Spellcasters Vs Players II
This is the second instalment of my series of posts about how NPC Spellcasters (a wizard in this case) could be used to create fun and challenging encounters/adventures in D&D 5E. As before I will be using a wizard named E-Vil Wiz-Ard. This second adventure would take place around a year after the first one. The Players have risen to 6th level and their evil antagonist to 11th. In the time between the player party could have been on a series of unrelated adventures, or been coming up against the minions of E-Vil.
The Set Up
Our hero’s find themselves in the city of Rin (change name to suit your game). The once peaceful city is now in the grip of a vile usurper. The Lord of Rin has been deposed by his new Viser and now secret police roam the streets hunting any who oppose him. Dark creatures are free to enter the city and people are going missing at an alarming rate. Enter the players. They will uncover the identity of this despot to be E-Vil and set out to haul him from his throne.
This adventure could be part of a series of adventures to reach E-Vil in his lair or it could be a single game. In the case of a single game players will need to find a way to enter his citadel through guile. This could be by mugging some guards and stealing their uniforms. Or it could be through sewers below the keep. However they do it the players should find a way in and then make their move.
Lair of the Wizard
Once inside the citadel the players discover that the wizard has not been idle. The bulk of the building is under the effect of a Guards and Wards spell. This means passages full of fog and the doors are all locked by magic or even hidden by illusions. Furthermore the stairs up are clogged by Web spells. There are also other effects of this enchantment such as the loss of direction along with a choice of other extra effects(See PHB). This will make the journey to the Wizards lair very challenging. But lurking in the fog are other dangers.
In addition to the Guards and Wards spell over his lair the Wizard has enlisted some creatures to help defend himself. For me the choice of basic minions is between Orcs and Hobgoblins. Orcs have a better attack bonus but Hobgoblins have a better AC. In this example I will use Hobgoblins. In addition the Wizard will have employed some more formidable protectors in the form of a gang of Ogres. They are all exempt from the enchantment and will use it to their advantage. Dirty tricks such as archers at the top of stair wells and ambushes through hidden doors should be used to good effect.
A different way to go in regard to minions would be to use Devils or Demons as the wizards allies. Dretch’s or Lemure’s would serve as foot soldiers and in place of Ogres you could use Babau/Bulezau or Bearded Devils. DM’s could throw in any number of Demons or Devils that have a low CR rating to fill these roles. This Infernal angle would also be a good plot hook to future games where the fiends seek revenge etc.
Return of the Wizard E-Vil
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered the players have fought their way to the lair of the wizard. So after cutting through his troops the players must face E-Vil himself. As a highly intelligent foe he should be more than ready for them.
Level: 11 Class: Wizard/Diviner Al: NE
STR: 9(-1) DEX: 13(+1) CON:13(+1) INT:20(+5) WIS:16(+3) CHA:13(+1)
Hit Points: 57 AC: 11 (16 with Shield)
Staff +2 1D6-1 Damage
Portent: Roll 2D20 and note the results. At any time these can be used in place of a roll. This must be done before making the roll.
The Third Eye- See Invisible
Spells Per Level – 1st: 4 2nd: 3 3rd: 3 4th: 3 5th: 2 6th: 1
Poison Spray, Acid Splash, Ray of Frost, Minor Illusion, Message
1st Level Spells:
Shield, Sleep, Chromatic Orb, Magic Missile
2nd Level Spells:
Cloud of Daggers, Invisibility, Web
3rd Level Spells:
Hypnotic Pattern, CounterSpell
4th Level Spells:
Mordenkainan’s Faithful Hound, Wall of Fire, Confusion
5th Level Spells:
Bigbys Hand, Animate Objects
6th Level Spells:
Flesh to Stone, Circle of Death
Last Line of Defence
E-Vil is no fool, he knows the players are formidable and should be prepared to face them. He would be well warned of the groups approach and have his defences set up. His personal bodyguards should be made up of a single Ogre and half a dozen Hobgoblins. This should be enough to slow the players down but not over kill. Furthermore, the corridor leading to his throne room can have Gust of Wind in effect as part of his Guards and Wards enchantment. This last defence would further slow the players at the very threshold of his lair.
The Wizard Defence
With the approach of the players E-Vil will ready himself magically for the attack. This would entail casting some defensive spells. First of these would be Shield giving him a +5 bonus to his AC. He would also have Contingency prepared days in advance of the players arrival. Because of his advance planning he would not use up spell slots for the needed battle ahead.
I have narrowed my choice of Contingency spells to three choices. The first two are more offensive in nature. Firstly a Wall of Fire that springs up when an attacker gets within 5ft of him would be a powerful defence. Second is the casting of Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound again at the approach of an attacker. This spell can be a very good way to keep the players at bay and weaken the frontline warriors. My third and final choice is Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere. My thinking is that the spell could be targeted at the first attacker to land a hit on him. The effect of this would be that they are taken out of the fight for a while. The image of the party Paladin rolling around like a hamster is also amusing to me.
Last but not Least
Two other spells could be set in place ahead of time. They are Magic Jar and Major Image. If cast at 6th level Major Image is permanent until dispelled. As such it could be used to hide an escape route or a trap from the players. A vast pit covered by an illusionary floor could be very effective. And lastly Magic Jar. This is the ultimate get of jail free card for a wizard. Even in death he would escape to fight again.
The Rumble in Rin
With all the pre-fight spells in place I will move on to the confrontation itself. From the relative safety behind his bodyguards E-Vil will launch his attacks. To start with he should cast Confusion at the players. This will render one or more of the group useless on a failed Wisdom save. Hypnotic Pattern would also have a similar effect. But Confusion does not end if the effected character takes damage.
By the start of the second round of combat the players should be trying to deal with the bodyguards. This does block any area of effect spells. I would suggest the Animate Objects spell in this round. It in effect creates more combatants for the players to deal with. Small or tiny objects would serve best. They have a good chance of dealing damage and with so many attacks that chance increases further.
Float Like a Butterfly
The NPC Wizard should hold back casting any 3rd level spells so they can use up these slots for counter spells. This will frustrate the player spellcasters and as they are cast as a reaction will not slow the wizards spell attacks.
Round Three and Beyond
While the Animate Objects spell is in effect the caster will not be able to sue any other spells that require concentration. Magic Missiles cast at 4th level(4D4+4) or Chromatic Orbs at 2nd (4D8) should deal ample damage to wear down the player party. The characters will be forced to mop up all the Animated Objects and the henchmen before they can deal with the wizard. This effort will deplete their spells and special attacks such as Smite.
Once the Animated Objects are gone the Wizard should cast Bigbys Hand or Wall of Fire. If he still has goons alive then Bigbys Hand is the best choice as it can restrain or attack the group. If no thugs remain then a Wall of Fire will keep the hero’s at bay for a while longer. At this stage he is getting worried that they will breach his defence and maybe kill him. His Contingency will trigger once he starts getting attacked. This will further weaken the players or reduce those able to fight depending on the choice of spell.
On the Ropes
With his Contingency gone he will cast Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound to defend him. A nasty 4D8 bite will serve as a powerful defence. If the players are to survive this battle, they will need to keep up the pressure. Missile attacks are good as are spells if they can get passed his counter spells. If a warrior can get close his low hit points will not survive long toe to toe.
He knows this and will try to avoid letting them get close. Web can slow the players and Invisibility might give him a way to avoid them. Another spell that he can use to keep them away is Cloud of Daggers. Higher level slots will boost the dame up on this spell by 2D4 for every level above 2nd.
Here is Your Winner!
With the players closing in he will unleash his biggest spell. He only gets one 6th level spell. Flesh to Stone should be used if a single character is dealing him a lot of damage. It will remove the threat to him but will cancel any other spells requiring concentration. If however the group are all dealing him damage he will opt for Circle of Death. The damage is high (8D6) and it may kill those players on low health. This is his last-ditch effort.
At this point if the players are not dead, he will try to escape with either a hidden exit (see Major Image ideas) or Invisibility. Even if they do manage slay him the effect is not going to be permanent. Because of the Magic Jar spell he cast well in advance he will return to fight another day.
The idea is not to wipe out the players but to make it a hard fight. Damage spells can be replaced with those that frustrate or incapacitate the characters. Examples of this are Confusion, Hypnotic Pattern or Sleep (good if cast at a higher level). You can also use his cantrips to deal less damage if the group do not have loads of hit points.
However, a group of 4 or more 6th level characters should be up to the task. The warrior types should have up to 50 or more health and the casters can deal a lot of spell damage. If they work as a team and keep healing they should be able to win the day. As always feel free to take what you like, ignore the stuff you don’t and adapt it as much as you want for your games.