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NPCs you love to hate

Written by Expy - Published on August 29, 2007

Most D&D players love to hate NPCs. A typical characteristic of villains is that they are very intelligent but lack the humility to hide it. They will shove their knowledge and wits in everyone’s face.

Cockyness made easy

An easy way to make this come across is by using a fancy vocabulary. For cool words you can peruse the phrontistery, a website dedicated to obscure words and vocabulary resources. I would say more but I want to avoid logorrhea when possible! (see how annoying it is?)

Have fun being irritating when you impersonate the villain during your next game!

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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17 Responses to “NPCs you love to hate”
  1. Vanir says:

    I don’t know if it’s just the people we play with, but there have been several occasions in our adventures where the PCs do things and the bad guys whip out legal pads and start taking notes. Even so, I find the evils that my companions before raw and amateurish.

    I will forward this link on to these members of our group. If there is to be villainy, at least it will be proper villainy.

  2. Phil says:

    Ahhhh, there’s nothing like verbal diarrhea to give a NPC some flair (Pun intended).

    Giving airs, using big words, being exceedingly polite and unassuming can be a blast to DM.

    Terry Pratchet novels are a treasure trove of personality traits and quirks ready to be stolen for RPGs. The Patrician of Ahnk-Morpork is a paragon of the bright evil overlord (he’s not actually evil but that’s how it should be done!)

    Vanir: Pulling off credible Evil in a RPG game is not easy, you have to walk a fine line between laughable schoolyard bully and cliché psychopathy. Hmmm nice topic to explore though.

  3. Vanir says:

    Yeah, I know. I was just trying to be funny. :) You’re absolutely right, real evil takes a lot of work and it very seldom works in extremes.

    Actually, that’s one of the topics we’re going to cover on stupidranger.com in the next couple weeks. And now I think I have a good title: “Proper Villainy”!

  4. Yax says:

    “Proper Villainy” is definitely something I can read more about.

    PCs are the backbone of the campaign, but the villains flesh the adventures out!

    Don’t tell my players though. I spend a lot of effort making them feel their characters are the superstars

  5. Phil says:

    Superstars need actual steps to get to the top. These steps might as well be interesting recurring villains.

    Very inspiring discussion there guys.

  6. Pé0 says:

    Yax you completly destroyed my whole universe. My life was based on the fact that I am a superstar!!!

  7. Yax says:

    Peo said:
    “Yax you completly destroyed my whole universe”

    I say:
    Behold the power of the DM!

  8. Yan says:

    As a player (of Phil’s game) and occasional DM I can say that recurring villain are something I really enjoy. (Maybe to much for the taste of my fellow players, but that is another story.)

    A campaign without a good villain will often lack drives and focus.

    Adventuring to save whatever, is so much more gratifying when somebody was there trying to stop you, from achieving your goal.

    His defeat becomes an automatic highlight of the campaign that the player will remember.

  9. Without a *good* evil villain does lack a little something. It’s so much more fun to try to save the world when you can do so by destroying some creapy, smart-aleck’s dream of taking over.

    I do like the vocab idea, Yax… give your villain that extra little something… like Professor Moriarty.

  10. Yax says:

    DM caleb had a good anecdote about a recurring villain:
    The wizard that wouldn’t die

  11. Phil Smith says:

    The tricky bit about villains, I find, is giving them evil things to do. Murder? Nah, most often the PCs couldn’t care one way or another for the life of an NPC. And besides, how many intelligent creatures do they kill in the course of a campaign?

    In order to really get at the good (evil) stuff and demonstrate their intelligence, I find it’s best to get them right under the players’ skin. Set them up as allies, then have them betray the PCs. By this I don’t mean just have them turn nasty. Have them turn nasty when the players have put valuable treasure or magic at their disposal.

    It’s the arch-villain’s ability to forward plan and predict the PCs’ reactions that are the real demonstration of their brains.

    Giving them a bit of jargon does help, though. No villain is complete unless he knows and uses the word ‘stratagem’ and has at least five similes for ‘fool’. :)

  12. raabrashi says:

    One very simple thing you can do to truly make the PC’s despise a villain – something that is very easily overlooked – is resurrect the villain after the PC’s have already killed him. In D&D there are so many ways to do this, and it forces the PC’s to ask themselves, “Who has brought my enemy back, and why?” leading to interesting character development, and even a more sinister villain.

  13. Ravyn says:

    Then there’s my most successful villain.

    Absurd vocabulary? Check. Tendency to behave like he’s in complete control of the situation regardless of circumstances, usually talking down to the PCs in the process? Check. Psychological trauma inflicted on PCs and NPCs alike? Check.

    But what was really odd was after they killed him. (Yes, after. He’s been dead for upwards of fifty sessions now.) I reintroduced him a while later, as a remnant of himself in the mind of his next incarnation. Since the group happens to like his next incarnation, and haven’t yet realized the extent to which he messes with things, they let him live. Scarier still, they like him. All of the players who’ve met him enjoy talking to him even when he’s winning the verbal sparring matches they get into (which is almost always), and the PCs’ reactions to him range from grudging admiration to almost wanting to emulate him.

    Apparently whatever I did, I did right.


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