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I am a rather new dungeon master and I don't have a lot of DnD experience myself. Especially I have never played wizards or necromancers. From a story point, there is currently a good opportunity to have a necromancer master be angry at my party. His student was killed by the party without any provocation (I understand this behaviour is called murderhobo?). The party is currently at a nearby town and the master would come to the nearby town to figure out if anyone knew what happened to his student. He is not inherently evil, he is mainly looking for answers and justice. I imagine he will not walk into town with a bunch of zombies/skeletons if he plans on asking for information and is not looking for a fight. That seems like a thing that would make a big upset, right?

Now I don't know how my characters will react. Maybe they bluff and claim they had nothing to do with it. Maybe they try reasoning. But I want to make the master so strong that they can't actually simply attack and kill him. That shouldn't be the solution to everything. Now I have myself never played a necromancer, so I don't know how one would fight effectively. There is a necromancer NPC in volos guide to monsters, however even though he is CR 9, I am afraid he might loose a head on fight against a party of 5. I assume this, because of the action economy and his lack of legendary actions. He is also rather squishy with an ac of 12. Feel free to correct me here but I think his chances in the fight aren't great. The party has a circle of the moon druid, a barbarian and a cleric (turn undead) in meele, as well as a sorcerer and a ranger (all L5).

If the PCs decide to engage him, how could a necromancer fight effectively? Maybe someone with experience in playing and fighting with necromancers could help me here. Should he first run and come back with a bunch of undead? Do I maybe need a necromancer of higher CR to be a significant challenge?

The NPC from volos guide is just an example. If it is not suitable and I need a necromancer based on a PC build or a custom built one, I am open for that. But he should still feel like a necromancer. I wouldn't expect a necromancer to have an AC of 20, 200 HP or immunity to all damage.

If it's important, the advanture is based on the lost mines of phandelver and plays in the forgotten realms.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How you play an NPC is entirely up to you. We can't help with that because there's no "single, best" way for an NPC necromancer to act or fight since every DM would have different ideas and this isn't a site built for generating ideas; they're better left to a forum. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 26 '19 at 22:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @purplemonkey I don't need an exact answer, the problem is that I'm afraid I'll loose a fight with him and I'm looking for mechanical tips on how to approach the fight without loosing. Those can be based on game experience playing a necromancer (which I don't have) . I see many questions around asking for game experience and tips. What's wrong with mine? \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Nov 27 '19 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's all about how you word the question and asking about the actual problem you're facing (see: How do we ask and answer subjective questions?. "How would a necromancer fight..." is opinion-based and isn't going to solve your problem. If you're unsure of how to approach a "boss fight" without having the boss lose then you need to ask about solving that problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 27 '19 at 1:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey I rewrote the question from scratch. Would this be now suitable for this site? \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Nov 27 '19 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do I understand right that you intend to use the monster stat block called Necromancer and not an NPC built with the PC rules? Would you consider the latter an option, especially if tweaking the CR seems useful/necessary? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Nov 27 '19 at 12:39
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Hello, Mr. Recurring Baddie

You may want to run this guy as a recurring BBEG ("Big Bad Evil Guy"). High-level Wizards have a high intelligence, and they don't get to be high-level by fighting whole adventuring parties head-on.

Don't have him track the players down himself - have him send a lieutenant to do so.

  1. Go to Kobold Fight Club and pick out an intelligent undead, CR 3-7. Something like a Remnant, a Vampire Spawn, or a Sword Wraith Commander would do. This is your Lieutenant.
  2. Give your Lieutenant some unintelligent undead minions.
  3. Have the Lieutenant track down the party. Have the Lieutenant act appropriate to his master's personality and motivations, and his own drives/limitations. Don't have the intelligent undead start a fight (he's just "feeling them out"). Maybe he just spies on the party and reports back.

With NPCs, you are playing a character, not a level-appropriate encounter. Why would a high-level necromancer risk his life against a whole adventuring party? They already killed his apprentice. Why would he fight fair at all?

I would only have this character fight the party head-on if he's forced into an encounter (i.e. - the party corners him) or if he's not fighting fair (i.e. - a deadly or impossible encounter).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea that he has a lieutenant. One problem I have is, that the lieutenant may be unable to go into town and ask questions. I assume most people in the forgotten realms wouldn't be very forthcoming with information towards this creature. So the wizard would have to go himself right? \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Nov 27 '19 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ he can have living lieutenants. It is not uncommon for mages to have apprentices, followers...etc. \$\endgroup\$ – mcy Nov 27 '19 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, there is no reason that his lieutenants 'need' to be undead. Or if they are undead, maybe they're not obviously undead (a vampire, revenant, a necropolitan, or similar). Whatever suits the adventure best. \$\endgroup\$ – James Nov 28 '19 at 22:13

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