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I am currently writing an adventure for D&D 5e, for character levels anywhere from 5 to 10, and am trying to find the right boss.

A Mummy Lord is the perfect monster for the plot, however the CR (15) does seem a little high given the XP calculation rules on pg 82 of the DMG. At this point the party's only encounter would be with 3 mummies, so hit points, spell slots, and ki should still be high.

Will a mummy lord devastate my party, or will it provide a dangerous, but not completely suicidal, boss battle?

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    \$\begingroup\$ CR is not an exact science, so we would probably need to know more about the party. What classes? Do they use good tactics? Will they likely know anything abut what a Mummy Lord does and have researched how to counter it? Are they going to encounter it from 600 yards away across an open field or is it going to burst from its hidey-hole straight onto them? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jul 27 '19 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ 6 players, and it will be at the end of a 3-4 hour adventure in the style of a AL module, so players can be anywhere from 5-10. and they will be on a open desert a good distance away from the mummy at the beginning of combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Evoker of Mulmaster Jul 27 '19 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ So is the adventure intended to be completed in 3-4 hours? If so, what is the pacing that you go from level 5 to level 10 in such a short time? Are you expecting characters to bring a version of their character at each level, already prepared? Did you mean that it is meant to occur at the end of the session that the mummy arrives in? How do you plan to ensure that the party confronts the mummy late in the session? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 29 '19 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ characters will not gain more than one level, my connotation means that they could be any one of those levels. \$\endgroup\$ – Evoker of Mulmaster Jul 29 '19 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you would need to tell us the exact party make-up, and what magic items the party has. One detail in particular I'd like to know is whether the party can deal fire damage, since mummies and mummy lords are vulnerable to fire damage, so if you have casters that can deal fire damage (fire bolt, fireball, etc), or a paladin who likes to use searing smite, or if anyone has a Flame Tongue sword... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 6 '19 at 11:27
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There are a few different ways to address this problem:

  1. Make the Mummy Lord weaker.

    Like in the room 12 from the adventure Sunless Citadel (Tales of the Yawning Portal, pg. 15-16), the party finds a weakened Troll that has fewer hit points and some features disabled. You can do this to the Mummy Lord to balance him to your party.

  2. Put him in the encounter, but not to be defeated.

    You can put him on your encounter but give the party an alternate way to deal with him (like destructing a ancient stone that evoked him while he throws some spells at the party). This can be a fun encounter to build, but gives a litte more effort.

  3. Reskin the Mummy Lord.

    It's a old DM's tool but it works well. Get a monster in the appropriate CR for the party and only modify the visual of the monster and maybe add some of the signature traits.

Always remember that CR is not a exact science too and action economy is a thing. A whole party of adventurers against a unique monster makes the party can defeat a monster with a higher CR than his level.

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Depends a lot on the party

CR doesn't really represent the difficulty of a monster (a CR2 Intellect Devourer can insta-kill a lot of high level character on a bad roll) but it help to apprehend how difficult a fight might be. Using Kobold Fight Club, lets compare some difficulty thresholds :

  • Lowest group (6 lv5)

    • Easy: 1,500 exp
    • Medium: 3,000 exp
    • Hard: 4,500 exp
    • Deadly: 6,600 exp
  • Higher group (6 lv10)

    • Easy: 3,600 exp
    • Medium: 7,200 exp
    • Hard: 11,400 exp
    • Deadly: 16,800 exp
  • Average group (3 lv10 + 3 lv5)

    • Easy: 2,550 exp
    • Medium: 5,100 exp
    • Hard: 7,950 exp
    • Deadly: 11,700 exp

A Mummy Lord alone against 6 players is 6'500 XP (13'000 x0.5 for the party size) : a Hard (almost Deadly) encounter for the weakest group and an Easy one for the strongest and just a Medium one for the average.

Math apart

The fight difficulty doesn't take some data into account, like the damage types available to the party : if everybody have fire damages, the poor mummy won't last long while it might be difficult to hurt it if the melee damage-dealers don't have magic weapons (at lv5, it's a possibility).

Action economy tend to advantage groups against a solo target. Legendary Actions partially counter this advantage against a "standard" group of 4 but I don't know if it will be enough against bigger groups like yours.

So, is this a good boss fight ?

Honestly, I don't think so.

The Mummy Lord feel like a heavy hitter but not much a tank (even with its high AC), which isn't what I think a boss fight should be :

  1. If the party is low level, the Mummy Lord can "One Hit Knock Out" (even kill the frailer characters) with its main attack (4x a round with Legendary action). +9 to hit, (3d6 + 6) + 6d6 = [min 15, max 60] with a chance to not being able to be heal until uncursed is kinda high at lv10.

  2. If the party know that basic Mummy are vulnerable to Fire, they might try it on the Mummy Lord. It only have 97 HP and +0 dex saving throw : an average Fireball do 28 fire damages, so 2 Fireball might transform the Mummy Lord in ashes (56 per fireball with the vulnerability).


If homebrewing doesn't bother you, do it yourself

I feel like it's a bit off-topic but I wouldn't recommend the majority of the RAW monsters as bosses. There is a lot of homebrew system allowing to create "boss monster" like the AngryGM's or Giffyglyph's Monster Maker. I used AngryGM's to create a multi-phase boss for my party when they were lv3 (a goblin possessed by a ghost) and my players still remember this fight, almost 2 years after.

When I want to create a boss fight, I list few things :

  • What type of monster the boss is ?

  • What "role" it has ? (describe the monster main course of action. Does it support some minions, control the battlefield with area of effects or is a melee tank)

  • What kind of phase it has, if any ? (a bit video-gamey but show the players "there is some progress" + add some variation in a somewhat long fight)

  • What action can disrupt it and how ? (allow the players to remove some actions or effects of the creature)

Once this set, I use a homebrew system or the Dungeon Master Guide to create the monster with the difficulty you want. I tend to go for Hard encounters for boss fights.

In your case, I would recommend to create the same monster multiple times, changing its stats to be a Hard encounter for different party levels, and choose the most adapted one when the group enter the "boss room" (depending on their resources, you might want to crank up/down which one you take).

Example for a Mummy Lord boss with 2 phases :

  1. Conjure lesser mummies to attack and swarms of beetles to apply debuff in area

    • Controller/Invoker

    • Fire damages remove the beetles

  2. Goes berserk and surround itself with a sandstorm doing damages and reducing visibility.

    • Melee / damage dealer

    • Cold or Thunder damages makes the Mummy drop the sandstorm for a round.

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