View Full Version : You're The Big Boss Now, Dog!

2012-02-16, 11:05 AM
This topic is about those minor Side Quests Villains, specifically when the players create mountains out of mole hills with liberal applications of “Villainy Enlargement” to the point that your campaign is now focused on the LBEG (Little Bad Evil Guy). My example:

The main campaign arc of my D&D game focused on a young red dragon named Astraxia and her plot to build a powerful weapon out of artifacts buried in forgotten dungeons. At some point however, the players got fixated on a minor side-quest villain (Let’s call him Skull) and they elevated Skull’s status from joke villain “Dr. Light” to infamous “Lex Luthor” in their minds… to the point I think we’ve forgotten Astraxia for now and are racing to locating this side-plot mastermind. What caused this sideshow to become the main event?

Well, Skull’s side-quest started with several of his older minions collecting specific pieces to what appears to be a giant telescope. As the players found and defeated these minions, they learned that Skull has been deceased for about 20 years. He was slain by the church for daring to build a device that could prove that the gods don’t really exist and that divine magic is simply another form of arcane magic. Lastly, Skull had sent two Drow assassins to steal back from the players, a lens that is part of his telescope device. One Drow succeeded in the theft.

This culminated in three points that drive the players to finding him in a “Great Crusade” kind of way:
1. Skull was dead for 20 years. He must be some kind of lich now (despite a total lack of evidence)
2. If he uses the telescope, it could destroy the gods (despite the fact the telescope wouldn’t have any effect on divine beings)
3. (This is the biggest offense) Skull stole something from the party!

So in conclusion, this is hilarious stuff. If you saw Skull’s actual statistics, you’d probably laugh. As DM I’m just going along with it because these crazy leaps of logic amuse me. Plus, everyone’s having fun anyway and it’ll be a while before Astraxia makes her next move. It’ll be quite an event when the players do get their final showdown with Skull and it turns out to be… less than climatic.

So, anyone else have a similar experience? :smallbiggrin:
Hopefully it was amusing.

2012-02-16, 05:42 PM
If your players have built this guy up to be their big bad, then don't disappoint them with an anti-climactic ending. That's just punishing them for not caring enough about your main plot.

Use some GM magic and make your Astraxinar dragon a minion of this Skull guy now, or just ditch it altogether for later. You have a GM's dream: players with their own motivation and goals! Don't let it go to waste.

When things like this happen in my games, I shelve what I had planned for the campaign and roll with it. Can't go wrong that way. Have their crazy leaps of logic be right (sometimes!). I love when things like that happen in my games.

2012-02-16, 05:49 PM
If the dragon is aware of the party have it show up during a confrontation of the party and skull after all if the party that has been getting in its way has gone out of its way to fight this guy he must be useful after all.
Brings the dragon back in gives you a chance to buff up the skull guy by making him one of her lieutenants

2012-02-16, 06:31 PM
I never had a campaign derailed because of a minor villain, mostly because I'm quite good at "railroading" the party without them knowing, as in: I make it so that they are very interested in the plot on a personal level and only make minor deviations, which is fine.

As a player however I partecipated in a couple of campaigns DMed by one of my friends, and he's the opposite: he can't railroad, I mean at all. He's a good DM, don't get me wrong, but we never end where he would have expected us to, sometimes forcing him to scrap the whole plot just to follow us doing our own business around the game world.

One particularly good exemple is this: I'm playing a wizard who is an exiled noble of a far away nation, hoping to become powerful enough to re-take with magic and political influence his lands. My hook to the adventure thus was an Arch-mage of a magic academy who in exchange for my services would let me into his personal library. Awesome.
Said service was finding one of his appretices who went missing while doing researches.
Long story short, we find the apprentice and he discovered an ancient burial of a legendary wizard of untold power. He tells me everything he knows about it and then says "Ok I'll be on my way back to the arch mage then"
Me "Sure, sure... Let me help you!"
And with the help of another NPC (who was supposed to be a bad guy, by the way, a corrupt noble with great ambitions) I kill the apprentice and tell the arch mage that we found absolutely nothing, then I make a deal with the evil NPC to have his men help me dig out the ancient knowledge of the legendary wizard in exchange for my services.

The end of the campaign? Me conquering the world as an NPC and the rest of the party trying to stop me with little success.


2012-02-16, 06:47 PM
I kind of disagree with everyone here so far. There's no reason you can't buff this Skull guy up to be an appropriate, tough boss battle. The PC's may be wrong in the assumption that he's a lich (ha! surprise!), you might even want to hint towards that he's not, not to obviously, but just hint at it. But there's also no reason to scratch your dragon. She can still do her own thing and advance her own schemes while the party is busy with other things. She doesn't even have to care about this Skull guy, at the most she's noticed he's a convenient distraction for now. Skull's and the dragons plans doesn't even have to have anything in common, and both can be just as dangerous as you decide.

Skull? His plans might only be dangerous on a philosophical level, but if it came out it might still cause some serious commotion in the religious community and among the common people. ("If divine magic is arcane then the gods doesn't exist and the clerics are just lying wizards!! What will happen to us when we die?! Does what we do now even matter?!?!?!?!!!") And this can be a good enough reason to stop him. And you know, gods who don't get worshipped because people lost faith tend to lose some power...

Astraxia? She's still busy building her artifact weapon that's dangerous on more than a philosophical level and she's still doing that and when your PC's are done with Skull she's that much further into her plans.

Just make sure Skulls battle is worthy of a boss battle, and make sure it doesn't feel like th world has been sitting around twiddling their thumbs while they were chasing him.. but also give them a fair chance to stop the dragon.

2012-02-16, 06:47 PM
I once ran a game where the setting background was "A few hundred years ago the gods decided they were not going to involve themselves in the mortal plane any more, and so clerics were cut off from their magic. This set off a series of bloody wars due to rulers no longer having divine backing. There was also a huge increase in the death rate due to disease, due to magical healing suddenly not being available."

The initial plot hook was "A respected wizard has uncovered a device that can allegedly extract divine energies from the sleeping creator god for mortal use, and requires the aid of adventurers to go and retrieve it from its resting place at the bottom of the ocean."

The party saw this, ignored it, and decided that they would like to be pirates. Their arch-nemesis ended up being Gilt Cipher, the leader of a smuggling ring unhappy with the party raiding his clients' ships. He was a level 8 rogue with the Leadership feat, and yet the six-man party of level 14 players dedicated more time and resources to dealing with him than they did to the rest of their problems combined. And due to a combination of terrible planning, utter lack of common sense, and failure to perform basic background checks on the people they hired onto their crew, Gilt still managed to run circles around them at every turn.

Meanwhile the largest city in the setting was nearly obliterated by the detonation of a major artifact and half the continent was conquered by a crusading army as the original "main plot" carried on without the players' input.

2012-02-16, 07:12 PM
Meanwhile the largest city in the setting was nearly obliterated by the detonation of a major artifact and half the continent was conquered by a crusading army as the original "main plot" carried on without the players' input.

That's the way to do it. Everything progresses as normal if the players aren't involved. No reason to put a Time Stop on the main plot.

Lord Il Palazzo
2012-02-16, 07:47 PM
I agree that the main plot should move along with or without the PCs' involvement, but I wouldn't let it go far enough that they can't still show up, thwart the villain and be big damn heroes. Having the Astraxia get far enough to have actually won while your players were chasing down Skull feels too much like punishing them for not following the plot you wanted them to follow. (Then again, fighting back against Astraxia's forces after she's effectively won could also make a good campaign idea, so I suppose it boils down to the type of story you think your players would enjoy most; if you go this route, just be sure not to make it sound like "You guys should have been busy stopping this from happening, but you decided to go after Skull".)

2012-02-16, 08:19 PM
One time I had the players come across a group of ogres raiding a village. It wasn't plot relevant, simply a little side encounter while they were travelling. They attempted to stop the ogres and rescue the town, but they LOST. The players couldn't stand this insult to their honor, and so they retreated, healed up, and then made it their mission to track down the ogres, which they spent several sessions on.
It got to the point where I think they actually forgot about the quest they were on when they encountered the ogres, and when a new player joined the group and asked what the game was about, the other players told him the plot was about hunting ogres.
Eventually the party tracks down the ogres to their village, and are defeated again, this time imprisoned. The spend some time as ogre slaves, and then eventually the ogre chief is impressed by their vigor and decides to let them go.
The players won't let it be forgotten, and as soon as they heal up plan ANOTHER attack on the ogre base. This time they win, and as the ogre chieftain is retreating the party makes a called shot to his groin. One critical hit later and you have a new villain, out for revenge at the "heroes" who repaid his mercy by slaughtering his tribe and making him a eunuch.

Of course, the main plot had been long forgotten, and without it the campaign kind of fizzled away shortly thereafter.

2012-02-19, 01:40 PM
I just finished a campaign in which we literally stopped the BBEG with just minutes left on his plan. The last four sessions were spend with me trying to get the party to focus on the main plot instead of a bunch of side quests or trying not to spend twp hours argueing (I kid you not) right before we launch the final assault on the BBEG fortress (him doing a major ritual with the clock running out) about what either my Paladin was devoted enough to Pelor or just prays to him whenever it is convient (they were doing it to get a rise out of me, it worked : [).

Don't reward players for this kind of behaviour! I beg of you.

2012-02-20, 09:03 AM
Lots of good points, but in particular I do now agree that I shouldn't set up the players for an anti-climatic moment once they reach Skull.

I've come up with an interesting idea over the weekend. The players will be stopping at a new town where a handful of the dragon Astraxia's minions are causing trouble. Once the players defeat them, one minion will be a curior with a letter from Astraxia to the other villain Skull.
The letter will be a confirmation to a business proposition between the two villains. Astraxia has plenty of resources, but has suffered a large loss of minions due to the PCs. On the other hand, Skull has the ability to create a fair number of undead minions, but needs funds to pay for the creation costs. I see a nice business opportunity here for both villains to help each other.

I could even make it a bit amusing for the PCs that both villains don't realize that the adventuring party thwarting them thus far is the same party. Could make for a good encounter if both villains are there when the heroes show up.

Astraxia: "Curses! Its those meddlesome adventurers."
Skull: "Yes, it- wait, you know them too?"
Astraxia: "Yes, they've killed two dozen of my finest kobold rogues."
Skull: "Uncanny, they set fire to my last laboratory. Seriously, how are these heroes getting around so quickly?!"

2012-02-20, 09:41 AM
To be honest, I kinda like this Skull guy. What I'd do, is keep Astraxia the main villain for now, but in the end Skull somehow manages to overcome even Astraxia and become the main villain himself.

Xuc Xac
2012-02-20, 11:02 AM
He was slain by the church for daring to build a device that could prove that the gods don’t really exist and that divine magic is simply another form of arcane magic.

Unless you're a cleric who enjoys his church's temporal power more than spiritual service to a deity, isn't this the kind of thing you'd want to know? If Skull's hypothesis is false, then there's no harm done: he just confirms the status quo. But if he's right, wouldn't everyone want to know? Shouldn't they know? If the clerics of the world are just a bunch of charlatans in vestments, isn't it a moral duty to expose their deception and free the people?

2012-02-20, 03:05 PM
From what I read they seem to believe less proving they don't exist, and more destroying gods.

2012-02-21, 08:06 AM
Unless you're a cleric who enjoys his church's temporal power more than spiritual service to a deity, isn't this the kind of thing you'd want to know?

It's a good point, but for right now no church leaders want to dare look into that possibility. It is mostly an issue of enjoying the temporal power a church can bring, even for the "morally just" churches.
One of the PCs is a cleric of Pelor and he did bring up a valid point that while the church of Pelor does many good deeds for the people (such as food drives for the por), if it were proven that the god Pelor was false, a lot of people would suddenly lose trust in the clerics and the dukes that often contribute donations to the coffers might recind their usual offerings for fear of being associated with charlatans.

But to be fair... one of the recent NPCs the players worked with might just have been a goddess. Can't tell for sure, but there were hints. Leaving that open for now since the mystery makes it fun. :smallbiggrin: