Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ridiculous 5e spells for villains

Playing Curse of Strahd, I have a hankering to let the villains do some creative spellcasting. I made nice use of the 5th level spell scrying as a PC in my Princes of the Apocalypse game, and its given me more inspiration to use some by-the-book spells in nifty ways. I mostly looked through the wizard list on the 5esrd (all of it) as the big-bads in Strahd seem to use the wizard list (Strahd, Baba Lysaga, and the Old Bonegrinder ladies). There's probably others, but these were some of the initial thoughts.

Curse of Strahd spoilers below. I'm sure I read somewhere about an alternate spell list in Strahd for when one of the villains prepairs for the PCs, but I can't find it anywhere now. These spells will give some nice fodder for that though, and a few are already on the character's normal lists.

Animal Messenger (2) - Story. You better believe that someone is going to send some messages with this spell. It could even be combined with illusory script, as you might tie a message to the beast rather than rely on it to deliver the message verbally.

Enhance Ability (2) - Combat. If you're not concentrating on something else and expect to fight casters, advantage on spellcasting ability checks for counterspell or dispel magic is great.

Counterspell (3) - Defense. One of the best spells in the game, particularly for villains. They hardly use their reactions and high-level slots otherwise, so why not make them useful? This is probably one of the easiest ways to make a spellcasting villain harder.

Glyph of Warding (3) - Defense. Unless I'm misreading this, this may be one of the most ridiculous ways to cast a bunch of spells without concentration. While the text indicates damaging spells can be glyph'd with this, I think by the book something like enlarge/reduce could as well, though that seems broken-ish. I mean, reduce ok, but once you start trapping books with the enlarge spell so you can have it without concentration... Seems broken. But even without that, putting thunder spells in this also serves as a nifty alarm in addition to dealing damage.

Sending (3) - Story. Messages. No question asked. Could be nicely used to taunt or just to give the villain some on-screen time without being a target.

Fire Shield (4) - Combat. A nice early buff to deter melee attacks.

Wall of whatever (4ish+) - Combat. Any of these spells could wreak havok if they divide the party. Just like God intended. There's a good variety of these.

Animate Objects (5) - Combat/Story. A nice way to take control of things.

Contagion (5) - Combat. With three failed saves the disease lasts for a week.

Dream (5) - Story. From a distance, the spellcaster can send nightmares to one or more PCs messing with their long rests. Alternately, just a pleasant message.

Geas (5) - Story/Combat. If Strahd wants to give a powerful invite, he's got a way.

Otiluke's Resilient Sphere (5) - Combat. Separate a few of the PCs from the rest of the pack.

Scrying (5) - Story. Once a day a villain can attempt to get some basic info about the PCs. After targeting one of them the villain could legit start figuring out who has the lowest wisdom save. Also, if a villain hits one of the PCs with claws or the like they've likely got the necessary pound of flesh to give a major penalty to the save. That or they send spies to do it.

Chain Lightning (6) - Combat. Not necessarily an evil spell per se, but a nice way to target most of the party without risking any minions.

Globe of Invulnerability (6) - Combat. This spell will really piss off the casters. Even if it only lasts a couple rounds, their offensive spells will be worthless.

Guards and Wards (6) - Defense. This only applies to enemies within a lair-type structure. Like a windmill. Or even a hut. If the players don't take the villain out on the first try, they're likely to start defending themselves with this (and an early morning scrying could let the villain know when they really need to cast this spell or not.

Move Earth (6) - Story/Defense. I hope the players don't assume the terrain will be favorable if they come back to a villain's lair.

Programmed Illusion (6) - Story/Defense. A permanent, programmed illusion can be great. If you've got time to defend yourself one or two illusions of your guards might keep the PCs on their toes.

True Seeing (6) - Defense. A nice buff to use if the villain expects the PCs to be coming soon.

Mirage Arcana (7) - Story/Defense. This can screw with the terrain around someone's lair or home for 10 days. Particularly in dangerous areas, you can hide roads, make them lead elsewhere, etc.

Project Image (7) - Story. Another great way to communicate with the PCs. A villain can even be hiding elsewhere, appear to be leading actual minions, etc.

Reverse Gravity (7) - Combat. If its timed well, you can catch some of the PCs off guard and hold them at range before they take a nice pile of damage.

Sequester (7) - Story. An NPC can really hide things that need to be hidden. I imagine Baba Lysaga using this on behalf of the PCs if they can convince her to hide Ireena.

Similacrum (7) - Story/Defense. So many uses, its hard to imagine them all. I can also imagine Baba Lysaga making a fake Ireena for the group if they convince her that she's bad news for Strahd.

Clone (8) - Defense. What self-respecting level 16 caster isn't going to have a clone around?

Feeblemind (8) - Combat. If your villain suspects anyone has a low intelligence, a well-done feeblemind will hamper one of the characters for a long time.

What does this accomplish? I think it'll make the villains seem villainous and give the PCs some good opportunities to prep dispel magic and counterspell.

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