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Favorite Villain/ memorable Big Bads

ModernApathy

Explorer
Just to compliment the ‘Favourite character you never got to play’
How about a favourite most memorable Villain / big bad guy thread? Either that you ran as DM, or came up against as a player.

Although he wasn’t the over-arching villain, I had a young Black Dragon called Cottonmouth in my last campaign who was just coming into his late teens (or the dragon equivalent) and had started throwing his weight around the swamp where the PC’s had to get through.

The name came from watching the reality show ‘Swamp people’ where one the guys on the show talked about the Cottonmouth being the deadliest snake around.

To play on the name a bit the Dragon had a been in a fight at some point and it’s jaw was torn open up one side of it’s mouth which made it appear to hang loose. In game terms I had it’s breath weapon act more like a cloud spray of acid, covering a greater area of effect for slightly less damage.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
I introduced a nobleman in my pirate campaign, called Alfredo Poussin. I played him like an absolute ***hole, to really get under the player's skin. The funny thing is, he wasn't even a big bad guy by any means, but he really made life difficult for the players regardless. It started when he challenged one of their npc crew members, a man nick-named Rummy, to a duel to the death, over a girl who was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Rummy, in a heated moment, accepted to duel the man, without knowing what this meant. This sort of thing has some historical validity. Noblemen of the swashbuckler period would often duel people to the death, knowing they could easily beat them with their knowledge of fencing. It was basically legal murder.

So now the players were in quite a bind. Rummy would never beat an experienced fencer, so they would have to teach him to fence, and/or find a way to cheat. First of all they visited Alfredo Poussin (the nobleman) and tried to reason with him. But after meeting with him, they realized just what a jerk he was, and that there was no reasoning with him. They met with the greatest swordsman in the city, the Great Ravelli, who had taught many noblemen how to fence, including our bad guy. He would try and teach Rummy to fight as best he could, given the short time. He expressed his disappointment about having to teach fencing to so many hot-headed noblemen, who carelessly would throw their lives away for petty matters.

The players visited the father of the girl whom this whole duel was about, who was a wealthy merchant. They learned that the father did not like the idea of his daughter being with some lowly drunk pirate like Rummy, and that the nobleman was much more befitting of her status. But they tried to convince the man that the nobleman was a really bad guy, and that Rummy had a good heart. They were unsure if they had succeeded to convince the father when they left his house, but there was some doubt on his face after this meeting.

The players studied the local rules of duelling, and found out that both parties would get to appoint a wizard to check that no magical cheating was involved in the duel. This complicated their plans to cheat a bit. They also found out that they were allowed to appoint a second, who would take the place of the person challenged to the duel.

Meanwhile the players also had to deal with the appointment of a new ruler of the city, after the previous regent was assassinated. They attended a meeting between noblemen and important representatives of the city and had to try and convince them to vote a particular way. Of course our jerk nobleman was also present at this meeting, and one of the possible new regents. The players had to make sure that people would not vote for him.

The day of the duel eventually arrived, and the players had convinced Rummy to appoint one of the player-characters to fight in his place. He did as instructed by the players, but this prompted our jerk nobleman to also appoint a second.... and he appointed the Great Ravelli to fight in his place. What a twist! The duel eventually ended in a draw, but when the nobleman insisted that one of the two must die, the honorable Ravelli refused, and so did the player. While Ravelli could not refuse the nobleman's initial appointment, he was under no obligation to also kill for him. He chose not to spill any more blood, as befitting his alignment.

The players managed to distract the audience, so that their captain could quickly knock the jerk nobleman into the water with his Ring of the Ram. The druid of the party then shapeshifted into a shark and ensured that the nobleman never made it to the surface. So did no one see this blatant murder happen? Well, there were subtle hints that the girl's father had seen what happened... but he kept his mouth shut about it. Perhaps he had indeed changed his mind about who his daughter should be with. And so it all connected into one cohesive story. I was pretty proud how it all worked out.
 
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Imaculata

Explorer
I had another memorable villain in my pirate campaign that was a lot worse. A Kturgian pirate captain called Karagoz, who terrorized the shores of the Emerald Coast. The man was incredibly cruel (as some historical pirates were as well). His moment of utmost cruelty, was when he tried to convince the count of a local town to tell him where he had hidden the citizens of that town, with of course the intent to ravage and murder them all. He threatened to cut off the arm of his daughter, unless he told him where the towns people were hiding, but the count refused. Karagoz made true on his threats and severed the young girl's arm. But the count's choice saved the lives of many people.

Flash forward to the present, and his daughter is now the countess. Still missing an arm and hopeful to see Karagoz brought to justice some day. Karagoz had been captured once in the past, but was then released again as part of a peace treaty between the two countries of St Valenz and Kturgia. The players decided to try and lure him out, and bring him to her alive. This lead to a large scale naval battle, which ultimately resulted with Karagoz in shackles.

Even in chains, Karagoz tried his best to terrorize the onlookers. He tried to anger the players and tempt them to kill him. He also gleefully reminisced about the time he severed the arm of the young countess, in front of her family. Especially her uncle needed tremendous restraint to not slay the evil pirate, but he barely moved a muscle. As Karagoz was brought before the countess, the players imagined all manner of gruesome sentences for the pirate. But his fate was ultimately far more subtle.

The countess understood that Karagoz wanted to be feared. He wanted his name to strike fear in the hearts of every living soul. And so she decided that he should simply be forgotten.... no one would know what had become of him. She told him that it must have pained him to this very day, that her father never gave up the location where he had hidden the townsfolk. Well... he would now find out. She sentenced him to be locked away in the town well, where those townfolks hid in terror as they heard the town being murdered. But he would not be alone in the darkness, he would be locked in there with his men, and with no food. They would then place a large stone on top of the well, and forget about him. She told him that he and his men would get to know each other really well, as hunger eventually would set in.

The players loved this ending for the cruel pirate captain. No gruesome bloodshed or torture.. just a subtle punishment, and yet horrific if you think about it. Because eventually Karagoz and his men would have to eat each other down in that well... and no one would ever know.
 

ModernApathy

Explorer
>>I introduced a nobleman in my pirate campaign, called Alfredo Poussin. I played him like an absolute ***hole, to really get under the player's skin<<

Alfredo sounds cool (from the DM side of the screen at least) , I like the Druid/shark/murder plot too, sounds like a great adventure. How much was scripted vs improvised in the end?

So did Alfredo feature in many future adventures?

I once had a Cambion be a reoccurring Villain, I was trying to introduce him as untrustworthy allie, but I guess he was a bit too untrustworthy and it kept turning into a fight. The party were soon too high level for him to defeat them, but he rode a Nightmare and so was the master of the quick getaway. He would turn up just as they'd completed a large battle and were vulnerable.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Bargle. nuff said.


On a personal campaign note, when I DM, I like to incorporate my players backgrounds they do for the PC into my adventures. A while back I was running ToEE, and one of my players gave me his background that he came from a circus, but had to leave in disgrace because he and another member were in love with the same woman, and the other one is the one who she ended up with. When this other guy (a half ogre to boot) ended up dead from suspicious means, they assumed it was from my player's PC and forced him into exile even though he didn't do it, and it made the woman hate him even more. That took place a few years before the start of the adventure.

Well, behind the scenes I happened to have a necromancer working for Zuggtomy raise said half ogre, and in those few years, he rose to become one of the captains in the adventure module (I simply replaced the existing captain with the half ogre). Throughout the adventure, the half ogre harried and harassed the party, and the party felt like they were being hunted by him. Only, they didn't know it was the half ogre from the PC's past. At some point, they ran into his old circus in the temple, brutally murdered and tortured by the denizens (led by said half ogre), including the PC's love. The player was primed with strong emotional reactions from that, so when he found out later right before the big battle that it was the half ogre who did all this and confronted him (the half ogre mocking all his failures from failing to woo her to failing to protect her), it was a pretty climatic moment in the adventure.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
Alfredo sounds cool (from the DM side of the screen at least), I like the Druid/shark/murder plot too, sounds like a great adventure. How much was scripted vs improvised in the end?
The Druid-shark murder was a PC action, as was the use of the Ring of the Ram. I deliberately left a lot of options open for them to resolve this situation. Whenever I introduce any villain, he/she is always disposable. In other words, I don't care how or when, or if he dies, because its a villain. Their purpose in life is to be defeated at the hands of the players. But the players could also have explored a peaceful way to solve the duel. I had written out a lot of the situations that I wanted to occur:

-Rummy getting himself challenged to a duel and accepting. This was scripted and was going to happen no matter what.
-The wealthy merchant not liking Rummy. I had not anticipated that the players would try to sway his opinion on Rummy, and so this was mostly improvised.
-The daughter of the Marquis (and love interest of one of the PC's) suggesting to the players that they may need to teach Rummy to fence and telling them about the sword master. I did not know if they would follow up on this suggestion, but this was basically a plot hook.
-The assasination of the local ruler (the Marquis), thus creating a power vacuum. This had to happen to take away some of the safety that the players had enjoyed up to this point.
-A diplomatic meeting between noblemen, where the players would get to influence them, and put forward a candidate. The candidate could have been the daughter of the Marquis, if they decided to convince the other nobles. But I had deliberatly inserted a bishop in this meeting who disliked pirates and women, to make this option a bit more difficult. I improvised most of how this meeting went, based on the player's conversations with the nobles, and what I knew about the interests and desires of those present. (I'll explain more about this below)
-The requirement to appoint a wizard to judge that the duel would take place fairly. I didn't care which npc or PC they appointed for this task.
-That Alfredo would appoint the swordmaster as his second, if the player's chose to appoint someone to fight in Rummy's place.

Everything else was improvised though. I had no idea how the duel would play out, other than where it would take place. I did not know if they would cheat, or if they would flee, or fight fairly. I did not know if they would let Rummy fight himself, or if a player would take his place. I did not know if they would win. I had made sure to give the swordmaster stats and abilities that would pose quite a challenge to any of the players and could possibly defeat them. I wasn't sure whether the swordmaster would kill for Alfredo, until I actually played him, and figured out his code of honor.

So did Alfredo feature in many future adventures?
Well, he died... so, no.

So, a little bit more information about the meeting between the nobles. I designed this as basically a diplomatic battle. For each npc present, I wrote down their character, their interests, their dislikes, and their currently chosen candidate. For example, I had a nobleman who was mostly concerned with his own trade, and less so with war. I had another young nobleman, who was really easily swayed by anyone, but ultimately listened to the opinion of his much older and smarter wife. And lastly there was of course the bishop, who would oversee the meeting, and report back to the crown when a successor had been appointed. The bishop really disliked pirates and women, and I created him to again get a bit under the player's skin, and make the Marquis' daughter a less obvious choice. The players did not know all of these things going into the meeting, but would find out about them simply through dialogue. I had no idea how it would play out, but by knowing so much about the npc's present, it was easy for me to play out how they would react to the players. Occasionally I would ask for diplomacy checks for certain things, in order to sway an npc, or people listening.
 
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Ath-kethin

Explorer
I took a relatively minor NPC from a relatively terrible adventure in a relatively terrible Dragonlance module book (I believe it was World of Krynn, noteworthy also for having the Tarrasque hanging out in Lord Soth's closet or maybe basement for some reason) and turned him into an arch-nemesis the group still rememebers with abject hatred 20+ years later.

He was a powerful illusionist, and I ran him as a cool calculating sadist. He was nearly always in absolute control of any situation, and enjoyed toying with his victims. The party met him when they had to pass through his fortress, a cave castle of illuaion, phantasms, and misdirection. He played endless mind games with the party, even at one point making them believe he'd been killed.

The group never again trusted that they actually escaped his lair, especially months later when, in a particularly dire situation, they were forced to seek his help and he turned out to be casually hanging out in a room 10 feet from them. I reused the villain multiple times across several campaigns and even game systems, adding to the air of "can we ever even escape?"

Good times.
 

aco175

Explorer
I had a drow warlock in 4e become a recurring villain to the PCs. She was a minor 2nd to the BBEG at 5th level and survived by fleeing once the bad guy died and kept showing up every few levels until the PCs eventually killed her. The players became paranoid of her foiling their plans that they even hired out adventuring groups to find her. The best part was when I once pulled her figure out during a noble diner and placed it on the table. The players wanted to draw swords there, but the noble reminded them that she has not committed any crimes here and that violence would not be tolerated.

I remember that she had a curse ability that could be placed on one PC per round and a recharge power that did good damage to all the cursed people.
 

collin

Explorer
An evil wizard I had in the Eberron campaign that I ran who was living on a deserted isle of animal-people and at war with a former partner/artificer who was on a nearby island. I modeled the wizard (Darwell Umbruskor) after Sean Connery (picture long-haired Sean from The Rock). The party loved it and were so enamored by his charisma, they forget to keep someone on guard at their boat (which the wizard used to get off the island and leave the part stranded. Then they became less enamored.)
 

Draegn

Explorer
Twin black dragons, a male and female in an incestuous relationship trying to breed two headed dragons that were constantly burning my players plans to ash.

Carsandra a level 12 sorcerer medusa who had to be captured alive.

Lord Elomin a level 15 antipaladin who rides into battle on the back of his lamia (ad&d description) level 12 cleric along with their 20 minotaur body guard.

All of these opponents are greatly hated by my players. The have only dealt with Carsandra so far.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
In several campaigns I've included a genial old green hag named Granny. She's quite a sweet old lady and would love to help the PCs in any way she can, maybe in return for a little favor? Granny lives with a troll named Emmett and a hell hound named Fluffy. She works much better when the PCs encounter her at low levels when they can't possibly fight her straight on, and when she has something they really need. Then she can function as the "evil quest-giver" who the players all know is going to turn on them eventually...
 

ModernApathy

Explorer
I've used Hags as the overarching Villains in my previous two campaigns (with different groups of players).
They make great evil quest givers due to their manipulative nature. I basically had one Coven that was using the PC's to kill off other rival hags.

Also I had a Bheur Hag that the group met in a high mountain pass, (unrelated to the covens they had been dealing with) named Auntie Wendy Pisslewind.

She was lonely and claimed to be immortal, offering anyone in the group a chance to share in her never ending life, although it meant not being able to leave her small lair. In the end the group just felt sorry for her, and gave her an item that she required without putting up a fight and left her in peace.

Later they came across a reward poster in a tavern that offered payment for any hags heads delivered, (basically it was 1000gp per CR, which made the Bheur Hag a pretty good prize at 7000gp, but even then they weren't interested in going back and killing her.


In several campaigns I've included a genial old green hag named Granny. She's quite a sweet old lady and would love to help the PCs in any way she can, maybe in return for a little favor? Granny lives with a troll named Emmett and a hell hound named Fluffy. She works much better when the PCs encounter her at low levels when they can't possibly fight her straight on, and when she has something they really need. Then she can function as the "evil quest-giver" who the players all know is going to turn on them eventually...
Fluffy the hellhound :)
 
Sthrad von Zarovich. (2ed)

I Dm'd a campaign from (levels 1-12) where he was the mastermind behind almost every encounter the PCs had. at first the PC's were just annoying but as they grew in power, so did Sthrad's interest in them.


When they finally met up with him the final battle was epic!


-TC
 

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