Cowardly Supervillans


Advice


Ok, got a concept I'm kinda bouncing around for the ultimate BBEG's at the end of a campaign.
If anyone is interested, the inspiration for the idea is the Chandrain from Patrick Rothfuss' novel "The Name of the Wind." I'm not trying to duplicate them exactly, just want to get sorta that feeling.

So I'm wanting a group of 5 powerful bad guys. Like in the neighborhood of level 15-20. The group is viscious and evil. Kills without mercy, infact most of them enjoy it. However, they are also incredibly careful. The only engage when the odds are really stacked long in their direction. Even then, the flee at the first hint of a true threat.

Most of their abilities in a conflict should be escape and evasion. But they also spend a huge portion of their time and magic searching out anyone that is or might become a threat. They try to isolate and destroy any potential threat (without risking themselves).

Example might be: Some sherrif learns that several people in the western half of the county have been killed in a similar manner. They learn this sherrif is connecting the dots and collecting information about him. This group would totally use scry-n-fry-overkill tactics. Waiting until he is alone. Maybe traveling from one crime site to the next by himself and all 5 would show up and rip him apart.

I figure the head of the group would need to be a full caster. One of them being an anti-paladin certainly makes sense. Don't want any 'standard joe' characters. So if it is a fighter; he would at least have things like some obvious eldritch heritage, lycanthropy, or be some kind of undead. Templates are a definite idea to make them bizzarely wierd and fantastical. Maybe the reason they are so afraid of death is they made a deal with some demon lord to get half demon template bodies, but they don't want to pay the piper when they die. Dunno yet, still considering concepts.

I don't think I've ever made anything like this. Any suggestions?

Sczarni

I'm not sure who exactly is killing who in your example.

I do know that for an "escape-happy" BBEG, bards make good choices, as they get a lot of illusions and spells to facilitate escape. They also are good at "hiding in plain sight" through disguises and social skills. Perhaps one of them is a noble or other important figure, who prefers to gather info about people by keeping his ear to the rumor mill, protects himself by having friends in high places, and "hides" by cultivating good PR and surrounding himself with friends and loyal suckers supplicants. If openly confronted, he'd cast Haste on his bodyguards, then immediately Jester's Jaunt to safety while the bodyguards do the actual fighting. If his assailants beat his bodyguards, he arranges to have them arrested.


Silent Saturn wrote:
I'm not sure who exactly is killing who in your example...

The group of 5 supervillans killed the sherrif.

I agree bard is a an excellent choice. Got any suggestions for race, archtype, template, or build?

Netnmata (The Five)
Full caster as leader - race, archtype, template, or build?
anti paladin - race, archtype, template, or build?
bard - race, archtype, template, or build?
rogue/ninja/assassin/shadow dancer - race, archtype, template, or build?
??????

Liberty's Edge

One thing to consider is that if you make them more along the lines of Mastermind type villains, they may not be overly powerful themselves, but make heavy use of skills, influence, money and connections to do most of their dirty work, thus leaving themselves out of harms way most of the time.

Levels of Aristocrat or even Expert(diplomat) or just Rogue for all the skills. Crime lords and arch villains aren't necessarily the most directly powerful individuals, but it is the power they command that is frightening. Much like a king or president.


I think to really capture the nature of the Chandrian you'd need to include the "signs" and/or fear of their names.

You know the metal rusting blue flame stuff. That way people can actually start connecting the dots and get smote. I would recommend coming up with your own signs though, as that is much more fun.

A synthesist with a monstrosity of an Eidolon sounds like fun. Or just a summoner who buffs and stealths while his monstrous Eidolon rends.

The Exchange

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Dr. Doom knows how to do your villainy risk-free: simulacrum. Every time the PCs confront the villain (except maybe for the Final Battle), it's a Doom-bot. For villains who don't have that spell on their list, shape-changing monsters can be used, as long as there's some guarantee that these duplicates will not be able to quietly kill their master one day and take over the whole operation with nobody ever realizing it.

(Incidentally, that'd be a nice twist to throw into an adventure; halfway through the plot, in some very hard-to-find location, they find the corpse of the main villain... and he's been dead for years. Even though they just fought him last week.)


- A conjurer (like Diabolist or Demonist)
- An Alchemist

Sczarni

The bard should be the most "regular Joe" of the group. Since he's basically building his influence by being a pol, there can't be anything about him that would make people distrust him unless he can hide it almost flawlessly. A half-elf might be a good choice: just "exotic" enough to make people remember his face without being too threatening. A gnome would be good too-- people expect gnomes to be strange in amusing ways, but nobody expects them to be evil.

For the antipaladin, by contrast, the sky's the limit. I'd suggest a Lich, if only because I can't think of anything even worse. For extra "strike fear into the enemies' hearts" points, he should be a Monstrous Humanoid with the Lich template and Antipaladin levels-- maybe a Hill Giant, or a Bugbear? Anything that can achieve at least 7 Int will work.

Lichdom is especially good for the Antipal, because their abilities are mostly built with the assumption that antipaladins fight their own battles. A lich could have all the cowardly paranoia you're after without being afraid to get in the PC's faces and start Smiting Good, as long as he's absolutely sure his phylactery is safe.


If you want a really sneaky type they might benefit from going Arcane Trickster with early entry via SLAs. Generally Rogues, Ninjas, Assassins and so on are good as behind-the-scenes enemies, but tend to be glass cannons that get killed quickly. Even a Ninja built to take advantage of Vanishing Trick & Invisible Blade will get taken apart by True seeing. Arcane Tricksters tend to have a greater variety of escape routes and defenses at their disposal, while maintaining decent skills, Sneak Attack etc.

*Edit* The Bard could be an interesting one. The Demagogue archetype is a rabble rouser who trades out Inspire Courage and a few other things to be able to gather crowds and whip them into a frenzy. This guy could literally turn a bunch of innocent civilians into his temporary mook army. It may not be the most powerful, but if he's ever in a crowded place and the party are after him they'll need to hack their way through a crowd to get him.


Fomsie wrote:
One thing to consider is that if you make them more along the lines of Mastermind type villains, they may not be overly powerful themselves, but make heavy use of skills, influence, money and connections to do most of their dirty work, thus leaving themselves out of harms way most of the time...

I don't think I want a majorly mastermind type. Maybe a little of that, but not too much. I want these to be the too scary legendary villians that most people really don't believe in. Or at least they try not to believe in them. I don't evision then as having a big organization because they don't want prolonged contact with anyone that might learn about them. Plus they will soon kill off / betray anyone around them.

.
Beopere wrote:

I think to really capture the nature of the Chandrian you'd need to include the "signs" and/or fear of their names.

You know the metal rusting blue flame stuff. That way people can actually start connecting the dots and get smote. I would recommend coming up with your own signs though, as that is much more fun.

A synthesist with a monstrosity of an Eidolon sounds like fun. Or just a summoner who buffs and stealths while his monstrous Eidolon rends.

Yeah, I intend to make signs for them. Though I may use the corroding metal since I really like that one. If you have ideas for others, let me know.

A synthesist with a bizzare flesh suit sounds perfect.
.

Lincoln Hills wrote:
Dr. Doom knows how to do your villainy risk-free: simulacrum. Every time the PCs confront the villain (except maybe for the Final Battle), it's a Doom-bot...

Yeah, I like that for the head bad guy.

.
Orthodox Banjoist wrote:

- A conjurer (like Diabolist or Demonist)

- An Alchemist

Maybe. But I think I want them scared of the bad guy, not things the bad guys summons. I'll think on it.

.
Silent Saturn wrote:

The bard should be the most "regular Joe" of the group. Since he's basically building his influence by being a pol, there can't be anything about him that would make people distrust him unless he can hide it almost flawlessly...

For the antipaladin, by contrast, the sky's the limit. I'd suggest a Lich, if only because I can't think of anything even worse. For extra "strike fear into the enemies' hearts" points, he should be a Monstrous Humanoid with the Lich template and Antipaladin levels-- maybe a Hill Giant, or a Bugbear? Anything that can achieve at least 7 Int will work...

I don't want any of them to be at all 'regular Joe.' Even if someone is working with them, he will be doing it out of fear.

I like a lich anti-paladin. But I don't think I want too monstrous of a humanoid. First, all these guys got to be reasonably intelligent. Second, if there are too many racial HD along with the lich template he won't have many class levels. So I will try to think of some monstrous race that isn't stupid but doens't have too many levels.
.

Corvino wrote:
If you want a really sneaky type they might benefit from going Arcane Trickster with early entry via SLAs. ... Arcane Tricksters tend to have a greater variety of escape routes and defenses at their disposal, while maintaining decent skills, Sneak Attack etc...

Yeah arcane trickster fits in well.

.
----------------------------------------------------
So we got:

Netnmata (The Five)
Wizard as leader - race, archtype, template, or build?
anti paladin lich - race, archtype, template, or build?
bard - race, archtype, template, or build?
arcane trickster - race, archtype, template, or build?
sythesist summoner - race, archtype, template, or build?

Appreciate the help guys. Any more ideas?


For an Arcane Trickster, prioritise Int, Dex and Con. 3 levels of Rogue, 1+ level of Mage and the rest Arcane Trickster should round out the character. You'll need a 2nd level Arcane SLA to qualify, so Tiefling or Half-Elf with Drow Magic both work well. While Player Arcane Tricksters ofen build around surprise rounds and Alpha Strikes with AOE evocation sneak attacks, this would be no fun for the players. Building for survivability and escape routes with Skill Focus: Stealth, Toughness etc will mean you've got a slightly annoying survivor BBEG who can escape when needed and won't one-shot the party in a surprise round.

Sczarni

Okay, so you didn't like my bard idea? Then I'm going all-in on the Lichadin.

I hear what you mean about a monstrous lich having too high of a CR adjustment for class levels, but you did say you wanted them to be about level 15-20. The lich template is a +2 adjustment, so a monster with a CR of 2 or 3 still leaves room for 10-15 levels of antipaladin.

A quick skim through the Bestiary suggests a Harpy as a good candidate. The base Harpy's Int is a mere 7, but that's still smart enough to speak Common, and her Charisma (the stat both antipaladins and liches need most) is 17. As long as the other 4 are intelligent enough, she could be the group's "dumb muscle". A fly speed of 80 feet is great for scry-and-fry tactics, as she could do flyovers of a potential target while carrying the focus of a scry spell. Phylactery regenration would also make her the perfect scout-- if the group is threatened by something, they send her to "sic 'em" and if she can't deal with it, she either escapes by air or just lets it kill her and brings everything she's learned back to the other four 1d10 days later.

The harpy's captivating song combined with the lich's paralyzing touch attack and fear aura make this a truly terrifying supervillain, who would leave any witnesses too dumbstruck to fight back or even describe what they saw afterwards. Those who don't flee in terror are drawn in to their doom, and those who resist both quickly discover that strength of will alone won't save you from this thing. I especially love that the captivating song targets Will, but the paralysis targets Fortitude, meaning it's a rare jewel indeed who won't succumb to one or the other.


Just to throw it out there, how about a Master Chymist? A dual Persona who has an Evil Mr. Hyde that is part of the group, but the rest of the time is a Neutral Dr. Jekyll who doesn't really want to know what his alter ego is getting up to. It's also perfect for moral dilemmas since you cannot punish the Evil Mr. Hyde without also punishing the innocent Dr. Jekyll.


Not Lich for an anti-paladin.
Graveknight


Gavmania wrote:
Just to throw it out there, how about a Master Chymist? A dual Persona who has an Evil Mr. Hyde that is part of the group, but the rest of the time is a Neutral Dr. Jekyll who doesn't really want to know what his alter ego is getting up to...

That's a classic, but it's pretty close to something the group is just getting ready to finish up and I don't want to repeat.

Silent Saturn wrote:

...

The harpy's captivating song combined with the lich's paralyzing touch attack and fear aura make this a truly terrifying supervillain, who would leave any witnesses too dumbstruck to fight back or even describe what they saw afterwards. ...

Yeah, that fits excellently.

------------------------------------------------

So we got:

Netnmata (The Five)
Wizard as leader - race, archtype, template, or build?
Harpy Lich Anti-Paladin - build?
bard - race, archtype, template, or build?
arcane trickster - race, archtype, template, or build?
sythesist summoner - race, archtype, template, or build?

Appreciate the help guys. Any more ideas?


Arcane trickster: maybe a fetchling ninja 3 / sorcerer 4 / arcane trickster X? Fetchlings SLA's are excellent for getting out of dodge. Strike and return to the shadows ... the envenomed variant of the serpentine bloodline might be fun. Add more poisons as desired, they've got poison use.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lincoln Hills wrote:

Dr. Doom knows how to do your villainy risk-free: simulacrum. Every time the PCs confront the villain (except maybe for the Final Battle), it's a Doom-bot. For villains who don't have that spell on their list, shape-changing monsters can be used, as long as there's some guarantee that these duplicates will not be able to quietly kill their master one day and take over the whole operation with nobody ever realizing it.

(Incidentally, that'd be a nice twist to throw into an adventure; halfway through the plot, in some very hard-to-find location, they find the corpse of the main villain... and he's been dead for years. Even though they just fought him last week.)

Don't overuse this too much though. It can get old very quickly. What you should have are memorable underlings that the players should get some satisfaction in defeating even if hints of the an ultimate mastermind are dropped every now and then.

One more thing... stories are generally driven forward by the mistakes your villains make, not their invulnerable cleverness.


LazarX wrote:
Lincoln Hills wrote:

Dr. Doom knows how to do your villainy risk-free: simulacrum. Every time the PCs confront the villain (except maybe for the Final Battle), it's a Doom-bot. For villains who don't have that spell on their list, shape-changing monsters can be used, as long as there's some guarantee that these duplicates will not be able to quietly kill their master one day and take over the whole operation with nobody ever realizing it.

(Incidentally, that'd be a nice twist to throw into an adventure; halfway through the plot, in some very hard-to-find location, they find the corpse of the main villain... and he's been dead for years. Even though they just fought him last week.)

Don't overuse this too much though. It can get old very quickly. What you should have are memorable underlings that the players should get some satisfaction in defeating even if hints of the an ultimate mastermind are dropped every now and then.

One more thing... stories are generally driven forward by the mistakes your villains make, not their invulnerable cleverness.

Both good points.

I think only the leader will be caster enough to have simulacrum. They won't even be engaging his double very often.

I have the Netnmata planned to make 2 rather consistent mistakes.

Since the Netnmata are paranoid, they over react a wipe out any slightly potential threat. Since they are such bizarre villains. Their attack sites should be obvious to the party. So that will give me a way to introduce clues to the party once they figure out what the victims were doing that was considered a potential threat.

They are cowards. Any time they seem in actual danger, they will run. Then they can scry/investigate to come back later. That will give the PC's the opportunity to engage and learn about them without getting wiped out.


Rather than an arcane trickster and synthesist summoner I would fill the group out with a Ninja/Horizon Walker and an evil Druid. The Horizon Walker build is all about the rogue trick Terrain Mastery, the feat Extra Rogue Trick and the class ability Terrain Dominance. Get Terrain Dominance Astral for dimensional dervish shenanigans and Terrain Dominance Urban to use the favored terrain bonus as a favored enemy bonus against anyone who lives in buildings. The evil Druid provides the same services in the wilderness basically and is a strong divine caster who won't overshadow the Wizard.


What is the background of Netnmata? Why do they what they do? Why do they work together? What are their goals? Why are they are paranoid? What have they done so that everybody hunts them and they get paranoid?With level 15+ they are very powerful and they can undo a lot of crime via magic or gold. Why they dont do it?

Maybe my questions are answered inside the book you mentioned but i dont know it.

Your posts give the impression that you want a good story/roleplay and not only hack'n'slay. On the other hand you want classes, archtypes, builds etc. Dont invest to much time into feats, spells, skills, classes and archtypes. Your player will never see the work you put into this. Focus on the background / theme of your BBEG group and give this informations in pieces to your PCs.


If you want them to escape with great ease, have Bard's Escape as one of the bard's 5th level spells.
Signifer's Rally could be a relevant spell for the wizard. It's great for calling backup in battle, but can also be used to get allies who are already in battle to a non-battle place where the caster is located.


If you want some inspiration, check out the Five Bad Band.


Gregory Connolly wrote:
Rather than an arcane trickster and synthesist summoner I would fill the group out with a Ninja/Horizon Walker and an evil Druid. The Horizon Walker build is all about the rogue trick Terrain Mastery, the feat Extra Rogue Trick and the class ability Terrain Dominance. Get Terrain Dominance Astral for dimensional dervish shenanigans and Terrain Dominance Urban to use the favored terrain bonus as a favored enemy bonus against anyone who lives in buildings. ...

Not familiar with the ninja/horizon walker. Do you have a link to where a sample is our how it should be used?

Eridan wrote:
What is the background of Netnmata? Why do they what they do? Why do they work together? What are their goals? Why are they are paranoid? What have they done so that everybody hunts them and they get paranoid?With level 15+ they are very powerful and they can undo a lot of crime via magic or gold. Why they dont do it? ...

The leader of the Netnmata at some point long ago decided he wanted X more than he cared about anyone or anything else. He betrayed, reviled, killed, etc... anyone necessary to further his ambition.

He has been obsessed with X for hundreds of years now. Everything is basically sorted into 3 categories.

  • Helping me get X = I won't kill it for now.
  • Hindering me getting X = Destroy it.
  • Has nothing to do with me or X = totally irrelevant.

There is no room in his obsession, for caring about what others think about his activities.

He has gathered a few fellows that also want X along with him. They either want a part of the power of X or they are dependent upon him keeping them alive through the centuries.

No, I do not know exactly what X is yet. I'm still working on that. Possibly a lost artifact. Possibly a deal with some forgotten god.

Eridan wrote:
... Your posts give the impression that you want a good story/roleplay and not only hack'n'slay. On the other hand you want classes, archtypes, builds etc. Dont invest to much time into feats, spells, skills, classes and archtypes. Your player will never see the work you put into this. Focus on the background / theme of your BBEG group and give this informations in pieces to your PCs.

My group (me included) needs both story/roleplay and hack-n-slash to have a good time. =)

They will eventually see the work. We talk about what the creatures have, did, could have done, and why after things are over. For that and just my own semi-OCD personality, I tend to stick as close as I can to RAI in my GM'ing.

I also use it as part of my process. I go back and forth between build and story/background.
This would be a kool ability for the PC's to have to deal with.
Develop an NPC with that.
Start writing it into the story.
Realize I need to have him thrown out of the church.
Modify the build with a few levels of cleric.
Ok, levels of cleric make this a possibility, modify the build.
More story writing altered with the new abilities as a part of the legend.
Ok, I gave him a really high speed and dex. Doesn't really behave the way I'm thinking it in my head or at least doesn't have much effect at this level. How close can I come with the rules.
Ok, dimensional hop and dimensional ambush seem like they should come pretty close to having the effect I want. Modify build.
Change the story a bit to match the new capabilities.
Etc...


Well, X is a McGuffin. It doesn't really need to do anything, it just needs to be really bad if the BBEG gets hold of it. Ideally it'll be completely useless to the PCs. And it needs an awesome name (*very important*). Given the already reality-bending power of a full caster high level BBEG it might be something that gives authority or legitimacy rather than just more straight power. It could be an ancient crown proving that he is in fact rightfully *king* BBEG. Perhaps it means they can completely break the laws of their class - a Sorcerer BBEG (with a very specific subtype) who controls it immediately knows every arcane spell in existence etc.


Corvino wrote:
... Perhaps it means they can completely break the laws of their class - a Sorcerer BBEG (with a very specific subtype) who controls it immediately knows every arcane spell in existence etc.

Ha! I was thinking very similar except opposite direction. Something that allowed a wizard to spontaneously cast any spell in his book.

Sczarni

The Harpy Lich build should be straightforward enough, but it depends on a few decisions on your part. First of all, what level exactly do you want to build towards? You said "15-20", and with the Harpy and Lich modifying the CR, that gives us anywhere from 10 to 15 levels of antipaladin. Level 10, as luck would have it, is when the antipal first gets 3rd-level spells, but all she would have is her bonus spell from Charisma. Between 10 and 15, all an antipal really gets besides spells is a fifth Smite Good per day (like four Smites wouldn't be enough for one fight against the PCs) and two more Cruelties to attach to her touch attack (the one that DOESN'T permanently paralyze and has a limited number of uses per day).

The real question is what you want her to choose for her Fiendish Boon at 5th level. The weapon bond is nice if you want a brutally effective killing machine that can full attack with the best of them, while the fiendish servant effectively gives the Netnmata a 6th member. I'm leaning towards the weapon bond, since the Netnmata's paranoia would mean they'd never send her int o get her claws dirty unless they were prepared for her to die in the fight, and she probably doesn't want the trouble of procuring a new magic weapon every time when she could turn any standard-issue sword into a +1 unholy flaming sword. This also means that you can have the PCs fight her multiple times without letting them loot multiple weapons from her. On the other claw, at level 13, Summon Monster VII gives the option of a Vrock Demon, an appropriate choice of minion for a harpy.

As for her phylactery? It's clear to me that it should be some item in the leader's possession. Maybe the wizard BBEG was the one who lichified her to begin with. That way she always knows her phylactery is safe, and he always knows he can trust her not to betray him. He then gets to fully utilize her as a tool for scrying and frying-- send her in to do the wetwork, and if it doesn't go as planned he'll have her full eyewitness report in 1d10 days. That also means that the PCs have all the more reason to hunt down the ringleader-- she won't truly die until he does.


Agreed. I will go with 10 paladin levels and weapon bond. The leader will absolutely have the phylactery.

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