Powergaming can be a lot of fun to see your build doing exactly what you’ve engineered it to do, but for GMs, it can often be difficult to balance. Today we explore the idea of using the mythic system to help find the way.
Dear DovahQueen: I have been the DM of a Pathfinder campaign for the past few years. I have found that my players can defeat even my powerful bosses with ease, thanks to action economy. While the obvious answer to this problem is to give bosses minions, I have been considering a different solution. While the campaign I run is not mythic, I have thought about giving certain bosses mythic ranks in order to give my players more of a challenge. However, I’m not sure if doing this will be unfair to my players, and if it may even make boss fights too powerful for them to handle. Would bosses with mythic ranks be a bad idea?—An Uncertain DM
Dear Uncertain: I don’t think it’s a rare occurrence that a GM has to deal with varying shades of powergaming at their table. While it may perhaps be less common that they’re able to find the good balance for their party, it’s certainly something that is doable. I think the most common solution is to simply increase the CRs of the monsters. You bring up another good option to introduce minions. I’m pretty intrigued by the idea of introducing mythic ranks to monsters that weren’t normally mythic. What you’re essentially doing is adding more lateral options to the boss rather than merely increasing the math. I’ve spent some time developing for Pathfinder’s first edition, and most of that time was in mythic monster design. I was taught by a very trusted friend of mine that a hallmark of good game design is increasing features laterally rather than numerically whenever possible. What this means is that it’s better to give a class, monster, or feat something new to do rather than a blanket +2 to Longswords or some such thing. So if you’re giving the choice to just slap a bonus on the boss to increase the CR, you could, but you might be better served doing something more interesting like giving it a mythic rank or two.
The way you balance it shouldn’t be too terribly difficult. The SRD has the rules for modifying an existing monster to have mythic ranks. Some things are going to increase numerically; it’s the nature of the beast when the mythic subtype hit it. After these boosts, you’ll want to recalculate the monster’s CR with the Table: Monster Statistics by CR. This way you have a good understanding of what you’re going to be throwing at your players. But, applying the mythic subtype and ranks is only the first half of making your boss mythic. After that, you gotta give them some really cool new abilities. I’ve written forest dragons that animate trees and water dragons that summon tsunamis. Be creative; this is where you make your boss unique. A boss modified this way should surely be one that vexes your players since they’re unused to whatever it’s about to throw at them. Instead of writing a new ability, you could also grant it something more mundane and unexpected. There’s no reason one of your abilities couldn’t remove the acid weakness from Mr. Troll Bossman. Just, again, make sure you recalculate the boss’s CR so you have an idea what kind of power you’re about to subject your players to. If the CR just obviously increases too much for them to handle, consider *actually* making the whole the game mythic? If it’s a new system to your players, and some of them have obviously already figured out how to powergame where they’re at now, a new(ish) system might put them all back in square one.
I’d like to spend a moment to give a little bit more credit to the idea of adding minions as well. I do think that mythic ranks are a neat and fun way to address this problem, but too much of any good thing becomes a bad thing. Consider writing mythic ranks for one boss and then adding minions for another? It’s important to keep your players on their toes; you always want them on the edge of their seat guessing about what comes next.
And on top of that, if your players have prepared really well, and you feel like they’ve earned it, make just let them go ham on a boss. Sometimes, it’s fun to struggle and rise to the challenge, but other times its fun to just let go and really teach the BBG a lesson that won’t be soon forgotten.
I think you’re onto something, Uncertain. Try it out and write me back; I’d love to hear how it went.
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