View Full Version : Gamer Tales Hey, remember that one villain?

The Fury
2016-01-23, 12:50 PM
I've played in a lot of campaigns over the years, and I've beaten up my fair share of imaginary bad guys and monsters in said campaigns. Though what occurs to me is that I don't remember many of the villains I fought very well. I mean, most of them I can't even remember what their names were. There were a few that I remember as being funny, but not really any that made me think, "Wow! What a cool villain!"

Maybe it's because of the various threads I've read on here about the nature of evil and making a good villain, but I'm sort of curious if any of you encountered a villain in a campaign that you thought was cool or memorable.

2016-01-23, 05:32 PM
Umm... no, not really. I don't remember that one villain...

But I have an explanation/theory as too why, at least in tactical (that is to say combat focused) role-playing game when to adversaries die one of them dies. Almost every single time. So it is hard to build up a story with the villain because eventually when the big reveal happens (and often despite the GM's best efforts) the players kill the villain and move on to the next one.

So a lot of the time the villains aren't really character's onto themselves, they are just person shaped obstacles to be overcome by the actual characters. That is to say the PCs and their allies.

2016-01-23, 06:10 PM
Yeah, I remember those big villains.
They were memorable because they were built up over a long time, they were played well in character, we tried unsuccessfully to beat them over an extended period of time, they were dangerous and sometimes won encounters against us or otherwise harmed - even killed - our characters in a personal manner (killed favorite NPCs, ruined childhood homes, stole important things from us, etc.).

Not all villains are equally memorable, and the reason for this has been mentioned. If they are a pile of mechanics with a fixed place in the plot, they will not be memorable. Treat them as characters. Personalities, drives, intentions, mannerisms, and actions. Let them have time to develop. Let them have multiple run-ins, directly or indirectly, with the PCs rather than die on the first encounter. Have them be basically an antagonistic DMPC. If/when the PCs finally take the BBEG out, there will be cheers and the desire to pop champagne (and possibly piss on the corpse).

2016-01-23, 06:37 PM
CHristopher Perkins' The DM Experience column did some articles on memorable villains and encounters, in various forms. Can't link the article right now, on mobile the WoTC site is dreadful.

2016-01-23, 06:38 PM
Hmmm... you said villain, not BBEG, so that should make it easier. There are several classes of villain I remember:

The big. Sometimes, the villain isn't just one person you can stab. Sometimes, it's the government, the mages' guild, the cult, or even the radioactive wastes.

The specialty. When you're a vampire hunter, you are probably more likely to remember your fights against vampires.

The self. Sometimes, you come to realize that what you were doing makes you the bad guys.

The other. When the bad guy is a copy of your character, well, you're probably as likely to remember that as you are to remember... your character.

The traitor. It rarely makes for a good story, but it certainly is memorable when the one of your own betrays you - especially when it is a fellow PC.

The sympathetic. The villain whose motives or plight you can't help but empathise with.

The loot. When looting the villain's body means literally taking their body (or (cybernetic) pieces thereof), you tend not to forget them.

The bizarre. The truly humorous, anachronistic, or outlandish trends to make an impression. Perhaps not the best impression, but an impression nonetheless.

And, although I'd love to say that you're likely to remember villains where your GM let you pull off something cool, or villains where you pulled a fast one, I couldn't remember, off the top of my head, any examples that didn't also fall into one of my other categories.

2016-01-23, 06:41 PM
I mostly GM, but I have made a few villains that I know are still remembered, mostly with something to the effect of "oh yeah, that [insert expletive of choice]". These tended to be recurring villains that personally gave the party a significant amount of trouble, nebulous forces operating behind the scenes have a tendency to be remembered more as nebulous forces operating behind the scenes even after the details come out.

2016-01-23, 07:01 PM
I actually write novels more than DM, but if that's fine: I think too many people make unmemorable antagonists by giving them "evil intentions" but never "unique reasons for the intentions".

I mean, there could be an evil warlock who wants to gain control over that random powerful artifact, but why? I don't mean the "he wants to become powerful" sort of "intention", I mean "Why did he grow up to be so ambitious?"

Maybe he grew up in poverty. Hell, maybe, that particular legend spread among the urchins of a particular metropolis (one of the PCs' backgrounds being an urchin from said city), about a boy who made a contract with the devil and attempted revolution twenty years ago - maybe that's him. Maybe all of his friends back then were killed by some malevolent aristocrat like Jilles de Rais, and he vowed that he'd create a world without poverty IN SOVIET RUSSIA. In which case maybe he'd have some henchmen who were once poor but were later saved out of starvation by the warlock, and believe him to be a true savior. Extra points if PCs have came across or actually killed the Jilles de Rais-ish noble, and have also seen various scenes in which they realize the poverty problem is pretty damn serious in the campaign. Make it specific (so that the PCs don't go "I've heard of that sort before") and as harsh as possible.

That's just once idea though. Making them sorta understandable could always help. Envy and obsessive love could lead to mass murder, Gasai Yuno/Sonozaki Shion style. A sense of justice, when put together with vengeance, creates the Soviet Union. Lots more to be explored.

Of course you don't necesarrily need to reveal all of it. Maybe let the PCs take nothing but a glimpse. Because sometimes, not explaining everything can lead to them thinking on theirselves - "What was the world like from the antagonist's eyes?"

And don't make the antagonist babble to the PCs in-combat about why he's right. Because that's not just stupid, it's also even irritating. A charismatic villian wouldn't try to win the PCs' sympathy - that seems childish and wrong, and DEFINITELY not badass at all. The DM needs to think up a way in which he can let the PCs glimpse the depth of the character without it being "I GREW UP IN POVERTY AND I'M SO PITIFUL AND YOU GUYS SHOULD HELP ME!!!!1111oneoneone". This is prolly the reason why most DMs can't create memorable villians, though - probably the largest barrier.

If you can't think up, borrow ideas from novesl and TV shows and movies and comics and anime and manga and all the other stuff. I'm personally a fan of the "Jojo's Bizzare Adventures" manga series in how all the characters are over-eccentric and generally memorable, with their own philosophies and traits. I'm sure anybody has a favorite series, a favorite antagonist, and reasons why he or she is so memorable. Steal ideas, wrap them up in something that doesn't let the other players realize, and serve it. Always works, regardless of it being writing a novel or playing a TRPG.

2016-01-23, 07:08 PM
I remember reading about a DM who introduced a young spoiled rich kid who just harassed the PCs for no good reason. He hid behind political affiliations and ran away from every fight the round before it started.

he reported that his PCs were willing to break alignments, moving hell or high water to get at this kid.

So I stole that idea.

This spoiled brat would buy up all the magic gear in a town he knew the PCs were going to. He would bribe local officials. When they confronted him, he told them that he did it "just because he could."

Then his hired help burst in. Knocked out the PCs, and gave them all lycanthropy, and the jerk escaped again..

The Players frothed. Entitled jerksters are a great trope

2016-01-24, 01:31 AM
One of my former DMs described an enemy he used on one of his previous groups. The enemy in question was a ghost sorceress who preferred not to work directly or get in danger herself when possible. The party and an NPC paladin had thwarted her plans so she possessed the paladin's wife and forced him to kill her in battle. She jumped out of the body just before he unleashed the killing blow so she'd see her husband kill her and refuse to be raised from the dead.

The sorceress was meant to be a throw away villain and not the main plot objective but the party ignored the plot to focus on trying to end her. They'd travel in search of magical items that could deal with her but she always beat them to said items. The main reason for this was she'd arranged for them to acquire a magical ring that could cast augury on demand. Since it was so useful they'd never choose to sell it or discard it. Problem was this was a 3.0 game and identify only told you the lowest level enchantment on a magical item. It had a second enchantment which was the same as an amulet of inescapable location meaning no matter what they tried to keep her from finding out what they were doing she could always scry on them to find out their plans. They never thought to check it with a spell like analyze dweomer when they leveled up high enough.

She could also possess them as none of them had any items that could could prevent it so every so often the DM would hand out slips of paper to all players with one saying the person had been possessed and the rest blank. Of course, on occasion, he'd hand all of the players blank slips of paper.

As I recall their final plan was to wait until one of them was possessed and use a magical item that would trap them and the ghost forever. It failed since only two PCs were still alive and each was convinced the other was possessed (IIRC neither was) so when one killed the other the ghost just possessed the survivor and went on to become a mighty ruler.

2016-01-24, 01:35 AM
The ones I remember best are from way back when I was playing Villains & Vigilantes in the early 1980s. Probably because, true to the comic book genre, they never permanently died, so we kept facing them over and over again.

2016-01-24, 04:26 PM
That one villain I remember was the villain that had a sense of honor. It all requires context of course, at one point we scried him fighting someone completely different and on our next encounter he spilled on the third party after a bit of an exchange, turning our plot from us vs him to a three-way winner takes all. We wouldn't have really figured it out until after we killed him (with secret aid from the 3rd foe) and then subsequently torn apart by the other. Of course there was a measure of self-preservation involved with telling us about this other enemy but it was more that he knew we were going to be taken advantage of and it was his sense of fair play that motivated him to explain it to us.

Good man, shame we had to kill him.

2016-01-24, 07:20 PM
Well I'm the GM of my group, so I'm gonna sound like I'm bragging a bit. But I know one villain of mine that my players remember and despise to this day. Which makes only 2 of about 50 villains they remember, and the other one was just because he happened to be related to one of my player's characters.

Anyway, the one memorable one.

It was in a campaign that went wrong right from the get-go. You see the entire campaign revolved around the king dying and the heroes freeing their former kingdom from capture and then discovering a new king among themselves. So of course, within the first 10 minutes of the game, they saved the king. But I kept going with the story anyway saying the king was wounded and had to flee the capital, so while the whole kingdom wasn't taken over the city they were in was, and they were stuck in it.

Next the Big Bad Evil Guy of the campaign was going to be this cunning, manipulative bastard of a general that planned the (now botched) assassination of the king as well as the conquest of the kingdom. He was set up as the Alexander the Great of the setting, this great personality to be feared and respected. So, in keeping with how the rest of the game was going, they killed him before he even had a chance to talk to any of them, none of any of the plans I had him set up went into effect.

But, I did happen to flesh out a bunch of said generals quirky sub-commanders, they each I figured were unique and I could have this council of enemies come up to do, essentially what the general was supposed to do. But one by one our heroes killed them off quickly until there was only 1 left. Who I had made as a joke, the weakest of the bunch. A psychotic, barely controlled fire mage rumored to be the general's illegitimate daughter. I had modeled her after Joffrey from ASOIAF with Jaya Ballard from MTG thrown in for good measure. She was not smart, she was hilariously unoptimized and her vindictiveness was supposed to get in her own way. But by the end of the campaign, through lucky rolls on my part and my heroes making a starting loss of competence (I think they thought she'd be smarter than she was, so they kept trying to think up sneaky or clever methods of dealing with her, and her reaction would always be to just blow stuff up, even if said blowing up would hurt her in the long run so long as it hurt one of them as well). But by the end of the campaign she had killed one of their loves, burnt down the Holy Groves, blew up their resistance, murdered the child one of them had sworn to protect, and was on the way to sacrificing the entire city in a blaze of glory before they finally caught up to her and stopped her. For a few years after that one they still talked about her, and consider her defeat one of the high points of our gaming together. So yeah, my greatest GMing moment was the result of having everything I planned messing up repeatedly and a randomly made supposed to be killed in one fight token enemy becoming remembered.