These are the antagonists of the game. They are the NPCs that motivate the PCs to action. They are more than just an archetype. You will most likely spend a lot of time building your villain.
While there are always exceptions, generally a villain is made with the following points in mind.
· A villain fulfils a role: The role of your villain is by far the most important. What do they do, why are they doing it? Linking them with the party can be as easy as asking your players for ideas for a nemesis and collecting their ideas into a villain or two for them to encounter over their career.
· A villain needs to provide conflict: The goal of a villain is to provide someone for players to track and stop. A villain’s agenda should contrast that of the character’s goals greatly.
· A villain needs personality: A “good” villain should be one that characters come to love to hate. A number of ideas for characteristics can be found below. A villain does not to be just pure evil, just having questionable motives and actions at least from the character’s perspective.
· A villain grows as the characters do: If you are looking for a “one shot” encounter, it’s probably better to just use a monster instead. A true villain NPC grows and follows the party through their career, thwarting each other’s plans over and over again.
Now that you know the basics, how do you build one? The following is a checklist to help flesh out a villain quickly.
· What is the Occupation of the villain?
· What are the Villains objectives and/or motives?
· What is the Villain’s personality, behaviour traits and preferences?
· What is the history and/or character background behind the villain?
· What does the villain have to work with?
· Do they have minions?
· What is the appearance of your villain?
· What is the Abilities and Alignment of the Villain?
Types of Villains
The Black Knight
The Mad Builder
The following is a random table of common archetypes. It’s easy enough to pick one or roll on the table to get the process started.
The Backstabber: This villain may appear sympathetic, even friendly, but it’s merely a ruse. Their goal is to get secrets and then use them to secure their own interests. Despite all words to the contrary, they care nothing for anybody but themselves. A backstabber may be a Human or Half-Elf Adventurer/Prowler that the party hires for help.
The Black Knight: This villain has a warped sense of honour. Self-righteous, they believe themselves to be the paragon of virtue and will judge those around them by their own code of conduct. The ends will justify the means and mercy is considered weak. The perfect path for black knights is Channelers/Sentinels, and are often Elves or Vampires.
The Destroyer: The goal of this villain is mindless destruction. Nothing brings this villain more joy then looting and smashing all within reach. The villain enjoys cruelty for cruelty’s sake and whose tools are violence and savage brutality. This NPC will rip your heart out and enjoy every minute of it. A destroyer may be a Verkhail Combat/Brute driven mad by the idea of Verkhail being “rescued” from their ranks and seeks to eliminate them as the weakest drones.
The Lunatic: This villain is nuts and will draw you into the insanity which is their life. Often considers the world little more than a game, in which they are the only one that knows the rules. A lunatic may be a Halfling Adventurer/Transrider driven crazy by something horrible they have seen on the roadways, and now spreading their insanity to others through the carnage they spread.
The Mad Builder: Pretty much the opposite of the Destroyer, but just as crazy. They are obsessed with bringing something innovative and new into the universe and will let nothing get in their way. The vast majority of mad builders are Gnome Channeler/Faustian Mechanics.
The Planner: Every step of the way, the villain has a contingency plan, but is usually driven by greed and materialism with little moral compunction. A Planner may be an Elf Ritualist/Magister leading a bunch of mooks on a mission to drive some villagers off their land for something much more valuable in its midst.
The Revenger: For whatever reason this villain can’t get what they want, so they lash out at the world in order to make the world pay for what has happened to them. Their motivation ranges from punishment to envy. A revenger may be a Harlowe or Elf Ritualist/Witch that the characters have somehow offended or interfered with. A good way to do this is that party kills or jails a foe that the revenger was also wants dead, denying them their revenge.
The Tyrant: This character wants power and control. The villain will conquer all that they can see and often has resources to back it up. If you cross the tyrant, it will be an uphill battle. It could be anyone from a king to an anal retentive superior officer. A tyrant is often a Human or Half-Orc Combatant/Soldier ruling over their own personal camp in the Drejlands.
When in doubt, the following tactics are very useful for pretty much any villain:
· Use Lackeys: Villains, as a rule, delegate. Defeating a villain should generally be an end goal of a group of PCs. As a result, they will have minions that will act as both examples of the villain’s power and/or cruelty.
· Be Resourceful: A good villain uses their resources to make the PC’s miserable. Sometimes this is powerful Magic, sometimes its cutting edge tech, sometimes its powerful minions. A good villain has seen it all, and while the PC’s situation shouldn’t be unbeatable, a bit of preparation goes a long way.
· Have an Escape Plan: A good villain should have some sort of escape plan to survive for another day. Some examples of this are secret passages, getaway vehicle/mount/magic, and “distractions” that the heroes must deal with giving the villain ample time to flee.
· Take Hostages: Hostages provide the PC’s with a moral dilemma and gives the villain some wiggle room when dealing with them. Note that the Hostage doesn’t necessarily have to be a living thing…it could be an artifact, or settlement as well.
· Fight on the Villain’s Terms: If a villain knows the PCs are coming, they will fight only when they are ready. Even if they don’t know the PCs are coming, a good villain has several tricks due to experiences with pesky adventurers.
· Lose Ungracefully: The villain should try to end the encounter in a manner that gets under the player’s skin. Examples are to cause a distraction, sacrifice an underling, take somebody with you, and even go out with a bang.
While the above applies most of the time, it is possible to make a villain that breaks the mould.
The two big ones are the sympathetic villain and the incompetent villain. Both can be used to provide a change of pace if used sparingly. They can also be used as a “stepping stone” to a bigger villain.
Finally it’s easy enough to just grab a powerful monster and define them as a villain to give them much more oomph.
Monsters are generally prebuilt creatures that you grab from the book and are put into play. Their main purpose is to act as an obstacle for the PCs so they can have a confrontation. While more often than not, this means combat, it is possible to make it a monsters encounter more of a problem solving situation.
These will be the main stay of your encounters, as it reduces the amount of prep time that a GM has to do.
Some good rules of thumbs are as follows:
· Remember CR: The Encounter section of this book should help you determine if your party is ready for creatures of a particular CR. Plan a challenging encounter, not a total party kill.
· Remember Your Environment: There is this old joke from the 80’s that “you come across a dragon in a 10x10 room” with the punch line being how it got in there. While it might not ruin the game, it might take players out of the gaming experience. It’s a good idea to keep track of basic stuff of ecology, terrain and anything else that might cause complications for a monster.
· Play the Monster in Character: Some monsters are animal-like in nature, while others are sentient, but often alien-like in their manners. The monsters in the Dark Revelations Monster Manual have lots of hints on how they should be presented to the party.