Content of the article: "I need some ideas for balancing the final encounter of a long-running campaign"
I've been running a campaign for the past two years now, and my players are just a few sessions away from the end. They're level 12 and have a decent number of solid magic items for that level, and that's where they're going to be for the end.
The final encounter is going to be against a high-elven wizard with some decent melee abilities as well. Because elven culture in this campaign is essentially magical imperial China, I've themed this wizard character after the Wuxia trope of the arrogant swordsman antagonist. He's going to be joined by a group of royal guards (probably using the Veteran stat block, but with a variety of weapons so they aren't all using longswords), and the fight is meant to be very challenging, but entirely doable with good planning and some good rolls.
The problem I'm running into is that each time I try to come up with a sheet for this wizard, he turns out way too powerful for my players to realistically take. The party consists of a tiefling storm barbarian, tiefling kensai monk, tabaxi wild sorcerer, and a high-elf vampire spawn college of whispers bard. The group doesn't have a dedicated healer, so most fights they've gotten into have been frantic damage races, which they've enjoyed. I'm planning on having the party be joined by a level 12 oathbreaker paladin for this encounter, but that's similarly not a healer.
Bladesinger seemed like the obvious thematic choice for the wizard, but bladesinging makes his AC higher than I think my party can consistently break, and if he's allowed to just cast spells without worry, they're probably going to die very quickly. I also tried a multiclass paladin/wizard, but that similarly had ludicrous staying power. I briefly considered making him a hexblade, but that doesn't fit him thematically. I've also considered splitting the fight up into multiple phases, but that once again runs into the problem of them lacking a healer.
I don't want to go easy on them, because they're good players and they decided as a group to not run with a dedicated healer because they thought it would be a fun challenge. At the same time, I also don't want them to have no chance at all of winning. What would you guys recommend I do? I'd like for the wizard to be able to cast 7th level spells, since that puts him slightly higher on the magical totem pole than the party, but other than that, I'm pretty flexible as far as how to build him.
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