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The Next D&D Homebrew: Achilles Resistance

sir gawain and green knightAs I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs, I’ve been working on a major Feywild adventure series for my  Paragon Tier heroes.  So far it’s gone well, and the players have been progressing well, encountering creatures and allies with a definite leaning toward fairy tale monsters and patrons.  For source material, and to get me in the right frame of mind as I work on these adventures, I’ve been reading a lot of Celtic myths and Arthurian legends by various authors.

One of the “tropes”, if you will, that is prevalent in various stories I’ve been reading for inspiration is one describing a monster that seems all but un-slayable.   Swords and spears bounce off it, or strike it but the wound closes so quickly that the hero seems to have no chance to kill his foe.  But somehow, either through the intervention of a wise elder or by some bit of nearly forgotten lore, the hero produces some rare thing which turns the tide and weakens his enemy’s unbreakable defenses, and finally kills it.

The image of an unbeatable monster having that one “Achilles heel” which makes it fall before the heroes is such a powerful one that I wanted to make it a part of my campaign.  When considering game mechanics, it comes down to either resistances or defenses to make a monster seem unbeatable, and I’ve chosen the former, creating what can only be called Achilles Resistance.

Achilles Resistance

To make certain unique elite and solo monsters seem unconquerable all you need are some really high resistances which shrug off most attacks of the characters’ Tier.   But since we want the heroes to win, Achilles Resistances can be breached and degraded by certain types of attacks, or by attacks made by certain unique materials like a rare metal, wood, or gemstone – or even stranger things like concepts made manifest!   To prepare the heroes for their encounter, the stage has to be set early, and story elements like legends, myths, and prophecies need to be brought into play long before the momentous encounter with the unconquerable monster actually happens.  And on the way to the final encounter, characters can be offered side trek quests and adventures in order to prepare themselves, and discover and locate at least one of the ways the Achilles Resistance can be breached.

For the Achilles Resistance to be truly threatening, the NPC or monster needs to have a Resist All that is substantially higher than normal, which will them be degraded and broken down during the combat encounter.  The Achilles Resistance in the Heroic Tier should be around 20-25, 30-35 in the Paragon Tier, and 40+ in the Epic Tier.  Initial attacks against a foe with an Achilles resistance will be almost futile, but eventually the attacks will begin to have more and more effect.

At the start of its turn, if a monster with Achilles Resistance has been attacked with the substance or effect that is its weakness, its resistance degrades by 5 or 10 points, depending on how long a DM decides to draw out the combat.  And in order to make up for the fact that the first few rounds do little to damage a monster with such high defenses, the destruction of the Achilles Resistance can be made into a dynamic combat “plot point” by adding a vulnerability that increases in proportion to the reduction of the resistance.


A Knight of the Winter Court that wears armor made of enchanted ice.  His frozen plate armor deflects all but the strongest blows and spells break upon his icy exterior.  However, the heroes learn that strikes using “golden flame” can melt away sections of the enchanted ice armor, leaving the Knight open to attack.  “Golden flame” could be a rare lamp oil used by the Summer Court for Queen Tiandra, or a form of gold which can coat weapons and implements like alchemical silver, or perhaps fire from a torch made from a bough recovered from a treant with golden leaves (freely given, of course).   As the Knight’s icy armor is melted away, he gains a substantial vulnerability to fire, melting him away like his armor.

A Prince among the Vampire Lords has a cloak of blood and shadows, instantly salving over minor wounds, and making even powerful blows turn into mere scratches.  But when confronted with the mystical “soul-flare”, the evil cloak begins to shred and tear, weakening in its dark protective and restorative powers.  The “soul-flare” could take on a number of forms, depending on the campaign, from the light from a lantern containing the captured spirit of the Vampire prince’s lost love, to torchlight reflected from a holy symbols worked into an old crown which had been worn by the Prince before he became one of the undead.  As the prince’s foul cloak is shredded away under attacks from the “soul-flare”, he gains increasing vulnerability to radiant and psychic damage, driving him mad in pain and remorse.

Obviously, a hero who wields a weapon or device which can tear apart an Achilles Resistance will be deemed a special threat by the monster or NPC, and will become the target of many attacks by the foe and its cohorts!

Achilles resistance can even be used as an encounter power to benefit the player-characters, providing protection against what would be a devastating attack from an elite or solo “boss” – but of course, the Achilles resistance weakens with each successive assault.  An item representing an Achilles Resistance item could be found along the way to or there at the encounter location, and might require the heroes save one minor action to be able to utilize the protection as an immediate reaction when they are attacked.  Those who remember the old Disney movie, Dragonslayer, will recall the shield which protected Galen from Vermithrax’s fiery breath – and how it was nearly ashes by the time he completed his failed attempt to kill the dragon with his enchanted spear!

Please feel free to try out Achilles Resistance in your own campaigns and let me know how it turns out.  I’m looking forward to playtesting the new rules in my own campaign soon, and I think it will really be a fun way to role-play out certain mythic ideas in the context of a combat encounter.  As always, I’d love to hear feedback about my ideas here, and your comments are always welcome!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


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