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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Villainous Cookbook: The Memento Necromancer

Howdy, everyone! While talking on the Discord of Many Things, I got an idea from an acquaintance who mentioned starting a blog about min-maxed characters. I should start sharing my own villains on this blog. I hope you'll enjoy this!

Preface

The purpose of the Villainous Cookbook is to provide cool villain ideas for DMs. It usually utilizes homebrew player options sometimes mixed with the official ones, but it bends the rules a little to work better as a whole. This is not to prove to the players that they are weak and you are strong, that's something anyone can do. "Prismatic rocks fall, everyone dies." Since you're the DM, you can do that. But the fact that you can do that doesn't mean that you should. Sometimes, restrictions breed creativity. Other times, it's nice to push the boundary a little to make the villain more interesting.

There is one thing where I'll be loose on the rulings always, and that's the stats. I leave the stats completely up to you. I will tell you what feats I recommend you to pick though. Because let's face it - Ability Score Improvements are not important for the villains, so why bother.

Each of the builds is split into 4 Tiers, to show how the villain grows in power over time. At any moment, the villain should be at least on the same tier as your players if not higher, since you want them to be challenging. Unless noteworthy, I won't mention the specific spells, ability scores, backgrounds, or skills. All that I leave up to you so that the villain is more customized.

One final word of caution - while these builds might seem overpowered, making the homebrews seem overpowered, bear in mind two things.

  1. We're adjusting the rules a little to make the character builds work better. If this demands an in-world explanation, say that this is an exceptional individual who figured out something others don't know, or has special bloodline/destiny.
  2. We're crossing the homebrew streams. And that can oftentimes go wrong. I'm doing my best to use homebrews that I consider balanced and that I would actually allow my players to use in the games.

Alright! Let's get to our first villain!

The Memento Necromancer

After splitting away from his colleagues to go through the dungeon again for more treasures, the adventurer finds himself alone on the way back to the village. His second delve was far from fruitful, those couple coins were not worth it, and now he has to walk through the misty forest on his own. The Sun has set midway through the forest when the adventurer hears a voice in the distance.
"X'harles? Is that you?"
The mighty warrior looks around until he notices a figure standing in the distance. Once his eyes adjust to the distance, he recognizes it. "M-mother?"
"X'harles, why did you abandon us?" Another voice speaks up, this one masculine, from another direction. "The orcs could have been defeated if you helped us."
"What? H-how are you- this can't be..." The warrior stutters as he keeps exchanging glances between both of these figures.
"You have abandoned us. And we will never forgive you that." Adventurer's mother says as he hears shuffles of feet from all around. Zombies emerge from the mist. Too many of them. Each bearing the face and body of either the adventurer's parents.
"No, you've died! I saw it, you died to the warchief's axe! Stay back!"

Soul summoner, by Nghi Vo

Ingredients List



Tier 1

Let's start with our base. Start with picking the faceless race, which is a secret tool we'll get to use later. One level of rogue doesn't get us much besides expertise and sneak attack, but neither warlock nor wizard gets us anything from the multiclassing so that's why we start with it. You can drop the expertises anywhere you want. I would put them into Stealth, and either Perception if you want them to notice players well, or Athletics/Acrobatics if you want them to be good at getting out of the troubles/getting into places. We follow that up with three levels of warlock, picking the Gelatinous Convocation patron, and Pact of the Tome. Now, it's time to bend two rules, both of which are actually presented in Compendium of Forgotten Secrets: Awakening as possibilities. One is using Intelligence as a spellcasting ability, while the other is ignoring the patron prerequisites on the Eldritch Invocations. Former helps us with multiclassing into wizard later, while the latter will help us in getting the signature tome of our necromancer to work.

We'll need two invocations. Catalogue of Experiences from the Gelatinous Convocation patron, and Ledger of the Deceased from the Forbidden Graveyard patron. The combination of all these means that if the necromancer touches a corpse with their tome, the corpse's name gets written into the tome. If a name is written that way in the tome, it counts as if its corpse was always wherever the tome is. Once per day, after one minute of focusing on a name within the tome, the memories from the last 48 hours of its life, as well as memories of the most important moments during the last year of its life, appear within the tome. While we could go for different invocations, such as Agonizing Blast, or Fractured Soul from CoFS:A, our current build has only 3 levels of warlock. If you want to, you could exchange some of the wizard levels for warlock levels to get more invocations, as well as some extra spells.

I would recommend avoiding showing off the necromancer to your players at this point. Have them act in the background, gathering information on the players' pasts and building up their catalog of terrible memories.

Tier 2

This is where our things get a little tricky. We get to earn at least 4 levels of wizard, and then 2 extra levels that can be distributed between wizard and rogue. We'll go with wizard 5 + rogue 1, because it's optimal, and it gives us our desired necromancy.

With one level of rogue, we get the cunning action. Consistent bonus action is always nice to have, especially for someone as squishy as this necromancer. Disengage, Dash, and Hide can be useful more than often.

The five levels of wizard get us the spell animate dead at last, a lot more spell slots, and an ASI. Our dear necromancer can now go on and produce numerous undead every single day. Since the name in the tome doesn't disappear when an undead is produced with our necromancer's pact tome, they could create infinite copies of the same undead's corpse.

So now we have an information gatherer who can conjure some undead, collect memories, and look like anyone. The next tier is where things get even more frightening.

Tier 3

Our dear necromancer will earn the final rogue level and pick the Hundred Faced archetype. Though, we'll change it in a minor way. Instead of its abilities relying on the Wisdom, we'll make them rely on the Intelligence (again, just to make the villain more interesting). This archetype has got an interesting interaction with the Faceless that I like to call "one-man crowd": if you make a copy of yourself, it looks exactly like you do, along with all of your equipment. So, since you're faceless, you can turn into anyone from the past of a corpse inside of your tome, and make a copy of yourself. This copy will from that point on look like the person whose appearance you copied. Its appearance can't really be changed, but that's fine, this is good enough.

From this point on, all of the levels are invested into the wizard. By the time this necromancer reaches level 16, they'll have 3 levels of warlock, 3 levels of rogue, and 10 levels of wizard. With this, they'll be able to cast spells of 5th level, create more powerful enemies, have resistance to necrotic damage and immunity to effects that would reduce their maximum HP. They'll know 2 warlock cantrips and 5 wizard cantrips, know 4 warlock spells and prepare at most 15 wizard spells, and have 2 spell slots of 2nd level that recharge on short rest, along with Arcane Recovery which recharges 10 levels of spells. By now they should be gathering up quite an army, possibly hiding somewhere and drawing more and more undead from their tome.

Tier 4

With the final tier, our necromancer learns spells of 6th and 7th level and learns how to command the undead. Of course, you could just assume the undead they try to control has failed their saving throw while off-screen, so you could go wild with this ability. Some recommendations for the spells to pick would be finger of death and create undead.

Feats

Our necromancer will get to pick 1 feat during Tier 2, 2 feats during Tier 3, and 1 feat during Tier 4. You might want to choose your feats based on the playstyle of your players, as well as personal preference. The list is of course not exhaustive.

  • For increased mobility, you could consider Mobile (PHB), Mark of the Storm Lord (CoFS:A), and Flying Figure (Faceless).
  • For stealth options, consider the Inanimate Shapes (Faceless), Beastly Forms (Faceless), and Skulker (PHB).
  • For improving the magic, you could pick Elemental Adept (PHB), Spell Sniper (PHB), or War Caster (PHB).
  • For improving their durability, you could go with Mage Slayer (PHB), Resilient with the choice being Constitution (PHB), or Tough (PHB).
  • If you want to drive up the paranoia in your players, consider picking up the Face Stealer (Faceless) or Truly Eldritch (Faceless) feat.
  • For universal utility, you could pick Lucky (PHB). Just don't call it "Lucky" in front of the players. Maybe you could flavor it as Legendary Resistance and just use it for saves.

Story Background

When it comes to the potential connections to the players and the reasons for fighting, there are of course lots of options. Here's just a couple of them:
  • One of the player characters holds a magical item that needs to be awakened and the necromancer really wants it.
  • One of the player characters has murdered someone who necromancer cared for deeply.
  • The necromancer's parents have been killed by parent(s) of one or more player characters.
  • The necromancer used to be in a friendly rivalry with one of the player characters back when they were children. However, the rivalry has grown into enmity as the necromancer started to study the dark magic.
While at it, consider also the personality of your necromancer. Not all necromancers have to be serious and monotone. Maybe your necromancer is eccentric, or actually a social person. Maybe 

So excited to bring back life into those old bones. First success, by Tony Sart.

Anyways, that's about it! Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Departed Man's Inn

Inspired by the OST of Witcher 3's expansion, a blogpost from GoblinPunch, and possibly other stuff that I forgot about.

The blog's purpose did change over the years, I figured every once in a while I could make another location you could plop anywhere in your world. Mainly when I have an idea that feels like it's worth exploring.

Note: Any similarities to real people or places is coincidental, other than Elza Beth. All of these are fictional people.

The Departed Man's Inn

Somewhere, be it just on a road between big cities, or on the crossroads where several such roads meet, stands The Departed Man's Inn. Far away from any big noteworthy city, this tavern seems to be nothing important at a glance. It's actually surprising they have any regular patrons at all. But those who look beyond the facade presented to the public will find a terrifying truth. The inn has lots of traps hidden all over the place, and it even hides a secret basement underneath the cellar. Some of the beds have mechanical spikes that spring at midnight, impaling whoever is unfortunate enough to lie on them. The subtle drainage system built in those few selected rooms lead all of the blood down beneath the inn, right into a bathtub. What's more, this place is full of highwaymen. A group of outlaws, who just so happen to be... immortal?
The Departed Man's Inn, including its regular patrons, is composed of a group of immortal people in hiding, robbing traveling merchants in their free time, because what else will they do. Each of them is immortal in their own way.


D.A.

D.A. is the goblin with a silver tongue. He managed to convince the Vile Darkness — the lord of hell itself (or another appropriate Lower Plane of your choice) — to grant him immortality. It was supposed to be a devil deal that would backfire, but D.A.'s talent of writing contracts is what has given him this immortality. It's also the explanation for his nickname — Devil's Advocate, D.A. He is the third youngest member of the group, and ultimately his goal is to overthrow the leader and manage the group as the boss.



Dorien

Because of a badly worded wish upon encountering a genie, this male dwarf has been turned into a vampire. He is a patient man, rather slow but also artistically talented, and elegant. With the time he has been given, he is capable of painting the same painting for months, sometimes even years. His life goal is to paint a masterpiece to be remembered by forever.


Elza Beth

Taking inspiration from an actual legend, this young-looking female aasimar lures into the Departed Man's Inn young virgin women to slay them and bathe in their blood. This is what keeps her youth, both in appearance and in age. Her only wish is to keep her beauty and admiration from others. She's actually rather reserved when not on the "hunt", keeping to herself


Jack Hopkins

Legends say, that those who have been denied from every single afterlife are fated to travel across the lands, cursed with eternal life. Jack is a ghost banned from any life beyond death, bound to a simple amulet. He can possess people seen by him, which he usually uses to bring in victims for Elza and Dorien to keep their eternal lives. Whenever he possesses someone, the person visibly wears Jack's amulet. Jack is an eccentric prankster, who just wants to enjoy the life for what it's worth, since he's got unlimited supply of it. Drinking, drugs, and other pleasures that would normally damage the body are of no worry to someone, who can exchange bodies with others.


Jade Hart

It is rather unusual to meet a goliath wizard. Second in leadership only to Thomas, she's the brains behind this whole tavern. Jade has several clones prepared in the secret basement beneath the inn's cellar. She's supportive, willing to listen to anyone who has a problem — patron or fellow highwayman. Reading makes her happy, and scrolls containing any spells that she doesn't have yet in the nearly complete spellbook make her even happier. Rumors between the Inn's employees say that her heart is literally a heart of stone, but nobody can tell for sure whether that's true or not.


Lapis Goldielocks Gyroscope

Thanks to her alchemical prowess, Lapis has managed to successfully create a recipe for potion of immortality, which allows her body to regenerate very fast. She's a gnome with an ambitious goal of creating her very own universe in a box. She's naturally curious about all the travelers, and a good listener since she usually pretends to be the barmaid.


Maximillion Dyson Gyroscope, or M.A.X.

Through complicated research, Maximillion has managed to develop his very own spells, akin to magic mouth or arcane lock, but with telekinesis activated by seen inputs. Afterwards, this gnome has built himself an iron golem body, cast imprisonment on himself, and through his visual commands managed to insert the gem used for the imprisonment spell into the chest of the golem. His wish is to outlast even the gods with his ingenuity, and when he's not pretending to be a bodyguard of this tavern, he's constantly working on new gizmos, under a nickname of "Mechanical Autonomous eXterminator", or M.A.X.


Queen of Aces

Bearing the nickname of a Queen is something only someone very proud of their skills would dare to do. Queen is excellent at all sorts of games, and a very fast learner. It is said that the more she plays against the same opponent, the higher her chances of beating them. This lordly gambler has challenged the death itself to a game, and coincidentally won. Ever since, she's been on a winning streak, with a goal of amassing as much wealth as possible for her own amusement.


Immortal Jim and Lilac "Steel Doll" Hemsi

These two siblings are fairly old, and blessed by the gods with skin that's as hard as steel. Both of them are immortal, but for different reasons. Jim will only take damage that's 3 or less at once, while Lilac takes damage only if it's dealt to the pinkie toe on her left foot, which she usually hides with steel-tipped boots. The two siblings care for each other, and technically aren't even immortal. Thomas took them in for their potential when it comes to being in the fight. While Jim is a bit of an airhead who gets angry quickly at even the smallest things, Lilac fills in for his weaknesses by being exceptionally good at reading people and noticing things.
They don't really get a picture, because this is a blank I'd want you to fill out on your own. Do they look like barbarians from north? Like desert travelers? Do they look like stereotypical adventurers? You tell me!

Thomas Booker O'Ville, also known as The Vile Darkness

The lord of hell (or another appropriate Lower Plane) that D.A. managed to trick. He is the oldest member of this group, the leader, and also the founder. He is a trickster, elegant on the outside but playing mind games at all times with folks. Who knows if D.A. tricked him, or if Thomas got him where he wanted to have D.A. all along. Due to being the lord of hell, he always comes back to life by emerging from the hell after his death. To the public, he presents himself as the owner of The Departed Man's Inn.
Some rumors say that he is the Book of Vile Darkness, manifested into a physical form. Which is why there's only one known way of destroying him permanently — wiping out all of the multiverse's evil.


And I suppose that's it for The Departed Man's Inn! Sure I could go into more details, like the environment, or the tavern's layout, or more detailed roles for the rest of the characters, but I would rather keep the details like that vague so that it fits into majority of the worlds. Imagine having your players start in this inn before they venture into the adventures of the world, having little to no clue as to who manages this inn until way later in the game. You can of course alter the crew of this inn by adding or removing members, editing the existing ones, or doing any other modifications you can think of.

Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!