Thursday, August 13, 2015

Layering your Villains

As anyone who has played RPGs for even a short length of time has noticed, the plots in RPGs are not like the plots in novels, movies, or TV shows. What do I mean by that? In media like novels, movies, and TV shows the author and director have a lot of control over what the characters in the movie do and say and how they act. One might even say, total control over the characters is the goal. Indeed some directors behave as if the actors are an imperfect instrument for translating their vision onto the screen. Authors often find their characters are much more well behaved, yet even there some authors will say that a character went in a direction or said something that surprised the author.
In an RPG, the GM has nowhere near the control that a director or author possess. Nor (in the vast majority of games) should that control be a goal for the GM. RPGs are somewhat unique in the way the characters (as determined by their players) have control over the things they say and attempt to do. One consequence of that is the GM, unlike the author, cannot control the order in which  the PCs conduct their investigations and activities not their actions or reactions to events. Which often times means that the villain that the GM would have liked to meet his end in a climactic duel in a thunderstorm on the roof of Notre Dame de Paris as the PC gets his final and long awaited revenge on the man who killed his fiancée instead winds up ends up dying in a gutter from a different PC's blade and the wronged lover never even learns that the bleeding corpse was the Celeste's killer.  
Some people lament that fact, I prefer to embrace it.
But embracing it does mean that unlike the novelist or the script writer, the GM needs his plots (NPC plans might be a better word) to have a depth and robustness to survive the preemptive actions of the PCs. And really, the GM and the players will usually be happier if Celeste's killer is discovered even if the wronged lover doesn't get his climactic duel. One way to add robustness is to layer your villains. The idea for layers comes from a number of sources: the pulp or comic book staple of a bigger bad exemplified in the way James Bond must first deal with a level of minions before confronting the villain of the piece, the style of revealing the mythos in gradual and ever deeper stages in Call of Cthulhu known as the layers of an onion, and more recently this post from the Bedrock Blog on A BEVY OF BAD GUYS .
I like random tables. (Why is a longer answer that I'll defer to another time.) So I was happy to see the three tables for layered bad guys. These were designed for a different setting, but I thought they were something I could use in my Honor+Intrigue campaign. So I adjusted them for that setting to get the following three tables. Thanks to


Roll 1d10

     1-3     Unaffiliated with anyone

       4       Best friend of a Second Villain 

       3       Lover or spouse of a Second Villain

       4       Nephew or Niece of a Second Villain

       5       Child of a second villain

       6       Uncle or Aunt of a Second Villain

       7       Father or Mother of a Second Villain

       8       Sibling of a Second Villain

       9       Client or servant of a Second Villain

      10      Enemy of a Second Villain



Roll 1d10

       1       An important member of the church

       2       A local noble or important landowner

       3       A low ranking government official

       4       A leader of local bandits

       5       Father or Mother of a Third Villain 

       6       Lover or Spouse of a Third Villain

       7       Nephew or niece of a Third Villain

       8       Son or Daughter of a Third Villain

       9       Client or Servant of a Third Villain

      10      A swashbuckling duelist in service to a Third Villain


Roll 1d10

       1       An important church leader (bishop or higher)

       2       A local noble with great wealth (high ranking noble or provincial governor)

       3       An important government official (ambassador, minister, or higher)

       4       A high ranking noble, possibly a Grande

       5       A Maréchal of France,

       6       A legendary hero or martial expert

       7       A Cardinal, Duc, or Peer

       8       A Royal (heir to the throne or immediate family of the King or Queen)

       9       An foreign prince or ruler

      10      The King or Queen





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