Disappointed in the villains


RPG Superstar™ 2008 General Discussion

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I'm a little disappointed in the villains from this round. I liked a lot of the magic items, and I really, really liked the countries - it took me a while to go through them all and pare down my votes to 8, it was like pulling teeth. But with the villains, I was wondering if I was going to use all 4 of my votes or not.

I think a lot of the problem, though, is that it's hard to have a villain separate from a specific plot and campaign. Take Torquil. If the setup is that a party of travelling PCs roll through his castle, there's just not much to him. If the setup is that the PCs are from the Barony, related to him, live in the castle, and are trying to rule the fief - then he's just the ticket.

This is similar to the "monster vs villain" question. OK, some of these may be villains suitable for only one adventure (like Fleshstripping and Kaltia) and not super-recurring Ming the Merciless type characters, but all of them *could* be villains. I didn't think much of Mwana but if a GM built interactions with minions far away, led the PCs in, etc., you have a real long term Cthulhu type adventure. If you pull some of the Adventure Path villains out of their plot and just present them solo, they have a hard time making a big impression too. You could dump any of them into D1-2 as a random Underdark encounter and they'd be "a monster". It's like trying to hire someone based just on their resume.

Having said all that, I still wasn't much moved. Here's my simple good points/bad points rating system. Even the best ones only had two standout things to me (Abizrael, Avinash, and Seskadin). I put my fourth vote to Elsie because she was double cool and stuck in my mind, and plus I wanted something "urban" in the mix.

Torquil
-1 for not really having much hook for a PC
+1 for the "Fallen" factor

Kalyani
+1 for a medusa cleric being cool
-1 for being more a single encounter than a villain

Arthelia
-1 for psionics (it's just me I guess, but I hate them)
-1 because I'm really unclear on the Arthelia/Tiras relationship - is he totally gone and she's just riding his shell, or not (seems like not).
+1 for the interesting setup about killing legends
+1 for being low CR, shows style IMO

Abizrael
+1 for being cool
+1 for awesome butchness
-1 for psionics
+1 for the poem and story
gets one of my votes, for an al-qadim style campaign

Mwana
-1 for being more monster than villain

Durgal
+1 for a good premise
-1 for being too current/political - should have used the same premise but made it not "you know, suicide bomber".

Kaltia
+1 for being low CR, shows style IMO
+1 for a good origin
-1 for not enough PC hook

Avinash
+1 for the "horse is the enemy" switcharoo
+1 for hot succubus barnyard sex
a warning for not having at least a sample rider (word limit makes me not dock a point)
gets one of my votes, and could drop in lots of places

Kotalya
+1 for being low CR, shows style IMO
-1 for being boring

Voeren
-1 for psionics (it's just me I guess, but I hate them)
+1 for aboleth tiein because they're cool

Hetty
+1 for being low CR, shows style IMO
+1 for being well written
-1 for being a tough sell to get PCs into (and it not being a "speed bump" encounter).

Onuyaka
-1 for being kinda generic. Don't all ogre mages act like this?
+1 for alternate identities

Seskadin
+1 for fitting into a country I voted for :-)
+1 for seeming cool
gets one of my votes, though I'm not sure how much I'd think of him outside the Eluraleon context

Fleshstripping
+1 for being low CR
-1 for really riding the line between villain and monster

Elsie
+1 for being cool and creepy serial "collector"
+1 for the hand use
-1 for being a tiefling (why?)
gets my last vote, because I keep seeing people without hands in my mind

Limro
-1 for not really having strong hooks
+1 for being cool
a warning for the robes fooling anyone into thinking a shield guardian is something else for more than 10 seconds

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

Ernest Mueller wrote:

I'm a little disappointed in the villains from this round. I liked a lot of the magic items, and I really, really liked the countries - it took me a while to go through them all and pare down my votes to 8, it was like pulling teeth. But with the villains, I was wondering if I was going to use all 4 of my votes or not.

I agree with the general sense of disappointment in this round. I've read through them all twice, and I've only got two I know I'm voting for.

I've got 1 other maybe, and a few "if I had to vote for 4 I'd include this", but I'm wondering if I should just stay with the two.

Hmmm.


There are fewer great entries, I agree. I think we're seeing two factors:

First, the drain of the contest on the entrants, especially given the time of year. (However, I think this was a wise move by the editors to test commitment and ability to write a longer piece.)

Secondly, the effect of being forced to show a wide variety of skills and imagination in this tight timeframe. Not everyone in the contest is likely to have the full compliment at this time or the ability to generate fresh content so quickly.

Now, take all this for what it's worth. I respect all the contestants and love what they're doing. That said, I do think they're are only maybe 4 or 5 great entries--and great is a stretch for some, but there's some good, good stuff here.

Sovereign Court

Clouds Without Water wrote:


I agree with the general sense of disappointment in this round. I've read through them all twice, and I've only got two I know I'm voting for.

I thought this would be an easy round, that I'd just coast through on the voting...

Instead, I have to decide which irrelevant factor will influence my voting - do I vote based solely on how much I liked previous entries, or do I let my love for weird villains determine my voting. There are some folks who blew me out of the water who did absolutely lame villains, and some folks who did entries that if I could have voted to REMOVE someone from the competition, I would have, that at least hit my "Oh, that's unusual. Good show" buttons.

Stupid villain round.

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'm kind of disappointed with the villains. A lot of them are too nichey, a lot of them have horrible stat blocks (I think showing the math was a big mistake....or there should have been 1 with math and 1 without), and a lot of them have really bad crunch. AC 21 for CR 15? Really? 33 hp for CR 9? Really? And what's with all the poems? Am I the only DM who's never written a poem for a D&D campaign? (OK, OK, I DID re-write the Ballad of Jayne Cobb for one of my campaigns. And sang it. Ouch.)

And for 16 villains, I've only gotten a few neat new ideas I never thought of: The horse is a villain, the medusa animates her statues to fight the PCs, and the ghoul mystic theurge using Freedom of Movement and Web to totally mess with the PCs. I can't think of any other new and fun crunchy or tactical bits.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I didn't really see a whole lot of villains. Mainly, I saw BBEG encounters. Initially, I was worried I wouldn't have enough votes, now I might not be able to fill all my votes based on the submissions from this round of the contest.


I too cannot find many true villains among the submission for this round. So far, my list of votes includes Onuyaka and Voeren van Primie. Unfortunately, thats two short than necessary...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Spar

I have an odd question, and this just might be me and my gaming style, but did it seem like most of the contestants went for odd monster and as many levels as they could of weirdness. Some of the contestants seemed to go for the most oddball combos just to prove they could do the math. I understand the reasoning for this, but still. I like the lower CR villain / critters personally (although Boomers has me, its SO over the top, that its cool).

It just seemed to me that a lot of the villains work just as well being human. Again this is personal playing style and not really a grip. I know that as a low level, few monster, role player that many of the over the top (to me) critters and such seem a little too much.

That said, it was a hard round, and everyone submitted on time, so something has to be said for that.

WC


Evil Genius wrote:
I too cannot find many true villains among the submission for this round. So far, my list of votes includes Onuyaka and Voeren van Primie. Unfortunately, thats two short than necessary...

I agree 100% with your comment. I eked out 2 other choices based on the strengths of the submitters' previous entries, but it felt like there were slim pickings for villains. LOTS of monsters, though...

Scarab Sages

SmiloDan wrote:

And for 16 villains, I've only gotten a few neat new ideas I never thought of: The horse is a villain, the medusa animates her statues to fight the PCs, and the ghoul mystic theurge using Freedom of Movement and Web to totally mess with the PCs. I can't think of any other new and fun crunchy or tactical bits.

I've seen the web/freedom of movement thing in a Living Greyhawk mod. I hated that on so many levels as a halfling player. Luckily, one of the other players also had freedom of movement and beat down the bad guy while the rest of us flailed.

Re-writing the ballad for your game: plus 10 bonus cool points.
Actually singing it: minus 1000
;)


cappadocius wrote:
Instead, I have to decide which irrelevant factor will influence my voting - do I vote based solely on how much I liked previous entries, or do I let my love for weird villains determine my voting.

Think of this--the winner will be writing generic role playing material. You're basically helping choose who will be writing stuff that YOU may be reading somewhere down the line, whether it be monster, setting, villain, country or what have you.

In that instance, I'd take a more "global" view and urge you to look at past entries. Did the entrant have consistantly good ideas with evidence of strong writing skills, creativity, etc.? Or did they show consistant improvement, if they started a little weak?

If you base your decision purely on "wahoo" gonzo-ness, you may enjoy their specific villain entry but hate their other entries.

That's how I approached my decisions.

Dark Archive

I got the same sense of disatisfaction with the villains.

I think villains are just too intensely personal a taste. I know my group. I could *make* a dozen reasons for them to end up in Bereket or Iskandria, but so many of these villains lack the sort of hook that appeals to them (or me).

It seems like, in our games, the most memorable villains are the ones who hurt the party in some way, but do so through *luck.* If I throw an archmage at them who Disjunctions half of their gear, they hate *me,* not the archmage. If something happens and a character ends up dying through a lucky crit (or, worse, their Animal Companion or Familiar buys it), and the villain manages to get away, then it's on! Blood vendetta. It seems to me that (in my gaming group at least) we can't make memorable villains, they have to kinda happen on their own.

I'm kinda old-fashioned, as well. I expected more evil warlords who used to be paladins or bloody barbarian khans or scheming demon-lord serving priests of corruption or shadowy dragons manipulating local affairs or whatnot.

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

Yeah, good villains are usually at or near the top of some kind of organization, they have real staying power, and they have the ability to escape dying to fight again another day.

The group I DM for has a nasty habit of talking when they ought to fight, and fighting when they ought to deal. They're also extremely lucky, except for when they're disastrously unlucky. Also, the size of the party fluctuates from 4 to 8 depending if spouses can make it. At least I've learned that for each PC above 4, you can increase the EL by 1 or 2.

The BBEG should have an AC of 20 + EL/CR, especially if you have 2 or more real tanks. Feats, Str/Dex, Magic, and Bardic Music/Flanking/Aid Another makes up the short fall, as does wise use of terrain & combat manuvers (higher ground, charging, tripping, etc.).

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

I think a couple things contributed to the watering down of the villains. 500 words, stock SRD only, the general objectivity of a 'villain', and of course personal taste (I thought mine was great! heh). Anyhow, I can't speak for the rest of the contestants, but I felt a lot more constrained in this round and perhaps that had something to do with it. I know the rules immediately shot down my first couple of ideas and changed the one I used quite a bit.

Even in hind sight - knowing the flaws of my entry, knowing what the judges were going for, and knowing how far we could push the SRD w/o a DQ it would still be a very hard round to write. It will be interesting if folks write up their own villain and post it here, I'm curious if you guys can fix where we went wrong.

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

Well, I'm finding this round disappointing. Granted, 500 words isn't a lot to go on, but I get the feeling a lot of the contestants went about it backwards - they thought of something cool, then tried to think of something that the cool thing would want to do.

I don't get the feeling that they started with motivation and made the villain fit. Frankly, this stage of the contest was really about designing a connected set of plot hooks, and then using the free stat block text plus 500 words of free text to support it.

Virtually all of the entries seem to fall into this trap. We have an alabaster giant, a fungal dwarf, a ghost bard, a midwife who collects hands - all of these are character concepts, not plots.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

There are threads for posting 'writing exercises', but I sort of don't feel that's appropriate. You made it through superstar and I didn't. While I am amused at some of the similarities of my planned entries to ones that actually made it into rounds, I don't want to have people reading my entry instead of yours. And I don't think it's appropriate to ever have someone say "Steve's entry" or "top 32 dude's entry would have gotten my vote this round." Because me or that other guy aren't in this round.

My attempts to grade entries are in my responses to each thread. In your case, Sam, it was really simple. You had a competently presented nonvillain. I dug the connection to your country submission, although I think a brilliant use of someone else's country would have been a winning strategy. It's easy for anyone to riff off their own material. You might have played your 'fung-bob' dude in a campaign last year.

But no one did that. I would have placed my villain in someone else's country (I considered placing it in a country that wouldn't advance on the chance I might garner an easy vote or two from supporters of that country).

Sorry - my point is that our focus should be the superstars. Just as a lot of people probably don't care to read my 'writing exercise' material until I move on in the contest, I don't really want to see theirs. They might be great, and even better, but I want the conversation to be about the current entries. Not only do you guys deserve the attention, but time is precious near Christmas and I want that time to count.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

ancientsensei wrote:

I dug the connection to your country submission, although I think a brilliant use of someone else's country would have been a winning strategy. It's easy for anyone to riff off their own material.

But no one did that. I would have placed my villain in someone else's country

It was someone else's country that I used, 'The Stained Peaks', by James MacKenzie. Which I liked quite a bit. My country was 'Yithnai', which I did not refer to in any way for round 3. Just clarifying that.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Oh sorry. Did he also refer to his own country? Maybe that's where I got confused.

I retract, then. I now would say you are the only entrant to make good use of someone else's country, and that scores a few extra points for me, since I think maybe you made a better nonvillain for Stained Peaks than the author's nonvillain for Stained Peaks.

But it's a nonvillain to me, all the same.

Liberty's Edge

You know, 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 ...


Marc Radle 81 wrote:


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 ...

I both agree and disagree. I would have liked to see more of the whole "grand" or "epic" style history with these villians...and I too was a little disappointed that they fell short of my expectations.

But, I have to say that all the villians you mentioned (Soth, Vader, Saruman) are being seen through our memories which are most certainly biased. All of these great villians have a huge story they are connected to. They fit within their own world. They have protagonists to struggle against that we have also come to know and love.

They are so much more than a stat block and 500 words. If we never knew anything about Darth Vader (and it's hard, if not impossible to separate your memories and be objective), would we really think he is such a great villian with a stat block and 500 words?

Standard, cliched anger and perceived betrayal story.

He's the father of the hero, but the hero doesn't know it (gee, that's original...and with only 500 words we probably wouldn't know that up front anyway).

He's power-hungry and perhaps has aspirations to usurp his master and take over (what great villian doesn't?).

He's on life support and has to always wear this body armor and gear or he will probably die (ok, that's kind of cool and set's him apart).

But Vader is so much more than that, and we all know it. But we wouldn't know it without the grand, overarching story that he fits in.

So I think that while I was disappointed with the showings as well in this round, with a bit of objective thinking I came to the conclusion that perhaps my expectations were too high. A good villian is a sum of the parts that surround him or her. Each of these presented has the makings of a great villian...it is just a matter of creating the story around him/her to let them shine...or glower...whatever...

I don't think 500 words is enough to make that greatness a reality. It is enough to spark the creativity in all of us though.


I don't think 500 words is enough to make that greatness a reality. It is enough to spark the creativity in all of us though.
--

It's enough for a great writer, but it's damn hard as this contest shows.


In the participants' defense, I'm nearly always underwhelmed by villains.

I find that 99% of the time I prefer a new unique monster to some character or creature with class levels.

I'd much rather see Kerzit the Guardian, for example, than Eli Tomorast. I suppose it's just my "monster junkie" side taking over. It takes so much more for a "villain" to wow me.

(BTW, Eli Tomorast is one of my all-time favorite villains, so I'm not hatin' on the clawed one.) :)

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
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.

That's what it seems to me. Sure 500 words is not enough, but most of the finalists focused more on backstory rather than developing their villain's activities.

And more than once I had to do a double-take when I read that the villain was not motivated or ambitious.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

I am disappointed as well. I am torn between voting for just two or for using all my votes but running the risk that that investment won't get me winners next round.

Secondly, too many monsters, a pure simple (demi-)human villain is not that much to ask? And, what is up with all the casters? Fighters can be villains too.

Tomorrow I am going to check on all entries once more, maybe some have that hidden spark I missed on the first pass, maybe I will just vote for the two I like.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It seems that I kind of disagree with most of the people posting in this thread as I'm not generally disappointed at all. To explain, let me go back to Round 2. When I had read through all 32 entries for the first time I immediately knew 17 entries who had no chance to get one of my votes. Over 50% I didn't find interesting, that is. And while I had no problems to decide for 4 of 5 countries immediately, there were around 8 entries which had really good chances to get the final fifth vote. The rest were kinda "have to look once more".

This time it is actually much harder to decide. I've been through all entries and this time, there are 4 "villains" which are immediately out (mostly because they aren't villains). Are those 4 bad stuff? By no means. I could actually see all of them popping up in a Dungeon-style adventure as the bad guy. They are quite obviously no villains, though.

So there are 12 entries this time which could garner my vote. I'm sure about two and I have at the moment some favorites for the other two votes, but in the end, my votes are still open. 75% I find good enough to take them into consideration. A much better result as in round 2.

I think the general disappointment may stem from the fact that we all were positively surprised by the awesomeness of many of the entries in round two (which were crunch-light, so the authors could focus on the story). This round tested the authors storytelling as well as their mechanical abilities so they couldn't focus on what is the more interesting part for most of the readers alone. Which makes this round much harder for the contestants.

I'm curious how people would think about Nualia or Aldern Foxglove, if James Jacobs and Richard Pett had been restricted to describe them in only 500 words. So this was quite a barrier too. And kudos to those contestants who left me with eyes wide open nonetheless.

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

Set wrote:
It seems like, in our games, the most memorable villains are the ones who hurt the party in some way, but do so through *luck.* If I throw an archmage at them who Disjunctions half of their gear, they hate *me,* not the archmage. If something happens and a character ends up dying through a lucky crit (or, worse, their Animal Companion or Familiar buys it), and the villain manages to get away, then it's on! Blood vendetta. It seems to me that (in my gaming group at least) we can't make memorable villains, they have to kinda happen on their own.

I could not agree more! In a ton of the games I've run over the years, I've been shocked at who my PCs chose to hate - and who to ignore.

And you invest, as a DM, in what your players HATE.

I think that a good DM takes what his players say, In-Character as well as out of character, and runs with it - if my players make an inaccurate Mulder-Leap of such incredible brilliance that even I have to go "Wow, that's pretty damn clever", I'll usually run with it.

Por Ejemplo:

- - - - -

DM Booms: " . . . Then there's only one place his lair could be: The abandoned church on the cliff over the ocean!"

Emily, player of Dark-Mage-Emily: "Hooray! Let's go punch him in his big stupid face!"

Mikey, player of Paladin-Mikey: "And burn down his house!"

Dave, player of Barbarian-Dave: "Wait . . . unless he WANTS us to find him."

Matt, player of Ninja-Matt: "Of course! The murders, the missing churchbell - do you remember how there was a shortage of salted fish in town?"

(DM Booms does not remember this. DM Booms knows for a fact that the villain is sitting in the abandoned church, waiting to be punched in his big, stupid face)

All the other players: "Of course!"

Ninja-Matt: "We're renting a boat, Boomer. Time to head out to the reef!"

DM Boom: "The . . . reef?"

Dark-Mage-Emily: "And we're bringing Alchemist's Fire!"

All: "ILLITHID HUNT!"

DM Boom: " . . . great!"


In 1996 (during my first attempt at academia) I started out what might have been my most fulfilling campaign with a group of bandits who were trying to rustle a minor lord's show horses. One of the hands was an informant for the bandits named Bran. Just an informant who managed to escape after teh PCs interegated him.

Three years later Bran was still at the center of the Great Conspiracy Wheel of Machinations (yes, one of the players eventually created a bad guy org chart and then a party action flow chart based on the org chart).

Obsessive interaction makes for great conflict. I think that's my concern with many of the villains. The most important aspect is how they interact and challange the PCs, not their backstory, stats, or even their ambitions.

A great villain has a spefic angle in which he/she/it invites obsessive interaction.

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

I dunno. I do wonder if it was the stat blocks sapping all their energy. I can certainly see that happening, that's got to be technically exhausting in a situation like this one. Especially since there was a lot of stat block focus pre-deadline, they knew they had to perform to a high technical level.

So maybe they didn't have much left after that.

I guess you could say a superstar needs to have that technical expertise, and I agree on some level. I just can't get excited about judging it.

Anyway, given that, maybe I'll give a couple of otherwise-favorites a pass and toss em a vote.

I do hope the 3 monsters don't have as technical a focus.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Spar wrote:
I have an odd question, and this just might be me and my gaming style, but did it seem like most of the contestants went for odd monster and as many levels as they could of weirdness. Some of the contestants seemed to go for the most oddball combos just to prove they could do the math. I understand the reasoning for this, but still. I like the lower CR villain / critters personally (although Boomers has me, its SO over the top, that its cool).

I'm with ya.

I thought wacky craziness got over praised in the first round (and it should have been praised! It just didn't need to be stroked and cuddled and called genuis), and it's been echoing in the later rounds.

I'm hoping the next round has a great emphasis on execution and delivery over raw innovation for it's own sake.


Yeah, this round has been surprisingly disappointing.

Not only did many of the villains fail in their role as villains whose dastardly plots would come to the attention of the PC's, most of them failed the basic coolness test.

Looking at them as a player I rarely saw something that would cause a knot of worry to form in my gut when I finally hunt the guy down and charge into combat.

Looking at them as a GM I rarely saw a villain that would last more than a couple rounds against my players. We don't run a crazy overpowered campaign, but most of us own the wotc complete books. Nearly every entry in the CR 14-16 range was ridiculously underpowered. If after several sessions the 10-12 level party tracks the villain down and attacks him in his lair with a bunch of followers around, the average party would grease the bad guy in a few rounds. Not very satisfying.

A big exception was the "Cackling Whirling". Weird name but awesomely musterious and creepy fluff with clear, focused, and challenging crunch.

Scarab Sages

barbican wrote:
but most of us own the wotc complete books. Nearly every entry in the CR 14-16 range was ridiculously underpowered. If after several sessions the 10-12 level party tracks the villain down and attacks him in his lair with a bunch of followers around, the average party would grease the bad guy in a few rounds. Not very satisfying.

Keep in mind they only had the SRD to work with... of course the Completes + SRD > plain SRD.

Make a party of just SRD and see how it plays out.

I do agree with the "good bad guy/bad villain" attitude of many reviews. I did find my 4 to vote for though.

Overall, everyone in the Top 32, still did some really cool work and put up a great amount of effort writing all these cool things for us.
(I do see it as them making these things for us since we get to vote for them to advance.)


A bit disappointed, yes. There aren't really any that I like so much they floor me, but at the same time this is the first round where there have been no entries that I absolutely hate.

Interestingly, there's only one contestant who has been one of my top choices in every round. And I'm not saying who. :)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

I've skimmed the entries, though I haven't voted yet (I didn't have time before our weekly session). I have to concur that none of the villains blew me away immediately (even Boomer's, which was the first one I read and I thought was one of the better ones).

However, I did note from what all the judges said that they really wanted a Vader or a Thrawn. Trouble is, I don't think it is possible to give a decent villain of that magnitude in merely 500 words. Looking at all the considerable talent in this round, and what it produced, it says to me that in order to create a seriously epic villain, you need to have context. With 500 words, I don't think they had enough. I think the word restriction was, in hindsight, too tight for what was intended.

I noted several times the judges said a villan would have made a good BBEG encounter. I think that's probably right, but of course, your villain is the basis of an entire campaign, right? Somebody said something about some of the villains being more like character concepts thn plot. I think that might be part of the problem; a decent plot should be complex, which is not easy to do in such a short wording when you have to describe the protagionist in question. (Note I said decent plot. Something really simple is either going to be boring, cliche or lack enough depth be the hallmark of a true villain.

Also, a villain, as opposed to a BBEG, should appear more than once in a campaign (or else it is just a BBEG encounter, right?) In hindsight, I think there should have been an Advancement category, for showing hown the villain improves as the game progresses. As it is, I think the re-occuring nature of a villain was partly what the judges wanted (perhaps not explictly and I'm inferring from their comments here, so feel free to correct me foks!) and I don't think they emphasised that enough to make the difference between master villain and BBEG encounter clear.

(I'd be interested, as a thought experiment, to see how well classic villains (e.g. Vader, Bester of Babylon 5, Kane (of C&C) or Magneto) could be summed up - without context - in merely 500 words and still capture their extravagant flavour AND provide decent adventure hooks. I think it actually would be very, very hard. Feel free to prove me wrong, folks!)

I think, next time around (for this round), the quality of the competetion would be better served by giving the contestants a touch more verbiage. Certainly I'd personally suggest giving them more room to play with in round 4! ('Course, I like reading flavour stuff.)

This is not a complaint or anything about the judges, by the by, ('cos let's face it, they're on a learning curve too!) but merely my hopefully neutral observations. They have an unenviable job and writing the rules will be as hard for them as it is for the contestants to write their entries.

Sovereign Court

None of them really grabbed me; perhaps designing villains is the hardest part of dnd design, or perhaps people who excel at magic items and world-building are not those who build great villains?

I don't think I'll be voting on this round; best of a bad bunch isn't enough to motivate me to vote.

Dark Archive Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah I have to agree. nothing has blown me away with a villain. Many were very cool "encounters".

I like the mid-wife one a lot because she was low level. Being low level also hurt her as because how can she really advance as a villain? The closest I could see was the nightmare, but I was disappointed in the class levels selected(too obvious IMO).

We all know villains need to control things behind the scenes, which I think many of these write ups had potential in doing but 500 words or less hurts. I think the SRD is more than enough to create them. yeah extra splat books are nice, but really some of the best stuff comes out of the core/SRD.

As someone else mentioned, this is a learning curve for all parties involved. I don't like how this "contest" was set up, but I kinda understand why this was set up. I think if someone wants to become a game designer/writer then the person should be able to fully show his stuff. This is why I liked the RPG Design Test that WotC spat out. For those that don't know what that was, it was a test for common folk to write a 2500-4000 word adventure and include a new feat OR a new spell OR magic item to accompany it. Paizo has a little more time to look at something like that because they are not looking at submissions for Dungeon and Dragon Magazines anymore. Now granted they would have had to deal with 800+ plus submissions of 2500-4000 words, but I really think it would have been worth it to find someone to join the staff. They could have used the final end time table instead of the stages, but like I said I do kinda understand why they did it.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

GeraintElberion wrote:
I don't think I'll be voting on this round; best of a bad bunch isn't enough to motivate me to vote.

http://canecorpus.com/migrus.jpg


Aotrscommander wrote:
(I'd be interested, as a thought experiment, to see how well classic villains (e.g. Vader, Bester of Babylon 5, Kane (of C&C) or Magneto) could be summed up - without context - in merely 500 words and still capture their extravagant flavour AND provide decent adventure hooks. I think it actually would be very, very hard. Feel free to prove me wrong, folks!)

You jangled my chain as I LOVE Babylon 5. Here is my first stab at describing Bester in less than 500 words. I would love to have a person that has NEVER seen B5 to confirm that he is a villain.

Spoiler:
The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father.

The Psi Corps was created by the Earth government to contain and control telepaths. Bester wants to turn the tables on humanity and prove which is the superior race. In his mind, only then will psychics be valued and treated appropriately. He is egotistical, arrogant, and is willing to flout the rules when he can get away with it. He has the authority to mentally scan anybody under investigation and will do so. His charisma allows him to explain away any misdeeds he performs.

As a former member of the Black Omegas (Psi Corps' Starfury squadron) and a Psi Cop, he has considerable influence in the Psi Corps, and is able to create and participate in various “black ops”. This includes using sleeper personalities inside an unknowing victim, which acts as a virtual spy reporting on all that is happening. As anyone could be such a sleeper, and not many know of this program, his ability to gather information is phenomenal.

He sees the current changes in the government as an opportunity to put his people in the right places. He will move against anybody that impedes his master plan.

Bester always considers his options and is more than willing to betray anyone other than telepaths of the Corps. People love his passion and sense of purpose. People hate his disdain for normals. People love to hate him.

Plot hooks

Bester fell in love with a particular intern psychic during her training. He has not seen her for a number of years and assumes that she is well. In fact, she has been captured and is being used by allies of the Earth government. If she is rescued, Bester will do anything to maintain her well-being.

As a psi cop, Bester's main job is to track down runaway telepaths from the Corps. He is not able to understand why anybody would run away, given the new future he is working towards.

Bester is aware of people that are trying to kill off the telepaths, either by force or by other nefarious methods. He will remove these people without mercy or remorse once he becomes aware of them through the Corps or his information network.

Of course I have no stat block. I am also not the greatest of writers, and I have only put together 373 words to describe him. It was easier for me to write this because I "experienced" the character in a complete context, whereas developing a "brand new" villain would be far more difficult.


ancientsensei wrote:

I retract, then. I now would say you are the only entrant to make good use of someone else's country, and that scores a few extra points for me

Boomer's villain listing is from Carnamach, which wasn't his original country submission either. Unless you were implying that Boomer's submission wasn't a good use of someone else's country.

Nice avatar, BTW

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

section8 wrote:
The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father.

Sums him up pretty good, though I pictured him a bit more sadistic - ignoring privacy laws, performing deep scans, enjoying mental torture (a lot). I watched the show fairly often back when it was on, so I already have a mental image. I'm curious how it goes over with those unfamiliar with Babaylon 5.

Liberty's Edge

I really liked the villains. So far, there's one definite that I'd vote for, and...15 more that I loved a lot of ideas from. I really am going to have a hard time deciding.


I think the general theme behind most of y'all's posts is validating what I was thinking... A real villain depends totally on the enveloping plot, milieu, etc. In 500 words, and a stat block, it's just a critter with levels. So no reflection on the contestants - I think that 'a villain like Vader in 500 words' without any other context is basically an impossible goal.

As I mentioned before, I think if you pulled any BBEG out of any Adventure Path and submitted them out of that context they'd seem just as "eh."

Paizo Employee Senior Software Developer

DmRrostarr wrote:
Now granted they would have had to deal with 800+ plus submissions of 2500-4000 words, but I really think it would have been worth it to find someone to join the staff.

Our judges' heads would have collectively exploded, and someone would have had to clean up the mess.

DmRrostarr wrote:
They could have used the final end time table instead of the stages, but like I said I do kinda understand why they did it

We need Erik's head intact, and I'm sure Clark and Wolf's families appreciate the non-explodedness of their cranial portions. :-)


WormysQueue wrote:
I think the general disappointment may stem from the fact that we all were positively surprised by the awesomeness of many of the entries in round two (which were crunch-light, so the authors could focus on the story). This round tested the authors storytelling as well as their mechanical abilities so they couldn't focus on what is the more interesting part for most of the readers alone. Which makes this round much harder for the contestants.

Yes. I'm going to go with "too little space, too much crunch to go in it" as a reason for a lot of the disappointment. It was obvious reading the entries that 500 words was not enough. Too many people fell into the same traps.

Villains have something about them that transcends statistics. They can be Machiavellian, or they can be mundane. However, as said, there's something to hate, and they permeate the campaign. They scheme, plot and above all, oppose the PCs. Here it's hard to see. Perhaps because many villains in D&D suffer from mechanics schizophrenia - they have to be strong enough to last against the party when you get to the finale. Or at least we are conditioned to think so. Actually, I think a great villain won't necessarily last long in the last battle, but a good chunk of the campaign will involve them.

Similar to propeliae's story, I had a villain emerge unexpected from a chance encounter in one campaign. He was just an illusionist with a spell that let him cast a skull face on himself. He tried to scare the PCs who were just young kids starting out. That set them on his trail and he grew to become a centerpiece of the campaign.

That is where I think these entries have too high a bar to entry - we don't see the story that the villains are connected to. It's difficult to view them in a vacuum.

Ultimately, I'm not disappointed in the efforts of the contestants. I think they did fine in an overly restricted format.

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

You know what the underlying cause is?

Villains are never presented in a format like this.

Wondrous Items are nearly always presented in the format the contest used.

Countries are very often presented in the format the contest used.

Villains are never done like this. Sure, a stat block, but their villainosity is always spread out in the adventure.

This is the one artificial format so far.

The plus is that there's a natural format for the next round.

Just a new way to restate the "context" argument, but a way to put it into context itself. :-)

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Agreed; I was largely underwhelmed. In fact, I didn't use all my votes. It seems like everyone had a rougher time of it.


Clouds Without Water wrote:


You know what the underlying cause is?

Villains are never presented in a format like this.

Wondrous Items are nearly always presented in the format the contest used.

Countries are very often presented in the format the contest used.

Villains are never done like this. Sure, a stat block, but their villainosity is always spread out in the adventure.

This is the one artificial format so far.

The plus is that there's a natural format for the next round.

Just a new way to restate the "context" argument, but a way to put it into context itself. :-)

This is the most compelling case so far in defense of the villains falling short based mostly upon the form used.

Dark Archive Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gary Teter wrote:
DmRrostarr wrote:
Now granted they would have had to deal with 800+ plus submissions of 2500-4000 words, but I really think it would have been worth it to find someone to join the staff.

Our judges' heads would have collectively exploded, and someone would have had to clean up the mess.

DmRrostarr wrote:
They could have used the final end time table instead of the stages, but like I said I do kinda understand why they did it
We need Erik's head intact, and I'm sure Clark and Wolf's families appreciate the non-explodedness of their cranial portions. :-)

Awwww Gary, I thought thats why they hired ya..... :)~

Besides Clark is a lawyer....nobody misses a lawyer...well...maybe except Sebastian.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Clouds Without Water wrote:


You know what the underlying cause is?

Villains are never presented in a format like this.

Very nicely phrased. That's what I was aimlessly rambling about! Villains, I think, are less monster and more plot device.

section8 wrote:
You jangled my chain as I LOVE Babylon 5. Here is my first stab at describing Bester in less than 500 words. I would love to have a person that has NEVER seen B5 to confirm that he is a villain.

That was pretty good, actually.

section8 wrote:
Of course I have no stat block. I am also not the greatest of writers, and I have only put together 373 words to describe him. It was easier for me to write this because I "experienced" the character in a complete context, whereas developing a "brand new" villain would be far more difficult.

Absolutely.

The Exchange

My best villain at the moment is a 3rd level monk who stole a magical sword from the party in the night and ran off. Least mention of the word monk and they start quivering scenting for the kill. It was a nice sword.

No one would win votes with something that simple but the players are emotional about him. Very emotional in one case.

Personally I agree with the theory that five days and a highly technical stat block made for less time on the villainous-ness.

Also this feels like the most constrained round so far. The other two have been generally far more enjoyable to read due to their variety and creativity. This round works on a different level, it seems.

Lastly it's Christmas and some of us have lives which means that the competition suffers. Voting requires a certain degree of effort and time and it maybe that the timing is a mistake?

Cheers


I was extremely disappointed with the villain write ups in general. Too many "show off" templated up-the-wazoo monsters and NPCs, not enough villains. And I mean grab you by the bits villains. Villains that make you go "Yes!" It's all in the writing style and hooks. It may sound daft, but I know after reading the description once if it's a villain I will use -- I could not care less about the stats. Perhaps that's unfair judging on my part, but so be it.

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