Redesigning Encounters: Fallen Devil

In The Scouring of Gate Pass, the encounter titled Flaganus Mortus (otherwise known as the Fallen Devil) is located on page 44. Though this encounter was the easiest of the three I’ve redesigned, it’s by far my favorite. When looking at the antagonist—good ol’ Flaganus Mortus—I knew exactly what creature from the Monster Vault I wanted to fluff: the Young Black Dragon.

An important thing to note is, in the adventure Flaganus is a 3rd Level Solo Solider, while the dragon is a 4th Level Solo Lurker. Because I don’t use experience points, I’ve noticed that I’ve deviated more and more from established encounter balance whenever it suited me.

A great example of this was the last encounter—Shocking Revelation. In it, I didn’t make Larion elite like he was in the adventure, and I added more monsters. Because I’m not worried about giving the characters too much or too little experience, I’m able to be much more flexible. Bringing this back to the Fallen Devil encounter, I knew I wanted to close out the adventuring day with a bang.

While running a short delve that included the Young Black Dragon earlier this year, it quickly became my favorite MV monster. It really has everything! And so, here’s how our new Flaganus broke down…

The Good, the Bad, and the Fluffed

I got rid of acid blood because I couldn’t think of any easy way to fluff it that didn’t stretch the boundaries of reason and logic. Instinctive devouring became overwhelming charge; I ditched the bite portion and kept the charge. Looking back, I should have left the bite (and of course fluffed it to Flaganus’ melee weapon). The reason why is, Flaganus was never in a position to charge! The group quickly surrounded Flaganus, and so his overwhelming charge ability pretty much sat there.

Action recovery stayed exactly the same.

The Young Black Dragon’s bite attack became a longsword attack to match the miniature, minus the extra acid damage. I could have given him a flaming weapon and made the extra damage fire, but I didn’t. I could have also just made the extra acid damage untyped damage and described it as ongoing damage caused by the sheer ferocity of the attack. Oh well, hindsight and all that. The claw attack became double strike—basically, a double use of his melee attack.

Here’s where things got tricky. The dragon’s breath weapon became Ragesian whirlwind. I changed it from blast 5 to burst 2, and instead of doing ongoing acid damage, I let the power push PC’s one square. In retrospect, the ongoing damage and the push weren’t exactly balanced against each other; maybe I should have made it push 2 and a flat 5 extra damage?

I ditched shroud of gloom because I’d removed all the acid attacks from Flaganus; the power didn’t seem worth fluffing at this point.

Tail sweep became readied sweep and was described as Flaganus taking advantage of his opponent’s miss by sneaking in a longsword attack. Bloodied breath became bloodied whirlwind, giving another use of the Ragesian whirlwind power.

And that’s it! My players had no idea they were fighting a man dressed in a dragon’s stats.

There was one other thing I fiddled with. See, I’m still trying to balance encounter length against what’s fun and what’s boring. Even though all new monsters have reduced hit points, some of them still have too many. Knowing this, I reduced Flaganus’ hit points from 208 to a flat 100. However, after the first round of combat, the characters had almost done a combined 50 hit points in damage! I was unprepared by how well they were hitting. Rather than let Flaganus stay at his artificially lowered 100 hit points (and thus, rob the players of a fun, lengthy boss battle), I secretly re-rose the hit points back to 208.

No one was the wiser and it was truly an epic battle.

Keeping Things Balanced

The encounter level for Fallen Devil is listed as 2 (725 XP) even though Flaganus is a Level 3 Solo. This is explained in the encounter text by Flaganus beginning the combat blooded (presumably from his battle with the griffin rider and subsequent fall into a building). After my adjustments, the encounter level rose to 4 (I did not begin Flaganus with less hit points). In order to return the encounter level to 2, simply substitute my choice of a 4th-level Young Black Dragon with any 2nd-Level Solo or, as the adventure suggests, use a 3rd-level Solo and start him off at bloodied.