So yesterday we looked at the core of what I believe helps create a good bad guy. Now we are going to apply that to a specific hombrew campaign setting as we identify each major villain or villain group and flesh it out to fit those details of successful villainy. As a reminder the ingredients of great gaming antagonists we focused on were:
Plot Longevity – Our villain needs a way to last.
Workable Scale – Our villain needs a way to be beaten.
Compelling Motive – Our villain needs a believable reason to be a villain.
So in populating our campaign (We are going to use Endamon from our worldseed exercise) we need to keep these three aspects in mind. Does that mean we never do a random encounter? Absolutely not. It does mean we are going to be ready for the long game, delivering opposition that the players are going to love kicking in the teeth.
Identification of Evils
Endamon, our worldseed, provided a class-based view of world building. We identified a few early groups in design and we are going further clarify them by giving working names:
Druids – We know most of our world’s druids are angry as hell about the “treachery” and reckless behavior of our gods. They mean to bring the god-loving cultures down in flame. These guys are the world’s anger so maybe we will call them The Circle of Stonewrath.
God of Secrets – We are finally naming him–Nerax. He is one of the biggest bads there is. He engineered the Moon’s destruction for an unknown purpose and through the world into chaos. He knows everything and isn’t sharing.
Wizards – The god of secrets is basically the patron of the wizardly arts. Most members of this class are probably tied up in his stuff.
Rogue Monastery – Our monk discussion tied these two classes together as the patron of the monastic orders was none other than the penitent Moonthief. I like the symmetry of one of the rogues meant to rehabilitate in one of these monasteries instead corrupting that monastery. The twisted masters of this organization will call it “the Forgiven” a sarcastic absolution of infinite license to do greater deeds of darkness.
Beasts of the Shards Below – Of course we need monsters. Maybe these shards each twist a specific variety into existence.
Horrors of the Moonvoid – These are deepest, most frightening aspects of the games and should probably be crafted with individual care one by one.
Expanding the Scope
As we start looking our identified categories we can go through our logevity/scale/motive classification with each
Stonewrath Druids (Eternal/Body Count/Righting Wrongs) – Looking at our druids it would be an easy idea to call them “Faceless” (shapechanging, trackless steps, and an organization) but considering the powers of druidic magic in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game I think a far more interesting idea is to make them “Eternal”. Reincarnation rites making their leadership come back in various forms throughout time trying to crush the civilizations empowered by the Shards and beholden to the gods. The only way to beat the druids down is to locate a reborn leader fight through his underlings, acolytes and forest tangles and cavern complexes (did someone say dungeons?) and send him back for a new incarnation.
Cultists of Nerax (Faceless/Critical Cog/Higher Truth) – Cabals of the Keeper of Secrets exist in nearly every city of size on this world. They advance their god’s purpose at every turn through secret rites and complicated rituals just waiting to be discovered by heroic interlopers. While these plans are often easy to disrupt, their hidden ways and mysterious natures are likely difficult (and fun to unravel). A great variety piece to balance the outright warfare presented with the druidic threats.
Wizards (Faceless or Forecast/Various/Various) – While inevitably tied to the followers of Nerax, these wizards are going to be the personifications of hubris. Twisted geniuses striving to placate the cults that secretly support them and still advancing their own personal agendas. Some of them may even see themselves as intellectual “Robin Hood’s” stealing the secrets of the Evil God for a “Greater Good”. These villains will be great options to personalize to a specific group of characters.
The Forgiven (Contagious/Body Count/Fear) – The masters of the Forgiven have chosen to reject the attempts to “control” or “heal” them. They are madness given purpose and are slowly drawing the support of dark things from the Moonvoid and are growing in material and metaphysical strength. Some rumors exist that the Monastery has even begun to call to its own penitents. These dark assassins and murderers are a perfect foil for the default romantic rogues of the world.
Beasts of the Shards Below – Looking these over I pick out a few magical beasts to be results of Shard-exposure:
Basilisks (Faceless/Body Count/Fear) – These monsters are pretty straight-forward, but a stone/crystal theme with them kind of makes them a good low level threat, and decent in numbers at higher ones.
Aranea (Faceless/Black Arrow/Higher Truth) – These creatures are 1) innately sorcerers, 2) shapechangers and 3) evocative of “webs” of intrigue. I think they are an awesome culture-creating creature that presents all sorts of potential stories around the Shards that empower them and beyond. Their major weakness is having their shapechanged natures revealed and this puts them in the “Black Arrow” category as soon as the heroes have a means to do it.
Lammasus (Forecast/Turn Radius/Higher Truth) – The link to the oracle and their general abilities place them strongly nearly specific Shards as mentors and prophets. So why select them as villains? I have always liked the philosophical issues of a precognitive force fighting issues before they begin by seeming random violence. The idea of these creatures being meddling and well-meaning terrors (or perhaps darkly necessary visionaries) seems fun.
Creatures of the Moonvoid (Forecast/Black Arrow/Higher Truth) – The aberrant hordes kept back by the Moon have been slowly seeping into the world. Their presence gives strange taints to the land, unnatural weather, and nightmares by those empowered by the Shards. Mosaics, sorcerers and oracles all are uneasy when they are near these creatures as the ancient moon-magic in them readies itself to fight its sworn enemy. This is the possibly biggest payoff for the effort invested. It is likely that in the presence of these horrors that even druids might even set aside their hatred of the civilized peoples to battle alongside others of the mortal realm. Mythic battles anyone?
What have we gained?
The ribs of opposition in our world are set down in place. We have a good idea of the way most classes are going to interact with them. So as we find our players and get their characters in progress where they fit should make a lot of sense almost instantly to us. We know the setting has a lot of faceless evils and we are going to have to make sure the victories when they come are clear wins. We have twisted prophecies from our Lammasus, dark-foils of our romancing rogues in the Forgiven, Cults of the Keeper of Secrets, and the Stonewrath druids. Sprinkle liberally with basilisks, shapeshifting spider people and crazy wizards and Endamon is just screaming for some adventurers! We still have a LOT of world building to do and since we are doing a homebrew game we need to decide where to concentrate our developmental energies to get the game up and running.
Next: Selecting the “Newbie Zone”.