Trying to create a recurring Villain/Anti-Hero. I need some help.

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I am attempting to make a recurring nemesis for the party, but I am stumped as to how to keep him from dying. I don't want to wipe the party with him, just put him in for a good story element. But I don't want to make cliche and overall dissapointing events occur for him to escape. He is a Free - Willed Undead Black Knight who's overall goal is to get revenge on the main villain, who raised his soul from rest to become an undead being. He wants to die, but only in a one on one duel, no holding back. anything else would be dishonorable. I want him to be a potential ally to the party, but he is slightly villainous due to the fact that the dark magic within him has made his judgement of good and evil impaired. How can I make a good reacurring nemesis (Who will later either become and ally, or die) without him dying early or getting groans from the party?
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I am both orderly and instinctive. I value community and group identity, defining myself by the social group I am a part of. At best, I'm selfless and strong-willed; at worst, I'm unoriginal and mindless.
Escape abilities - such as mistform, teleportation, burrowing into the ground, creating a diversion/simulacrum, ability to regenerate from apparent death.

Immortal abilities - such as a phylactery, soul sword, magic painting, the one ring, something that can only be destroyed in a particular way.

Sending abilities - the nemesis only appears via illusion (hologram), possessing other people, haunting dreams, speaking to the party via a divination devise such as a crystal ball or magic ring.

You can make a nemesis memorable and important long before the party actually meets with him, simply by having the party encounter the results of his interactions with the world. If he is a leader type, you can have him 'speak' through minions that attack the party and leave clues about how he might be defeated or useful to the party. It might be useful to 'deafeat' the nemesis and give his 'magic sword' as loot. Treat the sword as an artifact with it's own purpose and allow the nemesis to appear to the party again and again as long as they have the sword, but make the sword useful enough (powerful enough) that the party will be reluctant to part with it.
Pretty much what Gelf said. I won't even bother saying anything else.
If you want some real advice, be prepared for your players to kill this guy when you least expect it, and don't take their victory away from them when they do. Even if there's only a small chance, this could still happen.
I am attempting to make a recurring nemesis for the party, but I am stumped as to how to keep him from dying. I don't want to wipe the party with him, just put him in for a good story element. But I don't want to make cliche and overall dissapointing events occur for him to escape. He is a Free - Willed Undead Black Knight who's overall goal is to get revenge on the main villain, who raised his soul from rest to become an undead being. He wants to die, but only in a one on one duel, no holding back. anything else would be dishonorable. I want him to be a potential ally to the party, but he is slightly villainous due to the fact that the dark magic within him has made his judgement of good and evil impaired. How can I make a good reacurring nemesis (Who will later either become and ally, or die) without him dying early or getting groans from the party?



I have it on good opinion that any character prepared to walk away and leave the human race to die a bad case of extinction is an Anti-hero. So a Good Villain is prepared to assume failure the instant the Heores show up at his front door on anything other than an impailing pole that he has lost and it is time to leave. If the secret has been leaked, it is time to poison the well, turn the hounds loose and walk out the back door.
The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
I am attempting to make a recurring nemesis for the party, but I am stumped as to how to keep him from dying. I don't want to wipe the party with him, just put him in for a good story element. But I don't want to make cliche and overall dissapointing events occur for him to escape. He is a Free - Willed Undead Black Knight who's overall goal is to get revenge on the main villain, who raised his soul from rest to become an undead being. He wants to die, but only in a one on one duel, no holding back. anything else would be dishonorable. I want him to be a potential ally to the party, but he is slightly villainous due to the fact that the dark magic within him has made his judgement of good and evil impaired. How can I make a good reacurring nemesis (Who will later either become and ally, or die) without him dying early or getting groans from the party?



I'll echo Zaramon's point on the get ready for him to die if things don't go as you have planned. 


On a side note you could just have him stronger than anyone of the player characters and challenge them to a one on one.  If he is winning because he is stronger than he might not want to kill the player, and he holds back with the hope that this will encourage that person to get stronger and be the one to kill him in a duel perhaps he sees that player's character as the one to finally "do him in".  If you do walk this path keep in mind that the other players might not be too fond of long drawn out combats they don't play a part in.

As for the ally thing, I wouldn't try to force that, particularly if you were trying to stick him as an extra party member. Ultimately your players will respond with whatever action they deem appropriate that can range from killing him, to ditching him, to letting him go along and any version in-between.         
I am going to weigh in on this before Centauri gets here and say "talk to your players." One issue I've run into is when I create a character who is more than just a target for the PCs to attack, the players don't know that. They by default want to eliminate threats to their characters, and they are in a setting where violence is the quickest most effective way to do this.

I have a recurring villain named "Bobby" who shows up and causes issues for the PCs. However, he is not an enemy, he is an antagonist. He makes life more difficult (read: Interesting) for the PCs, but there is a benefit to keeping him around. There have been times where Bobby has been surrounded by the PCs with their weapons drawn and there have been times the PCs have saved Bobby from certain death only to watch him run like hell when he is supposed to be helping. He is the guy they love to hate.

But that's because I've TOLD my players what I'd hoped to do with him and they liked the idea. Instead of trying to set up contingency plans for when your  players try to kill the guy, give them reasons not to kill him. Talk to them and say "Hey, I think this would be a lot of fun, you all on board? Any suggestions?" etc.

My two cents.
Collaborate with your players. Explain the kind of character you're after, and explain the role you want that character to have, including a tendency to get away. If they're up for this idea, they'll help you make it work. If they're not, then it probably wouldn't have worked anyway.

If you don't want to kill the PCs, give the villain goals other than killing them. Recovering something, killing someone (other than the PCs), destroying a target, performing a ritual, etc.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I have spent hours building up elaborate villains, with names, histories, motivations, relatives, and super-cool powers.
And they die the first round of combat. Usually before their initiative comes up.

I've done that to other DMs, too.
3.0, round 1, my 1/2orc fighter crits the named villain. With a scythe. x4 crit damage. and maxed the die roll. Three brothers of the named villain were a little miffed. That was the first round of the first fight of the first adventure of the first game of 3.0 that the group played. It was memmorable.
Which is why you should make the character interesting before you reach initiative.

If you throw a new 'monster' at the party with the idea that it will escape the encounter and become an interesting recurring element, then the chances are the PCs will foil your escape plans and just kill it. Much better to create the villian in the minds of the players well before they reach a combat situation.

Also don't be afraid to throw alternate goals into a combat involving the villian. The PCs meet the villian and have to choose between killing him or letting him escape while they save their loved ones who are rigged to an elaborate trap.

Another option is to just play mosters as ones that seek to surrender or escape rather than fighting blindly to their deaths. And when a monster does successfully escape, make that one interesting and recurrable (although it probably won't escape twice in all honesty).
I have spent hours building up elaborate villains, with names, histories, motivations, relatives, and super-cool powers.
And they die the first round of combat. Usually before their initiative comes up.

Exactly. Unless the players are on-board with this character being recurring, they'll have no reason not to open up on it, and it might be next to impossible to counter them without being so specific as to be accused of railroading. But, if they're on-board, they might willingly railroad themselves to an extent.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

are you telling your players what the NPC's stats are, or showing them the dice when you roll? You're the DM. If you don't want the character to die for story reasons, fudge the numbers. Don't outright kill a PC through fudging the numbers, but if you want an NPC to escape, you're well within your rights to just flat out let him.

Best antagonist I ever had was a human fighter with some enchanted full plate and a ring of invisibility. This was back in the 2nd edition days, specifically the Underdark expansion, if I remember correctly. Just when the players were feeling arrogant, this guy would show up and show them what-for. They'd walk into a room in the dungeon, and see a dead body being dragged across the floor by something unknown. "Oh crap, it's that stealth guy again!" Or he'd show up when they were about to make a really bad decision and just his presence would disuade them. "We better not go that way, that stupid fighter's blocking the door."

He was always at least three levels above the PCs (and given his ability to somehow solo the Underdark, they had quite a lot of respect for him.) Sure, they crossed swords with him on occasion, but either they retreated, or he went invisible (with the ring) and bugged out (even if he was technically below zero hit points.)

Best moment ever in that campaign- PCs wandered into a set encounter with some wereboars, realized they were hilariously outmatched, and started running away in a random direction. ran through a room full of trolls. Trolls started chasing after them as well. Ran through a room full of orcs. The orcs started chasing them too. Then they ran through a room where "Stealth", their antagonist, was looting a corpse. He looked up, pulled out his sword to threaten the PCs, then saw what was after them, and started running as well, right beside them. The party leader looked over, asked him, "Err, got any ideas?" Stealth replied, "Hell no. Keep on running!" Eventually, they reached a dead end, and with me not wanting a total party kill, they slammed a door shut, locking all their pursuers, plus their recurring antagonist, behind them. Several minutes of horrible noise ensued, after which they cautiously opened the door, to find the exhausted fighter standing on top of a pile of corpses. "You guys owe me big time," he said, and proceeded to relieve them of their more expensive treasures and magic items before leading them out of the dungeon.

I rolled some constitution checks during the chase, but did I bother to roll any of the melee between Stealth and the 20+ pursuers? Of course not. He wasa bad-@$$, of course he was going to win. Plus, the wereboars were fighting the trolls were fighting the orcs.

D&D calls it the dungeonmaster. Other games call it The Storyteller. It's an important distinction to realize. You're telling a freeform story. The PCs are characters. Free-willed characters, but still characters in the story. The collective story is the important thing, and you're well within yourrights to break the rules to make the story happen.
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You are both rational and emotional. You value creation and discovery, and feel strongly about what I create. At best, you're innovative and intuitive. At worst, you're scattered and unpredictable.
But that also makes it fun. Did we know that ____ was a _____? NO.
And if you, as DM, are willing to totally rewrite the rules or throw them out... That's cheating.
Random excrement happens. Luck, good or bad, is a major factor. And if something totally unexpected happens, tough. Roll with it. Sure, it can be frustrating, but isn't that part of letting the players participate in the story?
So kill the named villain in one swing. Maybe his story ended sooner than expected, but you can always clone and rename him/her/it. Isn't that what players used to do all the time in previous editions when their characters died?

(One of my favorite pieces of luck was when a 6-yo human girl with 2d of brawling parry escaped the tackle&grab of a Wookie with 9d of brawling. WEG Star Wars rules. Gotta love 'em.)
are you telling your players what the NPC's stats are, or showing them the dice when you roll? You're the DM. If you don't want the character to die for story reasons, fudge the numbers. Don't outright kill a PC through fudging the numbers, but if you want an NPC to escape, you're well within your rights to just flat out let him.

Maybe, but some players really dislike that approach. It's really best to at least discuss the idea with the players. If they're on-board with it, you don't need to "fudge the numbers," because they won't want the NPC to die either. Victory will take some form other than killing the NPC, and failure will take some form other than the PCs dying. If they're not on board, then it's good to know that in advance and approach the game in a way they will be on-board with.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

My best advice would be to only let the players see the recurring villain at times when they cannot attack him. On the other side of a wall of force or locked portcullis. In the hall of a neutral boss surrounded by guards.  On top of a 30 foot ledge (assuming they can't fly).

Don't ever give the players a choice between chasing him or doing something more important (like saving old people from a burning building), because they could easily decide chase him. 

Also, you only need to involve him two or three times to make him a recurring villain. If letting it gets to be too cliche, the players might get bored or frustrated.
Don't ever give the players a choice between chasing him or doing something more important (like saving old people from a burning building), because they could easily decide chase him.

Why not? If they fail the more important thing, then they fail it. Ideally, it was something the villain wanted to have happen anyway, so even if they catch him he won.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

are you telling your players what the NPC's stats are, or showing them the dice when you roll? You're the DM. If you don't want the character to die for story reasons, fudge the numbers. Don't outright kill a PC through fudging the numbers, but if you want an NPC to escape, you're well within your rights to just flat out let him. Best antagonist I ever had was a human fighter with some enchanted full plate and a ring of invisibility. This was back in the 2nd edition days, specifically the Underdark expansion, if I remember correctly. Just when the players were feeling arrogant, this guy would show up and show them what-for. They'd walk into a room in the dungeon, and see a dead body being dragged across the floor by something unknown. "Oh crap, it's that stealth guy again!" Or he'd show up when they were about to make a really bad decision and just his presence would disuade them. "We better not go that way, that stupid fighter's blocking the door." He was always at least three levels above the PCs (and given his ability to somehow solo the Underdark, they had quite a lot of respect for him.) Sure, they crossed swords with him on occasion, but either they retreated, or he went invisible (with the ring) and bugged out (even if he was technically below zero hit points.) Best moment ever in that campaign- PCs wandered into a set encounter with some wereboars, realized they were hilariously outmatched, and started running away in a random direction. ran through a room full of trolls. Trolls started chasing after them as well. Ran through a room full of orcs. The orcs started chasing them too. Then they ran through a room where "Stealth", their antagonist, was looting a corpse. He looked up, pulled out his sword to threaten the PCs, then saw what was after them, and started running as well, right beside them. The party leader looked over, asked him, "Err, got any ideas?" Stealth replied, "Hell no. Keep on running!" Eventually, they reached a dead end, and with me not wanting a total party kill, they slammed a door shut, locking all their pursuers, plus their recurring antagonist, behind them. Several minutes of horrible noise ensued, after which they cautiously opened the door, to find the exhausted fighter standing on top of a pile of corpses. "You guys owe me big time," he said, and proceeded to relieve them of their more expensive treasures and magic items before leading them out of the dungeon. I rolled some constitution checks during the chase, but did I bother to roll any of the melee between Stealth and the 20+ pursuers? Of course not. He wasa bad-@$$, of course he was going to win. Plus, the wereboars were fighting the trolls were fighting the orcs. D&D calls it the dungeonmaster. Other games call it The Storyteller. It's an important distinction to realize. You're telling a freeform story. The PCs are characters. Free-willed characters, but still characters in the story. The collective story is the important thing, and you're well within yourrights to break the rules to make the story happen.



Sorry, but this sounds awful.

Honestly, the "best" moment in your campaign was when an NPC did-but-by-rules-didn't-even-really killed a bunch of enemies FOR the PCs?

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

All I'm going to say about that stealth fighter guy is that I wouldn't want to play in a game like that. Constantly running into a guy I was powerless against would get old. Getting rescued by him like that would burn.

Edit: Wait a sec, I read the rest of that. He took their treasure after the fact? Did you enjoy proverbially touching yourself in front of your players? Do the words "Mary Sue" mean anything to you? I'm not trying to be an ass or anything, but seriously, your players actually enjoyed that? Are they masochists or something?

"Thank you DM, may I have another?" *SMACK!*
I am attempting to make a recurring nemesis for the party, but I am stumped as to how to keep him from dying. I don't want to wipe the party with him, just put him in for a good story element. But I don't want to make cliche and overall dissapointing events occur for him to escape. He is a Free - Willed Undead Black Knight who's overall goal is to get revenge on the main villain, who raised his soul from rest to become an undead being. He wants to die, but only in a one on one duel, no holding back. anything else would be dishonorable. I want him to be a potential ally to the party, but he is slightly villainous due to the fact that the dark magic within him has made his judgement of good and evil impaired. How can I make a good reacurring nemesis (Who will later either become and ally, or die) without him dying early or getting groans from the party?

to be perfectly honest in terms of stroy telling i think youve shot yourself in the foot, if hes eager to die then he will get into a duel and wont run away
Don't ever give the players a choice between chasing him or doing something more important (like saving old people from a burning building), because they could easily decide chase him.

Why not? If they fail the more important thing, then they fail it. Ideally, it was something the villain wanted to have happen anyway, so even if they catch him he won.


Yep, yep, yep
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
I have spent hours building up elaborate villains, with names, histories, motivations, relatives, and super-cool powers.
And they die the first round of combat. Usually before their initiative comes up.

Exactly. Unless the players are on-board with this character being recurring, they'll have no reason not to open up on it, and it might be next to impossible to counter them without being so specific as to be accused of railroading. But, if they're on-board, they might willingly railroad themselves to an extent.


It's not wasted hours... allies from their history seeking justice or vengeance, enemies from their past now free to act now that he is dead, relatives seeking answers.... and super-cool powers good for one bad guy are good for other bad guys, so nothing lost there.

At any rate... maybe they shouldn't be so eager to jump into combat. Don't they have minions and henchmen? Hirelings? Better plans?
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
are you telling your players what the NPC's stats are, or showing them the dice when you roll? You're the DM. If you don't want the character to die for story reasons, fudge the numbers. Don't outright kill a PC through fudging the numbers, but if you want an NPC to escape, you're well within your rights to just flat out let him.

Best antagonist I ever had was a human fighter with some enchanted full plate and a ring of invisibility. This was back in the 2nd edition days, specifically the Underdark expansion, if I remember correctly. Just when the players were feeling arrogant, this guy would show up and show them what-for. They'd walk into a room in the dungeon, and see a dead body being dragged across the floor by something unknown. "Oh crap, it's that stealth guy again!" Or he'd show up when they were about to make a really bad decision and just his presence would disuade them. "We better not go that way, that stupid fighter's blocking the door."

He was always at least three levels above the PCs (and given his ability to somehow solo the Underdark, they had quite a lot of respect for him.) Sure, they crossed swords with him on occasion, but either they retreated, or he went invisible (with the ring) and bugged out (even if he was technically below zero hit points.)

Best moment ever in that campaign- PCs wandered into a set encounter with some wereboars, realized they were hilariously outmatched, and started running away in a random direction. ran through a room full of trolls. Trolls started chasing after them as well. Ran through a room full of orcs. The orcs started chasing them too. Then they ran through a room where "Stealth", their antagonist, was looting a corpse. He looked up, pulled out his sword to threaten the PCs, then saw what was after them, and started running as well, right beside them. The party leader looked over, asked him, "Err, got any ideas?" Stealth replied, "Hell no. Keep on running!" Eventually, they reached a dead end, and with me not wanting a total party kill, they slammed a door shut, locking all their pursuers, plus their recurring antagonist, behind them. Several minutes of horrible noise ensued, after which they cautiously opened the door, to find the exhausted fighter standing on top of a pile of corpses. "You guys owe me big time," he said, and proceeded to relieve them of their more expensive treasures and magic items before leading them out of the dungeon.

I rolled some constitution checks during the chase, but did I bother to roll any of the melee between Stealth and the 20+ pursuers? Of course not. He wasa bad-@$$, of course he was going to win. Plus, the wereboars were fighting the trolls were fighting the orcs.

D&D calls it the dungeonmaster. Other games call it The Storyteller. It's an important distinction to realize. You're telling a freeform story. The PCs are characters. Free-willed characters, but still characters in the story. The collective story is the important thing, and you're well within yourrights to break the rules to make the story happen.

There's really only one rule. DM is right. Period.

But... if you pull that DM card too much you won't have any players willing to play with you. And rule in favor of what's going to be the most fun.

My brother has what he calls 'load screen'... his world is normally pretty serious, but if he wants a villain to escape, he merely says that the villain hits the load screen and is gone.

Even a level 1 bad guy can have magic escape items... Refuge spell comes to mind. Given to him by his evil priest friend. Scrolls with teleport given by his master (the true mastermind behind the nemesis).

But even if he dies... the dead nemesis can always provide a clue to an even greater threat.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
If you want some real advice, be prepared for your players to kill this guy when you least expect it, and don't take their victory away from them when they do. Even if there's only a small chance, this could still happen.



THIS.
community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758..." title="community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...">This thread might be helpful.  My recurring villain did not start out as such, he was literally a randomly generated npc with no back story until the first encounter unfolded.  Then when he escaped, he became something more.

And as you will see, being a recurring NPC is not necessarily dependant on surviving the encounter.
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
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And as you will see, being a recurring NPC is not necessarily dependant on surviving the encounter.



This is great advice.  You do need to be prepared for the fact that your PCs might kill the guy and adjust accordingly.
Exemplars of Evil is an excellent resource for this kind of need.  So I might sound like I am sourcing a lot of what I say from it for those familiar with it.

Villains often have lackeys and minions.  They utilize them to complete tasks they dont want or cannot do.  This also involves troublesome interloping adventurers.  Perhaps what appears to be an encounter with the lone Black Knight turns in to a sudden battle royale where the villain fades in to the background to strike at the right moment.  And without realizing it, the PCs take care of all of the minions and lackeys before he has a chance.  The Black Knight doesnt want to fight this battle now, so he finds a way to teleport/escape out with a "You will rue the day we met foolish adventurers..." etc etc.

Keep in mind, yes the PC's may be able to kill within one round of combat, but seriously?  Villains dont fight in areas where they dont have the advantage.  At least not intelligent ones.  And certainly not recurring ones.  You must also make sure your PC's are willing to escape if the need arises.  If they are "live fast and die young" (most new players are) then you may not want to utilize a scenario where they will most likely need to run.  If they are unopposed to running (and you can always drop hits throughout the session up to and including the encounter it is ok to turn tail and run) then all the more reason you overpower the PCs with the maginitude of the Black Knights powers.  Given that he yearns for that single combat, he shouldnt be opposed himself to let the PC's run another day - maybe even mark one of the PC's out before they leave.

Keep in mind the swinging pendulum.  Sometimes the NPC will win the day somehow, and sometimes the PC's will win the day.  Dont be afraid to flesh out some lesser minions who are clearly part of the Black Knights band/guild/whatever who attack the PC's every other session or so and each leaves clues to what the Black Knights utlimately wants to happen.  Even those lesser minions may end up becoming a rucurring villain as well if it happens that way.  You can still be faceless and be a villain.  Hope that helps.
Agree that when the "villian" is on the map, he becomes the primary goal for your PCs and they will use every resource to capture/kill him/her. That's why this combat above all others needs an alternative goal that is more lucrative than capturing villian. A no-win situation of "save the innocents/end the ritual/ stop the tidal wave or catch the bad guy. Make them aware that there will be a great cost to pursuing BBEG. If you present him as the only goal, they will find a way to make it happen.
If you want some real advice, be prepared for your players to kill this guy when you least expect it, and don't take their victory away from them when they do. Even if there's only a small chance, this could still happen.



THIS.

I just noticed this old post... but definitely this.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.