D&D 5E Beefing up Acererak for 16th level PCs?

dave2008

Legend
So, I have some time and I’m less annoyed that my DMing decisions are being put under the microscope for no discernible reason, so I’ll reply to this part.
Goodness, my apologies. I didn't even think of it as a DMing decision. I truly was just curious. When I was reading it I was thinking:

"Hmm, that is an odd choice (to me), I wonder why they did that? I know - I will ask them!"

That was the extent of it. I wasn't trying to question your DMing, but I understand how my question came off that way and I truly apologize for that.
To me, a construct the size of a big SUV is about right for what I was doing. Here’s a thing made to go to war, to be relatively easily deployed, that has been modified in design to serve the purpose of urban terror. It’s about as big as you can go and still be able to put a few of them on an airship, or one on a large skycoach, or be hidden in a convenient place, etc.

As for the platforms, you’re talking about a roughly 15ft+ wide at least half that from top to bottom, disclike torso. It’s easy for me to imagine raised shields with archer window style slots, that can fit an average human with a crossbow or war-stave. Basically, thier lower half is inside the body of the Titan, thier up half is mostly shielded by a raised “wall” like you see on emplaced gun positions in movies.

And a nearly 20ft tall, 15ish ft wide, construct with weapons on the ends of its arms the size of an average human, is pretty terrifying.
Thank you for the further clarification!
Tactically, on a grid, I didn’t need it to be gargantuan to do the job. Huge takes up plenty of space, and is big enough for PCs to crawl around on it without it basically being terrain. I’m saving that dynamic for a later fight.
From your previous post it sounds like you already have your players thinking about it too - good luck! It sounds very exciting!
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Goodness, my apologies. I didn't even think of it as a DMing decision. I truly was just curious. When I was reading it I was thinking:

"Hmm, that is an odd choice (to me), I wonder why they did that? I know - I will ask them!"

That was the extent of it. I wasn't trying to question your DMing, but I understand how my question came off that way and I truly apologize for that.
Fair enough.
Thank you for the further clarification!
👍👍
From your previous post it sounds like you already have your players thinking about it too - good luck! It sounds very exciting!
Yeah the PCs who didn’t fight in the war asked the others if the Titans were the biggest thing they saw during the war, and got very concerned when the answer was no.
 

This may seem like a simple solution to cause a group like this serious problems is a Forcecage. It's a 7th level spell so it's not easy to counter. There's no save. You can't dispel it. You can't sneak out. If you want to escape you need to make a Charisma save to teleport or Passwall out. Most low level teleports automatically fail if you can't see the destination or the target. Just add Forcecage to Acerak's spell list. He should have a way to regain spell slots as a lich with a lair. He might be able to cast two or three of them and slow down the DPR.
 

Northern Phoenix

Adventurer
If you want to be a real delight, you can rip off the latest Lich boss fight from World of Warcraft and have it go like this:

Each time Acererak is "killed", he respawns instantly with full health and full spell slots unless the players enter a rift left by his corpse and battle his spirit (use whatever stats you like, "Nightwalker" could be fun). If they win this fight, he respawns with 50% health and 50% spell slots. Repeat this 3 times, and his phylactery is pulled from wherever to physically restore his corpse. Killing him a 4th time and then destroying his phylactery leaves him mega dead (better than regular dead).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I'd been running the Adventurers League adventures for Tomb of Annihilation, but when I got to the point where the death curse was over, I realized that the players would feel cheated if they weren't the ones to stop it. As such, I had them go to the Tomb of the Nine Gods, and since it's mainly traps and puzzles, it's been a pretty good challenge for them.

What I'm worried about is whether or not the final encounter with Acererak and the atropal will be a cakewalk for them, so I figured I should increase the challenge. I've noticed that they tend to tear through encounters that consist of only a couple enemies, so I'm wondering if increasing the number of NPCs is the best way to go. Perhaps I could increase the number of wraiths created by the atropal during a round, and have them absorb any damage to the atropal? What are some other ideas?
The biggest problem you face as I see it as a level 16 party might trivialise the Atropal. So where the party is meant to be on the ropes, they'll be not only fresh but also potentially super-buffed by the trickster gods. One option would be to have him present with the Atropal. Who knows what kinds of divination magic he can access: maybe he knows what's coming! I suspect the two together might be quite a hard fight.

I have a party exploring the Tomb at present, and have given some thought to Acererak. Seing as I use Fantasy Grounds VTT, it's easy for me to clone the campaign and test my ideas. Some notes for you
  1. I found that the Atropal should just spam its exhaustion effect. Exhausted characters don't have nearly as good a time with Acererak and they (almost certainly) lack time to recover from exhaustion before the fight. Remember it can legendary action this, so it goes right after the first PC meaning it should get at least one cast off.
  2. Acererak arrives standing in front of a portal. If he needs to, he should back out through it and rethink his approach... and then return!
  3. I gave Acererak a contingency of a banishment spell (target self), so that worst case he can bug out and rethink as above.
  4. I tried having Acererak's first cast be psychic scream (XGE), but found that too powerful. The problem is that if PCs fail, they may not have good enough Int saves to ever succeed and then are just stun-locked forever. Still, it's worth considering...
  5. I revised his spell list completely; gods know what the designers were thinking!? He can at-will fireball or hold person, why on Earth would a being as ancient and cunning as Acererak not have that sort of thing?​
  6. I decided that Acererak has a pretty good idea that he will be running into a bunch of so-called heroes, who were obviously powerful enough to murder his baby, so he arrives with a plan

Revised spell list​

Cantrips (at will): frostbite, mage hand, prestidigitation
1st level (at will): absorb elements, shield
2nd level (at will): mind spike, misty step
3rd level (at will): counterspell, fireball
4th level (3 slots): banishment, greater invisibility, mordenkainen's private sanctum
5th level (3 slots): bigby's hand, scrying, seeming
6th level (3 slots): disintegrate, mass suggestion, scatter
7th level (3 slots): etherealness, forcecage, plane shift*
8th level (2 slots): abi-dalzim's horrid wilting, dominate monster, mind blank*
9th level (2 slots): time stop, wish
* precast

The plan is to time stop, greater invis himself if that seems like a good idea, and forcecage whoever he thinks is strong and likely to stay imprisoned by it. I like @dave2008's version of Acererak, but do believe wish and forcecage are better picks. Note that I kept the same number of spells at each level as he has in the book, but obviously there isn't really a strong reason to do that. I also tried to think about what spells might make sense for him to have in mind most plane-hopping days (with a background idea that somewhere out there he has a simulacrum with all the tedious but useful spells that you really want to cast while staying at home).
 
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mrm1138

Explorer
The plan is to time stop, greater invis himself if that seems like a good idea, and forcecage whoever he thinks is strong and likely to stay imprisoned by it. I like @dave2008's version of Acererak, but do believe wish and forcecage are better picks. Note that I kept the same number of spells at each level as he has in the book, but obviously there isn't really a strong reason to do that. I also tried to think about what spells might make sense for him to have in mind most plane-hopping days (with a background idea that somewhere out there he has a simulacrum with all the tedious but useful spells that you really want to cast while staying at home).

Since a couple of the PCs can cast counterspell, do you think it would be a good idea to have Acererak feint with a couple at-will spells first to see if he can get them to use up those spell slots? I'd hate to waste time stop. I understand that they would have to roll successfully to counter a 9th-level spell, but that is still a possibility (especially if they cast it at a higher level).

It's possible the warlock will use all three of her spell slots to cast Feeblemind since it's very obviously a huge boss battle. Acererak has legendary resistance but can only use it three times per day, so it'll be a tough call as to when to use it.
 

dave2008

Legend
The biggest problem you face as I see it as a level 16 party might trivialise the Atropal. So where the party is meant to be on the ropes, they'll be not only fresh but also potentially super-buffed by the trickster gods.
Yes, I was assuming that the party would be facing Acererak at basically full strength. Though facing both at the same time could be interesting. Maybe Acererak appears when the atropal is at 1/2 HP. That would make an easy battle turn difficult fast.
. I like @dave2008's version of Acererak, but do believe wish and forcecage are better picks. Note that I kept the same number of spells at each level as he has in the book, but obviously there isn't really a strong reason to do that. I also tried to think about what spells might make sense for him to have in mind most plane-hopping days (with a background idea that somewhere out there he has a simulacrum with all the tedious but useful spells that you really want to cast while staying at home).
I don't think I changed any spells except to remove animate dead and replace it with fireball and lightning bolt. I do agree forcecage is a good idea and seems like something Acererak would have prepared. I'm less sold on wish, I personally don't like spell and wouldn't want to DM it.
 

dave2008

Legend
It's possible the warlock will use all three of her spell slots to cast Feeblemind since it's very obviously a huge boss battle. Acererak has legendary resistance but can only use it three times per day, so it'll be a tough call as to when to use it.
That is why Acererak has Mind Blank (and would cast it on himself before he enters the tomb), he doesn't even need to use his Legendary Resistance on Feeblemind then. The spell does nothing to him.
 

mrm1138

Explorer
That is why Acererak has Mind Blank (and would cast it on himself before he enters the tomb), he doesn't even need to use his Legendary Resistance on Feeblemind then. The spell does nothing to him.
Ah! Thank you so much for pointing that out! I really need to reread all the descriptions for his spells to make sure I've got them down.
 


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