Some months back I read AngryDM’s article on three stage or “act” solo monsters. I really enjoyed reading through the series of four articles and decided I wanted to make my very next solo fight a three stage encounter. I had a very cinematic scene planned out where my players were defending a fortress from a draconic army looking to loot the relics, tomes, and artifacts within. This army consisted of kobolds, barbaric humans, dragonborn, and a few others. I wanted this army led by a blue dragon, because I felt a Helm’s Deep scenario of fighting off a barbaric horde in the rain and a lightning/storm themed dragon to lead them would be perfect. The final climactic battle would pit the party against this terrifying dragon on the top of a tower.
Lestakrothos was designed in three stages starting with an artillery role, moving on to controller, and then finishing as a brute. Building this blue dragon was quite a bit of fun because I borrowed ideas from the standard blue dragon from the Monster Manual, from other dragons and a hydra in 4th edition, from video games, and just some general ideas I had about how dragons fight in fantasy.
I will admit that Artillery stage was easiest and played out as the most boring of all three acts in this fight. He had two standard attacks, an attack that combined the two standard attacks, a ranged lightning burst power, a breath weapon, and the heroslayer ability. The heroslayer ability that gives a solo a bonus to attack and damage rolls against defenders who have marked it is a really nice passive ability. Besides the ability to change to stage 2, there isn’t much to see here.
I thought that a battle where a dragon flying around a tower peppering the party with lightning would be fun. Of course, it would be more fun when the players got to bring the dragon down and make him pay for his arrogance. I wanted the second and third stages for Lestakrothos to be fun ground based battles. He kept his two basic melee attacks but lost his ability to combine them. Claw got adjusted so the player would slide 1 square if they got hit. The gore ability got upgraded in stage two so players hit by it would zap other allies and give them ongoing damage (keep them from grouping together). He developed an aura that penalizes attacks made adjacent to him. He got an immediate reaction power that prevented flanking (we had a rogue in the party). The classic fear burst power was thrown in as well. He kept his breath weapon from the previous stage as well as the heroslayer and the stage change ability.
In the third stage Lestakrothos went for crazy, cinematic powers. He kept his aura, his immediate reaction power, his upgraded Claw attack, and the heroslayer ability. This time around I added three new powers Unfurl, Gore and Roar, and Warp of the Storm. Unfurl was a simple encounter power that pushed back anyone adjacent to Lestakrothos with his wings. I was afraid while designing this dragon that he’d get swamped by the players (the exact opposite happened). Gore and roar was a different upgrade to the Gore attack. In this case the solo can make an attack against an enemy, and choose to either grab the player and deal ongoing damage, or throw him a whopping eight squares away. I wanted to convey the feeling of the true strength of a dragon, capable of picking up and hurling a medium size creature across the room. The last new ability was the most fun and most dissapointing power of the lot. Warp of the Storm was essentially the charge ability from Mass Effect 2’s Vanguard class power. I wanted the dragon to essentially warp a large distance towards a target, regardless of obstacles, drop a devastating melee attack and leave a lasting mark. I was excited to drop this on my players in the big fight and I ended up rolling exceptionally low for both melee attacks.
Overall I had a ton of fun designing Lestakrothos, especially when I was choosing powers to fit the theme of each stage. I wrote each stage as it’s own stat block and did a bit of mental prep work before using him in the big session. I got great reactions from my players as the blue dragon got up not once but twice. I placed ballistae on the tower of the encounter for the players to use. I had a vision of a fantasy character jumping on an anti-air gun to shoot down a dragon, and I thought this would be the best chance to do that. Unfortunately most of us agreed that the 1st stage dragon as an artillery role was the most boring because the party was mostly melee based. The other stages were fairly entertaining, but I ended up not getting to use Warp of the Storm because of my bad rolls. I hope Lestakrothos might inspire someone to make their own three stage boss, and I would love to hear from anyone who chooses to use my stat blocks in one of their own games.
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