25 April 2013

V is for Villains

"Villains of Fantasy" Larry Elmore.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is something enticing about villains. It's not only their appearance and mannerisms; a clear villain focuses the plot whether it is a novel, a movie, or a game. A strong, despicable This is really evident in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. The lack of a villain with clear motivations and evil intent for the protagonist to sharpen himself against keeps the plot drifting and lackluster in feel. Contrast this with Star Wars IV: A New Hope and its opening scene. It is clear from the onset that the Galactic Empire is powerful with a long reach and Darth Vader specifically is not someone to annoy. I would suggest watching the Red Letter Media review of Phantom Menace for a more in depth treatment of this (as well as an entertaining look at what is wrong with the prequels). Be warned: the whole review is over an hour long, so set aside some time to enjoy it.
"If this is a consular ship, where is the ambassador?!!"

The long and short of it is that a good villain can railroad the players and direct them without the DM having to force the players to go the way he wants. Want to motivate the players? The best way is to have a villain that they cannot stand. And I'm not talking about the characters but the PLAYERS themselves. Get under their skin. Be careful, though; do not use GM knowledge. One does not want the players thinking the DM is the one screwing them and not the NPC.
A good personal example was when I ran the d6 Star Wars module Tattooine Manhunt when I was in the Army. I had a detailed timeline of when and where the rival bounty hunters would be and what they would do. In game time, the players where consistently 10-15 minutes behind the antagonists. At one point, I was worried that I was the one pissing off the players, but they assured me that that wanted to kill these guys not me. They caught them in time for the final confrontation.
Until tomorrow, gentle readers, when I shall blog about Weapons!
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