The next three posts are about the build toward the final battle in my campaign. I'm writing them before the battle takes place and may offer comments on each after the battle to talk about the difference between what I anticipated and how it actually turned out. In this post, I'll discuss the foes. In subsequent posts, I'll discuss terrain and plot.
I've got the BBEG: The Lord of the Blades.
The character is significantly altered from source books. I started with the idea that the Lord of the Blades should wield two blades. I tested several different builds that would lead to a dual wielding Blackguard and eventually settled on Ranger 6, Blackguard 4. Did you know that of the standard classes, Ranger offers the fastest path to the prerequisites for Blackguard? I would have thought fallen Paladin but Hide prerequisite gets in the way. Anyway, I kept crunching the encounter with the Encounter Calculator and trying to weigh it against my PCs who are finding most encounters too easy. I decided to aim for an Overpowering encounter for the final battle. After factoring all of the other elements, I decided that adding the Spell Warped template would still work.
I've got the lackey behind the bad guy.
For this role, I created a wand wielding artificer with a secret or two up his sleeve. The players may dismiss him in the first few rounds of combat while he talks to the crowd for up in a tower otherwise removed from the battle. He'll be using his wands to protect himself during that time. If they all out assault, they'll have to fly to the tower and he has some antiflier defenses. This guy is inspired by Grima Wormtongue from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. He has some power himself but was most dangerous for how he influenced the Lord of the Blades. . . but if the PCs fail to deal with him while he protects himself, he'll begin dishing out a lot of damage and battle influence around round 3 or 4.
I've got cannon fodder.
I have created two beefed up Iron Defenders as companions for the Lord of the Blades. I took a little creative license with them. The Eberron campaign setting says that they fight "for their creator". I interpreted that loosely by saying to myself that the creators of the iron defenders order the iron defenders to protect the Lord of the Blades. Their main purpose on the battle field is to flank anyone attacking the Lord of the Blades (allowing him to use his sneak attack) and or grapple a magic user or rogue still on the ground. I don't anticipate that they will affect the battle very much at all but they serve an important distraction role.
I've got witnesses.
The background for the combat is that the Lord of the Blades has formed a city named Forge in the Mournland. He then sent many small units to attack Breland (there's a good reason but not necessary for this explanation). Thrane, Zilargo, Breland, and Aundair are afraid of this show of force so joined together to stop the Lord of the Blades. The siege army is at the walls of the city. However, attacking a well fortified city is challenging. With human inhabitants they would wait a few weeks to weaken the defenders. But how do you weaken a city where the inhabitants don't eat, sleep, breathe, or eliminate waste? Moreover, how do you feed your army and keep up morale when living spells wander the terrain. So the PCs have been sent in as a last ditch effort to try to decapitate the leadership before the army will try to scale the walls. The Lord of the Blades knows about the party entering the city and has planned for them. He has gathered as many citizens as possible to a public address area where he intends to kill the PCs in a morale boosting show of warforged superiority. So, the third foe is the crowd watching the battle. In a way, they could have been described under terrain. If the PCs get too close to the crowd the crowd may try to grapple them. Of course the farther from the crowd the closer to the Lord of the Blades. A random spell caster or two may try to counterspell the wizard (to no effect other than the generation of fear in the PCs). And, the crowd will be cheering, booing, and throwing a few things randomly with very low damage. There will also be a few warforged who will be rooting for the PCs so a fireball aimed at the crowd would be morally questionable. The main purpose of the crowd is to add tension and stakes to the fight. Win and the warforged army looses morale or maybe even tears itself apart. Lose and they will be emboldened, the tempering few will lose heart.
I've got the heroes.
The PCs will all be 8th level at the final battle. They are as follows:
1. The main dramatic lead is a warforged fighter with Monkey Grip and a large battleaxe. He is hoping to save his people from becoming a feared reviled race.
2. I've got a dragon marked rogue. She doesn't know it because they didn't investigate some things earlier but her mother was captured by one of the warforged parties that entered Breland. Her level of investment will intensify once she learns this getting to the final battle.
3. An amoral wizard. The player doesn't care much about plot but he'll be very interested in how to stop the artificer and get his loot.
4. A cleric. This player has only been coming to every other session. I added a vision from his God in the last session to increase his investment in this conclusion. His God told him that the character would be able to cast healing "when he needs it most" which the players presume correctly will be the final battle.
5. An archery track ranger. This player has been gone for some sessions due to work commitments, the character is interested in just doing the right thing.