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At the Table – Discovering Your Villain

by | Aug 15, 2018 | GM Tips, Uncategorized

Whatever world your campaign is set in, there is always a villain that needs defeating. It could be an evil mage in his nefarious tower, an undead king who has returned from a long slumber to devour freshly buried corpses from the local graveyard, or a small pixie like creature from the feywilde, who has ventured into the material realm and is wreaking havoc on a nearby village. Whoever or whatever your villain is, your story needs one!

Primal Death e1 from Hellfire- Copyright DeNA 2018

Gathering Inspiration

Designing a villain for your campaign is not always an easy task; there are tons of inspirational materials to pull from; movies, books, or TV shows. Each of these offers a different way to bring villains into your D&D campaign. However, when I started DM’ing I soon realized that one the greatest resources were the players around the table. Pay attention to their conversations, listen to the wonderful ideas and draw upon, use their imaginations as well. This way, when they encounter something they thought of, it will be that much more fantastic for them. Another great resource that I turn to is the DMG (Dungeon Master’s Guide). It offers a plethora of advice to help create villains. A few of the suggestions and tables they have are; adventure based villains, along with their schemes and methods. All of these resources can make your life easier as a Dungeon Master. If you are looking for something truly unique, I suggest the book Masters and Minions!

Where to Start

When I sit down to create a villain, I begin by figuring out two things. First, where this bad guy is from or where he is currently located. Second, what his motivations are, what drives this evil entity to do the things he does? Each of these can work to inspire the other as well. There could be a small coastal village over the next set of hills. Your villain could be a water based creature that uses that helpless village as a resource for his evil experiments. The players could be on their way to a large metropolis, where they eventually encounter a beautiful con artist who tricks them into stealing a priceless artifact for her. You could resort to a good old trope that never gets old, there is a dark forest which lies just beyond the hills, and the heroes must rescue a group of stolen children who are surrounded by an evil hag. Utilizing the geography for your villain is one simple method to aid you in the process. There are many other tools to help you in that endeavor. If you choose to start with the motivation, you could then place your villain in an appropriate place that would facilitate their desires. Or, you could have your villain sitting in a faraway place using minions and henchmen to do their dirty work and force the characters to travel overland to vanquish them, which could make for a whole other interesting story unto itself.

Dark Water from Hellfire – Copyright DeNA 2018

Methods of Madness

Now that I have a starting point for my villain, I can then decide on how they are going to accomplish their goals. Do they need minions? If they do, how many do they need? Are they paid mercenaries, or forced into labor through magical means? Are they using a high ranking military officer to stage an attack on the nearest city? If your villain is in a metropolis, are they using a guild leader or politician to accomplish their goals? Maybe they have a large black network, and they control the whole economy of a city. When it comes to actually implementing these methods, you do not need to have every detail written out ahead of time. Have a few ideas written down, if there are any major NPCs the players run into, create a short history and any important information they might know. To truly make that NPC stand out as more than just a random henchman, give them a few quirks or personality traits that suggest they are more important, this way your players will hopefully notice. Once your players are thoroughly drawn into the situation, pay attention to their reactions and conversations amongst each other and with the NPC, use that information to drive how the story unfolds, but, blend it with the ideas you already had written down. Just remember, do not be afraid to throw out your ideas if the players come up with a better one. Remember it is there game, just as much as it is yours.

Primal Death e4 from Hellfire – Copyright DeNA 2018

Unveiling your Villain

Unveiling your villain can be one of the most difficult elements in your game to accomplish. Most Dungeon Masters want their unveiling to be memorable, epic, and hopefully create some fear. One way to unveil you villain could be with, a cliffhanger. Pulling off a good cliffhanger is not always easy. You not want to just have your villain show, and then end the game with them standing off against the villain, there needs to be a little narrative established, some description of your villain entering the scene, just make sure not make it too grandiose. I have found that, after many attempts writing narrative scenes for certain parts of my games, reading the scenes as written, was not always the best way. What I started doing was using what I had written, paraphrasing it, using the scene at the table, the emotions of the players, their recent actions, and spinning a tale from that into something that felt more real, more natural. I found this was easier, more impactful, because I was incorporating everything that was happening in the moment. It created a more dynamic scene for the introduction of a villain, or even a great NPC. Remember, the players at your tables are the greatest resource available, use them to inspire you! I am stilling learning from them and using their ideas to make their game more fun!

Daniel Colby

Dungeon Master by day, mad illusionist by night!

Daniel Colby has just recently entered into the realm of freelance writing.  He has a couple of article series’ on the Kobold Press website along with some self published adventures on the DMs Guild.

Daniel Colby has been an adventurer for over 20 years.  His experience ranges from a long deceased human fighter, to a wise old human wizard, and a wonderful, energetic illusionist gnome whose trickery is beyond compare!  As a Dungeon Master, he hopes to bring some of his crazy machinations to the world of heroes and villains so they too can share his reality!

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At the Table – Discovering Your Villain

by | Aug 15, 2018 | GM Tips, Uncategorized

Whatever world your campaign is set in, there is always a villain that needs defeating. It could be an evil mage in his nefarious tower, an undead king who has returned from a long slumber to devour freshly buried corpses from the local graveyard, or a small pixie like creature from the feywilde, who has ventured into the material realm and is wreaking havoc on a nearby village. Whoever or whatever your villain is, your story needs one!

Primal Death e1 from Hellfire- Copyright DeNA 2018

Gathering Inspiration

Designing a villain for your campaign is not always an easy task; there are tons of inspirational materials to pull from; movies, books, or TV shows. Each of these offers a different way to bring villains into your D&D campaign. However, when I started DM’ing I soon realized that one the greatest resources were the players around the table. Pay attention to their conversations, listen to the wonderful ideas and draw upon, use their imaginations as well. This way, when they encounter something they thought of, it will be that much more fantastic for them. Another great resource that I turn to is the DMG (Dungeon Master’s Guide). It offers a plethora of advice to help create villains. A few of the suggestions and tables they have are; adventure based villains, along with their schemes and methods. All of these resources can make your life easier as a Dungeon Master. If you are looking for something truly unique, I suggest the book Masters and Minions!

Where to Start

When I sit down to create a villain, I begin by figuring out two things. First, where this bad guy is from or where he is currently located. Second, what his motivations are, what drives this evil entity to do the things he does? Each of these can work to inspire the other as well. There could be a small coastal village over the next set of hills. Your villain could be a water based creature that uses that helpless village as a resource for his evil experiments. The players could be on their way to a large metropolis, where they eventually encounter a beautiful con artist who tricks them into stealing a priceless artifact for her. You could resort to a good old trope that never gets old, there is a dark forest which lies just beyond the hills, and the heroes must rescue a group of stolen children who are surrounded by an evil hag. Utilizing the geography for your villain is one simple method to aid you in the process. There are many other tools to help you in that endeavor. If you choose to start with the motivation, you could then place your villain in an appropriate place that would facilitate their desires. Or, you could have your villain sitting in a faraway place using minions and henchmen to do their dirty work and force the characters to travel overland to vanquish them, which could make for a whole other interesting story unto itself.

Dark Water from Hellfire – Copyright DeNA 2018

Methods of Madness

Now that I have a starting point for my villain, I can then decide on how they are going to accomplish their goals. Do they need minions? If they do, how many do they need? Are they paid mercenaries, or forced into labor through magical means? Are they using a high ranking military officer to stage an attack on the nearest city? If your villain is in a metropolis, are they using a guild leader or politician to accomplish their goals? Maybe they have a large black network, and they control the whole economy of a city. When it comes to actually implementing these methods, you do not need to have every detail written out ahead of time. Have a few ideas written down, if there are any major NPCs the players run into, create a short history and any important information they might know. To truly make that NPC stand out as more than just a random henchman, give them a few quirks or personality traits that suggest they are more important, this way your players will hopefully notice. Once your players are thoroughly drawn into the situation, pay attention to their reactions and conversations amongst each other and with the NPC, use that information to drive how the story unfolds, but, blend it with the ideas you already had written down. Just remember, do not be afraid to throw out your ideas if the players come up with a better one. Remember it is there game, just as much as it is yours.

Primal Death e4 from Hellfire – Copyright DeNA 2018

Unveiling your Villain

Unveiling your villain can be one of the most difficult elements in your game to accomplish. Most Dungeon Masters want their unveiling to be memorable, epic, and hopefully create some fear. One way to unveil you villain could be with, a cliffhanger. Pulling off a good cliffhanger is not always easy. You not want to just have your villain show, and then end the game with them standing off against the villain, there needs to be a little narrative established, some description of your villain entering the scene, just make sure not make it too grandiose. I have found that, after many attempts writing narrative scenes for certain parts of my games, reading the scenes as written, was not always the best way. What I started doing was using what I had written, paraphrasing it, using the scene at the table, the emotions of the players, their recent actions, and spinning a tale from that into something that felt more real, more natural. I found this was easier, more impactful, because I was incorporating everything that was happening in the moment. It created a more dynamic scene for the introduction of a villain, or even a great NPC. Remember, the players at your tables are the greatest resource available, use them to inspire you! I am stilling learning from them and using their ideas to make their game more fun!

Daniel Colby

Dungeon Master by day, mad illusionist by night

Daniel Colby has just recently entered into the realm of freelance writing. He has a couple of article series’ on the Kobold Press website along with some self published adventures on the DMs Guild.

Daniel Colby has been an adventurer for over 20 years. His experience ranges from a long deceased human fighter, to a wise old human wizard, and a wonderful, energetic illusionist gnome whose trickery is beyond compare! As a Dungeon Master, he hopes to bring some of his crazy machinations to the world of heroes and villains so they too can share his reality!

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