Thursday, October 17, 2013

30 Days of GameMastering--Day 15!

Halfway done with Lindevi's "30 Days of GameMastering" challenge!  Let's do it!

Memorable Villains:  how do you introduce and weave antagonists into your narrative?

Much like Lindevi herself, I love villains.  To me, a well-written villain overshadows their protagonist every time.  And, while you don't want to overshadow your PCs, they can't attain heroic grandeur without overcoming some awesome challenges!

So, for the remainder of this post, I'd like to use one of the NPCs that I built up while running the "Tear of Ioun" adventures for my home Friday group.  The story arc begins with the PCs on their way to investigate the disappearance of a mercenary group near a ruined tower outside the city of Wellspring.  En route, the PCs ran into Vaymeer and his barbarian cohorts along the road leading to the tower.  This leads us to...

Lesson #1:  Make your villain sympathetic.

Vaymeer was just a guy.  Leader of his tribe, yes, but he was essentially a glorified guard captain, set to guard the road against interlopers.  Had my PCs simply talked to him, rather than drawing weapons and trying to break past Vaymeer's barricade, they'd have had a short conversation, learn some information about the missing mercenaries, and have gone on their way.  Vaymeer, in essence, was just an average person doing his job.  But, when the PCs attacked, he could only respond in least, until his friends and tribemates were killed.

Lesson #2:  Make sure your villain makes his presence known.  

Little did the PCs know it, but attacking Vaymeer broke a long-standing (but tenuous) truce between Wellspring and the surrounding barbarian clans.  As such, Vaymeer and his people had a bone to pick...and they were more than willing to use siege engines to do it.  Vaymeer's attack ran concurrent with the PCs' trial for breaking the treaty, with the trial itself ending with a trebuchet missile crashing through the courthouse!

Lesson #3:  A good villain never gives up.

Throughout the campaign, Vaymeer encountered the PCs in combat no less than three separate times!  While he had to retreat the first time, Vaymeer chased the PCs through the streets of ruined Wellspring through a portal to the Shadowfell, where he engaged them as they attempted to activate said portal.  Defeated only as ChaoticFrederick's battlemind pushed him through the active portal, Vaymeer wasn't done yet!  The ambient energies of the Shadowfell animated him as a revenant, eager to seek out the despoilers of his tribe.

Lesson #4:  Make your villain threatening.

This one's easy to forget.  Every great villain needs to have some degree of threat to him.  Vaymeer represented a purely physical threat:  as a barbarian, Vaymeer hit like a mack truck and provided a suitable foil for my highly-defensive, high-healing party.  Plus, each time that the party encountered Vaymeer, he had risen to the party's challenge, providing a suitable threat.  While the elements within the "Tear of Ioun" campaign arc itself held great threats in terms of mental and arcane threats, Vaymeer fit a spectacular niche, providing a great twist for the party.

Of course, all this is moot if you don't get a look at Vaymeer.  Here he is in his most empowered incarnation!

Vaymeer (Shadow-Tainted Harrowman)
Level 17 Elite Brute
Medium natural humanoid
XP 3,200
HP 402; Bloodied 201
AC 32; Fortitude 33; Reflex 29; Will 28  Speed 6
Saving Throws +2; Action Points 1
Initiative +13
Perception +15
Low-Light Vision
Savage Cleave
Whenever Vaymeer hits with a melee attack, he can make a melee basic attack against another adjacent enemy as a free action, taking -2 to the second attack roll.
Standard Actions
m Greataxe (weapon) • At-Will
Attack: +20 vs. AC
Hit: 2d12 + 12 damage (crit 2d12+30).
M Rage of the Eternal Night • Recharge 6
Attack: Melee (One or Two creatures); +20 vs. AC
Hit: 3d12 + 12 and the target is blinded and takes 10 ongoing necrotic damage (save ends both).
Move Actions
Shadow Slip • Recharge 5 6
Effect: Vaymeer teleports up to his speed, into an area of dim or no light.  Alternatively, Vaymeer may teleport half his speed.
Free Actions
Half-Orc Resilience
Effect: When first bloodied, Vaymeer gains 25 temporary hit points.
Earth's Wellspring • Encounter
Effect: Vaymeer gains 15 temporary hit points, and he ends any condition affecting him.
Furious Assault • Encounter
Effect: When Vaymeer hits an enemy, he can deal +1[W] damage with a weapon attack or +1d8 damage with a nonweapon attack.
Triggered Actions
M Axe Reaction • Recharge 5 6
Trigger: Vaymeer is hit by a melee or close attack.
Attack (Immediate Interrupt): Melee; +20 vs. AC
Hit: 3d12 + 12 (Crit--2d10+42).
Skills Athletics +20, Nature +15
Str 24 (+15)
Dex 21 (+13)
Wis 15 (+10)
Con 21 (+13)
Int 15 (+10)
Cha 18 (+12)
Alignment unaligned     Languages Common, Giant
Equipment hide armor, greataxe

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