Hey guys, so I have a bit of a dilemma. Let me briefly outline the situation so you have some context:
My group used to only play one-shots due to us living far apart, this OL campaign is our first campaign ever. Because of this the party are used to adventures being custom built for them, where victory is almost certainly assured (as long as they aren’t dumb) and I think this no-risks attitude is affecting them in the campaign. They don’t feel threatened or like there’s a risk of death, they assume that every encounter they find is surely customised to their current level because that’s what they’re used to, even if only subconsciously.
I want to change that. The point of creating a campaign world is to have gears turning in the background and characters that pose a threat to the PCs in the long run, not just to show up for one session and be defeated because everything is scaled relatively to the players. Here’s how I plan to do that:
- I’m going to introduce my PC’s to one of the generals of the BBEG, they’re at an appropriate point in the campaign where it’s time they see what’s going on
- We’re going to have a mission where the primary objective is not affected by whether this general lives or dies, so if they choose to fight him, fleeing is an option that can still achieve ‘victory’
- I’m going to make it clear that this is a general and therefore the guy behind the scenes must be even stronger
I’m hoping that this will give me the opportunity to have them lose a fight, perhaps for the first time ever without necessarily ‘failing’ their objective and it feeling like a complete loss and frustrating them.
With background info out of the way, I was hoping you could help me come up with an NPC that will be almost unbeatable to my players (I’d like to point out that if the dice are on their side I still want them to be able to win, but I imagine they would need insane luck for this to happen). There are three of them, 5-6th level, so we’ll say a combined level of 15 for simplicity.
My issue is that the players will find the fight frustrating and feel cheated, but they really need to know that there are forces in the world that dwarf them. The fight will not be mandatory and I’ll make sure that they see this NPC in action before having the option to fight him, this way they can avoid him completely and I’ll take that as a sign that they get the message.
One option I’ve considered is an Orc chieftain they’ve encountered before but chose not to fight, not because they thought he was too strong, just because he wasn’t in their way at the time. They killed most of his tribe so he has a personal grudge against them - the problem with this is if they fight and lose I don’t see why he’d let them live so this is only my first idea, I’m open to other character concepts and ideas.
In my world Orcs are grey-skinned and their hides are like armour, so naturally I’m leaning towards a very high guard, but I’m concerned just giving the character ‘big numbers’ will feel cheap.
I’m also unsure of whether to make him a 20th level normal npc or a boss npc. Since the party’s combined level is around 15, an NPC of CR 20 doesn’t seem all that threatening in theory so I’m not sure whether this would be a good time for their first ‘boss’ or if that should be saved exclusively for the BBEG behind the scenes.
This is where my inexperience running campaigns starts to show so I’m hoping someone could point me in the right direction - I’m hoping for at least a character concept because otherwise I know I’ll put this off until the day of the session and have to pull something lacklustre out at the last minute. If I can’t dedicate some serious time to planning this out then I run the risk of creating a frustrating encounter rather than a dramatic one.