Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The Recurring Villain
In my experience, on either side of the screen, nothing creates instant and passionate motivation in the players like a recurring villain. Sure, there is desire to save the world, gain stature, kill things and take there stuff, and all that. Add revenge to the mix and you have a winning combination. Recurring villains eat at the adventure party like nothing else. Even while they are off on other exciting adventures they always make comments like, "When we are done this, we have to go back and get that guy." Too many recurring villains waters down their impact. Not enough and the connection players have to the world is weak. I have some personal unofficial rules about recurring villains that I use to some success. They must have something memorable and unique about them. This helps the players have a strong emotional impression of the villain. The player characters must pose some level of threat to the villain. Villains must be played consistently for verisimilitude. Smart villains make smart plans. Dumb villains make dumb mistakes. Smart villains will use others to do their dirty work whenever possible. Villains should be focused on their own agenda until such time as the player characters become a problem and their agenda. If players alter the villains environment, have the villain react to that change. For example if the players reduce the villains resource pool, then the villain is limited to the new lower resource pool. No matter what the story line or how much time I put into building a villain, villains can be defeated if the players are clever. Conversely, villains can get away if players are less than clever. I do not care for predetermination. I think that is transparent to the players and demoralizing. In my campaign I have some villains that are planned for recurring purposes, some villains that are candidates if the players do not defeat them in their first encounter with them, and some villains that have been created spontaneously because of an unexpected unsuccessful encounter on the part of the player characters that was just too good to pass up. Depending on the villain and the circumstances, I may have the villain increase in levels as the party does. If the villain is active and successful they can grow just like the player characters can. Other villains are more stagnant and the players can grow to become powerful enough to challenge them. Then there is the mysterious villain.... players at first are not sure who, what or why. Oh, the endless possibilities! How do you use villains?