Solo Acts: The Worldbreaker

Solo Acts:  The Worldbreaker

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Newbiedm, Sly Flourish and I have all been talking about making Solo monsters with a bit more kick.  The best model that I can conjure up for how solos should feel is on basis of World of warcraft.  I’m not saying that you should need an army of PCs to fight a solo (though Rob Donoghue did a good take on this some time back).  MMO bosses are great to study because they are consistently fun.  Any time something is consistently fun you have something that you can find patterns in and build off of.

So what do MMOs have that we want?

  • State changes.  MMO bosses often have several ways to change the nature of the fight. Sometimes the boss will summon minions, other times it will dissapear and perform some grand attack.  It slugs it out with the players, but that is not all that it does.  In the state changes the monster highlights its personality and powers in a visually and mechanically forceful manner.
  • Unstoppable.  MMO bosses never stay stun-locked or permanently immobilized (or whatever madness your players seek to inflict on it).  They can be effected by status effects, but when it’s time they cannot be stopped.  MMO bosses always force players to react to their actions when they need to.
  • Environment and monster are one.  Bosses always have the home-field advantage, and are able to use and create favorable terrain effects for themselves.

I promised Limit Break monsters some time ago, buut the journey had been much longer than I anticipated. But now I present worldbreakers and lawbreakers.  Both types of solos can be used in any campaign to make a solo that jumps off of the battlemat and engages the players in new ways.

Worldbreakers are creatures of such physical or supernatural power that they are capable of transforming and altering the environment with their powers.  With one action, the worldbreaker solo can change the whole map or cause a massive status effect to all opponents.  Worldbreakers typically represent solos that are Large or bigger, capturing their presence and raw power.

Lawbreakers have incredible talents and unique abilities that allow them to transform reality and game ‘physics’ around them.  Lawbreakers maintain an aura around them that changes the rules of the game.  Lawbreakers are meant for standard humanoids  of Large or less side, highlighting talents or abilities taken to an extreme.

In this article we will deal with worldbreaker solos.

The Worldbreaker

A WorldBreaker Solo has powers with the keyword worldbreaker.

Whenever a power with that Keyword is used, all negative status effects and conditions that require a save are removed.

All Worldbreaker powers have a number after the keyword (“worldbreaker 2″, “worldbreaker 3″, etc) . This is the breaker timer, which decrements at the beginning of the creature’s turn. When the counter has reached 0, the power can be used again.  So worldbreaker 4 can be used every fourth round. Worldbreaker powers effect every creature on the map unless stated otherwise.

Building a Worldbreaker Power

A worldbreaker power will cause either a change to terrain, a status effect to be temporarily applied to some or all players, or a mix of both.  Worldbreaker effects should last 1d4 turns at the most.

Each worldbreaker power also has one to two powers that can be used only while the worldbreaker power is in effect.  These powers are followup special attacks that represents what the monster does once it changes the world.

When creating the initial world breaker power, you want to do one of the following:

  • Apply a status effect to all players
  • Create traps or hazards on the board
  • create difficult terrain or terrain effects

NOTE:The worldbreaker power does not roll to hit!  This power applies its effects automatically.  It is crucial to limit damage output if there is any.  The initial power changes the battlefield and sets up the followup powers that can do damage.

You’ll want to pick themes that represent what the monster does best.  A monster that is based on cold damage might slow or temporarily petrify foes, while a fire monster may create several fire hazards on the board.

Follow up powers

Next we create powers that can be used only during the duration of the worldbreaker.  Such powers can and should get rreally creative.  Suggestions for the attack are:

  • Opposed check between PCs and Solo, with the Solo damaging any creature he beats
  • Skill Challenges to avoid a major effect
  • Summon minions
  • Inflict escalating ongoing damage

Follow up powers should never apply effects automatically, requiring a test of some sort whether it is an attack roll from the solo or a skill check from players.

Examples of Worldbreaker Design


Bilfaaz the White Dragon has the worldbreaker power “Winter’s Fury”.  He uses this power to create a brief but intense snowstorm that lasts for 1d4 turns, blinding and slowing all characters on the battlemap.  Bilfaaz is removed from the map, and now has access to two new powers:  Snowblind Pounce and FrostDread. Snowblind Pounce forces an opposed check between the PC’s Perception and tthe Dragon’s Stealth.  Every PC that rolls lower than Bilfaaz’s Stealth is hit by the dragon and takes extra damage.  FrostDread creates snow tendrils that attempt to attack the PCs and strangle them.  This is represented by a short skill challenge.


Thrune the Gorgon has the worldbreaker power “Thundering Earth”.  Thrune stomps his hooves and sets up termors underneath the earth, placing three tremor hazards around the board.  And player affected by the trap gets pushed and knocked prone.  While Thundering Earth is in effect, Thrune can use “Gorgon’s Legion” or “GoreStorm Trample”.  ”Gorgon’s Legion” creates several minions based of Thrunes petrifying gas.  Each minion  is immune to the tremors of Thundering Earth and can deliver the effect of the petrifying gaze on hit.  Gorestorm Trample allows the gorgon to perform a trample attack for increased damage to one PC in range of a tremor hazard.

Special Thanks to NewbieDM, Sly Flourish, and the At-Will crew for sanity-checking me and offering suggestions.  Special thanks to Chris Sims for excellent advice and tweaks, and the rest of the Critical Hits team for being pretty awesome peeps.
So…any thoughts? Any requests?

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A Jack of All Trades ,or if you prefer, an extreme example of multi-classing, Gamefiend, a.k.a Quinn Murphy has been discussing, playing and designing games straight out of the womb. He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of this site in addition to being an aspiring game designer. As you would assume, he is a huge fan of 4e. By day he is a technologist. Follow gamefiend on Twitter