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

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    smile Good motivations for villains?

    Hey there everyone.
    I'm new to DMing and have a group of players only 3 sessions old and they seem to be having a lot of fun so its all good so far. I'm discovering that DMing is a very fine craft, an art in fact that requires as much finesse and forethought as record keeping and story brainstorming. I'm always trying to improve the sessions, make each one run smoother than the last. All while trying to maximize the fun!

    I know that they are going to have to start encountering an overarching plot soo and I have some far reaching ideas but I'm trying to think of having some long term villains and I do have some ideas but I"m struggling with how to implement them. I hate to not provide any real examples right now as its far too late (but hopefully tomorrow), so I'm not truly asking for help but I would love to know about how other DMs do it in their campaigns.

    What motivates good memorable villains? Why do they have to be stopped? How do they normally get introduced? Do most DMs stat them out way before your PCs reach them? Are long term villains common? Like, from level 2 to level 15 or something? Are villains that only last a few levels common?

    I have endless questions about DMing but I think I'll cut it short here. Any tidbits of wisdom that you guys have about running a satisfying villain or memories of good villains while playing are totally welcome! I want any "aid another" competence bonus I can get :P

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    my BBEG is an aasimar who also has devil blood, he tried to be good, but he saw so many friends die and return still dead he began to hate the world
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    You've got the right DMing attitude, Svethnika. Keeping it fun is what it's all about.

    One of the 7 Deadly Sins are usually at the crux of a villain's motivation. The specific one depends from villain to villain.

    I normally don't stat out encounters more than a session in advance. I have some thematically appropriate (not quite random) encounters statted out that I can toss into any session. Most of my big bad evil guys (BBEGs) don't last more than a few levels, though.

    One way to make a villain memorable is to have the party able to relate to him. An example of this is a necromancer who's willing to sacrifice hundreds of people to bring his little sister back to life.

    Another way is to have the villain downright creepy. One of my most successful creepy villains was a forest spirit in the form of a young girl who was ticked off at the party. When they entered the forest to get some alchemical ingredients, they were watched by various forest animals that didn't detect as evil or as magic. Squirrels, deer, rabbits, wolves--all with blood around their mouths. The animals followed them and watched intently, not running away or making a sound--not resisting even when party members walked up and killed them. No matter how many died, more would come, soon enough. The party was starting to panic as more and more animals joined the circle around them and night began to fall. When they finally met the girl (who demanded that two of them who she had a grudge against be left so that the others could leave alive), half the party ran away in the first round of combat.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    My favorite has to be 'villains' who are tied to nature somehow. The natural growth and expansion of the civilized races, by and large, is actively damaging the environment (If not in the more overt sense of the modern world, in a more mystical sense, where greater understanding of the world and its laws removes the mystique, and primal fear that humans so associated with big, scary creatures like Dire Tyrannosaurs.) Without that essence of nature intact, the villains, and creatures with extremely strong natural ties (Like Druids) find their powers (and lives!) waning. The villain, perhaps from a fae-like race, attempts to rally an attack on civilization to ruin it, reduce it to a state that allows nature to live as it 'should'.

    It leaves a much more gray villain, IMO. If everyone, effectively, is in a war of survival, well, ti's memorable, if regrettable. Expect the heroes, when the players have narrative control, to attempt to Find the Third Option.. Of course, the more savvy console RPG gamer will recognize this is a shameless ripoff, but the thread just asked for a good motivation :3

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    BBEGs are hard to maintain for more than a few levels without serious retooling almost continuously, since the PCs get such a ramp-up in power every level the BBEG has to be gaining power just as fast (or faster if they aren't part of a team).... leading to them just being anouther adventuring party you've got a grudge with (not a bad idea and I've tried it but it only really works once). The Linear guild is a good one for this, They're leveling almost as fast as the Order of the Stick just to remain an annoyance.

    If you want an excellent guide to dreaming up a bad guy Rich's articles in Gaming has some good pointers. Basically I try to find a motivation or a driving archetype and go from there (if you read psychology Jung is great for those). Extrapolating the usually good character traits into their logical extremes is also a good source of villinous behaviour, taking curiosity through voyeurism and into machiavellian puppeterring say, or love turning to smothering overprotection, to inforced conformaty to the idolized unachievable perfection of whatever is cared about.
    Give them bread and circusses and the plebs wont rise against you. Give adventurers dungeons and trapped chests and they won't waste time looking to ransack your home and kill your wife.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Many of the best villains take one good desire - they want to help people, heal people, create order, earn the love of someone - and pursue it in an unbalanced way. They stop at nothing to achieve that one end. An evil Druid wants to protect nature so badly he slaughters a village. An evil Fighter wants to protect his village from orcs, so he wages a genocidal war against them. An evil Wizard shuts out everyone he loves and walks over everyone in his path as he pursues that one last drop of knowledge. Those are obvious and cliche'd examples, but that's the general idea.

    The most important thing to remember about villains is they're people too. They have personalities and desires just as much as the good guys. Don't make them caricatures. Make them as real as the protagonists. Darth Vader, Magneto, Commodus - those are all epic examples to draw from. But you don't have to go all angsty if you don't want to. Check out those links to the left. Xykon and Redcloak have had some excellent villain characterization recently.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    greed? Ambition? power? control? All are great, and more.

    For example, the tyrant who wants to bring order to the world... A cruel and malevolent order, but order nonetheless. This villain wants to control. Not just any order will do, it must be his.

    Alternately, throw a switch in. An otherwise good natured guy, doing unspeakable things for noble reasons... Perhaps the mage divined that the only way to keep his cursed daughter alive was to siphon the souls of others and use them to fortify her decaying spirit.

    Or perhaps an empire killed his wife, and he refuses to admit she's gone, but acknowledges a rage towards that nation, even talking to his "wife", discussing plans.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I'm personally fond of NPCs that are only villainous in the eyes of the PCs, and even, it's questionable. For reasons due to their motives being agreeable, if only they didn't effect the PCs so wrongly. Or even at times, not even effect the PCs - a motive that the PCs might even end up supporting.

    However, I'm also the type to remove alignments from my games - or at the very least Detect -alignment-.


    --
    I also stat my NPCs long ahead of time, and then give them a major rethink over once or twice before the players come face to face with them usually. From the point they are directly effected by the PCs or when they finally meet, I try to play the NPC as a PC, - a character that needs to gather information as the PCs do, with a scope and control on things that show they are mortal - while still showing their capabilities. Even letting them level.
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I think a very interesting motivation can appear to be no more than "Just because". If done correctly, anyway:

    On Iago (of Othello), From Wkipedia:
    In the final scene, Iago’s plan appears to succeed when Othello kills Desdemona, who is innocent of Iago's charges. Soon afterwards, however, Iago’s treachery is brought to light by his wife, Emilia; Iago is placed under arrest. He remains famously reticent when pressed for an explanation of his malicious conduct:

    "Demand me nothing. What you know, you know.
    From this time forth I never will speak word"

    These are his final lines before being taken away for torture and presumably execution.

    Iago is generally regarded as one of Shakepeare’s most malevolent creations. A. C. Bradley, a renowned critic of Shakepeare, claimed that "evil has nowhere else been portrayed with such mastery as in the evil character of Iago."[1] In particular, the mystery surrounding Iago’s actual motives has continued to intrigue readers and fuel scholarly debate.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    But, if you want some real motivations, then you have to deliberate what's actually a motivation and what just happens to make things convenient enough to call the villain evil.

    I'm having trouble determining if whether or not there is any real motivation outside of Greed or Skewed Perception. And generally, the skewed part is present in just about every villain, anyway.

    Greed is an easy one. Consider a head-honcho of a mega-corporation who secretly holds monopolies on the market and demands top dollar for an essential good, taking advantage of countless people and using his great wealth to simply ensure he stays on top of the heap. What is his motivation? Well, he could have accepted the idea that perhaps if he wasn't on top, it'd just be someone else - he's just doing it to make his life not suck. Or, maybe he thinks that people need someone like him to have complete control, because he's enlightened and they're all stupid. With his stranglehold on the economy, he can pretty corrupt whatever government system he's in, and get what he wants done.

    Generally, they're fairly normal people with a distrust for commonfolk (and they maybe possess a few vices, or have other small flaws, like many people), and find an opportunity for greatness. They will likely say that their deeds are either the lesser of two evils, or at least no worse than what would happen anyway. A typical description for a villain is "a low man brought high" (or more specifically, a man of few morals gaining a high status).

    Not all villains are intentionally evil, but do evil in the deluded belief of its morality. Like, a psychopath wanting to murder the King because something he said makes him think he's an evil monster in disguise, and needs to be killed. He might rouse the support of a few other crazies, and there, you've got a campaign of hunting nut-jobs who spread false accusations, starting the groundwork for a rebellion.

    More likely than not, a villain would support what he does with the statement "The Ends of Justify the Means". Regardless of what kind of bad-guy you make, that's a huge defining factor, and what separates him from those with greater morality.

    The length of a villain's involvement in a campaign is vital to consider - you cannot have the same bad-guy hiding behind just every corner, because then the PCs won't feel like they're accomplishing anything by opposing him. He might be around for a few levels (and have some depth), or he might be around for just one (and likely be a little less detailed) - either way, make sure you have a good pacing of encounters, and make sure you're open to letting him die. Always have an escape plan for his encounters if you want him to be around later - but if somebody succeeds in vaporizing him with a disintigrate spell, just have him die. You can always have more villains.

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    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronicled View Post
    One of the 7 Deadly Sins are usually at the crux of a villain's motivation. The specific one depends from villain to villain.
    Nuts. This is what I was gonna suggest... Ah well, I'll expand on it a bit, then.

    Lust: Jealousy, rape, obsession, desire, aquisition of many mates by force or manipulation, seduction. Love is a powerful thing, and so often so close to hate. e.g. The spurned third of a love triangle could nurse his love and hate into a deep resentment.
    Greed: Sheer lust for wealth or power or some other commodity. May originally desire these things for a noble or at least sympathetic reason.
    Gluttony: Always wanting more - more land, more food, more drink, more resources... Could simply be natural expansion.
    Sloth: Laziness... Desire for slaves etc. to do all their work for them?
    Wrath: Revenge, insanity, self-righteousness. Sheer rage can be a poweful yet blunt motivation. A profound resentment can also be the driving force behind a lengthy, convoluted scheme of corruption
    Envy: The desire for something possessed by someone else. A jewel, a nation, a power, a person...
    Pride: Revenge, self-righteousness, honour, personal insults.

    It's rough, but it's late.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Think of your favorite books or movies, and ask yourself what motivated the villain in those. Any of the standard tropes (Wealth, power, sex, just went insane one day) are given interesting spins because they're set in D&D (or whatever RPG you choose to play).

    Whatever motivations you choose for this guy, your players will remember this villain if they are constantly encountering him (or his influence in the world). They'll develop an emotional connection to defeating him. Perhaps he haunts your players' nightmares at night. Perhaps they are chasing him, only to find the villages he devestated just the day before. Perhaps he is some powerful noble in the city, and they have to watch him act without being able to touch him. Let your players experience him a lot, and they will want this guy dead in a big way.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    dude, I think you're gonna do just fine. You totally have the right attitude for this.

    I'm gonna echo on going ahead and reading Rich's article on writing good villains.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    You seem to have the right instincts about this. A villain needs a motivation. He needs to be able to absolutely justify what he is doing. If there's no internal consistency then he's just a mad man.

    Recurring villains are a must. I have one GM who makes us fight a bad guy. And then, oh noes he wasn't the real bad guy, his master is on the loose now! Go fight the bigger badder guy. It just loses focus.

    You don't even need to set out to create a villain. Just make an NPC. Draw him up like you would any other character. But his goals should be somehow incompatible with the PCs' goals.

    One idea I haven't seen mentioned is that you can borrow a BBEG from one of your players if they wrote a backstory. This is actually one of the reasons I encourage each player write out a detailed history. When you do this you already have one player who buys into your BBEG. You don't have to intrigue that player any more. (Of course you run the risk that the other players will dismiss this plot as Steve's turn to be the main character. It can be tricky but you need to make sure that a villain borrowed from the backstory becomes personal for all players involved, not just the one who wrote him.)
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I personally don't think there is anything wrong with taking turns focusing on each character and their respective villains. I mean, as long as you can tie them together well enough that it seems coherent (i.e. tie two of the player's villains together by making one the general of the other or something), you could still get all of their relevant villains placed in there for effect.

    But even better yet, a player specific villain could still develop new animosities for the rest of the players, depending upon how the game goes. A fighter who lands a good blow on a BBEG wizard could end up earning that wizards perpetual animosity.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Yes, you'll be a fine DM. As others said, you have the right attitude.

    Anything I'd say has already been said above. But one point I'd like to emphasize: Money makes the world go round. Whatever plot BBEG is up to, he'll need money. Probably lots. So any shady, questionable or outright evil scheme to get money can be used to hook the players up.

    That is, unless BBEG is some entirely supernatural thingy with no interest in mortal world.
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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Motivations for good memorable villains?
    I have found that the motivation for a memorable villain doesn't always come into play. It depends on your group, and how you play a villain. For example, sometimes the events surrounding a villain's actions are far more memorable than why he does things. I remember my group was on a dungeon crawl once, and the bbeg of the dungeon was a crazy powerful vampire wizard. That's to say, he was crazy AND powerful. So he kept sending illusions of himself to have conversations and taunt us as we fought our way through the dungeon. The final fight against him was incredible as he pulled out every annoying time-wasting trick he could think of to either escape or destroy us. Very entertaining. Unfortunately for him, the GM had a houserule about breaking magic items creating explosions. So our archer used an adamantine arrow to do a ranged sunder attack on his nearly fully charged staff. (as an aside, I love seeing stupid houserules get broken.) What was his motivation? heck if I know. But he was an entertaining villain who I think was just power hungry, nothing complicated, but he was well played and interesting to deal with.

    My personal method is to introduce the big bad slowly. I lie to my players by giving them minor bosses to deal with that are part of a larger conspiracy that is run by the big bad. Currently all of my minor bosses are actually "powers behind the throne" type of villains that have various plots running, all to accomplish something for the truly big bad. Once my players recognize a pattern, I'm hoping that they'll look a little deeper. Once my villain becomes aware of the PC's, I'm certain there will be some conflict actively seeking out the players. I hope it'll be fun.
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Quote Originally Posted by PnP Fan View Post
    My personal method is to introduce the big bad slowly. I lie to my players by giving them minor bosses to deal with that are part of a larger conspiracy that is run by the big bad. Currently all of my minor bosses are actually "powers behind the throne" type of villains that have various plots running, all to accomplish something for the truly big bad.
    I like doing this. Actually, I like doing this too much. I was in the process of writing a campaign in which the players investigate a group of rampaging ogres who are being manipulated by an ogre mage who is being manipulated by a cloud giant who is also manipulating a group of hill giants, only it turns out that the cloud giant is actually a gnome bard wearing a suit of magically-powered armor disguised as a cloud giant, then after the defeat of an entire kingdom of evil gnomes it turns out that they were actually being manipulated by an evil dragon, who is the actual BBEG.

    Then I realized that all that was incredibly too complex, cut out all the middlemen and dumbed down the dragon, so now it's just a fairly young dragon manipulating some ogres through a renegade goliath-exile-turned-xorvintaal-exarch.

    My recommendation is that if you use a villain chain, keep it fairly short. If you keep pulling powers out from behind that throne the PCs are going to start wondering how they all fit back there in the shadows.
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    One villain motivation I like is the desire to understand one's own place in the world. If your world consists of light and darkness, or perhaps the villain was simply taught as much in his childhood, the villain may have tried to be a hero, but fell victim to the flaws that each person has. Rejected and disappointed, unsure of his or her place in the world, if being a hero is denied, they settle on becoming a villain, perhaps with the end goal to orchestrate a situation where a hero takes them down.

    Another idea I've had recently is the idea of cultists to an evil god who are enacting an evil plan for their deity, but which they're only pursuing to evade the wrath of that evil god. Perhaps they signed away their souls without knowing, and now seek only to escape their bondage, but that a horrible fate awaits them if they refuse to go along with the deity's commands. This idea could be unsuitable for the lower levels of characters though.

    A BBEG in a game I'm running now seeks to end the conflict of Jedi versus Sith by essentially making a Sith dynasty so strong, and so willing to sacrifice innocent lives that no Jedi would oppose them in good conscience. This Sith is trying to do so by creating a superweapon capable of destroying a planet entirely, and keeping it in trust for a Sith Lord with the power in the force necessary to stand up to the most powerful of Jedi. This BBEG thinks that by holding a big enough gun, people would be forced to be peaceful and no more lives need to be lost in these massive wars which rock the Star Wars galaxy every generation or so.
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    AssassinGuy

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    Thumbs up Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Wow guys!! I'm amazed for by the quantity and quality of the responses! Thanks for the responses and some great links and ideas :)

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    There are several basic kinds of motive that I can think of off the top of my head.

    One of them is fanatical devotion to some kind of cause or ideal. This can include loyalty to a person, organization, or deity, or focus on a cause such as justice or revenge. This motive would rarely actually be selfish.

    Another is a selfish desire to gain wealth or power at the expense of others. They would tend to immediately act against anyone who gets in their way, instead of toying with them.

    Another is a desire to gain respect from others. Villains with this motive often wouldn't be honest about it even to themselves, but they would probably end up revealing it anyway by choosing to monologue about themselves rather than killing the heroes when they have the chance. They ultimately put their need to be understood and respected/feared by others over actually succeeding in their plans.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Another approach is to look at the world you're playing in, and see what natural extensions exist there. For example, let's look at Vethedar. It's a world with few cities, because people tend to mass together to try and maintain strength of numbers against the equally few major threats that exist. The major human city in the world, Vaeles, is a city run basically under martial law, with a man by the name of Kieran Longspear at its head.

    Kieran, and a few of his closest friends, were adventurers back in the day. This can open up an entire other group of issues - what adventurer doesn't manage to piss off at least ONE major power on the way to becoming high level? I can extrapolate from that, and it's extremely believable for me to drop a quest where I send a smaller group of PCs after some minor threat that's been detected, and later drop hooks that lead to a much larger overall plot to get back at Kieran and company for perceived wrongs. It's worth noting that if you look back through the thread, you'll see that this would fall under the "Pride" category where the deadly sins are concerned.
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I can't name a single villain I ever truly loved without invoking a few of these tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AntiVillain

    A couple of them have been out and out stated by others already, but it's always nice to consolidate. :)
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Often I create several BBEGs, and determine their rank and power level as it fits the campaign. If one gets killed off early, he can't be the biggest deal, if the players procrastinate with dealing with another, he only grows in power and give the PCs the feeling that this is their responsibility for not nipping it in the bud. You can also take cues from the PCs this way and decide which they perceive to be the best villain.

    Also, there was a vaguely recent thread on this that I'd like to link for neutralish villains

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I like villians who are mentally unstable yet sympathetic...

    Kind of a "I don't want to kill you, but I have to." situation.
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet are accidents. Perhaps the villain made a small mistake that had a BIG impact, and now he's working to reverse that mistake no matter the cost.

    For example, the campaign I'm planning now has the BBEG accidently kill his father. As his father won't be resurrected, he begins trying to increase his power, eventually discovering necromancy. Now he's seeking to increase the power of Dark in the world so that he will be able to perfectly reanimate his father.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    My antagonist, A drow, fell in love with an elf. Naturally, she didn't like him. Over the next 30 years, he went crazy, and is now on a quest to destroy all the elves (except her, actually). So, as my PCs adventured, he became more and more crazy, as well as growing in power. Originally, he was just there to get more powerful, no course of action, and eventually he had his sights set on something.
    Nothing's a stronger driving force then a love for something gone wrong to corrupt the individual.
    Just my own personal thoughts. Disregard them, if you want to.

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutee View Post
    My favorite has to be 'villains' who are tied to nature somehow.
    Indeed. Fiends are overdone...but Genies can be excellent, and have a built in tie to nature.
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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    A mad wizzard who needs human bodies and souls in his research for the "potion of ever lasting youth". The more powerful the soul, the more usefull it is(thus why he could be after the PCs.)

    The immortality of a litch, the stats and appearence of when you were 24.



    This just throws many valid perspectives into the mix.

    Any Good character will naturaly be opposed to this, especialy when not only is he killing them, he is killing thier souls.

    Neutral Characters don't want be earased out of exstance for his gain.

    And Evil characters, not only view this as a threat to their existance, they may also want to use the potion for themselves.


    Nothing says villain like Crimes agasint Humanity.

    Also, when they beat they guy, they find several potions of the stuff. They can release the souls, leaving the potions only to make them young for hte rest of their natural lives, or they can drink them, and live forever young.


    I just though of all that, I'm totaly going to use it next campain...

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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutee View Post
    My favorite has to be 'villains' who are tied to nature somehow. The natural growth and expansion of the civilized races, by and large, is actively damaging the environment (If not in the more overt sense of the modern world, in a more mystical sense, where greater understanding of the world and its laws removes the mystique, and primal fear that humans so associated with big, scary creatures like Dire Tyrannosaurs.) Without that essence of nature intact, the villains, and creatures with extremely strong natural ties (Like Druids) find their powers (and lives!) waning. The villain, perhaps from a fae-like race, attempts to rally an attack on civilization to ruin it, reduce it to a state that allows nature to live as it 'should'.

    It leaves a much more gray villain, IMO. If everyone, effectively, is in a war of survival, well, ti's memorable, if regrettable. Expect the heroes, when the players have narrative control, to attempt to Find the Third Option.. Of course, the more savvy console RPG gamer will recognize this is a shameless ripoff, but the thread just asked for a good motivation :3
    Would Social Darwinism fit in there? Just out of Curiosity?


    I personally am fond of using Fascism. Because if you ignore the nazi elements, it can be a very tempting system
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    Default Re: Good motivations for villains?

    I like the kind of villian that actually decieves the good guys and they end up doing his dirty job without knowing it. There was an adventure I once found on the internet in wich a party of adventurers where hired to kill an evil dragon, once they reached the dragon killed him, the guy who hired them prepared a special ritual to gain control of the body and at the same time resurrecting it, now, the guy was a dragon and much more poerful than before, the adventurers fleed from the newly awakened "mega-dragon" only to discover that not only they were fooled by that guy but that the dragon was also good and the protector of a near village wich now, without the aid of the dragon was surely going to fall under the constant raids of pirates.

    the motivation of the guy was a simple one "Me wants power", but the way he achieved it and the consequences of it were absolutly fantastic...
    I WAS THERE
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    Sane.... isn't the word I'd use with you, Coplantor. Or myself, in fact. With myself, I'd say obssessive. With you, I'd say.... Coplantor.


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