This idea was brought on by recent discussions of save-or-die, as well as omnipresent lamentation of the way solo monsters get brought down by status effects in 4e, and finally something I have touched upon in a past post: intuitively, it should be harder to trip a dragon than it is to trip a goblin. But how, and why?
Because a dragon is a solo monster. This suggests that it should be tougher, not to mention more dignified than to spend half the battle on its back. A spell that would stop a goblin’s heart should merely give it hiccups. See the common thread? Status effects inflicted upon solo monsters should be inherently weaker. This is what the +5 bonus to saves tried to achieve, but we all know how that fared. This is tangentially related to the thought that power is different from level, and that solo/elite/standard/minion actually describe the difference in tiers between a monster and the PCs. Now, what can we do?
Here’s a house rule for ya. Consider the following sequences of status effects, all going from the most severe to the least severe:
dead->stunned->dazed->grant combat advantage
thrown down (prone, but takes a standard action to stand up)->prone->unbalanced (grant CA, minor action to regain balance)
dominated, has full set of actions and can be ordered to use encounter or daily powers->dominated->make a basic attack at the start of its turn as a free action or slide its speed
blinded and deafened (hard to even guess the square to attack)->blinded (enemies have total concealment) -> enemies have partial concealment
When a Solo gets subjected to any of these effects, simply downgrade it by one step. So a power that makes its target stunned would only daze a Solo. This is the core, reasonably safe option. It should solve most of the Solo problems, significantly reducing their need to rely on exception-based status effect avoidance.
As you probably noticed, I’ve also included nastier steps in the effect sequences. They’re there for those brave enough to experiment. If Solos are a tier above the PCs, Elites are on the same tier as them and Standard monsters are a tier below, why not make status effects hit Standard monsters harder? Well, its obvious why not: standard monsters are called that for a reason, as they’re the ones the characters face most often, and all of their powers are measured against them. So this is only to be attempted with extreme caution, and will affect your encounter composition and dynamics. Still, it gives your players a chance to enjoy powerful effects even at low character levels, without you having to worry they will wreck your important creatures.
Kill seven with one swing
An unrelated bonus. For those rare situations when you want your epic heroes to face off against a mundane threat – a threat so lowly, it’s not even minions to them. A minion mob. Made up of 5-10 mundane tier enemies.
This stat block is from our 4eLite test game, in which epic level 10 fey kings were fighting off an invasion of a fomorian despot. Should you so wish, it’s trivial to convert the stat block back to regular 4e (making them level 20+), or just use the idea for your own monsters.