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Matseb2611

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about different boss fight designs and I kind of realised there are mostly a few set categories where most boss fights in turn-based combat games fit into. Moreover, if you understand what each category represents, you can then both make some interesting boss fights in your own game and be able to figure out how to beat them when playing existing games.

So here are the categories I’ve come up with. Of course it is easily possible for a boss to be a combination of 2 or more of these, which in turn would make this boss more complex. Generally, I think it is good if early game bosses fit into only 1 category below, letting the player figure out the basics, and mid to late game to have the bosses use perhaps a combination of 2 or 3 of these. Making them fit into too many categories though might cause the boss fight to feel unfocused and diluted down, so take caution.

Of course also feel free to state if you agree with my list, or perhaps you'd like to mention if you have some of your own categories.

Here are my categories of boss fights:

[SIZE=14pt]The Master[/SIZE]

One of the most common types of bosses. Quite simply put, this is the boss that has minions at his/her side. This could be any number of minions, ranging from just one to as many as necessary. In the Master type boss battle, there is a clear cut boss entity, who poses the most danger and likely has the most health, and every other enemy is considered a minion.

There are a variety of ways this type of boss battle can be executed. It will often depend on the role of the boss itself and the minions. By default, the minions could just be additional damage dealers, or they could do something more, like buff or heal the boss.

The boss might also have the ability to revive the fallen minions, or perhaps summon new ones when the existing ones have been defeated. It is important to consider what sort of strategy is required on the behalf of the player. Normally the minions are easier to dispatch than the boss, and so most players will concentrate on beating them first before tackling the boss. But if the boss revives them, it means defeating them is a pointless exercise, and the player attention will focus on beating the boss first.

Even more complex strategies can be implemented with this type of boss battle. For example, the boss might be invulnerable or highly resistant to damage if at least one minion is standing. Perhaps all the minions must be dealt with before the boss can be hurt.

Boss fights where players face only a single entity consisting of numerous parts can also be considered as the Master type of boss, providing one of the parts is the most important one, i.e. defeating it causes all the other parts to also be destroyed.

[SIZE=14pt]The Heavy Pounder[/SIZE]

The main idea of the Heavy Pounder boss type is a single enemy that dishes out huge amounts of damage every turn, which should force at least one party character to provide healing to the others on most turns. This boss doesn’t need minions. He or she alone is challenge enough. Quite often these types of bosses will have highly damaging AoE attacks that hurt all party members at once, or they might simply have more than one action every turn.

The balancing of these bosses needs to be really fine-tuned, because if the boss is not dealing enough damage, they’ll be too easy and boring, and if they deal too much, they become broken and unbalanced.

Of utmost importance here is the RNG on the boss’ skills. If the boss has 2-3 weak attacks and one uber powerful attack that it uses at random, this can cause a lot of problems with balancing. Lucky players might get away with the boss hardly ever using its most powerful attack, whereas unlucky ones might have it use that attack 3-4 turns in a row.

There are ways to go around this to keep it more balanced and controlled:

  • Make all of the boss’ attacks roughly equal in how dangerous they are.
  • Add cooldowns to the attacks that are deadly.
  • Have the boss execute deadly attacks in a predictable pattern (see: The Charger).

Heavy Pounder bosses will mostly be two types: the low health ones and the high health ones. The low health ones would normally be highly offensive bosses, where the goal is to defeat the boss as quickly as possible before it’s caused too much damage to the party. The high health ones usually should be less damaging, but due to them lasting long, they will wear down the player party in a battle of attrition, and would hence require the player to think several turns ahead and to build longer-term strategies, like by using buffs and debuffs more.

[SIZE=14pt]The Charger[/SIZE]

This is sort of similar to Heavy Pounder, except the idea of the Charger is to be charging up a powerful attack for several turns and then executing it in a predictable pattern.

The Charger can do this by simply doing nothing for several turns and then unleashing a devastating party-wide attack. Or it might just act as a normal boss and use weak attacks for several turns, only to suddenly pull out a much more dangerous one, and to keep doing so, once again in a predictable for the player pattern.

The strategy this boss type forces the player to use is to alternate between being offensive and being defensive. If the player can predict when the boss is about to hit hard, they would be encouraged to go on defensive in order to be able to survive what’s coming up.

Bosses with multiple forms can also be considered here, providing the key difference in their forms is the offensive potential, so the player can recognize in which form the boss is best not engaged.

[SIZE=14pt]The Resilient One[/SIZE]

These types of bosses tend to have a lot of resistances. They could be highly resistant or even invulnerable to a lot of types of attacks or elements, and perhaps only have one or two weaknesses, which the player has to find. The challenge will mostly come from putting limits on what the player can use in order to be effective.

Some of these bosses will also change their weaknesses and resistances throughout the battle. This could either happen in a predictable pattern where the boss cycles between different forms every few turns, or this could be triggered once the boss’ HP reaches a certain point, and they force the player to change the approach.

These types of bosses can be very annoying to fight if they have way too many resistances, and it is good when there is more than one viable way to damage them. Ideally each party member should have at least one way to hurt this type of boss, or alternatively, the game could have a lot of playable characters and allows switching of the party mid-battle, in which case the player could be encouraged to find the perfect team set up to deal the most damage to the boss in question.

[SIZE=14pt]The Duo[/SIZE]

As the name implies, this type of boss battle consists of two boss enemies. They should both be roughly equal in how dangerous they are (if one is significantly stronger than the other, then it’s simply an example of the Master with one minion).

The Duo can be two identical entities of equal power, or, as done very commonly, they could complement each other. They could do so in a variety of ways – either by having very contrasting resistances (e.g. one is weak to magic, another weak to physical), or by having contrasting offensive capabilities (e.g one deals powerful physical attacks, another powerful magic spells), or it’s even possible that the two execute combo attacks together, which would normally be more deadly than any attack by one or the other.

Most times the players would attempt to defeat one of them and then the other, what means that some additional strategies could be needed to make this type of boss more interesting. For example, as soon as one member of the duo falls, the other becomes more powerful, like via a stat boost, or possibly even gaining some of the abilities of his/her fallen comrade. Or perhaps the member that’s still standing could be reviving the fallen one, which would force the player to have to finish them both off within the same turn.

Boss fights where there’s only one entity that consists of two contrasting parts would also be considered a Duo, providing the two parts act separately each turn.

[SIZE=14pt]The Squad[/SIZE]

This is when you have three or more enemies within the boss fight. The main trick here is that these enemies are all roughly similar in power and amount of health, and where none could be considered as the boss over the others (if one is an obvious boss, then this is an example of The Master).

The purpose of the Squad type boss fight is to overwhelm the player’s team with numbers. Three or more enemies whacking your party every turn can be deadly. What makes the Squad special is that it would be up to the player to decide which member to defeat first and which last. It’s possible that some enemies in the squad are more favourable to beat first than the others, but in general, the player is free to beat them in any order they prefer.

To keep a boss fight like this balanced, it’s important that each squad member isn’t too dangerous on their own. If every member of the squad unleashes AoE attacks on the player party, it could make the battle very cheap and unbalanced. Likewise, it’s a good idea to make the squad members vulnerable to various state effects, which could encourage the player to use more strategy. For example, if they stun one of the squad members, that’s one less enemy hitting them for a turn or two.

Normally the Squad type boss fight would be hardest at the very start, where each enemy is actively attacking the player party, and as more and more of them fall over the course of battle, it would get easier. However, just as with the Duo, it’s possible to spice this up by making the remaining squad members get stronger or acquire new abilities as their comrades fall in battle, meaning that the fight doesn’t get too easy by the end.

A boss fight where the player fights a single entity which consists of multiple parts is also an example of the Squad, providing none of the parts have importance over the others and can be destroyed in any order of preference.
 

Schlangan

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Let's see what I have in my game... um...


Mission 1 : Typically the charger, if you don't defend his cyclic attack, you die.


Mission 2 : Here we have the master with its herd of robots.


Mission 3 : The duo, but one of them is a master with minion he revives.


Mission 4 : The squad.


Mission 5 : The squad, followed by a charger. The squad is especially tricky as they have the same exact abilities as the heroes (it enters in a 7th category, as I detail below)


Mission 6 : A squad of masters, followed by a duo.


Mission 7 : Here comes the heavy pounder in its pure state, the goal is to survive, not to beat him.


Mission 8 : A squad boss made in three parts.


Until now, all my bosses follow the classification you gave. But then, it becomes different for my mission 9th, giving a 7th category.


Category 7 : The hero.


Here we have a character that is possibly a playable character later on. His abilities to stun are equivalent to the other characters, but mainly he doesn't have extreme HP pool, they are "as weak" as the heroes. But on the contrary, his damage output is equivalent too. Sometimes, heroes hit stronger than bosses because of the differences in HP. Here, it's like a player VS player case, so the fight might require to divide the output damages to not be over in one hit. This kind of boss presents the same weaknesses as the heroes in terms of state effects too.
 
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TherainED

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The Tank:

Those bosses that, like Havel the Rock, have a great damage output and a low damage input. The objective is to learn their set pattern and anticipate their actions without making one single mistake, since otherwise, you'll most likely die soon. Fun to play the first time, boring after the remaining fricking thousand.

thisisanotherreasondarksouls2sucks

Ill bile aside, fine representation of some of the set of bosses that can be easily achieved in a game as simple as RPGM.

I was thinking about a boss that works similar to the bosses in games like Gears Of War, where you have to target a weakspot to weaken the enemy and then hit heavy. The big issue here would be making the targeting points since, unless the enemy itself is divided or one has a lot of skill placing the battlers as if they were one single creature, it would be an arduous task. Aside from that I really don't know what to call it.

The Colossus
 

Milennin

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The Time Bomb

Starts out relatively weak, but has high defences or ways to increase survivability. Becomes increasingly stronger the longer the battle drags out, forcing the player into ramping up the pace before getting overwhelmed.

That, or it's simply a matter of beating the boss before a certain amount of turns have passed, because otherwise the boss will wipe the entire party with a single attack.
 
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This is a really neat guide! I'm following this to remember it for future reference.

Usually, my bosses are 'heavy pounders' with high health. Heavy pounders seem to be the most common to me, I know of a few... dozen bosses who would fit under heavy pounders, not even just from RPGs. I'd say that 'squads' are the rarest. I guess I'll add a category, since I thought of a few bosses who fit none of these categories.

The Invincible One

Some Invincible bosses can only be killed after finding it's weakness, or they are completely unaffected by any damage. Regardless, they are at some point totally invincible to any attacks and are either unaffected or stunned by certain attacks.

Most of the time, these bosses are in the beginning or end of the game. Sometimes, their invincibility makes them impossible to defeat, and they kill you but it does not cause a game over. Other times, they're invincible and all you can do is run like heck.

Some examples I can name off are Tubba Blubba, the Ultimate Chimera, and SA-X. Even though SA-X isn't an RPG boss. Also, many intro bosses like Bowser in Paper Mario 64 are invincible. Bowser was also invincible in the end of Paper Mario, so there's that.
 

Matseb2611

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Some interesting additions there. I personally would've had some of these fit in with the original 6 categories, but I guess in the end everyone interprets one and the same boss fight differently.

The Time Bomb

Starts out relatively weak, but has high defences or ways to increase survivability. Becomes increasingly stronger the longer the battle drags out, forcing the player into ramping up the pace before getting overwhelmed.
This reminds me of every single encounter in Cthulhu Saves the World. The enemies in that keep getting stronger with each turn (a rather unusual combat mechanic for regular mobs if I am honest).

Usually, my bosses are 'heavy pounders' with high health. Heavy pounders seem to be the most common to me, I know of a few... dozen bosses who would fit under heavy pounders, not even just from RPGs. I'd say that 'squads' are the rarest. I guess I'll add a category, since I thought of a few bosses who fit none of these categories.
Yeah, I think you're right. Heavy Pounders are sort of the classic old-school bosses - 1 enemy that deals a lot of party-wide damage each turn. Many of the final bosses end up being Heavy Pounders coupled with The Master and/or The Resilient One. I personally like having The Squad type bosses in my games, since they require a different approach than most other boss types, and hence spice the game up.
 
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The Fake Out

The boss is a complete push-over for story reasons. Can be difficult to use if players can min-max your game and one turn kill all the other bosses. Or if the writing is muddy and players don't pick up on the idea that the easiness was intended. Also can be an issue if players find this disappointing. BUT still useful for a twist or something!

The Spammer

Typically someone who heals a lot, but any boss that can use a powerful ability (or combo of abilities) constantly to become annoying. The player must interrupt, stun, or DPS race this boss somehow to get him to shut up.

The Puzzle Mini-game

A boss who must be defeated entirely by using unique things in the encounter (interact-ables, or something) and no or almost no regular combat abilities.

Disaster Movie Action Sequence

Similar to The Invincible above, this is a boss where all you do is run away while being treated to visuals of the building collapsing around you.
 

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There are many, types that you could make if you're dating enough.

The Deathgaze comes to mind: a boss which flees when it takes a certain amount of damage, but it's HP is preserved for the next time you run into it.

One boss I've been considering is one that's actually a level, and the player has to hunt down and kill "nodes" while the player takes step damage, though this is more of a puzzle. Bosses from Shadow of the Colossus or Oogie Boogie from the first Kingdom Hearts come to mind.
 

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Bookmarked for future reference :D


The strong but otherwise normal enemy


Sometimes, bosses are just stronger counterparts of normal enemies - and that's fine too! If the story is focused around minimal but simple battles, this can help the player when they aren't expecting a new combat mechanic. However, it is one of the most common boss types, poorly utilized in a combat-heavy game and can easily make combat repetitive.
 

Matseb2611

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@ HFL: Lol! "The strong but otherwise normal enemy" is what I'd consider a badly done boss. Basically a boss that doesn't have much going for them and can often be taken out via attack spam. And yeah, they do seem to be quite common. XD
 

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I love combinations of these types such as Seymour in Macalania Temple in FFX, he is an example of "The Master" but his minions are like "The Puzzle Minigame" since they use healing potions for 1000 HP whenever anyone is damaged in the battle, and this usually either totally negates your attack damage or makes the turn barely worthwhile, BUT if you use "Steal" on them they can no longer heal and they become vulnerable, they also run in front of Seymour if you attack him while they are alive, and if they block you they take reduced damage and heal it too, great boss design.
 

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Blackheart , please refrain from necro-posting in a thread. Necro-posting is posting in a thread that has not had posting activity in over 30 days. You can review our forum rules here. Thank you.
 
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