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Intense Stratagems

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 140
Intense stratagems are desperate, costly, personal, or perhaps all three. Only a nemesis with a profound need to avenge the numerous setbacks the PCs have inflicted on him is capable of such extremes.

Backed into a Corner

XP Reward high

The nemesis liquidates assets and calls in debts to gain additional finances equal to his normal wealth by level. He may spend this wealth on any resources he pleases or to gain a significant advantage in an endeavor in which he is in direct competition with the PCs. The nemesis’s liquidations might provide wealth in the short term, but they are deleterious to his long-term financial solvency.

Opportunities

The nemesis has exhausted his resources and is without many of the magical and mundane defenses his wealth normally provides. Or, one of the PCs’ allies takes it upon themselves to check the accounting of whoever granted the nemesis his additional wealth. The ally finds errors or lies that infuriate the nemesis’s backers, causing them to cut ties with him or seek to call back their loan.

Death of an Ally

XP Reward high

The nemesis callously slays a close ally of the PCs. The ally should be one who offers significant aid to the PCs or with whom they have a close personal connection. The method of the murder should provide the PCs a solid opportunity to strike back at the nemesis, since after this stratagem, it’s likely the PCs will be out for blood.

Opportunities

This might not be the first time the nemesis has resorted to murder. A public death brings the nemesis’s other foes to light, and in their sympathy they ally with the PCs.

Enemy of the State

XP Reward high

A more severe version of the false witness stratagem, the nemesis has persuaded the local government that the PCs have committed treason. The PCs must not only contend with the nemesis’s antics, but must also escape the state authorities’ hounding and possible criminal charges. The PCs can still attempt to prove their innocence, but doing so is extremely difficult, taxing the PCs’ time and resources. Also, proving their innocence may not be enough, and the PCs may have to work on the fringes of society to achieve their other goals.

Opportunities

The nemesis’s lies are themselves a crime and, upon redeeming themselves, the PCs shift the eyes of the law to their foe.

Ghostly Cathexis

XP Reward high

The PCs have killed their nemesis, but his obsession causes him to rise from death as a ghost with the unfinished business of defeating the PCs. His spirit rises 1d4 days after his death, and his ghost is tied to his possessions from life. He can use locate object at will as a spell-like ability to locate any of those objects, and once per day, he can use greater scrying to spy upon a creature carrying them as if he were familiar with that creature (even if the object itself is in an extradimensional space). If he successfully locates an object with either effect, he can transport himself to its location once per day, as per word of recall, merging his incorporeal form with the object and moving with it. While he inhabits the object, he can use his malevolence ability to possess creatures nearby; a creature wearing or wielding one of the ghost’s former possessions takes a – 4 penalty on saving throws against this malevolence. Becoming a ghost limits the nemesis, as well, and represents a new opportunity for the PCs to strike back.

Opportunities

The nemesis’s refusal to pass into death draws the attention of some dangerous creature, such as a night hag or psychopomp. They seek to claim the nemesis’s soul, but also draw the PCs into new, otherworldly adventures.

Loyalty Beyond Death

XP Reward high

The PCs kill a fanatic follower of the nemesis, who returns from death as a revenant. For higher-level parties, multiple slain associates might come back as a group of revenants or more powerful undead. These unholy abominations pursue the PCs tirelessly, seeking to exact revenge. Unlike most stratagems, the nemesis might not instigate this one on his own.

Opportunities

Even though the nemesis might not typically use undead allies, in this case, the dead have served his agendas. This incites the scrutiny of a good-aligned faith that now has reason to believe the nemesis is an enemy of the living.

Mistaken Identity

XP Reward high

The nemesis uses a clone, simulacrum, doppelganger, or other impostor version of himself to make it seem like he is in one place rather than another. The GM should decide to implement this stratagem before the PCs encounter the nemesis and use the stats for the impostor, rather than having the PCs fight the real, full-powered nemesis; after the PCs kill the impostor, the GM should reveal that it was a fake.

Opportunities

The PCs might be able to convince many of their nemesis’s agents that their master is dead, tricking them into leaving their posts or giving up secrets that now seem moot.

Trump Card

XP Reward high

The nemesis reveals a trump card he has been holding back for just the right moment—such as monstrous allies or a powerful magic item. There should be something that strongly limits his use of this trump card or that has caused him to hold it back until now. For example, maybe the item powers down after use and is very difficult to recharge. Or, maybe knowledge of his alliance would ruin his reputation. Whatever it is, the nemesis’s reason for hiding the trump card could feed into a particularly useful opportunity for the PCs.

Opportunities

Using his trump card brings considerable attention to the nemesis, perhaps from the law, the trump card’s former owner, or a deadlier creature that wants this advantage for itself. The PCs might temporarily ally with this creature, or use its antagonism to their advantage.