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

Monday, September 28, 2020

Meet Vis and Ostro - Orcs of the Caves of Chaos

In our play through of Keep On the Borderlands, I've had to name the leaders of the Kobolds, the Goblins and both Orcish leaders. 

Vis is the western orc leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths. Vis has lost his cave system to the party. 

Ostro thought Vis would get himself killed defending his caves, but decided to use diplomacy. At first glance, Vis failed but Ostro can't turn out Vis's tribe, he'll need the manpower to stop the party. Ostro had the smaller of the two colonies so his position was initially weaker but the characters cleared the Cave B rather quickly so everyone is sweating and swearing.

If the characters had hit them and left the cave system, Vis would still be in control and Ostro could think of making a move on him. But the dastardly humans know where Ostro's den is and could take him out. Oddly, they don't know where the exterior cave mouth is, so they have not tried a direct attack. The party also lacks the manpower to defend their position in cave B while hitting the cave mouth anyway. They discovered that when they took the cave and most of the orcs simply fled to Ostro's cave C. 

Vis and Ostro are unwilling compatriots. They are currently acting as co-leaders who work as a pair, but what is really happening is each is hoping the other gets an arrow in the eye. 

The orcs are getting smarter and wiser when it comes to tactics. The orcs woefully lack missile weapons and the party showed them what a sling is. They are now trying to make their own slings, which is far easier to make than a bow or crossbow. This has put the wounded warriors in the position formerly held by women and the women in the role of warriors. 

The other thing the tricksy party did was set up triplines. But instead of using rope, they gathered up rocks from around the caves and made 6-12 inch high steps in random places. Because the orcs see by infrared, they can't see a difference between the cave floor and the low rock piles. Rocks from the same environment have the same temperature. 

My daughter thought this one up from reading Les Misérables. The barricades in Paris were made in this fashion by ripping up the cobblestone streets to make a low step then placing all kinds of crap on top of it. If you managed to punch a hole in the barricade, you ended up stumbling into the muck that was under the cobbles. While revolutionaries rained gunfire and pots of boiling water down on you. 

They also put up a wicker door over the cave entrance which creates the problem where the orcs can see through it but not well enough to tell how many people are in there. Or more importantly, if the dogs are there. The party has taken to howling, which creeps out the orcs. 

The next trap they came up with was to place candles in the dark with cloaks and ropes hanging in front of them. It looks like movement, so the orcs rushed in to attack. The party hit them from behind, space that were kept dark. With missile fire. It's not very deadly, but the orcs fight their way out of a brighter area to a darker area while under fire. Usually, if they can flee, they do flee. 

The orcs are now lighting everything up in their caves because it's easier to deal with than sudden shifts in lighting. They are copying the wicker like door screens and steps to foil attackers.  

The net trap that caught Solvo was spread down the hall from room 13 at about knee level. It makes movement really difficult. They added rocks and garbage below the net to make noise and cause twisted ankles. The orcs haven't countered this as they don't have enough oil to set it on fire. But that is their plan. 

It's interesting that the kiddos are using history against me, I'm a social studies and history major. Should Vis and/or Ostro survive, they will be the trickiest villains ever. The siege of cave B is really changing the Caves in unexpected ways. 

I can't wait to see what happens next. 

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.