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A 20th level Wizard makes a bet with another 20th level Wizard - he has to make his grandson succeed on a difficult mission. Without allowing his grandson (a first level Fighter) or his grandson's compatriots (a first level Rogue, Bard, and Druid) to realize that the Wizard is secretly aiding them, or doing anything to defeat their foes directly, or helping anyone but his grandson (these are all terms of the bet).

To clarify -

  • This Wizard can cast spells on his grandson, only. He can't Dominate the monsters or Disintegrate locked doors.
  • His grandson has to defeat the challenges (the Wizard can't even weaken them).
  • Neither his grandson, or any of his party members, can realize or even suspect that someone is aiding them.

Luckily the grandson and his entire party not only lack Spellcraft but also Knowledge: Arcana. However they don't lack basic induction - suddenly being able to fly or shoot fireballs is likely to raise their suspicion. A magic sword left leaning casually against a door would certainly count as a fail.

So given this situation, with a level 20 Wizard who is unafraid to spend resources to win this bet with his buddy (xp, magic items, scrolls, favours) what can he do to make his grandson's party succeed at an adventure that may have CR 5-6 encounters or worse?

For the sake of this example, assume the wizard has access to whatever feats, spells, or wealth he needs to achieve this difficult task - he's using optimization tricks to rebuild or has his own time-slowed demiplane or whatever, he's a Tricky Wizard and not just a fireball-slinger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[S]uddenly being able to fly or shoot fireballs is likely to raise their suspicion." I suspect this is supposed to be understatement, but by the same token, suddenly gaining immense strength or a weapon striking substantially truer should also raise suspicions, correct? Could the question include an example of what is allowed? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 19 at 8:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ "However they don't lack basic induction" I believe this should be 'deduction' \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 19 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ "A magic sword left leaning casually against a door would certainly count as a fail." Except, doesn't that occasionally happen in certain types of dungeon? As long as it doesn't happen too often... \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Oct 19 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've rolled back the edit described as "corrected to inclusive language": there is nothing wrong that needs correcting per this meta discussion, "This means that 'he/him', 'they/their', and 'she/her' pronouns are correct, and none of them are incorrect", and the edit removes details the question's author saw fit to include - the gender of those described in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Oct 19 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lfusaso Inductive reasoning is more likely useful as deductive would require them to know the grandfather was involved and gather evidence to prove it. Inductive reasoning allows them to gather clues that may or may not lead to the grandfather's involvement. I suspect the team have basic abilities in both types of reasoning but the inductive type applies more aptly in this situation. Holmes didn't deduce often, but he induced a lot! \$\endgroup\$ – niekell Oct 20 at 1:19
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Pretty easy actually

Step 1: Cast 30 wishes on him to give him +5 to each of his ability scores (this alone may be enough). He may need to put the players through a bit of a maze so that he has the time to cast all these wishes.

Step 2: Steal his stuff in the night and enchant it or replace it with identical enchanted gear, he won't even know his gear has changed. He'll easily have an AC >25 with some monster bonuses to attack and damage rolls.

Step 3: Whilst being invisible, and occasionally time stopped, Keep him under the following spells as appropriate

  1. Mind blank
  2. Greater Heroism
  3. Magical Healing as needed

Step 4: Teleport to your friend and chuckle about how they made such a silly bet.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify how said Wizard attained Greater Heroism and Heal? Does he just UMD scrolls or wands? Why bother with Heal when Cure Moderate or similar will do? Are there no other spells said Wizard would need? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 19 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just hit the grandson up with some Greater Infernal Healing at the start of any combat, then you don't have to worry about the scrolls of Heal. @Ifusaso Or, ya know, Wish to replicate Heal. Side note: extra stats will not be enough as that only gives the grandson 2 (or 3 depending on base score) additional HP at level 1 \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 19 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ In response to a suggested edit, the OP specifically is talking about a grandson, so gendered pronouns are appropriate in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathaddict Oct 19 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don't think that the OP's question intended the grandson's player to be fooled, only the character of the grandson. Such a deductive line would be serious metagaming. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathaddict Oct 20 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Better yet the DM should make a secret saving throw and not let the player ever know that it happened. But seriously, what 1st level character is actually going to make a saving throw on a 20th level wizard's spell? As a DM I'd just let it go without a roll. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathaddict Oct 20 at 20:30
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The wizard may not be allowed to cast spells on his grandson

The rules tell us that, if a creature succeeds on a saving throw, the creature knows that magic was used on it. The grandson always succeeds on a natural 20 saving throw, so there's at least some chance of giving away the game every time the wizard casts a spell on his grandson.

The rules are silent (as far as I can tell) about whether a creature knows when it fails a saving throw. But I would expect that the creature would notice this.

(see: Do you know when you fail a saving throw?)

The wizard may be able to enchant his grandson's equipment

Your question says: "This Wizard can cast spells on his grandson, only." It's not clear if this includes the ability to spellcast on his grandson's equipment. If this does include the ability to spellcast on his grandson's equipment, the wizard can use greater magic weapon and magic vestment on his grandson's equipment the night before the adventure.

The wizard also might be able to enchant his grandson's mundane equipment, for example enchanting his ring into a ring of fire resistance. It's not clear if the grandson would notice the feel of this ring when equipping it.

limited wish can help

You've written that this wizard is "unafraid to spend resources".

The limited wish spell says that it can "Produce any other effect whose power level is in line with the above effects, such as a single creature automatically hitting on its next attack or taking a -7 penalty on its next saving throw." If our wizard has a pile of scrolls of limited wish, he can cause his grandson and friends to automatically hit on one attack per turn. If the wizard has additional buddies to use them, he can cause them to hit on more attacks.

The actual wish spell has an ability which can force a reroll of any event, but unfortunately this offers a saving throw.

None of this improves the grandson's survivability.

The actual correct solution probably involves Bluff

The wizard can improve his Bluff skill to be arbitrarily good. The wager appears to allow this. The wizard can show up (disguised) to the quest, give his grandson a bunch of buff spells and magic items, and convince everyone present that this is normal and does not count as "receiving help". Perhaps the buff spells and magic items would be in a treasure chest which the group can "find". Perhaps the wizard simply explains that the environment in this cave sometimes heals or buffs people and this is normal.

This is better than approaches such as modify memory because they don't allow the adventurers to realize anything unusual is happening in the first place. A strict reading of the wager tells us that it is lost if the grandson "realizes that the Wizard is secretly aiding them" whether his memory is modified later or not. Also, casting modify memory on the three allied adventurers is illegal.

As to what buff spells the wizard should use, the best approach is probably to use greater rings of spell storing to allow the grandson to summon monsters to fight for him. Normally-self-only wizard buffs such as undead anatomy IV can also work.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So far as I'm aware, usually a creature doesn't know when it fails a saving throw, but after it fails it may know that it's affected by a spell (see also, for example, this question). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 20 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a note: Wands can only hold up to 4 levels worth of magic (like a level 4 spell, or a lower level spell with metamagic). You can't put Limited Wish into a wand. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 20 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon thanks, fixed. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Oct 20 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could probably make these bluffs really easy to do if the Wizard is regularly drinking Potions of Glibness from his flask. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Oct 20 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical and that will give you the bluff check you need to convince then that they're nothing unusual about the fact that you keep chugging potions. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 20 at 19:48
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It depends on the stage you set up

Given your high powers, you can play like a screenwriter or level designer, where every part is carefully designed to give advantages to your party, while making it look like it is actually not the case. Because, all in all, it's a lot about setting up the stage of the scene. And the quality of that stage will determine how much support spells you can give without anyone noticing. Very little without, almost anything with.

Setting a stage like this will depend on your grandson's mission, but it is possible to find common elements that help you in keeping control of the events and that you can adapt to the quest. Here are some examples :) :

Note of friendliness : if the grandson and his party is controlled by other players, proceed with caution with dominate person spells, killing people or trapping them for indefinite periods of time. It is generally not considered as fun to lose control of your character for long.

Splitting the group to gain control over your grandson

You cannot help the group as a whole, but nothing says you cannot hinder the group to your advantage! Force them to separate, through an enemy's looking trap, by the appeal of gold, internal group conflict or anything you like. If you're really evil, just kill the other party members, they're just bothering you and your plan anyway :). Otherwise trap them and prevent them to join your grandson. That's important.

This will result in only having the grandson to care about. You should be able to easily take him by surprise and cast "dominate person" on him so that he doesn't realize the tricks which will happen afterwards. Whether or not the effect of the spell is felt, it most probably won't be felt as help (being dominated isn't very nice), and you can immediately order him to not notice you, your spells, and anything you do (except obeying your orders, of course).

After that, boost him for the enemy encounters he might find with your favorite support spells, items and such, and send him to finish the quest.

Finally, clean the scene. Remove some of the dead bodies and put his comrade bodies if you decided to kill them, and ensure that your grandson doesn't have lasting spells or items he didn't have before. Ideally, you want to have him hurt to give more credibility. The idea is to make the fights believable to the eyes of the other members (if alive) and the grandson. Finally, flash out his memories with the "modify memory" spell, replacing them with ones corresponding with the scene that you made. Then release everything.

If you decide to kill the other party members, it will give the great benefit of making it feel it was no easy quest, add more flavour the scene, and the grandson will think more about his deceased companions than suspecting someone helped him. Indeed, how can someone has helped him when this person let his companions die?

Make it looks like a curse

Give an item containing a fake "curse" to your grandson, through a bargain price at the market for instance. To make it sure it works, play the shopkeeper with the spells "alter self", "suggestion", and "vocal alteration" to ensure he takes the item without knowing it comes from you. The item itself don't need to contain a lot of magic or power, it could really be a basic helmet with just shinier horns than usual.

When carried, cast dominate person on him and prevent him from putting down the item, in order to fake the curse and keep your magician's wand to distract what really happens. When the danger arises, force him to act berserk like he got controlled by a demon. And give him the boosts suited for that inexistent demon.

After the mission, end the "curse" by using a summon spell to make it look like the demon was freed. Or dare to play the role yourself with a polymorph spell! In any case don't forget your evil speechies and dark sparkles. You don't want them to think this demon or whatever it is helped them.

"Help" the enemies

That's another counter-intuitive one, and you need to know what you are doing. You cannot put a legendary sword lying on the floor like this, but you can always give magic items to enemies, so that once dead, give advantages to your grandson's party.

This can be especially believable if said enemies are known scavengers or raiders, but in order for this to work you also need to take care said item is not compatible to the enemy, otherwise you will only make the fights harder :p! For instance, "give" (as in "let them know it's there") an heavy, human-sized full-platemail to goblins who cannot possibly wear it or lawful-good restricted items to chaotic-evil demons.

Then just lure the group towards where the item is be it with illusions, suggestions or bluff. Hopefully it will be inside a relatively unguarded stash. In the bad event it is carried by an enemy, charm them into putting the item down in a better spot. As long as the action has no impact on the enemy's state/position when the challenge start, it's not weakening them!

Alternatively, as stated in the comments, you can lay your equipment near an unaware or resting soldier, and help the team at this easy picking! It would look like they were the one to put them down, and not you.

Useful spells

To finish this, here are some spells that can be helpful :

  • Dominate person : If you're willing to control your own grandson, if that is.
  • Greater invisibility : An almost must-have, otherwise you won't be able to cast anything. Beware of the noise though! You might want the silent spell's feat with it.
  • Screen : An alternative to greater invisibility, allowing you to stay quiet in the zone, too.
  • Wish : avoid fatal strikes, or make a blow have enough impact to kill the bad guy. It can also helps in reducing spell saves on your grandson in order for other support spells. A life saver. And quite believable in the direst of situations.
  • Image (programmed, minor, major and permanent) : Guide them through obstacles with illusions. Do you know where the trap is? Then bar the door to it, or put some rubbles on it so they don't walk on it. If this is taken as "weakening the challenge", then put an identical, illusory trap to warn them there are traps here, and therefore to reduce the chance of falling in the real one.

Remember that you can be assisted by fellow mages to do all of this. I imagine a 20th level wizard have some old friends to give a hand, too. Or mercenaries :).

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    \$\begingroup\$ While you have a seriously evil wizard, treating the bet as screenwriting is perfect. An OP sword leaning on a door is less out of place if the team surprised a guard that just happened to not hear the grandson coming. Keep it cinematic. The last desperate strike is the one that happens to go through and happens to be the god of all crits. If the story fits, the characters won't question it. \$\endgroup\$ – UrQuan3 Oct 22 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not necesarily an evil thinking, though it's clearly not a good or lawful one. Anyway, I don't think the wizard's lawful good to dare taking a bet like this, unless forced to for the sake of his grandson..I will edit my answer to include your comment, it gives even greater examples than mine! Just need to find a place where to nudge it... \$\endgroup\$ – Tortliena Oct 23 at 7:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would like to remind everyone that the actual question is specifically: "How strong can you make a level 1 fighter?" \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 25 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Niet, the question is "What can he do to make his grandson's party succeed at an adventure that may have CR 5-6 encounters or worse (respecting the bet's conditions)?". Moreover, the limiting factor is the "hiding the truth" part, more than what spells you can use or not. As my answer says : Almost anything you want with a good stage \$\endgroup\$ – Tortliena Oct 26 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tortliena Actually, if you scroll aaalllllll the way up to the top of the page, you'll see that that is not the question. The actual question is How powerful can a 20th-level Wizard make a 1st-level Fighter without allowing him to realize it is the Wizard's doing? \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 26 at 18:03
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If he's a jerk, pretty much unlimited power

He is allowed to cast spells on his grandson as well as other spells that don't overcome his grandson's obstacles. Consequently, he can make extensive use of the Bluff skill and/or Modify Memory and Suggestion to ensure his grandson's party no longer has any inductive reasoning powers to speak of. Then he can more directly aid them with 1,000,000 gp magic swords left around and the sudden ability to fly and the like, without them suspecting anything is unusual.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I think this is an abstract question where the players' meta knowledge isn't the question, it's the in-world characters (which Modify Memory takes care of). That being said, I still find this a far stretch to assume those spells or a simple Bluff check could prevent even a low level adventurer from finding their ability to fly and similarly strange events to be out of place. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 19 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ How does Modify Memory aid in this endeavor? Assuming the companions had any prior knowledge of the fighter, then it automatically becomes suspect, and per the rules laid out, the companions are not valid options for memory modification. And the fighter saying "Oh, yeah, I could always fly" is not likely to be believable by the other party members. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 19 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Perkins The parameters stipulated that they could not find out. There is no exception listed for if they "forget" afterwards. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 19 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ You cast modify memory on the companions directly. There's no prohibition against doing so. It aids in the endeavor by allowing you to rewrite their understanding of the world one memory at a time so that they think spontaneously developing flight is relatively normal. Also magic items are common and dragons are fairly low level monsters. Or whatever. Basically, you can mind control the party non-magically via bluff or magically via the listed spells in order to have nearly total control over their internal state. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Oct 19 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question says This Wizard can cast spells on his grandson, only. That bullet point might have not have intended to disallow spells on the rest of the party (it goes on to say "He can't Dominate the monsters or Disintegrate locked doors"). But as worded, you can only help the grandson by casting spells on him specifically. If you can buff the whole party, that would also indirectly help the grandson, so you'd have to draw the line somewhere. (Like maybe no spells that directly help anyone else, only indirectly by letting you get away with more stuff on the grandson?) @RevenantBacon \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Oct 20 at 15:18
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I'm going to assume that any effects that appear "magical" and favor him would break the grandson's Truman Show vibe. So here are some things the wizard could do that (I think) would not even give the appearance of magical intervention.

Spells on Grandson:

  • Wish - does lots of useful things, but the wizard is mostly interested in two:
  1. grant a +5 on stats; the grandson might notice a sudden increase in his strength or reflexes, less likely that he would notice a sudden increase in his intuition so you can boost his Wisdom pretty safely
  2. force a reroll of a past event; any time the grandson misses a swing or fails a save he can reroll it, which lets him succeed much more often (unclear whether the "reality reshapes itself" effect is noticeable by everyone involved, so this might not apply)
  • Protection from spells - the grandson still makes saving throws himself, but succeeds on most of them
  • Mordenkainen's Mage's disjunction - cast regularly in the grandson's vicinity, this would dispel many magical effects which could substantially reduce enemy effectiveness (might run afoul of your "grandson only" rule).

Spells on Wizard?

So here's a much different approach to the problem, but one thing the wizard could do to increase his grandson's effectiveness is to transmute himself into threats ahead of time. Undead in the next room? Wizard casts undead anatomy X and pretends to attack the party. Iron golem in the warehouse? Wizard casts possess object on a suit of armor before they get there. With a high enough Bluff or Disguise, he could give his grandson and the party a practical lesson in the best way to defeat the real enemy they're about to face. He's doing nothing to interfere with the quest or the threats they face, just training his grandson.

This would also increase the grandson's level. In-universe, XP is a combination of many things-- practicing a new spell or technique in your downtime until you get it right, small-e experience in battle, knowledge of previous monsters helping you against the new one, etc. The wizard's grandson would be much more effective by the end of his quest than he was at the beginning, which is really what level indicates.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I think you may have spotted it. Unless the mission has a time limit, the wizard can just... kidnap them ahead of time. Stuff them in a dungeon and let them fight their way out of The Shadow Wizard's Oubliette (an adventure for levels 1-5). That will leave them much more able to handle the threats at hand. Even better, they won't realize that the wizard is aiding them even if they realize that it's him! I mean, the kid's highly likely to know that his grandfather is a level 20 wizard... but if it doesn't seem like "help".... \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Oct 23 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Telling his grandson how to defeat his enemies without telling him is a very good idea. The gaining of levels beforehand probably not though, since the premise is "How strong can you make a level one fighter", so any level gains outside of the designated adventure break the very first rule automatically. Obviously, anything they fight in the adventure can't count towards this, as otherwise the bet would be unwinnable. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Oct 26 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Well, it does follow the bet rules, so it would work. However, you really indeed walk on a grey line here, especially if training the party as a whole, and that without speaking of time issues : if the bet's made, it's probably for a near-future encounter, not in 2 years where(when?) you can make a real training \$\endgroup\$ – Tortliena Oct 26 at 23:30

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