Favorite Antagonists?


Gamer Life General Discussion


So what are your favorite antagonists? Some people love undead, some love dragons, others loves demons or maybe even a wizard.

Me personally? I love utilizing Fey and Proteans. Why? Because the whole Good vs evil has been done time and time and time again. But I love when now the issue is law vs Chaos and you get a Asmodian paired up with a Paladin to stop Proteans :P


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Good thread idea. You say it right - chaos vs. law is (for now) better and more original than good vs. evil.

I've gone for nobles and evil clergy a lot (over the years), but I also like my political schemer games so sometimes the fantasy is low magic.

Others:
Seductive Arabic vampires (*cough* From Dusk till Dawn).
Sahuaghin kidnappers.
Ogre Clans in the process of uniting.
Basically Scots of the Highlands with Macbeth-level scheming.
Centaurs as if they were closer to Mongols (try it! Really works).
Psionic law enforcers that can detect your every crime (players HATED these guys).
A Queen of the Merfolk fighting xenophobic lords, a new Merfolk burning religion and determined to secure the safety of her people for the next 1,000 years via alliances, titles and honours (an unusual baddie to be sure, and one that a player chose to serve).
Others players in a Sword Art Online game, including pvp guilds (how the players relished killing them).
The creatures of Leng and an alien will behind them.

Some of the best I've seen from others
Vietcong led by Buddhist necromancers (and we were poor American soldiers far, far over our heads)
An immortal librarian GMPC leading us to our deaths.

Grand Lodge

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My favorite antagonists are sympathetic ones. Though I'll always have plenty of kill-on-sight irredemable baddies on the way to the final confrontation, I like my final showdowns to be with somebody whose motivations a) make sense and b) let the heroes think outside the box. I've done -

A priestess who murdered the man that killed her child. Framing the PCs for his murder was keeping the authorities busy while she took out the nobles who helped him cover it up.
An Inspector Javert type that was hounding the party when they all rolled up rogues and bards.
A Drow clan that had carved out a niche in the Feywild when trying to escape a horrific monster that had decimated their city.
A cult leader who had discovered a way to permanently seal off the Abyss from the material plane and was willing to sacrifice the population of a small town to make it happen.
An undead former Druid who sold his soul out of desperation to bring a lost love back.

That's not to say they're all not evil or even pleasant, but I love the how far could anyone go if pushed hard enough story line.


Urgh, so if they get to the end of the murder mystery and... they decide to let the murderer off because they had allllll these justifications, is this a win for you or for them?

If they don't care for the tragedy and put a stop to the crimes with so many justifications and reasons how do you take that?

Can you share some of the outcomes?

Grand Lodge

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DM Under The Bridge wrote:

Urgh, so if they get to the end of the murder mystery and... they decide to let the murderer off because they had allllll these justifications, is this a win for you or for them?

If they don't care for the tragedy and put a stop to the crimes with so many justifications and reasons how do you take that?

Can you share some of the outcomes?

I never expect my players to forgive antagonists just because they have sympathetic motivations - but I do like that it gives it a bigger twist than just go here, roll initiative, and try to kill them first. And it's never a "No Win" situation. Whether they choose to forgive or smite, I usually play up the better aspects of either scenario.

The most straightforward was the cult leader trying to seal off the abyss. The players were having none of the justifications and he ultimately succumbed to a fate worse than death when a Demon lord claimed him for his hubris.

With the priestess it was actually planned from the beginning that the child would actually turn out to be one of the PC's (One of my players had rolled up a tiefling orphan when my backstory included the murder of a noble's tiefling bastard.) As all the players that game were some shad of good, the final showdown came down to trying to divert her before she did something truly irredeemable - making a pact with a lich - and finding and punishing the remaining co-conspirators, which included some high ranking nobles and members of the thieves' guild, so no easy task.

The Inspector had no end, sadly, as my work picked up and I had to stop playing for about two months, causing the game to dissolve. They ended up killing the Drow enclave, which also broke the seals holding the monster in the Underdark, resulting in a very difficult final boss battle. As for the Druid - well, that one is happening now, so I'll let you know lol.


Glad to hear that. It sounds well thought out.


Well, guess I'm going to be the first boring one. I like demons/daemons/devils as my main villains. This is mostly the result of me having players that love discussing the morality of certain actions, and me thus throwing in the foes that allow for the most gametime. After all, hard to say that killing a daemon is a bad thing.


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Hey nothing wrong with Evil Outsiders :P. They are always cool additions :P


Elder things, Lovecraftian alien entities are a nice change.


My friends have to pull me out of the Aberration table every now and then. Meanwhile I have a GM who loves her Rakshasa. Everyone else is a bit balanced.


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Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

Sovereign Court

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DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

This. Rakshashas are just awful beings, that are fun to run as a GM, and fun to kill as a PC.


Hm, I will admit I actually forget the Rakshasha even exist some times.


The honorable dark knight. Rommel, Ashram from Lodoss War, Lord Loren Soth. I'd often create some sort of dark paladin type of Bane (Paladin of Tyranny or, in a gestalt game Fighter/Cleric of Bane).

I often like to have the party first encounter this type of villain when they have no hope of defeating him, and he would use maneuvers or nonlethal damage to best the party, then leave them humiliated and defeated, but relatively unhurt.


See this is why I made this thread :) Gives me, and I am sure many other GMs that happen to view it, interesting new ideas for things beyond the typical Dragons, Demons, Evil Necromancer, ect.

Silver Crusade

For me, and my players over the years?

Bad guys who act like PCs.

Guys who mix pragmatism with a bit of personality and come across as cagey opponents who do what the PCs would likely do if they had more resources and fewer ethics.


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One threat to the region that the players encountered, unleashed and then just left right alone was a very old man, who happened to be a lycanthrope with dementia.

He is still causing havoc in the region the players left behind.


In D&D I favour undead and demons. Undead cover the lower levels particularly well, and there's generally no ethical or moral reasoning to them. Demons cover higher levels well, and due to their nature present a good mix of intelligence and (evil) purpose, with a bonus of unpredictable means of achieving that purpose.

In my White-Wolf games, I favour Elder beings, perhaps because their obvious inhumanity creates a stark contrast with the somewhat compromised humanity of World of Darkness player characters. Also what doesn't sound cool about a Vampire, a Werewolf, and a Mage saving the world from the minions of Cthulhu? It turns the existentialist horror aspect on it's head.

Oddly in both systems, I also enjoy demon protagonists. In D&D I frequently use Tiefling as well as custom demon aspected races, and a frequent theme I've explored in World of Darkness games is the idea of order vs chaos, recast as servitude vs freedom with demons as the representation of freedom.


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DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

Rakshasa are by far my favorite Outsiders.

Criminally underutilized.


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Aberrations probably. My favourite to run and to battle against. Just love the thematics, the blending of horror and alien entity with them that is impossible to understand without unraveling your own mind.


I have learned that The Aboleth is criminally under CRed...

Had a group of 6 slightly over geared level 10 players die to 3 aboleths... it was kinda ugly...

the run down of what happened:

So the party found a long a room about 400 ft across (just slighly larger than a football field) with a 300 ft length pool. When the investigated the pool they just saw inky black because:
1) the room was dark
2) the pool was deep as hell
3) darkvision don't work so good through water it turns out

On the other side of the pool they see a door. Well the wizard being well prepared (for some reason or another) had a few Water Walks prepared (I have no clue why he did but he did and it came in handy). Casts on the party and they kinda go a long. About half way across, I make them all make perception checks. Everyone failed to notice any change deep in the pool and the Fighter, the Rogue, and the Witch had to make will saves. Well, the Fighter Failed, the Rogue passed, and the Witch failed. The rogue didn't see the spell get cast and had no ranks in Spellcraft anyway so he isn't entirely sure what happened and the other two dominated players didn't make a move until the party were suddenly unprepared and had to fight each other. The witch failed the subsequent save for doing something against her character (bad luck that day) and hit the Wizard with evil eye and the fighter was busy with the oracle. Well sadly, the witch was a debuff built witch... and with 3 aboleths... it got nasty fasty..

Didn't end well...


Rogue doesn't need Spellcraft. DC 15 Sense Motive to know someone's been Dominated.

Also did you take into account that Dominate has a 1 round cast? And is a Close range spell, so they were almost certainly within Darkvision range? And, in fact, MUST have been, since otherwise the Aboleths could not see to target them either?

And that the PCs get a second save if forced to do something against their nature? Which attacking another PC usually is?

This was a CR 10 encounter at a base level. Ignoring those factors easily multiplies the difficulty. Especially, for some reason, ruling Darkvision doesn't work in water. That alone screwed them for no reason.

Grand Lodge

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DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

Hear hear. It amazes me, too. Rakshasa are tailor made BBEG's for midlevel campaigns. Why more people don't utilize that I'll never know.

Speaking of things I think are underutilized as BBEG's, another favorite of mine are the Fey. Two reasons:

1. I love traditional fairy tales. Demons/devils and such are cool, absolutely, but it feels very heavy metal - and I'm just more of a Prog guy I guess. And almost all of the traditional folkloric monsters are in the 'Fey' category.

2. Their nature means the line between benevolent and antagonistic likes to blur a lot. Even "helpful" fey are often less than such, and antagonistic fey can show mercy or grant a boon at a whim because it's totally within their nature to be mercurial like that. I especially love having high level Fey as secondary antagonists or Enemy Mine characters.


PIXIE DUST wrote:

I have learned that The Aboleth is criminally under CRed...

Had a group of 6 slightly over geared level 10 players die to 3 aboleths... it was kinda ugly...
** spoiler omitted **

Lovely. Please tell me as the combat came to an end the Aboleths dispelled the water walking and the players sunk into the total darkness.

Otherwise, best TPK I've heard in a while. What an inky dark pit of abol-death.


Rakshasa are great. I also love asuras. Any foe who can disguise themselves can play a long game. It's a great moment at the table when the PCs realize they've already encountered a BBEG several times, but never recognized them.

Human or humanoid archenemies can be easier for players to relate to, which I think is an overlooked but valuable part of epic storytelling. Make your villains' goals into dark reflections of the PCs' own.


I love dragons, although in my games they tend to be more unstoppable elemental forces of nature with vast hordes of Kobolds to back them up.


Let's see, my current games have a pretty good rogues gallery.

Eberron - I ran a couple of the modules for 3.5 updated with some pathfinder rules and I've turned Garrow Blood into the guy that keeps popping up, sometimes helping the party, never really on their side, and always doing his big reveal at the climax of a combat or adventure. He's a changeling that wants to be a vampire so he uses spells to mimic the actual abilities of a vampire and has never failed to get a reaction at the table.

L5R - I'm running a campaign against the Kolat Conspiracy (secret society with their fingers in a lot of pies). One of the main antagonists is a master assassin, who the party has never actually seen. They think they've killed Master Tiger, but as the ST I know it really wasn't. And there are several subtle clues as to who they actually killed.


My favorite antagonist is the unknown. I like to try to keep the party guessing about what's next when I GM. Because when I'm a player I like not being stuck in a trope.

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One of my favorites was a bedridden man on (magical) life support.

After we killed his 2nd in command, we barged into his sanctum only to discover he was incapable of moving. We expected him to try some magic, but he couldn't do anything. No magic, no attempt at corrupting/recruiting us, just this sad broken old man.

It's difficult to kill someone who is so completely at your mercy.


It's probably easier to flip the question and say that I actively avoid using aberrations, I dislike using undead and never seem to have a good reason to use fey.

I tend to go overboard with whatever the theme of the campaign might be. So my Elemental war with all the PCs as members of the church of Kossuth being set up as the bad guys by a cult of Istishians was heavy with Elementals and elemental subtype creatures.

My players will probably tell you something like humanoids/class levelled bad guys, be it wizards, evil priests, assassins or dark knights, because that is what I'll use most often.

But to narrow it down to one thing that is my favourite it has to be Dragons. I luurve me a dragon bad guy.


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People.

Anything which is a reasonable stand in for a human. Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

Merchants are among my favourate sub group, because the ability for the profit motive to make people do the unspeakable in the real world can make for a chilling villain in game.

Grand Lodge

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Zombieneighbours wrote:
Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

I agree. Some of my favorite Ravenloft Darklords were human.

I know this isn't a conversation about Gothic Horror, but on a related note, being able to empathize with the antagonist is what makes classic gothic horror, truly "horrific"; we're able to see the humanity within them and perhaps even recognize ourselves in the face of the "monster", or at the very least, what we could be capable of doing if we were in their place...


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Awesome point Digital Elf


Zombieneighbours wrote:

People.

Anything which is a reasonable stand in for a human. Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

Merchants are among my favourate sub group, because the ability for the profit motive to make people do the unspeakable in the real world can make for a chilling villain in game.

You know, technically every antagonist is human. That is, unless your GM is actually a dragon or an undead or etc. Monsters are just masks that let humans express their darker side.

Grand Lodge

Zombieneighbours wrote:
Awesome point Digital Elf

Thank you. :$


What an excellent idea for a thread.

It's also bloody hard to answer briefly ...

My favorite villains come in several varieties, and that's really at the core of it, right there. I like variety. Over the course of a long campaign, I strongly prefer the villains to be very distinct.

I don't even want them to be particularly villainous all the time. Sure, there is a place for the good, old-fashioned, moustache-twirling maniac, threatening to blow the world up, or the brutish warlord swinging his great sword or axe over his head and carving down armies all by himselfish.

Both of those can be fun if used right.

I also have a strong liking for the villain that the PCs never find and never get to find, but where the challenge lies in stopping his or hers machinations nonetheless.

Mostly, I find that the stone cold type appeals to me. I can rant and rage with the best of them, as a GM, but it gets old really quickly. A villain isn't particularly terrifying because he shouts louder than everyone else, but because he is incredible, terribly good at what he does. And when they see no need to brag about it, it adds a level of brutal efficiency that can make a lot of players cringe.

"You seem to want me to wax lyrical about my plans while you wait for your friends to arrive to save you. Whatever for? Goodbye."

And then rather than leaving some inept underlings to use the death-trap of doom, allowing Batma ... I mean the Heroic Heroes (tm) ... to escape in some ingenious way, the villain simply pulls out a gun and shoots the hero. Stone dead. Right then and there.

I've done that to players in the past and it has worked extremely well. A cold, methodical, no-nonsense, calm and completely efficient technocrat tends to work better for me than a raving loon.

Though if the raving loon is powerful enough, he can be dangerous enough to work well as a main villain anyway.

Shadow Lodge

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Rynjin wrote:
DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

Rakshasa are by far my favorite Outsiders.

Criminally underutilized.

I'm strongly hoping that with Occult Adventures coming out, we will see more adventures in Vudra, which will lead to more Rakshasa villains.


pH unbalanced wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Rakshasha aren't used enough. I must correct this in my own games (alas they don't fit for this campaign).

Rakshasa are by far my favorite Outsiders.

Criminally underutilized.

I'm strongly hoping that with Occult Adventures coming out, we will see more adventures in Vudra, which will lead to more Rakshasa villains.

Not a whole ton of Vudra flavor in Occult Adventures, besides the Chakra stuff in the optional rules.

All of the classes remain very much with a European Gothic default flavor.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Right, but they have said in the past that because psychic magic is so important in Vudra, that we wouldn't see much of Vudra until they had nailed it down.

So now that *that* excuse is gone...


Simon Legrande wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:

People.

Anything which is a reasonable stand in for a human. Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

Merchants are among my favourate sub group, because the ability for the profit motive to make people do the unspeakable in the real world can make for a chilling villain in game.

You know, technically every antagonist is human. That is, unless your GM is actually a dragon or an undead or etc. Monsters are just masks that let humans express their darker side.

Not always true. You should check out some of the purist trail of cthulhu scenarios by Graham Walmsley(especially the dying of st. Margarets and The Watchers in the Sky) which have antagonists with distinctly non-human mind sets, and which are written to make them non-human. The god that crawls for lamentations of the flame princess is another example of this.


Zombieneighbours wrote:
Simon Legrande wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:

People.

Anything which is a reasonable stand in for a human. Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

Merchants are among my favourate sub group, because the ability for the profit motive to make people do the unspeakable in the real world can make for a chilling villain in game.

You know, technically every antagonist is human. That is, unless your GM is actually a dragon or an undead or etc. Monsters are just masks that let humans express their darker side.
Not always true. You should check out some of the purist trail of cthulhu scenarios by Graham Walmsley(especially the dying of st. Margarets and The Watchers in the Sky) which have antagonists with distinctly non-human mind sets, and which are written to make them non-human. The god that crawls for lamentations of the flame princess is another example of this.

My point was, if a human is running the game then every adversary is going to be human. Sure it might be a human interpretation of what an orc or a dragon or a vampire might think, but there's still a human sitting in the chair.

Now, if you could get your cat or dog to run the game, you'd see some pretty interesting results. However, I can tell you from experience that cats are great at rolling dice, but the story suffers a bit.

Grand Lodge

Simon Legrande wrote:
if a human is running the game then every adversary is going to be human.

Don't you think that you're perhaps, just perhaps, over thinking this a little? I mean, I am pretty sure every one of us on these boards knows that we are discussing make-believe, and that monsters don't really exist anywhere but in our collective imaginations.

Perhaps I may be the one over thinking this, but I just fail to see the logic in pointing that out to us.

YMMV...


The favorite antagonist my players have encounterred so far was successful mechanically and story wise.

He was the Kestros the Paladin, a man driven to dethrone his king to better society. The paladin was hounded by the ghost of his dead wife.
The Players, seeing the ghostly possession, decided Kestros was not fully sane or even deceitful and went against his plans on several occations. Eventually the Paladin made his move against the throne and the players wound up protecting the charming(and manipulative) royal family.
The fight was long because Kestros had godly amounts of healing, and he was surrounded by a small army of clerics and warriors, however many times the entire army was drowned in fireballs they stood up again in great bursts of healing. A Butterfly sting -> Earthbreaker combo finally downed the Paladin after I think 10 rounds of fighting.

Kestros was fun because he was flawed, and very human. He was never truly their enemy, the players just picked the other side.


The second favorite was Hazmir the half-elemental inquisitor. He wielded his iron will, physical strength and power over acid to create and lead a guild of alchemical necromancers.

The first time the players encountered him they were far from aware of the danger they had confronted, for he was fleing the scene of one of his earliest crimes and not supposed to be found.
it would have been a fairly simple "villain makes his escape" situation, but one player rolled a godlike intimidation check to get his attention, so he turned around and got "caught" in their ambush.
After a quick beating the players understood that they had happened upon the final boss who would go on to plague them at every step for the rest of the story.

What made this guy fun was not his agenda or his backstory, but his behaviour and visuals. Like a true villain he made his escapes when prudent and short appearances where his agendas had to be furthered firsthand. Evidence of his minions, living, dead or undead were everywhere. When he had to throw down he threw down hard, when he had to act smart he acted smart.
This guy was a supervillain and he didnt need any levels in Wizard, Undead, Outsider or Dragon to be awesome.


Simon Legrande wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:
Simon Legrande wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:

People.

Anything which is a reasonable stand in for a human. Humans make the best antagonists, because their motivations are varied, hard to predict, but possible to empathize with once discovered.

Merchants are among my favourate sub group, because the ability for the profit motive to make people do the unspeakable in the real world can make for a chilling villain in game.

You know, technically every antagonist is human. That is, unless your GM is actually a dragon or an undead or etc. Monsters are just masks that let humans express their darker side.
Not always true. You should check out some of the purist trail of cthulhu scenarios by Graham Walmsley(especially the dying of st. Margarets and The Watchers in the Sky) which have antagonists with distinctly non-human mind sets, and which are written to make them non-human. The god that crawls for lamentations of the flame princess is another example of this.

My point was, if a human is running the game then every adversary is going to be human. Sure it might be a human interpretation of what an orc or a dragon or a vampire might think, but there's still a human sitting in the chair.

Now, if you could get your cat or dog to run the game, you'd see some pretty interesting results. However, I can tell you from experience that cats are great at rolling dice, but the story suffers a bit.

Only in so far as it is a human presenting it, but if that is enough involvement to assert that they are human antagonists, then traps are also human antagonists, and I think that is a rabbit hole of unusefulness of language no one is especially interested in pursuing.

Additional the examples I am giving have no human motivation, and a designed in such a way as to dehumanize them. The monster in the dying of st Margaret, doesn't get controlled by the GM. It is in many ways like an environmental effect. In the watchers, the structure of the adventure is such that the monsters behavior is intentionally fragmented and irrational, presenting the feel of an unknowable and alien motive. The crawling god, is if memory serves, run on a kind of A.I.


Digitalelf wrote:
Simon Legrande wrote:
if a human is running the game then every adversary is going to be human.

Don't you think that you're perhaps, just perhaps, over thinking this a little? I mean, I am pretty sure every one of us on these boards knows that we are discussing make-believe, and that monsters don't really exist anywhere but in our collective imaginations.

Perhaps I may be the one over thinking this, but I just fail to see the logic in pointing that out to us.

YMMV...

It's possible that you could read what I put as a tongue in cheek response to the posters claiming they liked humans as antagonists because they could understand their motives.


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As many have mentioned, I like villains with sympathetic motivations. Not sympathetic to the point that the heroes are expected to join them, but enough that they can see why the villain turned out the way they did.

It was an old sprite comic that defined a villain's outlook as "somewhat accurate view of the problem, really insane view of the solution."


I tend to use goblins and zombies a lot! But I think my favorite antagonists are kobolds. They're so meek, but they can realistically challenge parties much higher than their CR due to cleverly deployed traps.

I've had a party of level 5s, licking their chops at wiping out a dungeon of kobolds only to have several making death saving throws because they weren't careful when they charged into battle.

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I'm currently running a game where the PCs will at some point need to choose whether or not they're willing to work with a neutral evil force, manipulative and the sort of person who'll play cat-and-mouse games with you all night long... to defeat a chaotic evil; who is raw savage destruction. I look forward to seeing what they pick when that comes up-- or whether they decide to stand on their own. There's also long term ramifications for their home village if they turn on the neutral force... their village will lose some protections they never really knew they had... I anticipate much moral dilemma-ing.

While both the NE and CE force I mentioned are unapologetically evil and not even really that sympathetic, there are a number of underlings to the bad guys (on both sides) who do put a more 'human' face on the situation, and it'll be interesting to see how the PCs respond to them too.

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