[RPG] How to make a low CR villain more dangerous


My PC's in one campaign are currently traveling to their first major town and, unbeknownst to them, there is a Rakshasa, disguised as the town mayor, using the town to feed and kill as he pleases while performing experiments on the town's populace etc etc other evil acts. While I like the character I have made for him so far, and don't want to give HIM more powers, I need him to be more of a threat in the story.

Rakshasas focus mainly on deception and trickery, But aside from literally turning the PC's on each other (which I've thought about) I can't think of alot of ways to add more depth to this villain. The town has a Thieves Guild indebted to him, and he has several Chuul under his command, working for an Aboleth that is his master, but this would still be a pathetic fight if I just threw them at the PC's.

The CR of a Rakshasa in 5e is 13, the party is comprised of four characters at level 6. This seems rather even, but Rakshasas are very non-combat focused, so the CR is only a rough estimate of his abilities

The goal for this villain is to be a Master strategist. The Rakshasa is arrogant, so he's likely to reveal himself too early to the PC's depending on how things work out, and I'm okay with that, but he should not be caught flat-footed. What are some ways I could use cleverness or manipulation to give him the advantage in an urban setting against PC's that like to get violent?

The best way to do this would be with the least amount of flair. The Rakshasa needs to keep his cover or lose all power in the town, so blockading and attacking the PC's needs to require the least amount of overt effort on the part of the Rakshasa. Subtlety is key.

Best Answer

Ok. First, a Rakshasa is not a low level encounter for a level 6 party. In fact, the DMG uses this specific example when talking about CR:

In addition, some monsters have features that might be difficult or impossible for lower-level characters to overcome. For example, a rakshasa has a challenge rating of 13 and is immune to spells of 6th level and lower. Spellcasters of 12th level or lower have no spells higher than 6th level, mean ing that they won't be able to affect the rakshasa with their magic, putting the adventurers at a serious disadvantage. Such an encounter would be significantly tougher for the party than the monster's challenge rating might suggest.

So a Rakshasa would be a strong opponent for a 12th level party.

That said, if this character is supposed to be of a more tactical bent, he should fight like a modern commander. That is to say: get someone else to do it for him. This would minimize the effect of his statistics on the fight, whether they're too strong or too weak.

I'd recommend you start by reading about Tucker's Kobolds, since they exemplify the approach you should be taking. The short version is make use of favorable terrain, hit and run tactics, and other similar, asymmetric, tactics. Fortunately, a thieves guild should be extremely good at this sort of thing (I don't know the statistics for chuuls, beyond them being cr4 individually, to comment on their usefulness).

An example of this type of strategy would be having the thieves ambush the PCs from rooftops (using ranged weapons) and then retreating once the PCs get their act together and respond propperly. Ideally, they should also focus fire on either the caster or the healer types. This is unlikely to actually kill anyone in one encounter, but it can drain their resources and wear them down over the course of several encounters. The key thing is to never let the PCs turn it into a knock-down drag-out fight, because they will win those and they aren't strategically sound (which the Rakshasa would disdain) or profitable (which the thieves would want to avoid).

One nice thing about using the thieves guild as a cat's paw is that they provide plausible deniability. "Why are the thieves making the new hero's lives hard? Because they're thieves and heroes are bad for business." The heroes themselves might know better, but it'll be a pretty hard story to sell to the townsfolk.

Another fun thing he can do is mess with their PR. Maybe trick them into fighting and killing someone that turns out to be a well regarded member of the town (or frame them, if that's not possible, though actually getting them to do it is better). Now the PCs are criminals, the entire town will be against them and the mayor can deploy more official, and visible, forces to deal with them, possibly at the behest of the townsfolk.