Theory-Crafting: Forget the "big bad" of Evil Guy


Advice

Grand Lodge

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So, in other threads people are discussing how to fight dragons and how to overcome the massive DPR of their min/max'd PC's. That got me thinking... about how to be antithesis to what's the norm... Forget the "Big Bad Evil Guy" what about a Tiny Evil Villain? Something with Natural Invisibility, preferably.

My plan- the PC's are doing the usual stint of stopping a "bad man" from doing "bad things" while his true boss- this Tiny Evil Villain there, checking in on his lackey.

Curious to see if these interlopers will go on a quest to stop his machinations, he follows them. Why not? Tiny and Invisible; using Greater Image/Ventriloquism, et all to distract the PC's and "Undetectable Alignment/Vigilante levels" in case the PC's become suspicious and Clairvoyance/Clair-auidence and Scrying to keep track of the party when he has to be away.

I haven't designed a campaign for him... this is more of a theory crafting.
So, what are some good options for a Tiny Megalomaniac, lets set the bar at 15th Lvl. More a manipulator than a blaster.


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Considering how much magical firepower a party at 15th level should have, I think a little evil fellow trying to compete with that with magical tricks of her own would be spectacularly outdone in most cases. See Invisibility is a level 1 spell after all.

I think a solid option for an atypical BBEG is a single-class Thought Killer Vigilante.

She'd be a respected priestess to the public and an evil schemer while in the vigilante identity, and by taking the Many Guises and Everyman Social Talents, she could be the peasant, the beggar, or even the party's favorite bartender. This villain will have constant nondetection, could periodically examine the party's thoughts to see if they suspect her, and could reliably out-bluff the most paranoid Diviner Wizard.

If you make her human with the focused study alternate racial trait, get the Social Grace and Skill Familiarity Social Talents and possibly some customized skill-boosting magic items, she could be the party's male torchbearer one day and distressed granny the next with them none the wiser. (Honestly, the magic items would likely hinder her disguise more than help, as she'd have to explain to the party why she lights up when detect magic is inevitably cast when they all go dungeon crawling.)

Is she a tiny villain with invisibility? No. Is she particularly powerful? No. Yet she is capable of observing a competent party day after day while tending to her ultimate evil plan.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Make the disguise two layered. I was thinking of having a rakshasa act as the party patron for some early levels. He's disguised himself as a gnome that resembles Dungeon Master from the D&D cartoon, but wears a hat of disguise to, as he says, give him some extra height. I imagine that, in a standard to high magic setting, vanity glamours would be fairly common, for people with either the knowledge to make them or the coin to buy them.


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For sneaky Evil Guys, I suggest wearing armor made of lead to block scrying spells. Lead isn't listed as an armor special material, but there's no reason why you couldn't have armor made of it- especially as the DM.

That said, the reason why the Big, Bad Evil Guy is the standard is because it lets martials contribute too. Straight combat is practically the only area where martials can be as useful as casters. If you play a minimal or perfunctory role in the defeat of the villain because of your class, that probably feels unsatisfactory.

If you want to have a sneaky villain, make sure that the solution to defeating them isn't predominantly magical. If your villain can be sussed out by the party sitting in an inn and spam-casting Divination and Contact Other Plane, then they're a poorly-designed villain.

If, on the other hand, the party has to delve into a blood-mage's laboratory to hunt down a vial of the villain's blood drawn before they became a faceless boogeyman in order to perform a ritual to unmask them, then that shows a bit more promise.


Some options for a Tiny/invisible bad guy:

A gnome or halfling with a permanent Reduce Person.

A permanently invisible creature with an aura of Invisible Fog. Invisible fog is a unique effect that acts as Obscuring Mist to anyone with See Invisible, and will not be noticed by anyone else, except perhaps for a strange clamminess in the air.

A Druid who can wild shape into a small harmless looking creature. Easily mistaken for the Evil Lieutenant's pet.


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This concept screams Fey. Start with a gnome bard and add the fey template. For Fey abilities take Change shape, Evasion and spell resistance, plus one other. Take spell focus and greater spell focus illusion.

The reason to go bard vs sorcerer is the bard’s skills especially bardic knowledge will keep him a step ahead of the players. The bards performances especially suggestion can be use off stage to really screw up the players.


Milkshaketeer wrote:
... get the Social Grace and Skill Familiarity Social Talents ...

Correction: The Social Grace talent doesn't stack with the bonus you get from the Many Guises and Everyman talents, and only applies in the social identity. Skill Familiarity would still be solid.

InvisiblePink wrote:
... and Contact Other Plane ...

I just realized that spell is safe for an Herbalist Alchemist or Lore Shaman to lose the intelligence check on. They don't cast arcane spells, and they don't rely on either Intelligence or Charisma. They'd lose a high-level extract/mid-level spell for no effect, but it's a far lower cost than other classes. With the Herbalist, you can have a plant in the party's favorite tavern who's scheming to end most intelligent life for the preservation of nature, partnering up with some powerful beasts in the process.


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Pinky and the Brain!


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Fear Itself wrote:

Giles : Oh, bloody hell. The inscription.

Buffy : What's the matter?

Giles : I should've translated the Gaelic inscription under the illustration of Gachnar.

Buffy : What's it say?

Giles : "Actual size."


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You can get a lot of mileage out of an intellect devourer, which is Small (or Tiny). Add a few caster levels and a selection of host bodies and you're good to go. Until the players realise what's going on, they might think they've defeated the *BEG and find it comes back in another form. And naturally, there can be more than one.


I love this one. ^^^


The BBEG of the module I'm writing (shameless advertisement) is a medium-sized mothman. He's much more sneaky than showy and imposing, he's got project image, dimension door, greater invisibility, and he can fly. He's a manipulator, not a leader.

He mostly charms or dominates creatures to use as figureheads rather than doing the work himself- partially cause he's cautious, and partially cause he's a mothman and it's in his nature.

Tiny (or small) megalomaniac?

Gnome ex-adventurer. He's beginning to go Bleached and wants to reverse it in any way possible- with no concern for what his quest for new sensations will do to others.

Dragon magically stuck in wyrmling form (pissed off the wrong hag) who's counteracted his physical weakness by taking levels of sorcerer or some other casting class. Maybe he wants to undo the curse that stopped his growth, or maybe he wants to become something new entirely.

Thought Eater who consumed the right BBEG after heroes defeated them, and now sees itself as that villain reborn. Think of the PCs' faces when they realize that the thing behind their plight is an evil warlord in the body of a flying platypus.

That's the only two I've got right now. :p


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Just going to throw this out there: what do you think the fight against your tiny bad guy is going to look like? Will it excite the players? Will it be fun? How high is the frustration level going to be?

Different thought: Why evil? Chaotic Neutral tiny fay of enabling. The fay found a BBG. Thought he was fun. Decides to 'help' him. BBG wins too much. Stagnates. Becomes booring. Fay leaves.

Fay finds heroes. At least one hero is fun. Follows heroes. They win. Fay doesn't like the adventure ending. Remembers BBG. Fay hatches plot to frame the BBG so the heroes will go challenge him. Results don't matter, this should be fun Might even pull the BBG out of his rut and make him fun again, if he wins.

Tiny fay leaves clues to its existence. The main one being that the frame job was sloppy and the BBG + followers have no idea why the heroes have shown up. It doesn't bother them. They have done plenty of villainy, just not the villainy they are accused of. BBG should point this out before the fight.

Grand Lodge

Meirril wrote:

Just going to throw this out there: what do you think the fight against your tiny bad guy is going to look like? Will it excite the players? Will it be fun? How high is the frustration level going to be?

Different thought: Why evil? Chaotic Neutral tiny fay of enabling. The fay found a BBG. Thought he was fun. Decides to 'help' him. BBG wins too much. Stagnates. Becomes booring. Fay leaves.

Fay finds heroes. At least one hero is fun. Follows heroes. They win. Fay doesn't like the adventure ending. Remembers BBG. Fay hatches plot to frame the BBG so the heroes will go challenge him. Results don't matter, this should be fun Might even pull the BBG out of his rut and make him fun again, if he wins.

Tiny fay leaves clues to its existence. The main one being that the frame job was sloppy and the BBG + followers have no idea why the heroes have shown up. It doesn't bother them. They have done plenty of villainy, just not the villainy they are accused of. BBG should point this out before the fight.

Navi leads Heroes to fight BBG, BBG wastes hero's party but leaves hero alive to spite him.

Navi sees Hero fall into a doom spiral and promises to help, Navi knows old Tree that can bring back friends but is very stingy.
Navi has BRILLIANT IDEA- con the big bad into fighting stingy ent, get ent to promise to help Hero in return.
Profit.


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Ahh, the scheming bad guy. Whether Tiny or Huge, invisible or omnipresent, it always comes down to the schemes. Y'see, all the non-detection, illusion and divination in the world only provides the villain with info... info the GM already has since, y'know, they're the GM. So what does the GM DO with all that info in the hands of their scheming villain?

Well, they scheme, right?

Now consider what you're already doing when you have a "big bad" planned at the end of your campaign. Said villain is 15th level and likely has some plans going on that don't even notice the level 1 PCs until they become a fly in the ointment. Once they DO become an issue, does the evil guy at level 15 teleport in and lay waste to the low-level heroes themselves? NO, of course not; they send some minions.

I guess what I'm saying is, lots of "big bads" are schemers capable of going invisible, using non-detection items and spying on the party without the need for "extreme subterfuge" like taking vigilante levels and hanging around in bars.

I say focus instead on what makes them a villain, rather than what powers/size category they have. If the villain is a manipulator, why not make the party of heroes its minions?

For that matter, WHY is the villain so... villainous? Is it simply a narcissistic obsession with personal power, or perhaps an elaborate revenge plot? Are they trying to save someone they care about the only way they know or perhaps pursuing an agenda for the "greater good" that only THEY have the mental fortitude to execute (looking at you, Thanos).

After all that, you could take a Human Wizard 15 with a few well-chosen magic items and WHAM! You've got the villain you need. Or a demon, or a fey sorceress, or an ogre cleric, a dragon, an advanced, awakened giant ant with levels in Vigilante... take your pick.


Ant man!


An unseelie pixie comes to mind - levels of Sorc. could get wicked pretty quick. Bard is another interesting possibility, but silent spell could be so much fun here.


Will-o-wisp could make a fun villain: small, natural invisibility, relatively intelligent, IMMUNE TO MOST MAGIC, feeds on fear, doesn’t age. Through some levels in a caster class, I personally like Mesmerist, that it picked up in its years and you’ve got a fantastic “man” behind the curtain that could easily be playing multiple sides for years to cause chaos and fear for it to feed on.


Well, how about Scrappy-Doo from the Scooby-Doo movie?

Sort-of evil, tiny, mastermind. Uses his abilities to stay hidden from the party until the end.

/cevah


My party hired these fellows on after an epic game of cat and mouse that spanned sessions. They were made for 10th level but I elevated them to 16th for you, except I really can't be bothered to get them new spells or feats or magus arcana. Sorry. Maybe given a few days to tinker with them I'd have them fully up to snuff.

Pugwampi Tricksters:
Pugwampi Trickster
Pugwampi 1/Hexcrafter Eldritch Archer Magus 16
3, 24, 8, 24, 14, 12
HP: 62hp
SR 23, DR 15/Cold Iron
AC: 31 (10 +2 Size +7 Dexterity +3 Natural Armor +3 Deflection +6 Mithral Chain Coat)
14/20/21
BAB +12/7/2
CMB: +6
CMD: 23
To Hit: +24/19/14
+3 Conductive Shortbow: 1d4-1
Skills: 128
Stealth (16): + 44 (without invisibility)
Perception (16): 21
Sense Motive (11): 16
Bluff (16): 20
Diplomacy (11): 15
Acrobatics (10): 19
Escape Artist (10): 19
Disable Device (10): 19
Sleight of Hand (10): 19
Climb (1): 10
Swim (1): 10
Spellcraft (16): 26

SQ: Tricky Magic -> Stealth vs perception to avoid showing magic
Ranged Spell Combat, Ranged Spellstrike, Hex Magus, Knowledge Pool, Improved Spell Combat, Fighter Training, Heavy Armor, Medium Armor, Focusing Spellstrike
SLA: At Will - Prestidigitation, Speak with Animals, Shatter

Unluck Aura (Su)
A pugwampi radiates an aura of unluck to a radius of 20 feet. Any creature in this area must roll two d20s whenever a situation calls for a d20 roll (such as an attack roll, a skill check, or a saving throw) and must use the lower of the two results generated. This is a mind-affecting effect that does not work on animals, other gremlins, or gnolls. Any character who gains any sort of luck bonus (such as that granted by a luckstone or divine favor) is immune to the pugwampi unluck aura.

Feat: Racial: Arcane Strike, Riving Strike, Latent Curse
1: Expert Sniper
3: Skill Focus Stealth
3: Magus Arcana - Accursed Strike
5: Signature Skill: Stealth
5: Extra Magus Arcana (Slumber)
6: Magus Arcana - Spell Blending
7: Hellcat Stealth
9: Soothsayer
9: Magus Arcana - Arcane Scent
11: Protective Fortune
12: Magus Arcana -
13:
15:
15: Magus Arcana -

Hexes: Scar, Slumber, Protective Fortune

Spells Prepared (Spells Known at bottom)
Spells: 5/7/7/7/5/4/2
0: Detect Magic, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Mage Hand, Read Magic
1: Expeditious Retreat, Itching Curse, Silent Image, Unseen Servant, Grease, Auditory Hallucination, Hex Vulnerability
2: Puzzlebox, Invisibility, Spider Climb, Blindness/Deafness, Time Shudder, ________, _______
3: Bestow Curse, Major Image, Selective Invisibility, Dispel Magic, ________, _______, ________
4: Mischievous Shadow, Illusion of Treachery, _______, ________, _______
5: _______, ________, _______, ______
6: ___________, ___________

Spells Known:
0: Detect Magic, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Mage Hand, Read Magic, Dancing Lights
1: Expeditious Retreat, Itching Curse, Silent Image, Unseen Servant, Grease, Auditory Hallucination, Hex Vulnerability, Ill Omen, Glue Seal
2: Puzzlebox, Invisibility, Spider Climb, Blindness/Deafness, Time Shudder, Shifted Steps, Lesser Curse Terrain, Mark of Blood, Pilfering Hand
3: Bestow Curse, Major Image, Selective Invisibility, Dispel Magic, Fly, Calamitous Flailing, Arcane Sight, Curse of Disgust, Kalistocrat’s Nightmare, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Mindlocked Messager
4: Mischievous Shadow, Illusion of Treachery, Curse Terrain, Curse of the Outcast, Curse of Burning Sleep, Absorb Rune, Complex Hallucination, Dimension Door, Lesser Geas
5: 6+ New Spells
6: 2+ New Spells

Anyway, with the ability to deliver curses from a distance, along with a conductive longbow to deliver Hexes through their shortbow attacks, these little puggies are horribly difficult to pin down. Selecting quite a bit of illusion and counter magic inbetween the fantastically fun curses they can deliver allows them to pretty much come and go as they please. Hellcat Stealth for hide in plain sight means they don't even need to worry about constant invisibility. The little ability I'm fairly certain I made up (not gonna definately take credit, these guys showed up months ago and I didn't cite my sources) called Tricky Magic means that unless the players can beat their stealth roll they can hide their magic too.

Watching my players mobilize an entire clan of dwarves to chase these guys into a trap was one of my favorite moments from my current campaign. The fact that they are still part of the campaign as hirelings makes me giddy.


Two variants on the party antagonist from my friend's campaign (sadly ended early):

1) The Dubious Benefactor. A LE caster who never attacked us or, as far as we were aware, ever caused us any trouble. In fact he commissioned us for a couple of jobs that appeared to be quite legit, paid well and promptly. He was careful to arrange a couple of meetings that would show him to be powerful and merciless. "But it's just business." IIRC the GM said he was never more than a couple of levels above us, but he made it a point to never give us a reason to come after him. Eventually he could have turned into the BBEG, or maybe we would have worked an arrangement and the Final Boss would have been someone else.

2) The Pain in the Neck. This was a Druid, also no more than a couple of levels higher than us. But she was very much at cross-purposes to our party and almost never let us see her directly. Instead she popped up near us, tossed some spells or summons that interfered with what we were doing, sometimes snagged the mcguffin before us, and always had a getaway. The last time we saw her she was a couple of hundred feet away on the edge of a roof by the river. Flipped us the finger, dove off the roof and turned into a seal or something on the way down. I think in the end her status could have gone multiple directions depending on how we decided to approach her. She was basically a nature champion, and we were from the primary city in that world.


Smallfoot wrote:

Two variants on the party antagonist from my friend's campaign (sadly ended early):

1) The Dubious Benefactor. A LE caster who never attacked us or, as far as we were aware, ever caused us any trouble. In fact he commissioned us for a couple of jobs that appeared to be quite legit, paid well and promptly. He was careful to arrange a couple of meetings that would show him to be powerful and merciless. "But it's just business." IIRC the GM said he was never more than a couple of levels above us, but he made it a point to never give us a reason to come after him. Eventually he could have turned into the BBEG, or maybe we would have worked an arrangement and the Final Boss would have been someone else.

2) The Pain in the Neck. This was a Druid, also no more than a couple of levels higher than us. But she was very much at cross-purposes to our party and almost never let us see her directly. Instead she popped up near us, tossed some spells or summons that interfered with what we were doing, sometimes snagged the mcguffin before us, and always had a getaway. The last time we saw her she was a couple of hundred feet away on the edge of a roof by the river. Flipped us the finger, dove off the roof and turned into a seal or something on the way down. I think in the end her status could have gone multiple directions depending on how we decided to approach her. She was basically a nature champion, and we were from the primary city in that world.

Now THAT is a hilarious mental image.


Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
Smallfoot wrote:

Two variants on the party antagonist from my friend's campaign (sadly ended early):

1) The Dubious Benefactor. A LE caster who never attacked us or, as far as we were aware, ever caused us any trouble. In fact he commissioned us for a couple of jobs that appeared to be quite legit, paid well and promptly. He was careful to arrange a couple of meetings that would show him to be powerful and merciless. "But it's just business." IIRC the GM said he was never more than a couple of levels above us, but he made it a point to never give us a reason to come after him. Eventually he could have turned into the BBEG, or maybe we would have worked an arrangement and the Final Boss would have been someone else.

2) The Pain in the Neck. This was a Druid, also no more than a couple of levels higher than us. But she was very much at cross-purposes to our party and almost never let us see her directly. Instead she popped up near us, tossed some spells or summons that interfered with what we were doing, sometimes snagged the mcguffin before us, and always had a getaway. The last time we saw her she was a couple of hundred feet away on the edge of a roof by the river. Flipped us the finger, dove off the roof and turned into a seal or something on the way down. I think in the end her status could have gone multiple directions depending on how we decided to approach her. She was basically a nature champion, and we were from the primary city in that world.

Now THAT is a hilarious mental image.

See, I love antagonists like this, but some of the players at my table absolutely loathe it when they don't automatically get to murder the mastermind as soon as the party sees them.

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