5e/Pathfinder/13th Age: Guide to Mini-Bosses

There’s a short story by Janni Lee Simner called Practical Villany that I particularly love. It’s from the villain’s point of view. The opening line is “The first thing I want you to know is that I drowned those kittens for a reason.” It’s a dark comedy about a villain talking to his latest kidnapee about his rebellious daughter that turned hero, betraying the family business. In the story, the author talks about how evil is a business while heroes are just one person. That is where mini-bosses come in. Mini-bosses are akin to mid-level managers. The real question is why would someone in a fantasy RPG world need them.

No matter which level-based fantasy game you play, you get more powerful by level. You are obviously more powerful at level 2 than level 1 and even still more powerful at level 3 and so on. The same is true for your main enemy. They didn’t try to take over the world at level 1. They worked to amass enough wealth and influence and easily outclass the adventurers at the start of the campaign. So why are they employing people that can’t hold their own against a plucky group of low levels?

1) Your Big Bad Has a Source of Revenue and Power that Must be Maintained

Your big bad has a source of income that still needs to be maintained, and they are busy with taking over the city/country/worlds. So the actual job of generating that income has to be in the hands of some trusted aid to oversee the operation. Whether that operation is a kobold mining company digging up gold, orc hunters that sell skins for leather armor, or an ogre timber consortium, they have to perform operations far to trivial for the big bad to do. The problem comes in when they interact with the humanoid races. Do the kobolds breech into a dwarven mine or a gnome village? Do the orcs kill the cows of a small hamlet? Are the elves upset the trees are being felled? The people doing the work need direction and someone to pay them for their work, someone that represents the big bad to the workers. That is a mini-boss. Remember, any good business has lots of moving parts to it (different managers in charge of different workers at different locations all doing the same job, different departments doing different jobs, etc.). That is a lot of different mini-bosses at a number of different difficulty levels. In this case, the employees are minions.

2) Your Big Bad Doesn’t Have Every Skill or Ability

The person at the top simply can’t have every skill or talent possible in the whole world. CEOs hire accountants and lawyers to help them navigate those arenas. Your big bad trying to take over the city/country/world needs someone to advise them on the way to the crown and how to finance it. So your mini-bosses can be advisers to the big bad in their specialty field. Other possible advisers include a cleric of an influential church and the big bad isn’t a follower of the deity or doesn’t have any divine casting ability, a public relations bard to smooth over incidents like the kobolds invading the dwarven mines, and a spiritual advisory monk.

The important thing to remember with advisers is that they should fill two roles: the official one and an unofficial one. The official one is the job for which they are known. This is their day job, how this adviser is presented in the public. The unofficial one should be the real reason that person in particular was hired by the big bad. Does the financial advisory funnel money from the crown to the big bad? Does the cleric get people (more minions) to act against their interests in the name of the religion? Is the public relations bard in charge of spreading disinformation? All of these roles a big bad needs done and these make great mini-bosses.

3) Dirty Workers

Bad guys are not known for fighting fair. Once the adventurers have been identified as disrupting some small plans, they should have someone to deal with them. Assassination attempts have been done and the players will see that coming. Instead, trying having the big bad hire the adventurers for a job they are not qualified, like killing a monster that is more powerful than they can handle. Have the public relations bard hire them, apologizing for any previous incidents involving low-level managers, and praise them for bringing such bad actors in their organization to light. The job is something like clearing out a cave where some new miners will be going soon. The adventurers aren’t told there’s a dragon in there. The dragon will be warned and compensated for it’s trouble. Naturally the dragon will have his own minions to soften you up in your way there. The idea behind this is that if the adventurers never return, no one will miss them or possibly figure they left for another problem elsewhere. As an added bonus, the public relations bard can claim they had bad information and apologize for their near deaths. By doing this, you turn what would otherwise be a single encounter into a night’s game session and they might even believe the big bad isn’t so bad.

Every mini-boss need minions and we have some excellent ones in the Book of Beasts series, available now for Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, and 13th Age. Download them now.

Pathfinder RPG: Carrion Bug

Last week, I write my first Pathfinder monster in quite some time and I remember how much I enjoy doing it. In fact you might even say I caught the “bug” again. So I couldn’t help myself and I created another one.

The image that caught my eye this week is a bug eating a long decomposing corpse. Naturally my first thought was to Shadowsfall with how useful this would be. Humans and other intelligent living creatures
would want to keep these guys around since they could be useful in devouring zombies and making sure their own fallen do not rise again as undead. Yet they would still be a problem, eating the things that eat the things that eat the things that become food for the players. So even if the forces of the living wanted them around, they would still need to keep their numbers under control. So thinning their numbers would be a solid low level adventure.

If you like this monster, please let us know in the comments below and take a look our other monster books here at JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

Carrion Bug CR/HD 1/2

Init +0; Perception +2 (darkvision 60 ft.)
Size Small; Speed 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 13 (touch 12, flat-footed 12); Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +0; CMD 12
hp 11


Attacks


Melee bite +1 (1d4+1 plus disease)
Attack Options (DC 9) disease (onset 1d3 days, frequency 1/day, effect 1 point of Con damage, cure 1 save); CMB –1


Statistics


Utility Options mindless
Dex +1, Con +3, Int —, Wis +2
XP 200; N Vermin

5e: Updating the Awesome

Yesterday, we rereleased Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider in PDF for Fifth Edition. The original was our first adventure we released for 5e and I think it deserves a mention as to why. The answer will give you a better picture as to who we are, the way we approach game design, and where we are going from here.

First some history. When we first released Along Came a Spider, there was no OGL or DMs Guild for 5e. If you were releasing products for 5e, you did so hoping you wouldn’t get into legal trouble with WotC. You had to be sure you were right, legally speaking. You had to know what you were doing or that might be the last thing you published. If you remember, the playtest lasted two years and it look another two years for the 5e SRD to be released. Add to that their slow release schedule. While it helped them sell books, it meant that if you didn’t want either of the adventures they released that year, you had no other options. So it was in that environment we decided to go ahead and publish for 5e without a net, so to speak.

Along Came a Spider was designed to be both a Pathfinder release as well as a 5e release. It was written by Joel Flank–a freelancer I trusted as being excellent with Pathfinder and like me and some of my editing crew switched to 5e during the playtest. We loved the new game and wanted to be apart of it right away. Heck, our adventure Rescue from Tyrkaven was written during the playtest and was converted to Pathfinder when some license wasn’t released for it right away, but that is a take for a different day.

When it came to making it a 5e module, we had a number of hurdles about which we had to make tough decisions. Everything from the monster stat blocks to the use of advantage and disadvantage had to be discussed. Ultimately, we decided to go with a Pathfinder-inspired monster stat block since we were using the Pathfinder OGL as our base. Doing so, however, meant that our monster stats did not look like 5e stat blocks. While not a big deal as all the stats were 5e stats and not Pathfinder, it was a barrier to using our module effortlessly. A core philosophy in our modules and any other GM-related products we create is to make the GM’s job easier. We decided that the benefit of a GM having the option of another module to choose from outweighed any barrier of having the monster stat blocks and similar legal hoops we jumped through to make this safe. When we decided to redo this module, fixing the monster stat blocks and similar barriers was at the to of our to-do list.

Then there is the issue of layout. The original version of Along Came a Spider appears almost identical our Pathfinder version. Having run far more Pathfinder modules than 5e modules at that point, I was quite use to having monster stat blocks right in the text and did not like having to flip to the back of the book for all the monsters. Since that time, we have heard from many 5e fans that said they prefer having their monsters in the back. Since those early days, I’ve run more 5e modules and I must say I like having all the monster together when I am running a module from a PDF because it means I can print out the monsters and not have to print out the adventure along with it.

There is one other major difference in this version over the original: a third map. Our budget for modules back in those days was pretty low. We had just enough for only two maps. We decided the maps should cover what we felt were the most critical and visually appealing fights. Ultimately, we decided to not have a map for the final few fights since they were in caves, figuring a cave map is pretty easy to come up with. All the reviews and comments we received concerning Along Came a Spider mentioned the lack of a final map and I knew that if we ever revisited Thai adventure, this would be one of the things we addressed. I am happy to report, those final fights have a map that we can be proud of that will inspire GMs and players in these final moments.

Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider is available now at the JBE Shop for Fifth Edition and us coming soon to DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Download it now.

Pathfinder: Ravager Wolf

I mentioned last month that we at JBE decided to continue with Pathfinder 1e support. Having said that, we decided to not continue on as business as usual. Since Paizo will be ending support for PF1 soon, we no longer feel the need to continue on in their footsteps; we want to do things our way. One of those ways is that we do not care for the core Bestiary monster creation rules. Personally, I never followed them. If anything, I did them backwards from the way the Bestiary described them. So all our monsters from here out will be using the Pathfinder Unchained monster rules. Today being Friday, I decided to make one for fun. Let me introduce you to the Ravager Wolf.

First a little background. The artwork was originally intended for the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane, however, we cut it for space. I always liked this image of a wolf with its guts cut out and felt bad we never used it. So today I am creating a monster around this image. The ravagers are corpses of animals that are consumed by the darkness and are reanimated into unlife. Each is more vicious than their mundane counterparts as they suffer from a constant hunter and an unquenchable desire to feed. Even worse, as they get more powerful, they get more intelligent. This one here is one of the weaker ones as well as one of the most commonly encountered. These creatures are without mercy and will attack as soon as see an opportunity.

Be sure to follow the JBE blog since we will be posting more monsters and other options while we are working on new Pathfinder 1e projects. Also, be sure to tell you friends that we at JBE are working on some awesome Pathfinder projects. We need your help in letting everyone know that plans to stick with 1e PFRPG that we are here for them.

We hope you enjoy this monster.

Ravager Wolf CR/HD 3

Init +5; Perception +11 (darkvision 60 ft., scent)
Size Medium; Speed 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 17 (touch 12, flat-footed 12); Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +4; CMD 18
hp 33; Immune undead immunities


Attacks


Melee bite +6 (1d12+4 plus bleed), 2 claws +1(1d4+2)
Attack Options bleed (1d6, DC 15 or any magical healing); CMB +6


Statistics


Str +4, Dex +1, Con —, Wis +2; Climb +8, Perception +11, Survival +8
XP 800; CE undead

Check it out! We just got the test print to our #DnD5e adventure Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider. This is an updated version of the original. We hope you like it when it pops later this year.

13th Age: A Rogue’s Dirty Tricks

A rogue would not be a rogue if they fought fair. Dirty tricks are their stock in trade. So today we are giving you a new power for rogues called Dirty Trick. It applies a condition to an enemy you hit, making them a less lethal opponent to you and the rest of your party. Be sure to check out the vicious strike power and the magical savant talent that we showed off already. If you like these, download 13 Rogue Powers and Talents for your 13th Age game today from the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Dirty Trick (3rd Level Power)

Special: Opponents wise up to dirty tricks pretty quickly—you can only use this power on each enemy once during any battle. Additionally, If you have the swashbuckle talent, you can use dirty trick in place of an attack during a stunt.
Melee attack
At-Will
Target:
One enemy
Attack: Charisma + Level vs. PD
Hit: WEAPON + Charisma damage, and the targeted enemy gains your choice of one of the following conditions until the end of your next turn: dazed, hampered, or vulnerable.
Miss: Damage equal to your level.
Adventurer Feat: Once per battle, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the confused, stuck, or weakened condition.
Champion Feat: Once per day, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the stunned condition.
Epic Feat: Once per day, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the helpless condition.

13th Age: Display Superior Guile and Awesome Trickery with Your Rogue

Always Keep A Knife In Your Boot And A Trick Up Your Sleeve
Gouge your foes’ eyes and bring the pain down on them! Get the drop on your enemies before they can reach your allies! Supplement your suave with a little spellcraft! Hurl knives with deadly accuracy! Rogues are the wily utility support that every party needs, moving with grace and panache and striking when no one expects it. Now you can go beyond the core book and expand your character’s unique suite of skills to complement any adventuring style.

13 Rogue Talents and Powers is the latest in our 13 Class Options series for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game. Inside this 10-page PDF, you will find:

  • 3 New Rogue Talents for making an arcane dabbler, a purveyor of illicit magical goods, or a knife-throwing expert
  • 3 New 1st Level Powers to bolster you against groups of monsters, halt an enemy in their tracks, or hurt a foe worse than they’ve hurt you when you’re staggered
  • 2 New 3rd Level Powers for escaping pesky restraints or finding an unfair advantage in a fight
  • 2 New 5th Level Powers that add a sly flourish to your strikes or enhance your dual wielding abilities
  • 2 New 7th Level Powers to execute a defensive plan or bring the pain late in the game
  • 1 New 9th Level Power for getting an ally out of any tight spot

Sneak, Steal, and Swashbuckle To Your Heart’s Content in the 13th Age.

Download 13 Rogue Talents and Powers today at JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

I just sent off details for #DnD5e Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin to be coming out in game stores. Look for it in late spring/early summer.

13th Age: The Vicious Rogue

Some rogues simply must win, even when it costs them their own health or possibly their life. These rogues hit harder when the situation is not going their way, not caring how much it hurts them. The idea of hitting your enemy, even if it hurts you is one of the ideas behind vicious strike, the new 1st level rogue power that we are showing off today. Be sure to also check out the new rogue talent magical savant that we showed off last week.

You can find this new rogue power and more in our latest release for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game: 13 Rogue Talents and Powers. Download it at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Vicious Strike

Special: Usable only when staggered
Melee attack
At-Will
Target:
One enemy
Attack: Strength + Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: WEAPON + Strength + Dexterity damage, and ongoing damage equal to the escalation die value; normal save (11+) ends. However, you also suffer damage equal to your Strength modifier + the escalation die value.
Miss: Damage equal to your level + the escalation die value. However, you also suffer damage equal to the escalation die value.
Adventurer Feat: The save to end the ongoing damage is now hard (16+).
Champion Feat: You may now use vicious strike when you are not staggered, but doing so doubles the escalation die value when calculating the damage you take.
Epic Feat: Double the escalation die value to all damage dealt to enemies by vicious strike (including miss damage). When you hit with a vicious strike, enemies nearby your target must make a normal save (11+) or suffer from fear until the end of your next turn.

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