Introducing the BBEG

Topic is pretty straightforward: how do you typically introduce the BBEG for your campaign or story arc? I’m currently GMing the PF2e Abomination Vaults AP and the group is getting closer to where I’ll introduce the BBEG sorceress Belcorra. They already know she’s in the dungeon and have seen hints of her growing power, they just haven’t seen her yet and have no idea what she’s capable of. It’s gotten me thinking about how I’ve seen that handled in past campaigns I’ve been part of, because I generally like having the PCs encounter the BBEG well before they’re ready to defeat it to help establish it as a threat.

While running the 5e Essentials Set adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak, while the group was level 2 I rolled on the random table for where the dragon would currently be located and rolled for it to be in the same location the players were at. They were nearing the cave entrance to the gnome community and tired from the walk, so I described the area outside the cave as being a peaceful welcoming stream of water flowing from a waterfall flowing from the mountains they were about to enter. They decided to take a break near the stream before going in, so I had their moment of rest interrupted by the dragon suddenly casting its shadow over the group before diving down to attack. The group mostly rolled above the dragon for initiative, except for 1 player. The other players all used their movement and action to quickly run into the cave opening that wasn’t large enough for the dragon, but since 1 player had a lower initiative than the dragon so he became the target of its icy breath. He had something like 16 HP and the dragon rolled so poorly on it’s damage roll that it legitimately only did 15 damage so on his turn he was able to run away to safety. A couple quests later, they were out on the road coming back from a quest and saw the dragon flying overhead. Since they were a bit traumatized by it from earlier and still were too low of a level to fight it, they ended up casting a light cantrip on one of their saddles and sent the horse off alone as a decoy while they retreated. We still refer to that horse 4 years later. :ROFLMAO:

The other recent BBEG experience I can think of that stands out was Strahd in Curse of Strahd. The DM didn’t intend for us to fight him at that point since we were still relatively early into the campaign, but he wanted Strahd to make an appearance. That was fine, until one player decided his character would absolutely attack Strahd. Since we were like level 3 or 4 at that point, he was too strong for us and ended up killing the player who initiated the fight before summoning some minions and causing the rest of us to run. It gave the DM a chance to show off Strahd as being powerful and the PC death made things more personal for us moving forward. Probably worth mentioning we discussed character death during our session 0 and everyone was on board with it being on the table, so the player absolutely knew what was possible if he attacked.
 

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MarkB

Legend
In my last Eberron campaign, the BBEG was an inventor who had built a radical new airship for the ruler of the Lhazaar Principalities. The PCs were doing crowd control at the launching event when he stole the ship he was supposed to be presenting.
 



Hand of Evil

Hero
Epic
Well, I try to keep the BB "hidden" as long as possible, mostly using go between.

My most shocking BB was the mother of one of the player characters. His background was youngest son and black sheep of a noble family, and I took that and ran with it. She sent "job" to the party to increase his fame, even hiring bards to sing about him. She did not like the people he was hanging around with, tried killing them. Wanted the character to marry, so, kidnapped a princess and had the group rescue her and offer it up as a reward to his station.
 

Well, I try to keep the BB "hidden" as long as possible, mostly using go between.

My most shocking BB was the mother of one of the player characters. His background was youngest son and black sheep of a noble family, and I took that and ran with it. She sent "job" to the party to increase his fame, even hiring bards to sing about him. She did not like the people he was hanging around with, tried killing them. Wanted the character to marry, so, kidnapped a princess and had the group rescue her and offer it up as a reward to his station.
I am going to have to steal that idea. That sounds like a great hook to use to keep throwing adversaries at the group, while keeping the person behind it a mystery that slowly they can unravel. How did you have them finally figure out who was behind it all?
 

I like to layer in lots of NPCs into the game. PCs will hear about them during play, and meet some as well. Quite often, PCs will meet them before they become villains.

At least half of my villains are non combat social ones, so quite often the PCs won't even know they have met a villain.
 

Hand of Evil

Hero
Epic
I am going to have to steal that idea. That sounds like a great hook to use to keep throwing adversaries at the group, while keeping the person behind it a mystery that slowly they can unravel. How did you have them finally figure out who was behind it all?
They never did, group fell out before the end of the campaign
 

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