Monster Analysis: Kevdak

Art by Bruno Wright

Our largest fight analysis, for the longest encounter in the series!

Thunderlord Kevdak

Kevdak vs. Grog

Between the initial death match between Grog and Kevdak and the little information Matt told us about the former Thunderlord at the end of Episode 52, we know that Kevdak had 6 superiority dice (Fighter Battle Master), knew the Disarming, Sweeping, and Riposte attacks, used his Second Wind bonus action, and was NOT given an opportunity to unleash his Action Surge. On top of this, he also benefited as Totem of the Bear Barbarian, which granted him resistance to all damage, requiring double the damage of his HP to take him down. (The totem also gave him advantage on Strength checks all the time, but between his rage and the Enlarge spell granted by the Titanstone Knuckles, this understandably never came into play.)

A few Critters have asked Kevdak’s Challenge Rating. Here’s what we’ve estimated:

  • Proficiency Bonus: +5
  • Defensive CR: 25
    • Armor Class: 18
    • Hit Points: ~310 (though for difficulty and the party’s sake, they had to actually deal ~620, NOT including the Heal!)
  • Offensive CR: 11
    • Attack Bonus: +14 with axe
    • Average damage per round: 50
    • STR Save DC: 20

With all this in mind, using the formula in the DMG (p274), we calculate that Kevdak, by himself without the assistance of anyone else, had a Challenge Rating of 18. Note that the hit point total does not include the additional Heal spell or Kevdak’s use of Second Wind, which, by the end of the fight, required a total of 804 damage before resistance.

So, no, we do not believe that Grog had a chance in a straight fight. We think four Grogs could have taken him, though probably with one casualty.

The Herd of Storms vs. Vox Machina

That brings us to Episode 52’s side of the encounter.

Greenbeard

  • First appearance: 51 Test of Pride
  • Level 13 Druid
  • Base Speed 30 ft
  • 125 damage taken (96 as a goliath), 21 HDYWYDT by Grog

Also in the fight:

  • 20 combatants
    • 4 archers (1 killed)
    • 15 melee combatants (0 killed)
    • 1 druid (0 killed)
  • 5 hostages
    • 4 killed (1 resurrected)
    • 1 escaped (1:33:00)

Figure 1: Surprise Round and Round Two Battle Map

When you’re trapped in combat with 22 hostiles, the most important role that can happen is containment. The surprise round, by design, offered a little bit of this. It is also difficult to take down that many enemies without using Area of Effect attacks, something to which most of the party did not have access. In this case, status spells and adequate distractions were the way to go, making the horde spread out their attacks.

The average damage of each attacker was about 10 points per attack. If all them always hit their mark, that’s an average of 20 points of damage per attacker per round. When there are 20 of them, that adds up REALLY fast. By the third round when Kevdak and Greenbeard were back in the battle, Vox Machina began to make their retreat as over half of the party had well less than half their total hit points. Even by the end of the battle, only a single archer fell from the mob’s side.

Figure 2: Round Three and Four Battle Map

And then there’s Greenbeard, the only other enemy with PC class levels. His Heal was a significant blow to the party’s progress, and his unseen Iron Monger strategy would have guaranteed that retreat was the only option (especially if the battle continued after Kevdak’s death). The encounter probably would have been somewhat easier had he been slain during the battle instead of afterward, but there also would have been no guarantee that Grog could have reached Kevdak for the kill.

Vox Machina’s Strategy

Scanlan was the uncontested MVP of this battle. First, he made excellent use of the Mythcarver’s Cutting Words bonus: the forced disadvantage on Kevdak ensured he was out of the fight for two whole rounds when the gnome cast Hold Person. Having both Kevdak and Greenbeard held for as long as they were allowed Vox Machina to deal an impressive amount of damage without fear of retribution- including cutting off one of Kevdak’s arms and rendering the other useless. It also allowed Grog to take possession of the Bloodaxe, and left only a single spellcaster in play for two rounds.

Second, Scanlan’s inspired use of Counterspell to block the potential 5d8 healing spell ensured that Kevdak had to use one of his actions to use Second Wind, rather than attacking an extra time. Scanlan’s inspiration allowed Grog to take less damage against Vex’s Hail of Thorns, keeping him alive long enough to get into the Raven’s Slumber Crystal. Both of Scanlan’s uses of the Wand of Fireballs did a lot of damage to the combatants (though we won’t talk about the peasants that also died as a result…).

Finally, he was able to heal Pike for 7 points. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the third round, she had to make a choice whether to heal herself or use her spiritual weapon. Those extra seven points helped tip the scale for using the weapon, making Kevdak that much more vulnerable when Grog made his epic attack.

Screenshot from Veshkashaw

That’s not to say that the rest of the party’s contributions weren’t invaluable, either. Vex’s clutch rescue of Grog (as well as the choice to release him to finish the fight) ensured that the fight could actually be finished. Keyleth and Percy kept the archers distracted, keeping fire off of Grog. Vax and Percy followed behind Grog for total damage dealt to Kevdak, helping sever his arm so he couldn’t pick up and use the warhammer, only retreat. Even Pike’s incredible lack of luck drew attention away from Grog and the hostages.

We also have to give it to the dice, who, combined with Travis’s on-point roleplay this session, were the real storytellers. With a total of 16 Natural 20s (9 that were rolled by the DM) and 9 Natural 1s (6 rolled by the DM), the criticals were flying. It should also be pointed out that at least three of the player’s Natural 20s had an obvious impact on the direction of the story, which could have gone much further south otherwise. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: The dice are sometimes the best characters.

Final Commentary

With two enemies with class levels and 20 NPC combatants (15 melee combatants, 1 druid, and 4 archers), we estimate the challenge rating of the fight to be approximately 22. This also assumes that the party had to take out only one specific enemy while weathering the blows of everyone else until then. However, this might not have been true had Grog not dealt the killing blow, as Matt told us in a follow-up Periscope. Had they needed to take down every single individual, the CR rises to 30.

The difficulty was also extremely altered by the party by paralyzing Kevdak and Greenbeard and racking up a ton of attacks with advantage against them in the first half of the fight. The latter half showed a little more of what would have happened had Scanlan not taken them out of combat. The amount of health remaining among the PCs at the end was also a testament to that.