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  • [Pirates of Pugmire] Captain Blackwing - Scourge of the Acid Sea

    I present to you Captain Blackwing, Scourge of the Acid Sea – legendary villain, worst of the worst from Pirates of Pugmire. Loosely based on real world Blackbeard ( hence the name ), was invented as idea by my partner for our game. I just make all the crunch and lore. When finished, after Pirates premier, I may publish him on Canis Minor.

    Note: Character is based to be used with Pugmire or Mau corebooks. There are few options to choose from it, marked with lower letters for (p)ugmire and (m)au. Use the one you have corebook for.

    Captain Blackwing (Queen Maria’s Twelve Pearls)

    Captain Blackwing is one of most ruthless, most vicious crow pirates which bore the Acid Sea. He spent all his life on the sea. Starting as the gunner on his first ship, just after ending being nestling, he always loved roar of cannon fire. Later in his life he uncovered witches talents in him to control living and dead – that now both makes up of his crew. Rumors says it that titular ‘Queen Maria’ of his ship was the one women that stole his heart. Or that taught him his black magics.

    Captain Blackwing (CR 9) / Statsy bez poprawek /
    People: Birds – Crows
    Callings*: Gundog ( Gunner ) / Rimmer ( Witch )
    Background: Sailor
    Primary abilities: Constitution and Dexterity
    Defense: 14 (leather armor)
    Stamina Points: 73
    Speed: 30 feet/30 feet flying
    Proficiency Bonus: +6
    Abilities: Strength -1 (8), Dexterity +3 (16), Constitution +2 (14), Intelligence +1 (13), Wisdom +0 (10), Charisma +2 (15)

    Skills: Balance, Bluff, Intimidate, Know Nature, Sense Motive, Survive
    Attack: Cutlass (+9 melee, 1d10+3 piercing), flintlock (+9 ranged, 1d10+3 piercing)
    Knacks**: Simple Weapon Aptitude, Martial Weapon Aptitude, Light
    Armor Aptitude, Medium Armor Aptitude, Glide, Pistoleer, Quick Draw (p)/Precise Attack (m)

    Spells: (m)
    • Basic – Eldritch Blast
    • 1st Level – Chill Touch, Detect Magic
    • 2nd Level – Magic Armour, Misty Step
    • 3rd Level – Blink, Ocean Mist ( PoP )
    • 4th Level – Animate Dead, Black Tendrils
    Spell Slots: 36

    Advancements ( incorporated in to stats )
    • 2nd Level – Precise Attack Refinement – Melee or ranged attacks
    • 3rd Level – Magic Tricks Knack
    • 4th Level – Precise Attack Refinement – 1d8 to damage
    • 5th Level – Magic Tricks Refinement – Higher Spell Levels ( 2nd Level )
    • 6th Level – Ability score raising – Charisma – New Skill: Balance
    • 7th Level – Magic Tricks Refinement – Higher Spell Levels ( 3rd Level )
    • 8th Level – Ability score raising – Dexterity – New Skill: Sense Motive
    • 9th Level – Magic Tricks Refinement – Higher Spell Levels ( 4th Level )
    * Blackwing use mechanics of Gundogs Calling, but can takes spells from Rimmers list also.
    ** Choose one of Knacks with ‘/’ base on if you have Pugmire or Mau corebooks.

    Queen Mari’s Crew

    Queen Mari’s Crew is all 9 Zombies Animals that Blackwing risen. They are semi-independent, following their roles in their lives, with Blackwing only needing to recast Animate Dead spell on sunset for crewmembers to work on Queen. Beside Strength or Dexterity rolls, you can use Blackwing stats for ships tests, as he is, in reality, piloting it by zombies hands.

    / I’m thinking about making them CR 2 or CR 3 upgraded zombies, with much more intellect, like revenants from Chronicles of Darkness. Not sure on this still. /

    Crew members names:
    Holt "Hunter" Hitch
    Oscar "Shiny" Manhire
    Jonas "Shanties" Shiver
    Patrick "Rattler" Curses
    Vince "Shivers" Fiddick
    Toby “Bones" Salt
    Mack "Scoundrel" Bruce
    Tom "Sly" Locke

    Opal "Story" Inch
    Mary " Magpie" Timbers
    Helen "Rats Queen" Glynn
    Liza "One-Eyed" Locke
    Lou "Mackerel" Drown
    Ella "Tide" Yelland

    I really like you comments on this – especially from @Seraph Kitty on mechanics.
    Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-21-2019, 01:30 AM.


    My stuff for Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E & BtP
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  • #2
    I don’t have access to Pirates of Pugmire, so I couldn’t factor in Glide, Pistoleer, or Ocean Mist; but here’s my evaluation of the rest.

    I’m going to start by evaluating CR, using the guidelines in the D&D5E DMG (273-281) adjusted to the Making More Enemies table from Monarchies of Mau* (210). Then I’ll have a ‘lessons learned’ and some final thoughts.



    The CR in a stat block is actually an average of the monster’s offensive and defensive ratings. The baseline for these ratings is the monster’s damage per round and their Stamina Points, respectively; these baselines are then adjusted by their other stats (attack bonus or save DC, and defense) as well as special abilities that factor into combat – which we reference using DMG 280-281 and the Monster Manual.

    Defensive Challenge Rating
    Stamina Points is the most important factor in the dCR, but we’ve already kind of chosen what that baseline rating is when we set the Stamina Points. Pugmire tells you to multiply the Hit Dice + Con modifier by the CR rating to determine Stamina. So we’re working a little backward from those guidelines, but at least it will be easy.
    I’m not entirely sure how Wyrd settled on 73 Stamina. It could be that he adjusted that number down after the fact to compensate for higher stats elsewhere; there could be a PoP ability I don’t know about that’s affecting it; it could be typo. My best guess, though, is that he meant 72, which would be a Hit Die of d6, plus his two Con, multiplied by CR 9.
    So we will set his baseline dCR at 9.

    After figuring out the baseline from Stamina, we make adjustments based on Defense and special abilities. His listed Defense is 14 – which would be light armor +3 Dex. But if we check his spells, we see “Magic Armor” which sets it at 13 +Dex – so we should expect a Defense of 16.

    He has two other spells which might factor into his defenses: Misty Step and Blink. Misty Step lets you teleport 30 feet as a bonus action. This is functionally similar to the “Teleport” ability, as seen in Blink Dogs. The DMG says that it doesn’t provide enough of a boost to adjust dCR.

    Blink gives you a 50% chance to vanish at the end of your turn and reappear at the start of your next turn, being untargettable in the meantime. And it lasts 1 minute, and doesn’t even take concentration! Blackwing will definitely have this active all for the full encounter. But there’s not really a comparable monster ability until we look at its effects closely. When Blink works, PCs can’t attack him on their turns, but they can declare a readied action “I attack when he reappears”, and hit him as a reaction at the start of his turn. This means that PCs can still attack, but can’t use an Action, Bonus Action, and Reaction all on the same turn – they have to choose one of the three.
    The closest ability this mimics is “flyby” where a flying creature stays out of range (untargettable), until they swoop in to attack, at which point everyone uses their readied attack. Blink is similar, but less reliable (flying creatures can use that effect every round, Blink has a 50% chance to activate). Nevertheless, even flyby does not warrant a defensive adjustment, so Blink certainly doesn’t.

    However, flying in itself can adjust dCR. If a monster can fly and make ranged attacks, you increase it’s effective Defense by +2. Blackwing has a flying speed listed, and can make ranged attacks, so that will apply. I don’t know if the Glide knack changes how that works.

    Finally, saving throws can tweak dCR, but only if they are proficient in three or more of them. With only two save proficiencies, there’s no adjustment.

    So the baseline dCR is 9. It’s highest Defense is 16, +2 from flying. At an effective Defense of 18, it is 2 points higher than the suggested Defense, so we step up it’s dCR by 1 rating.
    Defensive CR is 10.



    Offensive Challenge Rating
    The primary factor for offenses is its damage per round. We’re going to have to examine this a lot in order to get an estimate for that. And it’s going to rely on quite a few assumptions. So I’m going to spell out the process for estimating it, explain why I made the choices I did, and then crunch the math for an encounter to estimate our DPR to set our baseline oCR. Afterwards, it’s going to be modified by either Attack Bonus or Save DC, and any relevant abilities.

    For oCR, where damage is variable, the best practice is to plan out three combat rounds, making the most efficient choices to maximize damage, and average them together. This includes everything the monster can do, from attacks, buffs, reactions, legendary abilities – whatever. We assume that it blows any one-off abilities, or does any set up necessary. For example, if it can do a burst damage for 1 attack when it hits half HP, we assume that happens the first round for our DPR estimate, as this is supposed to be a metric of the entire encounter.
    For this, we will assume that any abilities the monster has that only occur in certain circumstances are going to be active. Basically, if it’s listed in the stat block, we assume he has it for all three rounds. However, we do not include things like attacks of opportunity, or anything which relies on a player’s choices. The abilities, let alone the tactics, of the PCs are entirely unpredictable, so we don’t factor it in at all to the monster’s evaluation. Remember, monsters are supposed to be a predictable tool the Guide can employ; CR has to be based on controllable metrics, because they’re going to be pitted against a totally uncontrollable element. Therefore, we don’t make assumptions about the PCs, like they can fly or will dispell magic or anything else.
    We also assume that any AOE ability will affect 2 players on each opportunity. This is a “conservative” measure – we make a pretty likely, but optimistic assumption about how the dice will fall, so that we can estimate how difficult the encounter will be. We make this assumption totally independent from the Save DC or its radius, or what-have-you. Save DC gets factored in later, but we can’t predict the PCs saving throw bonus; radius can be restrictive, but the monster wouldn’t use it unless it his multiple people. Furthermore, a lot of AOE abilities have a “half damage on successful save” rule, so even if multiple people pass, it adds together. It’s not a perfect metric, and Blackwing’s AOE does not have the ½ on success rule, so our estimate is going to be extra optimistic. But I’m going to file this of “a slight skew in the player’s advantage is acceptable” category; we don’t have a better metric on hand that we can use, and it’ll be close enough to be valuable – plus the spell can apply the Incapacitate condition, which is an advantage we aren’t going to factor. So we’re going to consider this a good enough metric.

    I’m also going to make some assumptions about the encounter which maximize this damage. For one thing, I’m going to assume that Blackwing can choose the staging area, and picks a very advantageous one for him – a fairly small, enclosed area, where he can fly at leisure and rain hell upon his enemies. I’m also going to assume that he has a chance to cast all the buffs he wants before the fight – he’s aware of intruders coming after him, and can buff himself / gather minions, but will save any environmental effects or set-ups for attacks until his enemies reveal themselves.
    And I’m going to assume that Blackwing rolls the highest initiative. He has a +3 and advantage, so that’s actually pretty likely, and it’s actually going to have an impact on how the spell mechanics work. Again, this is going to give us an “optimistic” or a “conservative” estimate for his damage. It might end up higher in our evaluation than it works out in game. But that will help us get to the middle ground of ‘likely outcome’ between a scenario where our players avoid a round of damage, and a scenario where multiple PC suffer full damage.



    So with those processes and assumptions laid out, what’s Blackwing’s most effective strategy?
    We can just look at the damage output for each ability (spells included), and choose the highest ones. For Blackwing, that means casting Black Tentacles on round 1 (he wins initiative, so all PCs start their turn in the effect on round one), then flying above them, attacking with his flintlock pistol (which we assume benefits from Precise Attack). We assume he’s able to pick the field of battle, such that the PCs can’t simply move out of the area for Black Tentacles. And we assume he has several spells already cast: Magic Armor, Blink, and Animate Dead.

    Now, Animate Dead poses a challenge for us in a couple of ways.
    • The first is written exactly in his stat block: he maintains a crew of 9 zombies, refreshing them every sundown. This implies to me that his combat encounter assumes he will have 9 CR1 zombie minions with him, minimum, in an encounter. And that makes it hard to estimate the encounter difficulty, beyond Blackwing’s stat block. Pugmire doesn’t spell out good advice for how to mix-match PC level against enemy CR. I don’t know how to estimate how difficult an encounter of 1CR9 + 9CR1 monsters against a party – any party, of any level or number of PCs. D&D does have some guidelines for building encounters that would let us estimate this, but monster have different stat metrics in the two systems (namely Stamina), so that’s not going to be very helpful for us either.
      I’m going to address this by factoring the zombies into his stat block as additional attack damage (and by assuming he always has Precise Attack available). And I’m going to assume that the party kills all of the zombies pretty quickly – within 2 rounds. My logic for this is, as a CR9 monster, Blackwing is probably aimed to challenge higher-level PCs, who can dish out enough damage to mow down a zombie in one attack – maybe even two of them, with like “cleave” or “Fireball”. Now, I said I shouldn’t make assumptions about player choices, and I shouldn’t, but I don’t have a lot of better ideas on hand. And it feels like a fairly safe assumption. At least enough to ballpark their impact. And I’m going to assume a the group of PCs takes down, like, 5 each round. Even a smaller group of PCs could take down a bunch with AOEs, and even a larger group could miss an attack or two.
    • The second problem is what CR we’re going to use. Wyrd mentioned probably using buffed up zombies of CR 2 or 3. Without stats for them, I’m going to default to what I have on hand, with CR1 zombies. So that was an easy problem.
    • The third problem is how many zombies will we end up with? 9 crew members are mentioned, but Blackwing has 36 spell slots. Our core strategy (Magic Armor + Blink + Black Tentacles) only uses 9 slots. Blackwing has to refresh his control over his crew every day; each casting of Animate Dead refreshes 4 minions. I’m going to round that up to refreshing all of his crew with 2 castings; he’s an NPC, he can fudge it. That’ll cost 8 slots per day. So we’re left with 19 spell slots to play with. And with no better spell options for damage throughout an encounter, why not have more zombie minions? He can cast Animate Dead 4 more times when heroes invade his ship, and have 3 slots left over in case he needs Detect Magic or something. That gives us 13 zombies.
    So, in summary, I’m going to address Animate Dead thusly: Blackwing starts combat with 13 zombies; the PCs destroy 5 per turn; zombies attack before the party, giving them at least one hit before they’re cleared. And we’re going to include the zombies’ attacks in Blackwing’s DPR in absence of better rules for estimating the difficulty of mixed-CR encounters.

    Now we’re ready for the numbers.
    Round 1: cast Black Tentacles, it hits 2 PCs (3d6 x2); 13 zombies attack (1d6+2 x13)
    Round 2: Ranged Attack (1d10+3) with Precise Attack (1d8); Black Tentacles hit twice (3d6 x2); 8 zombies attack (1d6+2 x8)
    Round 3: Ranged Attack (1d10+3) with Precise Attack (1d8); Black Tentacles hit twice (3d6 x2); 3 zombies attack (1d6+2 x3)

    When estimating dice outcomes, the DMG recommends dividing the size in half and adding .5. So a d6 averages 3.5 damage. Applying that to the rounds above, we get:
    Round 1: 21+71.5 =92.5
    Round 2: 13+21+44 =88
    Round 3: 13+21+16.5 =50.5
    … with an average of 77 damage per round

    Whew.

    When we check the chart for damage, this exceeds the recommendations for CR10. The DMG, which has the same scaling for damage, puts that at oCR12.



    From that baseline, we adjust based on either Attack Bonus or Save DC, whichever one comes up more often. For Blackwing, that’ll be his Save DC. If his zombies used his Attack Bonus, they would win out; otherwise Black Tentacle gets rolled the most. An oCR12 monster should have a spell save of 19 (if we continue the chart’s pattern). Blackwing’s is 15, which is 4 points lower, so we’re going to adjust his oCR downward 2 ratings.

    He doesn’t have any special abilities which modify it further, so his final oCR is 10.




    So we have a dCR of 10 and an oCR of 10, leading to an averaged final CR of 10.
    Blackwing is more challenging than we originally gave him credit for; if we use him as if he’s the listed CR of 9, he could be pretty deadly for our players.
    But, as I explain below, if we only give him his 9 crew members during the fight without additional minions, this reduces his final CR to 9 – so that is spot on for where Wyrd is aiming.


    Lessons Learned:
    We might have some flaws in our estimates.
    First, as mentioned above, Black Tentacles doesn’t have the “1/2 on successful” rule, which makes it a bit different from usual AOEs, so it’s possible the estimate of “it applies it’s full damage twice” is too generous. I’m still willing to call this part good enough, though, especially if he can choose the staging area to threaten all the PCs with it.
    But the zombies are a huge problem. Entering battle with 13 minions is a nightmare. Not only does that deal massive damage, but it’d be a pain in the arse to manage that battlefield – plus we still don’t have a good metric for building our encounter overall. Remember, we calculated the zombies as part of his DPR, but that’s not really an accurate way to gauge multi-enemy encounters.
    By the way, if we remove the additional uses of Animate Dead and only assume Blackwing enters combat with only his 9 crew members, his DPR drops to 53.5 – which matches an oCR of 8. This still gets adjusted down (only one step) due to the Save DC to 7, and gives us an average final CR of 8.5 (and you round up) = 9; which matches the expected CR!
    ...But then what is he spending spell slots on?
    However, if we don't factor zombies into his DPR at all (and we probably shouldn't; we should probably be figuring out his threat alone, then how he synergies with other creatures), his damage drops to 30 per round (29.67) - which is recommended for a CR4 monster. With an oCR that low, his Save DC does not adjusted it. So his averaged final CR would be 7.5 - rounded up to 8.
    So with only the damage he can personally sling, no minions, Blackwing is a weaker challenge than we were aiming for. But he has Animate Dead on his stat black, it should be factored into our assumptions somehow. I just don't know a good way to do that.


    Giving Blackwing spell slots was a really risky choice. Player Characters have to manage resources like spell slots and stamina die throughout a whole adventuring day; they have multiple encounters ahead of them, and can’t be certain when they’re going to rest or how hard the next fight will be. Monsters are statted for one encounter at a time; there’s no way to fairly estimate how many spell slots / stamina die they’ve used before the PCs show up, and they have no incentive to conserve any of them. So by giving Blackwing 36 spell slots, without any guidelines as to how many he should use throughout an encounter, we have no reason not to optimize his output – except for the headache it’ll give us to manage, and the excessive damage it could deal.

    Tacking on to that, giving Blackwing a spell list rather than defining abilities masked some of what he was capable of, and made it harder to figure out a good strategy for him. Misty Step, Eldrich Blast, and Chill Blast weren’t really factored into our strategy. I didn't mention Detect Magic above, but I mentally made a note that he could use it if a PC turned invisible or something. He’s got a lot going on – even with just the abilities we used – this is a pretty tactical fight. Having wider options and more rules to reference is going to add complexity, and time at the table.
    It’s not necessarily bad to have the abilities that he had, but listing them as spells made them a little less useful, and tempted me to exploit his spell slots for an overwhelming advantage. I mean, they are there to use, and the ability to use them should be factored into his difficulty. I would have definitely presented the options differently. Like, rather than have Eldrich Blast, I’d list “Spell Attack, +7 to hit, 1d10+1 force damage”; that way a Guide could quickly see that as an alternative if he had no allies to give him Precise Attack – but even then, it’s not as much damage as his pistol, so…


    Finally, we’re in quite a bind by having an encounter built of monsters from different CR ratings. Pugmire’s only guidelines tells us that one PC is roughly evenly matched for one monster of equivalent CR; it doesn’t tell us how monster of higher or lower CR should stack up.
    D&D gives us an XP budget to set encounter difficulty, which lets us mix-match CRs, but it’s built on the assumption that one monster is a moderate challenge for 4 PCs of equivalent level, and that difference in the core assumption means we can’t even use D&D’s guidelines to ballpark it. This is a gap in the system that I’d really like to see covered, and I don’t really have a good basis to make my own formula to estimate by.
    What I do know is that 1CR9 + 9CR1 probably won’t be a moderate challenge for a group of level 9 PCs. I can easily imagine somebody lighting off a fireball that kills all the zombies, leaving Blackwing alone against 4 equivalent level PCs; that would make for a very easy fight. Or, as we see above, if Blackwing and all his zombies get a strike in on the first round, they could easily deal enough damage to drop a PC – or several. If they get overwhelmed in round 1, this can turn into a pretty dire fight. Luck of the dice that swingy makes me nervous. Besides, I’d be hesitant to put that many monsters in a fight, just for how long and complex it’d be to resolve.
    My gut tells me, at CR 9 (which assumes only his crew-member zombies), Blackwing would probably be a tough challenge for a group of level 7 PCs.

    Given the difficulties with mismatching CR to level, I would strongly recommend building him as a legendary monster instead. If you did, you could decide what level players you want to pit Blackwing against, stat his a monster of that CR rating, then apply legendary bonuses to make him a boss fight – which he definitely reads like.
    Then again, legendaries only have the loose guidelines of “2-3 times the Stamina, and 2-3 times the damage”. So maybe as is, he’s a legendary CR 3 monster? (Although his Defense, Attack Bonus, and Save DC should probably be adjusted for that). I certainly wouldn’t expect a group of 3rd level PCs to fare well against him and all his crew members. But maybe with a few tweaks, they would have a good, difficult fight against him and 2-4 zombies.




    Overall, Blackwing is a really cool idea. Evil, spell-slinging pirate captain with a crew of zombies – fantastic. And, even just using a few of his spells to formulate a strategy, it pulled together into a tactically interesting and pretty frightening boss fight. The visual image of a bird pirate flying above his tentacle and zombie infested ship, firing potshots and then vanishing from existence – I can imagine that clearly as, like, a Kingdom Hearts boss fight, and it’s amazing.

    It’s clear from the write-up that you designed him using PC creation rules, though. I was pleasantly surprised when he came out to roughly the same CR as you were aiming for; I honestly didn’t expect that. But I still don’t recommend this route for designing monsters. It puts a lot of clutter on the stat bloc that becomes hard to keep track of, and it’s harder to pin the numbers down to estimate difficulty with. And PCs are meant to group up in a party - I don’t think Blackwing has the stats to hold up against a group of level 9 PCs, even with his zombies; if you approached it from the goal of creating a boss fight monster, I think you’d have an easier time balancing the encounter - by putting him an his minions closer together in level, and closer to the intended PC level, and using Legendary Monster adjustments to buff him up.
    For example, if you designed Blackwing and his crew all at level 3, with Blackwing being a legendary which has double the stats, it’d be easier to say he counts as two monsters (ie, a challenge for two 3rd level PCs), then you can add 1 zombie for each additional PC.



    So, final summary: this is a really cool idea, should be a really interesting fight, and the numbers are probably where you want them to be, but Animate Dead is a pretty big wrench for our encounter evaluation, and by giving him spell slots (rather than # per encounter, recharging, triggered, or legendary abilities) a Guide using him might go looking for crazy stuff to use them on - like way too many zombies, or stacking multiple instances of Black Tentacles.

    I hope that was helpful, and I feel honored being tagged in to comment on him.
    ~Seraph




    *: I chose to use the table from Monarchies of Mau, as that's where his spell list was coming from. It's important to note that Pugmire's table is slightly different - specifically it has different (higher) numbers for recommended Defense. If we used Pugmire's table, Blackwing's dCR would be 9 - putting his final CR at 7 (him alone), 8 (with his crew factored into his damage), or 10 (with 13 zombies factored into his damage) - slightly lower challenges. I suspect the difference between the tables in these books are due to how PCs stats for Dogs and Cats are different, but I'm not sure. Like I said, most of his spells came from Mau, so I thought it was better to use that table. I don't have Pirates - but I would probably use that table if I did, as he's listed as an enemy specifically for Pirates of Pugmire.
    Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 11-20-2019, 03:29 PM.


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    • #3
      Answering to Seraph comments... I only point it to that – I was building Blackwing by PCs rules in Pirates of Pugmire, Mau and Pugmire books. But I’m very glad for evalution from DMG perspective.

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      I don’t have access to Pirates of Pugmire, so I couldn’t factor in Glide, Pistoleer, or Ocean Mist; but here’s my evaluation of the rest.
      They are Knacks ( Tricks, Secrets and similar Feat-like abilities in RoP games ) and spell. Glide let’s Crows to omit obstacles, Pistoleer let’s character use gunpowder weapons – and Ocean Mist is spell summoning Acid Sea mists to area ( that is slightly acid ).

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      Defensive Challenge Rating
      I’m not entirely sure how Wyrd settled on 73 Stamina.
      I was using normal Realms of Pugmire character creation rules – Blackwing is 9th level Gundog – and this Calling have d8 Stamina Dices. I give him full 8 SP on 1st level and random generated rolls for rest of next 8 levels. Average was 5,5 SP, so we ended with 55 SP + 18 SP from CON bonus ( 9 * 2 SP ) = 73 SP finally. Something wrong with my math?

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      After figuring out the baseline from Stamina, we make adjustments based on Defense and special abilities. His listed Defense is 14 – which would be light armor +3 Dex. But if we check his spells, we see “Magic Armor” which sets it at 13 +Dex – so we should expect a Defense of 16.
      I overlooked ‘Magic Armor’ implications. But how we end with Defence 16? Oh, I see – Blackwing would all the time have Defence 14 in his light armor – but when casting ‘Magic Armor’, it will rise to Defence 16, right? And then we add +2 from flying thing ( see below ), to baseline Defence 16 and with Magic Armour 18, yes?

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      This means that PCs can still attack, but can’t use an Action, Bonus Action, and Reaction all on the same turn – they have to choose one of the three.
      Did not thought about it – but it’s really important thing to remember about using him as Guide.

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      However, flying in itself can adjust dCR. If a monster can fly and make ranged attacks, you increase it’s effective Defense by +2. Blackwing has a flying speed listed, and can make ranged attacks, so that will apply. I don’t know if the Glide knack changes how that works.
      No, Glide just let him omit obstacles. He still has flying speed.

      Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
      So the baseline dCR is 9. It’s highest Defense is 16, +2 from flying. At an effective Defense of 18, it is 2 points higher than the suggested Defense, so we step up it’s dCR by 1 rating.
      Defensive CR is 10.
      Wow, so much hard to hit enemy?! I may rebalance him then a bit, as I wanted to put him as difficult enemy for group of 5 characters on level 6th, as chronicle finale.
      Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-20-2019, 02:59 PM.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
        Answering to Seraph comments... I only point it to that – I was building Blackwing by PCs rules in Pirates of Pugmire, Mau and Pugmire books. But I’m very glad for evalution from DMG perspective.
        I did recognize you were building him with PC rules from realms. But if you're using him as an enemy combatant against the players, he should be evaluated with the monster-builder guidelines to figure out what his challenge rating actually is.
        Using the process from the DMG may be a slight stretch (but I referenced the numbers from Mau), but Realms of Pugmire has only pretty loose guidelines for evaluating monsters. Like it points out that the table is a baseline, and that you can tweak them to be better in some areas and worse in others (ie, averaging offensive and defensive ability) but doesn't give any detailed guidelines how to do that. Pugmire has sufficiently similar rules to D&D5 that I think the processes laid out in the DMG still apply, as long as you use Pugmire's listed numbers instead.


        and Ocean Mist is spell summoning Acid Sea mists to area ( that is slightly acid ).
        Well that sounds cool, and potentially very deadly. Without having the write-up for it, I don't know how that would change his strategy, but can imagine trying to have Ocean Mist and Black Tentacles up at the same time - or, if both require concentration, having one of them on-going, then doing one-round bursts of the other.
        Or, even better, have Black Tentacles active while he's flying, then he could get forced to the ground at half health and switch to Ocean Mist. That would be super cool!


        I was using normal Realms of Pugmire character creation rules – Blackwing is 9th level Gundog – and this Calling have d8 Stamina Dices. I give him full 8 SP on 1st level and random generated rolls for rest of next 8 levels. Average was 5,5 SP, so we ended with 55 SP + 18 SP from CON bonus ( 9 * 2 SP ) = 73 SP finally. Something wrong with my math?
        Ah, I see. In that case - per the Advancement rules (Pug 99/Mau 110), you always give them the max number on the die, you never randomly roll for Stamina. So based on his Calling Die of a d8, he should have 90 Stamina. Fortunately, this doesn't change the defensive calculations, as that would still be his Stamina for baseline dCR9.


        I overlooked ‘Magic Armor’ implications. But how we end with Defence 16? Oh, I see – Blackwing would all the time have Defence 14 in his light armor – but when casting ‘Magic Armor’, it will rise to Defence 16, right? And then we add +2 from flying thing ( see below ), to baseline Defence 16 and with Magic Armour 18, yes?
        To his effective Defense, only to rate his challenge. It's still only takes a 16 to hit him (with Magic Armor), but when evaluating his challenge rating, having flying plus ranged attacks gives him better defenses than a monster with 16 Defense that keeps to the ground.


        Wow, so much hard to hit enemy?! I may rebalance him then a bit, as I wanted to put him as difficult enemy for group of 5 characters on level 6th, as chronicle finale.
        This will make a super cool boss fight as a chronicle finale.
        For a group of 6th level PCs... yeah, I have no idea how to judge that well, for the reasons I explained above. We're told that five CR6 monsters is a moderate challenge for five Level 6 pcs. But we aren't told how higher (or lower) CRs compare. This might be hard-but-possible-and-fun boss fight for a group of 6th level pcs, but if I were to run it, I'd be paying close attention every single round, being ready to fudge the numbers if he was too dangerous.

        If your goal is to have a boss fight for 6th level characters, I would start by building a CR6 monster, then making it Legendary. That should give you more predictable results. You can totally keep all the spells and abilities he has, but I would readjust the numbers for Defense, Attack Bonus, Save DC, Stamina, and Damage to reflect a Legendary CR6. You might end up with very similar numbers... or you might end up with much higher numbers (meaning you can run Blackwing as he is now, and it'd be fine); I'm not sure how it will pan out. But starting with a monster with CR = party's level, then buffing them to be legendary appears to be the intended way to get boss monsters and harder fights, rather than trying to use a higher CR.
        But I've done all sorts of crazy things in my chronicle - building and running monsters the D&D style, using higher CR monsters, using mix-matched CR levels - and it's worked out fine, but I have needed to fudge my numbers here and there. And I haven't used an enemy that's 3 CR higher than my party nor used 9 minions in a fight - so my gut says you can use these stats effectively, but I would be a bit nervous about it.



        Also, I highly recommend reading this blog post (/series) about a different way to make boss monsters (for D&D5E). I built my adventure finale - for Pugmire - using Angry's process, and it worked out really nicely, and was a super cool fight. It was actually an evil spell caster with zombie minions, so if you're interested or think it'd be a helpful comparison, I can sent you my stat bloc and process.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          Offensive Challenge Rating

          Now, Animate Dead poses a challenge for us in a couple of ways.
          - The first is written exactly in his stat block: he maintains a crew of 9 zombies, refreshing them every sundown. This implies to me that his combat encounter assumes he will have 9 CR1 zombie minions with him, minimum, in an encounter.
          You are correct. It also means that he need to once a day burn 8 Spells Slots for animating Zombies ( 2 times 4th Level spell cast, each day ).

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          D&D does have some guidelines for building encounters that would let us estimate this, but monster have different stat metrics in the two systems (namely Stamina), so that’s not going to be very helpful for us either.
          I always assumed that Stamina Points are easiest to approximate. From what I know, Stamina Points are direct translation of Hit Points from D&D – only Stamina in Realms of Pugmire is treated much more as ‘you are tired and cannot defend better’ than classical ‘those are your lived points’ of HP. But comparison is almost direct one to one.

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          ( PCs assumptions )
          You are mostly right. My 5 PCs are now 5th Level and they easily beaten in one round a 4-5 NPCs with CR 1 in previous session. By the time of meeting with Blackwing, they will be 6th Level, so even easier time they will have with zombies.

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          - The third problem is how many zombies will we end up with? 9 crew members are mentioned, but Blackwing has 36 spell slots. Our core strategy (Magic Armor + Blink + Black Tentacles) only uses 9 slots. Blackwing has to refresh his control over his crew every day; each casting of Animate Dead refreshes 4 minions. I’m going to round that up to refreshing all of his crew with 2 castings; he’s an NPC, he can fudge it. That’ll cost 8 slots per day. So we’re left with 19 spell slots to play with. And with no better spell options for damage throughout an encounter, why not have more zombie minions? He can cast Animate Dead 4 more times when invade his ship, and have 3 slots left over in case he needs Detect Magic or something. That gives us 13 zombies.
          Never thought about making extra zombies. But sure, he can use spear zombies if he has free Spell Slots.

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          Now we’re ready for the numbers.
          Round 1: cast Black Tentacles, it hits 2 PCs (3d6 x2); 13 zombies attack (1d6+2 x13)
          Round 2: Ranged Attack (1d10+3) with Precise Attack (1d8); Black Tentacles hit twice (3d6 x2); 8 zombies attack (1d6+2 x8)
          Round 3: Ranged Attack (1d10+3) with Precise Attack (1d8); Black Tentacles hit twice (3d6 x2); 3 zombies attack (1d6+2 x3)

          When estimating dice outcomes, the DMG recommends dividing the size in half and adding .5. So a d6 averages 3.5 damage. Applying that to the rounds above, we get:
          Round 1: 21+71.5 =92.5
          Round 2: 13+21+44 =88
          Round 3: 13+21+16.5 =50.5
          … with an average of 77 damage per round

          Whew.
          OMG! So much overkill! But it’s a chronicle boss fight, in the end…

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          When we check the chart for damage, this exceeds the recommendations for CR10. The DMG, which has the same scaling for damage, puts that at oCR12.

          From that baseline, we adjust based on either Attack Bonus or Save DC, whichever one comes up more often. For Blackwing, that’ll be his Save DC. If his zombies used his Attack Bonus, they would win out; otherwise Black Tentacle gets rolled the most. An oCR12 monster should have a spell save of 19 (if we continue the chart’s pattern). Blackwing’s is 15, which is 4 points lower, so we’re going to adjust his oCR downward 2 ratings.

          He doesn’t have any special abilities which modify it further, so is final oCR is 10.
          This DMG comparisons looks… complicated. But I believe here on your guts.

          Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
          So we have a dCR of 10 and an oCR of 10, leading to an averaged final CR of 10.
          Blackwing is more challenging than we originally gave him credit for; if we use him as if he’s the listed CR of 9, he’s going to be more challenging than we expected.
          As I explain below, if we only give him his 9 crew members during the fight without additional minions, this reduces his final CR to 9 – so that is spot on for where you’re aiming.
          So if making less a problem for PCs, just use 9 zombies, instead of 13 of them. Roger!
          Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-20-2019, 05:59 PM.


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          • #6
            Seraph, there is one more thing we did not get in estimation – this is Pirates NPC. Both parties will have ships. And on them – cannons. I.E. Artillery.

            My Torpedo player ( another gunner Calling ) is infamous by using Six-Pounders of their ship. And those can kill even best high Stamina enemies. Just look over Pirates Preview rules:

            Six-Pounder: This is the standard black powder cannon. Steady, reliable and dangerous as all get out. (…) Damage: 3d10 Seaworthiness (bludgeoning) / Seaworthiness is ships Stamina. /

            And rules on Seaworthiness and Hull ( Defense like ):
            Most characters do not command enough raw power to overwhelm a ship’s hull. At the Guide’s discretion some actions taken by individuals, such as a particularly powerful spell that affects a large area can overcome this limitation. If the Guide does permit an individual’s ability to damage a ship, the damage is determined normally and then halved and applied to the ship’s seaworthiness.

            This would mean that ships Artillery weapons used on normal characters make on them twice the Stamina Points damage, to those done on Seaworthiness?

            Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
            Ah, I see. In that case - per the Advancement rules (Pug 99/Mau 110), you always give them the max number on the die, you never randomly roll for Stamina. So based on his Calling Die of a d8, he should have 90 Stamina. Fortunately, this doesn't change the defensive calculations, as that would still be his Stamina for baseline dCR9.
            You are right! I was running Advancements wrong all the times till this day! Oh, I'm Bad Dog Guide...
            Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-21-2019, 01:32 AM.


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            • #7
              While Stamina Points and HP have the same conceptual idea and are used the same way, they are calculated in different ways. I detail how they're different in this post, but in summary, D&D monsters have considerably more HP, which is probably the main mechanical basis for the difference in CR between D&D and Pugmire - and the philosophy of D&D 1 monster challenges 4 PCs, while in Pugmire, 1 monster challenges 1 PC. But that difference in design philosophy means that we can't use the encounter chart on DMG 82 to estimate difficulty while using Pugmire monsters.


              As far as cannons go.... yes, that passage suggests that hitting a creature with a cannon would do twice as much damage as it would to a ship. However, it's really hard to hit small things with cannons; I would give disadvantage on the attack check, unless it's a gargantuan-sized creature. And I would probably double the damage dice rather than double the number after rolling.
              I would also say, for your fight specifically, Blackwing is an amazing, terrifying pirate captain / wizard. He, personally, can dodge cannon fire. Unless he's immobile, any artillery attack against him automatically fails. His zombies... can probably be blown up.
              I'd also have Blackwing approach a hostile ship by covering it in magic fog, so that his ship is completely concealed from their fire.


              I actually had an idea for turning this into a multi-phase boss fight, using Angry's Paragon rules, which starts with his ship approaching and a possible artillery battle.
              Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 11-20-2019, 08:14 PM.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                Lessons Learned:
                The zombies are a huge problem. Entering battle with 13 minions is a nightmare. Not only does that deal massive damage, but it’d be a pain in the arse to manage that battlefield – plus we still don’t have a good metric for building our encounter overall. Remember, we calculated the zombies as part of his DPR, but that’s not really an accurate way to gauge multi-enemy encounters.
                It’s not all that problem. I run official Realms adventures – often times, there is encounter building as ‘use 2 / 3 times number of PCs of this enemy’. Running encounters with 10, 15 enemies is rather normal in Realms games. And those are zombies – you do not need to worry on many special abilities of them to remember. Only Blackwing has various powers on him.

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                By the way, if we remove the additional uses of Animate Dead and only assume Blackwing enters combat with only his 9 crew members, his DPR drops to 53.5 – which matches an oCR of 8. This still gets adjusted down (only one step) due to the Save DC, and gives us an average final CR of 8.5 (and you round up) = 9; which matches the expected CR!
                ...But then what is he spending spell slots on?
                I would leave Blackwing 4-6 Spell Slots free, as from my experience – something could not work, so one, two things may need recast. And Ocean Mist spell is really cool to add to battle plan.

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                Like, rather than have Eldrich Blast, I’d list “Spell Attack, +7 to hit, 1d10+1 force damage”; that way a Guide could quickly see that as an alternative if he had no allies to give him Precise Attack – but even then, it’s not as much damage as his pistol, so…
                Remember, that those are not out modern pistols. In Realms, Gunpowder creates Panic in others – and everyone using it need to make Charisma test or get Scared Condition, for example. Crews with other Pistoleers have advantage on that – but they still need to test Charisma on each battle usage of gunpowder.

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                My gut tells me, at CR 9 (which assumes only his crew-member zombies), Blackwing would probably be a tough challenge for a group of level 7 PCs.
                Great, as I wanted it to be really hard battle for Level 6 PCs of mine, as chronicle finale. 8-)

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                Given the difficulties with mismatching CR to level, I would strongly recommend using a legendary monster instead. If you did, you could decide what level players you want to pit Blackwing against, stat his a monster of that CR rating, then apply legendary bonuses to make him a boss fight – which he definitely reads like.

                Then again, legendaries only have the loose guidelines of “2-3 times the Stamina, and 2-3 times the damage”. So maybe as is, he’s a legendary CR 3 monster? (Although his Defense, Attack Bonus, and Save DC should probably be adjusted for that). I certainly wouldn’t expect a group of 3rd level PCs to fare well against him and all his crew members.
                Intersting, I assume Legendary Monsters are from D&D 5E? As I could not find it in Mau corebook.
                I would still stick to Blackwing as 9th Level Gundog / Rimmer, as he is ‘sea leviathan’ or something – just really experienced pirate-sorcerer. It just have in-universe logic.

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                I can imagine that clearly as, like, a Kingdom Hearts boss fight, and it’s amazing.
                Have a link for similar boss fight from Kingdom Hearts? I’m very interested what did you have in mind here.

                Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                For example, if you designed Blackwing and his crew all at level 3, with Blackwing being a legendary which has double the stats, it’d be easier to say he counts as two monsters, then you add 1 zombie for each additional PC.
                But then, Blackwing would only be 3rd Level spellcaster with just a lot of Stamina Points. It’s not exactly saying ‘he is experienced pirate, Acid Sea is trembling before’.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                  I'd also have Blackwing approach a hostile ship by covering it in magic fog, so that his ship is completely concealed from their fire.
                  It will be, probably, chronicle finale fight. After the PCs will talk with Blackwing - and he will get in (s)words fight with one PC that is his son. So 'approaching covered in magic fog' is, probably, outside of question for him. Having prepared as first spell Ocean Mist to start encounter it's another thing completely...


                  Originally posted by Seraph Kitty View Post
                  I actually had an idea for turning this into a multi-phase boss fight, using Angry's Paragon rules, which starts with his ship approaching and a possible artillery battle.
                  You mean those fan rules for Boss Fights for D&D 5E?


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                  • #10
                    Legendary Enemies are mentioned in Realms as well; they get a section and a sample creature at the end of the monster chapter (Mau 211 / Pug 197). But they stem from D&D, where the monster manual gives them a few pages at the start. And The Angry GM expanded on that a great deal with his Paragon rules (which, yes, are the boss fight fan rules I linked you).


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