Help with Antagonist

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I am making/starting a game with my friends and it is going to be based on the forgotten realms land.... but the majority of it is going to be made up completley. I am planning a large story that will include many large adventures for the same characters. in the end it will all lead to an epic conclusion hopefully. i am having trouble with one thing what is the main antagonist in the game. So i would like to hear some ideas from other dms. what should it be a evil ancient dragon. a god has turned against mortals. a secret society (like templars in assassin's creed). i would love to hear the ideas for a ultimate antagonist. that will be able to blend with many diffrent adventures.im looking for a enemy that will be able to come and go in the adventure. but it will be the main problem in the end of the game
Since this will be a primary aspect of the game they're engaged in, I recommend going directly to your players for ideas. They know what they'd enjoy facing.

Good luck with your story. How do you plan to handle character death or player turnover?

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

Now isn't the time for main antagonists. Give your players a few questions and ask them about what they consider to be a good villian. Do they like the "self-righteous" Sephiroth type? Or do they prefer some kind of demon lord? What are the biases and dispositions of your players? In my group, there is a general disdain for a specific religion, so I parodied that and created "The Order of the Cross", a group of chaotic good paladins who worship "the one true god", hate all magic and all other religions. The intended antagonist was a figure to represent a pope type figure, however over the discourse of a few games, the pope wound up being a corrupter. Then, I developed it further: the order began persecution.

The point was that I learned the players had a specific bias, and used it. In a D20 modern Shadowrun type of game, I used George W. Bush as the president serving the force of shadow. A few years later, I had Barrack Obama ride a unicorn into the white house and start a drum circle while his wife, a Russian spy and shadow weaver manipulate his "child like innocence". Of course, these players are non-political but hate all politics, so it was appropriate to take the image THEY have (not the image I have) of those figures and use them.

Any "big villain" you design now will be wasted later. The best villains are those recurring enemies that survive the players. Sometimes, such an enemy might have an evil master, but notice the evil master never draws the same "heat" the recurring enemy had. The best antagonist is the one you can plot in front of the players and engage them with. It is better if the players have a moral common cause with the villain, to keep the players interested in the antagonist. The best baddie isn't the right flavor of demon or ancient dragon or lich or bandit or organization; it can be any mixture of the above things.

What it needs to be, is something that engages the players and draws heat from them. Don't "force your guy to survive everything", but let your enemies die. At some point, the natural outcomes of events will cause "something" to illicit that response. When you have a good antagonist, you will know. Worry about the smaller enemies, and what their goals are and who they work for. Any of them could be your "ticket in" to having a good enemy.

However it all comes back full circle. What kind of biases do your players have, what character quality/trait in a real life person do they hate? is there a "real life archetype" you can "build into the game"? Maybe the captain of the guards is similar in name and nature to the mean cop in your town. The trick is to show the players something that naturally draws their ire. One of my friends was a juggalo, so instead of bandits, i began using "evil mimes who escaped the carnival". His girlfriend hates rap, so I had the leader of that enemy group speak in "auto-tune voice" which worked well.

Within; Without.

I agree with Thadian that the beginning of the campaign is not the time to completely flesh out a main antagonist.  Give your players the general impression that it exists, but nothing more.  Let their statements, assumptions, questions, and actions over several sessions influence its creation.  I very rarely ask my players the direct question, "what do you want to see in the BBEG?"  But during the course of a campaign, my players say and do things about the situations they get themselves into that in turn allow me to create a villain they will love to hate.

 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
Give him a name, and freely name drop it around the story, but be vague. Then he..he/she/it will have a thread long presence in the world.
I agree not to really flesh it out too much yet. I happened to find a great little story for a villain in an old classic dungeon crawl that I'm using, whom the PCs inadvertantly free from his prison in the feydark. He'll come back just to taunt them, and act sort of like Crowley in Supernatural (I like the sassy evil guy type of villain) and eventually be some kind of big bad they have to face later on. But other than that, I don't really know that much about him yet.

I'd suggest just picking one vague idea you and your players really like, and hold onto it, but don't do anything with it just yet. As you write, you'll find places that will make you go A-HA and know it's a perfect spot to drop the villain in, to entice the players to hate him/them more and more until they come face to face with them and must finally defeat them.

I tend to think of it like fantasy tv shows (ie. Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, etc) where you don't know that much about the big bad the heroes will need to face at the end of the season (campaign). You all learn about it as you go along. 
Check with your players what they want to fight.
Do the want to slay a dragon?
Are they radiant mafia and want to defeat a lich?
Does one or more of your character backgrounds contain a slave driver or evil wizard?

I'll try to find the article about reoccurring villians and link it, but the formula is sound:
1) The party sees the antagonist from afar.
2) The party hears tales of dread and woe about the antagonist.
3) The antagonist appears at a major encounter, says something that builds the plot, and leaves.
4) The party fights the antagonist who either escapes, or is a fake.
5) Major confrontation (resulting in destruction or pacification).

The group I DMed wanted to kill an archlich. They spent hours of gametime learing about her, seeing her handiwork, and being stooped by her a couple of times. Around early paragon, they realized that it would be futile if they attacked her in combat. Instead, they found out where she kept her phylactery (on another plane guarded by Brains in a Jar). So they instead woke/freed an ancient enemy of hers (a death knight) to meet her in battle, distracting her long enough so the party could assault the phylactery. Annd then they could return and defeat the weakened death knight.
Well, it all went to plan until they returned and found out the death knight had subjugated their entire village. The party then became thralls of the death knight (intoducing a new villian). However, since the players were happy that they defeated the archlich, they retired their characters and we started a new campaign.

I like to give the heroes an organization to oppose in the beginning, rather than a single villain. That way, I can introduce a variety of villains who work for that organization. Some of them may dog the heroes for a while, but if they get killed prematurely it isn't a big deal because they're just one more villain working with this group. As things progress, the heroes want more and more to find out who's in charge of this evil organization and hold him responsible for the actions of his lackeys. Keep an eye on the players throughout the campaign for any clues as to who they think that main villain should be.


Another thing that I've found successful is making villains that are friendly and likable. In my last campaign, the evil organization was stealing valuable artifacts, even killing people to do so from time to time. Towards the end, while one of the PCs was investigating by herself she bumps into a guy who says "I see you're interested in artifacts. Me too. Want to talk about it over dinner?" This guy actually took the PC out on a date and even rescued a couple they see being robbed. Of course, at the same time he's a little suspicious, and when the PC finally called him out he was like "Yes, I've been stealing the artifacts. I'm sorry people got hurt. But it's all for a very good reason. Why don't you tag along with us for a while so I can show you what I mean, and if at any point you decide you want out you'll be free to go. It's too late for you to stop us anyway." The player loved it and actually had her PC tag along with the bad guys for awhile. It made the finale very epic and memorable.

The party then became thralls of the death knight (intoducing a new villian). However, since the players were happy that they defeated the archlich, they retired their characters and we started a new campaign.



I would be having my players encounter that village and party in a future game.

I also enjoy telling players around the level 5 mark:

"How would you like to play slightly different? I would like to get some enemies in the world, and will let you play them." Then, the players make "Enemy PC's" who go through a series of about 4 games. I do this every so often, because it gives a "refresh" from the ongoing campaign. More importantly, it can introduce players more intimately to a region they just discovered by giving them time in that region.

One of my players liked their villain so much he wanted the villain to replace his hero in the "main group", so I did some creative betrayals between the games and everyone was happy. The players fought villains they enjoyed creating and using, villains who they created and used the abilities of in battle, and that worked pretty well.

People around here introduced me to the idea of "player buy-in" (i am a new poster) and I agree 200% with that.

Within; Without.

Thadian thank you. you have been most helpful. i dont plan on introducing any main antagonist yet im making a campain that will introduce the characters. but eventually it will lead to a main antagonist that will come and go untill the ending of the campaign
The big theme the best advisors have in common is: Always defer to the players. They are a great source of advice. You can even challenge each player: "Today, I am going to ask you each to design an enemy. It will be equivalent to level X, wealth Y. Once I have collected and reviewd your submissions, I might begin to use some of them."

Players love that. Even if they don't play as the enemies, just seeing their creation in action rewards them, especially if the villian is redeemable over the course of time.

Within; Without.


"How would you like to play slightly different? I would like to get some enemies in the world, and will let you play them." Then, the players make "Enemy PC's" who go through a series of about 4 games. I do this every so often, because it gives a "refresh" from the ongoing campaign. More importantly, it can introduce players more intimately to a region they just discovered by giving them time in that region.



It's strange that you said that, because we did almost the exact same thing. When the players were starting to burn out on their current characters (it was level 8) I shifted gears for a few sessions. I also think that since there are 6 player characters, it is easier to burn out because it takes longer to get to your turn. (What we did to make turns faster and more efficient is on another thread.)

I said, "Hey, let's just do a dungeon delve with some bad-ass characters. Each of you create a monster manual or evil PC at level 15 and we'll just do a fun dungeon clear for a while. Not heavy on the RP. Just a tactical slog to see how quickly you guys can clear rooms of other baddies and traps."
We used one of these maps :
www.wizards.com/dnd/images/mapofweek/Dec...

Of the six players, one made a Drow Artificer/Rogue hybrid named Mathilla, and another player made a charge-cheese Minotaur Blackguard named Ajax.

After a couple of months of the dungeon delve, the players were ready to get back to their hero characters. In the first adventure with their heroes, they did a town/library skill challenge and found out that the archlich was Mathilla hundreds of years ago. They also found out that Mathilla betrayed Ajax and entombed him, placing the "key of quartered parts" to release him on the other four evil characters.

This put a holy s*** twist in the campaign. The heroes now had to defeat their evil characters one at a time to get the 4 key parts, then use it to free Ajax to help them defeat Mathilla.

 
As the above post (which is an awesome story by the way) demonstrates, main bad guys can come from the strangest places. Here's my story: 

My players were doing a heist in the modron city of Regulus (more on that here), trying to break into a vault in the Tower of Primus. Here, they expected to find the missing cards from the Deck of Many Things. 

Well, as things went, they found the missing pieces, but they also stole some other items in the vault, most notable among them the Eye of Vecna. The Dwarf fighter decided to observe it more closely, and that's when the Eye inserted itself into his socket. 

After they escaped, the Dwarf and two other partymembers decided to put the deck together in their guildhouse and draw a card. We did it randomly, and they drew the Rogue, which immediately earns them the enmity of a figure chosen by the DM. Of course I chose Vecna, since the Dwarf had his Eye, and an avatar appeared to capture the three partymembers and half the guild. 

The remaining two partymembers saw that happen from a scrying pool, and after the three players had made new characters, they were suddenly hellbent on infiltrating Vecna's cult and retrieving their partymembers. This set into motion a whole chain of events, with Vecna vs. the party as the recurring motief. 
I'm having the opposite problem than the OP.  I have the main bad guys.  An ancient demon who is trapped deep under a mountain is being slowly released.  The animals and creatures in and around that mountain are being driven out towards cities. 

What I'm having problems with is how to introduce something like that to level 1 characters and maintain it until they are high enough level to challenge the demon.
I'm having the opposite problem than the OP.  I have the main bad guys.  An ancient demon who is trapped deep under a mountain is being slowly released.  The animals and creatures in and around that mountain are being driven out towards cities. 

What I'm having problems with is how to introduce something like that to level 1 characters and maintain it until they are high enough level to challenge the demon.

Cool. Start up a thread about it.

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

I'm having the opposite problem than the OP.  I have the main bad guys.  An ancient demon who is trapped deep under a mountain is being slowly released.  The animals and creatures in and around that mountain are being driven out towards cities. 

What I'm having problems with is how to introduce something like that to level 1 characters and maintain it until they are high enough level to challenge the demon.


You don't...leave the end game as vague as possible.  All the players know for sure is that there is something wrong that is causing animals and creatures to move away from the mountain and toward their city/town/village.

This gives you the opportunity to put quests, tasks, and obastcles in the path of the party, giving them a chance to get experience, and level up.  And it gives you the opportunity to drop hints of the impending doom.  Eventually, hopefully, the party figures it out for themselves.

Lastly, this strategy gives you plenty of opportunity to tweak or even completely rethink your end-game scenario to best suit what your players want.

 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
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