Villain or Monster?


RPG Superstar™ 2008 General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

I'm just curious: what exactly determines if an entry is a villain or a monster? It seems like there's some grey area there, so I'm just curious what the "gold standard" is.

Dark Archive

Heathansson wrote:
I'm just curious: what exactly determines if an entry is a villain or a monster? It seems like there's some grey area there, so I'm just curious what the "gold standard" is.

To me, a villain is someone who can return time and time again, build up lotsa angsty party hate and not be "old hat" after two sessions.

And most importantly, a villain must know how to monologue.


Something can be both. Grendel is a villain and a monster.

If there could be a small tribe or herd of you, you're just a monster. If you have unique motivations and resources (be those personal like powers or people, lands and money) you are a villain.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16

Dungeon Grrrl wrote:

Something can be both. Grendel is a villain and a monster.

If there could be a small tribe or herd of you, you're just a monster. If you have unique motivations and resources (be those personal like powers or people, lands and money) you are a villain.

I don't know. I think Grendel is a monster and his mother is the villian. If you were to run that story as a game, Grendel gets attack in the hall and fees back to the real threat, his mother.


William McNulty wrote:
Dungeon Grrrl wrote:
Something can be both. Grendel is a villain and a monster.
I don't know. I think Grendel is a monster and his mother is the villian. If you were to run that story as a game, Grendel gets attack in the hall and fees back to the real threat, his mother.

Even so, there is a big back story surrounding Grendel (In the text. I can't speak to the recent movie), his attacks and his origin & reputation. He's clearly a proper villain as well as a monster. Grendel's mother is, if anything, slightly less defined and fleshed out than Grendel - but she's clearly a villain/monster as well. In D&D terms, a non-monster villain is most likely a PC-race (or similar EL0-2 or so) opponent who relies more on class abilities than, say, claw/claw/bite + breath weapon. As far as I can tell, though, neither term has as a rigid in-game definition.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

I thought we were pretty clear about that. I provided criteria in the FAQ and even lots of examples of what is and what is not a villain.

Scarab Sages

Clark Peterson wrote:
I thought we were pretty clear about that. I provided criteria in the FAQ and even lots of examples of what is and what is not a villain.

You were as far as I'm concerned. I wanted to see at least 4 versions of Ming the Merciless. Instead I have maybe one Emperor Palpatine (Episode 5 and 6 version, not Eps 1-3) and some nasty low-levels NPCs. That is, I have one villain whose plans are in motion and who stands out for that and only that. If the golem lord was inches away from his transformation, or had actually just transformed and was putting his plans for re-shaping the world in his image into action, then we would have had the magic.

There is the possibility that 500 words was not enough to truly show a Ming the Merciless Villain (and yes, I capitalized "villain" on purpose - all caps [B]might[B/] have been too much), but few of the entries strike me as significantly improving if they had another 250 words or so. Some of the country leaders in Round 2 worked better as villains than some of the Round 3 entries, and in Round 2 they had less text devoted to them.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

For villains what I wanted to see, but did not see much of, was an antagonist with overarching schemes and plans that will drive them into conflict with PCs again and again. Not once or twice.

* Being specifically tied to a geographical location is a killer.
* Specifically mentioning a lack of motivation or plans made me think wtf?

I wanted to see villains where (even though I know you didn't have the word count for it here) I would want to see a stat block for this antagonist at say CR 7, 13, and 18 because they would be around dogging characters throughout their career.

My idea about what a villain was might have been different from others expectations. I definitely see some I'd like to vote for, but I was surprised to see so many that seem like they would be the antagonist of a single adventure alone.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
ithuriel wrote:
My idea about what a villain was might have been different from others expectations. I definitely see some I'd like to vote for, but I was surprised to see so many that seem like they would be the antagonist of a single adventure alone.

I think some of them hint at hooks in the back story that they didn't have words to put in adventure hooks section. there are at least 2 of the entries that many people are calling an encounter, that I wrote up an outline of a 5-15 campaign involving.


Think of it this way.

A 1st level halfling rogue the PCs find picking their pocket, and then kill, is not (as presented) a villain. He's a bad guy in an encounter.

A race of conniving demons who look like 1st level rogues, and all ultimately plan to conquer the world is not a villain. It's a race of bad guys (one of whom could easily become a villain if used that way, but isn't as presented).

A 1st level halfling rogue who seeks to control all commerce from Freeport to Liberty by any means necessary, including killing to competition, taking over the thieves' guild, and hiring the PCs to get rid of *other* evil rogues so he can fill their power vacuum is a villain. He has plans that can drive more than one adventure. The PCs are going to be pulled into his plots. He can send beggars and trained wolves after the PCs so to foil them evenn when he is not personally present. And once they discover they have done his dirty work, the PCs are going to want his head on a platter.


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:


the PCs are going to want his head on a platter.

And that, ultimately, is what makes a good villain. A writer has a lot less control over that than the DM or the players themselves, though.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

mythfish wrote:
Dungeon Grrrl wrote:


the PCs are going to want his head on a platter.
And that, ultimately, is what makes a good villain. A writer has a lot less control over that than the DM or the players themselves, though.

In particular, the writer of just the stats' block and description. Now, if you're writing an adventure, and can set up a death-trap that the NPC lures the heroes in, so that he can continue on with his disgusting plans, then the adenture writer has probably written himself a villain.

You know, it's interesting in all of this that Darth Vader is portrayed as a villain. His motivation is to... eventually depose the Emperor while serving him loyally in the meanwhile. And, oh yeah, corrupt Luke. (But that's Luke's backstory, not Vader's.) He's a lackey, who --in an RPG set during Episodes 4 or 5-- is ambitious and disloyal enough to get some high-Charisma PC's to try turning him.

Hmmm. the more I think of villains: Sauriman, even Strahd, they're often more-or-less willing lackeys to someone greater. So ther herald of aboleths actually fits in to classic villainy better than I'd originaly thought.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Dungeon Grrrl wrote:
... the PCs are going to want his head on a platter.

That's it right there.

A villain is not someone they need to defeat. It's someone they want to defeat and will go out of their way to defeat - someone who has gotten under their skin. Most likely, it's someone who has escaped their clutches at least once. To me all villains are recurring - a non-recurring villain isn't a villain, it's an encounter.

How many of the entries here fall in that category? Not as many as I'd like, I'm afraid.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka SmiloDan

Yeah, I played in a D20 Modern campaign where we were the priestly version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I was a Jesuit doctor/priest/double uzi-wielder [Dedicated Hero w/ 18 Int!]) Anyways, there was a badguy version of us, and we had 2 or 3 VERY memorable encounters with them. They always had a trump card to keep us distracted, be it innocent bystanders, the release of an ancient evil, or a helicopter gunship by the pier. We hated them so much!!!!!

Basically, a good villain has to have staying power, and be encountered more than once, and have a couple of trump cards to keep the PCs occupied if he needs to escape.

It also helps if they betrayed the PCs, disarmed them, then fight them.

(We had a gunbattle in a private plane (1 square by 8 squares, with 3 PCs and 3 enemy NPCs, and 2 NPC pilots). We started the fight unarmed, and most of us even lacked Brawl or Combat Martial Arts. Then the NPCs killed the co-pilot AFTER the co-pilot threw the pilot off the plane, sans parachute. We just kept making disarm attempts and taking AoOs like crazy. But very, very memorable. Good thing there were enough parachutes.)

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

ithuriel wrote:

For villains what I wanted to see, but did not see much of, was an antagonist with overarching schemes and plans that will drive them into conflict with PCs again and again. Not once or twice.

* Being specifically tied to a geographical location is a killer.
* Specifically mentioning a lack of motivation or plans made me think wtf?

ummm... guilty. I had a reason for it. Not a very good reason though. :(

Quote:

I wanted to see villains where (even though I know you didn't have the word count for it here) I would want to see a stat block for this antagonist at say CR 7, 13, and 18 because they would be around dogging characters throughout their career.

My idea about what a villain was might have been different from others expectations. I definitely see some I'd like to vote for, but I was surprised to see so many that seem like they would be the antagonist of a single adventure alone.

Actually, the idea of building a scalable (or, more to the point, pre-scaled) villain is a hell of an idea. I'm not exactly sure if it could have been pulled off in the constrants of the contest, though I think it could have been. If I had thought of it, I might very well have tried doing that.

Liberty's Edge

Sorry for the cross post, but I think maybe I should have added my thoughts here instead of under the thread I originally did ...

I've been pretty underwhelmed by the villains as well. I mean no disrespect, because I think there is some real talent here. I think maybe the final 16 may not have entirely grasped what the judges were looking for.

I obviously can't speak for the judges, but I can say that when I read round three would be designing a villain, I was imagining something more ... I guess the best words are grand, cinematic or literary. Maybe even epic. I think the scope of the entries are just much smaller than I was hoping for. For me, that's the difference between a true 'villain' and an encounter (or 'bad guy')

To me, Darth Vader or the Emperor from Star Wars were villains.

Verminaard or even Lord Soth from Dragonlance were villains.

Sauron or Saruman from Lord of the Rings were villains.

Heck, Voldemort from Harry Potter is a villain.

These guys were great villains, even though from a D&D standpoint, they were pretty straight forward. Verminaard was basically a dragon riding cleric. Saruman and Voldemort were evil wizards. You get the idea. It's their story and history ... their grand, cinematic, literary aspect that make them so memorable.

It seems like the finalists got more caught up in cool, off the wall stat builds when perhaps they should have put more thought and creativity into the history, grand designs and plans, etc.

Just my thoughts of course. These 16 all made it farther than I did in the contest. Of course, I didn't actually enter the contest ... but still ...

Dark Archive

Marc Radle 81 wrote:
It seems like the finalists got more caught up in cool, off the wall stat builds when perhaps they should have put more thought and creativity into the history, grand designs and plans, etc.

Yeah, I didn't even bother with the stat block unless the fluff and info wowed me.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Folks, keep in mind, 500 words for the grand, overarching plans. It was a killer :)

One of my original ideas was 3 stages of the same foe, getting more evil and twisted as time went on, but that got tossed for obvious reasons.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Russ Taylor wrote:
Folks, keep in mind, 500 words for the grand, overarching plans. It was a killer :)

Amen to that.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

While I am forced to acknowledge that I should have approached this round differently, watching my villain get blown away with comment after comment saying "monster, not villain" is driving me nuts. I'm not allowed to discuss my design choices or explain what I was thinking, but I disagree with some of the criticism.

I would like to ask a favor of those looking at these villains: When you look at these entries, could you ask yourself how you'd use them? How would you introduce the villain? How would you foreshadow their presence? Why would the PCs oppose them and what would their final showdown look like?


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:


A 1st level halfling rogue the PCs find picking their pocket, and then kill, is not (as presented) a villain. He's a bad guy in an encounter.

What's up with the gender bias here? Why is the halfling rogue a male!!???

:) HA HA HA

Sorry I couldn't help myself. :)

(Also sorry, completely off topic...:p)

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
Russ Taylor wrote:
Folks, keep in mind, 500 words for the grand, overarching plans. It was a killer :)
Amen to that.

Taking the flip side of the argument, opposing what I've said before elsewhere...

And taking it to an extreme...

Could a villain be described in 50 words?

I think maybe so. Not fully painted in, of course, but still villainous.

So I dunno. Maybe the format is fair, and most people just didn't focus on this part hard enough...

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Clouds Without Water wrote:


So I dunno. Maybe the format is fair, and most people just didn't focus on this part hard enough...

I'm not complaining about the format. In fact, it was one of the more exciting writing assignments I've had. I'm thrilled to be competing against so many quality writers, and I feel I'm learning a lot in the process.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
Actually, the idea of building a scalable (or, more to the point, pre-scaled) villain is a hell of an idea. I'm not exactly sure if it could have been pulled off in the constrants of the contest, though I think it could have been. If I had thought of it, I might very well have tried doing that.

The write-up for Hetty does this, which is part of why it is so impressive.


Clouds Without Water wrote:
So I dunno. Maybe the format is fair, and most people just didn't focus on this part hard enough...

There is a distinction between "fair" and "effective". We are discussing how well the current Round 3 format conveys the essence of the character portrayed where it also forces the writer to put in a large set of mechanics. Mechanics which define and make the NPC very useful, but which also preclude space for development. I would rather see an abbreviated stat block for this format (name, rank and HD?) that would allow more space. It's when the writer goes over 50 words (or even a one-line description) and starts to expand that the expansion runs out of space too soon.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

varianor wrote:
Mechanics which define and make the NPC very useful, but which also preclude space for development.

To me, that's a false distinction.

This is a contest of game design, not novel writing. Game mechanics can contribute very effectively to portray the essence of a character by what he is actually, by the rules, able to accomplish.

Some of the contestants have succeeded in doing that. Others seem to have treated the task with bemusement as not a real part of character development. I'm not supporting those people to advance, as I'm not interested to use game materials written with that attitude.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Sir_Wulf wrote:

While I am forced to acknowledge that I should have approached this round differently, watching my villain get blown away with comment after comment saying "monster, not villain" is driving me nuts. I'm not allowed to discuss my design choices or explain what I was thinking, but I disagree with some of the criticism.

I would like to ask a favor of those looking at these villains: When you look at these entries, could you ask yourself how you'd use them? How would you introduce the villain? How would you foreshadow their presence? Why would the PCs oppose them and what would their final showdown look like?

You can ask that favor. edit: I'd respond that the answers should stand out plainly from the information that you've given and a winning entry should be able to provide them. I think you've developed your villain well, from that point of view, nor would I dismiss her as a monster or NPC - my concerns were rule-based (both d20 and RPG Superstar) and with your background.

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