Solos and Their Environment

Posted on April 28, 2010 by


With this post I’m not talking about a Dragon’s fart affecting greenhouse gasses and causing global warming in your campaign world.  I’m talking about truly making an encounter with a solo a memorable one, using the environment around them.

Talking D&D on twitter the other day (hmm, I write that a lot, don’t I?) I was discussing with Mike from the Sly Flourish blog and Quinn Murphy from the “At-Will” blog about how D&D  is very focused on using the terrain and environment in interesting ways, so how about making solos interact better with it?  Quinn told me about how he’s designed some of that as skill challenges, but I’m thinking about  adding an entirely new section  to some solo’s stat blocks, that  reflects the way the monster can interact with the environment in the encounter area.  Imagine if you will, a dragon’s roar.  Beside shattering the ear drums of your PC’s, imagine how cinematic would it be if the dragon roars so loudly that it literally causes the ceiling in the surrounding environment to fall around the players, creating all sorts of cinematic mayhem.

I’m picturing something like this:

Now obviously I know the colors are off, the name’s cheesy, and the damage may or may not be appropriate (although it came from page 42 of the DMG, for 13th level PC’s, since the adult copper dragon is a 13th level monster).  But that’s not what’s important here.  It’s the idea behind it.  The solo should not be a regular monster, it should be much more than just a bag of hit points taking damage until it dies.  And yes, I know there is some overlap here with the DMG2 terrain effects, but I think that tying some of these things specifically to a monster’s stat block further cements their standing as a truly epic adversary.

The solo should be the guy who gets his own pre-rendered animation in the video game, and as the camera spins around him, you get shots of the battle area, the interesting terrain, what his possible weaknesses area and all that good stuff that will make him memorable.  That’s the solo your players should be fighting.

I created a category for the stat block called “Terrain Effect” which is an encounter power the monster has that affects the terrain.  It requires that the PC make skill checks to avoid getting hit, and causes nice damage if it does.  I think this would make a nice addition to certain solos if done right, so why not give it a shot?

Like I said at the beginning of the article, Quinn Murphy, from the At-Will blog, is thinking along the same lines as me, so we decided to double post on this.  He is actually very good at 4e design, so he’s creating some solos with a specialized mechanic and their  effects, which I’ll link top once he publishes it.

I’d love to read your thoughts on this.

Posted in: 4e D&D, Gaming