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

21 Responses to The D&D Boss Fight: Colmarr’s Monster Mayhem

  1. Colmarr on August 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for the nod.

    Not so sure about all that relationship metaphor at the beginning though :)

  2. dwashba on September 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I guess I ping’d the wrong page. Oh well here I made a mindflayer boss to go with the MM3 mind flayers.

  3. hvg3 on September 4, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Hey Mr Angry! (is that the proper respectful form of address?)

    Really enjoyed your ideas here, and I’ve had an attempt at converting a monster to a Boss Monster. Hopefully, the link in my name will lead you to it!


  4. Colmarr on September 6, 2010 at 8:52 am

    After seeing entries for levels 9, 11, 24 and 25 I figured it was time for heroic tier to get a little love.

    I therefore present Sinruth Redux:

  5. Brian on September 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Hmm, it looks like it didn’t pingback. In any case, he’s my entry, also in the heroic tier: Whitemane, the primal spirit of the woodlands.

  6. dwashba on September 14, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Awesome I havn’t read it yet but lets keep this boss monster thing going!

  7. EgoPoisoning on October 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I ran with this but made an elite on the system rather than a solo- I’ll get to some solos eventually, but it’s been long enough since I made a 4e monster that I wanted to dip gradually back into it.

    Since this is for a Slaughterhouse-style campaign as well, every player I kill owes the Angry DM a lot.

  8. The Angry DM on October 7, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Just what I need, more players mad at me. Thanks, EgoPoisoning. I hope it goes well.

  9. Camelot on October 14, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I didn’t hear of this until just now, but I happened to just create a boss monster. It’s the kobold dragonmaster, a level 1 solo skirmisher for those early campaigns with kobolds that need something to give the PCs a good scare without being too tough!

  10. Colmarr on October 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks Camelot.

    While the Dragonmaster isn’t a “Boss” in the AngryDM sense of the word because it doesn’t have stages, you certainly got some interesting ideas there.

  11. Camelot on October 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Yeah, I only realized after I posted it that I had misread the request. My apologies. But thank you!

  12. hvg3 on October 25, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Played the Boss Monster dragon today; against a party of four 23rd level folk (fresh from a long rest), it worked well. No one was caught by the initial scene-changing attack, and barely anyone was hurt, so I only gave them a recharge of one encounter power (no surge).

    The second stage was hard, with the wizard being entombed for a while, and the fighter not having much reach (on a flying dragon!).

    Still, the 2nd=>3rd change-over power worked well, and once he took on his bloody form, he really started cutting through the PCs. His aura was also quite devastating, as well as the fact that for this stage, both his initiative turns were together. That meant that there was little time for the PCs to recover from his double attacks – especially when he action pointed! Two of the team (psion and fighter) went down round after round towards the end. Some high death-save bonuses and daily items allowed them to continue to regain their feet, but they didn’t get their actions, and remained within the aura!

    Ultimately, the wizard missed on a crucial daily power, and rolled poorly for the miss damage, leaving it on 1 HP. Then the psion’s turn came up, and he went out backwards due to the cold aura. The warlock finished it off, and the resulting deathcry was also quite lethal – fortunately, cold resistances kept the revanant from also going out backwards!

    In all, a dangerous and engaging monster that is much more fitting than the original dragon (who would have died in about half the time, I expect). The breaking of effects upon it, the extra saves, and the two initiative rolls really helped make it a solo that could actually fight solo – so well done, AngryDM, for your “Boss Monster” idea, it worked well! :)


  13. Colmarr on October 27, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Glad to hear it worked out well for you.

    There’s a fine line to walk when designing monsters. You want them to be “fair” – in line with their level, but not too far above. When you move as far from standard solos as we have, it’s hard to judge where that line lies.

    Of course, AngryDM would call me a sissy for saying that :)

  14. hvg3 on October 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Indeed :)

    In the end, the PC death was so nearly not a death, as the wizard had rolled poorly twice in a row to leave the dragon there. And indeed, the player had almost killed his PC off earlier, by flying out over the edge, some 250ft above ground, and getting stuck there…the wizard only just managed to TP him above land before he fell unconscious the first time!

    So, even though one of their numbers died, the group in total enjoyed the encounter, and looked upon it favourably.

  15. Evil Otto on November 12, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I’m not 100% I won’t end up tweaking it a little more after I check some numbers, but if I do it’ll be by revising the same post anyway, so the link will remain good. I humbly present an alternative Sarshan (Beyond the Mottle Tower, Dungeon Magazine #163, from the “Scales of War” Adventure Path):

  16. Colmarr on November 29, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Excellent reimagining, especially the idea of Sarshan becoming a hulking monstrousity for the second stage of the fight.

  17. Tuesday Terror #36- Boss Monster II « the home den on December 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    […] RPG trackback I’m back with some free time to make a new Boss Monster design courtesy of  Angry DM. If you have read previous tuesday terror’s then you probably figured  out that I like […]

  18. Mike on February 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I posted my latest solo, the Herald of Cthugha, here:

  19. Lord Byte on May 8, 2011 at 4:44 am

    WOTC also made one, just thought I had to share it :D
    Check either Darom Madar in Adventure Tools / Compendium or Dungeon 181 :)
    It’s even got the three phases and the changing abilities (basically once he gets bloodied his abilities change, then when he goes down he gets up again, bloodied, each phase he can make everyone attack others if they’re bunched up.

  20. Winfield Estate on March 24, 2012 at 4:19 am

    A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce fear or physical harm by either its appearance or its actions. The word monster derives from Latin monstrum, an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order. Thanks.

  21. Bohemian Hypercubist on January 21, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Is this still ongoing? I’m new to the site but have a boss in the works. Also is this 4e specific or do bosses for 5e also count?

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