Tactics and Tips
Monster Maneuvers (Part 2)
By Owen K.C. Stephens

Winning Tactics for Vrocks

Running a fight where adventurers take on several monsters can be frustrating for a Dungeon Master. While a player has plenty of time to contemplate her character's next move while other players enact their decisions, the DM has to run all the NPCs and pay attention to everything for the whole fight. To help the overworked get some planning power back, we're providing Monster Maneuvers, a series of Tactics and Tips articles that shows how monsters can become more effective combatants. We begin with Winning Tactics for Demons, to offset the Minions of the Abyss series of advice for adventurers. Having looked at general advice for running demons last time, we now look at specific advice for vrocks.

Vrock Victories

Vrocks are a good example of demons with options that remain easy to run as a DM. A vrock can fly, fight well in melee, damage and stun foes near it, boost its combat ability (or the ability of an ally, if a vrock is so inclined) and in large numbers deal massive damage in an area. What vrocks don't have is a respectable long-range threat or Flyby Attack, which might help them get mired in losing melee contests if they aren't both careful and swift.

Getting Ready

A vrock has some options if it knows it's getting into a battle. The first question is this: Does it have time (and fellow vrocks enough) to do a dance of ruin? If attacking from a very well-concealed position (tunnels beneath a castle or under guise of illusions provided by allies), causing 20d6 points of damage to their foes is a great way to start a battle. This is rarely going to be an option, but if it is, the vrocks need to seize it. Sadly once battle has begun, no vrock trio is likely to finish a dance of ruin unless their foes are badly outnumbered. In most cases, it's not even worth trying.

Even if the dance isn't practical, a vrock can make use of even just 1 or 2 rounds before combat (or while flying in to combat if other demons can take the first round or two of ranged attacks). A vrock's heroism is nice if time allows for it -- and it always should. A vrock can use the ability once a day, and it lasts 2 hours. When writing out a statistics block for the vrock, include the heroism bonuses (with the original numbers in place as well, in case the heroism is dispelled).

Similarly, a vrock that receives any hint of a forthcoming battle (and with +24 on their Listen and Spot checks, vrocks often hear trouble coming well in advance) should put up its mirror image. The spell may not last more than a round against foes ready to drop images quickly, but that's still a round of attacks blunted. This ability is at will, so a vrock need not worry about wasting it. If a lull in battle leaves a vrock no good targets, putting the mirror image effect back up is always worthwhile.

Opening Salvo

A vrock (or small group of vrocks) needs to get in close to vulnerable targets fast, and unleash a few special abilities before resorting to melee attacks. Vrocks do best by getting closer to "soft" targets for their special attacks before heavily armored paladins with holy weapons can draw their full attention.

Every 3 rounds, a vrock can unleash spores that damage every adjacent creature. These don't allow a save, and they deal 1d8 points of damage initially, plus 10d4 points of damage total over the course of 10 rounds. While 1d4 a round doesn't sound like much, consider the impact of three vrocks all infecting a wizard or sorcerer with spores -- the spellcaster with low hit points would be taking 3d4 points of damage a round, or an average of 7.5 points of damage per round. Since the spores are a free action for the vrock and can be used every 3 rounds, definitely take advantage of them. To help with keeping on top of when the spores are next available, write yourself a reminder wherever you keep track of the vrock's initiative. Multiple vrocks should concentrate their spore attacks if possible so that they can force a few targets to take multiple d4s of points of damage each round. Since the spores are negated by neutralize poison, it's reasonable to claim they are a poison effect and tanar'ri are immune, though this is not explicitly stated.

The vrock's other special attack that should be called out early is its stunning screech. This can be done only once per hour, but it is a supernatural ability (thus it does not provoke attacks of opportunity) with a good radius and a high Fortitude save. This is an excellent way to force rogues and arcane spellcasters to lose a round of action and leave themselves vulnerable. Unlike the spores, which vrocks should use together, the stunning screeches should be staggered. If three vrocks each make a screech on three successive rounds, there's a chance a foe may lose multiple rounds of action. And the screech does not affect demons, making it perfect for massed attacks.

In addition a vrock can use greater teleport and telekinesis. Of course with Concentration +20, a vrock needs to roll a 10 for telekinesis and 12 for greater teleportation, making them iffy propositions to flee a losing fight. Teleporting away is a good choice for a last resort, but the abilities are better used earlier, or in tandem with a blocker to keep foes from melee range. A vrock may teleport into close combat with weaker foes, placing itself so that it's difficult for fighters and rogues to reach or flank it. It may also use telekinesis while flying over a battle to disarm foes. Front-line fighters are unlikely to fail opposed checks from the spell, but a vrock might well disarm a wizard of her staff, a rogue of her melee weapons, or a cleric of his magic item of healing. Softening up foes in this way pays heavy dividends later on, especially if it can be done while other fiends are already engaging the heroes.

Fiendish Fighting

After proper preparation and an opening wave of attacks, a vrock is likely to find itself mired in melee combat with foes prepared to kill demons. A 9th-level paladin with a holy sword can be expected to have an attack bonus of +19/+14 or more, meaning the vrock has little chance of being missed once the mirror image ends. If the paladin deals a mere 25 points of damage on average per blow, the vrock is going to survive only 5 rounds of direct combat with that one character. There's no good way for the vrock to boost its Armor Class, so its only defense is a strong offense or good maneuvering.

A full attack routine from a vrock is five strikes ranging from +15 to +13 (+17 to +15 with heroism). Even if all those hit, the vrock is doing an average of 52.5 points of damage per round. Realistically the vrock can expect to do between one-half to one-third of that, or 26 to 17 points of damage per round. That means over the 5 rounds it's lively to survive in combat with just one prepared 9th-level foe, the vrock deals about 82 points of damage -- less than it takes in the same time, and less than it probably needs to drop its target. A vrock forced into direct melee combat with even one well-equipped 9th-level front-line fighter loses a fair fight. Opening tactics may swing things in the vrock's favor, but few fiends want to count on that.

If possible, the vrock should use reach to its advantage. A vrock that can get within range of a spellcaster forces defensive casting checks, and the vrock has Combat Reflexes to take advantage of any attacks of opportunity that come up. A position that prevents rogues from flanking is also useful if one exists. Rather than fly to such a locale, the vrock may wish to teleport in, both avoiding attacks of opportunities and granting an element of surprise.

Development

Vrocks can advance up to 30 Hit Dice, earning an additional seven feats, and they gain one feat with just 2 additional Hit Dice. Nothing boosts a vrock's survivability more than Hover (MM 304). This allows a vrock to hover just above a foe, using reach to make full attack actions on an enemy below them while being out of reach of many weapons. Even better, it creates a cloud that conceals the vrock from ranged attacks made from safe distances, and it forces concentration checks from nearby spellcasters.

After Hover, an advanced vrock may wish to increase its stunning screech's DC with Ability Focus, increase its maneuverability with Flyby Attack, and take Improved Natural weapons and Improved Natural Armor for any remaining feat slots.

About the Author

Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens was born in 1970 in Norman, Oklahoma. He attended the TSR Writer's Workshop held at the Wizards of the Coast Game Center in 1997 and moved to the Seattle area in 2000, after accepting a job as a Game Designer at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Fourteen months later, he returned to Oklahoma with his wife and three cats to pick up his freelance writer/developer career. His credits include author and coauthor credits on numerous Star Wars and EverQuest projects, as well as Bastards and Bloodlines from Green Ronin. He also has producer credits for various IDA products, including the Stand-Ins printable figures.

About the Author

Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens was born in 1970 in Norman, Oklahoma. He attended the TSR Writer's Workshop held at the Wizards of the Coast Game Center in 1997 and moved to the Seattle area in 2000, after accepting a job as a Game Designer at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Fourteen months later, he returned to Oklahoma with his wife and three cats to pick up his freelance writer/developer career. His credits include author and coauthor credits on numerous Star Wars and EverQuest projects, as well as Bastards and Bloodlines from Green Ronin. He also has producer credits for various IDA products, including the Stand-Ins printable figures.


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