View Full Version : How to manage a PC as a hidden Villain?

2012-01-19, 06:38 AM
Hello Playground,
I've recently started a group up of absolutely new players, and got some great plot lines from their characters to use down the road. One recently said to me I'n private after the session is that he wants to eventually become a steadily more evil character until he flat put becomes a villain at one point.
This is an idea I like, and don't want to deny this, however this seems complicated to run for the first time and want to get your advice on how I could make this work. The character is a chaotic good wizard who'll slowly slip to CE, and quests for Ultimate Arcane Power as his villainous shtick.
Please help Playground!

2012-01-19, 07:06 AM
Oh I did this with the party magic-user too. It is really fun and when you both do a villainous reveal you feel absolutely diabolical

2012-01-19, 01:32 PM
Make sure the player understands that when he becomes the villain, the party will likely try to kill him, and possibly succeed.
Also, if you think the party won't be able to handle it OOC, like when he turns, if he manages to off 1 of them, that hurt feelings won't happen.

There's a reason why many DMs have a rule of 'no PvP'.

2012-01-19, 01:49 PM
I pulled this off once in a Star Wars campaign. Everyone had "secret" story element they were to keep hidden for their own safety until they thought it was the right time to say it. The real reason it worked, is that we are all really close friends so no one go mad when the story was reveled. The "Villian" made his presence known right before the final battle, it turned out pretty epic over all. They player also knew he would likely die and was ok with it. I wouldn't suggest it for new players, it took a good amount of planning and forethought not to be cause without meta gaming.

2012-01-19, 03:10 PM
Since everyone's new anyway, you might want to take the opportunity to establish note-passing or the like as a way to handle players doing things the others wouldn't know about. You'll probably have to be somewhat proactive with it with the other players, so no one gets suspicious that you and the player in question are passing an inordinately large number of notes.

You'll probably want to talk with the player before-hand regarding exactly how you're going to handle this. In addition to the "expect the party to try and probably succeed at killing you when the turn occurs" point mentioned above, it might be a good idea to say that when the reveal occurs, control of that character switches to you. This should make it clear that this is a planned aspect of the story and the new villain is a legitimate enemy and challenge to overcome, not just a player going PvP.

And myself, I just think the impact of the reveal of the PC as a villain would be underscored by the player officially handing the sheet over to the DM. I dunno, maybe just me.

If you do go that route, you might also want to ensure the player has a backup character available. One way to do this would be to design an allied NPC basically to the player's specifications, who shows up periodically to help/advise/support/whatever the party. Not a DMPC that accompanies them, just a generally helpful recurring character. Let the player have some degree of control over that character's personality, actions, story, etc (not directly, but through notes or discussing that the character will be appearing in the session and what generally it should do that session, etc). Then when the player's original character turns, the player has a ready-made backup that the party should hopefully already have a connection to to fill in.

2012-01-19, 04:15 PM
Private conversations and note passing are probably the way to go.

My group all plays with lap tops so we usually use trillian or skype or something similar to talk to the DM without others seeing/hearing. This is typically a lot less noticeable and suspicious than passing notes but I do know that a lot of groups have no-laptop policies to YMMV.

I did this once with my favorite character ever. Rory Greenholme, a Halfling Unseen Seer and mercenary/thief-for-hire working for one of the campaign's BBEG's who was hunting the party. Rory's brother was kidnapped by the BBEG and in order to secure his release Rory agreed to infiltrate the party and steer them in the direction of the BBEG.

I had every intention of going through with the betrayal too but he and the party's halfling druid turned out to be kindred spirits and became very good friends. He ended up playing the double agent to the BBEG and managed to make it all the way to the final battle before the party found out I had originally planned to betray them. Queue one touching speech on discovering real friendship and one toasted BBEG later, we all walked off into the sunset.

Of course I informed the DM ahead of time that Rory would not be going through with the betrayal. As much fun as it seems to surprise your DM campaigns tend to go a lot smoother if you let them in on your plans.

2012-01-19, 04:38 PM
I have been playing since 1980 and I have had one hard and fast rule that has stood the test of time;

Player vs. player is good for video games, but bad for D&D.

This game is supposed to be fun for everyone and having your PC killed by another player is usually not fun and will lead to hurt feelings regardless of the maturity of the players. This game is set up as a collaborative effort of players against a common advisary. PvP will usually be viewed as a betrayal.

However, being evil does not mean you will betray your friends. A person that commits heinous actions can love and defend his friends and family. I would stress that to the player. They can persue their quest for power without sacrificing the party and the reveal can be having the party notice the wizards degrading morals and call them on it.

2012-01-19, 07:18 PM

Put that idea away!

Don't do it!

Forget the idea was ever mentioned!

La! La! La! La!

Setting up one player to work secretly against the others, especially with new players, fail completely. The game will be ruined.

2012-01-19, 07:46 PM
if characters still are low level and will get high level later i think falling goes quite naturally with power wizard gains..

first the good wizard, casting support spells for others so they wouldn't get hurt and could defeat the foe

2nd phase , instead just supporting own team now wizard takes more active role in combat.

3rd phase. fireballs when possible harming as many enemies as possible without dangering friends.

4th commanding 'friends' to get hell out of way so he can take care of enemies

5th screw them.

2012-01-19, 11:22 PM
Make sure the rest of the party is okay with this otherwise they'll just kill the PC who decides they can kill anyone and justify it with "No, I'm evil now so it's okay," to which they respond "But we're still good so this is okay."

Lonely Tylenol
2012-01-20, 06:48 AM
Take a page from Vaarsuvius' storybook on this one, only instead of snapping to his senses and coming back a redeemed person, when the party reunites with their wizard, he's a wrecking ball of untamable evil. That's actually a good motivation: you have a BBEG, who you're not powerful enough to beat. Over the course of adventuring, the wizard realizes that he's still not powerful enough, and begins to feel like the rest of the party is getting in the way (see Daer's post, above), causing rising tension between him and the rest. After a few near-misses and internal struggles between the wizard and the rest of the party, the wizard flies off the handle and leaves in a huff so the party will stop "holding him back").

Off-screen, the wizard trains intensively, but all paths to true power lead to acts of unspeakable evil (a fact you may allude to while he is in the party, or which may be foreshadowed by his actions), and eventually, he gives in and picks one. Then, with a trump card under his belt, he goes to confront the BBEG and... Well, what happens then is up to you. He could kill the BBEG, thus completing his task, but realize the wealth of resources BBEG had at his disposal and assume control for himself; or he could kill the BBEG and trap his soul for more power, causing BBEG's personality to manifest on occasion (use the intelligent item rules for this), or he could just make him an undead slave; or he could enter into a partnership with BBEG, becoming a general of his evil army; or he could try and fight him and lose (or just realize outright that he isn't strong enough anyway) and take up an apprenticeship under the BBEG.

Keep in mind that some of these options allow you (or he) to subvert the betrayal later on, turning on the BBEG when it's least expected and possibly delivering the killing blow in this fashion. If this happens, it's up to you (or he) to decide if the wizard is actually good masquerading as evil, or just a greater evil than the BBEG.

2012-01-20, 01:47 PM
The biggest potential for hang-ups that I see is that many players cannot do "subtle" very well. Frankly I'm not that great at it myself.

So the issue is that rather than a slow process of slipping into evil step by step, you're likely to end up with a character who rescues orphans from a burning building one day and advocates stabbing them for gits and shiggles the next. Even if your evil-to-be player can pull it off, your other players might not pick up on the signs because as newbies, they are concentating alot of their own characters rather than everyone else, so they'll miss the subtelty, and it will FEEL like a big *WHAM* moment.

If you decide to go ahead anyway, the note-passing thing is a decent way to keep in communication, and here's a good cover story: Spot and Listen checks. Most DMs just tell a player, out loud, what they see or hear, so the whole group finds out anyway, but in one campaign several players where part-time enemies, so they wouldn't be sharing information, and forced the DM to pass all info via notes, so they (the players) could decide what to share and what to withhold. It made the game run a little slower, but it worked.
Tell your group this is what you're doing (maybe even sell it as "trying for realism" if you want) and that way you can get secret info to your EPC (Evil Player Character) without arrousing to much suspicion.

2012-01-20, 04:58 PM
Have it start with using evil spells for a just cause after taking a dead necromancer's spellbook.

First with useful combat spells when they would be useful, like enervation or wrack.

Then with animating corpses and other evil acts but only when necessary: The party paladin dies and no one can lift the corpse with all his armour on? Animate him, and make him walk on his own. The group's horse dies on their way somewhere? Animate it. They can't carry all their stuff on there own, can they? Recurring villain? Hit them with contagion.

Eventually his character should start sinking into actual with unnecessary killing. It could start with partially justifiable things, like the orc's women and children, or killing and soul binding the recurring villains, and stuff like that. Then it would go to killing the bystanders, shooting the messengers, murdering those kids that were playing ball next to the inn noisily and stopping him from sleeping and refreshing his spell slots, the like.

Make sure he roleplays his intelligence: even when he becomes completely evil he has no reason to start kicking puppies (Unless the puppy has a golden collar or something). He might even spare some of the PC's (after turning on them while they're weakened) because of their former friendship.

2012-01-21, 09:42 AM

Put that idea away!

Don't do it!

Forget the idea was ever mentioned!

La! La! La! La!

Setting up one player to work secretly against the others, especially with new players, fail completely. The game will be ruined.

Let me just make brief mention of the WATCHMEN role-playing game from back when: the GC is supposed to keep going into another room to hash stuff out with the guy playing the Comedian; it's mentioned that this will probably make the other players irritated and suspicious, and for once that's actually the point: it'd be downright out of character for them to trust each other and work together, such that any failed team-up should be ruined before it really gets off the ground.

2012-01-22, 09:58 PM
dead necromancer's spellbook.


2012-01-22, 10:06 PM
I've had issues with my party's wizard killing everyone else. Then it just gets out of hand as I throw them against an anti-party. They start attacking everyone until everyone on their side is dead and the anti-party hasn't lost a single member.

2012-01-23, 11:04 AM
I admit that this is hard to pull off because as been mentioned there can be hard feelings. However, if you know the group well(I assume you do if they're all new players) and the player who wants to switch sides also knows the others, then I doubt you would both think it was a good idea without the risk of offense being fairly low. I would suggest it being either the climax of the campaign or far enough into it that the love of the game is deeper engrained than the previous expectations thereof. I would like it to go well, mostly because I have high hopes of someday successfully running a game like this.