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D&D 5E 20th level Wizard vs the World

Stalker0

Legend
I was having a fun debate with my gaming group. In 3rd edition, we all agreed that a high level wizard could take over a world pretty trivially.

but how about 5e? The promise of bounded accuracy and more limited spells suggests it should be harder for a powerful wizard to just run the show. But is it still possible? Can a 20th level wizard with access to the full arsenal of magic conquer the world?

so let’s make some assumptions:

1) since magic items are technically optional, let’s limit their use. So people can have some basic magic weapon, magic armor kind of thing, but no items with “crazy effects”. This is about the power of the class not what items can be found.

2) for the world, we will assume the 20th level wizard is the top dog. There are a handful of people levels 11-12, everyone past that has moved on to do their own thing. There are of course more level 8-10 people but still pretty rare. Let’s assume 5th level and lower is more common, and then you have nigh infinite 1st level people.

put another way, the world has access to a few 6th and 5th level spells (of any class), 4th level spells are rare but out there, 3rd and 2nd level magic is fairly easy to muster, and 1st level spells are practically infinite.

3) no simulacrum cheese. We already know it’s a winning tactic so let’s take it off the table

4) any official class and spell is fair game. Nothing UA, but if it’s official it’s legal for the debate.

5) for the wizard, choose any race and subclass you wish, feats are in, assume he has as many spells as you need in the spell book. But no multi classing, it’s a pure wizard.

so with that in mind, put on your scheming hats pinky and the brain style, and see how to take over the world!!
 

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jgsugden

Legend
1.) Dominate targets and then hide their domination with Nystul's Magic Aura. When used on world leaders, you can have them fabricate a situation where transition of power to the wizard makes sense, then use the dominate to position them in a way that results in their deaths (Oh no, the celebration no a remote island after the leaders transitioned power to the wizard was ambushed by terrorists and everyone but the wizard died). Without creativity, you need to do these one at a time, but patience is a virtue.

2.) Go to a small region. Take it over with brute force as the threat of Meteor Showers is a threat of total destruction. Force or persuade them to fight for you against larger regions, which you can take with the combined power of your magic and armies. Grow your forces.

3.) Fabricate a threat or convince the populace the government is a threat. Destroy it. Win the hearts and minds of the populace and convince them to put you in charge. Rinse and repeat with larger and larger areas.

4.) Meteor Swarms, Otiluke's Freezing Sphere, etc... can be used to lay waste to huge regions. As can Shapechange and dragon breaths. Just destroying people can give you an easy path to controlling the rest. This differs from 2 as you are destroying all the more powerful opposition rather than conquering it.

5.) Wish cheese, if your DM allows it. "I wish that I have conquered the world" may work in some games. There are a huge number of ways to use wish to either gain control, or destroy.

6.) Similar to 1, but you replace the leaders with Simulacrums and hide their nature with Nystul's Magic Aura. I do not consider this the Simulacrum cheese (multiple simulacrums) you referenced.

7.) You could also just destroy most of the world by unleashing some ancient horror upon it. If you're the only 20th level out there, there must be some nice hidden horrors out there waiting to be released. Then you can rule the remains after you leash it again.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
2) for the world, we will assume the 20th level wizard is the top dog. There are a handful of people levels 11-12, everyone past that has moved on to do their own thing. There are of course more level 8-10 people but still pretty rare. Let’s assume 5th level and lower is more common, and then you have nigh infinite 1st level people.

I mean, that's a pretty convenient assumption. "Assuming there's nobody of high enough level to challenge me, how big a challenge is the world?"

I will note that any cleric level 10 or higher has a 10% or higher chance of being able to scotch domination plans through Divine Intervention. They each have that chance every week.
 





Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Dominate Person doesn't do it. The dominate person is a concentration spell that lasts at most 8 hours if cast at 8th level or above. You can get 2 if you're an enchanter, but you still need to cast it on both at the same time.

The caster might be able to effectively take over a kingdom, but their power is going to be largely limited to that kingdom. Except it still doesn't work because they would have to re-cast it 3 times a day. Which they can't.

They could go the blaster route, but even spells like meteor storm are limited. So yes, you can call in an air strike but you have to sleep sometime. You can't bomb entire countries into submission. Powerful? Absolutely. Dominate a region of burned out ruins? Sure. Take over the world? Eh.

Nothing in the simulacrum spell says it gains the memories of the person being replaced. Well, that and it requires shenanigans I wouldn't allow.
 

Caliburn101

Explorer
The reason why Mordenkainen and Elminster et al meet at the Yawning Portal to shoot the breeze is probably to convince their counterparts not to interfere with their world-spanning machinations, 'cos the only person stopping an uber wizard is another uber wizard... lets be honest... :)
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The easiest way is probably the least glamorous. That being, use of charms and enchantments to get leaders, influential people, and/or the populous to want to do your bidding and increase your power.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The easiest way is probably the least glamorous. That being, use of charms and enchantments to get leaders, influential people, and/or the populous to want to do your bidding and increase your power.
Dominate doesn't work unless I'm missing something. Charm person just makes them a friendly acquaintance. Suggestion has to be reasonable.

Could someone get into a position of power using their influence? Sure. But they're not going to be an unstoppable juggernaut.
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
2) for the world, we will assume the 20th level wizard is the top dog. There are a handful of people levels 11-12, everyone past that has moved on to do their own thing. There are of course more level 8-10 people but still pretty rare. Let’s assume 5th level and lower is more common, and then you have nigh infinite 1st level people.
I mean, that's a pretty convenient assumption. "Assuming there's nobody of high enough level to challenge me, how big a challenge is the world?"

I will note that any cleric level 10 or higher has a 10% or higher chance of being able to scotch domination plans through Divine Intervention. They each have that chance every week.
I think that it's also short sighted. Take a world like eberron where you dn't have a tier 3+ retired adventurer poing as the baker butcher & shopkeeper in every other town & limit the scope to just khorvaire were there's not really much of anything capable of challenging a level 20 anything. Under those conditions the only reason a level 20 would need to take over rather than using their power to participate in & enjoy the fruits of a productive reasonably stable advanced civilization is if that level 20 were criminally insane. Once you dive into that sort of crazy all of the convoluted schemes are likely to fall apart through incompetence in the face of the actual chessmasters in the world. Even if the level 20 wanted to do something like horrific arcane experiments on people for whatever reason, taking over the world is an absurd amount of effort when it could be done quietly in a remote area or even with funding from a proto-megacorp like ta dragonmarked house or a functioning established nation state interested enough in results to keep prying eyes/legal complications away.

Faerun may lack nations & governance due to rule by a continual series of violent overthrow of the last absetee warlord dubbed adventurer but even a crapsack world like darksun has numerous powers wielding the clout of a functioning nationstate complete with functioning military/policing/etc or similar but parallel levels of power who would just give the level 20 a cushy job mostly consisting of doing the thing they wanted to take over the world for.

Due to bounded accuracy & the assumption of no feats no magic items, any level 20 has been a fully functional armed & equipped T-X for many levels even if not using those things in their build. That makes the level 20 bar just silly
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Dominate doesn't work unless I'm missing something. Charm person just makes them a friendly acquaintance. Suggestion has to be reasonable.

Could someone get into a position of power using their influence? Sure. But they're not going to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Look at how people have come to power in real life. Then imagine if Hitler and his henchmen had even basic spells like charm person, mass suggestion, etc available to them? "Dear Yamamoto, it would not be in your best interests to bomb Pearl Harbor and bring the Americans into this war." "Mr. (Hitler waves his sith hand)

You can already achieve a lot of power as a normal person with a decent charisma stat, so you would be extremely powerful just by slyly augmenting that with charming spells. Especially as a sorcerer with subtle spell. You wouldn't need to be a juggernaut yourself, but you'd have all the power at your disposal.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I was having a fun debate with my gaming group. In 3rd edition, we all agreed that a high level wizard could take over a world pretty trivially.
No.
but how about 5e? The promise of bounded accuracy and more limited spells suggests it should be harder for a powerful wizard to just run the show. But is it still possible? Can a 20th level wizard with access to the full arsenal of magic conquer the world?
No.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Look at how people have come to power in real life. Then imagine if Hitler and his henchmen had even basic spells like charm person, mass suggestion, etc available to them? "Dear Yamamoto, it would not be in your best interests to bomb Pearl Harbor and bring the Americans into this war." "Mr. (Hitler waves his sith hand)

You can already achieve a lot of power as a normal person with a decent charisma stat, so you would be extremely powerful just by slyly augmenting that with charming spells. Especially as a sorcerer with subtle spell. You wouldn't need to be a juggernaut yourself, but you'd have all the power at your disposal.
It would be useful, just not automatically successful for more than a region. Good? Yes. But I'm not even sure it would be that much better than just having a 20 charisma.

Remember this is not wizard vs kingdom, it's wizard vs world. It's hard enough to get allies to cooperate, imagine how difficult it would be to maintain an alliance between enemies for one person, even if they can repeatedly cast charm type spells as their signature spells. The wider their kingdom expands, the more difficult it will be to maintain.

You'd have to have some kind of super-mass charm, but that's not currently an option.
 

Hohige

Explorer
I was having a fun debate with my gaming group. In 3rd edition, we all agreed that a high level wizard could take over a world pretty trivially.

but how about 5e? The promise of bounded accuracy and more limited spells suggests it should be harder for a powerful wizard to just run the show. But is it still possible? Can a 20th level wizard with access to the full arsenal of magic conquer the world?
No. Not even close.
 

Hohige

Explorer
It would be useful, just not automatically successful for more than a region. Good? Yes. But I'm not even sure it would be that much better than just having a 20 charisma.

Remember this is not wizard vs kingdom, it's wizard vs world. It's hard enough to get allies to cooperate, imagine how difficult it would be to maintain an alliance between enemies for one person, even if they can repeatedly cast charm type spells as their signature spells. The wider their kingdom expands, the more difficult it will be to maintain.

You'd have to have some kind of super-mass charm, but that's not currently an option.
The wizard casting spells against other is really an offensive act. It doesn't work.
 

aco175

Legend
You could take over the world, but you don't want to do that. Remember this guy saying "yes" to all prayers after Morgan Freeman stepped down.
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You want to use a proxy to prop up and then you will have time to play golf and chill.
 

Eltab

Is this a moon, or is it a space station?
Once the Wizard20 starts making obvious "World Domination" moves, do you really expect the L10+'s to just sit back and watch? They will start (quietly if they are smart) getting allies, friends, &c together to plan against future need - and begin accruing XP for themselves, plus encourage others nearby to be brave, deal with problems / distractions in their area, and become higher-level themselves.

Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.
 


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