the few monsters with alternate attack forms (ghosts, banshees, spellcasters) generally also have a high chance of instakill while also being repetitive if employed in bulk.

My suggestions;

  1. Let the PCs win fights due to their good choices. Let them kill stuff, but if it seriously has no chance of affecting them, gloss over the fight. 'You kill the skeletons with ease' sort of thing. Reward them, but don't necessarily spend time iterating the combat, and don't necessarily give them huge XP for it - the fight is less of a 'challenge', after all.
  2. Use enemies with tactics. Ambushes, nets, alchemist's fire, grappling, tripping, realizing they can't hit the party and running away, using barrages of low level spells to even the field, intelligent enemies can and will find ways around your party's tactics - use that.
  3. Set up interesting scenarios involving terrain and enemies that can theoretically kill the party but are restrained in some way - lack of mobility, tied down by other enemies, unaware the party is there - this forces them to sneak, to run away, or to use some sort of plan to defeat the enemy. This lets them know they aren't top dog without necessarily putting them in a position where one failed stealth or perception check ends their lives - powerful enemies caught in a situation where they can't necessarily kill the party is still scary since the powerful enemy is on-screen and the party realizes you're not pulling punches.
  4. Use enemies with similar tactics. High Ac means lots of whiffs, so spice those fights up with dialogue, tactic changes, weapon changes, moving about on rooftops or other precarious footing, etc. It can lead to some great 'swashbuckling' if two combatants have trouble hitting each other but a few hits will end the fight.
  5. Cheat. Not literally, but if they always go cautious and check for traps etc, have an enemy take advantage of that to prepare the terrain, to set in motion some 'slow trap' like filling the entryway with water and then flooding the place, or to gather all the enemies in the complex into a single huge unbeatable encounter. If they do stuff, have enemies become aware of it, and use countertactics.

That your players come from SR says a lot to me. SR is very lethal and about planning and care, where a lot of DnD players are really terrible tacticians and would die if actually had to adventure in a truly lethal world.

This means you can ramp up the tactics enemies use, increase the level and intricacy of defenses, have enemies use intelligent tactics like ganging up and readying actions etc. In essence, don't treat this like the typical 'DM keeps them alive' DnD group - treat them like a Shadowrun group, a group of hardheads up against seriously intelligent and deadly opposition.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ for 4. I tried a few AC 22 already there. They went down within 2 rounds (the drow always has exceptionally good rolls per combat I can count at least 1-2 criticals with natural 20s). 2. has a slight problem with the immunities and high AC again sadly (their CMDs are also quite high [grappling, tripping,...] and aside from 1 almost everyone has 5-10 fire resistance thanks to armour or species.). the low level barrage of spells could be a partial solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 10 '14 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for SR: yepp nothing against that there. In the current adventure for example they are clearing a tower and then a mine below. They cleared the tower and rested while the necromancer prepared in the mines as he knows his familiar is dead but not by whom or how. So he prepared (word of pain trap with an ambush by ghasts and a ghost as soon as that one is triggered and screaming begins). They beat it with no problem at all. But a combination of 2,5 and 3 could possibly work. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 10 '14 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a Great answer - I'd add a preliminary note about the seemingly overpowered PCs though - make sure all the relevant rules are followed correctly: those AC numbers, and the mention of beating the stealth check of an invisible imp sound a bit fishy (that imp should have had at least a +25 modifier to its stealth check, +45 if it wasn't moving...). \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Sep 10 '14 at 14:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ the imp was flying and trying to get from the top of the tower to its master in the basement so "only" 25 and I rolled low (I think 3 or 4 if I remember correctly) while the player had a +13 bonus and rolled 18 I think (almost a week since then so not sure about exact rolls but that was about it). For the rules: they are followed there though for the boni as we are using hero lab and it calcs those in automatically. and yep the answer is very thorough and very good also +1 from me there \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 11 '14 at 11:01
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Combat Maneuvers

Don't forget: AC bonuses generally don't add to CMD. Even with +6 dex on a +10 AC light armor (which I'm not even sure how that's possible without it being an artifact) you still only have at best a 10+4 Str + 6 dex + 3bab = 23 CMD. What can you do with that?

Sunder

Greatclubs, earth breakers, and any other weapon in the hands of a large creature (undead troll?) or enlarged creature can sunder armor, weapons with reach. Untrained the attack provokes an an attack of opportunity, but with reach the PC can't take it. Hide has low hardness and not great hit points- even if it only gets to "broken", the item loses half it's AC bonus. Plus, if you destroy the weapon the character is wielding, it doesn't matter how much AC he has.

The BBEG may even have a Skeleton Champion with fighter levels who specializes in this (power attack, improved sunder, greater sunder).

Disarm

Take away the fighter's weapon.

Bull Rush

A herd of rampaging, charging, undead bull rushing cattle rushing the characters towards some dangerous obstacle (pit, ooze, spikes, etc). Knock them around. Keep them where your BBEG wants them: away from him. Have. Few ready actions to bull rush when the player (any of them) moves in to attack. Any animals with lots of strength and little else make great zombie bull rush servants. (Horses, or Aurochs if you feel they can handle it).

Steal

Spell component pouches are so pesky. That new familiar your BBEG gets could have improved steal...and try to grab the little bag your caster carries that enables all it's spells. A perception check vs an invisible tiny creature' sstealth check while distracted (what player won't pay attention to the BBEG's monologue ... -4 penalty on that check)

Trip

Again, reach weapons and untrained enemies or trained enemies with any weapon can make things a nightmare for full attackers. Ready to do it right as the player goes to attack. The maneuver goes off before the player action, so if prone, the player has the prone penalty on any attack. Remember that standing up provokes an AOO too...which could be a disarm or sunder attempt.

Grapple

In addition to pinning, you can deal damage, or move half your move speed.

NPC Tactics

Readying

In fact, readying combat maneuvers for players to act to thwart their actions is generally really valuable against many kinds of targets. Examples:

  • Ready a move action to approach ranged characters, so they provoke AOO's when they attack. Disarm or trip with the AOO.
  • Ready an attack vs spellcasters so they have to make a concentration check vs damage OR resisting a spell.
  • Ready a move for minions to intercept players advancing on the BBEG. If they fight the minion, sweet. If they continue their move, AOO. You can sunder, disarm, of trip on an AOO. (See above) The Combat Patrol feat gives you this ability, AND an automatic attack...great for bodyguard types.

Attrition

Spellcasters use spells. Fighters use hitpoints. Armor takes damage. Consumables get used. Throw one or two specialized tricks at them regularly to keep them guessing, keep them on their toes. Make them think they've reached the end before they actually do...then do it again. Strain their ability to hold back on their limited abilities.

Champions

If your world is full of artifacts that grant your players great power, who says the enemy doesn't have the same? The BBEG may very well have a fighter of nearly equal skill that if anyone but your Drow player fought, would die nearly instantly. Barbarian monstrous humanoids with die hard, toughness, tribal scars, buckets of Con, a cheap potion of barkskin, a casting of bear's endurance, and a mysterious alchemical infusion (Monstrous Physique can turn a normal enemy into an armored, hitpoint hulk. Check out the 4 armed gargoyle. Gross.) Throw a single mythic template on him to increase the hitpoints yet again...and give all new, super scary abilities. (The Dual Initiative mythic monster ability for one can turn a normal semi-scary hulk into a Very Big Problem.)

Swarms

Swarms don't make attack rolls. They auto hit, and usually take no damage from weapon attacks. They are the bane of most weapon fighters.

Incorporeal/Touch Attacks

Ghosts, Shadows, Allips, Spectres, all deliver their attacks with incorporeal limbs, bypassing armor bonuses.

Items

Lots of touch weapons exist: alchemist fire, acid, etc. Brilliant Energy weapons are expensive, but as GM, you could supply an NPC a few brilliant energy arrows.

Mooks

The little guys. The waves of skeletons that doesn't seem to end. They go down in a swing...but there's so many. The powerful character will have to decide between defending his party or leaving them to the swarm he can easily handle.

Environment

The BBEG has probably prepared his final lair to defend himself. Your players won't get a chance to look for all the traps he has laid about. Pits, falling things, exploding things, rubble, barriers, hazards (fire/freezing water/necrotic goo) all can slow a party down/ make them work on their tactics.

Distance

Your BBEG will almost certainly NOT start next to your players. Make them come to him, on his terms.

Other BBEG allies

Great additional minions:

  • Witch with Evil Eye and Cackle hex. Every turn, auto penalize attacks, AC, or saves to the BBEG's biggest threat, and keep them up until the fight is over. With Greater Invisibility on her, she becomes a nearly unstoppable debuff machine.
  • Bard (level 1) - intelligent undead can benefit from inspire competence.

Each of those BBEG allies could be intelligent undead themselves.

Spells

Oh, spells. Let me count the ways.

Touch Attack Spells

A ton of spells are touch attacks or AoE attacks. Scorching Ray, ray of enfeeblement, etc. Gloomblind Bolts are a rare spell that can even bypass most energy resistances.

Desecrate

Desecrate the BBEG's final lair. Make sure it has an altar to an evil deity in it. Your undead gain massive bonuses as a result, and your BBEG can create more undead than normal.

clouds / mists

Fog Cloud is a classic way of hiding from enemies. Searching must be done square by square...ish. Hidden doors and secret passages coupled with fog make for good misdirection.

Walls (force/ice/fire/stone)

Don't split the party is the #1 rule. These spells make it reality. Combine this with the "champion" suggestion and you force that grand confrontation between your high powered PC and the scary NPC opponent.

Web / Black Tentacles / Solid Fog

Difficult terrain. grappled condition. Reflex save. Burns people alive stuck in it.

Evasion spells (Blink, Blur, Mirror Image)

Up to eight miss chances. Can be coupled with Blink or Blur for additional concealment/miss chances.

Confusion/Charm/Dominate/Suggestion

Make one or more characters your BBEG's pet...of at least, take him out of the act for a moment. Something reasonable with a suggestion ("Flee...it's your only chance!") can last for hours a level. Can even use them as a hostage against the others.

Animate Dead

Mooks, once killed, return to fight again with a touch. Glorious day. With a reach metamagic rod, BBEG can even do this at a distance.

Darkness / Deeper Darkness / See in Darkness / Tremorsense / Lifesense / Invisibility / Greater Invisibility

What you can't see, you miss (50% of the time). What you can't see, you can't target (spells). Any BBEG who uses this tactic probably has an alternate way of seeing-see in darkness (popular among undead types), darkvision (if the room doesn't go supernaturally dark), or another sense (Echolocation is a great spell for that...even if it has to come from a scroll.)

Summom Monster/Nature's Ally

More threats, SLA's, and attacks. A lion can charge, pounce, and get rake attacks all in one go once it appears. For Undead BBEG, he can take "Skeletal Summomer" and bring forth skeletal campions of skeletal versions of anything once per day. An undead Monkey Swarm (see swarms, above, an the Mad Monkeys spell) would be hilarious and incredibly powerful at counter balancing your fighter.

Rays / touch spells (Ray of Exhaustion, feeblemind, bestow curse)

Stat reducing spells or curses can slow down enemies quite nicely.

A side note on APL with Drow Noble

According to Jason Buhlman, a Drow Noble should be treated as a CR +1. Coupled with that armor, you might really have an effective level 5-ish character. You will want to adjust the APL for you party accordingly. ( http://paizo.com/forums/dmtz1oeq?Bestiary-Drow-vs-Noble-Drow#11 )

Even after that adjustment, For a boss fight, you can have your CR 3 or even 4 above their APL. They should barely make it out...if at all. A player may die. If you make the fight challenging enough, and make sure everyone contributes, then it will be a glorious death, one to remember. In the end, it's about remembering the story.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember that, as Robert says, the Drow is an APL even higher than his class level suggests, so anything that gives him a decent workout will curb-stomp the rest of the party if he spits in their direction, especially the lv.1 characters \$\endgroup\$ – Cryptangel Sep 17 '14 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: +10 light armor: +4 Mithral Comfort Breast Plate is a +10 armor that is light for all purposes but proficiency, and has an Armor Check Penalty of 0, negating the need for proficiency. That said, it costs 25250gp. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Sep 18 '14 at 8:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon: I use that trick too :-) In this case, the light armor is dragon hide...making this combo not work. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert P Sep 25 '14 at 7:05
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This is semi-consistent among low level characters played by players that know how to work the rules (min/maxing their characters, especially out of shadow run)...and you've compounded the issue with a few items to make that early power level that much greater. Heh, doesn't help that you are doing a GM rotation...means you have players that can all use the rules to gain the best numbers they know how to.

My first answer is to change the parameters of what a win is... Move away from combat that has an outcome of opponents dead being the goal. Give them something that needs to be defeated through other means or adds an additional parameter to what a 'win' is. As an example, lets say your slaughtered Manticore's owner, lets say a level 18 fallen paladin (perhaps a good paladin in your evil parties case), catches wind of his pet's slaughter and begins chasing down the party. The goal here is to change the parameters of the win:

a) Time. Slow moving heavily armored goon is 200 feet behind them and gaining at his full movement (or half movement if you're going for that slow moving impending doom feel)...then they encounter a zombielord and it's skeletons. This introduces a time factor (not only do you need to win, but you need to win before this enemy catches up). Also has an added effect of not giving your shadowrun players the chance to be overtly cautious...traps now become a race to detect and disarm / evade while racing against a clock. I've seen players intentionally trip traps and run through because of the approaching doom as they ran out of time to disarm. Of course the goal is to escape long before they have to fight the fallen paladin.

b) Repayment - Fallen Paladin accepts the gift of a manticore the party had to hunt down and knock out without killing. I can't imagine temporary damaging a manticore til it hits the ground is the easiest feat when you are proficient with blades.

c) Diplomacy - follows the "have a ball idea" answer...the Paladin happens to be seeking the heart of a certain princess (need information gathering skill set here, persuit of information), and a prod in the right direction from the party gets the princess to marry the paladin and the paladin forgets his/her pursuit (possibly with gratuity towards the party)

These three options introduce other than 'hacky slashy' combat...the parameters of 'time limit', ' capture alive', or 'non-combat victory' can be added to your encounters to add an additional challenge (of course, all for fun).

If you wish to continue the "hacknslash" vicotry route...a few options:

  1. Let them enjoy it while they can. I honestly think this mow through level 1-3 CR's is intentional by design at times (tis a feature not a bug!). Allows the characters to find their rhythm and get into their characters on a tactical level. Player practice? This goes away at higher levels as they'll begin gaining enough HP to take the hits from stronger creatures that can actually hit them. If it's really getting monotonous, throw in some extra XP and get them to a higher level a bit quicker so they can start being challenged.

  2. Magic missile is an extremely simple solution to low hit points and high high AC...always hits and won't do away with your players in one shot. Level 1 wands of mm are relatively cheap (5 or 10 charges) and don't mean too much if your players start to accumulate them as plunder.

  3. Grapple and tackle for 'overwhleming numbers' scenarios, such as your zombie lord and skellies. Touch AC's are far easier to hit...yes, this does provoke attacks of opportunity, but short of lightening reflexes they are only going to get the one chance vs a multitude of grapples in a single round. Grappling tends to do little damage, occupy a player, and add a few turns onto the fights. I'm hoping your Drow's strength isn't as pimped out as his dex.

  4. Quest for that heirloom. Sadly, that Noble Drow is probably the root cause of your issues and should likely be considered a level 5 or 6 char for cr...and anything in that range would wipe out the remainder of the party. No 1-3 level character should have +10 ac armor like that, especially one that allows the +6 dex bonus, both from a 'cant afford it' and a 'make it so no equal opponent can hit me' perspective. To use another answer's suggestion...have a ball, steal the armor, and send the party off looking for it with a ac 16 drow instead.

  5. Run away and group combats together. Might not be possible with the mindless undead, but any intelligent (4+?) NPC that see's a Drow cutting through anything while decorated in magical dragon skin armor might think twice about engaging (the same way a lvl one character would back away from an actual dragon). If multiple encounters flee, there becomes the opportunity for multiple engagements in one battle. Lets say you have three encounters, first two flee from battle. Third encounter engages and during the combat (round 2 by how fast your party is cutting through things) the other parties jump into the battle (from behind or through side doors...or whatever is applicable for your scenario).

Outside of that...I mean you could probably give the other characters in the party a free artifact (artifacts for all!) upping the power level of your level 1-3 party enough that they could all sustain a cr 6+ fight. That seems the stretch though.

Edit - grapple comments

Grappling is usually quite poorly used...if you think about it, a mass of skeletons won't sit in their tiles and swing with their claws, I'd argue they are more likely to each grab on and overwhelm the opponent instead (any large number / overwhelm scenario. Especially with claws since they can attack in a grapple. In your Zombielord scenario, get the drow 'surrounded' with the zombielord and a few skeletons (lets say 4). The skeletons don't grapple on their own...they assist the zombielord instead. My rules knowledge has grown fuzzy for 3.5 (I call it the archived handbook), but I believe each skeleton grants the zombielord a plus 2 bonus to the grapple by assisting (grabbing arms/legs/torso while the zombielord grapples). If I'm right, this grants the zombielord a +8 bonus to his grapple checks. If the zombielord eats a bunch of attacks of opportunity, then the skeletons can go in assisting each other instead.

After the grapple check, the zombie lord holds down the player (prone) and the skeletons are then free to attack a prone drow (no dex bonus, +4 to strike) effectively letting them attack an ac 16 char instead of 26 (average one hit per round).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ for the drows strength: it is 18. for the armour as it is dragonskin it counts as light armour thus the drow can sleep in it (but nice idea with the stealing^^). For the "outside" part. Each of them has an heirloom item although the powerlevels are quite different there in terms of combat power. The magus has an item that gives regeneration and protection, the taninim has an item that lets him take on humanoid form (else he would be a dragon only till lvl 3-5) the alchemist I'm not sure what exactly he has (late addition). Interesting idea with the grapple \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 11 '14 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added a few grapple comments at the bottom of the post, your zombielord encounter could have included some grapple fun...whenever a single strong opponent is fighting a large mass of weaker enemies (especially when the weaker enemies have claws or other weapons that can be used in a grapple), then it most likely (and I think realistic) that the larger weaker group attempts overwhelm tactics in the form of grappling and assisting \$\endgroup\$ – Twelfth Sep 11 '14 at 22:26
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Perhaps applying the various Mythic Templates might give them room to pause. Players dont have to be mythic themselves to engage mythic monsters....and hopefully it should make combat at least mildly challenging with the abilities the monsters have to bend the traditional setup.

Also, you might want to audit their sheets and make sure all dice rolls are visible to everyone on the table. Roll these "lucky" die yourself during down time. Players get lucky, but this seems a bit...odd. Especially since dragonskin (dragonhide) isnt exactly a normal crafting item and sure as hell not at level 3 when most dragons could kill them with a flick of the tail and an errant sigh. It would be a considerable (but doable) investment at that level if it were the sole focus, plus enchanting it (Need 1,000g for the required +1 before adding any special effects). Add in any sort of weapons of importance and he seems quite a bit above that he should typically have for level 3 for wealth. Scroll down to Table: Character Wealth by Level

Dragonhide: Armorsmiths can work with the hides of dragons to produce armor or shields of masterwork quality. One dragon produces enough hide for a single suit of masterwork hide armor for a creature one size category smaller than the dragon. By selecting only choice scales and bits of hide, an armorsmith can produce one suit of masterwork banded mail for a creature two sizes smaller, one suit of masterwork half-plate for a creature three sizes smaller, or one masterwork breastplate or suit of full plate for a creature four sizes smaller. In each case, enough hide is available to produce a light or heavy masterwork shield in addition to the armor, provided that the dragon is Large or larger. If the dragonhide comes from a dragon that had immunity to an energy type, the armor is also immune to that energy type, although this does not confer any protection to the wearer. If the armor or shield is later given the ability to protect the wearer against that energy type, the cost to add such protection is reduced by 25%.

Because dragonhide armor isn't made of metal, druids can wear it without penalty.

Dragonhide armor costs twice as much as masterwork armor of that type, but it takes no longer to make than ordinary armor of that type (double all Craft results).

Dragonhide has 10 hit points per inch of thickness and hardness 10. The hide of a dragon is typically between 1/2 inch and 1 inch thick.

...You know what, give em a dragon to fight (or something else of similar "oh sh** things just got real" level of power). I'm mildly curious how they will attend to something they can't brute-force safely.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm would be interesting why the downgrade in this answer dont see a reason for that myself. Mystic template sounds interesting (read through them and they sound quite intriguing there). As for the lucky dice....they are really lucky in earlier games I gave them my own dices (I'm prone to rolling 1s and 2s and they still had their luck....and don't start asking how it is with d6 instead of d20). the armour itself is an heirloom item and (was my error there as I handt the full stats at first) a minor artefact there. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 11 '14 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Me either. Ok that makes more sense. As long as you as a GM caused the situation theres less issue if you need to reign things in. Mythic would be the way to go to create challenging but fair encounters for them. \$\endgroup\$ – TechImp Sep 11 '14 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to say I like a few of the mystic things. the skeletons are quite nice as are the archmage abilities \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Sep 11 '14 at 20:58
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Since the problem is in combat, I have two solutions to make combat more dangerous.

  1. Use flanking and the help action to make mooks a bigger threat. Instead of trying to swarm your enemies with attacks in the attempt to hit someone with a natural 20 for measly damage, try to get a decent hit chance on your champion(s)
  2. Buff the opposition. Use magic to buff their AC and hit chances.
  3. Use spells that don't target AC. Target their low saves, their touch AC or just have damage dealt to them (magic missile)
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My personal favourite methods of dealing with overpowered characters:

1) Cursed items.

Example: We have a level 3 dwarf fighter (sword and board) with full plate so he's at 21 AC, making him pretty much invulnerable. The DM setup a scenario in which there was a greatsword that glowed a bright blue, etched with dwarven runes on it. This blade rejected anybody who wasn't a dwarf touching it, and when this fighter touched it, the weapon gave him a sense of power and longing. When he put it away to do his traditional tanking role, he felt disappointment and jealousy. The DM told him on his first attack that he was rolling at disadvantage, and when asked why responded with the emotions washing over him again. Once the player pulled out the sword, the disadvantage went away, but he had to put his shield away, reducing his AC to 19, and thereby helping to negate the really high early AC.

2) A skilled thief. Your characters are level 3, with ridiculously powerful gear. Have a level 16 rogue steal some of their stuff because I doubt these characters are hiding any of it. This can be distasteful to some groups, but they shouldn't have gear that's the stuff of legends at such a low level.

3) Enemies with auto-grapple. Start adding grapple as a condition to any attack made by certain creature types to provide a hinderence to your characters. To hinder casters, make a ranged enemy reactionary only. When a caster is going to cast a spell, that creature goes at the same time so that the casters have to suffer a concentration check penalty. This will start adding tactical gameplay to your group dynamic as well.

4) I saved my personal favourite for last, Mechanics based fights. When dealing with fights that the players are handily obliterating with ease because they're overpowered, make the fight only winnable by mechanics. For example, have an enemy that exists in 2 planes at once, and he's only vulnerable to physical in one, and magic in the other. Start adding auras to boss fights that implement a scaling damage buff (start at 1D8, and just keep adding a hit die for every turn they don't touch whatever item you setup) unless the characters run from object A to B every 2 turns. Set the objects 50 feet apart so characters can touch one, move to boss, attack. Attack, move to other object, touch it. This provokes AoO from boss, allowing for extra damage to the characters, as well as giving you control over the positioning in the fight and giving them something to worry about.

Another mechanic example: I had my players fight a creature on the remains of a meteor made of an odd purple metal. The golem was also made of the metal, and was impervious to anything the characters did. One of them picked up a chunk of the metal on the ground and threw it at the golem. When it connected, the golem glowed for two turns and was vulnerable to attacks, but dealt AOE radiant damage of 1D8 + 4, no save. If struck while glowing, the glow would intensify with no additional effect as a warning, and if struck a third time would ripple a 2D8 + 8 burst and immediately become purple metal again.

I'm getting the distinct impression from the OP that this is probably close to the first time you've DM'ed or ran a group with real freedom of choice. People take massive advantage of this and ultimately the game won't be any fun if you can't tweak accordingly. I would recommend recording the players AC and attack bonuses, and giving your monsters similar stats in order to counter the players. Further to this, don't be afraid to modify your undead so that they do not suffer the typical weaknesses. For example, have zombies that get more powerful when set on fire. Or skeletons that cause bludgeoning weapons to be disarmed on contact.

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There are some great gaming answers here. If you're really stuck on the combat aspect, CHEAT. Change some monster stats around, give them +4 to hit and -2 on damage or something, make up some reason why this works, you're the DM, you're in charge.

A favourite tactic of my current DM is taking away our toys. He creates some scenario where we can't recharge our magic, or our metal equipment melts, or some monster that is immune to slashing, whatever to make your players stop and think about their actions and find something creative.

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