View Full Version : How to make players scared of the BBEG?

2010-01-18, 03:36 PM
I come here with a question.

How would one make the players really fear a villain?
How would one best go about making a BBEG Really. Freaking. Scary?
Getting them to hate the villain is one thing, making them nearly wet themselves out of horror whenever he turns up is another.

So how would you go about making a villain as fearsome as possible?

Mystic Muse
2010-01-18, 03:37 PM
make him married to the ABD:smalltongue:

If he kills a god that'd make him pretty freaking scary.

Or, have a really hard guy in the middle of the dungeon who gets away (if you can manage it) then once he's at full health and about to face the players again have the BBEG oneshot them.

2010-01-18, 03:41 PM
What do you mean, like, you want your players scared of his power or his presence?

Pharaoh's Fist
2010-01-18, 03:43 PM
He appears to be a kobold and his name is Pun-Pun.

2010-01-18, 03:48 PM
Sunder. That should scare them off.

2010-01-18, 03:48 PM
Here's a handbook (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=3809.0)

2010-01-18, 03:49 PM

I want them to fear him both because he (Or more accurately, IT) is incredibly powerful and because of a thoroughtly nasty personality.

The power bit is easily fixed.
But i need some help with giving it a personality and behaviour that really makes you want to run the hell away.

2010-01-18, 03:54 PM
* Players fear the unknown more than anything else. Give your BBEG an obvious, unique ability (or more than one) and they'll trip over themselves worrying about it. Particularly if it directly affects their ability to stop him with raw power of their own. For example: hydra-like, the villain splits into identical copies of himself every time he is struck down. An he's been out of combat for a few minutes, they all fade away. It's all due to an artifact he's bonded to himself; killing him for good requires destroying it first. Let the players catch him by surprise and alpha-strike him; watching him get annihilated only to pop back up doubled will cause them to doubt their ability to down him at all.

* Have him mess with their heads. At some point early in one of their adventures while they're on the way from somewhere to somewhere else, have them all make a Will save. If they all fail, proceed as usual, let them do the adventure, earn experience, and so on - but after they get back home it quickly becomes clear that whatever they were doing out there, it wasn't what they thought they were doing. The plot hook that got their attention was a plant, the people they interacted with after the Will save have never heard of them, and so on. If anyone makes their save, describe the players who failed as staring distantly off into space for a while and then tell those players that they just a completely vivid experience of adventuring without going anywhere. The near-miss should also scare them a fair bit, and the possibility of being manipulated so should have them putting up every defense they can and throwing everything they've got at even a hint of the BBEG.

2010-01-18, 04:00 PM
Most well-written villains need to have motives behind what they do. Make it clear that your villain has motives, but keep the party at least partially in the dark about them as long as possible. If they know everything about the villain then they'll know how to beat him (or feel like they do).

Introduce the villain well before the party is capable of defeating him. If they know they have to run away from him, that level of fear and worry can last even once they ARE able to confront him.

Have the villain go after the party's support network. Blow up the shop they've been pawning items to since level 1. Kill that local baron that's been nice to them. That kind of thing.

2010-01-18, 04:03 PM
Ever read Terry Pratchet 'small gods'?

Vorbis from that one, quite possible the scariest you can get. Not the type that kills because he enjoys it, but he does kill just to see what happens.

In his introduction scene he finds a small tortoise, turns it on it back in the sun and uses small stones to ensure that it cant turn around - then promises himself to return later. Not because he is cruel, but just to see what happens.

Evil laughter type villians aren't really all that scary, but the casual cruelty of one that can't even bother himself to other people worth anything IS scary. At least someone that hates you, or would really like to get his hands on you for a good session of torture considers you WORTH something.

2010-01-18, 04:10 PM
A lot depends on how you play the villain in question. Than try to find out what kind of phobias your players have and avoid those, but pick one one of the typical scary themes (snakes, spiders, clowns, mimes, etc.) and run with it. Let your villain occasionally kill a PC, just because they are there.
And, don't make him - or her - not a evil for evil's sake psycopath but very believable and understandable - the ideal vilain is based on the question of What would you do?

2010-01-18, 04:10 PM
To truly be scared of him you have to have your heroes afraid all the time. Make them believe the BBEG is going to pop out any minute and is always on the look for them, ready to do whatever to get them. Maybe have a town the players just visited completely removed off the map...to the point where there's no trace a town existed there at all.

Also, do you have your BBEG thought up yet? If not don't call it a he or she if you can help it. Call it an it and try to make it strange and unknown to the players. When they see it they shouldn't know what it is or be able to identify it with anything.

Like said, people are afraid of the unknown.

2010-01-18, 04:15 PM
Only let the players glimpse his power and hint at him being absurdly powerful, possibly tricking them so that they'll figure out an approximate (very high) CR by metagaming, whether he is that high level or not. A commanding presence like that of a Dragon helps if they have a vivid imagination.

In a game we're playing we witnessed the BBEG using what we think was epic magic and we mostly saw him from afar as a colossal black dragon (they don't even reach that size in the MM) roasting the countryside. When I finally met him face to face he used gate to exit the stage. We're currently level 13 and I'm for one scared shirtless.

2010-01-18, 04:20 PM
I know so far the villain is genderless.
So calling the BBEG "It" is about as accurate as you get.

It's definitely not a type of creature anyone knows off either, so there is basically nothing known about it other than what is observed firsthand.

So basically i know what type of creature it is, but not how it acts.

2010-01-18, 04:23 PM
If you don't mind me asking, what is it...best description of look, ability, personality and motive.

Might give us some hints at how to beef up the scaryness.

2010-01-18, 04:27 PM
The most important thing is to make sure your villian is believable if he's too over-the-top he'll come off comical, and if he's too one-dimensional they likely won't have any emotional reaction at all. TVtropes.org can give you alot of ideas on how a well-made villians are supposed to be (in addition to sucking you in and mesmerizing you for hours.) I've actually always been freaked out most by the subtle villians. You know the ones? They work behind the scenes in such a way that you know there's somebody pulling the strings, but you can't tell who.

2010-01-18, 04:35 PM
Book of Vile Darkness.

Also, I found the Joker in the new Batman movie to be terrifying. I'm one of the few people who doesn't like the movie because I'm so scared to watch it. That might help.

2010-01-18, 04:46 PM
The being in question is something along the lines of an Elder Evil.
In it's true form it looks like a big mass of flesh, mouths, teeth, tentacles and heavens knows what.
Though it is easily capable of taking on other forms, though there is still something slightly off about it if you pay attention.

It's abilites is along the lines off.
-Screw with your head.
-Lots and lots of spells.
-Insane melee power when in it's true form due to sheer size and number of teeth and tentacles.
-The ability to absorb anything it kills to give itself a boost (Minions=Lunch)
-Instant kill with no save if you end up inside one of it's mouths (So for the love of god don't let it grapple you)
-When in a humanoid form it generally fights like a epic Barbarian in a rage.

Personality: Unknown, so far i only have that it views anything other than itself and it's servants as less than trash.

Motive: For starters, it's seriously pissed off at the world for causing it to become what it is now (Long story involving politics and a guy who is basically Stalin with magic)

Secondly: There's a bigger monster out there somewhere that has messed with this one's head into wanting to screw everyone over, and because it's still pissed about being turned into a Elder Evil type of super monster it doesn't even bother trying to resist.

Third: It may be a immortal Eldritch Abomination, but it still needs to eat, and mortals are on the menu.

The ultimate goal is to either:
A) Turn everyone else into monsters or
B) Turn everyone in the world into lunch.

Either one works.

2010-01-18, 04:47 PM
An idea I haven`t tested: someone that instead of going somewhere and killing everyone, he goes somewhere and makes everybody suicide.
Also, you could make him seem invinicible, and do situations when the players will need to run away from him. That could be tricky, becuse the players might think they could beat him and maybe fight him, so you could do that he destroys a village infront of their eyes or something. He could also bring back former villains as undead.

2010-01-18, 04:58 PM
One thing I think would work, besides all of the above, is to make it personal. The BBEG WANTS the PC(s) for some particular reason...For instance, in my Rashemen campaign, one of the players gave me a background that included a Thayan plague that withered away his physical form leaving him near-crippled but surviving where so many perished.

I'm using that bit of background and eventually having a Red Wizard coming to collect his "guinea pig" for further research. So instead of the PC's chasing down the bad guy, they'll want to run AWAY from him. Should make things interesting, I think :smallbiggrin:

2010-01-18, 05:03 PM
I have a suggestion. Have an intermediate level boss. Something like say... a huge sized dragon. The PC's are chasing down this thing and they can hear the sounds of an immense battle in the distance, further away than the dragon is. Finally they catch up The BBEG disguised as a humanoid of some kind, though as you said the PC's can tell that something is off, just walks up to the dragon and rips off its leg off, eating it as the BBEG walks away.

The PC's can still get the dragon's hoard and it offers an interesting role playing dimension: does the dragon surrender? beg for assistance? The PC's aren't just shown the BBEG, they're also faced with a difficult decision as well.

2010-01-18, 05:06 PM
Make him a druid that has a homebrewed ability to transform into the tarrasque.

2010-01-18, 05:08 PM
Given the new information, just doing a good job of role-playing the frothing mad monster with those abilities should do the trick. The more they find out about this thing, the less they'll want to interact with it directly.

2010-01-18, 05:28 PM
I second everything that has been said so far in regards to making your BBEG an unknown, behind-the-scenes entity. Once your players can slap a race, class and face on your villain, you'll have to work twice as hard to scare them. Drop hints of his presence long before the players actually meet them, in the form of a highly competent miniboss actually fearing him, or by having the party come across his bloodthirsty handiwork or eldritch horror diary ramblings.
When the party does meet up with the BBEG, have it be at the BBEG's own terms and think of a dramatic introduction. One-shotting a powerful, hyped-up miniboss - as suggested earlier - seems like a pretty badass introduction, for example. If at all possible, keeps actual fights with the villain at a fairly low number. With every defeat, the party's confidence grows and the villain's scariness fades. Sure, when the party meets him the fifth time after he's acquired the powers of the super-duper artifact he's more powerful than before... but eh, the party kicked his ass the previous four times, so why would it be any different now? Avoid this.

Whatever you do, be careful with giving your villain a sympathethic background. Or rather, if your BBEG has any redeeming qualities, don't spill them too early. The moment your BBEG shows weakness or cracks down, or the players figure out a way to get at him, is when your villain stops being scary. He may still be a fantastic villain, but his scariness will drop sharply.

Crafty Cultist
2010-01-18, 05:40 PM
Make their first encounter with the villain less of a fight and more of an "oh crap, run" moment. Have some NPC redshirts with them when they first fight him. If their attacks can't bypass his defenses and he's horificly slaughtering the NPC's then they should realize he's out of their league and run for it.

2010-01-18, 05:50 PM
Most well-written villains need to have motives behind what they do. Make it clear that your villain has motives, but keep the party at least partially in the dark about them as long as possible. If they know everything about the villain then they'll know how to beat him (or feel like they do).

Introduce the villain well before the party is capable of defeating him. If they know they have to run away from him, that level of fear and worry can last even once they ARE able to confront him.

Have the villain go after the party's support network. Blow up the shop they've been pawning items to since level 1. Kill that local baron that's been nice to them. That kind of thing.

---> These work.

A nice way to do that out of character is letting them think that they shouldn't try to kill it in-game, because it's definitely too strong for them. Out-of-game fear gets really amplified in-game :smallbiggrin:.

2010-01-18, 05:51 PM
I rely heavily on the law of transitive badassery*. ie, A > B and B > C means that A > C. The PCs are C. Illustrate that B can kick their ass. You don't actually have to beat up the PCs here, just show them that B is more powerful. I like letting a friendly NPC save their lives. Or having a rival beat them in a tournament. Then have C (the BBEG) kill off B. The PCs now know they're two levels below the BBEG in terms of power, without ever fighting him.

* I also refer to this as the pro wrestling school of thought. Geeks look down on wrestling though, hence the new name.

2010-01-18, 05:51 PM
Don't cheat. If you have to cheat, only cheat for obvious things that the PCs can learn about before they face it for the first time.

If you want to maintain suspension of disbelief the last thing you want to do is give the impression that you're propping up your BBEG with on the fly power-ups.

2010-01-18, 06:02 PM
Music is a vital cue for people to fear and if you really want to ramp up the realism, have a particular scent associated with him as well. Not nutmeg. While it's a huge effort to go to, putting a terrifying situation to a certain scent will cause powerful memories of it when the players smell it.

I keep a stash of horror movie soundtracks that I occasionally associate with certain villains but my current villain in the works is actually going to have a Show-Tunes kind of theme going as well so my players will learn to fear those kind of intros :)

Since this particular one is an Elder Evil kind of thing, see if you can find two songs, one relatively normal, the other a warped version of it. If the PCs interact with it in a humanoid form, play the music. When it unleashes the beast, let rip with the warped track.

Also, blatantly stolen from Buffy season 5, have something that can act relatively normal when it's recently fed but as it's hunger increases it becomes increasingly irrational and deformed.

Take a look at Rich's Villain's Workshop as well which you'll find in the gaming section to your left. One of my particular favourites from there is giving them an unorthodox way of fighting like the Fire King's predilection for using Fireballs in melee.

This works great if your players have a particular favourite attack strategy as well. Have him shrug it off like a drop of water. Catch the warrior's blade with his bare hands, bat aside wizards spells and not even look round when the rogue sticks a dagger into him. Better yet, as he's doing this, have him blatantly ignore the PCs. They are of no consequence to him. He has only his particular objective at that time. If he crosses paths with the cleric, have him pick the cleric up by his holy symbol, hands smoking and burning as he does this and toss him aside. Not even the gods have dominion over him.

2010-01-18, 06:31 PM
My way will be this:
He destroys the PC's city in the distant past for fun.

2010-01-18, 06:32 PM
Here is a better question. What do you do if your PCs do not choose to be afraid of the BBEG?

There is nothing you can do to make the players afraid, unless they choose to. Expect players to not always make the choice you want them to.

When building such a choice, make both options interesting. The situation where everyone fears the BBEG except the players works reasonably well, and it is likely some fear will rub off.

2010-01-18, 08:11 PM
Here is a better question. What do you do if your PCs do not choose to be afraid of the BBEG?

There is nothing you can do to make the players afraid, unless they choose to. Expect players to not always make the choice you want them to.

When building such a choice, make both options interesting. The situation where everyone fears the BBEG except the players works reasonably well, and it is likely some fear will rub off.

If an enemy is of a certain level of power, is an obvious aggressor, and makes both of these things widely known, only a character that is either utterly fearless (read: fear immunity by class/racial feature) or completely daft won't fear it. Otherwise it's just meta-gaming/ poor roleplaying.

Scaring the players on the other hand can be very difficult in some cases. Lighting, background sounds, and clever story-telling can help, but some people are as fearless/daft/poor at role-playing as the characters they play.

2010-01-18, 08:53 PM
I recently had a series of BBEG that my players feared. The first was an old boss of a PC, that was an Epic Red Wizard. The only thing he ever did, besides condecending, was to plane shift the party to the Abyss whith a visible Arcane Mark on each PC's forehead that was ominous and appropriate.

But he was just the set up for the real BBEG, who was a Lich with an artifact phylactery that they had from the 3rd session till the 20th. Well, when the party got send to the Abyss, they left the artifact in the Wizard School. When they managed to return they found everyone dead with a horrific expresion on their face, even the epic Wizard. That had them terrified for the rest of the campaign! :smallbiggrin:

Now that I think about it, I always have my BBEGs appear and kill off another powerfull LBEG that the party was afraid off in order to show how much worse this guy is.

2010-01-18, 10:07 PM
it's a delicate balance. Too much and your players will hate it rather than fear it. Too little and he'll be just another bad guy causing problems easily solved by murder.

Things to avoid:

Cheap tricks, obvious rules breaking, victory through DM fiat, and otherwise breaking the suspension of disbelief. Many times I've seen villains (In D&D, in books, in video games, movies, etc.) that aren't terrifying simply because they're too unbelieable. Once the words "this is ridiculous" creep into players minds about a villain, they'll no longer consider it to be a 'good' villain.


Show the aftermath of their actions, show the people who have tangled with the BBEG before and failed. Tell about them in myth and legend, and build up all of their lieutennants to be better-than-average encounters who do all of the above on a smaller scale.

Threaten them with permanent disfigurement. Sundering weapons \ Rust Monster \ permanent ability drain make things terrifying for the players themselves - and if you limit it to JUST the BBEG, it remains special and terrifying rather than incredibly irritating.

Threaten them with true death, make it known that the BBEG has a method of killing things in such a way that they cannot be brought back. I'm a high-fantasy death-lite DM who allows Raise Dead magic to be even more available than normal D&D, so the prospect of true death no-coming-back makes things incredibly scary.

One BBEG had a habit of destroying anyone who crossed him (typical) in horribly painful ways, and bringing them back as sentient undead abominations to guard various places. They all gave snippets of information about the BBEG who did this to them so that, by the time the players actually met the BBEG in person, he was something of a legend in their eyes.

2010-01-19, 02:40 AM
Rust monster!

2010-01-19, 03:22 AM
Rust monster!

Pseudonatural rust monster with a humanoid alternate form!

Personally, I'm not a fan of having him one-shot a previous boss. That's kinda... done. Work a little more at the set-up: Have him kill off the first party.

Twilight Jack
2010-01-19, 03:56 AM
Take a tip from Sonny Orlean, the most terrifying villain I've ever run.

Step #1: Make sure his general appearance is as unassuming as possible. Your players are a savvy bunch; a giant demon with venom dripping from his fangs isn't going to impress them. The trick to making players afraid lies in creeping them out. Sonny Orlean was a somewhat cherub-faced black guy with a full head of tightly curled hair, about 5'7", wearing a dark blue suit off the rack with a conservative tie. The suit was cheap, but his shoes were immaculately polished. A single detail that stands out can do wonders.

Step #2: Ensure that his motives are inscrutable, especially in the beginning. I ran Sonny in a PL 12 Mutants and Masterminds game in which the characters were amongst the most powerful metahumans on the planet. They were fighting a zombie outbreak in Mexico City, and this guy just kept showing up and making things worse. He was obviously not a zombie. But they'd see him in the streets of the city, walking amongst the undead without being harmed. When the PCs were invited to meetings of the U.S./Mexico military response, he'd show up as an aide to one of the officers. He'd be amongst survivors they tried to rescue, just before the panic and stress of their situation caused those survivors to turn on one another. As soon as the characters recognized him and tried to confront him, he'd be gone. Not a flashy teleportation, just hidden from view for a split second then gone.

Step #3: Instagib an NPC ally that both you and the players like a great deal. Have the villain do so casually, just as the NPC was doing something heroic. Preferrably, it will be in the middle of a fight that seemed up until that point as if it could go either way. In Sonny's case, he put his fist through the chest of an NPC Superman type, just as it seemed the cavalry was arriving.

Step #4: Have him toy with the PCs. Breaking out the super nukes and TPKing the party is a display of power, not terror. When the PCs break out their big guns, let it seem to work, for a moment. When the players throw their biggest bad at a villain and he just stands there, they tend to cry foul. When they blast him to ash, and he's obliterated, then he stands up, they get worried.

Step #5: Have him break the boundaries of the game's "rating." If the game is generally rated PG-13, then this is the guy who pushes it to R. If it's R already, then he's the guy who pushes it straight to squick. In the case of Sonny, our game was already pretty raw in terms of what the players expected. Don't try to out-gore the competition; instead break expected taboos. Sonny Orlean seized a PC by the throat, punched her twice in the face, then leaned in and mocked her with, "Did you think you had enough to stop me? I'm the bad, blind n***** what whispered hate in Hitler's ear." The whole table shuddered.

2010-01-19, 04:27 AM
I'm a fan of having him fight the PCs with a Simacrulum, and making it a hard fight. If the PCs know the game, they'll realized that was the half level version of him...


2010-01-19, 04:35 AM
I'm a fan of having him fight the PCs with a Simacrulum, and making it a hard fight. If the PCs know the game, they'll realized that was the half level version of him...

"He falls over on the ground, dead. For a moment, his body turns into snow, but then it melts into nothing."
... I think I may use this.

2010-01-19, 08:00 AM
Another thing that i maybe should have mentioned.

Killing it when it's in a false form won't work, it will just cause it to revert to it's true form, it is then capable of taking on another false form shortly afterwards. (The true form is however considerably more powerful than any of it's disguises, so if fighting a sufficiently powerful foe it may decide that shifting isn't worth the effort as the false form will just be destroyed anyway)
To kill it off for good you have to kill it when it's in it's true form.

And as i mentioned, when taking on a humanoid form it fights like a crazed Barbarian.
Take a look at Saix from Kingdom Hearts 2 and you have an idea what it's fighting style is like when disguised as a human.

And i restate it's ultimate goal.
Either turn everyone else into monsters as well, or just plain kill them all.
It would prefer the former even though doing so is harder to pull of than simply killing everything.

Some kid who helped the PC's earlier: Hello guy in the nice suit, what are you doing here?
BBEG: ...*Turns kid into a murderous Hydra*
Hydra kid: *Levels the village with the ground*

Possible example of what might occur.

2010-01-19, 08:07 AM
The being in question is something along the lines of an Elder Evil.
In it's true form it looks like a big mass of flesh, mouths, teeth, tentacles and heavens knows what.
Though it is easily capable of taking on other forms, though there is still something slightly off about it if you pay attention.

It's abilites is along the lines off.
-Screw with your head.
-Lots and lots of spells.
-Insane melee power when in it's true form due to sheer size and number of teeth and tentacles.
-The ability to absorb anything it kills to give itself a boost (Minions=Lunch)
-Instant kill with no save if you end up inside one of it's mouths (So for the love of god don't let it grapple you)
-When in a humanoid form it generally fights like a epic Barbarian in a rage.

I'd say the most important thing is not to overuse this. Big gribbly monsters are good for shock factor, but it doesn't last: the second time you meet Mr Ball o' Tentacles, all the reaction is gone.

A similar villain I ran once (who I've had a couple of players say scared them a lot) was a daemon that made a very dramatic entrance - possessed a ritual sacrifice, warped their body into its own massive, alien form - but didn't have the power to maintain that form constantly in the physical world. It spent most of the subsequent plot out of sight: the BBEGs had bound him into a locket that contained a lock of his host's hair, where he could lay low without burning up all his reserves of magic just existing. The fact that this incredibly powerful daemon had been released into the world and couldn't be seen was much scarier than repeat appearances of the big monster form it could take: the players knew that it was in the service of the guys they were chasing, and was easily capable of wasting them all (they witnessed it obliterate their own mercenary company and the army of elves that was attacking them at the time when it was released), but had no idea where it was or what it was doing - just that it had to be somewhere close.

Plus, the locket itself did freaky things - the daemon in question had lost a finger when it was originally bound, and anyone who carried the locket started to have accidents that would remove the same finger. It was a daemon of Tzeentch (a Chaos god who has a lot of bird symbolism) and magpies would follow whoever held the locket in increasing numbers - every time the holder left a building, there'd be another magpie in the tree outside.

I guess I'm just repeating what people have already said - uncertainty is the easiest way to generate fear. I suppose my elaboration on the theme is that you can still use it even if you flag up your villain's true nature and goals right at the start - it's just as scary to know what Mr Tentacles is and what he's capable of when you don't know where he is or what he looks like now - especially when, as with your character, he can look relatively normal. Imagine your PCs looking out on a town square and thinking that any of the people walking past could be the villain. That's scarier when you know quite how horrible he is than when you're leading up to a big reveal at the end.

Killer Angel
2010-01-19, 08:10 AM
Let the players know that he can cast disjunction, and that he likes to use it.

I'm not (totally) kidding. They will fear him, and will try to protect their magic items in every way, creating fake ones (with Nistul's magical aura), etc.

2010-01-19, 08:51 AM
I can think of a few good ways to make the PC's hate the BBEG, but fearing is a little more difficult. However, I would consider it a good thing if the PC's didn't fear the BBEG, otherwise why would they try to fight him?

If you still want him to be feared though, I'd say use your NPC's.
*If the PC's have fought a group that was tough to subdue, you could use that. Have them encounter their bloody remains with rumours that the BBEG is the cause. This could also apply to tough monsters, like particularly large dragons.
*Have minor NPC's (Like shopkeepers, people on the streets etc) shiver at the mention of his name.
*Don't let the PC's know anything specific. It's only human nature to fear what you don't know. Leave the PC's guessing to what this BBEG is actually like (and I mean everything, don't let the PC's even know his hair colour). This can also add the bonus that the final fight against it is a little harder, since the PC's won't know if they're preping to fight a cleric, wizard, fighter etc. This means having your NPC's being too scared to talk too much about him.

2010-01-19, 09:01 AM
Oh, think of popular video game villains which have inspired fear.

FF7: Sephiroth near the beginning of the game. He did a lot of the stuff suggested here actually. You barely saw him, quick glimpses at most, he completely reamed shinra HQ leaving bodies everywhere and deep gashes in the wall. Not much later you're led to fear the snake that lives in the sand and after passing that part you find one of the snakes impaled on a pillar with cloud pointing out that it was definitely sephiroth.

Resident Evil: Any of the nemesis forms does wonders here. You know you can't kill him because if you do he'll just get back up soon and if he hits you, you're out, that's it. Worst part is he can show up anytime and give chase.

There are more but I can't think of them right now.

2010-01-19, 09:19 AM
Add in that it can and most definitely will try to go all Alex Mercer on you if you get to close.

Seriously, even when in a weak human disguise it fights like a raging epic berserker and will pull a Alex Mercer style "CHOMP" on you the moment you hit negatives.

It doesn't really need to resort to it's true form in order to brutally kill you.

"Hey there shopkeeper, got anything fo- AHH HE'S EATING MY FACE!"

The real shopkeeper is of course, dead.

"Hey friendly cleric who helped us out in the pas- WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING!?"

This is assuming that it actually bothers going after the PC's and doesn't simply ignore them and continue plotting how to turn everyone into monsters.

2010-01-19, 09:25 AM
Give him Disjunction as an SLA. Player's ain't scared of having their character die, but they HATE the idea of losing their shineys. :smallwink:

(beaten to it by Killer Angel, oh well...)

Srsly. Keep him offscreen for as long as possible, but make sure his malign presence is omnipresent. It's part of the reason Sauron worked so well as the BBEG of LotR, even though we never see him in person.

2010-01-19, 10:21 AM
Book of Vile Darkness.

Also, I found the Joker in the new Batman movie to be terrifying. I'm one of the few people who doesn't like the movie because I'm so scared to watch it. That might help.

Why so serious? :smallbiggrin:

I managed to evoke fear in my players after they went a round of combat against a BBEG. I actually statted him out, and he was a level 16 fighter slowly turning into a devil, so he had some unexpected tricks (this was pre fiendish codex 2, so it wasn't as awesome as it could have been). They were negotiating with him (the PCs had something he wanted), when one of the players (a thief, who was hiding) decided to sneak attack him (and missed anyways...). Being a staunch L/E being (and unhinged by his transformation process), he was enraged at this betrayal and attacked.

After winning intiative (and everyone in the party rolling under 10...), he charged the thief and did some nutty power attacking. The hit did about 2/3 of his HP in damage (and they saw I rolled QUITE badly). After that one hit, the party pretty much panicked as they realized they were in over their heads. They ended the fight (after the druid's animal companion was slaughtered -> it got a crit against him and pissed him off even further) through cleverness and something that involved a paladin losing his paladin-hood.

The after effect was that they laid low for about a month of in-game time afterwards and avoided all civilized regions (the BBEG was also the prince of the realm trying to get coronated, so the PCs were wanted) to avoid facing him again. It worked out well, because I wanted them to head into the countryside of a neighboring province eventually. They also tried their best to avoid any combat at all, since their confidence was low. It took a while to get them 'heroic' again, but it was quite satisfying.

Killer Angel
2010-01-19, 10:22 AM
Give him Disjunction as an SLA.
(beaten to it by Killer Angel, oh well...)


Indeed, it's very difficult to prove real fear for a character. a good DM can describe horrorific things, but you, as a person, aren't really scared, even if your character face chtulhu.
So the leverage must be something else, as the fear of losing the equipment so hardly collected through months of playing...

Other options are possible, but almost all involve the fear of losing something that costed time to the player to obtain it (even death, for the following loss of levels, if true resurrection isn't available).

2010-01-19, 10:58 AM
I created one character that my players where (and still are) honestly scared of, to the point of doing everything in their power to avoid her. She wasn't the BBEG, so just having her in the campaign and the players knowing she wasn't the BBEG made them scared of him by proxy. That and there is no resurrection in my homebrew setting, which helps a lot if you have a group like mine that actually gets attached to their characters.

Why were they so scared? My post in this thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=110821) covers a little bit about this character as well as containing plenty of good advice for you from the other posters.

That campaign is still ongoing and they still havent found the plot device capable of defeating her (they could have if they wanted to, but they are too scared to even try and they actually got more pressing matters to attend to). Since then they have had a few more encounters with her (one of them she materialized out of the body of the villain they were about to fight holding his heart, which by the way was still attached via veins/arteries to the exit hole in his body, and turned him into a demon. They barely won that fight) and even though they are much more powerful they are still just as scared. They were recently given a choice of seeking her out and asking her for information about an artifact they have that she created long ago or raiding one of the BBEG's strongholds (they don't know that it is one of his yet :smallamused:) to get the information from a library. They opted for the "easy" route and are currently planning how they are going to survive raiding said stronghold.

The BBEG himself is actually much more dangerous. He is not as powerful as the witch, but he is completely sane and filled with anger for all the civilized races of the world. This one is much more similar to your intended villain so I'll give a few details about him:

1. He is a beholder lich, but the players don't know that yet because he has never shown himself to them.
2. He does not mess around like the typical Bond style villains. He ignored the PC's for a little while because he had more pressing issues but since they recently hosed up one of his main plans he has been actively diverting resources into wiping them out. He has so far almost completely wiped out their support network, and those left alive are to scared to deal with the PC's.
3. His hatred for the civilized races is unmatched. In my setting beholders used to live rather peacefully beside the other civilized races, and were a civilized race themselves as opposed to solitary monsters, but fear of anything more powerful than them lead to the other races ganging up on and slaughtering the beholders. The BBEG is the last of his kind, having survived by inventing the process to becoming a lich, and is hell-bent on wiping out all civilized races to return the favor. The PC's have learned what happened to the beholders and actually felt quite sorry for them.
4. He mostly operates by having his minions infiltrate powerful world governments and instigating wars. If you have ever seen the One Piece anime, he operates almost exactly like Crocodile.
5. He recently sent his second in command (a mind flayer lich) against the PC's in a fit of rage. The PC's had to flee when they realized they didn't stand a chance, and they don't know this guy is the second in command. They think he was just the next lower-management boss and judging by his power are afraid to think of what the BBEG can do.

2010-01-19, 11:08 AM
Thats one of the best beholder villains...no THE BEST I have ever heard about.
I salute you!

2010-01-19, 11:20 AM
My solution would be to start wishing beholders back into life. ;-)

2010-01-19, 01:40 PM
Causing fear in players is one of the hardest things to do as a GM. I'm running a horror campaign now and have learned this the hard way.

First thing is don't worry about the BBEG nor his abilities and stats. They don't come into play until they do battle and it will be too late for the players to really fear it. Game mechanics will not instill fear anyway, that job is completely up to you, your story and how you portray the villain.

The best things that instill fear are uncertainty and the unknown, overwhelming confusion, fear in others, desperation and the feeling that nothing can be done. These are your tools, these are the things fearful players will remember going into the final confrontation. This is where your emphasis should be.

A few things to take into account.
Don't try to make the players afraid right away, instead build it up over time.

Everyone knows something about him but most of it is wrong/contradictory - don't give the players clear or even totally accurate information. You want them to be uncertain of what he really is and what he can really do.

Examples of what he does to others is good but also include examples of unpredictability. These dead hero's he had burned alive, these others are kept alive in gruesome pain and suffering, but this other group he just killed and buried.

Continuous use of fear has the opposite affect, basically the players become used to it. Instead vary the intensity every session even have times without building fear. My favorite is to have a good period of time where the players start to let down their guard and once that happens - bam hit them with something more horrible then before.

As the final piece of adding fear. Right before the party is ready to challenge the villain they find out that some or most of what they learned is wrong or distorted. They have overcome their fear of this horrible being just to learn at the last minute that they have been fearing the wrong thing, and it's too late to learn the truth.

Watch movies and read book with different villains figure out what makes them scary to you and use that. Also pay attention to what doesn't scare you and avoid that.

2010-01-19, 02:02 PM
I'm a fan of having him fight the PCs with a Simacrulum, and making it a hard fight. If the PCs know the game, they'll realized that was the half level version of him...


I'm planning on pulling this in one of my games soon.

2010-01-19, 02:53 PM
I remember an event that I ran where the PCs went to the big, shiny imperial court to plead their case in front of the emperor and all his courtiers. When they arrived they had been announced by an elderly blindfolded guy who gave them titles that reflected their natures which kind of creeped them out. The proceedings were then interrupted by their rival band of adventurers who were joined by their previously unseen leader and another character, and given similar titles by the herald. Both the PCs and their rivals had all been given very brief titles like "The Bright and True," or "The Bloody Handed," but the enemy leader got a longer title which alarmed the PCs. One of the more perceptive players though, noticed that the other new arrival hadn't been recognized at all and that really scared him. He accurately predicted that the unannounced character was going to be worse news than any of the others.

I guess that goes into the whole fear of the unknown thing.

2010-01-19, 07:12 PM
just some ideas:

1) Make your PCs roll will saves just for kicks at seemingly random intervals :P (especially after the creature has already messed with their heads once) if they ask why be very vague about a feeling they had that they should be mentally more on guard or something? (this ups the feeling of "he can get us whenever" even if he can't)

2) have him visit them periodically, or better yet, make them THINK he's visiting them periodically. have him project illusions in their mind of monstrous disfigurations of NPCs (like they're talking to the innkeeper, turn away for a second to reach money out of their pocket and they look up and he's got this crazy sharp tooth filled mouth and he's drooling and looks crazy and then they do a double take and he's back to normal looking at them like they're crazy for freaking out) and change it up, don't let them know when it's him or when it's just him projecting illusions into their mind.

3)Have them spend some time in a shop buying some stuff and when they walk out the guard approaches them to ask them why they are hanging out in abandoned buildings all suspicious like and when they turn around the building is clearly suffering severe fire damage and everything they bought is actually burnt trash from inside... let them go inside and maybe have a nice clean note (it's new so it stands out) on the burnt counter that says "I.O.U. signed, BBEG" or something

you said he messes with heads, but to what extent? Head messing is easily super scary though, as someone said earlier the unknown is the key. Don't let the players KNOW his limitations, it makes him seem more powerful if he really pushes his limits periodically but they don't see him sweat... makes his power seem like he's using it casually.

Another note that was good is motivation, you said he is either eating or converting everyone. This means his thought process is like this probably:

1) Are they powerful enough to threaten him?
No - they are specs on his radar, he wouldn't mess with them... this isn't scary
Yes - See question 2...
2) Does he want to convert or eat them?
Eat - then why doesn't he just attack and kill them as opposed to letting build their strength up?

Convert - This seems most likely (as for interesting story wise) in which case his goal would be to make them think that they have no hope (this seems fear inspiring) etc. So they don't try to fight him. Mentally break them so they will obey (it is useful even if he would use magic to control them because why risk fighting the magic if he's got so many other powers at his disposal etc.) Best ways to do this? Goes with what I was saying above, but let him use fairly significant powers for seemingly stupid things, as though he's using these powers very casually. Don't let them know he sees them as a threat (or powerful enough to be worth converting) and let him get real close... like breathing on the back of their necks close. Let them know that he knows how to get to them, let him show enough destructive power only to let them know that he could hurt them if he needed to. I'm thinking they leave an inn where an innkeeper did one of the mutation things and they shrug it off as an illusion and on their way out, the mangled corpse of the guy they were just talking to 3 seconds ago is wrapped in a bow with a card from BBEG...

2010-01-19, 07:25 PM
Pseudonatural rust monster with a humanoid alternate form!

I wonder how broken a Were-Rust Monster would be... I should go make one.

2010-01-19, 11:01 PM
In my last campaign, there were actually two BBEGs, working at cross purposes (though I didn't tell them that). I let the players try to figure out whether it was the braineatingmindcontroldon'tusemagicsquidfacedthing s (mindflayers invading from another reality, which scared the players) or the shadow(dragon) that was seemingly behind every power structure in the city. And I tossed the odd problem in that was totally unrelated to either. It didn't matter that the party could eventually slaughter the illithid en masse, it was that they had no idea about the motives or the powers involved. And the shadow dragon took craft traps and supplied them to his minions, empowered with her breath weapon...

2010-01-20, 12:07 AM
Maybe I've got the power-scale wrong, but it seems to me that an eldritch abomination should start by removing the real threats to it. The first sign it's awake is when all clerics of Heironeous lose all their powers. Then some wizards try divination spells on it -- they go insane.

2010-01-20, 05:34 AM
Who is the BBFG? I can tell you what to do if I know who he/she/it is.

Crafty Cultist
2010-01-20, 07:01 AM
Maybe I've got the power-scale wrong, but it seems to me that an eldritch abomination should start by removing the real threats to it. The first sign it's awake is when all clerics of Heironeous lose all their powers. Then some wizards try divination spells on it -- they go insane.

I agree. If you take out a random NPC its a show of power. If you take out something thats an integral part of the world, then they know its bad

Tulio d Bard
2010-02-01, 10:15 PM
First of all, Power doesn't necessarily bring fear. Besides, making the PCs scared isn't the same of making the Players scared. A dragon or demon should bring fear to the PCs, but it's just another monster to us. Scarring the players on the other hand, is a bit harder to accomplish.

*Make the world fear the BBEG. If everybody starts shivering at his mention, it'll soon be the Players the ones to fear him/her. Notice that there's no need to make everybody know about the BBEG. Think about Godzilla, someone who saw the villain in action goes crazy/catatonic and soon people will be terrified. All the bad things that happen in the region will be related to him. Fear spreads.

*Let the BBEG fight the PCs in a moment of weakness. After or during (especially in the very end) of an important and hard battle. They'll feel that there's no safe place or time anymore.

*Make the players knowledge useless. It's not necessary to make the BBEG completely unknown (though it would be better), use what they know about him for you. When the adventurers prepare for a battle and then discover that it was all worthless, they get totally confused (and be sure to give them no time to think when the time comes). If after a battle against a vampire the PCs try to escape swimming in the river, give the monster a pair of Boots of Water-Walking (not sure of the name in English). It will be something like: :smalleek: ... "RUN FER YER LIVES!" (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0344.html)

*The BBEG should be very self-confident and determined. The more the villain seems unstoppable, the more the PCs will trust he is. A good motivation can do all the difference.

*Make the BBEG be a minion of some other boss that the PCs have been fighting against for a long time, and then, when the boss is no more necessary for the BBEG, let him kill his master. Kind of Valadil's Pro Wrestling School of Thought (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=7718700&postcount=27). :smallbiggrin:

*You don't need to make the BBEG a killing-machine. Normal CR for the party is more than enough. Illusions, minions, armies do the work as well. As you've talked about the Joker, I can't help but notice that there's nothing about him that makes him specially powerful (and he always get beaten too) and he yet scares Riyoukaze (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=7718180&postcount=17). :smalltongue:

*Let the PCs destroy the only known way of killing/stopping the BBEG. They can either do that accidentally (the players don't know about it) or by choice (make them choose between destroying it or letting their family die). When they get it, it'll be like: "OMG, we've just screwed everything, haven't we?". Then they will be left with no hope.

*The BBEG has more things to do as a BBEG than trying to kill the PCs. In the beginning you can make the PCs face him just randomly. It wouldn't be difficult as his acting area is the same as the PCs'. But letting him chase adventurers will show that he fears them. NEVER show the BBEG's weakness(es). When the players decide to run away of the country/reign/continent/plane/whatever, then you're already successful (either that or you made a very annoying boss). Then...

*Finally, if the PCs are already scared of the BBEG, you have to make them have to fight him. The players won't want to make it in the end so you'll have to "drive them". Of course you can't give them no options or force them (we are still roleplaying), but you can make they need to fight the BBEG. Maybe a magical disease that can only be stopped by killing the villain (either that or the PCs die), worldwide destruction, or whatever. Thus, the Players will be as scared as hell but will have no options but face the Big Badass Evil Guy/Girl.

Hope it helps. Nice thread BTW.

2010-02-01, 10:19 PM
Use the stalker approach. Have him pursue the party through a labyrinth like dungeon, and make it clear he is far too strong to fight and would likely evicerate the entire party. The objective is to escape, alive, and there is the constant knowledge that he is chasing them down.

2010-02-01, 10:21 PM
I put a lot of effort into creating a BBEG the players would legitimately fear; and you don't do it by doing any particular step, you do it by hammering them with all the steps in rapid pace, when I introduced the LV18 Death Knight, the players were level 3 and had just finished a fight that left them with barely any HP. I described in detail as the plants and animals withered at the aura and how, as they failed their fear saves, they felt the wind escape their lungs. I had him calmly walk over, pick up the defeated enemies corpses and sling them over his back, only to see their, 'Obi-wan' and effortlessly render him helpless with one word, and as he was about to drag him back with him, they attacked. He played with them. He taunted them with hidden secrets, and then, then I made it personal. I had him warp to the home of one of the players, where his little sister slept in her bed, and as they all sat there bound, he inserted his unholy blade into her chest and drained her soul away, putting it into a blast none could survive, and as this happened, the look on their faces? That look was fear.
Yes, I am a sadist.