Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Quality of His Enemies

Everyone knows the importance of the cultivation of a good villain, or ideally an entire rogue’s gallery, in a superhero game. After all, supervillains need to be at least as interesting as superheroes--maybe more so. People probably think about it less in fantasy rpgs, but its sitll something worth considering.

A lot of fantasy villains tend to be one-off, true enough. Anra Devadoris only bedeviled Fafhrd and Gray Mouser once, and any number of evil sorcerers didn’t survive one encounter with Conan’s mighty thews. Still, there are recurring bad guys--Conan’s got his Thoth-Amon, after all, and Sauron keeps menacing Middle-Earth like he’s Dr. Doom after the Fantastic Four.

My high school gaming group had a lot of fun with their foe Kulu the Illusionist. Kulu was the creation of my cousin who introduced me to gaming, and showed up in his campaign, and in virtually every iteration of my campaign after that. Players came to recognize the bald, purple-robed wizard by description alone--and man, did they want to kill him. In true super-villain fashion, Kulu always escaped the the player’s wrath to fight another day. A super-villain can easily become annoying if they seem protected by the GM, but I think the player’s were always able to soundly defeat Kulu so that he never got on their nerves in that regard.

Another, less conventional, nemesis was Kallus the Merchant (and yes, I think its just coincidence that both these villains have names that start with “k”). Kallus had funded some shady ventures that had put him at odds with the PCs, and a hot-tempered barbarian assassinated him for it. Kallus was gone, but his legacy lived on to vex the players. The merchant guild in town erected a statue in his honor, and people were always talking angrily about his unjust death. The PCs had to keep quiet, lest they face justice, and they were frustrated as the crooked merchant was lionized in death. Then, relatives of the merchant started hiring bounty hunters to track down Kallus’ murderers.  The PCs would find themselves periodically having to either fight off and misdirect these guys at the most inopportune times. All of this only occasionally intruded on the lives of the PCs, but it was a source of amusement for the players--well, at least for their DM.

So anybody have any good recurring villains in their games?


Unknown said...

We had an immortal recurring villain from our 90's era supers game that continues to show up in more recent games.

For many of our campaigns, we had to super villain that bedeviled the party through minions and occasional passing encounters up until the dramatic series conclusion.

In our Buffy game, just like the show, we usually have one seasonal "big bad".

John Matthew Stater said...

Rodrigo, a fighter-mage who led a competing band of adventurers and was always one step ahead. They still hate him, and they still want to kill him.

Anonymous said...

Stork is a recurring villain in my LL game and has been for some years in a variety of incarnations and games (he was actually inspired by an old Ral Partha thief miniature long ago). He is a villain because he feels slighted by the PCs, not because he is baby-eatingly evil (although I am not sure I would put that passed him). I am developing a story for AV&ES that will explain why, in this incarnation, he hates Chalk and Koram, and by extension, anyone around them.