Deviance #25 – Multi-part Solos
There’s been another upsurge of Solo talk on the blogosphere recently, probably given the products recently released and those about to be released. Quinn has his Worldbreaker Solos, which are frickin’ spectacular and he’s been getting flooded with submissions, but not all Solos lend themselves to such theatrics. Sometimes, you want a Solo that’s engaging and challenging, but you don’t have the time to build a Worldbreaker, you don’t want to deal with the plethora of available powers or the enemy doesn’t feel like it should be enforcing radical terrain modifications. A quicker, more efficient way to add spice to a otherwise boring Solo monster is to make it a multiple-part or multiple-initiative monster.
I thought I was the only one doing this, but as it turns out Greg Bilsland, producer at WotC, and DM Tim of Radio Free Hommlet have also been pulling this trick. Great minds think alike, apparently! OK, a few creatures do something similar as written, like the Behir family of monsters. The basic premise is to split a Solo creature into two or three subsections, each of which get their own actions and initiative count. This doesn’t mean that the monster literally breaks into pieces – though you could certainly do that – but mechanically speaking, you assign actions to it as if it were several Elite creatures.
The easiest way to do this is to divide the monster into a head and body, or maybe a head, arms and legs depending on its general anatomy. The monster still uses all of its normal defenses and has a single pool of HP, a single move action and a single minor action. However, it gets a standard action and initiative count for every subsection. It can only use one standard action per count but can spend its move and minor on any count. Finally, split the powers among the subsections so that each subsection functionally has its own set of powers. You may want to add one or two powers overall to the creature so that each subsection has some variance, but for the most part, you can take a Solo as written, make this tweak and run with it.
As a multi-part Solo takes damage, it loses initiative counts and thus standard actions by proxy. A two-part creature loses its other subsection when bloodied, for example. At this point, allow the player who bloodied the creature to decide what section is ‘shut down.’ I’ll give you an example here in a second, but a few quick pointers I’ve found helpful when running these kinds of monsters:
1) Only roll initative once, then add and/or subtract 10 to get the other two counts. This gives the monster the ability to react to the PC’s better as it splits up their turns.
2) Multi-part solos have the opportunity and the actions to heal themselves, so make sure that your creature has at least one self-healing power, probably an encounter or a recharge 6. Allowing it to stand up as a minor is another simple but effective self-protection tweak.
3) Consider shunting the powers of ‘dead’ sections to ‘live’ sections, particularly if that section had a unique, gimmicky power like a grab or heal or an attack that hits several PCs all at once. Economy of actions is crucial for Solo monsters.
4) A two-part creature should have, at most, a universal +2 to saves. A three part creature should probably have no more than a +1.
5) Only slow, prone, forced movement and ongoing damage should apply to the creature as a whole. Marks, dazes and stuns, penalties to attack and defense and pretty much everything else should affect only one section at a time.
Now get out your Adventure Builder or Monster Manual and let’s build one of these real quick. From H3: Pyramid of Shadows, we have the Headless Corpse, a level 8 Solo Controller. This monster is a perfect candidate for the multi-part treatment. Give the body the Slam attacks as well as the two encounter powers – Winter’s Wrath and Razor Storm. The Head gets Ray of Ruin and Force Wave. Now each part has can deal damage and has the ability to hinder movement, either with a push or a prone effect. Drop the save bonus to +2, give it a save vs. prone trait and add 25 temporary HP to the Phantom Step power. Blow an AP on its first turn to drop Razor Storm, then just sit back and watch your players freak out!