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D&D 5E Help me design a scheming long-term nemesis for my new campaign

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I'm about to start a Radiant Citadel campaign, at long last, and want to have an NPC rival/villain/troublemaker dog the players' steps over a long period.

Given the citadel's rules and culture, this NPC has to avoid getting in trouble with the powers that be, but those rules also mean that, so long as the nemesis is smart, the PCs aren't going to be able to murder them and stop having to deal with them that way.

I'm thinking of having the character be a fiend warlock to tie them into some of the stuff happening in San Citlan and Akharin Sangar. I also would like them to have a cat motif, without actually being a tabaxi or other cat race. My thought is to make them a black panther shifter.

I'm largely unfamiliar with warlocks outside of Baldur's Gate 3 and have never played or run a shifter, though.

My goal is to have this character either start off the same level as the PCs or always be one level ahead (to make them a bit more robust if the players do jump him). He'd mostly specialize in manipulating and spying on people, but would have the tool set necessary to murder people when he catches them alone.

Any suggestions on what this NPC's build should look like? Bonus points for any ways to bring in the black cat motif.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
Patron to the Cat Lord perhaps instead? Treat it as an Archfey patron, I would think. Maybe make a dual class Warlock/Druid. A villain who isn't outright evil, but as malicious as the stereotypical cat who is plotting your demise behind your back.

Rather than build as a PC, I'd be inclined to start with the Warlock of the Archfey stat block (from Mord's Tome of Foes), and upgrade it as needed (replace the Rapier attack with claws, maybe give it a reduced Change Shape ability from the Archdruid stat block).
 


DrJawaPhD

Explorer
If you're tying to Ahkarin Sangar, how about Genie patron, and have them working for Navid the Ashen Heir? This could particularly work if you want them to be more of a morally gray troublemaking rival/ally rather than an evil villain.

Tying to San Citlan, working for Itzmin and having Pazuzu (fiend) as a patron is a natural fit, and works better as an evil villain. Or maybe it could be Orencio reborn and in disguise? Or mega plot twist and have Dona Rosa actually be the villain pulling the strings behind the whole operation?

None of these ideas have any particular tie in with cats other than Ankarin Sangar has turquoise lion as their dawn incarnate.

Last tip from me is that if you want the NPC to be safe from murder hobos you better make them much more than 1 level higher than the PCs or encase them in some thick Plot Armor that makes them unattackable.
 

Clint_L

Legend
What’s this guy’s motive? Everyone is the hero of their own story - why is he compelled to meddle with the PCs?

Also, I’d put him a lot more than one level ahead unless you want him to be a cakewalk.

Given how you describe him, I’d go for a bard/warlock multiclass so you can make him excellent at stealth, persuasion and deception.
 


Firstly, they are clearly a gnome. Forget this cat stuff, gnomes are much eviler.

Secondly, find a way to make the NPC an associate of the PC party - a mentor, assistant or hanger-on. Don't let the players know they have a fully-developed character sheet, as this might tip them off.

San Citlan and Akharin Sangar are both great settings. If you want to make Law vs Chaos a major theme then Akharin Sangar would be your choice. In which case the Genie patron would be appropriate for your villain. In the cultures that inspired the setting, a djinn is equivalent to a devil or demon. Alternatively, you could go with a disgruntled celestial patron.
 


ichabod

Legned
When you said cat theme without being tabaxi, my first thought was a gnome who talks to animals, specifically cats. When you said warlock, I remembered the beast speech invocation. So he uses the cats in the city as his spy service. Perhaps he even has some awakened cats that are his best spies. If he is a gnome, or some other small humanoid, he could have a panther that he uses as a mount.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Step one.... never ever ever ever let him meet the group in person until you are ready for the final fight. Sendings from a far, notes, the impact of his deeds noted through secondaries....all good.

But 5e is not forgiving to single monsters, you have to assume that should the villain and heroes ever be in the same room, the heroes will attack them, and kick the crap out of them. Let it be only one fight....the final fight.
 

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