Advice on countering Magic-heavy party


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Okay, this party has become powerfully magic-heavy over the course of the campaign. They're 11th level, and about to go deal with a demon lord of considerable power. They know it has tentacle-based grapple attacks (Snatch feat in addition to tentacles makes for a very dangerous opponent.)

Their plan is to cast Freedom of Movement on themselves and use teleport as needed to avoid the grapple. The teleport I can presumably block by tossing a dimensional anchor on the affected mage. But how do I stop Freedom of Movement? The moment the Big Bad has to default to casting dispel spells, he's purely defensive and they'll pick him apart. Which should not be something a player party should be able to do to a meaningful demon bad guy.

In the campaign, Hell itself was destroyed in the previous generation, so I actually don't have the ability to just summon random spawns of instant demonic monsters. There has to be a reasonable defensive force on hand to protect the demon. While he has access to some demon types which could disguise themselves in human society, they can't summon reinforcements, which means he has to logically have conventional backup.

I guess I'm worried they'll take what's supposed to be a significant challenge and turn it into a curbstomp. Anyone got any suggestions for enemy force builds to limit a magic-heavy party big on movement magic and Black Tentacles to screw the other side?


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Anti magic shell

Grand Lodge

lets see, you could have the lower level henchmen to cast dispel magic while the demon lord attacks. You could give the Demon have teleport magic.

You could add smoke or other visual impairments that make targeting difficult.

Maybe the ground is rumbling due to earthquakes and the wind is howling to force them to make concentration checks?

Hell, if it's a demon lord, doesn't he have some wish magic? Couldn't he just use that to screw over the party?


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Have another opponent playing defensive

As is almost always the case, one singular opponent is probably not the answer.


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They know about the creature's strengths and are preparing a good solution to his strengths, what's the motivation for taking that away? I assume the demon lord has some other abilities for when his tentacles don't work, why not lean on those when the demon lord realizes that his normal small fry tactic fails?

I would say the main weakness to their strategy is that they need the enemy not to simply retreat and attack them when their defenses are down. Most demons can teleport, so just have him leave, scry on the party now that he knows about them, then jump them when their spells go away.


Give your BBEG 9 levels in Tetori Monk. Inescapable Grasp beats Freedom of Movement.


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ErichAD wrote:
I would say the main weakness to their strategy is that they need the enemy not to simply retreat and attack them when their defenses are down. Most demons can teleport, so just have him leave, scry on the party now that he knows about them, then jump them when their spells go away.

That.

The BBEG should be hard to find, then he should observe, infiltrate, disrupt, and attack. Insinuate a disguised succubus as a friendly NPC into the party. Plant something evil and magical. Start a distracting rumor that the party just happens to hear.


Be carefull with the part about "insinuate a disguised succubus as a friendly NPC into the party". Some parties become paranoid to ultra-paranoid about NPCs when you do that even once.

I agree that the demon should port out and regroup after the third time someone uses Freedom of Movement on him. With Multi-attack, this shouldn't take more than one or two rounds of combat.

BTW, if the party is magic-heavy, how do they get any damage on the demon if he's got big SR. Big, as in they need 15's to penetrate even after feats/etc?

Or... you could have them spring a Confusion trap and let them fight each other.


Oooooh...I love the Confusion trap!


What levels do they have? What are they? How many of them are there? Are there NPC allies involved?

Where is this fight going to go down? The material plane? How prevalent are anti-magic fields and dead magic zones and the like?


Well, if you want to annoy the party without changing the encounter, my suggestion would be to do the fight as planned, with everything going perfectly as the party expects until the BBG goes down. Describe it as "the demon's eyes open wide as the color fades from its entire body. The next moment the demon melts leaving behind a few items floating in a pool of water."

Congratulations, they killed a simulacrum. And all of the info they have is based on people who have fought the simulacrum of the BBG. The BBG himself has a coven of hags working for him and they keep Mind Blank going on him 24/7.

More realistic advice: Give the BBG a proper guard. Start with an encounter before the throne room that is equal in CR to the BBG. After round 3 of that fight have the BBG join that fight with the rest of his encounter. Include 3-4 Imps/Quasaits in the BBG's servants. If the fight looks bad for the BBG (2+ guards dead) he orders the imps to go get reinforcements (a single demon, or a group of minor demons that show up 3 rounds later). Make sure the players have 1 round to attempt to stop the imps from teleporting away.

The BBG has one trick not known to the players. A long time ago he was able to get a wish that makes him immune to Dimensional Anchor. If he falls below half HP he teleports to a hideout in a different city unless the players manage to enrage him. Once he's below 25% hp even he'll try to teleport away regardless of anything the player's say.


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Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Give your BBEG 9 levels in Tetori Monk. Inescapable Grasp beats Freedom of Movement.

No need to give him levels in Tetori. You're the DM! Trade out some of his other abilities and give him an equivalent ability to a Tetori (Inescapable Grasp). Put limits on it as necessary to make it reasonable for you/fit the CR you want. Such as only useable 3/day or only if attacking a target which previously used Freedom of Movement against him etc., etc.. Or just plain give him the ability.

Antimagic, Dead Magic or Wild Magic effects.

Within his lair any door, portal, archway etc., passed through casts Dispel Magic/Greater Dispel Magic on those moving through. Or maybe only such doors with a particular feature or glyph, you decide how hard it is to spot. Again you are the DM make stuff up, just give the players/PCs a chance to discover and bypass or otherwise overcome the feature/traps you incorporate.

If the encounter is to take place within his realm or domain, maybe FoM simply doesn't work within his domain. The Party will need to lure him out then prevent his escape when he discovers the FoM usage.


Where there are demons, there should be cultists. These might be high or low level, casters or not, human(ish) or not, and they don't need to be high level to be a real nuisance. Just getting in a caster's face will force concentration checks, for example. Make sure the ceiling isn't so high that the PCs can simply fly out of reach.

If this demon has tentacles and Steal, make him steal stuff. Then teleport away and hide it, or use it on something precious like the PC's pet orphanage. Make them really hate it.

Presumably this demon has some other powers and motivations than simply tentacles and mindless evil? Build on that.


There is a long standing counter to foes who are going to base their strategy around spellcasting: Providing fights with disposable guardians that are threatening enough to draw out the use of spells.

Note that the word is threatening, not dangerous: Take some skeletons, cover them with illusions and you can get an encounter that looks really dangerous at first glace. Perhaps toss in something that really is dangerous, if someone assumes it's just another speedbump, to make sure people have to treat them all as threats.

For this particular case, however, a big chunk of the demon's defence against this kind of magic should be based on a simple fact: He knows that it exists. That means that he can include efforts to place defences that give any attacking group a choice between expending that magic or giving him enough prep time for reinforcements to gather¹.

(I'll assume that SBT protection is in place.)

1: Yes, it would be possible to overcome this by focusing more resources on the issue. That in and of itself means those defences were useful at draining other magic.


What is the caster level and highest level of spells your demon lord can use?

If he can cast 9th level spells (typically requiring CL 17 or 18), he can cast wall of suppression. Assuming he is at least one CL higher than needed, he can cast the spell as a lower level caster and it will have no effect on his own spells (it will affect his magic items unless they are a higher CL than he is, which isn't likely).


And old saying "Whats the difference between a Wizard and a Dragon? A dragon is still a dragon in an anti-magic field" can be applied to this situation. I'm not saying use it as the main strategy, but you can make use of it. Freedom of Movement means nothing in a place where magic doesn't work.


I guess to me it would depend on how they found out about this guy and his attacks.

Did they take the time to research it? Ask around? If so, you can always add in false rumours, or stories.

You can also just change things around. Like having one of its attacks do a spell sunder.

No demon lord would ever be alone without demons to lord over. If you havent even at least got some things hiding around you did it wrong.


Dragonflight wrote:
Okay, this party has become powerfully magic-heavy over the course of the campaign. They're 11th level, and about to go deal with a demon lord of considerable power.

What is "a demon lord of considerable power" to you? Does it have access to any of the create demi plane spells? Is it a caster or just some tentacle monster?

Can you fit 4-6, 7th level Magus Mercenary body guards into the encounter balance with some low charge wands of dispel magic to act as physical interference and counter magic defense?

The more details you give the more the community can help.


I really don't like the idea of having wands of dispel, and things like that. Like they are somehow more prepared than the characters that had to research and actually prepare. It stinks little too much of meta gaming.

Of course if he meets them and they try this tactic he is now armed with knowledge so if he escaped all beta are off.

But players will feel rightly cheated if they try to plan ahead vs an omnipotent hand waving


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Cavall wrote:
I really don't like the idea of having wands of dispel, and things like that. Like they are somehow more prepared than the characters that had to research and actually prepare. It stinks little too much of meta gaming.

He may not have met them, but the demon lord most certainly has met a large number of bozos like them in the past. Not being previously destroyed, it's safe to assume he's figured out what adventurers typically do, and has prepared himself for such.

No different from wearing armor; when you know you're a target for people who can swing swords, you wear armor. When you're a target for people who can cast spells, you get ready for that as well.

Not meta at all. Or maybe I'm saying you should meta-think the meta into Inceptionville.


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My first thought is environmental.

Who cares if the PCs can escape the tentacles when the whole area is filled with poison/fire/etc that the BBEG is immune to.

This is HIS playground. He makes the rules.


Anguish wrote:
Cavall wrote:
I really don't like the idea of having wands of dispel, and things like that. Like they are somehow more prepared than the characters that had to research and actually prepare. It stinks little too much of meta gaming.

He may not have met them, but the demon lord most certainly has met a large number of bozos like them in the past. Not being previously destroyed, it's safe to assume he's figured out what adventurers typically do, and has prepared himself for such.

No different from wearing armor; when you know you're a target for people who can swing swords, you wear armor. When you're a target for people who can cast spells, you get ready for that as well.

Not meta at all. Or maybe I'm saying you should meta-think the meta into Inceptionville.

Kinda, the latter, yeah.

Which, if you carry it to the logical conclusion, means that you hard counter everything the party could do until it's no longer fun, it's just "rocks fall, everyone dies," but possibly more drawn out.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Coidzor wrote:

Kinda, the latter, yeah.

Which, if you carry it to the logical conclusion, means that you hard counter everything the party could do until it's no longer fun, it's just "rocks fall, everyone dies," but possibly more drawn out.

I hear you. I try to differentiate different creatures where possible based on their Intelligence and their role.

So - for instance - I make a point of noticing that dragons tend to be highly intelligent, and I DM them that way. They use every ability they have to the best effect I can possibly think of. If I'm creating an encounter with one, I deliberately pick environment and magic items to support the dragon's abilities. It's a thinker... it should act like it.

I don't do that with normal intelligence creatures, and I have low-Int creatures only do tactical things that make sense as instinct. So wolves flank, but they won't ever use the Steal combat maneuver even if it's clearly a Win Button for some reason.

As for role, same deal. A BBEG (usually) gets a lair. It gets support and execution as if it's an apex predator creature that has survived to this point by being - even if low-intelligence - clever enough to beat out its equivalent non-BBEG version. As in, same statblock Creature X gets a better lair and equipment as any other Creature X, just because it's a BBEG.

Mooks get as-written at best.

My point is... I make a great effort to make encounters that are supposed to be challenging exactly that. Not grueling. I don't deliberately counter my PCs' abilities. I counter obvious abilities that a BBEG can expect any adventurer party to have access to. "I know I'm a Grapple Demon and freedom of movement exists... I should deal with that or I'm going to be an Ex-Grapple-Demon." But maybe the party has chains of light available and can just lock the demon down and blast it from a safe distance. Shrug. Rare spell, not directly designed for the demon's iconic ability. No defense prepared for that. Dead demon.

My players are all advanced and tend to have a wide variety of toys at their disposal, so while something like freedom of movement is always useful, it might come into play as merely part of the solution.

Everyone's experience will vary, of course, but there's my input.


This demon probably didn't survive he'll being destroyed and everything previous to because he was an idiot. He likely has a few cards he keeps up his sleeve for emergencies. If I am a demon I am going to assume there is some little goody twoshoes out there with too much time on their hands that wants to ruin my brunch date with Hitler simply because they are xenophobic racists that have a problem with my lifestyle choices. I have a problem with that. If you think you are going to waltz into MY house slap me around and pee in my Cheerios you better come prepared. But prepared for what you ask? For starters I hope you brought your walking shoes. Because the whole place is https://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/other-rules/kingdom-building/settlem ents/buildings/#Dimension-Locked so there will be none of that teleporting into the bathroom while I'm in the shower crap. Naturally since you had to walk in through the front door I know you are here. But since you were not invited and I am in the middle of brunch with Adolph I am going to have Reynolds my Butler meet you in the foyer inquire as to your business and inform you that I am indisposed. Make an appointment. Reynolds while polite is quite firm that I am not to be disturbed. Should you decide to be beligerant the rest of the household staff is unlikely to be overly accommodating as you make your way through my spacious home where you will be invariably slowly bled literally and figuratively as you try to make your way down hallways designed to accommodate someone less than half your size while the rats that ARE in fact half your size follow behind you and chew on the feet of the last guy in line considering the entire Hall is an antimagic zone you will likely resort to lighting the whole thing on fire before you get to the end. Once you get to the end of the hall and back to where magic works you will probably want to heal up and do something about that bubonic plague since the first thing that happened when you cleared the tunnel was you got hit with https://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/a/aggravate-affliction/ . That was just the first of half a dozen such passages. Don't worry though no one likes repetition it is boring and so last season. The next passage has rust monsters in it.


Your BBEG demon guy can have a small host of minions who can do a wide range of caster-annoying things. Also, Anti-magic field your BBEG. Have your BBEG fight defensively, while his minions fight offensively, or vice-versa too.

Use your minions to be really annoying:

Blindness is a huge debuff to casters because they rely on Line of Sight for almost all the really scary stuff they can do (not only can they not use any spells that require LoS, but even their touch spells have a 50% to miss). Readied Action counterspells with Dispel Magic can also be a nuisance, and also, Dispel their Freedom of Movement! Also, casters typically have low CMD, so Dirty Tricks Masters (any class) can really cause problems with blind/nauseate, and so can Greater Trip/Combat Reflexes builds. If your BBEG is lvl 13+, that's access to 7th lvl spells, so Spell Turning and Limited Wish(-7 to Will Saves ---> Dominate or Heightened Persistent Any Save or Die spell like Hold Person) can really do a number on an unsuspecting party. Any class/monster/demon with high reflex and Improved Evasion can also be a nuisance. Anti-paladins can REALLY be scary too, because for 1) it's a big, unkillable beatstick in your face at all times who removes all your immunities, and 2) a myriad of debuff/diseases with Touch of Corruption, AND most importantly, 3) access to the best buff in the game, Aura of Vengeance; so, Smite Good on the party member you feel is the biggest threat and pulverize that guy something appropriately fierce.

Edit:

Some Encounter Advice: you should have the group get into combat with the BBEG demon's lower lvl minions (imps and minions who mean literally nothing) for a round or two, and then BBEG demon illusion or simulacrum teleports in. Now the party goes into overdrive with buffs and Eff you spells. They destroy the simulacrum (or realize the illusion), and then they continue with the dungeon, hopefully with plenty of buffs on them. All the sudden, they see the throne room where BBEG demon sits.... they rush in, and then whack.... you all just walked through a Wall of Suppression spell (removing all their buffs) OR, a Symbol of Confusion (as earlier suggested by Sir Belmont the Valiant). Why/how did he know the party was coming? Because of any reason you want because you're the DM: he's been scrying on you since xxxx and you didn't have any protection vs scrying, (an earlier suggestion from Scott Wilhelm) have a Succubus join the group inconspicuously, or they missed an alarm spell, or make up anything you want based off their actions or inaction.

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