Just an intersting thought I had as I have been looking at creating a true villain for my D&DN game as we're looking at starting again but going beyond the predesigned adventures. Personally I like my villains to be somewhat realistic and only the most insane of them want to do things like destroy the world or create an undead horde. MOst of them want more mundane things like power, wealth or whatever.
An old 2nd ed book whose name eludes me also had a villains of every alignment section I have loved using ever since. Some of my NPC Paladins have been over zealous in persecutng the PCs in various ways althoguh to be fair they have been doing things like smuggling or whatever. Generally my villains have feelings, emotions, drives, and goals much like a real human. I like interesting TV show characters like Dexter Morgan or watching "good" characters in shows such as Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy become "evil" as a consequence of their decisions.
I also try and have my villains interact with the PCs in social stuations where violence is not an option either through social pressures or situation. For those of you who have seen James Bond movies you probably know what I mean. Another time Mr Bond.
For example I am still using a house ruled verison of Pathfinder for my home games set on a sister world of Gloarion where I have recycled some of my 3.5 material. IT is kind of a low magic world whre the Red Mantis (LE assassins guild) are simialr to the Sith in Star Wars and they have hunted down most of the arcane spellcasters (Bards are ok) and the gods are dead (hard to find divine power source, think DarkSun). One of the PCs who was a sorcerer used arcane magic in public and sure enough sooner or later a Red MAntis assassin came calling. The assassin failed and was beaten down to low hit points and surrendered.
The PCs interogated the assassin and I randomly assined a gender to ere and the sorcerer fancied his character as a ladies man. He asked how hot the assassin was so as a joke I made a 1st ed comliness score roll (3d6) and I got a 17 which revealed that the assassin was actually a very attractive young lady under the ninja suit. A bit cliche perhaps but I did roll it randomly. Having some fun with this I madde here the sister of a NPC they had already interacted with. After interrogation and a few knowledge rolls later they hhad determined that the guild only wanted to kill the Sorcerer but if they killed the assassin the guild woudl come after all of them. The guild has a reputation of keeping its deals as well so they negotiated a 30 day grace/truce period with that individual assassin and let her go. Several times over the next 30 days they encountered her in social situations but they had a truce which was respected by both sides. After 30 days they never saw her again.
Fast forward a few months later and the PCs are on a boat. Sure enough the Sorcerer is walking around and the assassin strikes again almost killing him. The assassin isalso traveling with her sister who has aided the PCs. Capturing her again they hand her over to the captain of the magical boat to deal with who is a custom race of this world. He invites them along to her interrogation which is actually a torure session where she is drugged to enhance the pain. The players were actually a little uncomfortale at this point (I didnt go into any great detail on the torture session just that it was happening and involved drugs and long pins). However most of them were good aligned and as a consequence of their actions a foe of theres was being tortured. After on the ship came under attack and the assassins sister rescued her.
The PCs saw here being helpedsemi unconscious towards a life boat and they had to make a choice between revenge/stopping the assassin or saving some other NPCs from maraudering borders. They chose to save the NPCs and after the battle was over the life boat was long one so Viveka escapes again to fight another day. This creates an interesting RP situations for the players as they seem to be enjoying it. Most of them at a persoanl level do not mind the assassin. She is pleasant to be around, they have worked with her briefly in a scial encounter during the 30 day truce period and she doesn't hate her target to kill at a personal level. She is jsut doing her job as such and being LE she also kept her word. She isn't trying to seduce any of the PCs despite being very atractive and in the social encouters they ahve had the Sorcerer has enjoyed her company even dancing with her when she was disguised during the 30 day truce period.
The PCs might suspect she is manipulating their emotions but then again she has been very honest with her intention to kill the sorcerer for the crime of being a sorcerer. The assassins more or less keep to themselves, do not openly want to rule the world and do not go around torturing babies, pillagi and raping or worshipping archdevils as the assassins god is apparently dead.
I'm a big fan of skill checks and the like which is why I'm not a fan of D&DN skill system but I think I may have done a good job with this particular "villain". She isn't a psychopath but is an assassin, she seems to have something resembling a hobby (she enjoys dancing), and is somewhat realistic. I'm going to see how it plays out and I'm not sure if the PCs will get around to killing her off but I will give them various options for earning dark side and light side points and see where it goes. The CE bwa ha ha stereo type villain I prefer not to use except maybe in a dungeon or something similar where they find an evil alter or something.
I;m also building up to the big reveal with the worlds Yuan Ti/Serpent Folk actually using human sacrifice to prevent an even worse fate for the world. Thats how I like my villains.Relevent to the story/world and with a nice shade of grey.
Fear is the Mind Killer