Combat Objective: Evasion

Combat Objectives are something that I’ve been working with lately.  While most combats are straightforward, decrease all targets health to zero or less, I’ve been trying to come up with different objectives for my player.  My first attempt was to try to have them survive against an enemy that clearly outmatched them.  I wanted them to flee.

The Enemy

The first thing I had to do was design the enemy.  My first instinct drew its inspiration from pretty much any cop movie you’ve ever seen:  An enemy with a gun that, if they hit the target, would mortally wound and take out anything it hit.  Of course that is something that becomes rather difficult in the Dungeons and Dragons system since the heroes are designed to be heroes.  Dealing 100 or 200 damage to a hero with a single attack would be murderous and they wouldn’t feel like they had a chance in the world.  I’ve always felt it would be okay to build a fight that was designed to kill as long as it wasn’t designed to murder.  So how could this be accomplished?  What could I do to make them feel like they were outmatched and that the straightforward approach wouldn’t work?

In the end I came up with a several conclusions.  First, the enemy would need to be threatening and to do that I made sure every attack used the high damage expression.  The players should not want to go toe-to-toe and this would be the first step in preventing that.  Secondly, I wanted to make him unapproachable.  Even with big numbers being thrown out the will have the sense that they cannot be defeated.  For this I added an aura that dealt damage for approaching the enemy as well as made it more difficult for them to approach.  Still, that wouldn’t be enough especially since I decided that a Solo would be inappropriate:  I wanted this monster to be somewhat approachable on an interactive level so I simply made him elite.  I needed to compensate for the lack of health and I didn’t want my players to feel they could chop through him easily.  To do this I made every attack he uses weaken the players and gave him damage reduction.

Unit B-1374 Class 12

Level 14 Elite Artillery

Medium natural humanoid (living construct)

XP 2,000

HP 210; Bloodied 105

AC 27; Fortitude 26; Reflex 27; Will 25

Speed 6

Resist 10 all; Vulnerability 10 force

Saving Throws +2 , +4 vs against ongoing damage; Action Points 1

Initiative +11

Perception +9


O Unstable Energy • Aura 2

Enemies must spend an extra square of movement and take 5 damage to move closer to the Unit. Enemies that start their turn within the aura take 5 damage.

Standard Actions

C Slam (weapon) • At-Will

Attack: Close burst 1; +21 vs. AC

Hit: 2d8 + 6 damage

A Destruction Sphere (implement, chaos) • Recharge 5 6

Requirements: Warsoul bracer.

Attack: Area burst 3 within 10; +19 vs. Reflex

Hit: 5d8 + 8 chaos damage, the target is pushed 3 squares, and the target is weakened (save ends) and dazed until the end of their next turn.

Miss: Half damage and the target is weakened until the end of their next turn.

Effect: Unit B-1374 takes half as much damage as this attack would deal.

R Gravity Bolt (force, implement) • At-Will

Requirements: Warsoul bracer.

Attack: Ranged 10; +19 vs. Fortitude

Hit: 3d8 + 6 force damage and the target is weakened (save ends). Make a secondary attack against one or two targets within 3 squares of the primary target.

Secondary Attack: +19 vs. Fortitude; half initial damage, weakened (save ends), and the target slides the target 3 squares toward the primary target.

Effect: After all attacks are resolved, any target hit by an attack is knocked prone if it is adjacent to another target. Unit B-1374 takes half as much damage as this attack would deal to the primary target.

R Thunder Orb (implement, thunder) • At-Will

Requirements: Warsoul cannon.

Attack: Ranged 10; +19 vs. Reflex

Hit: 3d8 + 6 thunder damage, and the target is pushed 2 squares and they are weakened until the end of their next turn.

Effect: Unit B-1374 takes half as much damage as this attack would deal.

Triggered Actions

M Rumbling Blow (weapon) • At-Will

Requirements: Warsoul bracer.

Trigger: Unit B-1374 is hit or missed by a melee attack

Attack: Melee 1; +21 vs. AC

Hit: 1d8 + 7 damage, and the target is pushed 3 squares, knocked prone, and weakened until the end of their next turn.

Effect: Unit B-1374 takes half as much damage as this attack would deal.

M Core Overload (implement, chaos) • At-Will

Requirements: Warsoul bracer.

Trigger: When bloodied or reduced to 0 hit points.

Effect (Immediate Reaction): Unit B-1374 makes a Destruction Sphere attack in a close burst 3.  In addition, he is pushed backwards 3 squares and knocked prone.


Lastly I wanted to give the characters a quick out.  I gave them a device that would either increase the damage the enemy took from his attacks by 100% or disable him completely.

The Event

The setup for this encounter was of utmost importance so I did everything I could to explain what was going on.  In the beginning, they found several heavily damage and destroyed warforged in a room.  The warforged and clearly been obliterated by whomever had come through previously, but one was still in one piece with a strange device attached to his back.  He was alive, but it was causing him to malfunction.  In my world warforged are very rare and since we have one in our party I knew he would be interested in learning more.  The group was able to remove the device without damaging it which meant when they faced him if they could place it back on him he would be disabled.  From the beginning he proved to be helpful.  He drew them a map of the dungeon, explained the layout, and gave a lot of background of why he was here and what happened to him and his friends.  As characters, and many of them as players, they ultimately decided that he was an ally and he did as well.  He had not mentioned the Crystal Fold, a level deeper in the dungeon which none were allowed, and neither had they.  As long as they were not going there they were friends.  The warforged requested that the party allow him to accompany them to the laboratory where he could acquire the Warsoul bracer, a device that would assist him in the diagnostics and repair of his fallen comrades. They agreed.

The group didn’t head straight for the lab.  They decided to explore the dungeon and as they gathered more information it became apparent that they wished to enter The Crystal Fold.  Once they reached the laboratory and our enemy obtained the bracer he asked straightforward “Are you planning on going into The Crystal Fold?” to which one character replied that they were.  From there he waited for his moment which opened itself almost immediately.

The players were grouped up and I had them all roll a perception check.  Only one passed so I gave him and Unit B-1374 a surprise round.  The warforged went first and he fired a Destruction Sphere into the group, devastating them.  The ranger who had a surprise action used it to try to move closer knowing he carried a device that could disable it.  The group went to arms quickly, but there wasn’t much they could do being dazed and weakened on their first round.  The two leaders began healing while the three strikers began trying to deal damage.  The defender was mostly locked down since he could not get close enough to mark.

I took care in describing each one of his abilities.  I explained that his chest was exposed showing a glowing crystal like they’ve seen before, only it glowed brightly as if it was overloaded.  I describe the aura as a physical manifestation of radiating energy which not only forced them backwards and was caustic to flesh, but also diminished the effectiveness of their attacks.  I was detailed when describing the explosive chaotic energy of the Destruction Sphere (“chaos damage” was designed to get them thinking outside of the box) and the force of energy that pulled them together with the gravity bolt.  I made sure to point out that his central crystal dimmed when the bracer began whirring with power and that with each attack it seems to crack.  They were understanding that each attack he made was causing him significant damage.

But they still decided to attack head on.

Ultimately they were dealing 2-7 damage to him per striker each round (so 6-24 total) and they were taking 20-40 damage per target each round.  You’ll note that all of his attacks hit more than one target save for his free reaction for being attacked, so he was dealing upwards of 100 damage spread out each round.  The party decided they would just tough it out, however, and continued their straightforward assault.

I was bloodying or getting close to bloodying at least one character each round and on several occasions I had knocked targets unconscious, a difficult task against a group of six well organized players with two leaders.   Though they did not decide to evade and they ended up spending many of their resources (which will likely cost them in the future) they were able to defeat him without any deaths.

Have you ever tried to have your party use an evasion tactic or put them up against something that outmatched them?  Did they decide that discretion was the better part of valor, or did they feel they could power through it?  Have you ever found a situation in 4e where your players are willing to flee? I’m very interested in feedback and knowing how I can make evasion a potential combat objective.


Attack: Close burst 1; +21 vs. AC

Michael McElrath

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