Showing posts with label Villains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Villains. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

On the Same Wavelength

Yes, I wear this cologne
This week, I have been thinking about villains. Personally, I love human or demi-human type villains. People that aren't going to turn into a snake, demon or dragon, because they are worse that any of those things. I also love making the villain equal or lower level than the PCs because the players never think to look down.

Of being on the same wavelength, a new podcast was introduced this week: Adventure Design Sessions. It's hosted by Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor. This week's guest is Joe The Lawyer. You can follow them on MeWe. ADS can be found on Spotify, Anchor and all the great podcasting networks.

Since I am plugging things, why not plug my cologne company? My favorite colognes appear often on my blog, usually for the bottle styling but also for the great, sometimes witty names. My favorites are Villain, Perversion and Whitechapel. My wife wears Bitches Love Unicorns, Eat Me and Cheshire Cat. Check out Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

(This is not a sponsored ad, I just love all of these products.)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stealing Monsters

Some of the best monsters are people. And some of the most intriguing people are villains.

Jon Wilson, of Appendix M put the bug in my head to steal a villain with his post on The Rival Party. These characters are decidedly different, with incredibly cool powers and abilities. I love the idea of a rival party as adversaries.

I immediately thought of a character I want to steal for a campaign. He is the Monomach from Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need series.



The Monomach is the villain's right hand man, the most skilled swordsman in the lands. As a villain, he is totally one dimensional. He's given a target and then the target dies. Or at least that is how he should work.

He is actually simple enough to build an AD&D character class with little adaption. First, he is a fightman so he has all of the abilities of a Fighter. Second, he has the disguise abilities of an Assassin. Third, he has some ability to heal himself like a Paladin. Finally, he will gain the damage bonus of a Monk. His prime requisites are Strength, Constitution and Intelligence. To get a +5% bonus to exp, he must have at least a 12 in each of those skills. To get a 10% bonus, he must have a 15 in each.

In framing the villain as a character with a class, he can scale with the Player Characters. He can start relatively weak with the PCs and grow from there.

Let's assign those abilities by level.

On creation - +1 to Strength or Constitution regardless of race.
Level 1 - Disguise as an equal level Assassin.
Level 3 - Laying has as Paladin of equal level.
Level 5 - Damage adjustment as per Monks +1 per 2 levels.

What is the Monomach characters limitations?

They are limited to two magic items plus one magic weapon and one magical piece of armor. They are limited to only equipment they can carry, even at home. They cannot backstab as Assassins do. They do not fight weaponless as Monks do. They do not have the variety of weapons of a fighter, they tend to stick to one main weapon and one back up. They don't often use bows. They can ride horses, but can not care for them. They work alone and are likely to strike a "friendlies" as they get in the way like a berserker. This berserker tendency is not a special skill or ability, it is just a ruthless and bloody methodology. They are relatively poor in day to day skills, unable to cook, care for animals or hunt making them reliant on their master's staff for self-care.

This lack of people and daily living skills prevents them from having followers, retainers or constructing a keep, tower or other base of operation. When assigned to retainers by their master, they tend to follow the retainer until a target presents itself.

What would make this type of character too overpowered? A crystal ball and a ring of teleportation. Yeah, I would totally give my evil Monomach a ring and crystal ball.

The United States of the 1980s

I'm watching Stranger Things, Season Three. The Russian characters kill me for all of their 1980s styling. They were right there in the beginning of season, but as tangential characters. Just enough was known about them to build a tense story which really had nothing to do with the Soviets. They were a McGuffin for season 1, left out of season 2, but in season 3, they are a major plot point.

I'm not going to spoil Stranger Things for you, but American TV used to portray Evil Soviet Citizens in a particularly goofy way.

One of the things that stands out to me is, as the Evil Characters, they always had some tiny amount of easily understood motivation. Usually it was played to show their humanity. And where those motive forces most came into play was a deeply subversive scenario.

Said Soviet Super Citizen was always physically stronger than the American opponent, often smarter in very technical ways, but total out of their element when not dealing with brute force or when the operation deviated from the characters background knowledge.

Where the subversion comes in is not in the fact that once the Super Soviet Citizen is free of home influence do they show some heroic, sane and pure traits, but the fact that nearly every aspect of Western European and American culture is designed to somehow subvert them. They want a hamburger, a Coke, a convertible, a nice house, etc. All the things common people like.

While I am sure that many times the intended message was "America is just better", the actual message was cultural perversion. Basically, the good guys end up bribing the Soviets with good ol' American Scooby Snacks.

"Did you just bribe Cthulhu with ice cream?"
"Not any old ice cream. Häagen-Dazs* is the shit."

Let that one sink in.

While we can't go back to the 80's, I think this is an excellent method of designing better villains. Most of the time villains are rather one dimensional, but being evil, they should succumb to perversion of a bigger evil.

*There is some deep irony that Häagen-Dazs came into being to save an American ice cream company from bad sales and lack luster marketing. Make it look different, and poof!, profit.