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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground

    Join Date
    Oct 2019

    Default Need help running two villains

    In the campaign that I am running, I plan on running two separate villains, one is a very powerful spirit who claims to be the God of the Forest, he hates the humans due to them bathing the surface of the world in hellfire 100 years ago in an age when there were only humans. The forest god's goal is to eradicate humans so they do not repeat their past, as they are bound to do. The other villain is a human who uses the technology of the old world to enslave dragons (mostly drakes and wyverns), he also believes humans to be the superior race and believes all other races are meant to be ruled. Naturally, these two are not the biggest fan of one another and battles between the two, or their minions, are not uncommon.

    The party will learn about this and eventually have to side with one or the other, and if the choice was not difficult enough, killing either of them has dire consequences. The forest god's life is directly linked to the vitality of the forest, so without him, the forest would return to it's dead, baren state. But the dragon slaver has moles in every city, if he is killed, the human extremists that follow him will execute the leaders of many non-human settlements, and in the developing state they are in, the death of their leaders would be very hard to push through.

    So here is my plight: I want these two to be the BBEGs for the entirety of the campaign, and I plan on them being the focus from level 5 to level 16, so how can I make 11 levels of these two (using milestones) without the campaign feeling diluted or padded out? Any suggestions?
    Last edited by TrashPastor110; 2019-10-30 at 03:05 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground

    Join Date
    Feb 2018

    Default Re: Need help running two villains

    I like the idea of having two opposing villains, and picking a theme other than good vs evil is cool! It sounds like a fun campaign.

    Perhaps one arc could be focused on eliminating a cell of the Humanists, and you could make it clear how powerful and good at hiding they are. Give them a complex network of connections and strong allies. Try to create moments where it looks like the heroes will lose, and let the Humanists kill one of their friends in revenge (or at least come close).
    Then after they finally break this cell, you can hit them with the reveal that there are more like it in every city. Firsthand experience makes a threat more real.

    Also, keep in mind that choosing between two evils is not something most characters in the Good end of the alignment chart like to do. Expect someone to try and fight both sides (I would, if I was playing a Paladin or equally heroic figure). Make it difficult, but not impossible

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Need help running two villains

    Some peaces of advice:

    1) Avoid playing against yourself and make sure player have agency. One risk (especially if your players are of the more passive kind), is that the players put something in motion by error, and then the whole situation resolve by itself (because one of the villain get the upper hand and "win" against the other) without any real intervention from your players.

    2) Not all player are happy to play in campaign where they have to chose between pest and cholera. Especially if there is a chance that at the end that they think "the world would have been better if we didn't do anything at all".

    3) Start small, and get bigger. The initial enemy should not be "there is a god trying to kill all of us", but more something like "there is a group of cultist that cause problems", not "there is a probably-future-dictator that want the domination of the human race" but more something like "there is a black market of enslaved dragon". Having a progression of stakes is a very practical way to avoid mess and confusion of plot line, because players focus on the new stakes rather than trying to resolve some details of the old stakes.

    4) A standard plot-line would be:
    + The minions of one villain start causing problems, the hero should stop them (3 levels)
    + Because of the setback for the first villain, the second villain has more possibility to maneuver, and its minions start causing problems, the should stop stop them (3 levels)
    + First villain take the opportunity to escalate and try to gain the upper hand. Second villain also try to get all-out. The hero at the middle should take a side, possibly with a third faction if they come with an idea. (3-4 levels)
    + The hero must deal with the consequences, for example finding a "replacement" for the god which is now dead, or betraying their ally to get rid of all both villains. (1-2 levels)
    => If you start introducing the two villains at the beginning, that will be a mess and cause problems to the pacing as your group of player will try to keep in check both sides of the conflict. And when you introduce the second villain, the first one should remain discrete so that your group can focus on the new one.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground

    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Default Re: Need help running two villains

    Some refinement to the above:
    Toward the end of the 1st "round" (one branch from each BBEG beaten) the PCs should start getting hints of the larger game. Ideally, these will be the clues the players look back on and go "Ah-ha!, that makes perfect sense now!"
    During the 2nd round the players should get to understand the larger issue. Again, ideally, they first realise it's bigger, then they relise it goes all the way up to these character's who are named as part of the setting description.

    To avoid staleness, there's a few things to mix up:
    Style of adventure - Dungeon bash, urban mystery, diplomatic journey, race against an agent of the other side
    Goals - get the Maguffin, recruit the powerful "person", protect the town, destroy the enemy

    So I'd go
    Chapter 1
    The Spirit's agents attack a border village the PCs have ties to.

    Adventure 1 - Defend the village. Get clues about where the orders came from

    Adventure 2 - Backtrack to the source of the attack. It was a supply raid from a larger camp. Infiltrate the camp and assassinate the leaders. Rescue a dragon. They get hints that someone else is trying to do the same thing. Maybe they even get to work with these people and then have to fight them to stop them enslaving the dragon

    Adventure 3 - The infiltration leads to the info that the whole thing is being driven by a forest spirit bound to an old temple in the woods. A dragon would be really helpful and is willing to help. But then it doesn't show... They still beat the temple adventure (hopefully!). They get hints that someone else is trying to do the same thing. Maybe they even get to work with these people

    Chapter 2 - The humanist's strike backk
    Adventure 4 - The party gets a hint about who happened to their dragon. They follow the trail and release their dragon again. Or maybe the dragon tragically dies, telling where it's treasure is with it's last breath. Or it's babies or eggs...

    Adventure 5 - local branch of The Humanists tries to take revenge on the PCs. They have to shut the branch down to stop the assassins coming at them. They find out their "allies" from adventure 2 are part of this faction and that this is just a branch of a bigger organisation

    Chapter 3 They feel like they're getting on top of things
    Adventure 6 - They need to build the social connections to support them against the humanists. Maybe meet the local elf queen and have her ally with a local human authority to shut down the local propaganda machines which are fostering conflict
    Adventure 7 - A wild week in town. Shutting down the propaganda brings the extremists out onto the streets. PCs may be trying to keep (rebuild) the peace, protect infrastructure or build their power base out of the chaos. Go with what works for your group. They learn the Humanist cult goes to the top of some human power structure. High Priest? King? Marshal of the Armies of the West?

    Chapter 4 They feel things are getting on top of them.
    Change of tempo - no more discrete adventures. Events are moving too fast for that. Now you say what's going on in the world and they have to decide which bits they want to deal with.
    Their town is cut off from contact. Nothing's getting through the roads. The magical university not far away is under assault by undead. The friendly government from adventure 6 is showing signs of becoming unfriendly. They get the info to discover the nature spirit is trying to destroy humanity.

    Chapter 5
    They should be thinking they need to destroy both the Spirit and the Humanists by this point. now's the time to make sure they know that neither idea is good.
    The Spirit maintain's life, but the humanists are all that prevents The spirit killing all of humanity. They can choose a side or they can try to re-establish the balance and dde-escalate the conflict.

    Edit to add:
    The most recent post here runs through "how to run a conspiricy".
    May be worth a look?
    Last edited by Duff; 2019-12-05 at 04:55 PM.
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!

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