Friday, January 8, 2021

Villainous Cookbook: The Dreamfiend Master

Howdy! Cults are a big part of D&D's lore, which is why I've tried my hand at making an ideal cult leader in the fantasy context for today's article. It's actually one of the earlier concepts for villains, conceived roughly around the same time as the Superb Exemplar. One big thing that I wanted to wait with this one for, though, was Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, an exciting new sourcebook you've surely heard of. I don't really use it too much in this build in particular, but one never knows how much stuff can be found in it. I can tell already that TCE has created at least two of my next builds, and changed up some stuff too. Let's see where this build goes!
Also, while at it, I decided to shorten the Preface section to raise the chances of people reading it.


  • My goal is to make an interesting villain using the player options found in the official rules of D&D 5th edition, oftentimes also using homebrew options.
  • The goal is not to make a villain who deals the highest amount of damage. This is not the right place for that discussion.
  • I will leave some details out to let the DMs adjust the villain to their preferences. Ability scores are one of them.
  • To emulate character development, I will only make character builds at levels 4, 10, 16, and 20. Players should be at best equal to the villain's tier, optimally at a lower tier.
  • Limitations breed creativity. But I will bend the rules if it makes the villain more interesting.
  • If it seems overpowered, it could be because of rulebending (see the point above), or because I'm mixing homebrews that were not balanced with each other in mind.

Great, let's get into it!

The Dreamfiend Master

“There are many who don't wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don't wish to wake for the same fear.”
― Richelle Goodrich, Dandelions: The Disappearance of Annabelle Fancher

Fun fact: You can't kill a nightmare.
Nightmare, by nakanoart

Ingredients List

  • Scourge Aasimar race (Volo's Guide to Monsters)
  • Bard 18: College of Glamour (Xanathar's Guide to Everything)
  • Cleric 2: Secrets Domain (Yorviing's Homebrew)

Tier 1

The beginning of this one is rather simple since at the moment they can't do things we really want them to do. The aasimar should be flavored as a good one, at least until the transformation happens, which should only happen when they get desperate, or overly confident they can't be found out. One of our levels goes into the cleric, choosing the Secrets domain. With this domain, we get two extra skills to start with, as well as an ability to detect hidden creatures, concealed objects, and secret codes or messages, at least as long as the master is not blinded or deafened. Extra nice is the fact that they get disguise self and illusory script as automatically prepared. Another very useful thing for us is Wisdom and Charisma saving throw proficiencies. Of course, assume that the spellcasting ability for the cleric is Charisma instead of Wisdom within this build to get the maximum usage out of your stats.

The other three levels will go into bard, giving us one extra skill proficiency, ability to boost other people's stats, roll well with all skills the master is not proficient in, and of course spells, as well as the first features of the Glamorous bard. Enthralling Performance could be reflavored as giving an inspiring speech regarding putting a stop to the Dreamfiend, at least once it actually comes into the existence. Mantle of Inspiration is ideal for motivating your followers into action.

Sidenote: While we're on the topic of cleric and Secrets, let's allow them to cast all of their spells, both cleric and bardic ones, with the divine symbol. If you choose to play them as a follower of some deity, the deity should be something neutral that's both about secrets, but also about protecting others, justice, or healing in general. You could also have them worship no deity, and instead flavor them as someone wholeheartedly dedicated to stopping the Dreamfiend. At least, once it shows up. But the point is: casting with a divine symbol instead of a musical instrument will make them look more serious, and also more legitimate to the players. They won't guess that this person is a villain to be made.

As always, assume the Master will stay in the background, for now, gathering information and potential targets to take down, as well as their possible body parts, hairs, and other things that could assist in the spellcasting.

Tier 2

Time to bring in the main subject of this build, but not before another sweet treat. With six levels of bard, the master Mantle of Majesty. With this ability, the master can cast command as a bonus action for 10 turns in a row, once per long rest. This is awesome, especially if they had some roguish follower that they could charm in order to command them to Attack every turn while threatened to effectively double their Sneak Attack.

Now then, time for the Dreamfiend! Some of you might have figured this out already, but I'll begin with a small description just to cue the rest in. Dreamfiend is a monster that visits the poor innocent people, and occasionally even powerful not-so-innocent people, in their nightmares. It terrorizes them for a lengthy time, and can't really be tracked or fought off. Strangely, it will not visit elves, or other creatures that don't dream, such as the kalashtar.

In order to work properly, the Dreamfiend Master needs to choose the spell dream. Every night, while somewhere private (rope trick magical secret maybe?), the master will cast this spell to terrorize their target of choice. Due to the way the Dreamfiend works, they won't gain the benefits of a long rest from this sleep. And if a creature goes too long without gaining these benefits, they'll gain one level of exhaustion. If this doesn't stop, the Dreamfiend will invade their dreams over and over, forcing them to slowly wither until dead, unless... it joins the Dreamfiend Master's cult.

I leave it up to you how this organization presents itself to others. Personally, however, I would try to make it into a positive society. Not one of fear and hopelessness despite the fact Dreamfiend literally can't be killed. Instead, it's a society that seeks justice in its defeat, helps those who need help (possibly with the master using their healing hands too), and learning as much as they can about the Dreamfiend.

This might also be a good time to consider picking up nondetection. The longer you'll do this, the more likely you are to draw attention, so you better be ready to hide.

Tier 3

Alright! Time to get our last level of cleric, and five more levels of bard. Doing this lets us pick up the Unbreakable Majesty, a powerful defensive ability that forces creatures who want to attack you to make a Charisma saving throw. On a failure, it must attack someone else, on a success, it gets to make an attack, but also has disadvantage on the next saving throw against a spell the master casts. It lasts only for one minute though and can be used once per short rest, so understandably it's only for times of emergency.

With the one level of cleric, we get our Channel Divinity. With a failed Charisma saving throw, it lets you learn about one thing that angers or frightens the creature, one thing it wants, or one secret of its that's relevant to you in some way. It doesn't work on creatures immune to being charmed, but luckily the creature won't be aware of it regardless of whether it fails or succeeds on the save.

Tier 4

Four more levels of bard let us pick up further spells and magical secrets, and increases the size of the master's bardic inspiration to its maximum size. Just to quickly list some spells that could be interesting, Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion could provide a hiding place, as well as food for up to one hundred people, letting you have a massive cult (even better considering the fact that since this is multiclass of fullcasters, the master can cast this spell even twice per day), project image keeps a distance between the master and any pesky adventurers, and resurrection means the party might hesitate about suspecting the Dreamfiend Master, even better if they're willing to provide them for a small fee, as long as they also provide the necessary material component. Glibness is an essential spell for anyone who wants to make a cult in the world of D&D, and it's also brutally useful within combat since it lets the master basically automatically succeed on ability checks as part of the counterspell. Mind blank makes them seem less suspicious, demiplane makes an actual secret hideout, and most of the 9th level spells speak for themselves.


The master gets to pick two feats during Tier 2, one feat during Tier 3, and one feat during Tier 4. One of the key things to consider is how fast can they react in combat. Plenty of their options require the master to start early, so I'd recommend picking up Alert feat. Eldritch and Metamagic Adept are both very nice choices that you might want to consider picking up since they provide plenty of options I don't even feel like describing here. Magic Initiate is free spells, Fey Touched means free escape button, and Inspiring Leader is cool for anyone with followers. Lucky is self-explanatory, and finally, Telekinetic and Telepathic are both neat, but not necessary.

The Power of the Cult

The Dreamfiend Master, unlike any of the previous villains, is explicitly stated to be a type that gathers the following. Managing those is simple enough really, just make them cultists, but I wanted to give one more suggestion. What if those who reach a high enough rank of power could be bestowed a supernatural ability by the Master without even knowing? While this isn't anything a player by default could achieve, I'm including it as a homebrew extra that would add extra juice and danger to the master.

Dreamfiend Proxy (Recharges after a Long Rest). Whenever this creature begins a long rest, it casts the dream spell. When cast this way, the spell targets one creature that doesn't belong to the cult that this creature dislikes the most, the messenger can only appear monstrous, and it can't converse with the target. The spell uses the Dreamfiend Master's spell attack bonus and save DC, and the spell treats the creature who released it as the caster for all other purposes.

Powerful? Absolutely. But bear in mind this is not something to be handed just to anyone who asks for it, this is the kind of power reserved only for the most loyal. Neither is this something that the follower knows about.

The more the following of this organization grows, the more influence it can hold over the world. This boon just makes it easier.

"Every face you can see in your dreams is the face of someone you've seen before. Anyone who shows their face to others puts them to risk. Please, join us if you wish to stop the Dreamfiend and save lives."
Endless Legend provides a couple artworks for a more unsettling depiction of the cultists that I just had to show here. Also, I swear this being a metaphor for the virus is unintentional. This image and an alternative depiction was just an afterthought.
Cultists Quest step1 1, by A-u-R-e-L

Thank you for reading my article about another villain, as well as their cult. I hope you've enjoyed it, that this was inspiring, and I wish you a nice day!

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