I’d appreciate some help developing a couple of villains for an upcoming game.
1. The first is an NPC that is a kind of mastermind. He’s planted himself in the group and is secretly behind a lot of the trouble they encounter. I’d like help brainstorming different ways a double agent, voyeuristic, sadist type character could mess with the party. He’s a bit like the guy from Saw, in the room the whole time and kind of a background point til the very end.
2. Help with a much more direct, but equally chaotic encounter with an assassin. I’d like help with the build. What I have in mind might not be effective, so any opinions on alternatives are appreciated. My idea so far is a cartomancer-dipped, hexcrafter magus, who focuses on debuffing any obstacles before assassinating his target.
Can a cartomancer use the deadly dealer touch attack spell as part of a spell combat attack? What are some good build ideas for an ambush style assassin?
Thanks for the help
For the first, I'd advise you to be careful how you handle it, because this sort of thing can mess up not just the current game, but future games as well.
Players (at least until they experience GM treachery) will trust the GM and usually try their best to go along to advance the plot. So when they see what appears to be a helpful NPC they will generally give them the benefit of the doubt and accept them and try to go along.
Once this changes, for example due to the type of NPC you describe, the reverse becomes true, and that can make it very hard to advance the plot in any game you run (this is a player and GM thing, not related to particular characters.) Every NPC is suspected of being a betrayer. Every situation is scanned for the trap the GM must be laying. Many times, this can make it difficult, if not impossible, for a game to advance.
That isn't to say you can never due this sort of thing. Betrayal is an aspect of fantasy after all, but I believe you need to avoid the easy way of trading on player's trust to establish your mole and do the much harder thing of making sure the players understand this NPC might not be on the up and up but give their characters motivation to accept the NPC anyway.
Awesome feedback, thank you. I’ve been doing some reading on running villains, and this has come up frequently. This is precisely the reason I posted asking for help with villain #1. The villain in question has some obvious quirks and shady aspects to their character; he doesn’t cast a shadow (a perfect drawback trait for villains!), animals don’t like him (another great flavor drawback), and accidents seem to happen in every town the party visits (he compulsively commits ritual murders to the Outer Gods wherever he goes). I expect running tensions with the party, if not outright disagreements. Potentially he will even be caught, and just become a more obvious threat.
Besides the no longer trusting NPCs issue, the party is a mix of characters that are only working together due to circumstance. Half the party is “good” aligned, the other half ranges from morally ambiguous, to downright murderous. The whole thing is a balancing act. I suspect my villain will recruit certain party members before too long.
I have an idea, but some parties might not be able to handle this:
Let's call this strategem Succubus in a Grapple:
Recruit one of the PCs to play your villain. He continues to work with the party, but he is also manipulating the party into fulfilling a secret agenda.
Step 1: identify which player can handle this kind of roleplaying.
Step 2: attack that PC with your assassin.
Step 3: replace the PC with the mastermind NPC: I'm thinking a Succubus. Maybe give the Succubus a few levels in Bard, Sorceress, or something to help be a convincing replacement.
Personally, I don't like Assassins as villains targeting the party: I prefer to avoid killing PCs. I guess the Death Attack can be a Make-Unconscious Attack. But what if the assassin weren't an Assassin at all, but a Grappler? Give the character 2 levels in Cavalier, Order of the Penitent + Greater Grapple. If he begins the round adjacent to the opponent, in 1 round, he can Initiate a Grapple as a Standard Action then Tie Up the opponent as a Move Action (Order of the Penitent Ability). The cool thing here is, Members of the Order of the Penitent are in fact forbidden to kill, and it means that when the story arc is over, the cooperating player gets his PC back. This Lawful Good Cavalier might be under the Succubus's Suggestion to tell the party that who they think is a PC is actually an imposter. The Cavalier might even be helping the party complete what they think is a Good quest, but will have most Evil consequences in the long term.
Maybe you can give a side quest to the cooperating PC, trying to find his way out of a Saw-like trap, maybe to defend an orphanage that is losing orphans to Goblins coming up from the sewer into the basement or something, at least, that's what he THINKS he's doing.