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    Default A Sad Campaign

    hey guys, I am working on a campaign where it seems like good and evil are very clearly divided, but I really want it to be much more complicated as the group goes along. I've got a few ideas, like for instance the 'bandits' have actually been raiding and pillaging because they have sick and they are starving to death, etc etc. but the main problem i'm having is writers block with the 'bad guys' side. There is an evil queen who at one time was very revered and loved. Now she's basically like one of the chaos gods from warhammer. I want the party to start off saying 'YEAH, KICK THE EVIL QUEEN'S ASS!" and the closer they get to actually killing her I want them to feel sad about having to kill her, like killing her actually makes YOU the bad guy, even though she's slaughtered hundreds. Any ideas?

    (Btw I love this site because every time I get writers block or anything you guys really help out lol)

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    Well, suppose there is a mystical law to the land that there must be a balance between the forces of 'Good' and 'Evil' and breaking that balance has dire repercussions for reality. As such, Suppose the queen is faced with the dilemma to either let the balance of good and evil fall apart and have terrible things happen everywhere or try to maintain the impartial status quo so that everyone doesn't perish due to being nommed on by things from the Far Realms. Could even set it up that she regrets all of her actions but feels that it is the only way to do things.. A kind of tragic look at the Lawful Evil alignment if you think of it. For extra points, she could be calm and composed in public but the PCs could catch her in a private moment where she's a complete wreck over what she's done and has to do. Heck, if done right, she could have been at it so long that she's actually done Too well and the PCs are having to pull balance right back but in the end you could make them feel less like heroes and more like cogs in the vast good/evil calculation machine... Might make for a good higher level game after that if the Players want to see if they can make things to where this balance isn't necessary or something.

    Another thought is that it could be a deal with a demon who she sold her soul to for prosperity and now is basically puppeted by said demon even though she simply wanted to help her kingdom in what might have been a dire situation at the time.

    Anyway, hopefully that'll be of some help.
    Last edited by Terumitsu; 2012-09-24 at 04:36 PM.

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    If you want to make your players feel dirty and ashamed, you just need to look at their personalities. Everyone has some moral principle or other that you can trick their characters into violating. The problem is that it's easy to see through that kind of blatant emotional manipulation, so they'll be pissed at you IRL if you do it.

    In your shoes though, I would put grey in from the opposite direction. Rather than giving them an "evil queen" and then trying to get them to feel sad about killing her, why not have them start out liking the queen and then reluctantly realizing she needs to die. First impressions are powerful, so if you start her out as a kind generous patron who slowly begins to reveal her madness the PCs will be more conflicted than they would be seeing a villain feeding puppies and petting orphans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agumathebear View Post
    hey guys, I am working on a campaign where it seems like good and evil are very clearly divided, but I really want it to be much more complicated as the group goes along. I've got a few ideas, like for instance the 'bandits' have actually been raiding and pillaging because they have sick and they are starving to death, etc etc. but the main problem i'm having is writers block with the 'bad guys' side. There is an evil queen who at one time was very revered and loved. Now she's basically like one of the chaos gods from warhammer. I want the party to start off saying 'YEAH, KICK THE EVIL QUEEN'S ASS!" and the closer they get to actually killing her I want them to feel sad about having to kill her, like killing her actually makes YOU the bad guy, even though she's slaughtered hundreds. Any ideas?

    (Btw I love this site because every time I get writers block or anything you guys really help out lol)
    Make the players sympathetic? Make it obvious that the queen didn't become evil in a vaccuum. Make her the victim in some way. Maybe she's cracking under the pressure of some major state secret (a la Fable 3, as much as I hate invoking that name). Maybe she is flailing to live up to the legacy of her predecessors. Maybe she's the puppet of an evil court. Maybe a curse has been twisting her words all this time. Things like that.

    Or, you can make it obvious that while she must be killed she is in no way responsible for all of this. Perhaps she has spent the last <time> in a deep, fitful sleep. Each and every one of her orders has been some magical manifestation of the interpretation of her will through her nightmares. She can't be roused, and the kingdom won't fall, and this can't be stopped-- except through her death.

    Basically, the best way to make the players regret killing the queen is to make her a captive, metaphorical or not. Also, a child queen. A bit of a cheap shot to do that, but an effective one (especially if any of your players are parents or plan to be).
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    As I'm fresh after readin Vinland Saga, I would suggest "curse Of The Crown". therefore warning, rest of my post contains unmarked spoilers to Vinland Saga.

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    There is a moment in Vinlad Saga where evil king talks about Curse Of The Crown. I don't mean literal curse, it's rather "power corrupts" kind of thing - everyone who takes the crown starts with noble goals. The king exiled his own father, cruel tyrant, for good of the kingdom. But once he took the crown, it started taking control over him, forcing him to obey it's commands. Crown gives only two commands - "secure the power you already have" and "aquire more power". Every king needs to follow these commands, for good of the kingdom. For it the king has committed various atrocities and manipulations, waging war and sending his younger son to die in the battlefield, to end political games between fractions wanting his succesion and those supporting the firstborn. These experiences changed the boy and he returned, vengeful and willing to kill his evil father and then build the utopia on Earth. but once his father was dead and he had become king himself, he couldn't overcoem the curse of the crown, commiting various terrible things in order to build his utopia.

    Now imagine his history applied to your Queen. Second daughter of the King, timid, shy and easy to push around, perfect for manipulation. Many in the courtship preffered to se her taking the crown, rather than her older, smarter and mode adult, Sister. Her only friend was a Knight assigned as her bodyguard, more of a father than King ever was.

    One day she was ordered by the King to take control of one of his newly trained military units and sent straight into the front lines, right into the place where the enemy resistance was the worst. It was a diseaster, in first battle they were ripped apart and she would have died back then, wasn't it forKnight's taking blade destined for her.

    Heavily wounded, she was saved by old cleric, so devastated by the war he lost his faith, now seeing world as devoid of love and peace, where innocents die and gods do nothing. He liked to talk and she had a lot of time, while he was nursing her back to health. it had changed her perception of the world - once devoted follower of the gods, now she hated them. "they are up there, watching as we suffer and die every day. That's unforgivable", she wrote in her diary many months later. She made a wow back then - to create Utopia on Earth, place where everybody are safe and happy. And, as such accomplishment would be seen as good in the eyes of the gods, so once she will die and they will invite her to join them in afterlife, she wants to stand in front of them and tell proudly "I don't need your paradise. Nobody needs. We have one on Earth.".

    Once she returned back to health, she hired mecenary band and returned to the battlefields. Presumed death, taught art of war by mecenaries leader, she turned the tides of war. Once she returned home, she did it as war hero, "Princess of Miracless" they called her, for she turned defeat into victory. There she joined web of intrigues, plotting to kill her wicked father, unloving tyrant she finally realized he was. it took years and reuqired a lot of work, but in the end she managed to assassinate him and then killed the assassin, and crowned herself.

    She and her sister divided the kingdom between themselves and for first years she was benevolent ruler, especially compared with her father. But as the time passed, she started to prepare for turning her kingdom into Utopia of her dreams, first by destroying all nearly threats, be it through war or poison. She had even poisoned her own sister and took over her kingdom. But raising an army is expensive, so she had to increase the taxes and even confiscate many goods. Many people were accused of heresy or treason and their riches confiscated, whoever would be an obstacle, no matter how low or high his position would be. And she keept reaching futher with her armies and intrigues, conquering kingdom after kingdom. She had become as bad as her father, if not worse in many ways. How fitting that the only one she can be really honest with is his own ghost, haunting her at nights.

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    An interesting concept you could lift from a Japanese light novel I've read recently.

    The "evil" Queen has come to the conclusion through logical deduction that by only by creating and maintaining a conflict with the human lands was their a possibility to bind them together and improve the welfare of all from the egregious deprivations, waste, and atrocities of the intermittent wars in the region

    Were she to end the war or be killed, some few would be saved temporarily. However, they would soon face conflict on a far bloodier scale than anything she was perpetrating. With countless soldiers who've known nothing but war filing back into their lands, and the accords which ensured cooperation while dealing with a common foe null and void, it will only be a matter of time before the renewal of conflict.

    Likewise the "evil" Queen's own kingdom would dovetail into civil war, the victor of which will likely be truly evil. In a few months time, after an untold number of death which follow in war's wake, the Queen's land will be united again under a tyrant and start conquering in earnest. In that sense, securing her own position and fighting an endless but relatively unambitious conflict with her neighbours is as self-serving as it's altruistic.

    The Kings of these kingdoms she has been assaulting are at least partly aware of their situation and are in genuine horror of that which awaits them in the ante bellum period. Thus they make great displays of demonizing this Queen and sending lionized heroes and adventurers in to take her head with promises of vast rewards, expecting them to fail.

    That your heroes succeed is something of an apocalypse.

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    Alright, lemme start off this post by explaining how not to do this:

    - Do NOT give the villain some sobstory for a background that is supposed to make the PCs feel pity for her. "Daddy raped me so now I'm a mass murderer for some reason" simply does not hold up as a motivation for a villain, and your players will see through it. Not to mention that it's distastefully cliche, and in some cases awfully disrespectful of the actual victims of these sorts of things. (There's a reason the "I WAS RAPED!!!" card has its own TVTropes page)

    - Do NOT create some sort of absurd circumstance that makes the villain's horrible atrocities somehow justified. "But I HAVE to slaughter kittens and devour their souls, it's the only thing that can keep Little Susie's artificial heart running!" Not only does it seem forced but it's also lazy. Not every antagonist has to be a scenery-chewing destroyer of worlds. Be more creative! Making her more down to earth will not only make her more believable as a human being, but easier to empathize with as a result.


    Finally, I have one more piece of advice: If you create an antagonist your players can sympathize with, don't be surprised when they actually do. Writing your campaign with this sort of villain that's pre-scripted that the players side against her in every way, shape, and form, simply does not work: The entire point is that siding against her is a difficult moral decision, and is not an obvious "Well, duh." If siding with the antagonist is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, then your players might do just that. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, it's just something you need to be prepared for.

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    Read up on Arthurian legends, Greek tragedies, and modern fantasy literature that seek to emulate them (Song of Ice and Fire and Wheel of Time come to mind for me). Watch Dreamwork's The Prince of Egypt. Ramses was a helluva sympathetic villain in that movie.

    But here's a couple ideas you can heat and eat:

    1. The queen knows something the players don't. For example, a reliable oracle announces that a male child born on a particular day will destroy the kingdom. The queen then orders soldiers to wipe out all the children born on that day.

    2. The queen is bound by contradictory moral imperatives in her society and has no choice but to act abominably in one regard in order to remain honorable in the other. See: Robb Stark in a Song of Ice and Fire (if you haven't read it, beware of looking this up, it'll be major spoiler). Suggestions for moral imperatives include: protecting the kingdom against an external threat, honoring hospitality rules, upholding an oath, honoring a law or decree made by a previous or higher ruler, religious obligations, upholding a feud, and so on.

    3. Here's an ever-popular one. The queen thinks humanity are all bastards, and does not think being a "good" ruler is the same as being a "loved" ruler. The kicker is, of course, that people *are* all bastards in your setting.

    4. Stop focusing on how you'll make the queen a tragic character, and focus instead on how you'll compel the players to be tragic characters. The way I see it, you're trying to effect a sad tone in your story, but you're limiting yourself to using the villain to do so. That's like trying to lift a table by holding up one leg. Many things must contribute to the story to get a good sad feeling, from the setting to the presentation, to the other characters. Maybe what you're looking for isn't a villain that the players will feel sorry about killing, but a setting with a history of horrifying violence and treachery (bonus points if you can Heart of Darkness it and immerse your players in the insanity).

    edit: And I forgot my number one tip for adding drama to your campaign: Don't let the characters talk too much! Players will always try to cajole, compromise, and jury-rig up nonviolent win-win solutions every time you want to create conflict. Conflicts, especially those between different forces of good (or at least neutral), are the lifeblood of tragedy - don't let the players dodge out on them!
    Last edited by Vitruviansquid; 2012-09-25 at 04:23 AM.
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    For ambigous evil, I really like the recent Bioware settings Dragon Age and Mass Effect. All the factions have goals that are threatening to other factions and play with powers that are quite dangerous, but oppinions are very divided on which one are worth it when handled safely and which ones are just to dangerous to be working with.
    The result is, that you end up with lots of groups who are doing very extreme things because they believe the actions of their enemies threaten their own survival, even if the other groups do not intend to cause any harm.

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    In Dragon Age, all mages are at risk of being possessed by demons and turn into monsters, with the chance increasingly significantly when they let demons teach them magical secrets.
    This was considered such a great danger that the church created the Templar Order to watch all mages and prevent them from doing any business with demons, and also to kill all that become possessed. To be effective, all mages need to be registered and kept in the official guilds. Mages who try to hide are captured and held at the guilds, but those who repeatedly try to flee are regarded as being of exceptional high risk to be tempted by demons. So they are garded even more closely and the more radical Templars don't take any risk and execute them before a demon can possess them.
    And of course that makes even more mages wanting to get out and considering more drastic measures to escape the templars. And then you have also those mages who are okay with the guilds but suffer the Templar opression because the rogue mages put the Templar on edge all the time.
    However, the church is split in two main denomination and the other one has mages as the ruling priest-caste, which is heresy to the other group.
    And then there is also a race gypsy elves who escaped from slavery and are not just heathens, which is bad enough, but their shamans are also mages. And they rather die than allowing humans to put their religious leaders in internment camps run by the church.
    And there is another civilization in the deep north, who are buddhist communists with the sacred mission to spread their philosophy of doing exactly the job fate has made one best suited for to the whole world. And while they believe that anyone born with magic is destined to be a mage and has the duty to use his powers, their treatment of mages is even more drastic than that of the templars. And they make no secret at all that they consider it their sacred duty to eradicate the superstitions of all other religions.
    So it's no suprise that the world is full of people perfectly willing to kill and torture a lot to keep the world they know safe.


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    In Mass Effect, a race of alien insects threatened to conquer the galaxy, so the advanced races searched for the best warrior race they could find and gave them all the weapons and spaceships they needed to deal with the threat. But then they had a race from an extremely harsh and dangerous planet that now had virtually eliminated their massive infant mortality rate, and all they loved was to make war.
    To keep them in check, the Science-Aliens created a virus that would cause infertility and a huge rate of genetically caused infant mortality to threaten the Violence-Aliens into obedience.
    Unfortunately, the Military-Aliens approached every conflict with massive scale preemtive attacks to make their enemies unable to fight before the war really starts and didn't really get the idea of "deterance". Once they were given the virus, they immediately used it.
    A thousand years later the Violent-Aliens are close to extinction and neither the Science-Aliens nor the Military-Aliens regret anything. You can't have a race of 300 kilo aliens with almost instantaneous healing rates, that survives well on it's own homeworld it turned into a radioactive wasteland, and that reproduces ten times faster than any other species, and have them cruising around space on the constant lookout for something to destroy.
    But the Science-Aliens are constantly monitoring the virus and modify it to keep infant mortality and miscarriages stable at 1%. Using bioweapons to annihilate the race would be genocide, and that would be wrong!
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    "Justifiable Evil" is a good place to look. When the players start to understand the reasons for why the antagonists do what they do, it throws off their sense of perception.

    Now if you want sad, I did this once to my players--
    I ran a campaign where the players were fighting a Lich and his minions for control of a war-torn nation. At one point the players learned where the lich hid his phylactery and went after it. They get to it first, but find out it wasn't an object. The lich built his phylactery into a little girl.
    So... do they let the girl live and thus can't defeat the lich the normal way, or do they kill the innocent girl for the greater good of saving the nation?

    The PCs choose the later. Boy that was the hollowest victory they ever felt.
    After that campaign the players told me that I was both an evil jerk and a brilliant story teller.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DigoDragon View Post
    "Justifiable Evil" is a good place to look. When the players start to understand the reasons for why the antagonists do what they do, it throws off their sense of perception.

    Now if you want sad, I did this once to my players--
    I ran a campaign where the players were fighting a Lich and his minions for control of a war-torn nation. At one point the players learned where the lich hid his phylactery and went after it. They get to it first, but find out it wasn't an object. The lich built his phylactery into a little girl.
    So... do they let the girl live and thus can't defeat the lich the normal way, or do they kill the innocent girl for the greater good of saving the nation?

    The PCs choose the later. Boy that was the hollowest victory they ever felt.
    After that campaign the players told me that I was both an evil jerk and a brilliant story teller.
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    ...That's a hard one to top. But here's my couple of coppers anyway.

    If you've got a magical enough setting, you could work in a Fisher King type element. Which gives you a couple of things to play with:

    An evil, corrupt land with an evil, corrupt queen - which causes the other? The queen may have become evil because of the land. The Throne must be filled, and the next one who comes along will go the dark path as well. (This is where the eternal optimist in me would throw in some quest...mission...thing... to undo the evil and save the queen, but that's not where you're going. So even if you fix the land, the queen is still evil, still gotta kill her.)

    Another way to play with this is not the link between land and ruler, but land and person. Queen Evil-as-all-get-out, but when she dies, so does the land. Whole thing turns into a wasteland, and everybody born there dies (returning as horde of undead optional). Having the queen eat babies to remain immortal would have a "good" purpose here. Added pain if it wasn't all that bad, fairly prosperous, and other than whatever scheme the players are thwarting, it's a positive overall influence for the world. Bonus points if one or more of the characters grew up there, or have some significant loved ones (or other beloved NPCs) who were.

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    The war campaign that my friend is going to run revolves around an evil prince/princess who hopes to become a god. Ultimately though she is understandable because the whole world (or at least this one material plane) is in an endless free for all. Sure she might kill thousands while uniting the plane, but it will end the war and save thousands more in the end. The whole "becoming a god via the people's worship" is just her reward at the end of the day.

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    Speaking of Sad Campaing, I remember I once saw chart of "unusual random ecounters". I remember only one of them. It's a Gorgon. A Gorgon turned into the stone, with her hands gentely touching her face, which itself smiles in happyness. She is standing in front of mirror. She just wanted to see how she looks like.

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    To make a "good" evil, you can start him off with some good intention, like serving his country, or doing battle against Evil. Then make him really determined to make it happen, no matter what. Nothing will stand in his way, not walls, not mountains, not monsters, not people, and not "petty" morals either.

    An example I just posted to another thread is maximizing Good and minimizing Evil. Tieflings and Orcs are Usually Evil, so you would think it would do a lot of good to replace them with better species (like Elves and Aasimar), right? And even if erasing them is short term evil, the long term will have less evil because Orcs aren't pillaging your caravans or eating people, so it's an okay thing to do. Congratulations: you now have a working, if controversial, justification for doing some pretty sick ****.

    Also, exterminating villages because they might be harboring violent extremists. Is it right? Is it wrong? Who knows! Even better if the guys who authorized it are drowning their sorrows in alcohol, attempt redemption, and invite the PCs to put them out of their misery.


    EDIT: Another thing that can make you feel bad is mindlessly slaughtering soldiers (who, naturally, desperately beg for mercy, scream about their families, appeal to he PCs sense of humanity) for a really long time, then coming to their town and realizing how many widows you created, how many children you turned into starving/crying orphans. Make the town almost identical to the one the PCs were familiar with, except desolate and full of mourning women.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2012-09-25 at 12:45 PM.
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    By level 20 though, you aren't capturing a wizard. A character lives to level 20 by being the most ruthless, lucky, capable, and paranoid bastard around. A wizard is throwing around a 30+ Int score and has, entirely in character, planned contingencies for his contingencies. He may well be running around with flat out total immunity to harm, he does not walk outside without an entire bevy of defensive magics around him and enough magic items to buy himself a nation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    EDIT: Another thing that can make you feel bad is mindlessly slaughtering soldiers (who, naturally, desperately beg for mercy, scream about their families, appeal to he PCs sense of humanity) for a really long time, then coming to their town and realizing how many widows you created, how many children you turned into starving/crying orphans. Make the town almost identical to the one the PCs were familiar with, except desolate and full of mourning women.
    Y'know, I always try to make killing an exception on campaigns I run. You have to specifically kill someone for them to be dead, -1 and so just represent unable or unwilling to continue fighting. I tend to make this explicitly clear as well.

    My players always kill everything anyway.

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    Here's a thought.

    The queen is the victim. Hear me out. She's not actually the one that's running the corrupt government. She's just a figurehead, but the politician(s) actually pulling the strings successfully lay all the blame squarely on her feet. Worse, the actual evil party(s) have, through some sort of plot device (magic, ancient law, political machination, etc), made killing the queen anyway an absolute necessity.

    Dealer's choice whether she lays down her life with dignity, for the greater good, or forces the party to murder her, also for the greater good.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-26 at 12:41 AM.
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    Villains with sob stories who used to be super good don't, in my experience, garner much real sympathy. Neither do villains who believe they are acting for the greater good. Villains who are legitimately insane, though, like, they are actually delusional not in a delusions of grandeur way but in a 'does not actually perceive the real world' sort of way can garner sympathy if their particular brand of crazy does not cause them to be murderous psychopaths.
    Last edited by SowZ; 2012-09-26 at 12:57 AM.
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    So I got wondering how would I handle this?

    Lets assume the Queen assumed the throne and isn't considered the legitimate heir BUT whilst the nation is in turmoil, it isn't because of her but because her so-called loyal vassals are deliberately causing this so they can get her removed off the throne and assume it themselves of course since only one of them can do so that leaves the rest to restart the mess and then repeat...

    However the Queen is actually of royal blood however because of the strife cause by the real enemies nobody realises this and her death if she leaves no issue of her own means an ancient seal will be broken releasing an ancient evil which will show what real darkness is and no way to avoid the complete collapse of civilisation since noone remains who knows what happened the last time this happened.

    Hmm, the Queen is actually trying to rule wisely and well, but her vassals are deliberately altering and abusing their authority in her name and those that should be telling her of this are keeping quiet because they're just as evil and power hungry as her vassals.

    Now the real quest is for your PCs to discover this and instead of assassinating her, they have to rescue her since she is more important alive than their greed and loyalty to their nation, can your heroes do the right thing?
    Will they be willing to stand against the true evil and be willing to walk away from the one sure path to power if knowing that gaining that power will only lead to their eventual defeat as the next vassal will kill them to assume their place?
    Last edited by Hopeless; 2012-09-26 at 05:16 AM.

  20. - Top - End - #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by SowZ View Post
    No resurrection in your setting?
    Nope, I wanted death to be meaningful so I limited it to divine intervention and even then it only happened twice in the entirety of the 4-year running campaign.
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    I think the best way to do this is what you suggested- allow the characters to gradually learn about her. It doesn't have to be anything cliched or that would demonstrate her as being an epitome of good (you probably don't want them to change their mind about killing her) but mainly to humanise her.

    Let them find her old playhouse. From someone else they find a favored toy she had to give up (something like a ragdoll or other ordinary girl's toy) and a story along with how she cherished it.

    Maybe there are clues in a diary she had at some point, along with other "filler" that would be typical of a young woman of the age when she wrote it. Maybe it includes something about an aranged marriage that she was as concerned about.

    Then there is the old king that she truly loved (yet more stories and diary fragments) and how she was not the same after he died. A raid on a castle estate is foiled and she escapes, but she leaves behind some clearly treasured possessions, including seperate images of the old king (evidence that she still misses him dearly) and a child that the party were unaware of.


    They raid her castle again, and this time they get her cornered, almost everyone in the castle remains loyal to her (and those that don't should be as unlikeable as possilbe) and refer to the characters as 'hired killers' (since they clearly are).

    By the time they finally face her they know her whole life story, they've known her since she grew up and you can get some cheap points by the mysterious child saying "don't hurt my mommy!" and running to her.

    She might be the almighty ruler of a great empire, but without her armies and minions she is very small and vulnerable. Maybe she breaks down and begs for mercy, maybe she puts on a brave face, but she knows she is doomed.

    Obviously, this isn't going to help much if you focus too much on her atrocities and don't give her some justification or redeeming features; the closer they get to her, the further they should get from the crimes that lead her on the path and the characters actions should begin to resemble hers.


    TL;DR get the players to empathise with her. The more she resembles a living, breathing woman and the less she resembles a stereotyped evil villan, the more impact the 'assassination' will have on them.

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    I recommend you read Watchmen, If you haven't already. I don't want to spoil you, but it is pertinent to this case.

    Essentially, you must ensure your villain has reasonable logic, and is undertaking actions a normal, if overzealous, person may take.
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    Quote Originally Posted by falloutimperial View Post
    Essentially, you must ensure your villain has reasonable logic, and is undertaking actions a normal, if overzealous, person may take.
    Humanize him too.

    Maybe the villain openly regrets what he "had to do", and felt like he had no choice in the matter... but he still knows in his heart that he's working for the greater good, and sacrificing his purity merely raised the stakes. Or perhaps in the end, he commits suicide before the PCs arrive, preferring death to humiliation.

    The villain might identify with a community or in-group (a state, family, tribe, religion, species, nation, etc), and think of himself as protecting it against some external threat. He's no more wrong than them -After all, they would have done the same, given the chance.

    Having a range of emotion could help him, like grieving over the minions he sent to be slaughtered by the PCs, visiting their graves, and consoling the families. Obviously, it has to be raining at the burial.

    The group which the PCs have been fighting might consider the PCs monsters or boogeymen. Maybe a widow walks up with tears in her eyes as though to say something, only to break down crying into a companion's arms a moment later, to be carried away, with hostile glares directed at the PCs all the while.

    He might sponsor charities, and have a family which he loves and treats well. Perhaps the PCs might encounter him before he's established as an enemy, when he's doing something mundane like lecturing a child or nephew ("Stealing is wrong. People who steal grow up and become bad men. Now go back and apologize, or else I'm not taking you to the fair next week"), tending a garden, or practicing an instrument, or praying at church.
    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor Tippy View Post
    By level 20 though, you aren't capturing a wizard. A character lives to level 20 by being the most ruthless, lucky, capable, and paranoid bastard around. A wizard is throwing around a 30+ Int score and has, entirely in character, planned contingencies for his contingencies. He may well be running around with flat out total immunity to harm, he does not walk outside without an entire bevy of defensive magics around him and enough magic items to buy himself a nation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DigoDragon View Post
    "Justifiable Evil" is a good place to look. When the players start to understand the reasons for why the antagonists do what they do, it throws off their sense of perception.

    Now if you want sad, I did this once to my players--
    I ran a campaign where the players were fighting a Lich and his minions for control of a war-torn nation. At one point the players learned where the lich hid his phylactery and went after it. They get to it first, but find out it wasn't an object. The lich built his phylactery into a little girl.
    So... do they let the girl live and thus can't defeat the lich the normal way, or do they kill the innocent girl for the greater good of saving the nation?

    The PCs choose the later. Boy that was the hollowest victory they ever felt.
    After that campaign the players told me that I was both an evil jerk and a brilliant story teller.
    If I were in that campaign, I'd try to imprison the lich for about a century, and leave mystical clues for the next generation of adventurers to kill him after phylactery-girl had grown old and died.
    R.I.P.

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    You you might take a look at some of the Miyazaki films. Off the top of my head, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke all have "sympathetic" villains. The key is to not make them caricatures. Very few people who are villains have world domination as their goal, and even the ones that do, historically believe they are doing so for the greater good, not for chaos. Don't go for the sobbing back story, just give them a perfectly logical reason to be the enemy of whoever the local good force is, and let your players discover that.

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    EvilClericGuy

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    Or you can go the whole revolutionary road. The queen is a queen; therefore a monarchist. Make the people trying to overthrow her revolutionary republicans.

    She is a conservative trying to defend the status quo. She knows if she fails that the lives of her friends and family are almost certainly forfeit. Her reign is deeply unjust and repressive, the civil authority is dominated by nepotism and blatant corruption at all levels; she doesn't see what the problem is and thinks all the demands for reform are unreasonable direct threats against her sovereignty.

    The revolutionaries are a mixture of angry and idealistic young men and bitter, cynical and world weary old men. They are merciless and place their ideals above and beyond human lives (and not just their own). If they win there will either be a free for all as interested parties attempt to fill the massive power vacuum, an invasion when the neighboring powers use the revolution as casus belli, finally perhaps a reign of terror as the unstable new regime systematical eliminate anyone it perceives as a threat (probably starting with the party).

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    The agents of Chaos ensorcelled the King (her father) to beget a child that they could manipulate, using a dark ritual at her conception. When she became of age & took the throne, they used her as a gateway to send an agent of evil to the mortal realm, she is possessed by this unholy creature, it exists only inside her (maybe it can manifest into a horribly vile demon from the Outer Realm), but not always (though she as long given up on fighting it's control) As the gateway for this creature, if she dies it dies. That is the only way to save her from the corruption of her birth, & to bring peace to the land.

    (Think Ben & Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blightedmarsh View Post
    Or you can go the whole revolutionary road. The queen is a queen; therefore a monarchist. Make the people trying to overthrow her revolutionary republicans.

    She is a conservative trying to defend the status quo. She knows if she fails that the lives of her friends and family are almost certainly forfeit. Her reign is deeply unjust and repressive, the civil authority is dominated by nepotism and blatant corruption at all levels; she doesn't see what the problem is and thinks all the demands for reform are unreasonable direct threats against her sovereignty.

    The revolutionaries are a mixture of angry and idealistic young men and bitter, cynical and world weary old men. They are merciless and place their ideals above and beyond human lives (and not just their own). If they win there will either be a free for all as interested parties attempt to fill the massive power vacuum, an invasion when the neighboring powers use the revolution as casus belli, finally perhaps a reign of terror as the unstable new regime systematical eliminate anyone it perceives as a threat (probably starting with the party).
    You could make the queen an even more tragic figure--perhaps, despite being oppressive, she is actually trying to lighten up, but the dynastic history of oppression has made the people too angry to see that.
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    EvilClericGuy

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    Or she is trying to reform but that is what all the furor is about (real life example; the Shar of Persia was overthrown in the Iranian revolution for being too progressive).,

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    Quote Originally Posted by agumathebear View Post
    hey guys, I am working on a campaign where it seems like good and evil are very clearly divided, but I really want it to be much more complicated as the group goes along. I've got a few ideas, like for instance the 'bandits' have actually been raiding and pillaging because they have sick and they are starving to death, etc etc. but the main problem i'm having is writers block with the 'bad guys' side. There is an evil queen who at one time was very revered and loved. Now she's basically like one of the chaos gods from warhammer. I want the party to start off saying 'YEAH, KICK THE EVIL QUEEN'S ASS!" and the closer they get to actually killing her I want them to feel sad about having to kill her, like killing her actually makes YOU the bad guy, even though she's slaughtered hundreds. Any ideas?

    (Btw I love this site because every time I get writers block or anything you guys really help out lol)
    Find stories where people take a well-known story or a fairy-tale, and describe the other side of the story. Two great examples:

    Neil Gaiman: "Snow, Glass, Apples"

    Gregory McGuire: Wicked, also available as a musical, which starts with people celebrating the death of its protagonist.

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