A Problem I Have With High-Level Challenges In D&D

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    Before reading this article, take a look at the effigy monster in the Monster Manual II excerpt on the WotC site.

    Welcome back. :)

    The effigy is a perfect example of how high-level play starts to break down in some aspects of the game. The effigy is a 27 HD undead creature and is CR 17. That means when used as a CR-appropriate challenge for four 17th-level characters, the PC cleric has absolutely no chance to turn it (max hit dice affected is cleric's level +4 ... even with an amulet of undead turning and a max roll he can't affect it). It's not like it has turn resistance, it's just that for high-level opponents you have to have a lot of hit dice to withstand the attacks from the big guns, and having that many hit dice also means that you're going to be immune to a lot of cool abilities the characters have (I ran into this problem when playtesting the Epic-Level Handbook ... my Clr25 had no chance to affect the 35 HD CR25 creature we were fighting ... hey, I don't have the epic book, are there any feats in there that let you boost your effective turning level?).
    The effigy is also an undead creature, so the rogue can't sneak attack it.
    Which also means the fighter can't crit it (and by the time you're 17th level, if you have a weapon with a reasonable crit range you probably have it keen and have the Improved Critical feat).
    And it has SR 28, which means that half of the spellcasters' spells aren't going to work on it (barring Spell Penetration and such, which many high-level spellcasters tend to have). That's not so much a problem with the effigy as the standard way SR is built (11 + CR), but when combined with the other things about this monster it makes it a tough opponent.
    So the most likely scenario for an encounter with this creature is everyone hacking it to death with weapons, with maybe the spellcasters either hoping to beat its spell resistance or healing allies every round. Now, such a thing isn't bad every now and again (just like encounters with creatures that are resistant to weapons but not spells makes your spellcasters happy), but in general you shouldn't have every encounter be so one-sided. Which is hard to do with powerful monsters since you often have to select them to play against the PC weaknesses to make an encounter challenging.

    All I'm saying is that when creating encounters for higher-level play, take a look at what you're doing and recognize all the aspects of the creature's nature and abilities. In the case of this specific creature, you've neutralized cool features of two PCs, reduced the spellcasters to half effectiveness, and put the brunt of the responsibility on the fighter-types.

    (And I have to mention that as an incorporeal creature it shouldn't have any natural armor, and naming a new creature after a one-word common term is a no-no, and to kick the monster out of your body you're making an opposed Wisdom check instead of a Will save which means that 17th-level characters are not much better than 5th-level characters, and I'm not sure why it needs Balance and Tumble when it's incorporeal and can fly, but those are issues with this specific monster rather than with high-level play).