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I'm running a fifth edition game heavily featuring intelligent undead. One such undead is a Sword Wraith Commander who was killed in a duel with a noble, who had cheated during the fight to ensure victory. Basically, this monster is working for the BBEG in the hopes that some great hero will rise up to stop him, and he can finally be put to rest in an honorable duel to the death. My only issue is that I'm not sure if a player of reasonable level would be able to defeat him in single combat.

Currently the players are 5th level, a tempest cleric storm herald barb multi class, a thief rogue, sun soul monk, and an old one warlock. They are dealing with small roaming mobs of undead lead by wights fairly easily.

What could a player be able to do in order to accomplish this fight, or how could I homebrew this encounter to make it more of a fair duel?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome! You can take the tour as an introduction to the site and check the help center if you need further guidance. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Oct 24 '19 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ By "player of reasonable level,"do you mean someone who might reasonably expect to deal with A CR 8 monster as part of a party? \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Oct 24 '19 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose I mean a character not reaching those upper levels of power. I was thinking this monster would be a mid-boss type encounter, with a solo player of 12th - 14th level being the one to face off with him, \$\endgroup\$ – Clinthulhu Oct 24 '19 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given the variables involved in equipment, class, enemies, resistance, status effects, battlefield player skill, sheer luck and much more I think this is too broad. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 24 '19 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ What levels are your characters now? Please add that to the question (12-14 seems to be the range?) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 24 '19 at 16:54
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A level 15 character might be able to do it

I highly recommend checking out the Kobold Fight Club encounter builder.

By adding one CR 8 monster to the encounter and changing the players/levels values I was able to ascertain that a level 14 or below character (solo) would find this encounter deadly and a level 15 character would find this encounter hard.

There are other things to consider however. Perhaps your character has a large number of amazing magical items? A luck blade would certainly help resolve an encounter like this handily.

Another consideration is perhaps you could tip the encounter in the players favour. Consider scaling down the monsters HP or attack damage. Maybe you could give some situational advantage to the player such as an arena the player could leverage against the enemy (maybe there is a large rock the player could drop on the monster from above?). Maybe there would be some sort of NPC or event that would distract the monster at a crucial moment. Or perhaps if the creature was about to land the final blow, it would decide to show mercy.

Ultimately there are no certainties in D&D, but below level 14 you'd be asking a lot of luck from your player (probably).

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It depends on the adventuring day

5e models challenge based around the adventuring day. This is detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide where it says:

Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day. If the adventure has more easy encounters, the adventurers can get through more. If it has more deadly encounters, they can handle fewer.

If your player spends the early half of the day completing many Medium or Hard encounters than they would need to be a higher level than if they only have to deal with easy stuff before the BBEG that day. Furthermore, keep in mind that having a party of fewer than 3 characters gives the encounter a greater multiplier meaning the difficulty of this CR 8 monster is as high as a CR 10 monster would be for a normal-sized party.

The Dungeon Master's Guide proceeds to provides a table with how much XP is expected in one day by level. Using these numbers and subtracting out the encounter with the BBEG, I've created a table that shows what sorts of levels a single character is expected to be able to handle a CR 8 monster, and what encounters they can handle earlier in that day:

\begin{array}{c|c|c|c} & \text{XP before BBEG} & \text{Difficulty} & \text{Example Encounter sets before BBEG} \\ \hline \text{Level 12} & 5,650 & \text{Beyond Deadly} & \text{N/A}\\ \hline \text{Level 13} & 7,650 & \text{Deadly} & \text{2 Hard, 3 Medium, or 7 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 14} & 9,150 & \text{Deadly} & \text{2 Hard, 3-4 Medium, or 7 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 15} & 12,150 & \text{Hard} & \text{2-3 Hard, 4 Medium, or 8-9 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 16} & 14,150 & \text{Hard} & \text{3 Hard, 4 Medium, or 8-9 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 17} & 19,150 & \text{Medium} & \text{3 Hard, 5 Medium, or 9-10 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 18} & 21,150 & \text{Medium} & \text{3 Hard, 5 Medium, or 10 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 19} & 24,150 & \text{Medium} & \text{3 Hard, 5 Medium, or 10 Easy encounters}\\ \hline \text{Level 20} & 34,150 & \text{Medium} & \text{4 Hard, 6 Medium, or 12 Easy encounters}\\ \end{array}

Conclusions

  • A solo player can typically handle less encounters than a group, landing close to five to seven medium or hard encounters rather than six to eight.
  • A level 13 or 14 character can handle the BBEG if that's the only major fight they have that day (and are afforded a short rest).
  • Only level 16+ characters can defeat the BBEG as part of a full adventuring day.
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Built correctly (and with just a little bit of luck) I was able to kill it in one turn with a level 10 character.

The build:

Level 10 (Fighter 2/Warlock 8)

Feats: Dual Wielder

Fighting Style: Two Weapon Fighting

Patron: Hexblade

Relevant stats:

  • 20 CHA but might work lower
  • 14 DEX

Pact: Blade

Eldritch Invocations:

  • Thirsting Blade
  • Improved Pact Weapon
  • Eldritch Smite
  • Any

The Equipment:

Rapier (normal, nonmagical, affected by hex weapon)

Rapier (Pact of the Blade weapon, also affected by hex weapon)

Scale Mail armor


The Setup:

Cast Hex on the target, optionally maintain it through a short rest for an extra slot in case you don't kill it immediately. (works best if you can avoid it noticing your casting before you're ready)

Use your Hexblade's curse feature which has no discernable effect and wouldn't be noticed.

Combat begins. For the sake of this we'll assume you go first but if you either surprise it or tank it's first turn that's fine as well.

Make one attack with your pact weapon rapier, if you hit use eldritch smite with a level 4 slot at this level knocking it prone and dealing 5d8 extra damage

Make a second attack with your pact weapon, use eldritch smite if you missed last time and hit this time.

Make an offhand attack with your other rapier

Action Surge into two more pact weapon attacks.

If you're both still alive after that make two pact weapon attacks, eldritch smite with one of them, then make another offhand attack. Every turn thereafter if you're still alive just make two pact weapon attacks and an offhand

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