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The Fury
2013-03-13, 09:48 PM
Something I've been thinking about were the ways villain NPCs tend to be built. More often than not Fantasy RPG villains tend to be Necromancers, Blackguards, vampires and the like. That said thumbing through some of the Pathfinder rules I thought some character builds might work better.
In the Pathfinder game I'm running I'm considering making a villainous wizard that's actually an Enchanter instead of a Necromancer. Partly because nobody gets any points for figuring out that the Necromancer is evil, but also because with enchantment spells it makes sense that someone could find followers. Someone else also pointed out to me that because they're good at buffing their minions a Bard might also make villain.
So how about you guys? Have any of you tried unconventional builds for your villains? What worked, what didn't?

valadil
2013-03-13, 09:55 PM
Personally I don't like bad guys that are over the top evil. They just aren't believable to me. To create a bad guy I can believe in, I like taking an ambitious good guy and send him a little too far. His cause is righteous and the ends justify the means. But it's the PCs' job to object to the means. This gives me human (to use the adjective, not the D&D race) bad guys.

This also gives me the benefit of being able to use the bad guys as NPCs before they're revealed as bad guys. A lich 10 millenia old is badass and cool, but it's so overtly evil that the PCs won't interact with it. A paladin who eventually goes too far for what he believes in is a perfectly usable NPC for a while. He may even be on the PCs' side up until that point where he takes a step too far.

ArcturusV
2013-03-13, 10:01 PM
Bards are very, very EVIL villains. Necromancer? Pssh. He WISHES he could be as evil as the Bard.

I mean Bards are mindjacking, sanity destroying nightmares if they choose to pt their skills towards the test, who can generally have a much more effective Human Wave of minions than a Necromancer would.

I've run them a few times. When I do run bardic villains it tends to scare my players. Particularly if you're a jackass like me, and don't give obvious hints about say, what is an illusion, what is not. What is an Enchantment Mindjack and what just seems to be a perfectly nice NPC giving you a reasonable plot hook...

Druid is one I like for Villains that doesn't get used too often. Not sure why. No one really expects it because of the Hippie Mantra flavor surrounding Druids I suppose. But Neutral Evil is an appropriate Druid alignment. They can end up being pretty powerful enemies for an entire party with Animal companions, summons, awakened plants/animals, etc. Plus their use of Nature (Typically thought of as Good) for Evil helps throw players a little off balance. Most players instinctively know (or have thought about) how they might go if they have to throw down against a horde of Slaads or minor Devils, etc. Not many people have thought too much about "... what am I going to do if every plant in the forest I'm walking in suddenly attacks me?"

I do favor whatever I can use for Mad Scientist builds a bit, I do admit. There's just something cheesy and fun about that. Monster ran amok? Benevolent experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong with Alignment Altering impacts on it's creator? Kinda old hat, but it's a wide enough field you can always do something fun with it.

The Fury
2013-03-14, 11:04 AM
Personally I don't like bad guys that are over the top evil. They just aren't believable to me. To create a bad guy I can believe in, I like taking an ambitious good guy and send him a little too far. His cause is righteous and the ends justify the means. But it's the PCs' job to object to the means. This gives me human (to use the adjective, not the D&D race) bad guys.

This also gives me the benefit of being able to use the bad guys as NPCs before they're revealed as bad guys. A lich 10 millenia old is badass and cool, but it's so overtly evil that the PCs won't interact with it. A paladin who eventually goes too far for what he believes in is a perfectly usable NPC for a while. He may even be on the PCs' side up until that point where he takes a step too far.

I like complex villains too, though when I've tried the "ambitious good guy" angle sometimes the PCs won't try to stop him. It's always weird when I come up with a set of reasoning that the bad guy used to convince himself that some monstrous act must be done for the greater good, and the PCs are convinced too. I don't know how well this speaks to my ability to present scenarios properly...


Bards are very, very EVIL villains. Necromancer? Pssh. He WISHES he could be as evil as the Bard.

I mean Bards are mindjacking, sanity destroying nightmares if they choose to pt their skills towards the test, who can generally have a much more effective Human Wave of minions than a Necromancer would.

I've run them a few times. When I do run bardic villains it tends to scare my players. Particularly if you're a jackass like me, and don't give obvious hints about say, what is an illusion, what is not. What is an Enchantment Mindjack and what just seems to be a perfectly nice NPC giving you a reasonable plot hook...

Basically this was my motivation for making an Enchantment specialist. Think of the havoc a character can cause with just Charm Person spells, it seems pretty weak but having a number of people friendly to you could actually go a long way. Also an Enchanter, (or a Bard too for that matter,) can appear for all the world to be a pillar of the community until they step in and seize control. At this point the challenge for the players is finding out who the bad guy is. Bards though... man! On top of being able to do a lot of the stuff Enchanters can do they have some great abilities, not the least of which is using Inspire Courage on minions.


Druid is one I like for Villains that doesn't get used too often. Not sure why. No one really expects it because of the Hippie Mantra flavor surrounding Druids I suppose. But Neutral Evil is an appropriate Druid alignment. They can end up being pretty powerful enemies for an entire party with Animal companions, summons, awakened plants/animals, etc. Plus their use of Nature (Typically thought of as Good) for Evil helps throw players a little off balance. Most players instinctively know (or have thought about) how they might go if they have to throw down against a horde of Slaads or minor Devils, etc. Not many people have thought too much about "... what am I going to do if every plant in the forest I'm walking in suddenly attacks me?"


That's a good way of handling it. I've seen Druid villains used before, but usually not very well. When I've seen Druid villains they're usually some strawman environmentalist/animal rights activist and not even the main bad guy, (thankfully.)

Jay R
2013-03-14, 11:10 AM
I rarely have villains. I have rivals. Their plans interfere with the PCs' plans, and so they are in competition, but that's not the same thing.

Richelieu in any musketeers movie pre-1990, or in the book, is not a villain. (And I love using him in Flashing Blades games.)

The ultimate enemy for a party of PCs is another party seeking the same magic item.

prufock
2013-03-14, 12:08 PM
I try to make my antagonists intelligent, not necessarily evil, and have particular goals. This is an epic "end of the world" campaign and quite sandboxy in that - while the party has obvious goals, their individual steps to accomplish those goals can happen in many ways in any order.

Current villains/antagonists/rivals in the game I'm running. Spoilered for Rose Lake players - don't look!

Agents of Chaos: This group has a clear goal - increase entropy. See, the game is based around a series of planar "rifts" that the characters must close or else the other planes have an increasingly powerful effect on the material plane, eventually resulting in complete and utter upheaval of the material plane, possibly even its destruction. The AoC wants this to happen, both because a) they're a bit nuts and b) they feel the current world is already such a mess that scratching the whole thing and building from scratch is the only sensible answer. They have a clear purpose, but they are poor planners, and their methods boil down to "pretty much whatever I feel like at the time." They aren't precisely evil (though they can be), but they are a definite threat.

The Mission: The Mission is a non-denominational humanist organization. They devote their resources to helping others in need. This includes the PCs at certain points. They ask for no money in return, instead demanding that those they help pay forward their debt in service to others. The party is currently paying forward a resurrection by taking on a cohort and helping her in her quest. Of course, none of the party really trusts the mission, they're too much like a mafia, getting paid in favours. In fact, the mission has some nefarious goals. They're actually constructed to be similar to Scientology, in that there are different loyalty levels at which certain secrets are divulged. One secret - they wish to draw people away from worshipping the gods. High secret - they have a god of their own whom they wish to grant more influence. Ultimate secret - this god is the cause of the planar rifts, and they are attempting to collect material from each rift for a powerful ritual.

Prince Aerys: This guy is just a spoiled jerk that the party has humiliated time and again. They've been nearly executed because of it. He holds a grudge, but they can get away with it because the rest of his family is not so impetuous.

Kornaki
2013-03-14, 02:07 PM
Throw them for a loop by having it be a necromancer, but also having him have good goals. In one of my games they ran into a necromancer who got left behind on an island, and has spent the past six months protecting a tribe of goblin slaves from their dragon master just because he has nothing better to do. They walked into the room ready trying to talk it out with a guy who's guano-crazy and whose undead minions they have battled with half a dozen times already. Geez, the previous room even had a guy who was being force fed ghoul flesh as part of a transformation ritual.

Double bonus points: the bad guy is an enchanter, who has charmed a necromancer into doing his evil acts while pretending to be a good guy. They'll be so busy doing "bust the necromancer" that they won't realize "figure out who the actual bad guy is" is part of the adventure until it's too late.

killem2
2013-03-14, 02:13 PM
Wreck-it-ralph style bad guy.

Giant, who is tired of being evil among his crew, but can't stand the goodie two shoes crowd either, or is forced into evil by the prejudice of the good guys. :smallbiggrin:


"Just because you are bad guy, does not mean you are bad guy."

illyrus
2013-03-14, 02:14 PM
I've used NPC classes as villains to pretty good effect, especially in more steampunk settings where they can gain their powers from items and body modifications. Also there is is something funny when the PCs see an adept cast a healing spell followed by a lightning bolt and proceed to make completely wrong guesses on the class behind the adept.

I'm considering for a game using angels as the "bad guys". A faction of them consider the free will of humanity a failed experiment and breeding ground for evil and plan to re-educate the masses. They would generally seek peaceful solutions first but would turn to war if states were unwilling to give up their sovereignty and would rewrite the laws and punishments as they saw fit. Things like re-education camps (but with humane conditions) would spring up around conquered areas. Feasibly the PCs could convince them to change their minds through reasoned discourse. Maybe their actions would cause the angels to fall from grace, or perhaps they already had in fact fallen but were deluded.

LordVonDerp
2013-03-15, 01:23 PM
Throw them for a loop by having it be a necromancer, but also having him have good goals. In one of my games they ran into a necromancer who got left behind on an island, and has spent the past six months protecting a tribe of goblin slaves from their dragon master just because he has nothing better to do. They walked into the room ready trying to talk it out with a guy who's guano-crazy and whose undead minions they have battled with half a dozen times already. Geez, the previous room even had a guy who was being force fed ghoul flesh as part of a transformation ritual.

Double bonus points: the bad guy is an enchanter, who has charmed a necromancer into doing his evil acts while pretending to be a good guy. They'll be so busy doing "bust the necromancer" that they won't realize "figure out who the actual bad guy is" is part of the adventure until it's too late.

Better idea: throw in a Lawful Good Necromancer who uses his army of undead to protect the innocent from the forces of evil (think Aragorn at the battle of Gondor).

Vultawk
2013-03-16, 12:00 PM
I like all kinds of villains. The villain with motives that you could almost agree with if she hadn't decided to express it by harvesting flesh golem ingredients from orphanages, the misunderstood hulking monster whose worst crime is being scared, confused and too powerful for his own good, and the one-dimensional evil overlord who seems to exist solely to send monsters into villages and cackle with glee all have a place in my games.

I tend to use the AD&D Complete Book of Villains to generate my major NPCs (not just villains), and if you can find it, it gives some good ideas on creating bad guys outside the expected. What's more, it's not tied to any game mechanics, so it's applicable to any game system. The general approach the book takes is to come up with a goal for the villain and their motives to achieve that goal, and then add a twist to cause them to pursue that goal in a villainous manner.

Case in point, a villain I'm planning on using in my campaign is a rather dim guy who has the ability to use a single cantrip at will, and that tiny taste of wizardry makes him want more, even though he's not smart enough to read (via DM fiat, I feel it works well narratively). His long term goal is to become a wizard, his short term goal is to gain the intelligence necessary to do so, and it's an obsession that he pursues without qualms about the consequences towards others. (The real kicker is that he has a good Cha, but looks down on sorcerers because they "didn't earn their magic".)

Jack of Spades
2013-03-16, 12:39 PM
My most recent idea was to make the party themselves the villains. Essentially, have them wake up in a tomb somewhere, and learn through exploration that they are ancient heroes somehow returned to life. Of course, this would be foretold by some prophecy. The goal on the GM side would be to make them believe that they are saving the land from despots and the like, despite the somewhat obvious resistance from the yokels. Then, you get to throw adventurers at them. It seems like it'd be fun, but probably way out of my league.

Mono Vertigo
2013-03-16, 03:19 PM
I like villains who don't do anything evil by themselves, but manipulate other souls into playing the Big Bad. Maybe they have good reasons, maybe they have selfish ones, or maybe they're just bored and want entertainment.
I like villains who are essentially normal people in complete despair. Perhaps they've just had one, very bad day.
I like villains who were pushed beyond the edge due to society's cruelty and apathy. They don't think the world will allow them to get any sort of happiness from acting good, so why not try to embrace their forced role?
I like villains who are defending their own worlds against the threat of the party.
I like villains who simply compete against the party for the same resources.
I like villains who were forced in their current role, because the alternative was worse.
In short, I like moral ambiguity way too much. Just think of normal people like you, your family, or your neighbours thrown in a specific situation. Villainy is mostly a question of point of view. Most people think they are the protagonists of their own story, and whenever they don't, there's always an interesting reason behind it.

nedz
2013-03-16, 04:33 PM
I quite like evil conspiracies, where bad things happen but no one quite knows why. The individual antagonists are neutral or at least not overtly evil they are just protecting their own interests. Perhaps they are being manipulated, maybe by someone with a very light touch ? Such manipulation can also happen to the party, until they work it out.

tommhans
2013-03-19, 03:46 AM
I like villains who don't do anything evil by themselves, but manipulate other souls into playing the Big Bad. Maybe they have good reasons, maybe they have selfish ones, or maybe they're just bored and want entertainment.
I like villains who are essentially normal people in complete despair. Perhaps they've just had one, very bad day.
I like villains who were pushed beyond the edge due to society's cruelty and apathy. They don't think the world will allow them to get any sort of happiness from acting good, so why not try to embrace their forced role?
I like villains who are defending their own worlds against the threat of the party.
I like villains who simply compete against the party for the same resources.
I like villains who were forced in their current role, because the alternative was worse.
In short, I like moral ambiguity way too much. Just think of normal people like you, your family, or your neighbours thrown in a specific situation. Villainy is mostly a question of point of view. Most people think they are the protagonists of their own story, and whenever they don't, there's always an interesting reason behind it.

i totally agree with you there! :smallbiggrin: thats actually the reason why i love tv series like 24 and breaking bad, its all about the point of view of the villain, why have they decided to break bad? some served the country and then just got nothing in return or the government managed to get your wife killed and you ofc blame them. i mean its amazing how just a simple backstory makes the villain so much more human, because in truth, anyone can change to it if the conditions require it ^^

Mono Vertigo
2013-03-19, 06:38 AM
i totally agree with you there! :smallbiggrin: thats actually the reason why i love tv series like 24 and breaking bad, its all about the point of view of the villain, why have they decided to break bad? some served the country and then just got nothing in return or the government managed to get your wife killed and you ofc blame them. i mean its amazing how just a simple backstory makes the villain so much more human, because in truth, anyone can change to it if the conditions require it ^^
It even works with less normal characters, like Dexter. He's a sociopath turned... I wouldn't say good, just much more constructive to society than the average serial killer.
And there's that big ambivalence of having to hide from society because kidnapping and murdering people is extremely illegal no matter how you look at it, and at the same time, the acknowledgment that most members of society would worship him as a hero if they found out. It's so true it gets meta; after all, thousands, if not millions of watchers around the world, are rooting for a guy with extremely little to no empathy, who murders other people without a fair trial. We can even sympathize with someone or something that could not sympathize back with us.
In RP terms, that might mean having a vampire who only feeds on who he considers to be the scum of earth. Or a necromancer who asks for the consent of people he's going to reanimate before their death. And both could just as well be Big Bads, or members of your non-evil party!

DigoDragon
2013-03-19, 06:54 AM
I once had a Diviner villain. Basically ran a "thought police" organization under the front that they were preventing crime before it happened. Think "Minority Report", but more corrupt.

Fable Wright
2013-03-19, 08:23 AM
If you want a truly unconventional villain, don't use a spellcaster, or at least not a traditional spellcaster. Everyone expects the people who use magic to be the bad guy. Mind control, armies of zombies, and all that sort of thing tend to cement spellcasters as the bad guys because they can generate armies at a whim. While they're dangerous and make for great tools, I want to see a game where the bad guy isn't a spellcaster.

A good villain might be the small, idealistic kid in the adventurer's guild who wants to be the best hero the world ever saw. However, to do that, he needs to create a proper villain for himself to defeat, and winds up manipulating people behind the scenes to turn the PCs into those bad guys. Maybe most people in the setting are reasonable people, and he's blackmailing them into becoming 'villains' for the PCs to defeat, that actually turn them into monsters. For example, he might kidnap the local Enchanter's kid and turn to blackmailing the enchanter into killing the PCs; when the PCs arrive, they can see a lot of enchantment magic and people are trying to kill them, when really all the enchanter is doing is using Modify Memory to help suppress bad memories, Suggestions to help them get over bad habits, and Domination in rare cases to allow psychotic criminals to have a proper place in society. The PCs think the various mind control magics are being used oppressively, they go in, and start killing innocent townspeople and the kindly local enchanter who only wants his son back. In the end, it turns out that the PCs really are psychotic murder hobos, and the young kid who sent them on their quest has turned into a great hero, adventuring and trying to take the band of roving marauders down. Maybe he tries to manipulate kingdoms into attacking the PCs, and manipulates people using entirely mundane means (being a janitor, getting the key to the treasury or crown jewels...) into giving the PCs control over the kingdom, and intercepting and tampering orders issued by the PCs to turn them (in the common peoples' eyes) into militant power-hungry tyrants who plunder their lands in their pursuit of conquest of the other kingdoms. After the PCs are sufficiently turned into the Big Bads, he finally embarks on his epic quest to take down the tyrants...

jebbewocky
2013-03-19, 02:45 PM
One of the things I'v been doing is reading up on various kinds of undead, and then making backstories.

Specifically, morhgs often come from unrepented & executed serial killers & mass murders. I plan on the party run into a serial killer, eventually they encounter, and kill him. Later he rises to kill again.

ArcturusV
2013-03-19, 04:12 PM
DM has an interesting idea there, and it's something I've sort of used before. One of my evil PCs was like that. Reman Valarius was an evil bastard who wanted to be a great hero and leader. So he manipulated things as they came by to make alliances with people, get them under his flag. He never had to stoop to things like blackmail and kidnapping however. Simple lies, half truths, or even the whole truth told at the right moment, got the job done for him just as well. Intimidation, charm (Of the mundane variety, not magic), and a healthy dose of leadership potential were the tools of his trade. He did unite several nations against an evil PC (Who claimed to be good. But his actions were easily labeled as evil, and at the very least, he was thoughtless).

So that by the end of the campaign the evil Reman Valarius was the damned Hero of the World, worshiped by the populace as a great visionary, warrior, and leader. The supposed hero who was trying to restore his rightful kingdom (Lost heir type), was blamed from Apocalypsing a kingdom with Ancient Dragons, Demons, and a Demon Prince. It was even to the point where I managed to get his patron god and the spirits who served that god fed up with him, and while not all of them were wiling to smite him on sight, none of them were willing to raise a hand to help him.

Azif13
2013-03-19, 04:25 PM
Bards are very, very EVIL villains. Necromancer? Pssh. He WISHES he could be as evil as the Bard.

I mean Bards are mindjacking, sanity destroying nightmares if they choose to pt their skills towards the test, who can generally have a much more effective Human Wave of minions than a Necromancer would.

I've run them a few times. When I do run bardic villains it tends to scare my players. Particularly if you're a jackass like me, and don't give obvious hints about say, what is an illusion, what is not. What is an Enchantment Mindjack and what just seems to be a perfectly nice NPC giving you a reasonable plot hook...


You sir have all my respect and have given me very good ideas!


I like villains who don't do anything evil by themselves, but manipulate other souls into playing the Big Bad. Maybe they have good reasons, maybe they have selfish ones, or maybe they're just bored and want entertainment.
I like villains who are essentially normal people in complete despair. Perhaps they've just had one, very bad day.
I like villains who were pushed beyond the edge due to society's cruelty and apathy. They don't think the world will allow them to get any sort of happiness from acting good, so why not try to embrace their forced role?
I like villains who are defending their own worlds against the threat of the party.
I like villains who simply compete against the party for the same resources.
I like villains who were forced in their current role, because the alternative was worse.
In short, I like moral ambiguity way too much. Just think of normal people like you, your family, or your neighbours thrown in a specific situation. Villainy is mostly a question of point of view. Most people think they are the protagonists of their own story, and whenever they don't, there's always an interesting reason behind it.

Also I agree a lot. I enjoy playing the bad guys a lot, specially LE characters. Form a mercenary to a lonely ranger whose hate for his favored enemy has no limits, not forgetting the ambitious wizard.

scurv
2013-03-19, 09:13 PM
I enjoy noble villains who could of been the hero if the world was different, Magneto from X-men universe is a good example. He has nobility and a cause that is something could of just as easily have been heroic if the world was different (Although from his orginans he was forged in that world)

I enjoy warlords. But think of xerxes from 300. Or Alexander the Great. Their alignment might not be what we call evil. But they live in a world of conquest and it is how they will live and die.

I like my strategists and the like, Although all the ones i can think of in fiction need to fire their henchmen....out of a canon preferably

But I detest the manipulator. Mostly that is just my personal tastes But to me it is the one style that can reach levels of evil that I am not comfortable playing.

Sometimes I do enjoy my cutthroats, Think of any mob boss from any mobster movie, The type that is it just business and nothing personal But who seem to have huge area's devoid of ethics. But to keep this type somewhat playable I need to give them the few jewels of morality they have

MickJay
2013-03-19, 09:31 PM
If your not-obviously-evil bad guy convinces the group to his views, goals or methods (or all of them), simply move on to the next part of the campaign, and have the PCs return to the old 'bad guy' later and confront them with the new situation that resulted from the 'bad guy' achieving his goals. Whether consequences of the original decision are good, acceptable or disastrous may, of course, vary.

Slipperychicken
2013-03-19, 11:04 PM
Enchanters and social villains also give you an excuse to have the PCs fight several different villains, all being manipulated by the BBEG.

You could try a non-caster Leader with massive social skills. He wants to make his reign secure, and as they say, "Perfect security for one means perfect insecurity for everyone else", with horrible consequences for "everyone else". Of course he claims it's for his people, and may even believe this sincerely. In the eyes of his supporters, he's defending his nation/state/bloodline by enacting vengeance on perceived enemies, retaking rightful land, and stabilizing the realm by removing opposition.

Of course, the Leader can have all kinds of things at his disposal. From conventional soldiers, to trolls and other beasts of war, to magicians of all forms (who can summon and make deals with undead, outsiders, and bizarre magical crossbreeds), to exotic non-humanoid mercenaries. He may even have backing from a powerful devil, who gives the Leader and his minions dark infernal powers. For extra twist, the outsider/god supporting him might be Lawful Neutral, and sees the Leader as the ultimate mortal agent of Law.

kyoryu
2013-03-20, 12:54 AM
I find *who* bad guys are to be much more interesting than *what* they are.

Bad guys that seem like good guys are good.

I think bad guys that you can empathize with are great (think Magneto).

Bad guys that might actually be right - awesome.

Bad guys that *are* right - goldmine. Think (arguably) Ozymandias in Watchmen.

What bores me, more than "type" is: "I'm going to take over the world! Why? For power! To do what with? Um... to have power!"

Even in history, most bad guys have some goal that, at the minimum, is at least somewhat reasonable. Hitler wanted to lead Germany out of the depression caused by the utterly unfair Treaty of Versailles. Saddam gassed his own people because brutal force was the only way to keep a country of three factions that wanted to murderize each other under control. "Re-education camps"? Hey, they wanted to make a better world, and people that couldn't get with the program needed to be brought on board.

None of that excuses what they did, but it makes them much more interesting than a mustachio-twirling caricature of evil.

Lvl45DM!
2013-03-20, 05:10 AM
Petty villains. The ones with the epic world conquering scheme who just get shirty with the PC's and proceed to wreck their *@#^. The ones who when they are losing the fight they go for pain rather than the kill.

Slipperychicken
2013-03-20, 10:33 AM
Petty villains. The ones with the epic world conquering scheme who just get shirty with the PC's and proceed to wreck their *@#^. The ones who when they are losing the fight they go for pain rather than the kill.

That's another thing. Your villain doesn't need such massive ambitions. He could just be trying to ascend to a Kingdom, or even a large Barony. Maybe he's trying to merge two realms under his throne so he can act as a regional Hegemonic power.

Togath
2013-03-20, 10:47 AM
As a few good examples of nonstandard villains that I've used before;

A golem that has become sentient and taken a very large number of levels in wizard in order to make more golems. It is completely uncaring what living things due and has no particular dislike of them, it just doesn't give a f** about them.

An ancient paladin, but in a setting where paladins aren't aligned towards anything(so you could have an evil one), keep in mind, not a black knight style one, he would still have a bunch of light themed powers, it would just be a case of "light is not Good (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LightIsNotGood)".

A shape changing alien virus that likes colourful round things, such as fishing bobbers, peppercorns and random beads and steals in huge amounts. When slain it resurrects itself, changing form to become resistant to it's last cause of death.

Jay R
2013-03-20, 04:24 PM
Ideally, they never know who the real bad guy is. The slaver chief, necromancer, evil priest and corrupt duke whose plans the PCs foil are all doing the work of the real arch-villain, hiding in the shadows.

(Extra points if the slaver chief, necromancer, evil priest and corrupt duke don't know who he is either.)

ArcturusV
2013-03-20, 05:32 PM
That's another thing. Your villain doesn't need such massive ambitions. He could just be trying to ascend to a Kingdom, or even a large Barony. Maybe he's trying to merge two realms under his throne so he can act as a regional Hegemonic power.

That, is always good advice. Part of the problem with a lot of villains is people get the idea of Scale messed up a bit.

A good villain's methods should jive well with it's Scale. e.g.: A level 20 wizard in DnD is not going out and shanking people personally.

The goals however, do not. The level 20 Wizard might want to accomplish something that is seemingly trivial, or could even be bypassed by a simple commoner.

In fact I had one high level wizard who's chief rival, and the motivator for his evil plans, was in fact a level 1 commoner. And it was entirely believable, if a bit cliched. It's not like I had players at the table going "Well why didn't the wizard just pop off a wish to win?" or something.

Hyde
2013-03-20, 09:07 PM
I like the enchanter-wizard

But for a twist- he has ranks in disguise. not for himself, but for the townspeople he dominates.

"yeah, so, that mountain of zombies you just killed... totally living people with makeup".

Slipperychicken
2013-03-20, 09:27 PM
That, is always good advice. Part of the problem with a lot of villains is people get the idea of Scale messed up a bit.

A good villain's methods should jive well with it's Scale. e.g.: A level 20 wizard in DnD is not going out and shanking people personally.


A lower-level Wizard, however, can work better on a low scale. He might have little choice but to choose between Charming people, hiring mercenaries, or ganking people personally. Or ganking people personally.... behind his band of thugs (which, aside from level disparity and possible lack of warrior-priests, is visually indistinguishable from an adventuring party).

JackRose
2013-03-20, 09:35 PM
I have a hankering to create a villain who is a druid using nothing but Wildshape (small, nondescript animal) and Stone Call (rocks fall, everyone takes 2d6 bludgeoning damage). But this could fairly easily be reworked into a Druid who is a natural prankster. He Creates Water above the party's head, makes their horses bipedal and sentient while they're not looking, but doesn't do anything particularly harmful or malicious, and only because he finds their reactions funny.

ArcturusV
2013-03-20, 11:34 PM
True. Low level characters should have low scale methods. They might have grand plans. You might have that level 5 wizard villain who's goals involve basically the domination of an entire plane. But he's going to be operating like a 5th level wizard would. Though probably less personal shanking and more something like "Hold him down so I can kill him with a chain of Lesser Orbs with Metamagic just for a slow, painful death!"

Slipperychicken
2013-03-21, 12:16 AM
True. Low level characters should have low scale methods. They might have grand plans. You might have that level 5 wizard villain who's goals involve basically the domination of an entire plane.

That might be his ultimate goal, but a 5th level guy isn't going to get far without an army. At best, it'll be a matter of "This mage-lord is oppressing a castle and/or moving to gain a claim on the throne! Are you a bad enough dude to stop him?".

And after a point, individual strength starts mattering a lot less than leadership, management, organizational skills, and political acumen. Even if you can fireball whole armies, you still need well-organized underlings (who need to be recruited, paid, fed, clothed, armed, motivated, transported, led, and policed) to keep the land under control. Without that, you're just another random encounter rushing back and forth until someone manages to take you down. Not to mention the possibility of powerful magic-users working for your enemies, too!

ArcturusV
2013-03-21, 12:25 AM
True, which is what I'm getting at. His goal might be grand, but his Scale and his Methods are anything but really. He's more or less applying petty means of control that any First Level Aristocrat could. Though he has a slightly better ability to back it up and keep minions in line with magic.

Meanwhile you can have that higher level character who has an entirely petty goal that should be trivial, going to high scale means to accomplish because they just simply don't understand the concept of minimal effort needed.

e.g.: The level 20 wizard wants to nab this particular relic he's heard of. A small scale character might use some Gather Information, Research, etc, hire a thief to help them break into the place, etc, and get out. The level 20 wizard is still doing effectively the same thing. But instead you got Divination, summoned armies storming the place, etc. You could also say he calls a Djinn and uses a wish, but I tend to avoid that only because anytime "Wish" gets mentioned I see an evil gleam in the eyes of my DM (Or myself if I'm DMing and look in the mirror), and you know it's not going to be good. You Planar Bind that Djinn to Wish for you, it's going to make some heinous demands that you don't want to give it, and STILL screw you on it. Wish effects are basically the critical fumble rules for spellcasters, except it's guaranteed to be one every time you use it. DMs just get like that.

DigoDragon
2013-03-21, 07:01 AM
Just recently rewatched the classic movie Clue and that gave me an idea for an unconventional villain. The BBEG pretends to just be one of the average minions/servants and puts his "dragon"/right-hand mook up on display so the PCs mistake the second in command to be the main boss.

Kinda like what Elan's father is doing in the OotS comic I guess.

Falconer
2013-03-21, 01:06 PM
BBEG's will always vary in goals, or how sympathetic they may be--sometimes you just want that lich lord who's bent on world conquest just because he thinks he can do it.

What I really like to flesh out is the minions--giving them reasons to fight and win for the Big Bad other than because he told them to (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2bWmC0fBTA&t=0m10s). It's actually helpful for a lot of things, but I particularly like to add little personal details to minions that I can build on later if the PC's happen to ask about them--one has an eyepatch because he lost an eye in some brave battle. Another is carrying a satchel that, when searched, has love letters in it from a city far away. They don't even have to be sympathetic things; one minion might have a necklace made from finger bones, trophies from old kills. I find that it's the little details that add a lot of flavor to a campaign, and drive home that the Party's enemies are people. Unlikable people maybe, evil people probably, but even the minions have got backstories and personalities that the PC's will never get to know about because hey, they decided to just kick in the door and shoot up the place. Whoops.:smallamused:

Blightedmarsh
2013-03-21, 02:16 PM
Magnificent bard-stard

The party are going up against a powerful monster for a real juicy quest. They are joined by a high level bardic DMPC.

When faced by the beast instead of helping out the bard turns tale and runs, slamming shut and sealing the door behind himself. The party fight the creature in a difficult and prolonged battle that the win but leaves them exhausted.

At this point the bard returns or ambushes them, knocks them out in an unprovoked alpha strike. When the come to all the monsters loot and all their gear have been striped. When they get back to town they find that the bard has taken credit for the kill and claimed the reward, ransacked their home base and run up huge debts in their name.

The party will want to find and kill this bard at almost any cost. Que their investigation and pursuit of this conman across 1/2 a continent.

Bucky
2013-03-21, 03:47 PM
A Chaotic Good Cleric, and his minions lower-level buddies out to save the world from the other main villain. They ambush and non-lethally defeat evil groups for training purposes (leaving them alive so that they can repeat the exercise with new tactics). The cleric keeps his distance and only intervenes if a buddy's life is threatened. Of course, they recover and return any stolen property the evil group might be carrying.

They start off at a higher level than the party, and will likely win the first fight; when they eventually find out that the party isn't evil (they looked like common looters from a distance), they go into a downward moral spiral and have to be put down by the party after the Cleric falls.

Any resemblance to PCs is purely coincidence.

puctheplayfull
2013-04-02, 11:27 AM
I've seen LE monks used to great effect as minions to a bigger villain, but what about an entire LE monastic order as the main villains in a campaign. One of the obvious possible goals would be to resurrect/awaken/free their ancient and evil founder through some dark ritual, likely involving a collection of dark artifacts since they are not themselves spellcasters. They could also be pursuing a more 'noble' goal like removing chaos from the world, though taking it to the extreme of conquest and tyranny to enforce the rule of law.

Man on Fire
2013-04-03, 10:26 AM
I've seen LE monks used to great effect as minions to a bigger villain, but what about an entire LE monastic order as the main villains in a campaign. One of the obvious possible goals would be to resurrect/awaken/free their ancient and evil founder through some dark ritual, likely involving a collection of dark artifacts since they are not themselves spellcasters. They could also be pursuing a more 'noble' goal like removing chaos from the world, though taking it to the extreme of conquest and tyranny to enforce the rule of law.

Ever read Fist of the North Star? Because Raoh would fit pretty well with such organisation - ambitious and wants to conquer destroyed wasteland that remainded from ruined world, because he feels it needs somebody to bring order over it.

puctheplayfull
2013-04-03, 10:38 AM
I was only thinking RPG's, I'd never considered anime/manga villains. Raoh is a perfect example of a LE monk warlord. I've never read the manga, just seen the original anime, but there were several characters I think that could be considered LE monks. So would a few of the characters from Fushigi Yugi, and any number of other anime.

Shadowknight12
2013-04-03, 11:17 PM
My current main bad guy is an enchantress (Focused Specialist wizard, in fact) who happens to be half-fey and pretends to be absolutely harmless when in fact she is unfathomably evil. So far, I've been playing her as though she had an Aristocrat class, but she's got some pretty horrifying spells prepared (thank you, Book of Vile Darkness) to wreck stuff up.

Then I also have a pseudo-bad guy lurking in the background, who is a pixie Conjurer/Archmage whose plan involves killing a bunch of innocent celestials to harvest their divine essence in order to revive a slumbering CG goddess of fey. Whether my player wishes to join him or stop him will determine whether he's a bad guy or not.

On the opposite side, I am extremely fond of my nicest NPC ever, a Venerable, Lawful Good female gray elf, orphan matron, guardian of children and cute animals, helper of the helpless and defender of the weak, who just happens to be a hilariously powerful necromancer (the "Finger of Death/Energy Drain" kind, not the minionmancer kind). For an allied NPC, her build screams "BAD GUY" and yet she could out-saint any paladin or cleric in the setting.

Man on Fire
2013-04-04, 04:58 AM
I was only thinking RPG's, I'd never considered anime/manga villains. Raoh is a perfect example of a LE monk warlord. I've never read the manga, just seen the original anime, but there were several characters I think that could be considered LE monks. So would a few of the characters from Fushigi Yugi, and any number of other anime.

Now I want to have evil monks and BBEGuys...After Pathfinder I'm going to try DMing Lot5R.