A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Another way to look at the problem is to find your favorite BBE/antagonist(s) in book/comic/tv/etc. What makes you like them so much or love to hate them so much? What makes them successful in the story?

    What about your players' favorite villains? Sample from all of that material, and you'll have a great basis for your top baddie.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    I ask my players to make characters for their next game.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The recurring part has been dealt with, but to answer the question if what makes a “good villain”, i.e. one the party enjoys being in the same story with.

    I read years ago about a likability index for characters in fiction and I find it works for BBEGs. I’ll try to write up what I can from memory.. You don’t need to hit every point, but a solid majority of them is necessary.

    It is important to show this in game. You can’t rely on NPCs saying “the BBEG is so [X]” The characters need to see the BBEG do it him or herself.

    1) Are they Physically attractive. For villains this is basically “does he look like a badass?”. For TTRPGs this is limited somewhat by the theater of the mind., but aids like a miniature or drawing can help.

    2) Are they hard working? People like it when success is earned not given.

    3) Are they funny? People like humor. Think Hades in Disney’s Hercukes. You don’t want slapstick or too many gags.

    4) Are they intelligent? Again this is something that has to be shown by their clever plans and responses. Not GM fiat of declaring hey the BBeG had a counterplan, or saying he has an INT stat of 20.

    5) Are they in control of their emotions? Especially their temper. Think Kyli Ren -v- Darth Vader. Darth Vader executes people who fail to follow the plan, Kylo Ren slaughters stoomptroopers who were unlucky to be in his vicinity when he gets some bad news. If you have a villain like Professor Ratigan in Basil the Great Mouse Detective, it’s OK for the BBEG to lose it and go feral when all his o,ans have been thwarted and defeat stolen from the jaws if victory, but there is some foreshadowing that he does have a temper but he is keeping it under control.

    6) Are they competent? Can they do what they set out to achieve? Compare Darth Vader’s plans in Star Wars + basically everything he does should by rights have worked. Admiral Hux’s plan in the Rian Johnson hot garbage film relied on “we have a magic new technology item that poppeed into existence at a plot convenient time”. And can you imagine how long Poe would have lasted if he tried the Bart Simpson prank call?

    7’ Are they consistent? Someone who follows a code is more likable. It may be a screwed up code like the Joker,
    Last edited by Pauly; 2021-08-05 at 03:34 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    A good BBEG (or character or NPC)needs a "rooting interest". These are parts of their character that makes them worth hoping to succeed.

    This could be anything really, but often takes the form of:
    1. Is bad, but is surrounded by people much worse. He keeps them in check.
    2. He does not kill indiscriminately
    3. He helps out the orphanage/animal shelter too!
    4. He has a bad background, but lifted himself out of it.

    No matter what it is, the BBEG has to have a chance to interact with the PCs either before it is known he is a villain or some other way. If the PCs do not know anything about them, they will never be compelling.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    A smart BBEG never puts himself anywhere near harm's way. He works through trusted lieutenants and bamboozled rubes. If he must take personal action, he does so only after ensuring his own personal safety.

    Others have already mentioned simulacrum and illusions, but even something as low-tech (low-magic) as having a minion pretend to be him (think Ironman 3's fake Mandarin) while he passes himself off as a low-level flunky who is quick to flip on his "boss" to save his own ass (or even pretends to be a "good guy" who has been duped by the "BBEG").

    Yeah, I know you didn't want to play 4D chess, but you can't really get away from it when you have heroes who can go toe-to-toe with a Dragon and come out on top.

    As a related side note:

    You may have seen this already (it's been around since the 80s at least (depending on who you believe says they created it)), but this list is always a good read when designing your BBEG.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2021-08-09 at 10:16 PM.
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The Immortal has you covered!

    The Immortal is not evil. He merely has a goal of surviving beyond time itself. There is only one of The Immortal, and yet there are many. The immortal ranges from pathetically weak to nigh unkillable.

    Each of The Immortal has a portion of The Immortal's memories. He has lived so long he has forgotten much. Each copy of The Immortal is always on a quest to gain immortality. The Immortal will approach vampires to be turned, seek out lichdom, Even place himself in Stasis. One The Immortal even bound his essence to multiple planes of existence so that The Immortal cannot be killed without destroying the multiverse.

    The Immortal is neither male nor female, but at the same time can be either or both. The Immortal can manifest anywhere, in any system.

    The fun part is, killing The Immortal does nothing. Because The Immortal is many. But The Immortal can be any level. Eliminating The Immortal is not automatically required to stop him. Usually, his goal will be some artifact which will act as yet another layer of immortality. Stopping him merely consists of eliminating what The Immortal is after.
    Last edited by Calthropstu; 2021-08-10 at 02:26 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    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.
    I think the first point here is really important, but I'd add a little more. The villain needs a well defined motivation, and that motivation shouldn't be to defeat the PCs. If the party and the villain are diametrically opposed, the only way for the villain to survive is by defeating the players (making them feel helpless) and then running away for whatever reason. However, if the villain wants to ascend the throne for example, there are plenty of ways for them to encounter the players and leave without either side definitively defeating the other. Just a few examples off the top of my head, the villain could try to marry into the royal family, assassinate everyone ahead of himself in the line of succession, convince the current king to name him an heir, or if all else fails, stage a bloody coup. All but the last of these allow either side to win without killing the other.

    Maybe a better way to put it is that the villain's plan needs to be accomplishable in stages, and those stages shouldn't spell death for either side.

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    4) Are they intelligent? Again this is something that has to be shown by their clever plans and responses. Not GM fiat of declaring hey the BBeG had a counterplan, or saying he has an INT stat of 20.
    I think it's worth pointing out that the opposite can be true too. Incredibly stupid characters are usually very likeable. As an example, which of these two characters was more endearing?

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stonehead View Post
    I think it's worth pointing out that the opposite can be true too. Incredibly stupid characters are usually very likeable. As an example, which of these two characters was more endearing?
    As I said the lust sn’t meant to ge “tick all boxes”, just tick most boxes.

    Kronk is
    1) good looking
    2) hard working
    3) funny
    5) in control of his emotion
    6) competent at the things he is supposed to be competent at. Incompetent at following complex evil villain instructions doesn’t make him incompetent, because that isn’t his job description.
    7) Consistent.

    He hits most of the likability factors. And only really misses on one.

    Yzma on the other hand only really hits on (4) intelligent.
    Her character design isn’t scary or intimidating
    She isn’t hard working as she keeps on passing work off onto Kronk, even tasks she knows he isn’t good at. She consistently misses details that a competent villain would notice.
    Her jokes fall flat.
    Is always losing her temper or on the edge of losing her temper.
    Pretty well fails at every task she attempts.
    Has a lot of changes of plan. You never really know what she’s going for or why.

    And it doesn’t really matter because that movie is the most racist piece of trash that makes Song of the South look like a perfectly fine representation of it’s characters.
    Last edited by Pauly; 2021-08-12 at 06:46 AM.

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    It could be that being stupid is an easy shortcut to being funny, but personally I think there's a little more to it. I see the rise of the term 'himbo' as evidence of this.

    And besides, I just said I thought it was worth bringing up, no issues with any of the original points.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    And it doesn’t really matter because that movie is the most racist piece of trash that makes Song of the South look like a perfectly fine representation of it’s characters.
    Well that’s a new one. Did this line of thinking stem from 280 characters or 280000?
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    The only way to ensure that the PCs don't kill a villain is to not put the villain in a position where the PCs could possibly kill them. Things you think will stop the PCs from killing them, shouldn't actually be counted on to keep the villain safe, from social backlash in-setting, to the risk of losing the fight, to escape plans for the villain, to whatever.

    First step to a recurring villain to survival.
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  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Well that’s a new one. Did this line of thinking stem from 280 characters or 280000?
    I just came back to see what developments happened on my thread. Apparently it is now about Disney movies and racism. Glad to see the internet hard at work.
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  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    If I was to focus on one key detail that defines the most of Kronk’s adversarial relationship it would be that he’s not explicitly trying to kill Kuzco. Rather than being a Skeletor who directly opposes the protagonist, he is an individual who happens to find himself in conflict with Kuzco. Orcus wants to destroy everything and remake it in undeath. The player characters are generally going to oppose Orcus regardless of circumstances, making Orcus more akin to a natural disaster. The corrupt vizier who would be perfectly happy if the PCs didn’t stick their nose in his business, or if they worked for him? That’s a villain the players earn through their choices. I can throw Orcus on a campaign and it sets the theme. But when players earn their villain it can get personal and memorable.
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The only way to ensure that the PCs don't kill a villain is to not put the villain in a position where the PCs could possibly kill them. Things you think will stop the PCs from killing them, shouldn't actually be counted on to keep the villain safe, from social backlash in-setting, to the risk of losing the fight, to escape plans for the villain, to whatever.

    First step to a recurring villain to survival.
    Surviving to fight another day is only half the equation though. You can only fight another day if you actually fought the first day. It doesn't really feel like a recurring villain if all they do is throw henchmen at the party from the shadows (although I doubt you were suggesting anything that extreme). I think an important part of the recurring villain is actually interacting back-and-forth with the party.

    I think you're usually better off just hedging your bets, and accepting when that doesn't work. The dice could always crit, and players always act unexpectedly, but you can account for these things to a certain extent as a dm. Personally, I think it's worth it to let them interact. A villain getting away when it was possible to catch them makes me hate them way more than if it's actually impossible.

    The key is to just roll with the punches when your plans don't unfold the way you were expecting. After all, a game about Aladin living as an exile after killing Jaffar on sight sounds pretty fun too.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Stonehead View Post
    Surviving to fight another day is only half the equation though. You can only fight another day if you actually fought the first day. It doesn't really feel like a recurring villain if all they do is throw henchmen at the party from the shadows (although I doubt you were suggesting anything that extreme). I think an important part of the recurring villain is actually interacting back-and-forth with the party.

    I think you're usually better off just hedging your bets, and accepting when that doesn't work. The dice could always crit, and players always act unexpectedly, but you can account for these things to a certain extent as a dm. Personally, I think it's worth it to let them interact. A villain getting away when it was possible to catch them makes me hate them way more than if it's actually impossible.

    The key is to just roll with the punches when your plans don't unfold the way you were expecting. After all, a game about Aladin living as an exile after killing Jaffar on sight sounds pretty fun too.
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Well that’s a new one. Did this line of thinking stem from 280 characters or 280000?
    This will take some time to unpack.

    1) Character names.
    Cuzco is a place not a person. {Scrubbed}.
    Pacha is the name of the Earth Goddess. Wrong gender and not a person’s name.
    Chicha (Pacha’s wife) translates as beer or beverage.
    Kronk. Is European (specifically Germanic) sounding.
    Yzma. Sounds nothing like Quechua, Aymara or Nazca the three main languages used in the {Scrubbed}. It sounds more like {Scrubbed} or some other Central American language. {Scrubbed}
    Not a single major character has a name that is culturally correct.

    2) Pacha’s character design.
    Kronk and Cuzco are actually not too bad. Yzma, I have no idea what she’s supposed to be, but whatever it is, it ain’t {Scrubbed}.
    Pacha is meant to be a quechua. Quechua are short and stocky, not big and fat. Quechua gave small rounded noses, not aquiline noses. Quechua skin coloring is brown with rosy cheeks, the rosiness coming from altitude. There is a whole school of art known as the Cuzco school, the defining characteristic of which is depicting {Scrubbed}figures with quechua coloring. The Quechua personality is typified by cheerfulness in the face of adversity, not sighing and moaning acceptance.
    The residents if the altiplano have a highly developed textiles industry. The signature if which is brightly colored and many colored cloths with intricate designs.
    Pacha does not look like the people he comes from. He doesn’t act like the people he comes from. He doesn’t dress like the people he comes from.

    3) When Kronk and Yzma go to Pacha’s village.
    Pacha’s kids hit them as piñatas.{Scrubbed}
    4) The inciting incident.
    Pacha receives a summons on paper. The {Scrubbed}did not have paper or a written language. Famously they had quipus.
    The Emperor’s summer place is a real place. I’ve been there. It is high in the mountains to avoid heat. Not down in the jungle where it’s hotter and humid.

    5) After Cuzco is turned into a llama.
    He is out in Pacha’s wagon which rolls away.
    {Scrubbed}never developed the wheel.
    Llamas are famous for sitting down and stubbornly refusing to move the instant they are overloaded by just 1 gram, let alone the weight of another llama.

    6) The animals
    Jaguars are spotted like leopards not black like panthers.
    Llama is pronounced “Yama”.
    Grey squirrels do not exist in Peru. However there are 2 famous rodents from there the cuy (better known in English as the guinea pig) and the capybara.
    Peru has caymans and crocodiles, not alligators. In any event they live in the Amazonia, not the altiplano where the Incas had their capital.

    7) The scenery.
    The grass is the wrong color, it should be more khaki than green.
    The mountains are the wrong shape. They should be jagged not smooth.
    {Scrubbed}architecture is famously for close fitting intricately and precisely cut stonework. None of which is seen.
    Pacha’s village has free standing houses and open fields. {Scrubbed}villages had houses close up against each other like Italian or Spanish villages and are famous for terraced fields.
    Pacha’s house gas wooden shelves on the walls. Inca houses used alcoves.

    I could go on, but I hope this gives you a small idea of just how wrongly wrong and offensive this movie is.
    To make it worse everything they got wrong in The Emperor’s New Groove they got right in Saludos Amigos in 1942.
    Last edited by jdizzlean; 2021-08-15 at 01:52 AM. Reason: clean up

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Spoiler: Some really good analysis with a few typos, and which is far too lengthy to be quoted
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    This will take some time to unpack.

    1) Character names.
    Cuzco is a place not a person. It would be like having “Empower Tokyo” of Japan or “Czar Moscow” of Russia.
    Pacha is the name of the Earth Goddess. Wrong gender and not a person’s namr.
    Chicha (Pacha’s wife) translates as beer or beverage.
    Kronk. Is European (specifically Germanic) sounding.
    Yzma. Sounds nothing like Quechua, Aymara or Nazca the three main languages used in the Inca Empire. It sounds more like Aztec, Tlascalan or some other Central American language. But hey, everything south of the Rio Grande is just one culture.
    Not a single major character has a name that is culturally correct.

    Pacha’s character design.
    Kronk and Cuzco are actually not too bad. Yzma, I have no idea what she’s suppised to be, but whatever it is, it ain’t Inca.
    Pacha is meant to be a quechua. Quechua are short and stocky, not big and fat. Quechua gave small rounded noses, not aquiline noses. Quechua skin coloring is brown with rosy cheeks, the rosiness coming from altitude. There is a whole school of art known as the Cuzco school, the defining characteristic of which is depicting biblical figures with quechua coloring. The Quechua personality is typified by cheerfulness in the face of adversity, not sighing and moaning acceptance.
    The residents if the altiplano have a highly developed textiles industry. The signature if which is brightly colored and many colored cloths with intricate designs.
    Pacha does not look like the people he comes from. He doesn’t act like the peopke ge comes from. He doesn’t dress like the people he comes from.

    When Kronk and Yzma go to Pacha’s village.
    Pacha’s kids hit them as piñatas. A Mexican tradition. But hey it’s fine because everything south if the Rio Grande is just one culture.

    The inciting incident.
    Pacha receives a summons on paper. The Incas did not have paper or a written language. Famously they had quipus.
    The Emperor’s summer place is a real place. I’ve been tgere. It is high in the mountains to avoid heat. Not down in the jungle where it’s hotter and humid.

    After Cuzco is turned into a llama.
    He is out in Pacha’s wagon which rolls away.
    Incas never developed the wheel.
    Llamas are famous for sitting down and stubbornly refusing to move the instant they are overloaded by just 1 gram, let alone the weight of another llama.

    The animals
    Jaguars are spotted like leopards not black like panthers.
    Llama is pronounced “Yama”.
    Grey squirrels do not exist in Peru. However there are 2 famous rodents from there the cuy (better known in English as the guinea pig) and the capybara.
    Peru has caymans and crocodiles, not alligators. In any event they oive in the hungoes, not the altiplano where the Incas had their capital.

    The scenery.
    The grass is the wrong color, it should be more khaki than green.
    The mountains are the wrong shape. They should be jagged not smooth.
    Inca architecture is famously for close fitting intricately and precisely cut stonework. None of which is seen.
    Pacha’s village has free standing houses and open fields. Inca villages had houses close up against each other like Italian or Spanish villages and are famous for terraced fields.
    Pacha’s house gas wooden shelves on the walls. Inca houses used alcoves.

    I could go on, but I hope this gives you a small idea of just how wrongly wrong and offensive this movie is.
    To make it worse everything they got wrong in The Emperor’s New Groove they got right in Saludos Amigos in 1942.
    And that right there is why it's not okay. If you got it right in the past, in a time where nobody expected you to do it right, it's pretty stupid looking when you do it wrong now.

    Also, Izma is an ArabicUrdu name meaning Greatness or High/Esteemed Position. I don't know if they're related, but it would fit the character. Very much not Inca though.
    Last edited by Seclora; 2021-08-13 at 06:55 PM.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Seclora View Post
    And that right there is why it's not okay. If you got it right in the past, in a time where nobody expected you to do it right, it's pretty stupid looking when you do it wrong now.

    Also, Izma is an ArabicUrdu name meaning Greatness or High/Esteemed Position. I don't know if they're related, but it would fit the character. Very much not Inca though.
    Thanks for that. I’ve fixed most of the typos. Very useful information about Izma, which fits the character perfectly, which makes me think it isn’t a coincidence.

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

    The making of that movie was a mess.

    Beyond that, probably also entirely off topic for the thread and forum.

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

    I’ll keep my vote on the 280 characters. Inaccurate butchering of cultures filtered through modern concepts? Sure, that’s the Disney MO. Recent live action Mulan fell short of expectations in China because they blended styles and fashions from different regions and time periods. Shoddy work? For certain. But to have such a low bar as “things I find disagreeable” for racist nothing short of an historically accurate representation would be acceptable. SotS pushed harmful stereotypes and messages, New Groove is merely incompetence being mistaken for malevolence.
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    d6 Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kvess View Post
    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 doesn’t 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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sigreid View Post
    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 don't use intentionally recurring BBEG exactly because players will often totally ignore reasons rational people in the real world wouldn't just stab a guy.

    And not only that, for a certain kind of player, they're totally justified in their own minds that it was the heroic thing to do. Because in books and movies, that's what "true heroes" d9. Stab the evil guy even though they'll have to pay consequences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    I don't use intentionally recurring BBEG exactly because players will often totally ignore reasons rational people in the real world wouldn't just stab a guy.

    And not only that, for a certain kind of player, they're totally justified in their own minds that it was the heroic thing to do. Because in books and movies, that's what "true heroes" d9. Stab the evil guy even though they'll have to pay consequences.
    The paladin suddenly loses his powers, land held by the party is confiscated and an arrest warrant has been issued. Guards will be at your base in moments. What do you do?

    At that point, the campaign switches from being heroic to "escape the kingdom with your lives" and turns into murderhobo territory. You can try and salvage it by allowing the pcs to prove guilt after the fact, but that could be difficult.

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

    live action Mulan was an insult to anyone who knows anything about tactics and warfare.

    Back on topic: it is ok for your players to hate your big bad and want them dead. gives them motivation to see the campaign through.
    the first half of the meaning of life is that there isn't one.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    The paladin suddenly loses his powers, land held by the party is confiscated and an arrest warrant has been issued. Guards will be at your base in moments. What do you do?

    At that point, the campaign switches from being heroic to "escape the kingdom with your lives" and turns into murderhobo territory. You can try and salvage it by allowing the pcs to prove guilt after the fact, but that could be difficult.
    And yet despite that, there are plenty of players that will still stab a bad guy, and have fun playing the resulting fallout. Some of them still heroes in their own mind all the while.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    And yet despite that, there are plenty of players that will still stab a bad guy, and have fun playing the resulting fallout. Some of them still heroes in their own mind all the while.
    As his coconspirators pick up the pieces,and carry the plan to fruition without him, ultimately resulting in gis ultimate victory. Because what is a bbeg without a backup plan.

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

    Hmm, about this problem - "How to ensure PCs don't just kill a Big Bad"... I have an idea. They don't kill him because he is dead.
    No, not "dead", like a lich, death knight or any other undead - literally dead. Somebody like a Cave Johnson from Portal 2, or Girard Draketooth turned up to eleven. A person who left a lot of plans and pre-recorded messages and then died.
    You cannot do anything to him - you are just destroying an "illusion stone" left by a long time ago. You need to disrupt his plans, using the fact that he is, well, dead, and cannot adjust them to the crazy tactics that PCs are inventing - the living pawns and minor agents are capable of deviating from his plans, but they lack the complex information that he had.

    Of course, PCs may try to somehow ressurrect him to interrogate him (or something equally as stupid and cool), but in general... I think such a plot would be very interesting, because personally, I was hugely emotionally involved in the Cave Johnson despite him being a posthumous character =-)

    (And, about the "Disney racism" discussion - it saddens me to see how widespread the presumption of guilt is nowadays).
    ... and sorry for my bad English in the post above.

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

    You really shouldn't have the PCs fight the BBEG over and over. That just turns your BBEG into a Saturday morning cartoon villain. Think about it.

    Reaching to my "Deck of Grognard Things" I'll draw the "Thundercats" card.

    The BBEG of the series was Mum-Ra, a sorcerer bent on world domination and destroying the titular heroes. Every week he would be in the middle of some dastardly plan and Lion-o would show up to stop him. Mum-Ra would fight for a bit, then transform into a super mummy when things stopped going his way. Then Lion-o would stroke his sword to make it bigger, summon the rest of the party and they would kick his ass. Every week you knew Mum-Ra was going to get his bony butt kicked (or every other week if it was a two-part episode). He was neither scary nor intimidating. The Thundercats didn't even take him seriously. The comic relief character was the only one who was afraid of him, but then he was afraid of his own shadow half the time.

    Now, if this is the feeling you are going for in your campaign, by all means, keep throwing your BBEG at your party and having his ass handed to him. But your players won't be taking him seriously for very long. How can they? Every time he shows up they curb-stomp him and he runs off with his tail (actual or metaphorical) between his legs. How can you be expected to fear someone that you beat up on a weekly basis?

    Your BBEG should show up once, near the start of your campaign, and almost TPK your PCs before they manage to run away (or some Deus Ex Machina such as a collapsing bridge saves their keisters).

    After that, depending on the plot of your campaign he should either be ignoring them until they gain enough power (levels) to become an actual threat or constantly chasing them (while they barely stay ahead of him) as they try to keep the MacGuffin out of his hands, for example. But they should never fight him (seriously) until they are capable of taking him down, and he shouldn't be putting in any personal appearances until that time.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

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

    I would try to make Big Bads that can be negotiated with:
    Villains with motivations and goals, can sometimes end up with the party and the villain having aligned goals or non-conflicting goals. This can make for a game where the villain is more like an NPC until the party and the villain reach a breaking point where their conflicts must be resolved with violence.
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    Default Re: How do you make a good reoccurring big bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    You really shouldn't have the PCs fight the BBEG over and over. That just turns your BBEG into a Saturday morning cartoon villain. Think about it.

    Reaching to my "Deck of Grognard Things" I'll draw the "Thundercats" card.

    The BBEG of the series was Mum-Ra, a sorcerer bent on world domination and destroying the titular heroes. Every week he would be in the middle of some dastardly plan and Lion-o would show up to stop him. Mum-Ra would fight for a bit, then transform into a super mummy when things stopped going his way. Then Lion-o would stroke his sword to make it bigger, summon the rest of the party and they would kick his ass. Every week you knew Mum-Ra was going to get his bony butt kicked (or every other week if it was a two-part episode). He was neither scary nor intimidating. The Thundercats didn't even take him seriously. The comic relief character was the only one who was afraid of him, but then he was afraid of his own shadow half the time.

    Now, if this is the feeling you are going for in your campaign, by all means, keep throwing your BBEG at your party and having his ass handed to him. But your players won't be taking him seriously for very long. How can they? Every time he shows up they curb-stomp him and he runs off with his tail (actual or metaphorical) between his legs. How can you be expected to fear someone that you beat up on a weekly basis?

    Your BBEG should show up once, near the start of your campaign, and almost TPK your PCs before they manage to run away (or some Deus Ex Machina such as a collapsing bridge saves their keisters).

    After that, depending on the plot of your campaign he should either be ignoring them until they gain enough power (levels) to become an actual threat or constantly chasing them (while they barely stay ahead of him) as they try to keep the MacGuffin out of his hands, for example. But they should never fight him (seriously) until they are capable of taking him down, and he shouldn't be putting in any personal appearances until that time.
    I think one key point about the Thundercats example, is that the big bad does zero lasting damage (or so it seems based on your post, that show was before my time). If the BBEG's encounters leave the players worse off than they found him, they'll pretty quickly come to react to his coming. Whether that's fear or anger depends on the group. Importantly, HP damage doesn't count as worse-off, unless you're playing a system with lasting injuries, which no dungeon-fantasy game is.

    The BBEG needs to kill NPCs, or steal/destroy equipment, or level cities. It's tough to give system agnostic advice here, because what is lasting and what is transient really depends on the system. In GURPS, hp damage would probably take weeks to heal, so that's probably enough. In DnD, even severed limbs can be grown back, so you kind of need to target their wallets.

    One thing that does transcend system is people and places the characters actually care about, but you have to be careful there. If you destroy everything the PCs start to care about, they usually respond by stopping caring about anything, not with repeated emotional reactions.

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