I want to take the time to write about one of the boss fights I just conducted in hopes that it might inspire some of you in your future endeavors. As always, notes and suggestions are always welcome. I want to become better at what I do.
The boss was Jafar, master of illusions and the leader of the Red Scorpions Gang. The party was tasked with taking out this gang by a rival gang. The task was simple enough, and as far as fights went, they were able to get to Jafar rather quickly. Bodies began to pile around the PC’s and when victory seemed eminent, the field changes and they are transported to another realm where they are once again surrounded by members of the Red Scorpions who are hungry for blood.
To understand how I ran this encounter you need to understand a bit about the composition of my group. It breaks down into two parts, those who metagame and min max and those who don’t and play to chill. There is nothing wrong with either playstyles but it does create a few issues. The first has to do with the balancing of the encounter. Often, if I go by the cr guides in the book, the min maxers kill everything before everyone else gets the chance to play. Makes combat kind of boring when everyone is just supporting the person who watched a video on how to break the game.
The other issue that arises is the meta gaming. Players who min max at my table treat the whole thing like a game they need to win. Again nothing wrong with that but it does create a cycle that is quite repetitive. RP always ends with the min maxer being a jerk because he can back it up and boss fights always end anti climatically because everyone empties their clip on the boss.
To combat this I created an encounter where every enemy on the field was the boss. For this encounter I had a general HP pool that the players could chip away at by attacking any enemy. The enemies all had 1 hp so that they would go down easily. For AC I used 12 for magic casters, 14 for scouts or ranged fighters, and 16 for melee. Other than that, use real stats from the monster manual for attacks, abilities, and saves.
At my table this created a situation where they were busy either fighting the “scraps” or emptying everything they had on the boss with the minions quickly closing in on them. What ended up happening was that they ended up surrounded by the minions and started taking a lot of damage due to the advantage they gained from flanking. The solution here would be taking out the minions because all the damage done to the minions, even if the hp is 1, goes against the general pool. So if a player does 10 damage to a minion, the whole unit takes 10 damage. For my encounter I used 300 because that was reasonable for my party.
This helps with the meta gaming because no one knows what is going on. The other more positive effect is that everyone gets a chance to feel important. Everyone at my table had an opportunity to describe a kill and have the satisfaction of contributing instead of it revolving around the one or two characters who built more optimally.
Now the other aspect of this encounter was the changing environment. After a certain amount of turns, I did 1d6 turns, the field would change. This also resulted in more minions to fight and everyone was moved to a different location on the map. I chose random maps that I thought would be fun to use but you can stick to a theme. I picked 6 different maps and had the player who goes after the scene change to roll to see what map we got. I like leaving things to chance, but you can do this however you want. It is important to note that the boss is smart enough to place the players in a way that gives the boss advantage. Close combat pc’s get sent to the back for example. This keeps combat fresh and gives you a fresh pool of minions to work with.
Overall I think it went well. My players really enjoyed the map changing. The only thing I would change is maybe describing what happens with the minions to give them a chance to figure out the mechanic on their own. My players really enjoyed this fight although my min maxers were a bit annoyed by the combat until I explained the mechanic. I have no issue with min maxing, I just have players with different goals and experience. It isn’t fun for one person in the party to do all the work while you are trying to learn the game. The idea wasn’t to nerf anyone, but rather to create an encounter where everyone felt they contributed equally and it would still be a more epic fight than the usual encounter.
As for monster stats, you can use whatever you want. I found these to be sufficient:
This worked well enough. My party is level 6 at the moment and they had no problem facing him. The charm spell was underwhelming though, I think full mind control with a chance of saving at the end of the turn would have been a lot better. As for legendary actions I gave him a fireball that did 4d6 damage and two force attacks that do 1d8 force damage. For his main action I tried to charm but the charm was a waste of a turn it felt like.
This part is optional. At the end, when the pool goes to zero, the illusion drops and the party returns to the original room. I did this battle theater of the mind, but you can run it with a map. Jafar then turns into a massive fire genie who is 20 ft tall and has a large range. He has an explosive fire attack that does fireball damage and 2 melee swipe attacks that can knock a player prone on a failed strength save. You can do Hp for this one but I like to make it hits. After a number of hits, Jafar runs out of magic and turns back human. This is completely optional but I did it because it made sense in my story.
Let me know what you think. I would love any suggestions to make this encounter better.