View Full Version : Creating a BBEG

2011-08-21, 09:04 PM
I've been DMing for a few years now and I've also read the articles the Giant wrote in the Gaming section. Each new campaign/quest I prepare, I try and make my evils guys more interesting, the Giant helped with that as well as experience, but I always feel as if I could do better and I probably can! :smalltongue:

So I guess this is a general "How do build your BBEGs" thread!

I like to make my game as sandbox-y as possible and my players are nice in that they get invested in the world so I don't have to create a huge path with neons for them to do something. So I've recently been trying to have 3 BBEG in a campaign and have them do their business and leave clues to the players. It makes for nice quests since the players do what they chose to and they don't feel like I'm shoving the story up their throats, since really I'm not.

Sometimes a BBEG gets completely ignored and it makes for real fun scenarios cause I plan out what each BBEG will do, so they sometimes come to a village for help, only to learn they've been ransacked or worse. Sometimes villains will meet each other and team up. I've had 2 BBEGs kill fight each other and the main BBEG (the one my players took actions against) get killed, and I actually did that fight at home, cause I didn't want to chose, I just let things happen.

So, what do you do? Oh also, one thing I'm never sure how to handle is: When do I create the BBEG? With the method I've described before, I create them before the characters are done and adapt them to be scary and challenging depending on what the final party looks like. However, I am wondering if creating them after wouldn't be better.

2011-08-21, 09:51 PM
When and how you make your BBEG depends highly on the setting/campaign world. In pre-build campaign worlds, generic worlds and fluff-lite/"make as you go" worlds you can generally make the BBEG after the players make their characters and may not even have to stat him/her until your well into the campaign...after all, they are not going to face the boss at higher levels so by not statting him out you can spend your time building his underlings that they will face at low levels...

However, in many cases, I do the opposite. I tend to build worlds well before I even see character sheets and many times BBEGs tend to be big players in the lore, societies, politics, history ect.. of said world, and thus even if they are not fully state-ed their fluff is well developed before I have any character sheets. So..how much you make of them depends on their setting, really, though if your not going to stat them right off the bat I would at least have SOME fluff made before you see your players' sheets.

For some more help here are a few general tips about making BBEGs...

It's all in the Motive- A villain has to have a motive for their evil...aka a reason for why they do evil things. This dose not mean every villain has to have benevolent goals/must think their "saving" the world. Despite popular belief, greed, power-lust/world domination ect.. can all be played well if done right, but no matter what your villain should not do evil for the sake of doing evil. Even psychopaths and bloodthirsty murderers do what they do because they get a twisted pleasure out of it....not just to be evvviiiiiiilllll. The more interesting the motive, the more interesting the villain. Just remember, the best villains have something that makes them somewhat sympathetic...but also remember sympathetic dose =/= benevolent.

The greedy CEO who's just in it for money and nothing else can still be a "sympathetic" character since we all have dreams of having more then we do. The power-hungry world dominator can still be "sympathetic" because all of us have those moments in which we go "If I where in charge..." or wish we where the boss. A character need not have benevolent "I'm making the world better!" goals or be affable to be sympathetic....all that's required is something we can relate to or understand as a human quality that makes them more then just a cartoonish supervillain and instead a living, breathing human(or monsterous) being.

Fear Not the use of Tropes, Embrace It!- Tropes may be a bit funny at times, but they exist for a reason. Tropes are things everybody identifies with...they resonate with us all...after all, if they didn't then they would not be tropes...so this means that despite what some say, you should not be scared to have your villain embrace some villainous tropes. Let him have a good bout of evil laughter. Give him a ******* villainous monologue. Tropes are tried and true for a reason, so don't try and shy away from then because they are used often....

However, you should also use tropes wisely and put your own spin on them. While tropes resonate, they can also become cliche's if used wrong. The key to using tropes is putting your own interesting spin on them and playing them well. The evil laugh is great when it's timed well, but if you have your villain constantly evil laughing it up then it becomes cliche' very quickly. This also extends to visual looks, too...the black cloak wardrobe or a tin tyrant can both be done well, but to do so you have to give them a bit of flair or they just become "generic necromancer # 150."( See the Akatsuki organization from Naruto for a good example of a creative take on the black cloak wardrobe.) Remember this above all else when using tropes..use the tropes as a way to enhance the villain, give him some flair and make him resonate with your players, not as a way to build his total character.

Sometimes, Twists can be good- Plot twists are interesting. Plot twists involving the BBEG can be even more so. I find my most effective BBEGs had some kind of "surprise" factor connected to them. Having a major plot twist and/or "surprise factor" connected to your BBEG can make him far more memorable and is highly encouraged. Perhaps the court mage of the kingdom that you saved from an evil druid was the real BBEG the whole time, and the druid was actually not evil but trying to stop said villain and the artifact you stole from her and gave to the mage was the last thing he needed to complete his evil scheme. Maybe that spoiled brat prince you had to spend a whole quest babysitting is actually the 10,000 year old necromancer who gained eternal youth and is the master of the bone knight you thought was the leader of the undead army attacking the kingdom. No matter what the twist/surprise may be, such things really help to make a villain more memorable and interesting, which are things any big time BBEG should be

2011-08-21, 10:06 PM
I've taken a different tack, in my last two games... by creating BBEGs who aren't evil. They certainly have interests and motives out of wack with those of the PCs, at least through most of the campaign, and they don't subscribe to the PCs' ideas of how society/magical or ethnic guilds/municipal governments should work -- or maybe the BBEG wants the same thing that the PCs do, but is going about it in a radically different way... Either way, the PCs have to confront the possibility that they themselves don't have the whole story, or are picking the wrong kind of fight. And I prefer not resolving that...

It's a delicate balance, because you don't want your players to feel unsatisfied at the end of a campaign or story arc -- but I think it's okay for them to feel unsettled. A BBEG with some really compelling motives is a way to kick an RPG from the level of fun pastime to the level of thought provoking experiment...