View Full Version : DM Help Ideas: Why is my overlord not the REAL overlord

2019-01-17, 05:45 PM
The Necromancer has lived--or, more exactly, unlived--for several lifetimes, slowly gaining power and feeding off of the fear he (it) generates in the campaign world. It aspires to collect enough magical power, and enough psychic energy from mortal fear, to ascend to godhood. The Necromancer's bastion in the wilderness is a powerful base, a mini-nation in its own right, with an undead warrior caste ruling and culling a living peasantry.

The Necromancer is the planner, the schemer, the wheels within wheels guy. It has agents--some willing and power-hungry, some compromised and blackmailed into servitude--sprinkled throughout the power structures of the kingdoms.

The question is: why is The Necromancer not the *real* Necromancer? The Necromancer is not going to risk its own valuable unlife on something as visible and vulnerable as lording over a dismal mini-kingdom. The Necromancer you see--and the Necromancer the PCs murderhobo--is not the real Necromancer, but a......................

EDIT: Less about the mechanics then about the scheming. Magic Jar is a perfectly good answer in D&D, but there are other answers.

2019-01-17, 06:08 PM
Just another clone. Turns out, dozens of these guys are running things, although this one decided to be a bit more crass about it. The others are all a lot more subtle and harder to find, but now you have some notes on how to find these dark rules of the world.
Is part of a cult that corrupts worlds. This was just one world.
Was actually raising an army to stop an invading swarm of interplanar Shardmind.
Offered his soul as soul #1000 for a demon lord who needed summoning via the gathering of 1000 promised souls. The Necromancer kept the Demon Lord from his summoning by refusing to die, and his undead army was simply just to ensure his survival against the demon's assassination attempts (which the players were tricked into doing). The Necromancer was ruthlessly trying to survive to keep the Demon Lord off of your plane, but he was a saint compared to the alternative. And now the Demon Lord has his final promised soul...

2019-01-17, 06:16 PM
The faux Necromancer's the one you want the truth behind? That's pretty easy, honestly: it's a collection of animated skeletons with magic mouth cast on them. Mostly, they show up to make proclamations, often taunting heroes with semi-generic phrases before disappearing into a hidden passage, kind-of like the heroes are going through a funhouse ride without realizing that the !animatronic animated dead are not all the same creature.

If you want a creepier turn, he could go for a more intelligent (but still manipulable) cat'spaw by picking a promising peasant child every few years and claiming his particular immortality is serial possession. It isn't; the kids are actually just told what to say and given treats and luxuries to make them happy to play along, with dominate person kept on them so they can be clamped down if they ever try to give up the game.

In both cases, the real necromancer is a lich who looks like any one of the myriad cannon fodder skeletons that lurk in the wings. In the latter case, the dominate spell lets him keep telepathic contact with the kid. The fact that he doesn't exert constant direct control means it's a lot harder to read "he's being dominated" in the 'necromancer.' Instead, they get a confusing "he's lying" and the like that is obviously contradicted by the way everything in the necromancer's hold defers to the 'necromancer.'

(Note that mind control magic a la the D&D dominate line is not D&D exclusive; any evil mage can have something that would suit this purpose.)

The 'necromancer' is a skeletal, bony monster that's twice the size of a normal man and who's attached bones of other creatures as grafts. At least, that's what he claims. It's actually a Bone Devil that the real necromancer has bound to pretend to be the necromancer. A reasonable Disguise check is all that's used to make it hard to identify as the Bone Devil it really is.

The 'necromancer' is a 'demilich' that is actually just a skull with some gems in it that is animated not as an undead, but an animated object. It doesn't speak; it just attacks with preprogrammed spell sequences from magic items in the walls of its lair-chamber.

The 'necromancer' is actually the real necromancer's apprentice. Maybe his old apprentice's apprentice, who overthrew the old apprentice to take his place. By now, the 'necromancer' might even think he is the top dog, believing his arcane mastery has given him control of the ancient and powerful undead that populate the area. He is unaware that he is being manipulated by a clever and hidden figure who controls his advisors (all undead he believes he controls), nor that the majority of the undead he "controls" are actually under the real necromancer's iron will. The real necromancer just has them obey slavishly to maintain the illusion.

In a rather terrifying twist, you could have the real necromancer be a distributed undead intelligence across all of the "mindless" undead in the lair. A slightly different take on the idea that the janitorial staff actually is the conspiracy that runs the kingdom.

2019-01-17, 08:32 PM
Scenario 1
Dr Doom and his Doombots. Lots of inferior copies with only one hard to find original.

Scenario 2
The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. The “necromancer” is just a puppet used by the real villain as a decoy. The real villain is a long way away and has a different agenda.

Scenario 3
Padme’s double from attack of the clones. The real target is in safe place close at hand, but the heroes killed the single high quality decoy.

Scenario 4
The whole villains lair is a trap designed to collapse in and imprison great threats. The trigger being the death of the necromancer. Once the trap is sprung the true necromancer examines what the trap has caught and resets the trap for the next group of heroes.

You can probably use several of these together as wheels within wheels.

The Insanity
2019-01-18, 12:32 AM
The "fake" is just the Overlord's kid playing "adult" and the Overlord is humoring him because he doesn't want to be bothered with ruling the peasants (did exactly this in my campaign).

Grim Portent
2019-01-18, 09:24 AM
Simplest route is the 'Necromancer' is to the true Necromancer as the Witch King was to Sauron, as powerful second in command who was able to lead their own realm during their lord's absence but still absolutely loyal when that lord returns.

Say the Overlord has gone past the petty goals of mere conquest and domination in favour of more subtle manipulation and long term planning, that doesn't mean his more independent servants don't still harbour a desire for territory and control. So the undead lord ruling a remote fortress is just one of several powerful servants of the true villain who is currently letting their servants pursue their own agendas until he needs their direct service again.

2019-01-18, 09:28 AM
The "fake" is just the Overlord's kid playing "adult" and the Overlord is humoring him because he doesn't want to be bothered with ruling the peasants (did exactly this in my campaign).

Now that one I like

I could have a varient of this in some of my games – and just when they come to kill the “fake” Daddy turns up, spanks the child, tells it not to be crule to the animals (i.e the PCs and the whole world he has been tormenting) and grounds him for a millenium or two and then takes him away

The PCs have therefor won but does Daddy have any other kids, is Daddy part of a race that uses this world as a plaything, will the child want revenge …….

2019-01-18, 01:24 PM

2019-01-18, 03:12 PM
On the family idea...

The 'Necromancer' is the true Necromancer's kid (or apprentice, or heir, or what-have-you, given age, biology or thereof, etc.). To make sure the plan keeps going, the Necromancer has his kid pose as himself. He'd hate for his child to die, but that's yet another sacrifice he'd make if it he has to.

If the kid dies, the Necromancer then reluctantly assumes the mantle.

The DM retconned this into the plot. It wasn't necromancers, but close enough.

There were basically two Big Bads: one wanted to free demon lords to rule the planet, the other wanted to free all reality in eternal stasis. The latter was winning, so Big Bad for Demons joined us under a disguise and hiding most of his power.

Then Big Bad for Demons died on a quest with us. How was the GM to reconcile that? Well, he just retconned that it was actually the Big Bad's son.

2019-01-18, 05:01 PM
The real necromancer is being framed.

The fake hates the real one, but is being controlled somehow so it can't directly challenge the original. So it's being as stupid and obvious as it can be, trying to tip the real necromancer's hand and get some one else to come along and either set it free - or at least kill the real villain. So there it is, making every mistake on the Evil Overlord List trying to screw everything up without ever taking direct action - hence why it's set up an obvious-ish outpost, which can be said to further the real necromancer's goals... while actually putting up a big neon sign that says Villain This Way.

The fake is by no means a good undead abomination - it just has an agenda that happens to coincide with the party's, throwing up a possible moral quandry or two down the road as they have to decide whether to work with it (if they figure out what's going on), or destroy it as well as what to do after it has helped them.

Kaptin Keen
2019-01-19, 04:44 AM
I mean ..... a skeleton and a few illusions would do the trick. Some perversion of Imbue with Spell Ability might help. But quite possibly the Necromancer was actually possessed aeons ago by some other entity - in my campaign it was Entropy - who will actually survive the slaying of the Lich. And just find someone else to possess.