Defeating a Great Enemy (tm)

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I originally started this file as a way to defeat Eltab, after reading his page in Masters of Ruin. Since Eltab is nowhere to be found in 4e, I genericized my list. The file is supposed to be the steps needed for Epic-level characters to finally defeat the Great Enemy who has been lurking in the background lo these last 20 levels. The list is written on the assumption that the party is wizard and bard heavy; feel free to adapt it to meet your group's needs.

Defeating a Great Enemy (tm)

(1) GE description
- GE is fundamentally not of this world - extraplanar
- GE is undying (very extended lifespan, immortal, or undead)
- physical description of GE - has a unique feature (which he thinks of as a blemish) GE uses illusary duplicates w/out the blemish
- GE has a long-term plan with both glorious and nefarious aspects
- GE used to be active in history
- GE has individuals and organizations who are his enemies. They may help his other foes - or may not
- GE has interacted with other BBEGs, who may help / hinder third parties whose plots involve GE
- GE has a special connection to 1 earthly spot
- GE can be summoned back to that special spot against his will
- GE once held a foreign land, as a servant of others
- GE is kept in this world (and cannot return to his home) by a Binding
- GE is the toughest possible opponent for the PCs to face (their level + 5, Solo monster) (double-check rules and math)
- GE has a long history of spreading evil and woe
- GE prefers to act through others, not in person - unless he is about to destroy a defeated foe
- GE concocts decades-long plans
- GE likes to torment others; misery and suffering draw him out of hiding to watch and participate
- breaking the Binding will dismiss GE, return both him and the cysts (see 6 below) from whence they came
- if GE cannot be returned to his Special Spot to perform a special Dismissal ritual, it will suffice to have the Legendary Weapon present and used in the ritual to break the Binding
- damaging but not destroying the Binding is liable to summon GE to the spot with commands to attack the intruders. GE will arrive in perfect condition and may have subordinates as well. (It will require forethought born of true paranoia - or harsh experience - to discover this)

(2) GE's books
- there are 1d4 + 1 books about GE
- some of the books are tomes, some are notes, pages, scrolls, &c, some are in foreign languages, some are in long-dead languages, one is a bardic tale with variants, some are privately held, some are secret, some are public knowledge. one is in a common modern language
- written books describing GE are hidden, protected, access forbidden w/out very good cause - in the guardian's eyes
- each book is far away from all the others
- one tome is part of a dragon's hoard (see 8c below).
- one book is in an Eternal Library of Boccob. You can look at / study / copy - but not take - it, for a healthy $$$ price. Of course, so can anybody else. And the Library will tell others all about you and your business, if the questioner pays the Library's fees.
- One book (not 2d) is guarded by an undead sphinx. He knows what he protects, and has a general idea of the contents. He does not know specific details. If the PCs can answer his riddle, he will consent to answer some questions about the book - in riddles.
(a) research notes
- written by the Masters who summoned GE in the first place
- the notes are still in the masters' (long-abandoned) laboratory complex
- they had many experiments and projects going at the time
- GE was a big deal to one master, but not to all of them
- the research notes are incomplete
- the Ritual to summon GE to his Special Spot is complete and ready to be copied / used
- a Ritual to create cysts and populate them is dangerously dysfunctional / malfunctioning
- the notes can be reverse-engineered to create opposite effects and learn about GE's essential nature
- see also 8a below
(b) diary of GE's apprentice
- description of GE is in it
- description of GE's blemish is also in it
- diary explains some - but not all - of GE's plans, purposes, and goals
- diary has clues to the location of GE's masters' lair
- diary has hints at GE's long-range plans and an estimated timetable - the plans will be coming to fruition at about the time ... that the PCs are active in the world, by happenstance
(c) noble's adventure description
- the person who got in and out of GE's citadel (3d below) left a book describing his adventure and deeds
- this person was important to the government of another country : cardinal / great earl / king's counselor
- the book includes a (mostly accurate) map of inside the citadel
- the book includes a (mostly accurate) map of the way to the citadel
- the existence of the book is widely known, but its actual contents are Top Secret
- rumors and false tales and conjecture about the book's contents are widely abundant
- the book is guarded by agents of the government (in the Smithsonian Museum?)
- asking questions - of people who have no actual knowledge - about the book is OK. So is compiling the public rumors &c. But after Government Agents warn you off, further investigation is not OK.
- messing with the book makes you Public Enemy Number One in that country
(d) regional tales and songs
- patriotic material inspired by the liberation of the foreign land from GE's rule
- all this material is public knowledge, easily available
- the tales have to be collected
- several variants of the tales must be harmonized (or pick the accurate one from several garbled versions)
- needed clues may be scattered among many tales
- each variant has the right answer for one puzzle and has false answers for several other puzzles
(e) a tradesman's journal
- the personal diary by the maker of the Legendary Weapon (LW)
- at the time, the LW was just another special tool (not yet Legendary)
- the maker was a master craftsman and some of his techniques are trademarked by his guild
- the maker had secret access to (some of) GE's masters' documentation
- the preceding fact is hinted at but not explicit in the journal
- to make LW effective, the maker exploited GE's true weakness

(3) GE's lairs
(a) original extraplanar home
- GE abandoned his original home (under duress - the summoning)
- original home can be located and assaulted
- original home has ex-lieutenants in residence
- lieutenants can provide information about GE in time gone by
(b) first lair in world
- actually a lair for his summoniong masters
- lair is behind / beneath unassociated others
- inside are dangers and rewards - magical items, creation method tomes, malfunctioning or dysfunctional failures (may be by GE or his minions or former allies or ex-masters)
- the Ritual to summon GE to his special spot is hidden away, somewhere in this lair. It can be reverse-engineered (DC incredibly-tough skill check) to learn about GE's fundamental nature
- the Ritual to summon GE to his Special Spot is complete and ready to be copied / used
- this lair is forgotten and lost. It will take high-level divination spells or time travel or clues from the apprentice's diary to locate it.
(c) lair as a conquerer / enforcer
- this lair was destroyed in the rebellion
- some sub-basements or similar may still be intact
- there could be an artifact or bit of knowledge still in this lair
(d) lair in time of his power
- Adamantine Binding - special summoning circle (GE's 1 special spot)
- GE's special spot has a citadel atop it and nasty badlands around
- GE's special spot was originally chosen by summoners because it was out of the way and unlikely to be disturbed
- way to lair is naturally deadly - such as extensive caverns flooded with freezing water, or nasty flora & fauna
- way to lair may have magically-enhanced climate (glacier, desert, jungle) also
- GE's citadel is built to withstand unwanted (incl. magical) entry
- GE's citadel has trophies to remind him of past conquests
- GE's citadel has reminders of past foes who have not yet been beaten
- GE's citadel has his personal equipment in it (see 5 below)
- GE's citadel has a cyst (see 6 below) attached. This is where GE goes when he must recuperate.
- somebody else once got in and out of the citadel (see 2c above)

(4) GE-bane weapon
- only the Legendary Weapon (LW) can break the Adamantine Binding
- LW once tasted GE's hot blood in single combat
- LW was specially forged
- LW secretly includes GE's weakness
- LW lies forgotten (or unidentified) in last wielders' ancestral stronghold
- there are cheap imitations of LW about in the world

(5) GE's equipment
- GE has learned all the Make Magic Items rituals
- GE has some unique magical equipment on hand at all times
- GE has collected items of legend from earlier in his career
- GE has unique, personal magic to use on intruders

(6) GE's favorite minions
- GE sometimes takes apprentices or lieutenants
- GE has servants &c who work his will and protect his interests
- Cysts - connections from GEs original home plane to this world's underground, 100 ft across
- cysts have nasty inhabitants from that other plane trapped inside
- it is easy for GE to recruit the nasty inhabitants after a cyst is opened (natural affinity, acknowledged ruler)
- unrecruited cyst inhabitants, once freed, work evil and woe upon others
- breaking the Binding will cause the cysts to return to their home plane, taking (and banishing) any occupants with them
- breaking the Binding makes defeating all the nasty inhabitants in this world into a finite (but not necessarily short or easy) job

(7) GE's weakness
- this weakness can be learned by divination or by Divine advice or by a DC (L30 character optimized for this purpose since L1 must roll a 20) research check. Or a series of easier checks which constitute a hardest-possible skill challenge.
- GE once fled from before an inferior force - they were prepared to exploit his secret weakness
- that inferior force did several nonstandard things - which is the real weakness?
- there may be a few individuals still in the world who know the weakness and can be asked about it (such as 8a below)
- the weakness is explained in a book, if that book can be found (see 2a or 2e above)
- possible weaknesses: mercury, dandelion sap, sing praise psalms to deific being

(8) Important people in the quest
(a) Master's apprentice. This person studied with one of GE's old masters. He has since transformed himself into a lich. Questioning him can substitute for acquiring the research notes (2a above). His extended time continuing the masters' lines of research makes him a better source of knowledge than the author. He can point out any magical rituals which will not work as advertised. He can correct wrong assumptions or wrong conclusions drawn by the PCs. He knows the way to the masters' lair (3b above). Use the skill challenge from pg 27 of the Open Grave sourcebook to question him. The lich will test low-level or unready parties with combat. But he will automatically parley with parties that are clearly able to defeat him. In addition to the skill challenge, he may be persuaded to come along to the old lair, or to reveal GE's true weakness (DC hardest Diplomacy for either one, cannot gain both).
(b) The author of one book. The mortal remains of one author (2e might be a good choice) are in a Ruby Temple of Wee Jas; the temple staff can use necromancy and divinations for an interrogation.
(c) A dragon. This dragon has one of the tomes the PCs are looking for. He may / may not agree to allow the PCs to look through his stuff - at any price. If he is already an enemy of GE, he may charge the PCs only a "research fee". On the other hand, he may decide to take out the PCs because, hey, he is a dragon and they are not. Maybe the book is in one piece, or maybe it is actually a bunch of scrolls, pages, notes, &c that must be collected. This dragon believes that "knowledge is the greatest treasure". Useful high-level magic items (anything the PCs failed to obtain elsewhere, plus a few they haven't located yet) are in his hoard; also rituals the PCs can use. If the tome is in pieces, the PCs gain a bonus to any other research-related skill checks they perform while working undisturbed in the hoard room, because this dragon has so much other stuff.

(9) Biography
- GE was a powerful being - a ruler - on his home plane
- GE was summoned to this world by powerful magic
- the summoning created a special bond between GE and that spot; an extraplanar cyst is nearby
- GE was made to function as a servant for a time
- GE was sent to conquer / enforce rule over a foreign land
- GE learned how to break free of (most of) his bonds
- after freeing himself, GE killed (or arranged the death of) his former masters
- the foreigner population rebelled
- the act of rebellion was triggered by GE's actions against his masters / the occupiers
- the rebels had earlier learned of GE's true weakness and prepared to use it against him
- the rebels did not know that GE was going to personally rebel.
- GE fled from an inferior force after sustaining injury by the LW
- the foreigners prevailed against remaining occupying forces
- GE returned to the land in which he was summoned (willingly - to recuperate?)
- GE built a fortress in his own name over his special spot
- GE began collecting minions from this world
- GE sometimes takes apprentices (he trains them, then sends them elsewhere to accomplish some purpose)
- GE began searching out cysts to recruit the nasty inhabitants
- GE has had a long time to create his own personal unique stuff
- GE has re-acquired stuff from his time as a servant of others
- GE has re-acquired stuff from his time as enforcer of the foreign land
- GE has been 'slumbering' (preparing?) for a time but now is becoming active in the world again
- other BBEGs will interfere if somebody tries to attack GE - they may help his foes or harm them / their efforts

Best complements I have yet received

Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.


{BRJN} If Bhaal approves of The Joker, does he approve of Jack Nicholson's portrayal or Heath Ledger's protrayal more?

{Stigger} That question is utterly classic, and completely on target.


Prepped ahead of time:

I started the 4e thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (now lost in that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.


(News bulletin: Updated thread to be posted after I review the 5e DMG)


My 5e characters


Erevyn Meliamne, Wood Elf Rogue1/Monk2, AL, inspired by "Radar O'Reilly" from M*A*S*H: Perception(max)

Alavos of Kirauma, Half-elf Ancients Paladin8, HotDQ / Tiamat, Warlord themed - now an NPC because I was voted DM for our group !

Characters Ready-to-go:

none at present; gotta work on somebody from below !

Concepts I'm kicking around:

Tiefling Bard - party "face", skillful, future business master (using 3e FRCS background material) and patron to beginning adventurers.

Barbarian w/Tough feat, to be nearly indestructible

"Truenamer" cleric - all spells are Verbal

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC / BBEG version is going to become a beetle version of a Worm That Walks.  (See the 4e MM picture of a Lamia.)  Because lichdom is so cliche.