Split from the devils/demon thread.

Many DMs have started using villains that tie in to eventual epic threats. I submit that it would be a good idea to coordinate before we end up with dozens of different world shaking terrors that often contradict each other and that are encountered once in a specific adventure never to be seen again.

1 - We should establish a handful of archetypical Evil forces. DM would be advised to use of one of these Forces when creating an adventure that goes beyond street level and into world shaking events. As long as the story is just about a nobles rivalrly, treasure hunting, gang violence etc. there is no need. But if you include threats of invasion, attempts to overtrow the mayor, a plot to unleash a world ending entity or anything that threatens the statu quo, it should come from one of the established major players.

2 - We should create a log for these major Forces and ask that DM enter the victories and setback such forces have suffered during their adventure as well as the PCs involved. DMs should check on these before creating an adventure that involves these major forces.

The objective is to create a sense of continuity. As level increases, adventures will more and more involve powerful threats. If a player can counteracts the plans of entity X in two different adventures and its feel like the same enemy both time, it creates a sense of continuity. If two different PCs meet at the tavern and can discuss about how their actions against the same entity are connected, it improves the sense of community.

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I suggest that anyone who wishes to contibute a potential major antagonist for L4W does so here.

We will debate, eliminate and modify these suggestions until a final list is approved.

Here are some of my suggestions.

The Usurper

The Usurper

Archetype: Fallen entity of great power seeking resurrection, Things-that-man-was-not-meant-to-know

Description: Aeons ago, the Usurper was the eldest and most powerful of the gods. Or is it of the titans? Maybe it is Ouranos or Chaos itself. It all happened so long ago that no one knows but the gods and they aren’t talking. It is believed that at the dawn of time, the Usurper attempted to overthrow the Powers of the day to rule alone. The few who know of the Usurper assume it occurred early in the gods’ ascension to power, others think it was a war between primordials (Titans).

The attempt sparked a conflict that would have killed every mortal had there been any. It ended with the utter destruction and scattering of the essence of the would-be ruler of everything. But you can’t truly kill a being as powerful as the Usurper. Its essence roams creation and gathers in pockets. Sometime in creates a pocket in the astral plane, stores itself in a powerful artefact or even in the soul of a mortal with the right disposition. Some of these pockets of essence have regained various degrees of sentience and awareness of other pockets.

The Usurper wants to reform. But by now it no longer craves power; it has gone utterly insane. It wants the end of all thing. A true end. No more cycles.

Truth: I don’t even know who could possibly know that, but the truth is that the war against the Usurper did destroy the universe and then rebooted it. It occurred before the gods, the titans, before chaos itself. The essence of all immortal beings scattered and reformed in haphazard way in the new universe, very slowly and erratically. Not even the gods truly know the Usurper but they have a kind of primal memory of the incident. This is a large part of their anti-interventionist stance. They feel in their very core what a war between deities can lead to.

Stats: None. If it reforms, the world ends. It was a different universe, back when it was first defeated. Power was more thickly concentrated. In this new universe, too much essence is scattered over billions of mortal creature. They’d never be able to unite in time to contribute any kind of resistance.

Ultimate Goal: Destroy creation.

Ploys

1-Reform at all cost
2-Cause a god to go mad and then trigger a genocidal war. Failing that, doing the same to any lesser power or even a powerful mortal is good too.
3-Spread nihilism and apathy. The less people want to fight, the easier ending the universe will be.

Theme

Madness: Eons of being barely sentient made him stark raving mad. It still has some of its former trappings of ambition and rulership, but this is just to seduce the more craven of his followers, those who expect riches and powers once he is back in power. None who truly have its favour expect anything else than sweet oblivion from his return. These followers have been maimed by existence so badly that suicide is not even attractive; they want the whole world to end. The back stories of such antagonists should be filled with tragedies, impossible choices, loved ones lost in horrible circumstances etc.

Nameless: The Usurper has no name anymore. It has been destroyed along with the previous universe and it has forgotten it. It doesn’t even have a name for itself, for that matter. The ‘Usurper’ moniker seeped from the gods’ primal memories. It is how they think of this thing.

Nihilism: Those of his followers who are coherent enough to express thoughts are often thoroughly nihilist. Check it on Webster if you have to.

Foreboding Artefacts: Some of its essence is trapped in ancient artefacts. Some of these were crafted by followers for the purpose of collecting its essence, some were just corrupted. These artefact are likely to drive insane anyone who is in contact with them for too long. Gathering such artefacts and combining their essence is a common ploy amongst the cultists.

Possessed: Powerful leaders of the Usurper’s cause often are possessed/contaminated by some of its essence. In effect, they are an infinitely diluted version of the Usurper itself. Rinch the Riser is one example of such. Such figures are not tragic heroes; they are engines of entropy. Killing them usually only lead to their swift reincarnation. Heroes have to look into some way to trap them or disrupt the reincarnation cycle.

End of time theology: They often coat their philosophy into religious discourse.

Flaw: Just about every sentient force fighting under the usurper’s banner is calling for oblivion. They want to die, basically! They should be outright suicidal in their tactics and schemes, often wasting resources that could have lived to fight another day.

In a nutshell: Tharizdun focusing on shadow instead of elemental powers with a pinch of millenarian sect.

Forces: Nihilists cultists of all breed with the occasional tragic figures driven mad by grief that might be rescued. A core group of followers are Shadar-Kai. Anything with a shadowfell origin or the ‘shadow’ keyword is good. In fact, he should be the primary source of such monsters. Anything tainted with shadow and madness also fits, like Death Giants. Many undead work too, but stay away from free-willed undead who aren’t seeking oblivion (Vampires, for examples).


Asmodeus, The Prince

Asmodeus, The Prince

Everyone knows Asmodeus. That’s what is great about him; I don’t have to make a long description! He is the unquestioned ruler of the devils. Cunning, powerful, ambitious, patient. You know the deal.

Stats: None. He can be thwarted, he shouldn’t be killable.

Ultimate goal: He wants to become a god. In Core 4e Asmodeus has become a god but in L4W he is still working at this most emblematic objective.

Ploys:

1-Amass enough worshipers to be a god by default.
2-Coerce the gods into granting him godhood.
3-Corrupting divine aligned forces to his service.

Theme:

Disciplined: I recommend emphasizing the devils ability to work together. Sure, we can’t turn our back entirely on classic tales of backstabbing politics in hell, but there are plenty of evil forces who are their own worst enemies. Keep the jockeying for position within the limits of what you’d expect in a well-run army. A disciplined, motivated host of devils working together for their own greater good is much scarier proposition than one more self-destructive group of villains. Asmodeus’ troopss should be portrayed as fairly respectful and obedient to their leaders and willing to work with each other to the point where seeing devils turning on each other is a twist in the story and not something you would expect going in. At their best, Asmodeus forces are a meritocracy where the powerful and cunning naturally move up the ranks without the need for useless bloodshed. They use this feature prominently in their propaganda when touting their supremacy.

Calculating: Good tactics and backup plans should be integral to any adventure against devils. They don’t throw resources away. Not devil resources anyway. Useless rabble, on occasion, but that’s not their first instinct. Asmodeus wants to be worshipped like a god, after all, and even a weakling human cultist is at least good for that. A dead cultist just benefits Lauto.

Machiavellian: They don’t just conquer, they convince and manipulate. In fact, that’s their first instinct. Remember that they are political creatures capable of generating loyalty through the savant dosage of cruelty and generosity (Good old stick and carrot). Turning an ally of the PC against them is a good way of demonstrating that. A gift from a devil does NOT need to be poisoned, by the way. As long as they value what they are receiving more than what they are giving, it’s all right with them. After all, if you are satisfied of your dealing with the devils, you will come back for more...

Ambitious: When they show up, always make sure that Asmodeus’ troops are involved in a credible and efficient ploy to amass more power. If they are not doing that, they’ll feel like token monsters for the encounter. They are not roaming vagabonds!

Leadership: Every adventure against Asmodeus Troops should feature prominently a charismatic and rational leader. Every villains should have flaws, but being indecisive or unable to obtain the loyalty of his troops shouldn’t be attached to one of Asmodeus’ henchman.

Flaw: Pride and overconfidence.

In a nutshell: Imagine them as a soulless corporation out to corner the worshipping market and break the monopoly of the gods.

Forces: Devils. Lots of devils. Corrupted angels (Asmodeus loves them, it’s a bit of a signature). Various civilized and ambitious humanoid worshippers (Humans, Hobgoblins and Duergars should be heavily represented). The odd powerful sentient worshiper like a dragon.


Moloch, Khan of the horde

Moloch, Khan of the horde

Moloch is the most powerful and cunning fiend in the abyss. He has coerced the loyalty of more demons than any other and plays the other lord one against the other to stay on top. He dreams of conquering and laying waste to creation, using it as a perpetual playground for his debauchery. Trouble is, he spend as much time quelling rebellions and bringing to heel ‘lesser’ demons lord who are barely weaker than he is.

Stats: Unlike Asmodeus, he should be killable. Solo level 30 to 32. Is death would lead to a power struggle and be an occasion to give a new face to the demon horde.

Theme:

Hedonistic sadism: Moloch wants to have fun. Power is only a mean to an end, not an end. It brings him the freedom to do what he wants to do. And what he wants to do is inflict suffering. He likes battle, but he likes the aftermath even more because it comes with prisoners. He especially enjoy powerful and pure victim. In absence of such quality prey, millions of mortals screaming in agony are a fine substitute. DMs do have a responsibility not to alienate players but having Moloch’s fiends as enemies should also be an opportunity to push the envelope. It’s kind of a DM version of the Aristocrat joke. There is no avoiding this; this is a foe that revels in massacre, in rapes, in torture, in torment. Just remember that there are minors on this site. Suggesting instead of graphically describing might be a good idea.

Divide to conquer: To maintain power, Moloch has to create conflicts between the others powerful demons, both his underlings and those he doesn’t command. That doesn’t make him nearly as Machiavellian as Asmodeus; demons aren’t that hard to goad. But the point is, unlike devils, the Demons are self-destructive. The same is true of their mortal followers. An adventure involving Moloch’s forces should involve inter-villains squabble if possible. If there are more than one figure of authority (whether actual demons or lesser followers), there should be tension.

Rivals to supremacy: There are other demons lords that do not bow to Moloch. Feel free to introduce another powerful demon at odds with Moloch. Just remember that Moloch is more powerful and is actively trying to bring him down. Like, right now. It should inform every action that lesser demon lord is taking (meaning he is in survival mode).

Berseker: Moloch himself is more about the sadism, but many of his fiends are all about the savagery of combat. They should behave accordingly.
Ultimate Goal: Fun. Acquiring a large and heavily populated tract of land along with a few powerful beings would make him happy for a few generations. Most of the faithful demon lords want to provide this for Moloch in order to gain his favours.

Flaws: Did I mention berseker? Most demons shouldn’t be too tactical.

In a nutshell: The barbarian hordes meet the hellfire club.

Forces: Demons. Lots of Demons. Debased creature of elemental origins (Titans, Djinns, archons...) Savage humanoids (Gnolls, Minotaurs and Orcs in particular), sadistic cultist, serial killers and rapists worshipping him etc.


Akneth, the black widow

Akneth, The Black Widow, the Dark Mother

Akneth is an ancient deep dragon (Purple). She was powerful when the elves were young and the most marking event of her life was the exile of the elves that would become the drow. Disoriented and angry after their forced exodus from their eladrin homeland in the imperium, they drew the attention of the ever curious Akneth. She befriended a band, earned their devotion and led them to found Yenethrocal, the city that would grow to become the most powerful in the underworld.

Ever curious, Akneth toyed with her new disciples, twisting their fey energy and their very bodies. (She is the reason for the differences between drows and eladrin that wouldn’t otherwise be so marked, she is also the reason for their matriarchy).

What Akneth hadn’t counted on and will never admit is that just as she was shaping her drows, her drows were shaping her. As millennia passed, she grew to see her children’s imposed exile as an insult to her. Her specie’s natural inclination toward exploration turned to desire for conquests. She brought to heel the majority of the other drow cities and enslaved countless hordes.
Now, feeling in her bones like the mother of the drows, she wants to avenge her children’s honour. It’s time to look upward.

Stats: An ancient Deep Dragon with a few spider themed powers.

Theme:

Vengeance and injured pride: When dealing with the upside world, an overwhelming desire to prove their superiority should guide the drows.

Slavery and demon summoning: There aren’t that many drows. Akneth’s forces have at best a 1/10 ratio of free warriors to slaves. They also rely heavily on summoned demon (Even before the exile). That means a huge army but pitiful morale (unless facing an elite commando). Few encounters with Akneth’s forces should be homogeneous. Mix and match heavily from the recommended list.

Matriarchy: Akneth devours all her male progeny and refuses to have direct dealings with any male except during mating seasons. Suffice to say that she is a black widow in that regard. Refusing to deal directly with males means that absolutely all of the upper echelons of Akneth’s army and government is composed of females (drows and female dragon daughter).

Akneth’s favoured children: Akneth loves her drow but she favours even more her dragon daughters. Female Deep dragons of various age play an important role of leadership in the army. This causes some jealousy amongst high ranking female drows.

Callous: While drows lives are precious, their slaves’ are not. Every time you can show that by sacrificing a lesser race to help a drow/dragon, do it.

Flaws: Beside their natural chaotic tendencies, the ratio of slave to drows is just too high. History teaches us a thing or two about that kind of situation.

In a nutshell: A matriarchal Imperial Rome in the underdark

Forces: Drows and deep dragons, umber hulks, delver, drider, anything underground that can be enslaved (troglodytes, kobolds, gnomes, grimlocks etc.) and a few powerful beings worth allying with (Beholder, illithids), summoned demons.


Perses, the heir of Ouranos,


Perses, heir of Ouranos

Wise men teach of the conflict between Ge, Ouranos and Chaos. They teach that Ouranos loved Ge and Chaos was jealous, that he wounded Ge and from her blood was born the universe. They teach that Ge, exhausted, fell asleep and that Ouranos embraced her into slumber, never to awaken, leaving creation in the hands of their children.

LIES!

The gods took opportunity of a quarrel between their betters to kill a weakened Ge. Ouranos, tied as he was to her, was fell at the same time. They imprisoned most of the others primordials and now rule supreme.
Ouranos is truly dead, there is no disputing it. But not all of the primordials fell to the gods. Perses was a very minor titan, a mythology footnote. He is the son of Crius and Eurybia, themselves low ranking primordials, and he controlled the domain of destruction back when he was in power, under the supervision of more powerful titans like Phoebos (who controlled war). He had only one child; Hekate. Not taking in the least from her old man, she fared better in the aftermath of the war, to say the least.

Perses fell early into the new oceans early in the war, grievously wounded, and lay forgotten for aeons while he healed. Now he is back, and he is pissed. There isn’t much more to it. He will avenge his parents while proving himself the greatest of the primordials. His essence has become irrevocably tied to the material plane while he healed deep within the womb of the world. He always stood for destruction but now he is hurricane, earthquake, avalanche and tsunami. He is nature’s destructive power.

He realizes the god have removed himself from creation. Fine. Then he will lay waste to creation. Either they show themselves for a showdown or they watch powerlessly.

Stats: Powerful Titan combining many domains, late epic

Theme:

Relentless: Fighting Perses forces is like fighting an avalanche. Hold on to your seat because they are coming at you until all of their energy is expanded.

Insecure: While he currently is the most dangerous active titan, Perses was long one of the most insignificant. He always needs to prove himself and can be goaded into mistakes by playing on his feelings of inadequacy.

Physical Prowess: while creatures of agility and sorcerous might do follow Perses, his favour goes to the physically powerful. Leaders should always be giants, dragons and such. The biggest and baddest on the field, basically. As a rule of thumb, if it can’t slug it out mano-mano in a duel, it can’t lead Perses’ forces.

Monstrous and Powerful: Perses forces tend to be few but overwhelmingly powerful. Use few to no minions, use a lot of elites and solos.
Power over the elements: Perses forces often display some mastery over the elements.

Conquest for conquest’s sake: Not exactly a builder, Perses is happy to claim a victory by utterly destroying his enemy, even if there is virtually nothing left to rule over. During a conquest, egregious collateral damage is the norm. His wiser lieutenants will make effort to rebuild the conquered land in order to support the war machine once Perses attention has moved elsewhere.

Ultimate Goal: Destruction. Not of the world, but of enemies. The truth is that he is being faithful to his nature. He doesn't realize it. He is convinced that his real goal is to rule the gods precious creation in order to avenge his parents, but he is only really happy when destroying nations. The proof is, he doesn't bother looking after his conquests. Many of his lieutenants realize that and are more than happy to swoop in behind him to rebuild what is left in Perses wake into their petty kingdom.


Ploys:

1- Make an example: The more you resist, the more widespread the destruction. Only through immediate surrender will you be (mostly) spared.
2-Natural disaster as a weapons: Through powerful rituals, create Tsunamis, Earthquake and so on.
3-Scorched Earth Policy: If Perses forces are about to lose ground, they destroy everything before withdrawing.

Forces: Titans, Giants, Ogres, Fomorian, Dragons, Wyverns, Archons... Anyhthing powerful attached mostly to the material or elemental planes (though not Demons; the demon lords are usually fallen primordials that were imprisoned and so are rivals). Also, due to his long slumber in the ocean, Perses has a fondness for sea creatures. While he doesn’t usually like puny humanoids, he is worshipped by sahugins which he tolerates because they played an important role in his return to health. He also controls krakens, sea dragons and other sea monsters.