My PC's in one campaign are currently traveling to their first major town and, unbeknownst to them, there is a Rakshasa, disguised as the town mayor, using the town to feed and kill as he pleases while performing experiments on the town's populace etc etc other evil acts. While I like the character I have made for him so far, and don't want to give HIM more powers, I need him to be more of a threat in the story.

Rakshasas focus mainly on deception and trickery, But aside from literally turning the PC's on each other (which I've thought about) I can't think of alot of ways to add more depth to this villain. The town has a Thieves Guild indebted to him, and he has several Chuul under his command, working for an Aboleth that is his master, but this would still be a pathetic fight if I just threw them at the PC's.

The CR of a Rakshasa in 5e is 13, the party is comprised of four characters at level 6. This seems rather even, but Rakshasas are very non-combat focused, so the CR is only a rough estimate of his abilities

The goal for this villain is to be a Master strategist. The Rakshasa is arrogant, so he's likely to reveal himself too early to the PC's depending on how things work out, and I'm okay with that, but he should not be caught flat-footed. What are some ways I could use cleverness or manipulation to give him the advantage in an urban setting against PC's that like to get violent?

The best way to do this would be with the least amount of flair. The Rakshasa needs to keep his cover or lose all power in the town, so blockading and attacking the PC's needs to require the least amount of overt effort on the part of the Rakshasa. Subtlety is key.


3 Answers 3


Ok. First, a Rakshasa is not a low level encounter for a level 6 party. In fact, the DMG uses this specific example when talking about CR:

In addition, some monsters have features that might be difficult or impossible for lower-level characters to overcome. For example, a rakshasa has a challenge rating of 13 and is immune to spells of 6th level and lower. Spellcasters of 12th level or lower have no spells higher than 6th level, mean ing that they won't be able to affect the rakshasa with their magic, putting the adventurers at a serious disadvantage. Such an encounter would be significantly tougher for the party than the monster's challenge rating might suggest.

So a Rakshasa would be a strong opponent for a 12th level party.

That said, if this character is supposed to be of a more tactical bent, he should fight like a modern commander. That is to say: get someone else to do it for him. This would minimize the effect of his statistics on the fight, whether they're too strong or too weak.

I'd recommend you start by reading about Tucker's Kobolds, since they exemplify the approach you should be taking. The short version is make use of favorable terrain, hit and run tactics, and other similar, asymmetric, tactics. Fortunately, a thieves guild should be extremely good at this sort of thing (I don't know the statistics for chuuls, beyond them being cr4 individually, to comment on their usefulness).

An example of this type of strategy would be having the thieves ambush the PCs from rooftops (using ranged weapons) and then retreating once the PCs get their act together and respond propperly. Ideally, they should also focus fire on either the caster or the healer types. This is unlikely to actually kill anyone in one encounter, but it can drain their resources and wear them down over the course of several encounters. The key thing is to never let the PCs turn it into a knock-down drag-out fight, because they will win those and they aren't strategically sound (which the Rakshasa would disdain) or profitable (which the thieves would want to avoid).

One nice thing about using the thieves guild as a cat's paw is that they provide plausible deniability. "Why are the thieves making the new hero's lives hard? Because they're thieves and heroes are bad for business." The heroes themselves might know better, but it'll be a pretty hard story to sell to the townsfolk.

Another fun thing he can do is mess with their PR. Maybe trick them into fighting and killing someone that turns out to be a well regarded member of the town (or frame them, if that's not possible, though actually getting them to do it is better). Now the PCs are criminals, the entire town will be against them and the mayor can deploy more official, and visible, forces to deal with them, possibly at the behest of the townsfolk.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ In theory I like the idea of having the villain be a mastermind, but I'm not sure if in practice this would be fun for the players. Tucker's Kobolds is a pretty epic story, but for most players the experience of being horribly outstrategized, outflanked, out-tacticed, and outfought would be... not fun. I recommend that, whatever scenes the DM designs, they remember to include a likely way for the PCs to win. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 1:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB That definitely has some merit. A DM has a lot of tools to abuse this sort of strategy, so it's important to not overdo it, both in terms of letting the players have some wins/make progress and not grinding them straight into the bedrock. It probably works best as a b-plot, with thief attacks interspersed with normal missions against other targets. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 1:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this, and received some similar private advice a few days ago, which this really expanded on. Thanks. I'll consider everything and consider this answered :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB Sometimes an encounter is designed so that the PCs fail. This "lesson" may mark the party, give them some thoughts about future fights and will give them a nemesis the may want to come back later to. The big evil guy they can hunt a whole campaign long. I dont think they should be able to defeat a Rakshasa yet, with the reason "they should always be able to win"... \$\endgroup\$
    – Kremdes
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 9:49

It's often bad encounter design to have an encounter with a single dangerous opponent. The problem you'll run into is that your creature will stand in the same place and attack the same PC target over and over. This can quickly be fatal for that PC (if the monster is actually dangerous) but it's boring for everyone else.

The solution I recommend (for the general problem of having a single tough monster) is to split the monster in two, or in three. To choose a 3.5e example, instead of one wandering Tyrannosaurus Rex (CR8) on the road, the party fights two wandering Megaraptors (each CR6).

Along similar lines, if you want to make a fight tougher, the easiest way is to add another copy of the monster.

For your specific problem, a climactic battle against a single Rakshasa is bad encounter design for another reason: it's immune to your party's spells, so your team's spellcasters will be left cooling their heels on the sidelines while the fighters do the entire battle. If you want to do a climactic battle with a Rakshasa, you have to pair it up with something the spellcasters can deal with.

It would be pretty awesome if a Rakshasa had some sort of anti-rakshasa ally, which was also basically a cat-devil, but which ignored all weapon damage and could only be harmed by magic.

Alternatively -- since this is a boss battle, you may as well ham it up: if the party gets in a fight with him and they're winning too handily, he uses some magic ritual and splits into three rakshasas. (And one of them is immune to fire spells and takes double damage from piercing; one is immune to piercing weapons and takes double damage from cold spells; one is immune to cold spells and takes double damage from fire. Let the spellcaster types use Arcana or Planes to figure out which is which.)

PS. I'd like to agree with Epsilon Rose that CR13 is way too much for a level six party. Anything over CR9 is expected to be practically impossible for them to defeat. At some point, you have to ask: is it more likely that the people who wrote the Monster Manual made a stupid mistake and wrote a CR number way higher than is actually right for the monster? Or is it more likely that you've made an error yourself? Are you confident enough in that assessment that you're willing to risk wiping your party if you're wrong?

  • \$\begingroup\$ We talked about this previously that his cr13 isn't that threatening since he's almost entirely noncombat, but this was some really good advice. Thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 15:37

Find a way to make him seem untouchable, or higher up than they are. Give him complete control and make him seem like he knows everything. This will make the players feel like they are in his world and that nothing they do can stop him. Also giving him the ability to split up individuals out of the group confront them briefly and dump them off without much warning shows a certain control that would terrify most PCs. Basically use psychology to make him seem more daunting. Another thing that could be done is giving a liable example of his power. If the party has fought a tough enemy that could be used in the story then show him doing something that makes this creature pale in comparison. Even if he is the same power he will seem much more powerful. It is like Smaug he was just a dragon, but his story and absolute knowledge of even the invisible Bilbo and destruction of the dwarven home made him seem unstoppable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are some good examples, but I was hoping for something alittle more specific. As a Rakshasa, or with the help of others, how could he set up such situations, when all of his spells involve manipulating people? Would it be fair for him to somehow have knowledge about the players, through me being the DM, or would that be a cheap advantage that would take away player agency? The answer is too general for what Im looking for. Those are some good basic suggestions though \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could put a network of demon infused spies or just regular spies that always watch the party in seceret. This could leave a window for a secret rebellion or plann to happen that would aid the adventurers and then the plan falls apart as his network detected the plan and leave a window for them to escape and push them away from the fight. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ thats not bad... something that explains the way he knows things and also has some counterplay for the players. Good idea \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 23:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Glad to help :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ is this more appropriate for what i was trying to ask? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 23:48

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