A villain... with a twist

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Hi everyone, first post after many years of lurking.


First of all, excuse me if my english is improper from time to time, since it isn't my first language.


I am writing down a new campaign where there is basically two villains. The first one being the evil bodyguard with his own intentions and the "mastermind" ala Star Wars. I came down with the idea that my "vader" would be a black knight with incredible charisma and good social skills and the Princess of the capital(who is an orphan and will soon come to adulthood and therefore would have access to the throne)has basically a huge crush on him.


But here comes the twist: The players will come to know rapidly who the black knight is, without actually being able to destroy him because of his position has the princess crush and because there is no evidence that he is the bad guy. He IS obviously the bad guy in the player's eyes(and in fact, he also is the bad guy in reality) but everyone else sees him as a charming, handsome knight. So the word of the players is worthless and the villain can keep trying to bring them down while they try to ruin his plans.


Now my concerns are simple: Is it realistically feasible? and what should I avoid to make the game fun to everyone, as I don't want to frustrate my players with the privileged position of the black knight. To conclude, he is definitely not invincible or has godly powers, he is just a strong paladin with good social backup plus protection from his "master", a Dark cleric who tries to find the secret to eternal life. The black knight follows him because he wants eternal youth(and more importantly, beauty).

-You still haven't given up on me?

-Never

My only warning, and I say this to anyone who pre plan villains; Don't expect it to stick. There are some great articles out there talking about the unpredictability of main villains in a campaign, and the reason is simple. Sometimes the players just don't see the threat, the fear, or sometimes they deal with them earlier than you expected. I love making villains, especially villains out of my players backstories, as it tends to make players more invested.

For every character I create that i think 'this could make a cool ongoing villain' maybe about 5% of them survive their first appearance, and less than half of that 5% manage to be interesting enough to the characters to be considered rivals or villains in their minds.

I've also created characters for what ever reason, and they've become villains simply because my players hated them, so I ran with it. One of the biggest villains in my current campaign was actually created to help show the importance of gathering specific items, that thye weren't too invested in originally, and for whatever reason they hated him, so I ran with it.

My advice for you if you want to up your chances of these villains sticking around is to keep them out of reach. Most of the time, my players do not let enemies get away, but for the guy who wasn't intended to be a villain, due to the way the players treated him, he decided to hire mercs and assassins after them, which worked really well at securing their hate for him, because while they haven't had contact with him since, he has an ongoing presence and a constant threat.

Also, just because your players know the black knight is bad but have no evidence, doesn't mean they won't do anything about it. Players are unpredictable, and may just attack him out of spite, ignoring the consequences, which is not something you should block, if it happens, run with it, and administer the consequences, being wnated by the crown or something. Also, don't make him invincible if they do infact decide to attack him, if he escapes, then he escapes, but players hate being blatantly denied things.

Anywho, just random advice, take what you want, good luck.
This is a cool idea, so my advice is to present it to your players. If they think it's cool too, they will go along with it and try to make it work. If they don't, they'll either not engage with it (which is fine if you don't mind your villain just being a background character), or try to short circuit that set up in some way. I would see a player racking up ranks in Diplomacy and then either convincing the people you said couldn't be convinced, or becoming frustrated when you prevent them from being convinced (not that a single Diplomacy roll should be enough to convince anyone of anything they don't want to believe, but still). Even better, if they're in on it, they can and probably will come up with ways to make the situation even more interesting.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Thanks for your input, both of you.

The main reason I had to villains to begin with is in case things turn sour quickly, avoiding that way to loose my "main quest storyline".
 
Another question arise: How can I avoid a direct confrontation while permitting the PCs to identify easily their new "enemy". I don't want them to be inactive in front of him, more like powerless(Or at least, for a while). For now my plan was to make him administer a poison to a giant snake who is a protective spirit of the forest near the starting city. The poison makes the snake basically being mentally weak and the dark cleric would control him. Upon his death, he reveal the physique of the black knight, giving hint to the players. The characters never saw the actual act itself but now search for a certain man. The dark cleric himself is unknown to the players.

The whole goal of this poison thing is to permit the Dark Knight to approach a sacred tree and take sap out of it which is the ingredient leading to the eternal life formula.  

And again, just to add: Since the Black Knight and the Dark Cleric don't share the same goals, I juggled with the idea of one of them backstabbing the other. What is your stance on that. Not out of goodness obivously, but mostly because they want the eternal life for them and themselves only.

 

-You still haven't given up on me?

-Never


 just to add: Since the Black Knight and the Dark Cleric don't share the same goals, I juggled with the idea of one of them backstabbing the other. What is your stance on that. Not out of goodness obivously, but mostly because they want the eternal life for them and themselves only.

 



I like this kind of thing a lot. I feel it makes relationships dynamic as most NPC's/characters won't share the same goals. This can make for some interesting situations and encounters, especially if your players are enjoying it. the opposite is also fun, when two unlikely villains join forces due to sharing one interest, then you can play with their conflicting personalities, betrayal etc.  The same works for one unlikely villain joining forces with the players in order to take down a larger threat.

Centauri is correct that if the players appreciate the idea of a charismatic villain and work with you it will be more interesting for everyone, but TheeEnthusiast made some good points as well. Some players will attempt to kill the villain just because he is there.

If this knight is a pawn of the Cleric, the evil Cleric might find a way to rescue the evil knight from bloodthirsty murderous PCs. This would make the evil Cleric look like a hero, show his 'loyalty' to the princess, and give him a reason to gain even more influence in the courts.

As an alternative... what if it turns out that the black knight isn't the Knight after all, but instead is a simulacrum or doppleganger or something. The real Knight might actually be a good guy, truly worthy of the princess, but he is imprisoned elsewhere and the monster has taken his place. That way... if the players actually kill him, they can look more like heroes and less like vigilantes. Making their diplomacy checks would give them enough clues, as every NPC they convince has his/her own story to tell about something odd they've noticed about the black knight. Eventually, an important ally will come up who can help the players discover the truth so they can act more freely.


Poster -
The way you've set up the villain, even if the characters do make difficult diplomacy checks, that doesn't mean that the NPCs will suddenly go against their princess and arrest the Black Knight. They may even say that they were suspicious of the Blackguard all along, but feel like they are unable to act.

Any NPC that the players can convince may become a good source of information for the players, however. They will see the players as the good guys and want to help make sure the princess doesn't make a mistake and marry a self-absorbed and foolish knight.

These are great ideas. When you're talking about snakes and immortality and such, I thought also of Yuan-ti. What if this elixir the black knight is making isn't immortality, but instead turns him into a Yuan-ti monster (under the cleric's control)?

Sounds like a fun campaign! Cool
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.
Another question arise: How can I avoid a direct confrontation while permitting the PCs to identify easily their new "enemy". I don't want them to be inactive in front of him, more like powerless(Or at least, for a while). For now my plan was to make him administer a poison to a giant snake who is a protective spirit of the forest near the starting city. The poison makes the snake basically being mentally weak and the dark cleric would control him. Upon his death, he reveal the physique of the black knight, giving hint to the players. The characters never saw the actual act itself but now search for a certain man. The dark cleric himself is unknown to the players.



Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain comes to mind. One of the biggest protagonists in that game started out as an ally to the player, giving them instructions on what to do to achieve victory over evil guy X only to turn out to be evil guy Y in disguise the whole time. Cliche, I know, but they dropped big hints about it along the way instead of just dumping it on the player at the end of it all like a big old "I am your father" sort of situation. To this, if you do use evil guy X/Y as a foil for the PCs against evil guy Y/X, constantly hinting through whatever obscenely convenient means one might have at the time that evil guy X/Y is just as evil, if not moreso, as evil guy Y/X. If the PCs figure out that both variables are indeed evil, they may come out ahead, but if not, evil guy X/Y gets to go on to do whatever dastardly thing he intended to do while distracting the PCs by rallying them against evil guy Y/X.

So, long story short, have the PCs work for one of the badguys in secret, dropping hints that they are indeed a badguy to give them ample time to meet both of them.

...and now I have to go do something mindless to get over the fact that my entire post seems like a math problem...

Happy Gaming
Any chance you've read the manga Berserk? One of the main characters, Griffith, was an aspiring mercenary leader, great warrior and genius tactician, loved by his band and regarded as hero by his country (and certainly deserving this love). He disappeared for several years, reappearing in a year of great disasters as a God-sent savior, who has crushed the evil demon empire and created Falconia, basically the only safe haven in the world gone crazy with dragons and demons suddenly appearing everywhere. The problem is that
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he actually is one of evil gods incarnate, who sacrificed his entire squad (nevermind raping his first lieutenant in front of the protagonist in the process) to achieve this position. The above-mentioned 'world-gone-crazy' event is directly caused by him, and hell know what he is actually planning to do with his own country. Only a handful of persons know the truth, so any kind of opposition to him is going to face nation-wide enmity.

I actually highly recommend reading the whole story if you don't mind frequent graphic violence/sexual themes (and 300+ chapters and the fact that you have to wait a month or two for a new chapter, and it's been going like this since 1990...), because the transformation of Griffith-how-he-was to Griffith-how-he-is is perfectly justified...
I think talking to your players ahead of time and giving them the idea that, in this particular game, you can't just kill anyone you want, might help with establishing this villain. Too often the players aren't thinking of the consequences for their characters, so drawing a sword and running through a guy you don't like in game isn't really a big deal to the player. And chances are the consequences for them killing someone they really shouldn't aren't going to be as fun for you or the players. I'd be upfront with them, make sure they are on board with the idea of the laws and rules of civilized lands being different and the characters are not above those.
Definitely avoid direct confrontations for a while. You never know what will go wrong. And in the event you have to, always let the bad guy have an escape plan/route.

In my D20 modern game, our party of level 2 characters killed a CR 8 Mindflayer BBEG during our second session. Because my character stole the van the mindflayer was driving and plowed him into a brick wall.

The best way to avoid direct confrontations are to use minions or other plans to interfere with the PCs goals from afar.

For example, if the PCs are after a magic item, the BBEG can have a minion intercept/steal the item on their way back to town. Or perhaps the BBE knows about this beforehand and places a trap with the item. And to make it worse, he removes the item from the location so it's just the trap the players have to deal with. But leave some sign that it was the BBEG that set them up.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Definitely avoid direct confrontations for a while. You never know what will go wrong. And in the event you have to, always let the bad guy have an escape plan/route.

In my D20 modern game, our party of level 2 characters killed a CR 8 Mindflayer BBEG during our second session. Because my character stole the van the mindflayer was driving and plowed him into a brick wall.

The best way to avoid direct confrontations are to use minions or other plans to interfere with the PCs goals from afar.

For example, if the PCs are after a magic item, the BBEG can have a minion intercept/steal the item on their way back to town. Or perhaps the BBE knows about this beforehand and places a trap with the item. And to make it worse, he removes the item from the location so it's just the trap the players have to deal with. But leave some sign that it was the BBEG that set them up.



Lunar reminded me, never have your villain be alone. Even better, surround him with people who are innocent, know nothing of his evil ways. If you have to cut through a couple of upstanding citizens to even get to him, chances are by then the city guard and all sorts of townsfolk will be rushing to their defense, and all the villain has to do is cradle a bleeding maiden and howl "You monsters! Look what you've done!"
Definitely avoid direct confrontations for a while. You never know what will go wrong. And in the event you have to, always let the bad guy have an escape plan/route.

In my D20 modern game, our party of level 2 characters killed a CR 8 Mindflayer BBEG during our second session. Because my character stole the van the mindflayer was driving and plowed him into a brick wall.

The best way to avoid direct confrontations are to use minions or other plans to interfere with the PCs goals from afar.

For example, if the PCs are after a magic item, the BBEG can have a minion intercept/steal the item on their way back to town. Or perhaps the BBE knows about this beforehand and places a trap with the item. And to make it worse, he removes the item from the location so it's just the trap the players have to deal with. But leave some sign that it was the BBEG that set them up.



Lunar reminded me, never have your villain be alone. Even better, surround him with people who are innocent, know nothing of his evil ways. If you have to cut through a couple of upstanding citizens to even get to him, chances are by then the city guard and all sorts of townsfolk will be rushing to their defense, and all the villain has to do is cradle a bleeding maiden and howl "You monsters! Look what you've done!"



Also sound advice.

That said, in the direct confrontation, the mindflayer had two brainless henchmen with him that he'd enslaved. We made short work of them. I definitely like merb's idea though. Using innocents to pad the distance between the players and the big bad is brilliant. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Thanks for your ideas.

 @ Hirou: I did read berserk. Loved it. And my black knight is a bit inspired by griffith.

I talked to my most experienced player about it and he really likes the idea. I'm not sure about telling all the players though, to keep the suspense going on. My group is fairly experienced and they are far from bloodthirsty killers that kill at sight. They always play the good guys and fight for the greater good unless with do one shots of thieve's quest and such. And while they are not always super roleplayers, they understand the basic concepts of mutual gaming and that it needs to be fun for me and them so they don't try to screw around and ruin the quest. 

The thing is I wanna also play on the fact that there is two villains. The black knight and the dark cleric. And the goal of the black knight of being eternally beautiful and young makes it easy to put up front that he likes to be the center of attention. He's basically egoistical egomaniac crazy man basically. The Dark cleric is really the mad scientist kind of guy, hiding and shadows and sending minions to help the black knight.

Now, I really liked the idea of the cleric coming to the defence of the Knight at some point to introduce him to the players(avoiding that, OH MY GAWD A NEW VILLAIN APPEARS). Any other tips that could help me slowly introduce him 

-You still haven't given up on me?

-Never

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