Villains. They make the role-playing world go round. Having a simple villain, a giant is never much fun. Where is the denouement. Exposition tends to be a bit limited. Grinding bones to make their bread etcetera. It’s a good one off but then you have to come up with a new bad guy every week. This become a whole load of work and the lines seem to be the same.
The recurring villain is still going to have mostly the same lines but the can morph into something else. I think it can be even better when you can get a friend to become an enemy. To paraphrase “no Mr Frodo, I expect you to die”. But to be honest, the ones that are born bad are probably the best.
I like to have a few bad guys and I take my queue from the movies. There are minions to work your way through Then there are the henchmen. Every bad guy has to have at least one. Having watch the Arnie Conan film recently, I think he had three. Henchmen need a gimmick, be it a iron Frisbee hat, a quadruple bladed axe or a nazgul. This says something about how they are played and how you engineer your battles to make the most of them. If you can work it so every player gets a low powered magic item then all well and good.
Today I have taken to writing out a character for the major villain in the Viking Game. The thing about the big villain is that they need to be remote, at least to start with. I don’t mean totally isolated but at more than arms length. In a fantasy game the bad guy should be hopefully beyond bow range as well. If you think in terms of Darth Vader from Star Wars you might see what I mean. It’s not like he hides from the heroes but he does chose when to make an appearance. The good guys either have too many targets to shoot at, don’t have enough weapons to do any damage or are completely unarmed.
Villains need a simple purpose. To quote Pinky and the Brain “What are we going to do tonight Brain?” To which the only answer is “The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world”. It is pretty much mandatory trait for every Bond villain. Scince fiction allows an even bigger scope and a whole galaxy can be at stake. My villain has a smaller goal, he wants control of the Norselands. Eventually there may be more. Some may even want a little less. Good guys leave a trail of destruction behind them. Just ask The Avengers. Some villains may just want the party dead or may be make them suffer before they die.
If the henchmen need a gimmick, then the villain needs more. Ideally a magic item designed for every player in the party. Some of those gimmicks should be none transferable. You don’t want to give the players too much or they will walk all over the next set of bad guys.
The villain will work even better if they don’t die too quickly. Give the villains, and their more entertaining henchmen an exit stratergy. A ring of invisibility is always good and so are clones, doppelgängers. Situational options are also a good call. Imagine if Moriaty didn’t die at Reichbanken Falls.
Sooner or later the bad guy has to die. It’s always good when you have a plan for this. If he is going to go out, make it memorable. You have seen it happen in the movies dozens of times. The players need to try and try again. The biggest baddest bad guys should always push the players to their limits. Every player should be a step or tow away from death before that final whistle blows.
When the do go there should be boons and benefits. I am not just talking money and magic items, although