So the party has been doing a few side quests lately, as they enjoy doing that take them all over the map, constantly… CONSTANTLY and the current idea was selling beer to the dwarves of Mithril hall that were having trouble with their own supply. A setup that mostly involved travel, a little rp and encounters with some fey sprites that were upset at the dwarves for screwing with their underground mushroom caves so decided to hit them where it hurt.. the beer.
there was a main quest there in the background.. and from here Is et up a kind of path to one in that the dwarves wanted to retake the old settlement of settlestone from an orc legion that was slowly setting up there in the dwarves backyard. The players agreed to come, kitted themselves out with gear and away they went.
Building Big Battles
Now I wanted to create a bigger battle here involving a lot of dwarves facing off against a lot of orcs but making them all with the usual 5e stat block would have been annoying, tedious and time consuming. I also find it important to make the players at this stage as something greater than mere mortals in many aspects and so I fell in with the minion system where they all mostly had 1 hit worth of damage and that was it and, it actually worked really well. The players understood immediately to aoe groups, and attack multiples where they could and it was fun watching a lot of orcs dropping left and right.
I also had a few tougher enemies around and I’m kinda thinking I could have maybe organised that part a little better. In each group there was basically one who ended up being like a squad commander and I tried describing certain key differences.. basically a red sash, copper armor, that sort of thing which did help pick them out but in the heat of combat it was still ended up being a little tedious for me to record various numbers of these poeple. In the end I came up with a solution and mainly used it for the dwarves in that they take multiple hits to kill. Basic dwarves had a hit count of 2, and the Battlehammers themselves (leading clan) a 3. They were sturdier that way when facing orcs but you still saw various dwarves dropping throughout the fight.
I did have two main enemies for the characters to face through the ruined towned which is probably the only ones in the end that should have had a full stat block. A hill giant, and the armoured commander of the forces here who did end up doing a decent amount of damage and also taking up the brunt of attention from the players. The battle raged on for several turns as the broke through the defences and continued through the town killing as many orcs as possible and in the end seemed like an enjoyable encounter.
This brought them to the centre of town and a large stone monolith that led to an ancient forge underneath and then, enter the final battle
Back-up Plans for Bosses
Now that brings me to the big boss underneath. Gatar Rockmaw. A massive orc standing 10ft high, pure muscle, covered in dark copper armour and wielding a massive battleaxe in one hand that was dripping molten sitting, waiting by the forge who ended up being… a complete, utter failure.
Now I know my players and generally create cr encounters that are dangerous but not deadly. Skirting that boundary around what they can deal with quite well. They are a level 5 party but, I’ve been rather generous with magical items and they work well together so I generally up the cr a fair bit. That wasn’t the problem here. I took the the orc war chief stat block (cr4) bumped the ac to 18, health that was maybe around 120, a aoe slam attack that refreshed on a 5 ir 6 that dealt 4d6 plus prone
But knowing my players and their ability to fuck with me I also had a few Backups for the boss that would be used just in case and I’ve been doing this for a little bit of time now and it works pretty well. Basically you kind of judge the parties ability beforehand and add, or remove accordingly
For my Orc Warboss that was
- Bonus Action grapple with his spare hand
- Blessing of Gruumsh for an extra d4 on ability saves
- Rage bonus action (halving melee damage)
- Spiritual weapon that would cause 2 fiery spears to form in the area and attack.
- 1 legendary resistance
Now yes that all sounds like overkill but in the end they still dominated and that all came down to the bard, and a lot of bad rolls.
I knew the bard had been saving their third level spell slot throughout the battle above, and that it was definitely going to be Bestow Curse. And sure enough second round of combat he pops it out and the Warboss fails (unbeknownst to me I forgot to add the orc chief +2 bonus but, no take backsies) leaving him without an action if he fails the wisdom saves on his turn. Now I knew I could pop out that resistance and explain t away to the touch of a god quite easily but, I actually decided against it as I first though A) the bard saved one slot left for this one moment B) one of the players was likely to die from the damage) and c) I kinda though he would make a few saves throughout anyway and thus do enough damage to keep it interesting but still make the player, in particularly the bard feel like they saved the party.
I ended up easily failing every Wisdom Save from then on With the d4, and the +2 as rolled abysmally every single time. I literally rolled a 2 total for one, it was awful and thus my big bad of the orc army ended up being annihilated over 4 rounds while basically being unable to fight back. I raged, tossed a player once but other than that… absolutely wrecked with multiple crit attacks as well and in the end I was kinda ok with that. A little anticlimactic yes but that was the dice and due to the players actions.
Rip Gatar Rockmaw you will be forgotten .. for now MWHAHAHAHaaaaaaaa….. because his spirit is still in the axe and they’re taking it with them.