Oct 10, 2002
Exactly what the villian's goals are and what he is capable of are described in the breaks between the narrative. Skip the breaks that are below your chosen level.
Names for locations and NPCs should be considered guidelines, feel free to change any to fit your campaign.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom called Renualt, and within it was the village of Krevshire where there lived a puppeteer named Gregor. Carving and manipulating puppets was his family’s business, and they were known far and wide for their skill. When the time came for him to take over the business, he proved himself more than an adequate successor to his father who was a master in his own right.
He brought his creations of wood and straw to life in many countries across the continent with his near legendary skills. What none knew was that although he was very naturally talented and had honed his abilities, he also instilled a certain element of literal magic into his acts. He had potential to be a great sorcerer, but because he never embraced it his power manifested itself in his puppetry, and both the audience and Gregor himself weren’t aware of this.
At sixty he had become known across the continent for his unparalleled skill, but he had grown bored of the outside world, and retired to the home his heart had never left. His success had given him many things, but he had never married or sired a child. To Gregor the village was his family, and to the children of Krevshire he became “Papa Gregor,” the nice man who ran puppet shows at festivals, and brought them beautiful dolls and toys on their birthdays (and he knew every one by heart). He gave much of his fortune away to those in the village who were having a hard time making ends meet, but despite the loss of money he was the happiest he had ever been.
During his seventy-fourth year of life war had made its way to Krevshire. It started with rumors and tales as most things do, but war happened to other people, not those of the village. Soon the first of the young men, the same that had grown all their lives watching Gregor’s shows were recruited into the militia, and the war was finally real, and would quickly become much worse.
Krevshire eventually found itself in contested territory turning the happy villagers into refugees. Over the next year Gregor saw many old friends and young children pass due to disease and a particularly harsh winter. Those he loved were dying for a war he cared nothing for.
The war ended, and the remaining villagers now numbered in the dozens, and Gregor discovered why his life had been destroyed, the old king Ivano had died with two male heirs. The younger son Dracov was declared the successor, but the elder prince, Gespav, contested. Backed by a number of vassals and the neighboring country Lynds Gespav had plunged his homeland into war to satisfy his desires for power, and emerged the king of a slightly smaller nation (some was annexed by Lynds).
Gregor dedicated himself to his craft once again, and he would make a memorial to those children who died in the war. He remembered their faces, and voices, he had always had a knack for that, now he just had to put his hands to work doing what they always loved to do. Chopping, cutting, stripping, carving sanding, only stopping for minutes at a time to satisfy his hunger. The little girl who brought him fresh baked bread from her parents every day and he would give her a copper piece and watch her run off with it, young James who went off with the soldiers because he wanted to live like a man, everyone he could remember from the village lived again. Krevshire lived again in an old forest removed from civilization.
Gregor developed an odd habit, or maybe compulsion, now when he created a new puppet he would kill a small animal and remove its heart transplanting it to his latest creation. He felt bonded to those puppets most of all, and could almost hear them speak to him. They asked him for more friends, they asked him to make them warm, they asked him to rebuild the village, and even occasionally very quietly they asked him to take revenge for them.
In isolation Gregor’s abilities and powers grew.
One day while checking his traps for animals Gregor came upon a woodcutter who had not been cautious enough, and had been pinned by a tree. Gregor had seen men who were in situations like this one in his lifetime, and he knew the boy scarcely a man had little time left, and no chance of being saved. He looked so much like young Matthew that it must have been a sign. The man was as good as dead and that rabbit heart seemed to small anyway, larger animals were always better, but this would be a first.
Gregor returned to his new Krevshire, replicated down to the last detail, but with wooden people. In his dark prize he felt something stirring, like a small bird, or a gust of wind, or a small flame. It was tiny, but strong, and filled with life this would be his grandest creation to date. It danced and moved about, and needed no strings. He had done the impossible and created life.
Soon he took to the road searching for places of the dying. He found a handful in hospitals and poorhouses, but their diseased forms didn’t produce what he wanted, the woodsman had been a windfall he had not expected, and wished he had never found, but Gregor had found him and things were different now.
The first healthy dozen or so he wept for even as he acted, but they gave him what he needed.
For PCs level 1-5
At this point in time Gregor’s plan is to amass an army of puppets so that he can capture and kill the newly crowned King Gespav, a fairly straight forward plan. He is currently living in The Forgotten Woods, which are rumored to be haunted. He originally lived there for the solitude, but now finds that the stories work in his favor as the occasional disappearance is chalked up to evil spirits. He enforces this by having some of his puppets climb trees to follow travelers and make noise while delivering his ventriloquism. One method of capture he uses frequently is to have a puppet pose as a small girl who is lost. She draws the victim into a trap, or an ambush, and will often deliver the final blow herself (she is one of his most powerful creations at this point containing both a unicorn heart, and the heart of a priestess of Pelor).
At the moment he has very little. His puppets include skirmishers, artillery and soldiers, and number in the dozens. He would like an even hundred before attacking, which means that many more people will soon disappear.
PC tie ins:
There are rumors about a haunted forest and disappearances within. Those who make it through alive swear they were being followed and report ghostly noises and rustling leaves above them the entire journey. Someone the PCs are hired to look for has been captured and killed by Gregor. Alternately they may wish to simply cross the woods and one of them strikes Gregor as resembling one of his “family” and wants her/her heart.
One of the divine members of the party (cleric, paladin) or a religious patron has a vision. Something odd is happening to the souls of those who die in a particular wood.
A mutilated corpse has been found after it washed downsteam from The Forgotten Woods. The victim’s chest was torn open and its heart was removed. Dark magic is a likely conclusion. Townfolk have also begun to go missing from their beds, yet none of the victims were or have children.
Finally after much killing the time had come. His minions slowly made their way toward the castle leaving little behind to mark their location, as they crept under a new moon. They spirited away the king from his very bed and brought him to their master. The king was a cowardly man and he begged and pleaded for his life, but before Gregor could complete his purpose a thought caught him; “A puppet need not be made of wood.”
The king returned to his palace on foot arriving in torn bedclothes telling his guards of kidnappers and bandits in the forgotten woods, and his escape from their clutches. When the soldiers arrived they found little but an abandoned facade of a village.
Within a year The Kingdom of Renualt had changed greatly.
For PCs level 6-10
The plot at this point is to capture the king and kill him, but soon changes to capture the king and gain control of him. Gregor wishes to control the kingdom to improve things. He has the power and ability, and just as the king claimed power so to will he, and without needless deaths (yes he is insane at this point and considers the innocents he kills needed deaths). At the moment he has exactly 100 puppets at his command, but when he takes the king he can reach 1000, and also has control over the king’s army, and all the resources of an entire kingdom.
Gregor can be encountered either before or just after he has captured the king. His army is gathered, and if he is not stopped the kingdom may fall under his control. Stopping him from making the capture can be a great way to bring PCs from simply heroic to paragon tier. It is also possible to run this as a mystery if you have them encounter him after the king is captured.
PC tie ins:
During their travels the PCs come upon a strange village. Nobody lives within, yet there are puppets everywhere living as though they were real people. They can find Gregor’s journals if they look hard enough. and may even see the man himself return for nostalgia’s sake. If they encounter him here he delays them with puppets and then rushes to complete his plan. Will the PCs make it in time?
The PCs have discovered Gregor and have seen what he can do likely due to meeting him in The Forgotten Woods and his having escaped. Investigation into his past and a number of scratchings in the wall of his lair leads them to his ultimate plan: Regicide.
The king has had a recent change of heart. He is treating the lower class better than ever, but many nobles are concerned that he might be throwing away money that the country will need for defense or trade. One critic has noticed that many of the most outspoken change their minds, sometimes inexplicably fast. He is looking for bodyguards to protect him, or investigators to find out what is going on.
The captain of the guard has noticed strange behavior in his king. He knows that not long ago the king disappeared, but when he returned he was changed. Strangely magical divination has delivered no clues, or evidence of domination. Still he seeks the PCs to find out what has happened.
The Kingdom of Renualt has become a republic. The treasury has been spent on public works programs and aid for the poor. The people are happier than ever, or at least the lower class are. The nobility and many of the merchant class have not benefitted from any of the changes in the last year. Those who speak out strangly seem to change their minds, even as quickly as overnight. Unknown to the public Gregor is responsible.
First he began to control the King and dissolved the monarchy creating a republic, but this was not good enough. He quickly saw the squabbling for power, the lies and dishonesty, the corruption of such a government and it displeased him. He took control over all elected officials and changed the state of things to match his vision.
Once things had begun to settle in the new republic Lynds declared war. They saw how weak the country had become having deviated most of its funds toward the poor rather than defense, but they did not expect Gregor’s army. Wooden automatons ranging from the size of a cat, to over 30 feet tall crushed their enemies forces. The power of a king’s heart had been great and it had increased Gregor’s power many times over. The surrender came quickly, but those closest to the king of Lynds began to notice odd behavior on the part of their lord.
One threat had been beaten, and now its power was on Gregor’s side, but Renualt and now Lynd’s protection came up in Gregor’s mind. His trick with his puppets had worked once, but in the future they would be expected, and other countries would bring greater forces to bear. The only solution would be more power, more countries. He would replace his neighbors one by one until he had control of the continent. His power would only grow with each ruler, and once he had everything in his power then he would give people peace. He knew on some level that he had become what he hated, but when it was all over he would pay for his crimes. He would die and become a puppet like all the other rulers, but he has no idea who will pull his strings.
PCs level 11-20
Gregor tried democracy, but it was too slow and inefficient for him, so now he rules all secretly under the guise of democracy. One by one he replaces senators and noblemen with his creations, and then strikes out into the world for conquest. He tries not to kill more than he has to, but finds that when you are attempting to take over the world there are a lot of people that you have to kill.
Gregor now commands the might of an entire country. He guards himself in the castle by using the king to order that nobody enter a particular room, just that food and water regularly be slid under the door. Many suspect a monster of some sort inside, but any who speak of it soon disappear.
PC tie ins:
Many of the less morally inclined elements of the country (not just murders and rapists, but also pickpockets and frauds) are going missing never to be seen again. A friend of the PCs is one of those taken leading them into the midst of a frightening puppet state.
The PCs have fled the country. They know what is going on, but it is difficult to make anyone believe them. Magic cannot detect the control Gregor has over those he possesses, and now the PCs are faced with the task of proving to other nations the danger they are in.
Gregor discovers an object of power that will allow him to expand his control greatly, but so far any attempts to recover it have proven futile. He hires the PCs to recover it for him. When they discover it they unexpectedly find out what it can be used for.
Nations are changing and shifting. Power is unbalanced in the world, and it needs correcting. Having the PCs become involved in the politics of the area will very quickly draw them into this plot, especially when their friends (or enemies) begin to change before them.
Gregor Level 1 minion
Medium Humanoid (human) XP 0
Initative -1 Senses Perception +5
AC 10; Fort 10, Reflex 10, Will 10
Basic melee attack (none)
Alignment Evil Languages Common
Str 8, Dex 8, Wis 6
Con 5, Int 22, Cha 20
Create puppet: This is a 10 minute ritual that involves extrating the heart of a living creature and either placing it into a puppet or replacing it into the chest of the original creature. Each puppet is a construct that he controls subconsciously, but can take direct control over if he wishes. He can literally control dozens at a time (but with each king this is greatly increased) so the PCs will have to destroy many guardians before reaching him. Even when his creations are destroyed he can continue to perceive through them until they are reduced to negative 20 hp. This ritual destroys the soul of the target turning it into metaphorical strings for Gregor. This means that the soul is still controlling the body, but Gregor is controlling the remains of the soul (this is a unique feature as no other magic can do this).
When he is controlling a puppet he can use the original creature’s skills and knowledge for himself. He is simultaneously aware of each puppet and its status.
Ventriloquism: (free action, at will)Gregor can speak using his own voice, or any voice he has heard through any puppet. He may also mimic sounds with a great degree of accuracy. Even when his creations are destroyed he can continue to talk through them until they are reduced to negative 20 hp.
If Gregor is confronted in a straight out fight he will either give himself up or run.
The PCs should encounter his creations much more often than the man himself, and those are the true encounters they will face. It would probably be best to have a major encounter before meeting him and build him up as extremely powerful, so that when the PCs meet him they have a major “Wizard of Oz” moment.
5. The villain has laudable goals but uses villainous means to achieve them.
Gregor wants all men to be equal and happy. He may unknowingly destroy souls and murder people to get there, but he thinks its worth it in the long run.
7. The villain represents a serious threat to the adventurers even though it is statted as a minion.
He has no chance in an actual fight, but his puppets are vicious.
10. The villain understands that the successful implementation of the plot will result in the villain's own death.
Ultimately Gregor’s plan requires him to die for the same crimes that those he killed committed. He considers this justice for those who died, but were innocent.