Introducing the villain

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So I recently started running a 4e darksun game for some friends of mine and their about to encounter the big bad (in fact the first person they'll have dialogue with in game) and I want to introduce him in a suitably meaningful manner.

For some background on the party they just witnessed the murder of Kalak and were thrown underground as earthquakes raged following the release of all that deflining magic (don't care if it's not totally canon, wanted to make it cool). They're about to come out of this dungeon filled principally with undead animated by the release of Kalak's magic and meet the big bad. I plan for them to lose the fight which will almost assuredly commence.

The big bad is a psionically active warrior named Yam Nahar (ancient Mythology buffs might get the reference). He is totally evil and depraved but he doesn't think he is himself. He is infected with a fairly exoctic disease called the Psionic Wasting which kills most of its victims quite quickly but for a lucky few it instead bolsters their psionic presense to previously unimaginable levels. His goals are somewhat reminescint of a certain infamous villain from Dark Sun's past, but not the same. He wants to destroy Athas entirely because, the way he sees it, Athas is like a wounded animal that can't be healed. Though people try and try they only make it worse and prolong the suffering of the world, so he wants to be the one to put the nail in the coffin and end Athas' suffering. To do this he's trying to infect people with his Psionic Wasting to recruit powerful lieutenants to help his cause, so far the results have been less than stellar; most die immediately others suffer for a few hours and some are rendered brain dead. Of course the characters will be suitable cantidates and are going to be infected and he will try to persaude them to join his cause (that's the main drama of the game as I see it).

But to the meat of the issue, I want to introduce him in a way that's memorable and will make the players take notice right away. I don't want him to just be another despot in a world full of them. I'm thinking of having the characters emerge from the undercity of Tyr into a small isolated square where Yam Nahar has caught several people in the chaos surrounding the murder of Kalak and is one by one exposing them to his plague resulting in the death of each victim there. When the characters (hopefully) try to stop him and do the "what are you doing?!" thing have some monologue about Athas dying and him being it's savior, someone who can finally put the world to peace where so many others have failed. But I'm open to suggestions, that's a really rough outline at this point and it's certainly changeable, so long as I think the changes are attention grabbing. I just really want him to be a good villain.
i would kick it up a notch further, and have the infection spread thru the mindscapes. the way i envision the grey, is a sea of mist with floating blue "mindscape" structures that represent the mental "anchor" of every psionic creature on the planet' abilities/battery/etc.... the party and all the villagers could be sucked into the grey and witness vast tendrils of green fly out of a psionic version of the BBEG and into the mindscapes of everyone "present", infecting them all. if you have ever read the Prism Pendant books, descriptions of the grey and mindscapes are well outlined, if you need some inspiration (and i recommend any dark sun DM read them anyway).

im gonna ramble now......

i would also check out "dregoth ascending" here:
<www.athas.org/products/DA>
in this campaign, dregoth does a similar thing, but with divine magic instead of psionics, slowly shutting down access to spell casting ability worldwide, as he increases his divine power. you could substitute all instances of divine with psionic.
this also gives great opportunity later to have the mind lords of the last sea (2nd edition also) finally break the silence they have lived in for thousands of years, and intervene in the oncoming events.

this sounds like a really fun campaign plot, im interested to see where it goes.
I'd love to read the Prism Pendant if I could find them. That sounds like a good end-game for the villain, but I don't think the game will go that long, it's just set to be a sort of short-ish summer campaign during school break, if I had all the time in the world it might end up there at epic level, but as of now the game will probably end in heroic somewhere with the players beating the big bad before he becomes enough of a threat to the world at large to be taken notice of.

I don't know about the grey it seems cool, but I don't know enough about it. I'm thinking I might have the big bad SAVE the party at some point. I've never seen a big bad save a part in a D&D game but I imagine it would be incredibly ego bruising, and it would make sense if he wants to try to persaude the party to join him.
I had a villain very similar to this, though he was trapped inside an obsidian orb. The characters gave it to the Veiled Alliance. Though they didn't know the orb would slowly take over the person wieldling it.

How to make him memorable? Make him like able in some way... Maybe show how he feels that this is a greater good type issue.

At the same time, do not assume he is going to survive, if he reaches bloodly value, you need an escape way. If that exit is a magical power, the players need a way to bi-pass it in their final confrontation.

My rule of thumb is style style style.

A villain cannot be disliked by the heroes unless they have something that makes them unique. Whether it be their outward appearance or special moves.

 
Ant Farm
I had a villain very similar to this, though he was trapped inside an obsidian orb. The characters gave it to the Veiled Alliance. Though they didn't know the orb would slowly take over the person wieldling it.

How to make him memorable? Make him like able in some way... Maybe show how he feels that this is a greater good type issue.

At the same time, do not assume he is going to survive, if he reaches bloodly value, you need an escape way. If that exit is a magical power, the players need a way to bi-pass it in their final confrontation.

My rule of thumb is style style style.

A villain cannot be disliked by the heroes unless they have something that makes them unique. Whether it be their outward appearance or special moves.

 


The reason I seriously doubt they'll beat him is becayse he's an 8 solo, they're level 5 (maybe 6 when they fight him). It's my intention that they lose, the fight is supposed to be like your first fight with Vile in Mega Man X, a disempowering experience that works towards making the players really WANT to beat him.

But to the meat of the issue, I want to introduce him in a way that's memorable and will make the players take notice right away. I don't want him to just be another despot in a world full of them


Having him first not as a 'mwahahaha villian' might help to make him more memorable. If the players see a dude being mean, chances are they'll try to fight him until one group dies (at least in games I've seen) or unless you force them to leave.

Perhaps he could see these powerful/heroic players and be scoping them out before he infects them? eg: Saves them from some token disaster like the ceiling falling in with his psionic prowess, and they get to chatting as he accompanies the party for a little while. You get to give out his goals in bite-sized pieces, and then when you think you're ready he lashes out against PC/NPC and triest to infect them.

I plan for them to lose the fight which will almost assuredly commence.


I've never enjoyed these as a player of tabletops or a player of video games. Maybe make it super obvious, or give them a really obvious escape route? The forced 'you fight, you can't win, you die/captured/etc' is just frustrating to play out.

I'd love to read the Prism Pendant if I could find them.


I just found them last week on the kindle shop- yay! I am up to book 2 of 5 now. I believe 4e is set between book 1 and 2 though, so if you are keen on canon only a tiny portion of events have occured from the prism pentad.


The reason I seriously doubt they'll beat him is becayse he's an 8 solo, they're level 5 (maybe 6 when they fight him). It's my intention that they lose, the fight is supposed to be like your first fight with Vile in Mega Man X, a disempowering experience that works towards making the players really WANT to beat him


Parties can take down 2 solos up to their level +4 as challenging, but possible (Depending on terrain etc) - if you want him unbeatable you would have to make it DM style, not 'legally' within the game mechanics. Or, have him as like a level 20 solo, but then his defences would be so high you could never hit, which would be annoying.
If the goal is to fight him and lose, I'd recommend making it super clear the goal is to do ______, where _____ is not fight, but succeed on some goal like 'protect the noble' or 'get to the water source before it is fouled by poison' - this way they might not feel the frustrations I do when it is 'you have to fight him, but I'm not going to let you win.'
See I really WANT them to have that frustration though. It gives them a tangible goal to work toward, beating this guy they couldn't even concievably harm before. If you've ever played Megaman X you should know immediately what I'm talking about. Plus I don't have a really long time to DM this game it's just for the summer, so it has to be sort of short. And yes I know its possible for players to beat a solo 2-3 levels higher, but I don't see that happening because only two people in the group really optimize at all and the BBEG has an ability where he heals every TURN unless his will gets hit, and yes his will is really high.
See I really WANT them to have that frustration though. It gives them a tangible goal to work toward, beating this guy they couldn't even concievably harm before.

You know your party best, but when it happens to me I don't go 'gee that was fun, I want to beat the baddie,' I go 'what a bad session that was! The DM had no idea what he was doing sending us up against something like that. Totally not fair. What's he gonna do next, make the roof fall in on us to prove some point?'

If you've ever played Megaman X you should know immediately what I'm talking about.

I've played a fair bit of Megaman. MMX is where you start on the level where you fight the bees right, and then at the end have to lose to Bas(?). That battle was annoying as I felt I might be able to win - so I kept restarting the console for like half an hour :/ If you are determined to go ahead with it, I'd just recommend that you don't toy with the players - give them 2 rounds tops before they are defeated / he forces them to stop.

But if he is only 3 levels higher, the battle will be long, not necessarily hard. My party doesn't optimise much (assassin and shaman and non-Twin strike ranger are 3/5th of the party) but they took down a solo 4 levels higher with regen and unusually high AC. The battle was memorable for them because it gave them a run for their money, but they weren't in danger of actually losing.
It's a process called themeing. Your reaction of "gee that was bad, I wonder what other bad stuff will happen," is an expected reaction. Eventually you'll either adapt to overcome the scenario (ideal situation) or you'll give up (not ideal situation). In my experience players are stubborn and will pretty much always take the former option. It also makes the players hate the bad guy that much more because they felt helpless before him, which is an experience most players don't expect, much less relish. It also fits with the theme of Dark Sun wherein players are supposed to feel constant mortal danger, and what better way than making them lose? Its just a different forumla from the normal D&D "meet big bad, beat big bad" forumla.
Well, that's not the way to do that. You should do it in a way that will entertain your players, and as a player and a GM I can tell you that railroaded failure is never fun. If you provide an escape route and then the provisions they need to beat the hell out of the villain it's fine, but if the failure is only to build hatred and frustruation - you will succeed only in building hatred and frusturation against you.
Better way of villain introduction is to show how powerful and relentless he is upon NPCs: let Rikus, Sadira and Agis lose to him and (hopefully) you will see the fear in the eyes of your player.

As a note I will say that the theme of this villain is not "good villain" - he's lunatic and evil as well as Apocalypse or Sinister from X-MEN, and they're suck, try to think about Magneto, which is much more interesting villain.

Final remark, if you refer to Hebrew, then Yam Nahar is a hippie name (meaning Sea River), if you want Hebrew, try Makhala Mokhit (Brain Disease), Ketel Mehalech (Walking Slaughter) or at least Nahar Nokem (Avenging River) if you insist on the water theme.