View Full Version : What are some tips for developing an Arch Nemesis to a PC?

2015-09-20, 03:16 PM
I've got this whole storyline for a particular PC: She's a half elven sorceress with serpentine blood. Her mother was an elven diplomat, her father a no show.

Recently, she's met someone in similar circumstances; a human 14 year old girl with the exact same powers, who has never met her father.

I had the idea that there may be others like them, in the same circumstances.

Surene, the PC, is chaotic good.

She is a fearful character; distrusting of others, terrified that she may one day become some sort of monster. And she has a guilty conscience, having accidentally killed a bully. She opens up to those who can sympathize with her fear.

2015-09-20, 04:49 PM
The natural enemy is an overbearing LE villain. Make sure the villain holds your PC to some universal standard (an un-chaotic thing) that the PC doesn't agree with at all (un-good standards), and tries to play on their conscience for not matching up to those standards. Possibly bring up the idea that the PC (and the girl, if applicable) cannot ever meet the standard, because of their ancestry.

2015-09-20, 05:29 PM
Make the father the central point -- maybe he had other daughters, all of whom were "different" from regular humans, since he himself was something more than human. However, whatever his purpose in having daughters, something went wrong with one of them, she killed the father and stole his powers, and she became that LE dictatoress from the previous post. Then the BBEG has a complex and interesting relationship with the player, as she doesn't see her sisters having the same drive and ambition, but commits blatant evil acts in front of them in an attempt to convert them over (you can draw a parallel to Tarquin/Nale and Elan).

2015-09-20, 05:33 PM
The book Ultimate Evil (for Pathfinder) has some good advice for this.

1. Evil opposite: This is, of course, an option. An "overbearing LE villain", as LibrisMortis has mentioned.
2. Evil counterpart: And this is another option. Here, it is not an opponent who is completely different from the heroine, but one who is frighteningly similar. In many aspects, they could get along, maybe even be friends. They could have similar histories, or similar worldviews. However, you just invert one or two aspects of the character that make them who they are.
For example, if this heroine is, as you write, distrusting and guilty about murder, make this character likewise paranoid. However, this villain does not feel guilty. She may even relish in dealing with life's problems with the most permanent solution, but it's a trait she hides until she performs the deed.

Red Fel
2015-09-20, 06:01 PM
I'd like to take it in a different direction altogether - why does an archnemesis have to be Evil? Why can't she just be Good (or Neutral), but opposed?

Let me illustrate. The PC you've described is afraid of getting close to others, because she is afraid of herself. She refuses to accept who she is, because it terrifies her. So here's what I propose as her opposite number: A person who has embraced her power to an irrational extreme. Here's what I mean.

Start with the same premise. Half-X character with serpentine blood, sinister powers, absentee dad. But unlike the PC, she isn't the daughter of a diplomat. She's the daughter of a nobody who died when she was young. She lived on the streets. She was less than a shadow of a person.

And then her powers manifested.

Suddenly, she was special. She could do things. She could have things. She could help good people, hurt bad people, she could earn a living or take it. The world opened up to her.

She began to identify herself with her power. Her powers were unique, therefore she was unique. Her powers were where her value as a person came from; before them, she was a nobody, but now she was a somebody.

And then she discovered that her powers weren't special. She's not alone. There are others like her. Such as the PC. And this frustrates her. It infuriates her. She will not go back to being another nobody!

Now, there are many ways you could play this. If you want her to be Evil, she's deranged. She's pathologically obsessed with proving how special and important she is, and with destroying those who share her bloodline in order to ensure her uniqueness. If she's Good, she's obsessed with proving how she is much more worthy than the PC of their shared gifts. She will mock the PC's reluctance, try to outperform the PC at every turn.

In either case, what you get is a character who either comes off as creepy or obnoxious, initially, but whose deeper motivations become tragic as she spirals into an obsession.

That's how I'd build an archnemesis, anyway. For somebody to achieve "archnemesis" status, in my mind, they have to be obsessed with the character they choose as their opposite; determined to prove themselves against that character. This is how I'd run it.

2015-09-20, 10:46 PM
Well... it's okayer* to kill an Evil person or otherwise fight against her without feeling too bad... With Good/Neutral, it's more iffy.

* I invented a word.

What is the purpose of the Arch Nemesis? To give the PC (what's her name, just for convenience?) a motivation, and something to fight against? Does the PC's player know about this, and possibly help out a bit? What of the other PCs in the party, and their players? If the PC you're focused on develops a personal agenda that no one else in the party is interested in, how would you deal with the situation? Will this Arch Nemesis be the main villain of the campaign?

2015-09-21, 08:13 AM
#1 thing if you want her to be a nemesis and not just a particularly thematically appropriate boss is to give the PC chances to interact with her many times.

Have them start out friendly, but let the villains divergent goals or methods strain the friendship. Or have them use indirect means of communication like sending, animal messenger or letters. Have them meet under flags of truth, or in an environment where violence will be strongly punished or impossible (say at powerful kings party). Or use the various escape spells (teleport, fly, even raise dead and resurrection if this is DnD) to enable multiple combat encounters.

Allow her hatred of this individual to build up over multiple encounters, or by ma king her the perpetrator of multiple acts of villany that makes destroying her the PCs priority.

Do these things and you can make a nemsis regardless of how they're built or any thematic similarities.

But do consider the advice others are giving you here, a thematically appropriate villain does make a better nemesis, and there have been many good suggestions s on that so far.

2015-10-10, 01:02 AM
I can't say much about the specific situation, but in general, I'd say that the most important simple bit of advice is that you don't force it and do have a backup idea. When you introduce the character, leave open the possibility that that character won't click the way you want; that there won't be villainous tension, or that the characters will develop in non-nemesis ways. In that case, leave an out and have a different idea.

2015-10-10, 01:46 PM
If the nemesis is going to have any combat encounters with the PC (and for that matter, even if they aren't), one thing you absolutely need for a recurring villain is an exit strategy.

In my experience, the PCs don't like to let the bad guys get away. If the villain runs, they will give chase. If the baddie flies away, they will pull out their bows and try to shoot her down. If she dimension doors or teleports away, they'll take steps to block that next time as well. So whenever you want her to cause trouble without being captured or killed, give the nemesis at least one way to escape.

After all, you can't have a recurring villain if they don't have the ability to recur (is that a word? If not, it is now).

Dire Moose
2015-10-10, 03:05 PM
With their father being a no-show (I'm assuming their father is the same person, and if not it would be great if he was) and apparently the source of their serpent bloodline and powers, you could potentially make him the villain.

Especially considering the character's fear of losing control over her powers; he may try to exploit that. Perhaps he could also work as the LE villain with a superior attitude and try to sway her or her half-sister to his side. Maybe the human NPC could even wind up joining him and becoming the evil counterpart.

Yes, I know Star Wars already made this idea so popular it's become kind of a joke, but it's popular because it really works well.

2015-10-12, 01:25 PM
Y'all've already listed LE bully opposite, sympathetic CE bully killer, Daddy Issues... another could be a LG/LN/LE law enforcer/bounty hunter or family member of the bully she killed. Bullies have families and law enforcement doesn't just say "ah, he was a bully, it's okay if he died".

2015-10-12, 01:41 PM
Long-running villains tend to be a) a step ahead and b) cowards. They'll flee a fair fight, even if they would probably win.

A teleportation ring or a contingency spell are practically requirements if they aren't otherwise-insulated from the PCs killing them.

Make them too strong, and it makes no sense for them not to simply squash the PCs. Make them too weak, and it can still be pretty interesting if there's some other reason the PCs can't kill them off, as long as they're not so weak there's no reason they'd plausibly be a threat.

Fosco the Swift
2015-10-14, 05:50 AM
Make them too weak, and it can still be pretty interesting if there's some other reason the PCs can't kill them off, as long as they're not so weak there's no reason they'd plausibly be a threat.
This made me think of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He's effectively weaker than the other characters, evil and he is obsessed with Frodo because he is the ring-bearer. However, they need him alive despite the many problems he may cause.
The PC's archenemy does not need to be the BBEG, but can instead be a weaker but highly complex villain.

2015-10-14, 06:01 AM
An arch Nemesis does not needs to be of a different alignment nor to be an opponent maybe the arch Nemesis simply have an opinion sightly different.
for example the arch Nemesis might truly believe for example that all the exteriors are evil(because they torture(in the case of the evil exteriors)/untorture(in the case of the angels) people until they are turned into exteriors similar to them assimilating them against their will) and that we need to resurrect/animate all the dead people no matter which alignment they have to undermine the power of the good and evil and neutral planes in order to overthrown this evil mockery of an afterlife.
Many players might consider it is wrong.
But this arch Nemesis is chaotic good in accord to his sight over the multiverse.

Jay R
2015-10-14, 08:15 AM
The absolute number-one crucial requirement for a recurring villain is a fool-proof escape method. I recommend two, because the party will eventually figure out to Dispel Magic on the Ring with the Contingency spell.