Content of the article: "A dastardly duo of horrifying proportions?"
My players asked for more class-based npc enemies, specifically druids for flavour, all the while complaining about a lack of challenge. They even wanted the bastards to have feats.
In response, I built a duo that I think may be far too broken mechanically, although thematically perfect:
A Moon Druid with Sentinel (and possible Barbarian dip for rage, reckless attack and advantage on dex saves). The moon druid concentrates on conjure animals (8 wolves/velociraptors, 16 in 5th level) as he turns into a Giant Lizard, Giant Constrictor Snake, Quetzalcoatlus or Giant Scorpion.
All the while, the druid is mounted by:
An Ancients Paladin with lance and mounted combatant feat (a Vuman could take dual wielder feat and wield two lances for meme value, but also to get six attempts at triggering a critical divine smite). He concentrates on crusader's mantle (to give a 1d4 to himself, his mount and all the 16 wolves/velociraptors with pack tactics.)
At level 11, the duo is quite insurmountable:
The paladin has three attacks, all made with advantage against any medium creature: The damage potential is pretty respectable, with 3d12+3d4+3d8+12 per round. With 6 chances to crit per turn, there's a good chance he gets to pop off a level 2 divine smite, dealing 2d12+2d4+8d8+4 damage in one hit. Not bad.
The velociraptors/wolves all get advantage from pack tactics, so there's potentially 48d4+32 (wolves) or a stunning 16d6+48d4+64 (velociraptors) per round. A single crit would add another 2d4 or 2d6 damage on top of that, not exactly unlikely when there are 64 attack rolls made. (I suggest using Mob rules, DMG 250)
Assuming only half of the attacks hit, and none of them are critical, that's still 8d6+24d4+32 damage.
Then there's the moon druid who gets 2d8+5d10+3d4+6 damage as a giant scorpion, who also gets advantage on all 3 attacks if dipped 2 lvls in barbarian.
"but OP, his AC is terrible so he'll drop concentration in no time!" Think again. His Oath of the Ancients pal with Mounted Combatant feat ensures that:
- Paladin tanks all attacks headed for the Druid – which allows the Sentinel druid to strike back with a 5d10 AoO.
- The feat also lets the druid take only half damage on a failed Dex save, and no damage on a success.
- The paladin's aura gives the druid a +4 to all saves, and his Oath of Ancients aura gives a flat damage resistance to all spell damage.
- If dipped/started off as Barbarian, the druid can have con save proficiency and advantage on dex saves (I'd forego this as a DM, but any optimizing player wouldn't), ensuring the druid would never lose concentration.
Imagine a worst-case scenario fireball: The druid fails their Dex save despite having advantage and +5 to their save: The average damage of 28,5 is reduced to 14 thanks to Mounted Combatant, which is further reduced to 7 thanks to the damage resistance. No Concentration save, since the druid can't get less than a 12. No War Caster.
How about Disintegrate or Meteor Swarm, the most damaging spells in the game? Disintegrate deals avg 75 damage, max 100 -> Halved from MC feat -> Halved from Ancients' Aura. Disintegrate deals 19 or a maximum of 25 damage. No concentration save.Only Meteor Swarm presents some sort of challenge, should the duo meet a lvl 20 spellcaster: Average 140 damage – halved from MC feat – > halved from aura. The most dangerous spell in the game deals 35 damage on a failed save. You must roll higher than 5 to keep concentration. Maybe War Caster feat is a good idea after all? /s
So most save or suck/AoE spells have no way of beating the druid's concentration. It appears mind-altering effects are the druid's only weakness – you now face the task of taking out a *druid* (who usually is also an elf) with a wisdom save. Good luck. Did I mention the immunity against frightened?
Should the druid against all odds lose his concentration, he is free to either rage or exit wild shape, conjure another 16 velociraptors, and then on his next turn cast another useful spell (plant growth?) before wild shaping again.
So the duo is tanky as fuck, and the DPR is approximately:3d12 + 5d8 + 5d10 + 16d6 + 54d4 + 82, all made with advantage – so if we factor in critical hits, the average of 342 damage per round is not too far off.
I really think the party would enjoy meeting a duo like this for RP and worldbuilding purposes, they're a late game boss duo after all – but I realise the encounter might be far too challenging and tedious to be enjoyable. How do I either make this encounter more fun, or at the very least explain to my players that D&D combat isn't built with player classes in mind?
Luckily there are challenges like differing initiative, lack of ranged options and being very clustered targets for AoE attacks, and the Paladin isn't nearly as tanky or damage dealing as he could be, nor does he have special items to keep him from being dismounted.
I think I could make it very obvious to the players that spreading out, climbing trees, flying and using ranged attacks is the way to deal with this encounter, by hinting "the tiny lizards seem very reluctant to leave their master", and that if they could unmount the paladin, say with a grapple, levitate, thorn whip or a plethora of spells, they'd have a great shot. I hope this could be a cool tactical combat encounter if done right.
Don't allow mounted combatant Paladins to ride your Moon druids.
- What to pick at level 4 and 8 (Conquest Paladin)?
- How should I build my Paladin to mash well with my party?
- Paldin spell discussion, which are worth it to prepare/use?
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