So my players are approaching the end of their adventure and I need some advice. I may have gamemastered my way into a corner....
So far, they are on a mission and keep hearing rumours of a magic-hating thing that is killing high-level wizards, druids and the like. I have a good idea of a mechanic (not saying here in case some of them read this) but I also need a motivation.
Why would a baddie in a magic-filled world hate magic? I'm stuck on boring and non-epic reasons like jealous of magic brother, or jilted by magic lover.
thanks in advance,
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Because he is a high-level Wizard/Sorcerer/whatever. And he's killing the competition.
A high-level magic-user can't effectively conquer a region with other high-level magic users who don't like him. But when you have 9th level spells and the only people who might stand up to you are random Fighters... well. You only need to make a few examples before the populace falls in line.
There is a desert in the forgotten realms campaign setting (D&D) where the entire desert used to be lush lands rich with resources. An ancient magical war turned the entire region into a wasteland/desert. The desert nomad tribes that lives there are the decendants of those who caused the war, and their own legends tell of the evils of magic that ruined their lands forever. They hate magic with a passion.
One campaign I was in had a character from those lands who was falsely accused of being a magician and banished from his home. To prove himself worthy of returning to his family, he dedicated himself to destroying magic and those who wield it.
Of course, the character eventually came to respect magic, otherwise the player's concept wouldn't work well in a setting like team-based table top RPGs. But if you made him a villain instead, he could have just intensified his hatred and became really good at hunting them down. In order to do this, he may have to utilize some magical items, specifically things that being about fields of anti magic so he actually stands a chance against his targeted foes (or perhaps he went to numeria and found technology that nullifies magic; aka technology that emulates an anti magic field).
Class concepts: ranger for favored enemy, or barbarian for spell sunder.
|Bob Bob Bob|
Well, there's the fact that it carries a huge danger for everyone who isn't a mage. Try pitting a level 10 wizard and a level 10 fighter and the countries they run against each other in a war and see how it goes. The wizard has more skills, spells, and without another spellcaster every encounter against him is going to consist of wind wall, fly, and as many fireballs as he has spare scrolls. Magic must defeat magic.
In the Trio of Medic, Soldier, and Artillery the wizard is Artillery, so there's always collateral damage issues. Townspeople fireballed by accident, runoff from alchemy factories, golems/undead getting loose and murdering innocents, the things adventure paths/modules are made of. They also represent air power in terms of the modern military.
Then there's personal issues, I think you covered those pretty well. Don't forget significant other left them for a magic user (because magic is shiny), child ran off with a magic user, etc.
If it's just certain types of magic users they could be a fundamentalist <whatever> knocking off anyone who isn't a druid/wizard/cleric/<whatever>. Maybe killing whoever doesn't worship their god because they can't trust that kind of power to people like that? Maybe they think magic is a kind of idolatry and "clerics" of their god are just false prophets?
What if they don't hate magic, it's magic USERs they have issues with (speaking in the general sense, not the class name of earlier editions.) The character seems from outward appearances to HATE magic because he's going after all these high level casters, but really that is just an misperception the killer doesn't bother to dispel.
In actuality, the killer kills because of his LOVE for magic. Specifically, he doesn't want to see it frittered away. (Perhaps he's under the conclusion that magic is a limited resource that will run out if it's all used up. If the world is filled with magic, then it is safe to say that perhaps magic use is common too? Then perhaps this notion might not be too far out there. Perhaps killing high level spellcasters allows the killer to drain their magical energy and leak it back out into the world to replenish its supplies (or so the killer thinks.)
Alternate notions "for the sake of magic" might relate to how magic is taught or hoarded. High level characters (especially high level spellcasters) have a tendency to hoard their wealth and more importantly their magical knowledge. Perhaps the character is more of a populist/egalitarian who wants the current crop of the elite to die so that low-level spellcasting can spread to the people. Maybe the killer wants to change a Forgotten Realms type of infrastructure into more of an Eberron one. (That is, replacing the presence of high level magic in the hands of a class of all powerful people set-up with the relatively common, low-level pseudo-tech but rare high level magic set-up).
Some Magic type charmed or otherwise used Magic on his/her wife Husband, son, daughter to get what he/she wanted then discarded them and then their loved one committed suicide in shame.
Or they could have used Magic to cheat them on a business , forcing him into bankruptcy and losing everything.
Or perhaps they where a petty criminal and some spellcaster framed them with Magic for a crime He did not commit .
I think we can come up with a 1001 way to use magic in unscrupulous way besides killing people.
It can also be something that the character doesn't want but it's forced to like for example, early in his youth he/she was part of an arcane experiment from his own father (just if you want to add to the drama part) that left him with a "curse" in the form of an arcane mark on his body, an arcane mark that can't be erased in any way (maybe by the hands of a god or something) and that if not feeded with the magic energy of a dying spellcaster, emits an invisible energy that kills the most beloved person for him and then the second most beloved person and so on and ramping up on speed (if he just goes all alone in the desert bla bla the mark will kill random people). Also if he tries to commit suicide the mark will prevent it somehow, like taking the control of his body momentarily.
More powerful the spellcaster is, more time the mark goes on "stand-by".
This way the character has to kill spellcasters, not because he really wants but because he needs to.
And there you have a powerful antagonist that your party won't want to kill but they will be forced to (drama FTW).
As magic is a power thats use allows the player or character to transcend regular limitations, up to and including the limitations of mortality, the villain may perhaps be fueled by ideological reasons, rather than matters of competition or vengeance. Like, he or she may follow some obscure god that treats magic as a purely divine power and thus heresy for mortals to employ, or perhaps he or she feels that this power is the source of strife and inequality in the world.
As a child he entered into a magical pact to be the Guardian of a powerful mage. Working alongside similar such individuals, other mundane warriors, he saw friends dying to the ambitions of mages, clerics and druids willing to sacrifice thousands for their God or their projects or to take out a rival. He grew to loathe magic, but magically bound, he was unable to so much as speak against his master. The prominent tattoos across his face that marked him as a Guardian went from a point of pride to a reminder that the magic users saw them as nothing more than branded cattle. When his master took him into an antimagic field, he took advantage and put the years of experience in fighting wizards and clerics to use and slew his master.
Maybe theres something that can help in Syndrome's motivation in The Incredibles. He was rejected by his hero and decided "when everyone is super, no one will be". Combine that with some of Lex Luthor's "I hate the alien because I represent the pinnacle of humanity".......
So your villain tried their hand at magic and were completely inept, and now hates the world's dependence on magic and feels it is making people soft and dependent. Probably leads him/her down the path of technology (with some "the old world is ending" elements from the second Kung Fu Panda movie) and you've got someone who wants people to avoid the trap of magic making things too easy, and strives to eliminate people/things that are enforcing that weakness / reliance. "We will all be better when none of THEM are left to drag us back into weakness".........
Im thinking more along the lines of someone who thinks the world must exist in balance. If all the most powerful are mages, who stands up to power? When all of the worlds greatest heroes belong to a select elite, where does that leave the layman? When everything from your economy to your weather could be turned on a dime at the merest whim of some random dude you dont even know, when is it time to fight back? When is it not only your right, but your duty to fight this force, to fight to the bitter end. Because this system might be ruled by someone good today, maybe also tomorrow, but it only takes one bad mage to bring the world to its knees, and so all magic must perish or all is lost.