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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    So say you have a boss you want the players to get involved with and recognize. Maybe he's likable, maybe your players want to rip out his guts, whatever.

    How do you get the boss to interact with the players to create that relationship? I've been mulling it over in my head, and they all seem to have some concerns:

    Strahd (of 5e) is a great reoccurring villain, but he makes the players feel powerless each time he sees them. What if that's not the kind of dynamic you want?
    Having escape plans are a great solution, but how often are they entertaining for the player?
    And most solutions would involve an enemy that uses magic to escape. How would you implement one that didn't?

    And for the sake of simplicity, how would you do this without playing 4d chess? Like, if you're just not an intelligent DM, what's a solid solution that doesn't require you to plan 4 steps ahead?

    Actually, going to move this to the General RPG thread. I'm sure there's a bunch of grognards who have some good advice on this.
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2021-07-30 at 05:32 PM.
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Practical Guide to Evil uses mindcontrolled body puppets and it works. If you kill one you murdered an innocent individual, but foiled their local plan. If not you let the plan succeed. Inspires deep hatred.
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    Goblin

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Instead of finding a way for a villain to survive an attack from the heroes, find a way to make killing the villain a failure condition. Think about why Superman doesnít just kill Lex Luthor.

    Maybe the villain is a corrupt political figure protected by plausible deniability and the rule of law? Maybe the villain is a brilliant sage that the heroes need to acquire an alchemical formula from? Maybe the villain is a Githzerai Anarch responsible for keeping an entire settlement in Limbo hospitable?

    If the villain has legal protection, the heroes need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the villain is responsible for his crimes. If the villain is essential, the heroes have to find a way to replace the villain. If the villain has an amazing reputation, the heroes need to find a way to discredit them. These scenarios might be more interesting than assassination.
    Last edited by Kvess; 2021-07-30 at 08:46 PM.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    I've been running a Night Hag as the primary antagonist for a level 8 party with no utility casters. She harasses their dreams, tricks other monsters into attacking them, and is dedicated to morally corrupting one of the characters. She would also die in about a single round of combat. She knows this, and so she stays out of their reach. She can't cause them any serious harm, but she does make it so that they can't trust their own dreams.

    Now, they are embarked on a whole quest just to find her name so they can force her into the open, and I didn't even have to convince them to want it.
    Last edited by Seclora; 2021-07-30 at 06:55 PM.

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Puppeteers and masterminds make great villains because they make things happen, but don't do it themselves. They are too smart to expose themselves in that way so they use pawns and emissaries and mercs and the gullible/charmed/controlled to do their bidding. Direct confrontation is for chumps.

    A really bad guy gives the 'heroes' a reason to be emotionally involved - do something terrible to someone's mom, little sister, favorite NPC, etc.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    After dealing with several parties and many players for several years as a DM, I have come to one conclusion about how to keep the recurring evil guy alive.

    Complete immortality is the only thing that works.

    Innocent bystander possession? The party tries to trap his soul. Killing him has a failure condition? Mission failed, who cares. He interacts through dreams and visions? The party will attempt to weaponize their dreams to hurt the bastard.

    Unless you outright say he's immortal, the party will try to subvert his recurring villain status at every turn, showing considerable and shocking innovation to do so, and you'll have to railroad or directly confront the players to keep him alive-and it's not worth the effort.

    That's why I've generally tried to include either more organizations as threats, or taken to using big bads so powerful that the party will simply fail to kill them.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The classic answer is the players know who the big bad is, but he's a trusted confidant of the king and therefore untouchable until they can out him.
    I am the flush of excitement. The blush on the cheek. I am the Rouge!

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    In one game (currently on hold), the PCs are in an abandoned, devastated kingdom trying to figure out a way to take down a warlord that has taken over a portion of it. They're trying to avoid the warlord's roving bands, who outclass the PCs power-wise (for now), while they gather their strength and work out a strategy. At one point they came across a former friend of theirs. This is an NPC but he's based on a PC from a long time ago (the player isn't playing with us any more) named Devan. Devan has lost all his magic and power, and is convinced the warlord is the key to getting it back. When the party found him, he had this ridiculously optimistic/foolish plan to fight his way into the warlord's base, something the party wasted no time in explaining to him.

    So, Devan kind of joined the party as what amounted to a mascot. I mean he isn't useless but he isn't on par with the PCs, and they often need to help him out or make sure he's safe and stuff like that. As you might have guessed, Devan is the warlord in disguise, and he conquered the kingdom at some point after he stopped being a PC. I'm waiting for a good time to reveal it to the party, assuming they don't get me to reveal it accidentally. I'm thinking the best time is after they've brought the fight to the warlord (something Devan keeps urging them to do) and maybe just as they think they have the drop on him in his chambers or throne room.

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Practical Guide to Evil uses mindcontrolled body puppets and it works. If you kill one you murdered an innocent individual, but foiled their local plan. If not you let the plan succeed. Inspires deep hatred.
    For a less morally gray option, your big bad could create a siraculum to show up as the puppet. Gives your players a cathartic release when they destroy it and you can ham it up by having the duplicate laugh maniacally as it melts into snow or whatever it was made from. :3
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Ok, how i make good recurring villains.

    - They need a motivation. A motivation that the players can learn, understand and emphasize with. This allow the players to think and talk about him, guess his strategies, consider diplomacy etc. even in scenes when he is not actually present.

    - Use plots where he is only a side character. Maybe the boss of the week had his backing, maybe he got involved in other peoples conflicts, maybe he is only there to opportunistically exploit the chaos, maybe he usews middlemen. This allows you to have conflics where he has real motivation not to deploy his whole power and which also produce unfinished buissness.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The first questions are, what is the Big Bad doing and why? The second, related questions are, why would the player characters want to kill them?

    Because the Big Bad doesn't need to be someone who must be killed in the first place.

    To cross this topic over with "losing a fight versus losing the game" topic, the Big Bad could be manager or captain of a rival sportsteam. They could be a corrupt member of a panel of judges. Or an esteemed religious leader. The important point here is that murdering the Big Bad, even just fighting the Big Bad, is beyond legal rights of the player characters and antithetical to their basic goals. You don't get ahead in the sports tournament by murdering your rival; the legal proceeding won't turn in your favor if you murder one of the judges, it will just make you liable for a brand new crime; killing a religious leader (even better: your own religious leader) might be much worse than redeeming that leader or otherwise swaying them to your side.

    Now, even a well-crafted scenario won't stop your players from being stupid. They may still attempt to kill the Big Bad, out of sheer lack of imagination. Let them. Seriously. Let them. Let them be stupid and then suffer the consequences for it. The point isn't to remove the option of killing the Big Bad, it's to make it a losing option. If your players get the hint, it will be a more impactful message going forward than simply making the Big Bad indestructible.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Since youíve chosen D&D, youíve really limited your avenues to making this work. As always, my number one advice is to ditch the concrete shoes keeping you on the bottom of the riverÖ

    But since the is probably wonít do that, how do you make a good recurring BBEG within the D&D paradigm?

    1. They need to be powerful enough to go toe to toe for several rounds. Like it or not, your players are going to try to kill said bad guy. And as ROFLSTOMPing murderhobos who bend reality and carry around more wealth than the average minor noble, they really donít care about societal checks. Doesnít mean you should push for combat confrontation, but you need to be prepared for it. Also, in D&D asskicking = authority (or vice versa) most of the time anyhow, particularly with evil folks.

    In D&D this also means your BBEG is going to be some version of magical/fantastical since martials are both cannon fodder and boring in combat.

    2. Create a confrontation sandwhich (or a sine wave of you prefer). Story segment BBEG related event with confrontation - story segment culminating without the BBEG, but related (allies, minions, related investigatory aside, whatever - back to BBEG with a new power dynamic. Itís as predictable as a three act structure, but like having three acts, itís predictable because it works.

    Narratively this lets you build up repetitions while both being impressed by and scoring wins against the BBEG without killing him, ending in a climactic show down.

    Mechanically, it lets you pull out basically every encounter trick. The one where a super bad guy is seen in a distance? First time. Where you run like hell? 2nd time. Where you work to foil his plans while he is fighting something else, where he runs away, where he would finish you if he didnít have other pressing businessÖyou can use them all, and then have a classic crawl-boss against one of his schemes in between.

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    Goblin

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    They need to be powerful enough to go toe to toe for several rounds. Like it or not, your players are going to try to kill said bad guy. And as ROFLSTOMPing murderhobos who bend reality and carry around more wealth than the average minor noble, they really donít care about societal checks.
    D&D's weirdness cuts both ways. If your band of murderhobos slays someone important in an extralegal assassination, there's nothing stopping the crown/church/organization from ponying up diamonds, casting Raise Dead, and putting the villain on the witness stand of a murder trial.

    If death isn't always permanent, then just killing someone isn't really a solution.

    Edit: Short of a Level 11 Wizard casting Disintegrate + Gust of Wind.
    Last edited by Kvess; 2021-07-31 at 10:03 AM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kvess View Post
    D&D's weirdness cuts both ways. If your band of murderhobos slays someone important in an extralegal assassination, there's nothing stopping the crown/church/organization from ponying up diamonds, casting Raise Dead, and putting the villain on the witness stand of a murder trial.

    If death isn't always permanent, then just killing someone isn't really a solution.

    Edit: Short of a Level 11 Wizard casting Disintegrate + Gust of Wind.
    Even then, True Ressurection doesn't need a body.
    Quote Originally Posted by KOLE View Post
    MOG, design a darn RPG system. Seriously, the amount of ideas Iíve gleaned from your posts has been valuable. Youíre a gem of the community here.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Lex Luther is not dead because he is a popular villain. the same with a lot of other villains.
    A recurring villain in D&D needs 1 (or more) of 3 things.
    1. be straight up to powerful to kill.
    2. escape plans.
    3. resurrection plans.

    Never count on the players to let him escape, or live.

    That said, I think if I ever wrote a Batman story with the joker in it, I would have some random dude kill the joker upon spotting him. Just kill him dead in the street, and as long as it was my story, he would remain dead.
    the first half of the meaning of life is that there isn't one.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Look at Palpatine in Star Wars, in both his Emperor and Chancellor forms. Hes a villain who appears each movie of his respective trilogies and acts as the overarching villain of the entire saga. Not a bad place to start. But in both trilogies, Palpatine doesnt actually do anything directly until the climax of the last movies and yet he still inspires dread, so maybe the key to a good recurring bad guy is good press rather than frequency of appearance. By the time the PCs confront this guy, they should absolutely not be asking questions like "Who are you?!" anymore, their ears should be well accustomed to his name. Just being around for a long time can make a villain better.

    As the Emperor, (Lich) we as the audience see him pretty early on as a giant holographic head that Darth Vader (Death Knight) is kneeling to. Because Vader, (extremely intimidating figure) KNEELS to this person, we automatically think more of him as a villain without the movie actually having to put him onscreen. Extrapolated into D&D terms, having your villain appear in smoky visions, illusions, or as a booming voice from the sky, or as a name said in fear by otherwise fearless villains can heighten their mystique and intimidation factor without you having to put them in harms way or bully the low level PCs.

    As the Chancellor, its a more political setup. Darth Sidious is his true form and Chancellor Palpatine is just an alter ego. Whether the players know that the friendly NPC is the villain or not doesn't really matter, but it will make the reveal all the more shocking if they truly believed he was their good friend. This is more like banking a great reveal that will make a villain memorable in retrospect rather than setting one up from the start, but those kinds of reveals can be powerful.

    And of course in the disney trilogy he returns from the dead to terrorize the galaxy once more but I'm not sure I would call that a good example of making a recurring bad guy
    Last edited by Trask; 2021-07-31 at 09:08 PM.
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    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    A couple of ways:

    1. Remove the villain from combat. If you have any NPC walk over to any average murderhobo Pc, they will simply get attacked. So never ever have the villain do that. Keep the NPC out of reach and a non combatant.

    For combat, that is what the henchmen are for....just make a "leader' for the Pcs to fight.

    2.Security Total lock down hard core common sense security. Lots of body guards. Lots of defenses. And the somewhat obvious: the PC never get within a mile of the NPC without being disarmed and dismagiced. Having all the PCs strip down to commoner clothing is a must and all armor, weapons and items are taken from them. Spellcasters have their arms ti and are gagged. Or must wear a pair of anti magical shackles. Plus have divinations or mind reading used on them to see if they wish to harm the NPC. Once you get past the mundane and simple magic, the sky is the limit for effects: The NPC only meets with the PCs after they have reduced in size to one inch tall, a ghost freindly to the NPC possesses each PC, or NPC only meets people by projected illusion.

    3.Defences You can do mundane defences, but really you will need magic here. Something like a quick teleport away works best. You can do mundane secret doors and such, but it will take a LOT of detail to make it work.

    4.Non Creature Foes-The NPC is not only not human, but they are...for example....an Evil River. Not a "water elemntal" but they are the spirit of the 65 mile long river that runs through the kingdom. They could also be a tree or a rock or a item like a ring.

    5.Endless Puppets Fit along with the one above if you feel you "must" have a human to talk to the PCs one on one. They are nothing but animated puppets. Lord Zok is just some random poor human who drank water from the Evil River. If he is killed, the Evil River just picks another body.

    This goes along with doppelgangers, clones, copies, duplicates, illusions and such.

    6.The Replacement Kill the big bad NPC foe....and there is always a Starscream waiting to move up and take that spot.

    7.The Unknown They are out there, but no one knows where or even who they are. Maybe they act by agents or a illusion of a floating eye. Or maybe they just stay out of things in mundane ways.

    8.The Good Villain They are a good person, maybe even doing a good things....but they still oppose the PCs. So how foes a good PC murderhobo a good person?

    9.The connected Foe This is a VERY tricky one to pull off AND you need players that care about the game and story and all.

    10.The Money Train This villain simply put is worth more to the PCs alive. You can do politics or drama IF your players care about such things. Or you could just go straight up bribe: the villain gives the PCs each a potion of +100 to hit, and gives them one each week. Few players would kill an NPC that got them such potions

    11.The Group of villeins D&D like a lot of RPGs is a group of players vs a single foe....and even then the game rules get wonky. So make a bad group, with a villain or two for each PC.

    12.The Comeback They come right back if killed. There are plenty of ways to do it in the rules. EVEN if they are killed, they can STILL come right back as an UNDEAD: this is right in the rules too.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Have the first few meetings between the PCs and BBEG be non-hostile. If he's a king, maybe the PCs have hit a group of bandits so nasty that they are on track for a TPK, then the king and his retinue come around the bend and rescue them. That both puts the PCs in his debt AND establishes that he isn't somebody to mess with.

    Make it ambiguous whether the King is actually bad, or just has wicked minions. Does Prince John REALLY know what the Sheriff of Nottingham is doing with his authority? If the PCs collect evidence of the Sheriff's crimes, the Prince will throw him to the wolves, and thank the PCs for helping root out corruption in his realm. Also, mix in a few encounters where the BBEG genuinely DOESN'T know about some of the shenanigans his minions are up to.

    If you've got a player willing to go along with it, make him a love interest for one of the characters. Bonus points if they have a kid together before the PCs figure out he's a villain.

    Give him a sympathetic overarching goal, but have him be willing to take increasingly risky and damaging goals to achieve them. To crib from the Magicians, maybe he wants to bring a beloved child or lover back to life, but his plan for doing so involves breaching the gates to the underworld, and who knows what ELSE will come through? "You're not evil, you're just a deluded jackass!"

    Also, give him something that returns him to life, but don't tell the PCs about it until it happens. And even after it happens, don't tell them WHAT it is (let alone how to break that effect) until they've done some serious questing or research to figure it out. And the first time the PCs think they have it figured out, have them be wrong.
    Last edited by Slipjig; 2021-08-01 at 07:10 PM.

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    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Be warned, though: much of the advice on how to keep the big bad coming back reads an awful lot like the "How to frustrate your players with the feeling that nothing they do matters" list. I think a safer way (some posts have touched on this) is to run a series of adventures, with a defeat-able big bad, but in the mop-up after each adventure, drop clues that there was Someone Else behind that particular big bad; that they were taking orders from Someone Else. After a few of these, when the PCs chose to investigate, lead them to the conclusion that it was the same Someone Else. Given the predominant paranoia among most PCs, you may no longer need to drop hints. The PCs will start assuming that your Someone Else is behind everything.

    DrewID

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrewID View Post
    Be warned, though: much of the advice on how to keep the big bad coming back reads an awful lot like the "How to frustrate your players with the feeling that nothing they do matters" list.
    That is only the case if the thing they want to do is kill their adversary. Some problems might not be solvable with steel and fire, and I think thatís not only okay, it broadens the scope of the game.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Practical Guide to Evil uses mindcontrolled body puppets and it works. If you kill one you murdered an innocent individual, but foiled their local plan. If not you let the plan succeed. Inspires deep hatred.
    And thus are born the orphaned murderhobo party, with no connection to the world, that doesn't care about the innocent kill count. Soon, they take to preemptively killing everyone vulnerable to mind control, until the puppeteer has no puppets left, and is forced to get their own hands dirty, to their doom.

    Then, the GM can run the confused citizens, trying to overthrow what they believe to be tyrants (possibly tyrants supported by the crown). In other words, they'll get to have their recurring bad guy: it's the party!

    Quote Originally Posted by vasilidor View Post
    That said, I think if I ever wrote a Batman story with the joker in it, I would have some random dude kill the joker upon spotting him. Just kill him dead in the street, and as long as it was my story, he would remain dead.
    Hear, hear! That would probably be my favorite Batman story.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hear, hear! That would probably be my favorite Batman story.
    Well there is that section of a Batman comic where a random dude kills Batman. (Killing joke?)


    Iíve found that some of the best villains are the ones the players make for themselves. Seeding multiple potential conflict driving NPCs allows you to cultivate the ones that survive and draw proper reactions from the players.

    Parnell of Parnell Shipping and Salvage Co. is my latest success in that regard. The players arrived at a new port and heard about a shipís log (ship sank 70 years ago carrying Mcguffin) showing up in the hands of a 3rd party. Parnell sent his butler to arrange for the purchase of the log but that didnít pan out. Players stole the log, copied it and sold a copy to the butler to secure salvage gear. At this point they didnít trust Parnell and associates simply because of the competition over the mcguffin but theyíre not going to arbitrarily kill someone they disagree with.

    Then of course they beat his crews to the wreck and got the mcguffin. Parnell later offers to buy this magical WMD off them, presumably to sell it to someone else. Party refuses, Parnell has some goons send a message.

    Flicker forward and more unsavory business ties are revealed, and the party really detests Parnell. The dwarf has only ever showed his face to them once, but even a whisper of his involvement draws blame because the players placed him on this pedestal of esteemed villainy. And what do I do B as a GM? I feed their expectations. News of his death? They 100% believe itís faked (indeed it is). The important part is it confirms their expectations and grows the villainís stature in the players eyes.

    So a good recurring villain? Find a personal reason for the players to hate the villain. A devil worshipper gets executed when heís revealed by anyone, so the players might find justification for early violence. The guy who is a business competitor? Less moral justification for the murder hoboing, more incentive to try creative solutions.
    Martialsí concepts donít evolve past the mundane
    High levels arenít just lower levels with bigger numbers
    Martials have the tools they need for relevance

    Pick 2

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Time Troll View Post
    8.The Good Villain They are a good person, maybe even doing a good things....but they still oppose the PCs. So how foes a good PC murderhobo a good person?
    12.The Comeback They come right back if killed. There are plenty of ways to do it in the rules. EVEN if they are killed, they can STILL come right back as an UNDEAD: this is right in the rules too.
    I was just mulling over the idea of combining these just before I read your post. I have this idea for a good guy that's being used as a puppet by an unknown big bad. He doesn't want to be doing bad things, but he does them anyway. Killing him is just a temporary setback, as he's always there again the next time a big bad plot is coming together. The players have to find a way to release the curse for good, or they have to find out who the big bad is based on outside information (like putting together what his plans are) and take him out.
    Quote Originally Posted by KOLE View Post
    MOG, design a darn RPG system. Seriously, the amount of ideas Iíve gleaned from your posts has been valuable. Youíre a gem of the community here.

    5th Edition Homebrewery
    Prestige Options, changing primary attributes to open a world of new multiclassing.
    Adrenaline Surge, fitting Short Rests into combat to fix bosses/Short Rest Classes.
    Pain, using Exhaustion to make tactical martial combatants.
    Fate Sorcery, lucky winner of the 5e D&D Subclass Contest VII!

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    Strahd (of 5e) is a great reoccurring villain, but he makes the players feel powerless each time he sees them. What if that's not the kind of dynamic you want?
    Having escape plans are a great solution, but how often are they entertaining for the player?
    And most solutions would involve an enemy that uses magic to escape. How would you implement one that didn't?
    Instead of constantly contriving miraculous and unlikely escapes, you can just plain make them killable. Death doesn't have to be the end, or even much of a speedbump, for a truly scary recurring villain; all you need is some reason why they won't stay down until the heroes complete some kind of plot milestone (or fail.)

    Some examples of this type of recurring baddie include Ba'alzamon from Wheel of Time, Kel'thuzad from Warcraft (or any lich really), Harbinger from Mass Effect, Nemesis and Jack Baker from Resident Evil, Naraku from Inuyasha, Buu/Cell/Garlic Jr from Dragonball, Glory from Buffy, the list goes on.
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    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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  25. - Top - End - #25
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Well there is that section of a Batman comic where a random dude kills Batman. (Killing joke?)
    Not Killing Joke. That's the retelling of Joker's origin, painting him as a more or less normal (if a bit neurotic) guy who just has a series of terrible, horrific things happen to him over the course of one day. Joker attempts to make the point that deep down he's like everyone else, and anyone who had gone through what he did would end up like him (Gordon more or less proves him wrong by the end). This was the (in)famous story where Joker ambushes Barbara and shoots her in the back, paralyzing her. Then he strips her naked and poses her (bleeding and all) for lurid photos, then captures Gordon, strips him naked, ties him up, and bombards him with these same photos in an attempt to break him.

    You know, good wholesome family fun.

  26. - Top - End - #26
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The key in my mind is to make the villain's presence Felt, even if they themselves are not Present.

    Have a clear sense of their capabilities and methods, and how those capabilities filter down to their henchmen and schemes.

    Let the PC's piece together an image of their foe from the outline of what they do, how they do it, and how they are talked about.

    Then, you just have them show up once or twice to complete the picture. Make sure that everything they do falls under one of a handful of strong, easily memorable themes.

    If your Villain is a Powerful Spellcaster, have that show up everywhere their hand does. Maybe they taunt the PC's with Sending spells, or their minions are mostly spellcasters and summoned constructs.

    if your Villain is a deadly swordmaster, then their Henchmen might be students of the blade who are enthralled by their Master's deadly skills. They might be spoken about in hushed whispers as one whose skill with a blade is transcendent.



    One of my most memorable BBEG's was a Bard, and one of his core themes was that he was super persuasive. He had agents everywhere, people he'd convinced to work for him, and his armies were a coalition of groups that wouldn't have worked together at all, except that he had managed to convince each one to work with him "For the Time Being".

    Each group had a reason they were working with him, even if it was just an Alliance of Convenience for now. One of his Themes was being persuasive and building coalitions.


    Another one of his themes was Desperation and Recklessness, a lot of his followers were ordinary people turned into super soldiers through reckless magical experimentation, fighting against the established armies of the land.


    He showed up in-person like twice in the campaign. Once in disguise, tricking the party into delivering him to a Macguffin. And later on at the end, when he convinced the PC's to work with him to achieve his immediate goals (The ones he was personally invested in), in exchange for his help against a greater threat, which I thought was a great culmination to a "Diplomancer" BBEG.
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  27. - Top - End - #27
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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The first encounter with him should not be with the BBEG, but actually his minions.
    you should be prepared for your characters to pull off a kill if you stick him in the same room as the party, if they know him to be an enemy.

    I have never really had much issue with murderhobos in my game though, it all sounds weird to me, but as that seems to be the normal for everyone else...

    Actually, I think I have only had one player behave like that.

    back on subject; you should also be prepared for the party to join him if you he is persuasive enough.
    the first half of the meaning of life is that there isn't one.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    So I started my players at 0-Level and the big baddie has been around since then.

    They originally worked for him, enjoyed the good pay, but then realized they were getting screwed.

    The party hates him as he always means problems and bad times, but he always has the solution or means to get what they want, but never in the way they expect, and he gets what he wants.

    He is Lawful Evil, has never lied to them, but never tells them the full truth; he far overpowers the party, but he seems to not have an interest in killing the party, and has a connection to the family members of some of the players.

    I havenít decided if heís going to actually be the father of the one player or not, but he could fit the role of the Darth Vader if need be, and it would just piss off the players even more.

    The best enemy is the one you need to keep alive. This is why the Loki character became loved, Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade excelled in areas the others lacked.

    Establish a baddie that has a reason to let the party live, even when it could destroy them in an instant if they wanted too. This helps develop a reason why the bad guy gets close.

    Understand the secret of creating a great story arc. The players will overcome a few things making the heroes, but make sure you place someone there to help them; then they will have to face their past and what it might mean for them; then if they overcome their past they can then help others to overcome and become the next generation of heroes.

    If the heroes fail and take the dark path, instead of getting a Return of the Jedi type of ending you get Revenge of the Sith ending.

    As for how to keep the big baddie around...

    ...an evil party that backs up the big baddie actually makes good in the case of rescue missions.


    EDIT: Oh it is also interesting to place a bigger problem or bigger baddie in the story and force the party to team up with their enemy to overcome.

    The best enemies are the ones that are the closest to you. I recommend watching the movie U.S. Marshals and TV show Agents of Shield. Robert Downey Jr, makes a great bad guy and the guy who plays Grant Ward keeps coming back as the bad guy over and over after he burns them.
    Last edited by MR_Anderson; 2021-08-03 at 02:18 AM. Reason: add

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Something I found is that it's impossible what the players consider to be cool and latch on to. You'll never know if any specific NPC will be memorable and interesting to them, even when you think you made someone who looks really good on paper.
    Creating amazing big bads and making them stick immediately is very hard, but you've got a lot more chances with their lieutenants. You can have a couple of those and let the players encounter them, and if they really get invested in one of them, that one can become the one that the players will be encountering more often.
    A great lieutenant can often work much better than the actual boss. Worked out amazingly for Darth Vader.
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  30. - Top - End - #30
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Things that worked in my campaigns:
    - although the players assumed it was a single BBEVG I had prepared a stereotypical shadowy cabal of necromancers with an evil plan the players needed to figure out and stop (basically it was an undead wraith/zombie apocalypse the bad guys planned to unleash on kingdoms they were exiled from centuries earlier)
    - speaking through undead minions made for interesting chatter with the players, especially post-combat (e.g. communicating through a severed head of a defeated minion)
    - once the players tracked the BBEVG I let them deafeat him, only to figure out he definitely wasn't working alone
    - the next BBEVG (this time a chick) goes "you killed my brother, now it's personal"
    - the next one, "you wounded my beloved, you'll pay" and so on...

    Overall I propose a big bad that does not chat with the players directly, but through magical communications (talking corpses, mirrors, animals?), or more mundanely through letters, messengers and minions. Experienced high-level players just have too many tricks at their disposal to get at an opponent if he directly reveals himself.

    P.S.Edit: I always find physical quirks and or comparisons to pop-culture figures make for the most memorable NPCs - "the peg-legged dwarf", "the elf with bleeding eyes", "the goth Arwena" "the Danny-davito hobbit"
    Last edited by Bulhakov; 2021-08-03 at 03:21 PM.

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