The Greatest Evils: More Memorable Villains

Heroes are great, protagonists are fantastic, but what would they be without their antagonists?  What would the Fifth Element be without Zorg?  Where would Lord of the Rings be without Sauron?  A great villain can increase how memorable your campaign is.  The best villains will drive your campaign and set your players on a truly personal quest.  Here are some ways to make your antagonist the main event:

  • Make them a constant force in the campaign.  This one might seem a bit obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of where you’re villain fits when the players aren’t interacting with him, his henchmen, or even in his sphere of influence.  Make sure you’re players don’t lose sight of their chosen foe!  When your players spend too much time away from their antagonist, he becomes just another ‘enemy of the week’ and that’s the worst thing that can happen to your antagonist.
  • Use a special miniature for them.  When you have a figure that represents ONLY one character and that character just happens to be the man or woman who wants all of their heads, the players perk up whenever they see it.  It makes every time you pull it out of your box or case that much more special.
  • Make him irredeemable and utterly evil.   Literature is full of stories of villains who are redeemed by the end of the story, or relatable villains who you just feel really bad for.  They make for interesting stories, they make for great entertainment, and they show you how easy it is to give in to that darker impulse.  Players don’t want any of that.  Players want to kill their enemy and feel good about it after.  They want to know his death was for the good of the world and justified.  Anything that murks that up will lessen their eventual victory.
  • Make the players encounter him more than once.  When they have that final encounter with your villain, the players should have a slight idea of what they’re dealing with.  Why? Because they’ve fought before.  A defeat where the villain spares the players, a fight where they win but he escapes, a fight they can never finish, these encounters will build tension that will help drive the players animosity into the final showdown.  And when that last great battle comes, don’t go easy on them; nothing makes players enjoy a fight like coming back from the brink of death.

Remember, the villain can be just as important as the player characters.  Don’t be afraid to put the work into making one that you’re players find to be truly memorable.

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