Monster Vault: Fixing Solos

As I said in my review of Monster Vault, many of the older and classic monsters have been updated and brought into line with the design philosophy of the later Monster Manuals.  Additionally, the book fixes a problem that has been plaguing solo monsters since the first Monster Manual for 4th Edition:  stunlocking.

In case you’re unaware, stunlocking refers to the use of a power or ability to cause a creature to become Stunned, denying it of any actions.  This is, or was, a very effective tactic against solos.  In fact, it was too effective, allowing a character to stunlock a solo with a power, giving the PCs several rounds with which to whale upon the solo monster  As a result, solos, who are supposed to be the creme de la creme of beasties in the game and powerful enough to fight five PCs all by themselves, could be turned into a joke encounter that was easier than facing off against five normal creatures who were, individually, much weaker.

The writeups in Monster Vault have solved that.  Many solos, especially dragons, have the ability to shake off a Stunned condition or have powers that require no action to use, thus allowing the power to be used even when Stunned.  For example, the new Beholder can use an eye ray as a “no action” power, or an elder blue dragon automatically ends a Stunned condition instead of making an additional free-action attack 10 points ahead if its turn in the initiative.

Additionally, most solos are more effective overall in combat, acting in essence as more than one character.  The elder blue dragon, for example, gets its normal suite of attacks and, in addition, can fly up to its speed and make a lightning burst attack as a free action at an initiative account of 10+ its initiative roll.

I ran our party against the new Monster Vault version of the elder blue dragon in our game this week.  Six level 18 characters vs. a single level 20 solo; tough but should be well within their ability to handle.  In four rounds, with a combination of its Instinctive Lightning power and 2 action points, I was able to attack 11 times.   By the end of round 2, I had bloodied and stunned three of the party, and for the first time against a solo, there was a real threat of death; those same three of the characters were dying by round three.  The PCs had to really pull out all the stops, and I gave them a free round to act (which included the wizard casting Mass Resistance against lightning damage).

If you really want to challenge your party with a solo, in my opinion, Monster Vault is the way to go.  Your players will finally cringe at the word “solo” and there may well be tears by the end of the session.

[tags]D&D,Dungeons and Dragons,GMing,Role Playing Games[/tags]

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