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Coming up to the end of the current story arc, I would like the main villain to become a recurring enemy, popping up at the most inconvenient of times as they do.

There is going to be a large-scale battle, in which the main villain will be revealed (as the party believes he is a friend) and this is when he will turn on the party. I want to be able to either Stun them or otherwise prevent them from taking an action so the villain can get away.

What spells or magical items are available that can Stun or otherwise hold the party?

Some quick information:

  • the party consists of 5 PCs at Level 7
  • I already know of Hold Person, which would require an 8th Level spell slot if I'm right
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    \$\begingroup\$ A problem you will encounter is that fair spells that control a whole party at least permit a saving throw. Is it necessary that the PCs are stunned/asleep/... or could something like an instant teleportation do the tricks ? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6, 2016 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme ideally I want the villain to have his little speech just before he disappears, plus he has class levels in Fighter, giving him Action Surge, so he can cast a spell to Stun them, say his few words and then disappear \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6, 2016 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is taking a bit of narrative control and just declaring he states a few words and disappears enough? Why must it be a mechanical spell? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:30

9 Answers 9

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Ways to prevent multiple characters from taking any action:

  • Command (Only for 1 round)
  • Eyebite (1 character per round for 5 rounds)
  • Hold Person (As you know)
  • Hypnotic Pattern
  • Sleep
  • Symbol (Insanity, Pain, Sleep, or Stunning)
  • Time Stop (Not technically, but it achieves what you need)

Of these, Hypnotic Pattern is probably your best bet, as it's low level and does exactly what you need, so long as the party fails their saving throws. Sleep, somewhat uniquely, does not allow a saving throw. But it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to affect the entire party with it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ this is the sort of answer I was looking for! as good a suggestion traps are, it doesn't quite work out in the story I have planned, which is why I wanted spells or magical items. the other option I was thinking was creating a brand new spell for this purpose, but I'd rather stick to what's in the books. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6, 2016 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JamieBrace Glad to hear it - for what it's worth, I think you constrained your question well and kept it from being too broad, regardless of users ignoring the constraints you gave. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Dec 6, 2016 at 13:47
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Spell Trap

The use of traps makes a lot of sense here. You can create multiple Glyph of Warding "traps" that each have hold person stored within:

Spell Glyph. You can store a prepared spell of 3rd level or lower in the glyph by casting it as part of creating the glyph. The spell must target a single creature or an area. The spell being stored has no immediate effect when cast in this way. When the glyph is triggered, the stored spell is cast. If the spell has a target, it targets the creature that triggered the glyph. If the spell affects an area, the area is centered on that creature. If the spell summons hostile creatures or creates harmful objects or traps, they appear as close as possible to the intruder and attack it. If the spell requires concentration, it lasts until the end of its full duration

If the villain can lure them into the glyphs, then each Hold Person can be rolled for save.

However, the last part is the important bit - if you they save, they're not held. You can have a whole hallway filled with them, so it's just glyph after glyph after glyph, but that may be a little heavy handed. In addition, he'd have to prepare for this as the glyphs can't travel. So there'd need to be a place he can lure them TO where he's set up his 'escape'.

As said above, Hypnotic Pattern is an option, but that's also circumvented with a save.

Run Away

The hallway of Glyphs is the easiest and simplest mechanic to achieve what you're looking for - although a simple Dimension Door could do it, too.

Magical Items

The Robe of Scintillating colors (DMG, p194) can force a DC 15 Wis save or be stunned to the entire party. Again, the problem here is someone making their save.

Alternate Option-Wall of Force (5th level) or Forcecage (7th level)

I just noticed in the comments of another answer that you didn't want to use traps. If that's the case, then Glyphs of Warding don't really work. What COULD work is containment. Casting Wall of Force or Forcecage can contain them without allowing a save. It gives you time to taunt and then either run or dimension door away.

Alternate - Mislead(5th level spell)

The answer below suggesting using an illusion scroll is a great idea, but I am taking it one step further with using Mislead, a 5th level spell. It has a one hour duration, which allows the Villain to turn invisible and get a safe distance before "turning" on the group as the illusion and telling them of his evil plan. Since the group has no reason to physically interact with the Illusion, there is no save. Once he says his peace, he can either walk the illusion off, or dismiss it. All while a safe distance away.

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You don't necessarily need to "Stun" them to have your character exscape. There are a few magic spells (Misty Step, Dimension Door, Teleportation) that can get your villain to a safe distance after the big reveal, there are also a few magic items that have those spells attached to them as well. A whole party stun is actually very hard to pull off, especially at 7th level where a few different classes have easy ways to circumvent magical effects, plus there is always the lucky roll that lets someone save from it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth adding that mechanically, allowing a few words spoken as a "free action" when the main action is an escape spell is within the normal rules, so there is no need to do something that feels forced. This can also be the backup plan to a failed attack/stun spell - provided the NPC can cope for a round with whoever is left attacking him/her \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2016 at 10:39
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A preset mechanical trap, which the (undercover) villain tricks the party into, seems the most likely method of dealing with this. A room riddled with trapdoor pits, for instance, and the party standing on the trapdoors as requirement for "solving a puzzle" to advance in some way, a net (or multiple nets) that drop or spring on the party, the list goes on and on. The beauty of this is that a trusted character can lie through his teeth to get the party to walk straight into the trap -- and then make his exit while they're trying to extricate themselves.

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What about doing something "alternative"?

I mean..he is a villain, after all: he knows he can't mock on those former-friends without them trying to punish him. He knows he can't use any spell/trap without them getting at least one chance to avoid it and reach him.

But he is clearly smart enough to create something useful for him to escape: for example, he could pay (or coerce..he's a villain, right?) a local magician to use an Illusion Scroll to project himself in front of the party, while remaining at safe distance.

Or he could cast "Mislead" (5th level), as @nautarch pointed out :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or he could cast "Mislead" (5th level) which does exactly what you're suggesting :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Dec 6, 2016 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem is always the same: would it be possible to get a saving throw in the situation? I suppose that, under certain circumstances, the "reality" of the game should be less important than the "fiction" of the story. TL;DR: the party does "not" have a chance to reach the villain before he escapes :D \$\endgroup\$
    – Erenor Paz
    Dec 6, 2016 at 17:24
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Frame Challenge: One spell on the villain and one on an object

The action economy of 5e is such that what you are trying to accomplish is very difficult if you are targeting the party. It is highly unlikely you can have the villain cast something that will immobilize them all, since each of them will get a saving throw and the chance of them all failing is remote. It is far easier to simply have him cast a spell that targets himself, only, and does not require a failed save to work.

Begin by declaring that the entire party is Surprised. RAW, this occurs for "any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat". Since your party "believes he is a friend" you can simply say that they meet this condition and are all surprised by his action.

As a free action, the villain drops a small object on which he has pre-cast Magic Mouth and which he already had in hand, with the triggering condition being him dropping it on the ground. If his villainous monologue is more than 25 words, he can drop multiple objects each with their own mouth, each with the triggering condition of the completion of the previous mouth in the sequence.

The villain takes his action surge and then casts Expeditious retreat as his main action. He can now make three moves away from the party (normal move, action surge extra Action Dash, Expeditious Retreat Dash).

Unless he started base-to-base with a party member, he should now be a hundred feet or more away and likely around a corner. Some of the party may have equivalent means to match his movement speed and follow, but likely not all of them, and there is a large-scale battle in which they are leaving their mates behind.

Every subsequent round for the next ten minutes he will be making three moves away (move, main action Dash, Expeditious Retreat bonus action Dash) which should allow him to make his escape.

Expeditious Retreat is first level and Magic Mouth is second, so this will work at the lowest tier. If the party has higher-tier movement capability (fly, dimension door), just make sure that he can match.

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A nice option which hasn’t been mentioned yet:

Wall Of Fire

It’s very grand and awesome. Unless the PCs are willing to step through a solid wall of fire (or end their turn within 10ft of its outward-facing side) and take 5d8 damage it will keep them away from your villain and prevent them from following him. It also allows your villain to taunt them and hold a nice speech while hiding behind the wall.

Or just have your villain escape into a tunnel which collapses behind him or turn invisible.

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Smoke Bomb Ninja Vanish Fog Cloud

Heavy obscurement provides no saving throw, and the means to defeat it other than moving beyond it are scant - counterspell which they won't cast on a perceived ally (or if it's in a spell glyph they might not be able to), special senses, etc.

Action to cast (unless spell glyph if the villain can select the spot in advance), either directly on the party if they're close enough, or between them and the villain.

From here, the villain has options. If they have access to Cunning Action (or expeditious retreat and the spell glyph, that's extra movement from Dash. If you rule they need to Hide before moving unnoticed, they can do it with Action Surge.

All they need is one round to break line of sight and leave the party with no obvious target.

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How about a totally different approach?

I'm a 3.5/Pathfinder player so I don't know exactly how to pull this off in 5 but something along these lines should be possible:

Teleport out and leave behind some sort of illusion that makes the speech. Make a ghostly image of the NPC that gives the speech. If the party attacks, so what? Their weapons pass right through, their spells (other an dispel) have no effect. You get your speech, he gets away clean.

Villains have such a want to talk that I'm sure there's some sort of magic that can do this. Off the top of my head (remember, I'm doing this for 3.5):

Departing Speech Level: 2 Target: Self Duration: 1 hr/level + 1 round/level (special) Save: None

You cast the spell and then it makes a recording of your actions for 1 round/level and holds it. If you then voluntarily use any form of teleportation magic the recording is played back in the spot you left. The image is clearly not real and is unaffected by anything that happens while it is playing.

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