Please see this IMPORTANT MESSAGE from The Angry DM!

The D&D Boss Fight: Colmarr’s Monster Mayhem

August 20, 2010

Playing a role-playing game is a lot like being in a relationship. When the game is first released, there is a honeymoon period wherein everything is shiny and new and the game can do no wrong, just by virtue of its being new. It is a lustful time when long nights are spent under the sheets with the new game, poring over its pages, exploring its folds, getting to know it, caressing its spine, and discovering all of the wonderful things it can do for you that no other game can do.

But this doesn’t last. Eventually, you get used to the game. You stop bringing it to bed with you and, instead of fantasizing about all of the great possibilities, you start to notice the flaws. Oh sure, it comes home with new supplements and new toys every couple of weeks, trying to keep the magic alive, but you’ve gotten used to it. You know what it’s like under the covers and, whatever new tricks it learns, it’s still the same game inside. It’s still fun to spend time with, sure, but sometimes its little habits and quirks annoy you. You still love it, but the magic of those first, few heady weeks are gone.

At this point, you have two options. You can make some pointed suggestions about plastic surgery, weight loss, and maybe bringing a little more role-playing back between the covers. Maybe with some costumes and some equipment you found online. Or you can trade her in for something younger and better looking and start the whole thing over. Of course, that’s expensive. You’ve got new books to buy and she’ll want supplements too. You can also fool around with other games, but you’re still coming home to the same game at the end of the day, so that doesn’t really help.

The point is that it’s not ridiculous to suggest some plastic surgery and a few visits to online catalogs that aren’t safe for work and I don’t understand why my relationships always seem to fall apart at this stage. Women just have no interest in self-improvement, I guess. There is nothing to be ashamed of. No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to get closer to perfection.

Role-playing games are a lot more willing to get some work done and join a gym. And most importantly, they like to visit online catalogs and they aren’t ashamed to buy a few naughty toys. And that’s why I prefer them to women.

So, the old girl has gotten a few botox injections recently in the form of Monster Manual 3 and the Players Handbook 3 and she’s scheduled some Essential surgery next month. But beyond that, there are a lot of nice toys and costumes available online.

At this point, I am going to start discussing solos and the metaphor is going to be strained and uncomfortable (use your imagination). Suffice to say that there are a lot of fun improvements for solos out there now. Chris Sims has posted some wonderful articles on improving solos at Critical-Hits. The first one is All By Myself, Part 1. Greg Bilsand posted a similarly great article about using solos in D&D called Solo Monster ≠ Fight vs. 1 Monster. And Quinn “Gamefiend” Murphy has come up with a great alternative to my Boss Monster System, The World Breaker.

The World Breaker deserves special mention and, if you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so as an alternative to the Boss Fight system (and check out the rest of the work on the At-Will blog as well). It is interesting because Quinn and I debuted our systems at about the same time and conceptually we seem to have started from a very similar idea. Whereas I pulled it off with stage changes, he inserted a mechanic wherein the boss enters a different mode which completely changes the battle. Unfortunately, I will probably never use his system at my table beyond a one shot, but this is only because the World Breaker and the Boss Fight are so conceptually similar that there really isn’t a reason to use both setups in the same world. And, when it comes time to choose, I am biased toward my own. It is just interesting to watch two different DMs recognize the same problem, reach the same conclusion, and then build a completely different solution.

Meanwhile, back to my own creation. I honestly didn’t expect the positive response I’ve gotten for the Boss Fight. I figured it would be something I could just throw out there once and be done with. I figured a few people would stumble upon it, admit that it was a good idea, and then move on. But that isn’t the case. The response has been very positive on various forums, via e-mail, on Twitter, and in the comments on this site. I’ve heard from numerous DMs who got fed up waiting for me to publish an actual boss and decided to just take my ideas and run with them. That’s amazingly gratifying.

So, to all of you who have taken the time to respond to me or to advertise my site on your own or in internet forums, I want to say thank you. And to all of you who have put the system into play, consider this a call to arms.

Lately, I’ve become friends with Colmarr over at The Astral Sea blog and he’s been very chatty with me about this system. And he wanted to encourage people to take up the slack because I haven’t been exactly cranking bosses out. He proposed a Blog Carnival to encourage DMs to post their own designs and he’s already started off with a neat spin using an elite monster as the base rather than a solo.

And so, I invite you all to take part in Colmarr’s Monster Mayhem Blog Carnival by jumping on your own blog and building a boss fight for the whole world to see.

As a service to the gaming community in general, though, I’ve agreed to take over the cataloging so that other DMs can easily find boss monster ideas for their own game.

Want to get involved? it’s easy.

  • Step 1: Design an awesome boss monster using the Boss Monster system I’ve described.
  • Step 2: Post your boss monster on your blog.
  • Step 3: In your blog entry, link to this web page. If your blog uses pingbacks or trackbacks, that’s all it takes. A comment will automatically appear here linking to your site. If your blog doesn’t use those things, post a comment here with a link to your site.
  • Step 4: I will swoop in each day, check the comments, and put the links at the bottom of this entry. If we get enough links to make it necessary, I will organize the links onto a separate directory page and sort them by level, role, and whatever.
  • Step 5: Wander back here occasionally and check out the other entries to see what other DMs are doing.

That’s all. The only thing I ask is that you stay true to the original system I’ve designed. I’m not trying to limit anyone’s creativity or force my system on anyone, but the purpose of this Blog Carnival is to build up examples of this system for other DMs to enjoy.

It might be a good idea, therefore, to check out my own entry to the blog carnival in The D&D Boss Fight: Part 4. Beyond simply posting the stats for a young red dragon, I also provided some good guidelines on how to build a boss.

I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.

Entries so Far