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The spell Gate allows the caster to summon any creature whose name is known to them.

When you cast this spell, you can speak the name of a specific creature (a pseudonym, title, or nickname doesn't work). If that creature is on a plane other than the one you are on, the portal opens in the named creature's immediate vicinity and draws the creature through it to the nearest unoccupied space on your side of the portal. You gain no special power over the creature, and it is free to act as the DM deems appropriate. It might leave, attack you, or help you.

So you can bring a creature onto your home turf, with as many traps and defenses as you want. e.g. spend a couple of days of setup Gating to a remote part of another plane, and placing 20 Glyphs of Warding storing Fireball around your summoning area = bye bye any major villain who doesn't have Fire Resistance or Evasion. The villain can't bring help or go back because the caster can release concentration on the Gate at will. Even worse, one would probably assume the villain is surprised by this summoning, so the PCs would always have an extra round before they could do anything. Tactics can be adjusted based on the villain's strengths/weaknesses.

This is not only phenomenally powerful, with as far as I can tell few defenses, but also is remarkably risk-free, rendering it a narrative nuke - PCs use it once against an enemy, and I henceforth have to have a far less diverse set of enemies, who are always using the narrow set of defenses to this spell (or worse, I have a villain who is similarly pragmatic and uses the same risk-free, narratively uninteresting technique against the PCs to devastating effect).

I am aware of the following defenses against the spell:

  • Be a planar ruler, or within the domain of one who won't allow Gates to carry off their subjects (this doesn't help anyone on the Material Plane)
  • Always be under a ward against planar travel, like Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum. In practice this will probably have to mean sitting in your warded lair and never leaving it yourself.

My dilemma is this: I want to have a diverse cast of villains who are not restricted to being gods or paranoid wizards who never leave their tower. At the same time I'd ideally like not to nerf this spell (e.g. so that the named creature isn't drawn through the Gate). However if my above assessment of the spell is correct, and my list of defenses is a complete one, I believe I can only have one of those two things.

Hence this question: are there any more defenses I am missing, which would therefore allow for a more diverse cast of villains with the spell as written?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the magic can't penetrate led or gold rule still apply in the latest iteration of the game? ~ if it does your big bad can simply hole up inside a led lined fortress & he's immune to all summoning & scrying. \$\endgroup\$ – Pelinore Apr 7 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pelinore I don't think that's still the case - but even if it were it would be functionally be very similar to holeing up in a magically warded fortress, so wouldn't help me diversify villains much. \$\endgroup\$ – Vigil Apr 8 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ "functionally be very similar to holeing up in a magically warded fortress" True, but "wouldn't help me diversify villains much" au contraire, he would act on the world through servants & the odd simulacrum which lets you tailor any encounters & "direct" interactions (with his servants sent against them) to your players current strengths, who he sends against them might be almost anyone or thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Pelinore Apr 8 at 13:37
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#1: Don't reveal your villains' names.

The spell states (emphasis mine):

When you cast this spell, you can speak the name of a specific creature (a pseudonym, title, or nickname doesn't work).

A villain who is aware of the Gate spell would not tell his name to others. Hence, your players cannot summon him, if they only know him as "evil wizard of the east" or "the hero of Parnast" (yes, that guy is a villain, no further discussion necessary).

It might even be possible for the villain to change his "true name" with a Wish, but that depends on your DM. I'd probably allow it (especially if I'm the one who wants to allow the villain to change his name ^^).

#2: Use Contingency with Otiluke's Resilient Sphere.

You can also cast the Contingency spell on yourself, using "when someone other than me teleports me" as a trigger, and make the spell trigger an Otiluke's Resilient Sphere.

Note that this sphere can be dispelled or destroyed with Disintegrate, so it won't work if your PCs anticipate the use of this sphere.


Whether or not you can teleport or plane shift while inside a Resilient Sphere seems to be not 100% clear. Therefore, I have asked a separate question to resolve the issue.


To address an issue that multiple people have raised in comments: you cannot teleport away with Contingency. Contingency only allows spells up to 5th level to be stored, which leaves only Teleportation Circle as a long-range-teleportation spell. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing where you might be Gated to, so it would be a very risky gamble to store Teleportation Circle in Contingency - the spell doesn't work across planes.

#3: Have an active Clone residing in an area protected against teleportation and planar travel.

The clone spell allows you to grow an "inert duplicate" of yourself. If / once you die, your soul transfer to this clone, allowing you to "respawn".

If you put your clone on a Demiplane affected by a permanent Forbiddance spell (i.e. you have to cast the spell there 30 days in a row), then you can't be immediately resummoned and killed permanently, either. You don't technically have to put your clone on a Demiplane, but since it's a lot harder to travel to a demiplane and kill your clone than it is to travel to a remote castle on the material plane, I highly recommend using a Demiplane.

Note that Forbiddance may prevent you from traveling to your Demiplane. If you leave a small part of your Demiplane unaffected by Forbiddance, it shouldn't be an issue, though.

#4: Use Wish (duh) to become immune to Gate.

Note that this is up to the DM, but since you are the DM, it shouldn't be an issue. Either way, the Wish spell states as one of its more advanced effects:

You grant up to ten creatures you can see immunity to a single spell or other magical effect for 8 hours. For instance, you could make yourself and all your companions immune to a lich's life drain attack.

You're gonna want this to be permanent, obviously. One could definitely argue whether or not you can make one creature permanently immune to a spell instead of 10 people for 8 hours. However, I personally think it's a valid choice, especially seeing how creatures such as a Helmed Horror also have a permanent immunity to certain spells (albeit none as powerful as Gate).

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    \$\begingroup\$ #1 is a reason why villains and monsters, in so many myths and stories, fanatically guard their true name \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Apr 5 at 7:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious if the gate spell might draw in the clone instead if it's not in a protected area but you are. Then they can blow up the clone and think you're dead for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – Suthek Apr 5 at 8:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you use a Wish to change your name? \$\endgroup\$ – jhominal Apr 5 at 9:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having a villain that's hard to catch, thus necessitating using a gate spell to summon them to the heroes, leading the heroes to go on a quest to discover the villains true name seems like a fun plot device. \$\endgroup\$ – Shufflepants Apr 5 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would think you could talk more about True Names. \$\endgroup\$ – Harper Apr 7 at 1:11
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Be a real villain

Once you hit the point where you're dealing with heroes capable of casting 9th level spells, you have to be a serious threat to the world. Learn about your biggest foes and set up plans that will be accomplished by minions, that are simply spiteful to the extreme. Then tell your enemies about them.

The world doesn't end when the villain dies. Unless the villain has set things up so that his disappearance triggers exactly that. A Dead man's switch that triggers the apocalypse, causes your army of minions to go into "pillage and plunder" mode against every center of civilization, or automatically sets assassination contracts worth a fortune on every person the PCs care about is likely to be much more effective and interesting than simply letting their plan fail.

The villain might even be able to gloat when the players Gate them in and tell them what's going to happen if they don't let them get back to work in under one minute.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a very villainy idea, so villainy in fact that now I am left wondering how the players can "recover": how do you foil this kind of dead man's switch? Because if you cannot foil it, the game comes to a stall... \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Apr 5 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. This is a common trope in games and series. For example, in one of the World of Warcraft expansions, the Big Bad was mentally keeping his army under control, and the good guys were warned that if he died, those undead would rampage over the entire world. In the end, one of the good guys ended up taking control over the army. The same happened in the Mass Effect universe with an army of black market spies: a good guy took over the mantle of leading them and ended up feeding a lot of information to the player. A good GM will make the DMS something that can be overcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Nzall Apr 5 at 13:57
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Easy solution: The Prime Material plane has a Planar Ruler, and it doesn't permit anyone to be Gated out of it.

Who that Planar Ruler is? Maybe nobody knows.1

It could just be common knowledge that Gating to the Prime Material just doesn't work, not even that there is a Prime Ruler. A high Arcana check on the question might give you "some theorize there is an unknown Prime Ruler which forbits Gates being opened into the Prime".


1 Lots of possibilities:

  1. When the Prime was created, there was a first intelligent being; it, by default, was the Ruler. It is long dead, but its mantle was passed down from generation to generation. Now, some random schmo is that Ruler. Long ago the Ruler decreed no Gates would be permitted to open; todays Ruler, unknown to them, could revert that rule.

  2. The Prime Material formed out of the flotsam and jetsam of the Astral, Etherial and Elemental Planes. It was an accident of creation, and its creation caused Primal Spirits to form. They have banished the Gods, Devils and Demons from the Prime Material Plane and closed the door to Gates; they can only work here via proxies (Warlocks, Clerics, Paladins, or when summoned).

  3. Long ago a great empire arose, and conquered the entire Prime Material Plane. The Emperor became the Ruler of the Prime Material Plane. Her wish for more power was endless, and she led a war on the domains of the Gods themselves. Eventually defeated, the empire was shattered, and the mantle of Ruler was passed to her heir. This heir was cursed with both immortality and lack of temporal power, and wanders the Prime to this day.

Basically, if you cannot take "the Prime Material has a Ruler, and nobody knows who they are" into a fun and engaging plot point, you probably aren't trying.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice out-of-the-box idea here, that could even be used as a major plot turning point \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Cathé Apr 5 at 13:33

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