Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Introducing A Recurring Villain

This Friday in my L5R game I am hoping to be debut one of several recurring villains for this generation. As anyone who has GMed forany length of time will tell you this can be a lot harder to do than most people think. Why? Well, because players often refuse - and find multiple ways to - act in the way heroes in stories do. A player's response to an overwhelming show of force may be to attack. They may also attack when the villain tries to say something. Worse yet, due to lucky die rolls, PCs seem to excel at killing big enemies when they first show up instead of waiting for the opportune moment. Those occasions when they don't, the PCs can force their own death. So, how am I going about this? Carefully, but I have a few specifics as well.

Atmosphere and Scene Setup
In a lot of ways I've already started the introduction for this character. One of the players heard some children at play singing this song. The general response was the players thought it was creepy, though to be fair the song is meant to be - and many children's songs are. Ever sing Ring Around The Rosy slowly?

The song however establishes the character - and yes, the character is based off of League of Legends's champion Thresh. This helped later when the debut scene began at the end of the previous session as the PC in question was in the area where the song began. It didn't take much more than the scrape of chains against stone to get their hackles up, and when all the lanterns and flames in the area started to burn green the session ended but the PC was definitely feeling cautious.

Strong Villains Have More Control
This is an easy thing, but the stronger the villain is by comparison to the PC the less likely the PC is going to be able to kill them. This can even work out twice for you because it can also cement the villain as being that "big scary thing" that later lets the PC realize how far they've come when they can take it out.

In this case, the group of villains that the Thresh-based character is from are expected to be a challenge for the group when the group is much higher rank (rank 5-6 in L5R terms) as opposed to the ranks 1-3 they are now. This also means that one of the group should be a hard challenge now. In a one on one situation now though, the villain should be able to do what it wants without much threat to it, and since it isn't interested in the PC in particular it should work out alright for that. However...

If It Has Stats It Can Die
One thing a lot of GMs forget when statting out enemies is that when things have stats they can die. This is the case with the villain I am talking about. He has stats, good ones too, but that still means that he has a set difficulty to be hit, a set amount of wounds he can take, a set amount of movement he can perform and all that. It also means that he has tomake die rolls for his own attacks and damage and sothere is that element of chance.

I'm going into this scenario fully realizing that the odds may play out in such a way that the PC wins and kills this thing. It would be sad, but it can happen. Which is why the most important thing for the recurring villain's debut is..

Always Have An Escape Plan
Have a way, multiple ways if you can, to have the villain escape without it being too rail-roadie for the PCs. This way if things go bad the villain can still escape and be a villain. You have to play it right though. Do it wrong and while you have a villain they won't seem scary but rather weak - at least to the PCs. Not a horrible thing, but something to be aware of. Do it really wrong and the PCs might think that the NPC is being protected by the GM, and that can lead to a whole bunch of issues you don't want in your game.


  1. In my current campaign, i've had the players play evil characters every few sessions or so, actively putting up road blocks for the good characters. This lets me introduce elements of the BBEG so he's well known to them even before they meet him. Eventually the players will face off their evil counterparts as the BBEG lieutenants and have him to deal with directly. Although their actual contact with him has been minimal, they've played with the character in the background for so long that they should have a healthy hatred for him.

  2. What happens though when instead they respect their boss and wish him to win? :D

  3. One helpful tool is make the party nemesis an organization rather than an individual. Of course, you can still have a central focus on an individual within that organization, but if something doesn't go according to script (usually) you'll likely have more options. If the big bad unexpectedly gets taken out then it's more believable that it's his boss that's the real bad guy if the nemesis is an organization.

    Also, it'll let you have that organization pop-up to harass and hinder the party in a lot more different places than an individual would be able to believably do.