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The D&D Boss Fight (Part 3)

August 7, 2010

Bloodknuckles (Stage 1)

I envisioned Bloodknuckles initially as a very dirty fighter. While not particularly smart, he was brutally cunning and quick to take advantage of an opening. He also liked to really throw his weight around. Sort of a pit fighter. I think that really shows through in his Dodge and Throw (which I see as a Judo sort of sidestep and takedown) and his brutal stomp on your head and kick you aside.

I am going to apologize in advance for the names of the powers. Sadly, as creative as I like to think I am, I always get stuck when it comes to giving powers evocative names. I recently had a group of alchemist kobolds with powers like “Fiery Goo,” “Black, Sticky Goo,” “Poisonous Goo,” and “Blinding Goo.”

Bloodknuckles Stage 1 Stat BlockHP and Action Points

I calculated the HP normally for Bloodknuckles and simply divided it by three to determine how many HP each stage should have. Based on some quick estimates of average damage output and accuracy, Bloodknuckles should spend two to three rounds in each stage against a 3rd-level party. That seems about perfect. Bloodknuckles does not become bloodied like a normal monster. Instead, his third stage is considered bloodied. He simply goes from full to dead.

Each stage has one action point. Originally, I was going to give each stage two action points, but some math about the number of actions and damage output told me I was pushing it.


Threatening Reach is a great way to give a solo more actions and the more mobile the solo, the more attacks it will get as a result. Unlike immediate actions, the solo can make as many opportunity attacks as opportunities arise. Bloodknuckles is very pushy, so there will be a lot of approaches.

Immovable is the first way I am lessening conditions. Actually, forced movement isn’t particularly terrible against solos, but Immovable fits well, flavor-wise, with his stubbornness and, later, his momentum.

Standard Actions

You’ll notice there isn’t anything very fancy actually happening here. BK has the greatclub for whacking and the stomp attack for people he knocks down. There is the usual trick to give him two attacks a round and the shift helps him stay mobile, but not too mobile. He can choose between either of the attacks, stomping, kicking, and clubbing.

You will also notice that there are no encounter powers. At the heroic tier, boss monsters don’t need many encounter powers because their ‘stage change’ powers function like encounter powers that are on a recharge of 5 and 6.

Move Actions

Here is where I address the first set of action denial problems: immobilization, restrain, grab, and prone. While I could simply have written in a power that somehow shuts those conditions down, I decided that it would be more interesting if at least some of the problematic conditions made Bloodknuckles more dangerous. Now, if you lock him down or knock him down, he flails around wildly while he regains his footing or breaks free.

I think this is something I will do more of with boss monsters. Among the problematic conditions, I will pick some subset that the monster responds to somehow in a way that turns it into the party’s problem. I can envision, for example, a mind flayer mastermind who not only fights off charms and domination, but whose psychic backlash assaults the attacker’s mind.

Besides, the image of an ogre with a greatclub flailing around like a turtle trying to right himself is just hillarious.

Triggered Actions

Thick Headed addresses the rest of the action denial conditions that cause serious problems. No action is involved so as to avoid running into the limit of one immediate action per round.  The use of the immediate save means there is a chance that he will be affected, so these actions aren’t shut down completely.

Rampage is, of course, the key to the whole boss monster thing. This is the stage change power. It fulfills the key requirements for the transition: it disengages Bloodknuckles, it works no matter what else is going on, and it clearly conveys how Bloodknuckles’ tactics are changing.

Basically, in stage 1, Bloodknuckles is fighting like a brutish pit fighter. He’s clubbing, stomping, kicking, and body checking. While he is difficult to get close to, he’s also not too hard to pin in one spot. He’s standing his ground but probably isn’t running around. He’s just trying to keep from being overwhelmed.

When he has lost 68 HP, he can no longer deny he is being overwhelmed and he is probably feeling a little cornered. And so, he starts to really throw his weight around.

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