A follow-up to the “Fantasy Forensics,” I’ve been brainstorming a list of “bad things” that could be done by a powerful spellcaster (a lich, a cult’s high priest, an enemy kingdom’s court wizard). I’m not thinking attacks on a party of adventurers, but more “meta” harm to important NPCs or key henchmen serving the party – espionage, remote surveillance, critical sabotage, psyops and magical assassination.
* Glyph of Warding (3rd level spell): Instant bomb traps (trigger Inflict Wounds touch attack for 4d10 necrotic damage), or 5d8 acid, lightning, fire, cold or thunder damage (save for half damage). A spellcaster who can be on-site uninterrupted for an hour could place the glyph within a palace or army camp.
* Sending (3rd level spell): Send telepathic threats to an enemy target, unlimited range and no saving throw. If on another plane, only 5% failure chance. Can also be used to give instructions to spies or double-agents with zero chance of being intercepted.
* Divination (4th level spell): Ask a single question concerning a specific goal, event, or activity to occur within 7 days and get an honest reply. Use for espionage or surveillance.
* Commune (5th level spell): Ask up to three yes-or-no questions, as above.
* Contact Other Plane (5th level spell): Ask up to five questions with single-word answers, but caster faces high risk of psychic damage.
* Dream (5th level spell): Target an enemy with threats, do psychic damage, keep them from resting, wear them down.
* Modify Memory (5th level spell): Seed doubt about leadership, turn allies against each other, demoralize a spiritual leader, turn a nobody into a fanatical assassin out for revenge over a non-existent injury or crime. At higher levels and with some dubious creativity, any hero’s loyalty can be wholly swayed and re-programmed. (Call this “The Manchurian Paladin.”)
* Scrying (5th level spell): For 10 minutes, see and hear a moving target’s surroundings (save allowed), or focus on a specific location (no save). Catch lovers in a tryst, overhear battle plans, find that leader who talks in his or her sleep.
* Contagion (5th level spell): Since the description says it’s “a natural disease,” one target could infect others during the course of 7 days, sparking an epidemic in a local area.
* Conjure Elemental (cast as 6th level spell): Invisible Stalker automatically knows the direction and distance to the target. Send out one a day. Else, conjure any elemental and then teleport far away, leaving the monster to rampage at its location for up to an hour.
* Conjure Fey (6th level spell): An angry hag, fey mammoth, triceratops or brontosaurus could terrify and scatter unseasoned NPCs. As mentioned above, caster could teleport away and let it run wild.
* Disintegrate (6th level spell): Ignore living targets and focus on sabotage. Blast holes in defenses, take out bridges used for trade or transport of reinforcements, evaporate docks and lighthouse signals to prevent ships from docking at a port, destroy dams or siege equipment.
* Plane Shift (7th level): Banish a leader to another plane of existence, possibly with no chance of returning. Enemy may suffer a long delay in finding and returning the missing leader.
* Teleport (7th level spell): Surprise monster delivery service! Send a rust monster into an enemy’s armory, an infinitely patient but hostile golem or undead into a nation’s treasury vault, a fire creature into a granary, a fast-breeding diseased creature into a city’s sewer system or common water source, a demon into a planning meeting of top national leaders…
For sabotage, use one of the above scrying options to recognize a target locale, teleport in to cast Glyphs of Warding as boobytraps, and then teleport out again before being located by guards.
And then there’s aerial bombardment: A 10-foot cube of solid stone, carved in advance by the caster’s minions, could be teleported several feet above the intended target and left to drop, doing at least 44 (8d10) bludgeoning damage on a direct hit per the Siege Weapon rules in the D&D5e Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 255. Dropping such a cube from a higher altitude loses accuracy fast but could demolish a building or wagon below, or even block a narrow road. (A 10-foot cube of sandstone weighs about 145,000 pounds, while granite is about 168,000 pounds. Large size and smaller creatures stuck underneath are not likely to get up on their own without magic.)
Else, hire miners and imagine a 10-foot block of salt to teleport into an enemy water reservoir – or better, a 10-foot block of sodium. (“Splash, ka-BOOM.”)
* Clone (8th level spell): It’s expensive, but it’s a good back-up for valuable leaders or top underlings (best assassins, high-level spellcasters, unit commanders) likely to die in battle or commit suicide to avoid capture.
* Control Weather (8th level spell): Cause drought, unseasonable frost or flooding to destroy crops and starve the enemy’s populace.
* Create Undead (cast at 8th level): Wait until nightfall and send in a pair of wights, each of which can optionally also control up to 12 zombies at once. Wights have Stealth +4 and are intelligent enough to follow instructions about opening gates to enemy forces waiting outside, setting buildings and supplies on fire, sabotaging siege equipment – all just before a battle or siege.
* Earthquake (8th level): Destroy buildings (armory, hospital, leader’s tower), burst dams, topple bridges.