BBEG

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I wanted to create a BBEG for a campaign (which isn't being played yet). I'm drawing a lot of inspiration from the If I Were and Evil Overlord List and the Magnificent Bastard. Now, I'm not sure if the CharDev boards are used to establishing Evil NPCs, but I could use a hand.

Now, mind you, I'm not trying to make him impossible to beat. I'm not going to follow every rule on the Evil Overlord list (what fun would that be for the PCs) but I am going to have him follow some. I'd like to make him a BBEG such that he doesn't even need to be killed (or defeated) and maybe the players don't even want to kill or defeat him (but, then again, killing is likely).

He (or she?) is a patient man (defaulting to male term, female options remains open). He is very charismatic, even likable, and has an elevated level of intelligence and wisdom. In short, he can not only garner loyal support, but turn away less desirable allies. Physically he is average, perhaps slightly hardier or stronger or agile than most, but not by much. He recognizes that there's more to being selfish than doing whatever is best for you at the moment. It might be easy to tax the population into poverty but that would make them rebellious and inefficient. He can balance long and short-term to arrive at a happy (efficient) medium (medium term goals)?

Now, as clever and charismatic as he is, he's not a good guy. Quite likely he's unaligned or evil with an eye towards self-intrest or deification. Nor is his omniscient. I'd like him to push the PCs buttons in such a way that, win or lose, they help him out. I think it's called the Xanadu Gambit. Now, I'm pretty good at nudging my players, so it ought to be fine enough at the table. What I need is a background for him. Not all NPCs deserve fully fleshed out histories, but BBEG and LBEGs do.

Of course, first I'll need a name. I'm thinking along the lines of simplicity and mundanity. Lord Ixlorzsh Goreflag stands out too much. It's quite possible the PCs will never realize that he IS the BBEG. Something like Johnathan Chaunce or Theodore Carter. There will be Ixlorzsh Goreflags and Zygytx the Unpronouncable in the campaign, but I'd like to simple down the BBEGs name. Perhaps call him Sir, or Sir John/Theo.

Lets go with Johnathan Chaunce, it's a good name and its got a mundane quiality without being forgettable. Sir Johnathan Chaunce, or just John.

Now, he's patient, calculating, and charismatic. What kind of background gives rise to something like that? Farmers, potters maybe (any potters out there?), architects, wine-makers, hunters, ...

I kind of like Potter. It's unique and gives him a hobby when he's not evil overlording. Now he's charismatic too, to the max really. Well loved and looked up to by the people he overlords over. Peasants, merchants, visiting dignitaries, servants, and guards. Charisma can be born into you or learned. I don't know if I want to make it an inherent charisma (that seems a little overdone). A merchant's son would be good. Son of a pottery merchant, a successful one. Wealthy but not rich, influential but not powerful, known but not famous. Middle Class, yes, very nice. I think I'll leave his intelligence and cleverness up to being inherent. He needs some natural advantage.

So, Johnathan Chaunce was a potter's son. He learned the pottery trade from his father but more over, learned how to sell pottery. John Chaunce mastered a few techniques of sales; connecting with the potential customer, assauging their doubts, closing the sale, and reassuring them of their good purchase. John's father taught him that quality was the best way to make a sale, so John learned to back up his sales with deeds. He liked to "under promise and over deliver".

Thats a sufficient childhood. I don't think I want to insert anything traumatic. I'd actually like for him to be normal (thinking about it) and balanced. It's not an event-based evil, but an evil grown fully and functionally on purpose. I suppose evil is more efficient but get's bad PR. Maybe thats where Johnathan learns hidden evil. It's bad PR to be the only potter in the town who isn't mysterously murdered. But its fine to study competitor's pottery (even while they work, if hidden) so you know all their imperfections and dirty secrets, and mercilessly highlight the flaws in everyone else's pottery when making a sale.

Hell, maybe thats how he comes to power? A pottery monopoly gives him funds, makes him wealthier, more influential, and famous than his father. He branches out, monopolizes, and eventually takes over or builds up his own country. I'd like to think of him as ruthlessly out performing the competition (without lying) and then hiring the talented competitors to work for him. Like some kind of ruthless CEO, but on a more localized scale. He treats his workers well too, good motivated workers perform better than bitter ex-rivals. I like it.

So John works with his father for a few years, until the man steps down and lets John take over. John hires drifters, apprentices, and children to spy upon competitors and tell him every detail of their process. He meticulously keeps track of which potter uses inferior clay or a not hot enough kiln and pushes those points when selling his pottery (carefully ensure he buys only the best and works to the best of his skill). As each competing potter went under, Johnathan hired them (if they were good enough) and had them work for him. He treated them well and garnered their appreciation. He worked methodically until he had monopolized the pottery for the surrounding area. Instead of gouging the prices, he built varying degrees of pottery, cheap for the poor, excellent for the wealthy. He branched out into other fields (bricks to masonry to stone masonry to quarrying to mining to smithing and gem cuttingto jewelry making to luxury items to clothing to weaving to animal husbandry to farming to food, in that order). Soon he controlled every business in the area and the local ruler was ruler only in title. John suggested the idea of joint rulership to the ruler as a joke (an intentionally worrying joke). Worried for his position, the ruler tried to have John assassinated. Those same assassins (with more money than they'd arrived with) dealt the ruler a fatal blow and John assumed the local throne. No one could place the blame on John.

Thats a pretty good way to take over. It fits him well. Most monarchies "own everything" in theory, but John owns it in practice too. I think that fits him very well. It's not very evil though. I'll mix some evil in.

After becoming successful, it was only natural for John to become a target. He seemed to be able to take control of any situation and mastered everything he put his hands on. Criminals of all kinds wanted John for one reason or another. Some were hired by comptetitors, some wanted to start a protection racket, some just wanted to rob him. John had already gathered a few fervent supporters of the less reputable trade and coupled with an invasive information network of spies and low lifes, John managed to cultivate and nurture each of these conspiracies until he could use them or completely dismantle them. Currently, John indirectly controls three established crime 'guilds' and keeps them at odds with one another. They keep each other in check and as a patsy when he needs something done.

Some thugs attempted to perpetrait physical attacks on his person. After being subdued (if reasonably possible) John kills efficiently. He has, among assassins and thieves, a protected status. In many ways, John is their best employer. He doesn't send them into suicidal missions or betray them and he pays very well. On the other hand, those that cross him die in simple and unimaginative ways. As a standing offer within many assassin's guilds, John allows assassins to barter with him prior to taking a contract on his life for up to a 50% increase in pay to not accept or a 100% increase to kill the original contracter. Many assassins and thieves find this more profitable and safer.



I think its a good start, but I have trouble streamlining it. Could anyone offer support or advice on John? I'll be taking him to the CharOp boards so that his abilities match his story.
Resident Shakespeare
Fully stated out NPC BBEGs are a thing of the past my friend. History and backstory are good, and it seems like you have that covered, but when it comes to the actual FIGHT all you have to do is create a Level X elite or Solo human "monster" from the guidelines for creating such a monster from the MM and DMG. Depending on his type he'll have Attack of Level+n (anywhere from 3 to 7) and defenses of Level+m (from 12 to 16). Then you add on powers for the cool stuff you want him to be able to do and bam, got yourself a BBEG. Tack on some minions for the fight (Especially if hes only Elite and not a Solo) and have yourself a throwdown. The great part is the Level+n mechanic assumes his equipment and such so when the PCs kill him and find the weapons of Level +2 and armor of level +3 treasure parcels its easy enough to work them right into the scenario.

John is obvoiusly a Tyrant. The thing you need to work into his background is why are the PCs involved? Does John have one of their friends assassinated, does the pesentry under John's rule contact the PCs for help in overthrowing him? Is John planning an invasion on a neighbouring kingdom?

After the PCs are involved then you need to figure out how they climb the minion scale to get to John. It's a lot harder than it looks to commit Regicide and make it look like a heroic act. ;)

As a standing offer within many assassin's guilds, John allows assassins to barter with him prior to taking a contract on his life for up to a 50% increase in pay to not accept or a 100% increase to kill the original contracter. Many assassins and thieves find this more profitable and safer.

This will cause John to go broke really quickly. Assassin's are evil and greedy by nature, so whats to stop them from posting their OWN hits on John, then going to him for a 50% pay increase to not take the hit? Instead I would go with "It's common knowledge among assassins in the area that John will pay good money for information on those who would have him killed. Information that leads back to a person of interest generally pays as well, if not more, than the person who wants John dead." This might also be a way to get the PCs involved, who have false information fed to John about their desire to kill him, which leads the PCs into trouble.
Fully stated out NPC BBEGs are a thing of the past my friend. History and backstory are good, and it seems like you have that covered, but when it comes to the actual FIGHT all you have to do is create a Level X elite or Solo human "monster" from the guidelines for creating such a monster from the MM and DMG. Depending on his type he'll have Attack of Level+n (anywhere from 3 to 7) and defenses of Level+m (from 12 to 16). Then you add on powers for the cool stuff you want him to be able to do and bam, got yourself a BBEG. Tack on some minions for the fight (Especially if hes only Elite and not a Solo) and have yourself a throwdown. The great part is the Level+n mechanic assumes his equipment and such so when the PCs kill him and find the weapons of Level +2 and armor of level +3 treasure parcels its easy enough to work them right into the scenario.

They told me this on the CharOp boards too, but here's my thing. Just because I can make NPCs out of bits and pieces of whatever I want, doesn't mean I have to. I want John to be more deeply detailed than the average NPC. I'll tack on an ability or two that aren't granted by class, but by an large I want to develop him through class levels. I'm excited that the PCs might connect with him better if he has class abilities they recognize. After all, he's a BBEG, he deserves special attention.

John is obvoiusly a Tyrant. The thing you need to work into his background is why are the PCs involved? Does John have one of their friends assassinated, does the pesentry under John's rule contact the PCs for help in overthrowing him? Is John planning an invasion on a neighbouring kingdom?

Actually, I'm thinking about introducing him when they're around 5th or 6th level and having John see potential in them. After all, John isn't the typical Tyrant, his people are happy. They like him. Lots of people like him. John generally does right by everyone, in fact, if he weren't so power hungry he'd probably be an alright guy. But he is power hungry. Patient, but hungry. He doesn't stuff whatever he can find down his gullet, he picks and chooses, makes a delicious power meal and takes it.

I'm thinking he's going to use the PCs as tools for a number of Xanadu Gambits, where no matter what they do he comes out better in the end. I don't even know that the PCs are going to have a battle with him, there will be plenty of other options for them.

After the PCs are involved then you need to figure out how they climb the minion scale to get to John. It's a lot harder than it looks to commit Regicide and make it look like a heroic act. ;)

Here's what I've been thinking for the campaign plot. John has, although very charismatically, been stepping on toes. First it's just the toes of mere King's and Emperor's. Eventually he starts stepping on bigger, more wild toes, consolidating power subtley and patiently. He's instigating events that always leave him better, essentially he's playing both sides of the team. But doing so means theres still two teams in a fight. That causes chaos and danger in the regular world. Of course John is 'always on the winning side' so the PCs won't have a reason to suspect his dual agenda until later on in levels.

This will cause John to go broke really quickly. Assassin's are evil and greedy by nature, so whats to stop them from posting their OWN hits on John, then going to him for a 50% pay increase to not take the hit? Instead I would go with "It's common knowledge among assassins in the area that John will pay good money for information on those who would have him killed. Information that leads back to a person of interest generally pays as well, if not more, than the person who wants John dead." This might also be a way to get the PCs involved, who have false information fed to John about their desire to kill him, which leads the PCs into trouble.

I thought about that, but I realized something the assassin's must surely realize as well. Perhaps the most intimidating phrase for those in the know. "John will find out." It's probably happened more than once. Like I said, thieves and assassins know better than to get on his bad side because those thieves and assassins die quickly and quietly.

Theres also the issue of the particular assassin guilds. In the campaign I'm planning, assassins are very, to use a 3E term, lawful. Without strict internal laws, who would trust an assassin's guild? They have strict guidlines and intense punishments for such behavior. Assassins are, in a strange version of the word, honorable. They don't steal, lie, or cheat; except when it deals directly with an assassination.
Resident Shakespeare
Oh, and the fight. I forgot to talk about it.

IF the PCs decide to have a final confrontation with John, he isn't going to be the real threat. He'll be able to encourage and buff his allies, but the real threat of death from John is his influence and allies. John himself isn't physically all that special. I don't think he'll be magical either, unless I have a change of heart. John is, as I said, a Magnificent Bastard. Prior to the a final-type show-down John will make all attempts to escape. Since I'm drawing from the Evil Overlord List for inspiration he's going to be really good at it too.

The final fight would revolve around his most trusted henchmen, a few traps, and moral dilemmas. John isn't going to fight fair. If the PCs are going to face him, there will be a secondary (and possibly tertiary) source of impending doom. A "what'll it be, me or the world?" dilemma.
Resident Shakespeare
Having John get his hands on an ancient ritual to ascend to godhood, at, say, the cost of a small kingdom in lives, would be ample motivation for the PCs to want to stop him and also fits in well with his persona.

You can give him powers from class lists (there is even a template for this in the DMG) without a problem, but he still comes down to Level + n to hit, Level + M defenses and a HP total. ;)
Having John get his hands on an ancient ritual to ascend to godhood, at, say, the cost of a small kingdom in lives, would be ample motivation for the PCs to want to stop him and also fits in well with his persona.

That does sound good. Although for it to really be his style, he needs to make the two seem entirely unrelated and have someone else perpetrate the deaths, so as to maintain his image.

For it to be as cold and calculating as possible for him, he'd probably try to work it so that all of them are enemies of his.

Ooh, a really god way to do that would be to embolden his enemies into gathering armies for war.

To pull that off he'd need to pretend there were places where he didn't have any power and people he couldn't touch.

That would serve well if he could have his trusted lieutenant fake lieutentant pretend to oppose him, or even better if it was a lieutenant he knew to be corrupted against him.

That fits really well into a deity concept I had called the Vecnish Pantheon, where all the gods were mortals that learned the secrets of deification.
Resident Shakespeare
At some point, if you truely want this guy to be seen as the BBEG of the campaign, he is going to have to drop the "everybody has to like me" act. Otherwise whats the PCs motivations to STOP him, if they don't know/can't figure out that he really is a bad guy. If he does right by everyone, and just happens to be good at politics hes NOT an evil bastard.
From what I can tell of your synopsis of him, he isn't a tyrant. If the people love him, and everyone likes him, then that isn't a tyrant.

The biggest thing I look at when making a BBEG is the final motivation for taking him out of the picture, and how I lead up to that. If you don't make these clear the PC's won't see him how you would like to, and maybe decide someone else is their BBEG.

Perhaps things on the outside seem like everything is fantastic, once you break the surface of twhat is going on in town the PC's discover a writhing mass of corruption and backstabbing to stay on John's good side. Then the PC's realise that the townspeople secretly want John taken care of but they are too terrified to really find champions.

Then, the PCs can work through the ranks of underlings who are gaining an advantage in town by clinging to John and are afraid of the reprucussions of John's downfall. As the PC's get closer and closer to reaching John more and more lackey's are sent and they become more notorious gaining renown from the townspeople.

At this point John could invite them to a dinner party and that is when the personality can come through and this is where you can start implementing the Xanadu Gambits.

This sort of puts the noose around their necks and cinches it, cementing John as their BBEG for the campaign.


Hope this helps, its sort of what popped into my head and I just run with things.
I think you mean Xanatos Gambits

At least I hope you don't mean Xanadu :D
Yeah, that one! Thanks for the clarification.
I think you mean Xanatos Gambits

At least I hope you don't mean Xanadu :D

Yes, that one.

At some point, if you truely want this guy to be seen as the BBEG of the campaign, he is going to have to drop the "everybody has to like me" act. Otherwise whats the PCs motivations to STOP him, if they don't know/can't figure out that he really is a bad guy. If he does right by everyone, and just happens to be good at politics hes NOT an evil bastard.

I think this is the result of my current write up of him. He really isn't that evil (ruthless and smart, but not evil). I do need to put a little more evil in him, but for heaven's sakes I don't want a 'maniacal laughter' moment or an 'unveiling the true face of evil'.

I think, in order to gain power, he will instigate fights between kingdoms (causing wars between other countries just to gain power is evil, isn't it? They're not going to be evil kingdoms or anything), then extraplanars like the Feywild and the Shadowfell, and finally between deities.

These wars will naturally spill over into the material realm and cause the deaths of thousands (or millions, depending on how populated the world is). Feywild monsters, Shadowfell undead, Demons, Devils, and Deific Avatars duking it out with support from their respective mortal counterparts.

But the kicker is, they wouldn't have even wanted to fight until he put them up to it. He is purposely facilitating fueds and blood wars between creatures of different realms, because he's confident he can bet on both sides and come out on top of the both of them.

The PCs will certainly know about the huge terrible monsters that start to take up arms on the material realm. And they can (I hope they will) defeat them or stop them somehow. Technically, stopping the wars by defeating all (or at technically half) of the opponents would Save the World[sup](tm)[/sup], whether or not they figure out that John has masterminded these events. If they don't, it would make a good hook in a follow-up campaign.

Thinking about it, it will be difficult to argue that John could manipulate the gods in such a way. They're gods after all. I think as the PCs (hopefully) do quests for him (or a different band of adventurers if they don't) they are assisting him in a long slow version of the deific ritual. By the time he is influencing the decisions of the gods, he is something of a demi-god. Not a diety, but capable of acting without being subjected their 'insta-god-knowledge'.

I suppose of course, that such a thing could be stopped. It would shorten the campaign but I can always cross that road if it comes to that. Certain events would already have been set in motion. I could distract the PCs with those long enough to come up with a new direction.
Resident Shakespeare