I GM for what’s currently a party of five, but given what they faced and defeated in the past, you’d think they were an army of players. They are overpowered, so to speak. Now, this is by design. I homebrew my own magic items, and didn’t want to worry about whether certain things were or were not attunement, what combinations could be generated using both book items and my homebrew items, what would frustrate the players in terms of being able to use their favorite gear, etc. So, I throughout the three attunement rule, and simply let the players attuned to his many items as they wanted. I in turn scaled the difficulty curve.
This worked out well for a time; the players got extraordinarily powerful, I got to throw increasingly cooler and tougher monsters at them, and the players received (or crafted) more interesting magic items. At this point though, challenging the players is, well, proving to be a challenge! I find myself funneled into the “one giant encounter per day” strategy. The players have a number of resistances to elemental damage (I think acid’s the only exception), they have a paladin with a +5 charisma modifier in the party, Etc. On top of that, these players received a boon from a deity earlier in the campaign. Many of these players chose magic resistance, which gives them advantage on saving throws against spells or other magical effects. The aforementioned Paladin wields a holy crusader, which also grants this effect to anyone within 10 feet of him.
That’s a very long winded way of saying “My players have lots of resistances to and interrupts for my typical means of challenging them.”
Now, I’ve found another means of challenging the players that isn’t covered by this particular essay; creatures who do lots of damage dice and hit often. I don’t employ those frequently, not frequently enough anyways. But again, not covered by this essay. I need a different series of homebrew monsters/mechanics to rely on.
Enter Psionics! The other night I brought out some Kuo-Toa to attack the players (and give a nod to my first DM Matt, who established a tabletop tradition of them screaming “SACRIFIIIIIIIIIIIICE”). Now, several of these fish-men were spellcasters. One of them I made a Mystic, using the UA article as a baseline. What I found amusing was the mystic was far more terrifying, and roughly equivalent in strength to the 5 spellcasters. “Make me a dex save. This isn’t magic, by the way.”
I was greeted with scared looks all around!
Now, the Mystic class is a total mess, but it’s the sort of mess you can pick through and butcher for your own needs. In my tradition of making a Hobgoblin legion or faction for everything, here come the Seers. These Seers will take beats from my Lord of Brackas RPG version, which does a great deal to distinguish psionics and spellcasting.
I should, now thinking on it, have a simple attack available to these Seers. “Lots of psychic damage, int save for half”, should do nicely. Switching away from the “complex list of abilities to make you do stuff” should be nice, for a chance. I’ll leave that stuff to the players to enjoy.
TLDR use brain stuff against players you can’t challenge.
One of these days I’ll get better about the long winded stuff, but hey, there’ll be a follow-up post on how it went, along with examples of statblocks and abilities.