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A Villain They’ll Love To Hate: Part 2

Written by Paul Rehac - Published on November 25, 2013

Greetings readers, and welcome back to A Villain They’ll Love to Hate. Last we left off I gave you a plot hook to grab your players and get them thirsty for your villain’s blood. Path One was a little slow, though, and sometimes you just don’t have the time for that kind of set up. So let’s say you’ve got five good sessions to run the game, and no time to provide a home, connections, and that sense of security you would rob them of in Path One. So what do you do now?

I’ve found that those personal attachments can be fostered just as easily away from the table as they are in the game. If you have the kind of players in your group that like immersion and character development, it becomes extremely easy to exploit personal attachments and sleight the characters in any manner that you need to get them ready and raring for vengeance — I mean justice, of course. Path Two will explore one easy way through which you can use pre-game character building to inspire your players to take on their quest with gusto.

Path Two: Hey, stop! That’s mine!

For this path you will need to stress with your players, ahead of time, that you want them to really put a lot of thought into their characters. In later articles I will discuss different methods that you can use to help your players develop deeper and more complex characters, but for now we’ll just use a simple values, beliefs, goals chart. Tell your players that in addition to the character sheet, they should do their best to come to the first game with a piece of paper that lays out three values, two beliefs, and one ultimate goal that their character has. Encouraging backstories is also a good idea. Tell the players that, in coming up with a backstory, they should think long and hard about one item that their character carries with them that they couldn’t live without. Something they would be willing to kill and die for. That kind of sentiment is powerful, and it will get your players thinking long and hard — after all, it takes an incredibly personal possession to inspire that kind of emotion. I would like to note here, that because of the nature of these items you may allow players to make the possession magical and, ultimately, as powerful as they please (within reason).

In a game that I ran my players consisted of: A Dwarven Cleric noble, who treasured his family and estate above all else, a Human Rogue who carried with him a magical ring of invisibility, a Human Shadowcaster who wore a pendant given to her by her mentor, and a Half-elf Rogue who wore a sewing pin bent into the shape of a ring.

So, now that they’ve developed their characters and the game has begun, you can collect their extra sheet and look over each one, making sure to spot-out the thing that they value the most. This is paramount to getting them heated about finding the villain. In the first session you want to have the players thrust into a chaotic and sensually overstimulating environment, like a midnight ambush in the middle of a panicked town, or a battle taking place in the middle of a rainstorm. Make sure to stress the details so that the players feel as nervous, overstimulated, or disoriented as the characters themselves would feel. Then, in the middle of the situation, have each of them make perception checks, opposed to hidden rolls that you are making. These rolls are made to see if the players notice small creatures — minions of the ultimate villain — stealing the item that they so treasure right off of them! No matter if they succeed or fail, the minions succeed in thieving them away, and fly off with the possessions. If they fail the players might not even notice the item is missing until the battle is over. For this part I like to use winged minions, like quasits, imps, or mephits. It makes it more believable that the minions managed to get away so easily.

The Dwarf, Half-elf, and two Humans all awoke to the sound of a thundering crack in the center of the town they were in — the Half-elf and Humans were passing through, while the Dwarf’s estate was located in the town. When they arrived at the town square they found it overrun with Lemures, which they needed to fend off. In the middle of the battle, Quasits stole the players’ pendant and rings. The battle ended when two massive demons appeared, proclaiming their work done, and the demons fled through a portal. It was only then that the party realized the estate was up in flames, and a message was written on the streets in blood.

You can imagine how powerful this motivation can be for a player and their character. It’s a great, easy, quick way to get your party both ready and willing to hunt down a big bad. Next time I’ll look into a great way to develop your Villain further, add depth, and create living breathing characters for your players to hate, so keep in touch!


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Written by Paul Rehac

Paul Rehac

Hey! Paul here. I’m a writer and a gamer — have been for almost ten years now! As a dungeonmaster I focus primarily on storytelling and immersion, and do my best to make every game as captivating as possible. As a player I’m all about the character and the roleplay, and I’m more than content to never roll a die.

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