Encounters: Twin Guardians

Posted on March 24, 2013 by

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They stand on either side of the door, two monstrous statues, carved with the skill of a master craftsman and enchanted by the greatest of mages.  Their faces are serene, unmoving, but as the heroes approach the door their eyes begin to glow a radiant blue.  As they stop away from the portal that they were literally created to guard, a brilliant light arcs between them, lighting up the room and activating the magics that bind them together.  Two as one, with a strength far greater than the sum of its parts.

The Twin Guardians encounter is a great one because it’s a very simple fight with an interesting core mechanic, designed to make your players think just a little bit more than usual about denying their usual impulses.  As players we understand that it is better to focus on a single target in a fight, remove their potential damage, and then move on to the next.  But what do we do when that tactic has disastrous results?

Setting the Field:  This encounter works well regardless of the setting, although certain hazards like lava and difficult terrain would certainly make movement more of a concern.  That being said, while there are a couple of movement mechanics in the encounter, the primary challenge is deciding which foe to attack.

shadow_guardian_golem_by_odewill-d4cq12x

 

Because these guardians are supposed to act as a single enemy, they use actions a bit differently.  Instead of each having a standard/move/minor action array, they share a single set of actions on any given turn.  I’d recommend giving them two turns per round to really make them feel like two foes.

If one of the golems has Rage counters (explained below), that golem will be the one to move and attack on a given turn.

Passive: Arcing Tether
– There is a bond that ties these two golems together, and passing through that bond damages the players.  I’d recommend keeping this damage pretty low, although if you want to allow a skill check to avoid it, you can increase the damage.

Passive: Empathic Might
– When one of the guardians is dealt damage, a Rage counter is placed on the other one.  On that golem’s next successful attack, it expends those charges and deals additional damage to its target.  You can also choose to make this damage effect all within a given area.  The damage here should be pretty high, no less than 10/tier, so that the players really want to avoid it.  Ideally they will first figure this out when a single blow knocks a hero below zero.
– If a guardian with Rage counters on it takes damage, one of those counters is removed and the other golem does not gain a counter at all.

Standard Action: Guardian’s Fist
The golem’s attacks are pretty basic melee, although you should feel free to give them a square or two of reach based on the size of the monsters.  Don’f forget that a golem with rage counters deals additional damage.  Feel free to use this attack at range as well, with a penalty to the attack roll, in order to punish snipers and runners.

Move Action: Made as One
If one of the golems has fallen, the other may spend a tenth of its maximum hit points to revive it’s twin with hit points equal to their bloodied value (or surge value if you want to make the encounter easier).  If the surviving golem has less than a tenth of its health remaining, it will use the ability anyway, and collapse unable to revive its companion.

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Tweaking the Encounter: This is a remarkably easy encounter to adjust in terms of difficulty, and while sometimes that may be as easy as adjusting numbers, often there will be more creative choices.
– Hitting a bloodied golem could add two Rage counters to the other, forcing the party to adjust tactics halfway through.
– Rage counters might also grant damage reduction to the hit that removes them, making it even less attractive to swap targets.
– A third enemy controlling the golems might be present.  All damage he takes is split between his golems until they fall, and hitting him adds a rage counter to BOTH constructs.
– Adding a third or fourth golem would make the encounter even harder, as heroes would have to be constantly removing counters by splitting their focus.

I enjoy this fight because it encourages the players to think outside of their comfort zone.  We like to work on a single target and switch when it drops, but this fight makes that difficult.  A poorly-timed action point can be disastrous, and an addiction to burst damage can be a fatal one.

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Posted in: Encounters, Gamecraft