If you're a fan of fantasy fiction, and of Dungeons and Dragons, chances are, you've stumbled upon Elminster. He is often used as a reason to actively dislike the Forgotten Realms setting. He is pointed at as being one of the root causes of the setting having issues.
Elminster, in terms of raw power, is probably more powerful than the person I'm about to talk about here, Bayaz, First of the Magi.
In Heroes, Bayaz is out field testing some canons on the bad guys. Pretty much whatever the canons hit, they destroy. He is in full love of technology and progress wishing it to continue its advancement so that he can use it to pound his mortal enemies back into the dirt.
In 4e, the canons would be too powerful to use against characters directly, but in The Heroes, there is a scene where one of the stones is struck and it sends shards of rock flying everywhere. You could use this as a hazard in 4e where if the characters occupy a space where a shard is lodged, they loss a healing surge. Sure, no obvious fatal damage, but the use of resources is still felt.
But back to Bayaz. Not only does he work the Union, the people fighting the Northmen, he's using the 'Celt' analog further north of the Northmen, he's using elements within the Northmen. In short, he's backing every player and his goals and plans will simply not be stopped. They may no proceed as he wishes them to. They may not be over as quick as he wishes them to. But he is going to get his way.
In a role playing game, if you're the player and you've go the Bayaz thing going on, awesome job. You've managed to showcase a lot of social skills, pure power, and the ability to manipulate. If you're the GM and you run a charaacter like Bayaz is run here, you're doing a terrible job if the players know that they are being manipulated by Bayaz.
As terrible as Elminster is as a all powerful NPC, he's not the complete and utter vile scum that Bayaz is. Letting the players know exactly up front that whatever they do and seek out that they are doomed to only stay within your pet NPC's maze? Not good.
This isn't to say such a character can't work. He just can't work as someone who lets others know that they're under his thumb and when his actions are discovered, the players, unlike the characters in a novel, better damn well be able to do something about it.
Jumping the Shark! Hoo-ahhh! - This one is FREE today at Amazon, and it made me think of my buddy, Bill Crider.
6 minutes ago