Monster Analysis: Kern the Hammer, Round 2

Thanks to hankered-waistline for letting us use her sketch! Check out the rest of her sketches!

  • Episode 23: THE REMATCH
  • Armor Class 19
  • Full 1d4+6 per hit
  • Multi-Class: Level 10 Barbarian, Level 1 Monk
  • Feat: Tough (increased HP [PHB], decreased vulnerability [story])
  • 134 Damage before Relentless Endurance kicked in
  • HDYWTDT (Inspired Goliath Punch) by Grog the Victorious

Kern’s new style

In Orion’s words, “He monked up!” By multiclassing into a level 1 monk, Kern’s hits used the full 1d4+6 instead of the 1d4(½)+6. It also introduced the Patient Defense ability, enabling him to use an attack and then Dodge as a bonus action, rather than dodging under a full action.

While this increased his ability to brawl in a battle, the Monk option did limit the amount of HP he gained the next level. This limitation was offset by the Tough feat, but it also made the difference between 134 hp and 140. Strategically, though, “monking up” was a wise choice for a barbarian NPC who only uses his fists.

What went right

Grog approached this battle with significantly more strategy than the last battle. Drinking the Potion of Stone Giant’s Strength before the match, describing attacks intended to blind and stun, and using Stone’s Endurance to half a critical hit were all wise moves. Grog also remembered to use Relentless Rage to stay in the game this time around, and it was well-spent. Travis came up with creative solutions in the fight versus the mechanically superior abilities of Kern, keeping the damage race close in spite of the dice.

What went wrong

The dice. Kord’s Strength, the dice. Kern rolled three Natural 20s to Grog’s one. Both Grog and Kern lost their Nat20′s by disadvantage, and Grog wisely spent Stone’s Endurance to half damage from the first critical. Grog’s three attempts to finish the fight in the penultimate round also should have been the end of it. (Update: with a +10 attack modifier, his chance of success stood at 93.6%).

Grog had more attacks than Kern over the full fight by virtue of Grog’s frenzied rage and stunning Kern for a turn. His hit-to-miss ratio was significantly closer than Kern’s, albeit with weaker damage.

Grog forgot to add his increased attack modifier due to his rage. Matt pointed out that the battle may have ended sooner had he remembered, but we understand getting lost in the moment!

Our Take on the Final Rounds

As Matt pointed out to critics, Kern did not throw the match by taking a defensive stance. We have to agree with him; strategically, Kern had many more options than multiple attacks. Remember that turns take place only in the meta-game. The characters are merely trading blows when openings arise. When Kern (who does not have Relentless Rage) saw Grog come back from the brink of failure himself (and able to weather at least one more finishing blow), the half-orc was not going to go all-or-nothing. Kern looked for the weak spot, took a chance, then defended himself.

Matt allowed both Grog and the party to attempt to contribute to the fight, re-leveling the challenge while putting checks in place to prevent the scales tipping too far. (Three arrests, Keyleth! THREE.)  Grog explained in (rather graphic) detail what he wanted to do, and Matt described Kern’s actions and reactions. By doing this, the players AND the DM have a lot more impact on the direction of the story, rather than sitting back and letting a random number generator dictate what happens. If this was the type of campaign in which we cared about only the numbers, it would not have been popcorn-worthy, or have given so many of us alarming heart rates.

Travis didn’t specify he was going for the stun, but based on the described moves and the circumstances leading up to it, Matt found a situation where a stun was definitely plausible under circumstances set up by both the story and the dice. (This after explaining away that Tough prevented Kern from getting stunned the first time!) Also, lipless Grog was a psychological loss if I ever saw one.

Travis played this smart, and the dice did not reward him for it. Matt readjusted the challenge on the fly using the tools already in play. Sometimes the dice tell an unrealistic story and need to be reigned in. The referee has room for interpretation, and we agree with the final call.

Also, that victory was so damn sweet.