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I would like to have my players contend with a monster that they aren't quite strong enough to defeat. One option available to them after doing some research would be to get certain weapons in order to deal some bonus damage. For the sake of discussion, let's say they have to slay a dragon (which already exists in the handbooks) and that dragons in my campaign setting are weak to a certain type of crystal. What would be a good way to implement this? These are the ideas I've come up with so far:

  1. Give the weapons a small aura that makes dragons vulnerable to physical damage. There seems to be a precedent with paladins creating vulnerabilities: Multiple Sources of Damage against a single vulnerability
  2. Give the weapons a small aura that makes dragons vulnerable to crystal. Basically the same as #1, but doesn't enhance other physical attacks.
  3. Rewrite any dragon entries the players fight to have Vulnerable Crystal 5
  4. Give the weapon bonus damage against monsters with the chosen keyword: Trigger (Free action * At-will): You hit a dragon. Effect: Deal 1d6 bonus damage.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the creature powerful because it has a ton of HP or just a high level? Because in the latter case, its defences and to-hits would likely be more of a concern than actual damage. In 4E, accuracy is (generally) more important than damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Frezak Sep 23 '14 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Frezak I know that players are supposed to be able to hit more than half the time. You can assume the "dragon" has high damage and low defenses. It will be a difficult encounter because of the high damage (this will be made known to them through some narrative element) and I expect they might lose if they don't try to obtain some advantage. I'm trying to come up with the most mechanically appropriate way to help the characters out-damage a specific type of monster. \$\endgroup\$ – aebabis Sep 23 '14 at 16:43
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You have a few options here.

The first thing I would consider would be, rather than giving your PCs an item to help them deal with a specific foe (as items especially should be useful beyond a given quest, or not factored into loot payouts, and could also cause unforseen issues down the road), would be to scale the monster down to their appropriate level. If you have a subscription, DDI has a tool for this already. If you don't have it, check out the table in the DMG (though please use the errata) to set their damage, HP, AC and NADs.

However, if you are adverse to that option and simply must have an item to give them. Model it after Ashurta's Blade. This is a +2 blade that can enchant several items and has the following text:

Ashurta's BladeLevel 10 Uncommon

This byeshk spike can change size and shape into several bladed forms. It is deadly against aberrant creatures. Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp

Critical: +1d6 damage per plus, +1d10 damage per plus against aberrant creatures Property

You gain a +1 item bonus to all defenses against the attacks of aberrant creatures.

Power Daily (Free Action)

Trigger: You hit with an attack using the weapon.

Effect: A target of the attack is dazed until the end of your next turn. An aberrant creature is also restrained and cannot teleport until the end of your next turn. (Seekers of the Ashen Crown)

I've snipped out the irrelevant things here. But this shows a L10 item that has specific bonuses against a specific creature type and also has a daily power that allows for some extra oomph against any creature but especially against that creature type.

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