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I am currently DMing a D&D 5e campaign for a party of 4, and I wanted a villain with a teleporting ability similar to Nightcrawler, from X-Men/Marvel Comics.

I have run into an issue. The main attraction for me of a teleporting character is that they would be difficult to hit, due to the ability to teleport out of the way of an attack, but I am having trouble balancing a reaction-based teleporting ability - think of the Parry maneuver, where you can take a reaction to up your AC, but here instead you teleport out of harm's way.

The problem with balancing this is that if I make it powerful enough to be effective, then it becomes nigh-impossible to hit said villain. A solution would be to limit the amount of times he can do it, but that decreases the appeal of an NPC built upon his unlimited uses of teleportation powers.

How can I give a villainous NPC this sort of ability without it being overpowered?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are the PC's levels? \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Jan 16 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this ability is reaction based he could only dodge once per round. Is this too often? Or not often enough? \$\endgroup\$ – Baergren Jan 16 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's too few parameters to make a good answer. Especially since you don't specify the party level and the actual statblock, at least. Without some kind of measurement to mark which answers "the best", this is too broad or too opinion based. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Jan 16 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doc Please see this meta for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 16 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener It was meant more as a legitimate question; as in is there a reason that that solution doesn't work for what the OP wants to do. Had they said that there wasn't a reason, I would have made it an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Doc Jan 16 at 21:51
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Ok, there's two ways to go about it. Limited use, or limited reliability.

Limited Use

This is simple: as a reaction, teleport up to your move. Reaction rules limits this to 1/round.

Limited Reliability

Follow the 3.5's Wall of Blades 'spell' example: opposed rolls. Pick a save that makes sense (might be Dexterity, for reaction, or Intelligence, for the focus required, for example). I'd probably go with Dex. As a free action, when attacked, roll a Dex save. If this is more than the incoming attack's roll, teleport 5ft vs ranged or your move speed vs melee, avoiding the attack (ranged vs melee difference to keep the enemy from moving away too fast when the melee haven't even caught up yet). Limit this to when you're aware of the attacker and able to react (or in other words, when the enemy doesn't have advantage on their attack).

In any case, go with a pitifully low AC, especially with the second effect. It amounts to a 50% miss chance, pretty much enough to keep things ok

The Prestige Way

This is actually like a magic trick, in that under the hood, no teleportation-dodge happens. It just looks that way.

Build the villain for a high AC through Dexterity. Give him 'when an attack misses you or you pass a dexterity save, you can move X feet'. Describe misses as missing (and saves passed) because of the teleportation, not the other way around. Roll a die behind your screen when the players attack, and pretend to care of the result and blame it for the 'active' misses.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the "Prestige". I love clever solutions where you can narratively re-flavor otherwise fairly mundane abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Sabre Jan 16 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ For the prestige way, you might want to say "an attack misses or he passes a Dex saving through". It seems weird that he can teleport away from a sword but not a fireball \$\endgroup\$ – By Symmetry Jan 16 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great point, added it in! @BySymmetry \$\endgroup\$ – ThanosMaravel Jan 16 at 18:32
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Give your villain the blink spell

The blink spell description says:

Roll a d20 at the end of each of your turns for the duration of the spell. On a roll of 11 or higher, you vanish from your current plane of existence and appear in the Ethereal Plane (the spell fails and the casting is wasted if you were already on that plane). At the start of your next turn, and when the spell ends if you are on the Ethereal Plane, you return to an unoccupied space of your choice that you can see within 10 feet of the space you vanished from.

Though it isn't teleporting per se, you can reflavor it as such. You can make it at-will spell or part of innate spellcasting with limited number of uses, though spell balances itself just right, as the probability of spell's effect occurring is 50%.

Throw in a couple of Rogue's class features

Uncanny Dodge

Starting at 5th level, when an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack's damage against you.

Evasion

Beginning at 7th level, you can nimbly dodge out of the way of certain area effects, such as red dragon's fiery breath or an ice storm spell. When you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.

Treat these as constant blinking, making it hard for his opponents to land a solid hit.


Overall your character seems like a reflavored 13th level Arcane Trickster, except for his dodging is actually teleporting away in the nick of time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 because this is basically how Nightcrawler's ability actually works in the comics (unless it's been retconned since I last read X-Men) \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Jan 16 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this idea, but wouldn't Misty Step be more apropos? \$\endgroup\$ – Raj Jan 16 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raj Misty Step doesn't make the target harder to hit. With Blink there is a 50/50 chance the enemy won't even be there after their turn. Misty step just lets them teleport during their turn. Though there is no reason he couldn't have both. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 16 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Can see" - shouldn't that be "had seen" before you blinked? What happens if you cast darkness? \$\endgroup\$ – Mazura Jan 17 at 15:25
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I haven't tried this or seen it in action myself, but the Mystic class from Unearthed Arcana has a lot of superhero-style abilities, classified in-game as psionics. In particular, the Nomadic Step psionic discipline has a lot of teleportation abilities, including the Defensive Step psionic effect, which seems quite similar to what you want:

Defensive Step (2 psi). When you are hit by an attack, you can use your reaction to gain a +4 bonus to AC against that attack, possibly turning it into a miss. You then teleport up to 10 feet to an unoccupied space you can see.

I know a lot of DMs avoid UA for player characters due to possible issues with balance, but for an NPC you control you might consider it a bit more kosher, certainly moreso than a complete homebrew.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is literally what the OP is asking for from an official source. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Jan 17 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, that's real nice! \$\endgroup\$ – ThanosMaravel Jan 18 at 10:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThanosMaravel - Given your user name, I'd expect you to play exclusively Mystics. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Jan 19 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Disapointingly enough, it is my real name (nearly). Look at the second half closer, there's an extra A :P \$\endgroup\$ – ThanosMaravel Jan 19 at 20:37
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Make a it a legendary ability.

I like to give all boss creatures legendary actions, makes them feel more epic compared to being just a stronger mob.

this is the table i use

  • move action - 1 point
  • single attack action 1 point
  • cast a cantrip - 1 point
  • dash action - 2 points
  • multiattack - 2 points
  • cast a spell - 2 points
  • move and attack action - 3 points

chose how may points you boss has (1-4) based on difficult tier.

then just make you teleport a cantrip - The next time the creature is hit with an attack the attack misses and the creature teleport's to an open space it can see up to 30 ft away.

As it is a legendary action it can only be taken at the end of a players turn so you will have to preempt when you want to cast it so it wont always be active.

it only affects the next hit so you can only dodge once per player turn making it possible to hit the boss while keeping the nightcrawler theme.

PS this is a great idea for a boss and im looking forward to running it soon :)

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There is even a similar ability available to PCs, as a level 6 Archfey-patron warlock gets the Misty Escape feature (PHB, p. 109):

Starting at 6th level, you can vanish in a puff of mist in response to harm. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to turn invisible and teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. You remain invisible until the start of your next turn or until you attack or cast a spell.

Every time this NPC gets hit, poof, it's gone until the start of its next turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like you've left out the very important balancing factor that the feature has: it can be used once per short or long rest. This might be a good start to an answer, but it doesn't address any potential balancing concerns, especially if you give an NPC this 6th-level feature and take out the primarily thing that ensures it's not overpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 16 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That wasn't reported where I looked up this ability, sorry for missing it out. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Tassinari Jan 16 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's why it's important to look up official versions of the rules or class features, rather than relying on unofficial wikis or sources that may reword those abilities or leave out potentially important information. (The info that it's once per short rest is on a separate line/paragraph in the rules, so it can be easy to miss.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 16 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll delete my answer as soon as I am back on my computer, can't do it from the Android app. \$\endgroup\$ – Matteo Tassinari Jan 16 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatteoTassinari Don't delete it. This is still a great point. There are ways around the restrictions or they can combine it with other answers to create even more teleporting shenanigans \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 16 at 23:10

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