After the last post, Investigating the Stairs, we're in the position to deconstruct the combat that followed. This is a particularly example: the players made no particular errors, the dice fell against them for quite a lot of it, the situation was very tense for far too long and the party was able to pull themselves out of an extraordinary tailspin, barely avoiding a total-party-kill. All things that make this a combat worth examination.
The participants in the combat were Embla the assassin; Lothar the ranger; Engelhart the cleric; Pandred the fighter. These were supported by Bergthora and Fjall, two hirelings. A third hireling, Willa, was far away, watching a distant "front door." My plan was to have Willa appear in the 11th round (if the combat lasted that long, which I did not expect), to tell the party that the owners of the lair had returned, somewhat trapping the party in the lair (though a backdoor was available).
Half of this discussion will cover what is happening from round to round; the other half, I hope, will cover the antagonist's motives against the party, the setting for the combat and the dilemmas presented as the combat was resolved.
The enemy was a "dog-Beast": a huge, eight-and-a-half foot tall humanoid with a dog's head and great long claws. The Beast received two attacks per round: it could attack with its teeth and with one claw. I recognize that most monster descriptions tend to make most beasts ambidextrous, but I will often limit a less intelligent, agile monster to the use of only one or the other hand, not both. That was the case here. The bite caused 2-16; the claw, 1-8. There was a special ability. If the bite rolled a natural 20, it caused triple damage on the hit. That was a potential quick kill, however unlikely.
At the start of the fight, Embla had failed to kill the Beast outright; however, she had succeeded in reducing the Beast to a total of 24 hit points, a fact kept secret from the party. By my rules, if one quarter of a defender's present hit points are removed by a single hit, that defender is "stun-locked" ~ for one round. This is modified if the defender has two attacks. An attack causing a quarter of the Beast's hit points reduces the Beast to one attack (a claw); to remove both attacks, a third of the Beast's hit points would have to be lost in damage. From this, I can explain that a single hit of 6 damage would be sufficient to reduce the Beast's combat effectiveness to a claw attack only; a single hit of 8 damage would be enough to stop the Beast from attacking at all (for one round). In this way, several good rounds by a party against a relatively weak defender can quickly end a fight. And this was a weak defender (it has been severely injured in may fights, evidenced by the pool of blood).
|Round 1: the party rushes in to engage the Beast|
This is the second of two such posts I will be writing in the month of March for the Tao's Master Class blog, where the rest of this post can be found. Examples on the Tao of D&D blog can be found here and here.
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