Bigger Bads: Mage NPCs

Bigger Bads: Mage NPCs

Monsters are great enemies, but humanoid NPCs can be the greatest enemies of all!

The SRD and Creature Codex provide some useful standard NPCs to throw at players, but there are holes in the power spread . . . let’s fill those up with more great options!

Options for Mages

The 5E System Resource Document has two NPC stat blocks for generalist mages. The CR 6 mage is a 9th-level wizard, with the power to fly across the battlefield, launching fire and ice at their enemies. The CR 12 archmage is an 18th-level wizard, a brilliant polyglot with the ability to teleport across continents and stop the flow of time.

The NPC appendix in the Creature Codex contains stat blocks for even more mages. The CR 4 battle mage is a 7th-level wizard who can overchannel spells, making their magic difficult to resist. The CR 7 blood mage is a 10th-level wizard who manipulates hemoglobin—their enemies’ or their own—to foul ends. The CR 8 voidwracked mage is a 9th-level wizard whose meddling led it to become fused to the event horizon of the void, becoming a dangerous force for entropy in the world.

However, each Creature Codex mage is a specialist, not great for broader use, and they’re all for middle levels. Only two generic options exist, the mage and archmage, and they have a significant power spread (CR 6 and 12).

When you need a suitable wizard for your encounter, you can supplement with monsters, but not everything makes sense or fits your story. You can create one like a character, but then you’re reading a character sheet instead of a stat block.

So what’s a GM to do?

More Multipurpose Mages

Below are three new NPC mages between existing options: the graduate mage, the journey mage and the master mage. Each provides an all-purpose wizard at a different power level to use whenever you need a disposable arcane spellcaster.

Graduate Mage

The graduate mage has completed studies at the wizard college and entered the world. The graduate mage can cast 2nd-level spells and might toil in an entry level position, managing the minions of a greater villain.

GRADUATE MAGE

Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment
Armor Class 12 (15 with mage armor)
Hit Points 22 (4d8 + 4)
Speed 30 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
9 (–1)14 (+2)12 (+1)15 (+2)12 (+1)10 (+0)

Saving Throws Int +4, Wis +3
Skills
Arcana +4, History +4
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages Any three languages
Challenge 2 (450 XP)             Proficiency Bonus +2

Spellcasting. The graduate mage is a 4th-level spellcaster. Their spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The mage has the following wizard spells prepared:

  • Cantrips (at will): firebolt, light, mage hand, wind lash* (shocking grasp)
  • 1st level (4 slots): detect magic, mage armor, magic missile, twist the skein* (thunderwave)
  • 2nd level (3 slots): blur, daggerhawk* (scorching ray), hold person

* See Deep Magic. If you don’t have this book, use the SRD spell in parentheses.

ACTIONS

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.

Journey Mage

The journey mage has grown and can now expend magical energy to resist other magic. The journey mage can cast 4th level spells, emerging from the shadow of past unscrupulous benefactors and enacting their own devious plots.

JOURNEY MAGE

Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment
Armor Class
12 (15 with mage armor)
Hit Points 38 (7d8 + 7)
Speed 30 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
9 (–1)14 (+2)12 (+1)16 (+3)12 (+1)10 (+0)

Saving Throws Int +6, Wis +4
Skills
Arcana +6, History +6
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages Any three languages
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)             Proficiency Bonus +2

Arcane Stubbornness. As a reaction, the journey mage can expend a spell slot to reroll a saving throw against magic.

Spellcasting. The journey mage is a 7th-level spellcaster. Their spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The mage has the following wizard spells prepared:

  • Cantrips (at will): caustic touch (firebolt), light, mage hand, shocking grasp
  • 1st level (4 slots): disguise self, mage armor, magic missile, shadow armor* (fog cloud)
  • 2nd level (3 slots): heartache* (ray of enfeeblement), hold person, scorching ray
  • 3rd level (3 slots): blink, counterspell, fly, ley energy bolt* (fireball)
  • 4th level (1 slot): greater invisibility

* See Deep Magic. If you don’t have this book, use the SRD spell in parentheses.

ACTIONS

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.

Master Mage

The master mage can cast 7th-level spells and expend arcane power to restore their own vigor. If not enacting their own evil scheme, the master mage might serve powerful barons or merchants, dreaming of one day becoming an archmage themself.

MASTER MAGE

Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment
Armor Class 13 (16 with mage armor)
Hit Points 71 (13d8 + 13)
Speed 30 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
9 (–1)16 (+3)12 (+1)18 (+4)12 (+1)10 (+0)

Saving Throws Int +8, Wis +5
Skills
Arcana +8, History +8, Perception +5
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages Any three languages
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)             Proficiency Bonus +4

Arcane Rejuvenation. As a bonus action, the master mage can expend a 1st-level spell slot to recover 5 hit points. The master mage recovers 5 additional hit points for each slot above it sacrifices above first.

Spellcasting. The master mage is a 13th-level spellcaster. Their spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The mage has the following wizard spells prepared:

  • Cantrips (at will): chill touch, encrypt/decrypt* (mage hand), light, shocking grasp
  • 1st level (4 slots): mage armor, fog cloud, magic missile, shield
  • 2nd level (3 slots): hold person, misty step, mirror image, scorching ray
  • 3rd level (3 slots): doom of dancing blades* (fear), fireball, fly, slow, vampiric touch
  • 4th level (3 slots): confusion, desiccating breath* (fire shield), dimension door
  • 5th level (2 slots): cone of cold, harrying hounds* (hold monster)
  • 6th level (1 slot): disintegrate, true seeing
  • 7th level (1 slot): magnificent mansion

* See Deep Magic. If you don’t have this book, use the SRD spell in parentheses.

ACTIONS

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4 + 3) piercing damage.

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7 thoughts on “Bigger Bads: Mage NPCs”

  1. Rebecca Lawrence

    Would recommend using the Monsters of the Multiverse style templating – cut down their spell list to a small number of 1/day powerful spells and any number of at-will simple defenses, then give them a few signature spell-like abilities. I can never go back to basic monster types now that I’ve seen this done, it’s sooooooo much better.

    1. Scrivener of Doom

      This was one of the many things that 4E stat blocks got right.

      Good to see WotC using 4E as a source of ideas again.

  2. Thanks for using the spell lists. It’s easier to see what kinds of out-of-combat options these casters have, which on turn broadens the NPCs’ utility.

  3. Coronel Aureliano

    Anybody else think it’s hilarious that Kobold’s editors (or perhaps the author) want to refer to a ‘Journeyman’ Mage as a ‘Journey’ mage, in puerile adherence to campus rules about gendered language, while also including a ‘Master’ mage, presumably not undersanding that using the term ‘Master’ is also a verbotten term in other dark corners of the university?

    1. This was the editor’s word choice, not the author’s, although the author also used a gender-neutral term for “journeyman” in his manuscript. I am aware of the uses and connotations of these words in academia and common usage and made a judgment call.

      In the future, please refrain from being dismissive or unkind in your critique of attempts to make language open to more people. Critique is welcome. Insults will not be tolerated.

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