Gw Temp


Article - 'It’s Good To Be Evil' by KaosTenshi

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003


Simple steps to making your villains… how to make your bad guys really bad… how to make villains your players will love, hate, or even sympathize with.


Are you sick and tired of the standard villain that appears in nearly every ‘homebrew’ RPG? Ah, aren’t we all? These villains are flat, dull, and rather than being a focal point for the storyline, they instead become ‘that guy you have to fight after you’re done with the puzzles and mini-games’. A dull villain can turn a fantastic gaming experience into a very ‘so-so’ game… or even ruin a game altogether. So how do you fix this? Well first of all, you should understand the villains… There are usually several basic types of villains.

Stereotypical Villain

First of all, you have your stereotypical villain - pure evil. This is the kind of person that shouldn’t even be considered a person. He kidnaps princesses for no reasons, has cities burned, steals candy from small children and kicks puppies. He doesn’t have to have a reason; he’s just evil. This kind of villain is extremely over-done, and while it may have made the cut in old school RPGs, he’s just going to seem dull these days. It doesn’t mean a villain can’t still be cruel, it just means that a villain has to be cruel for a reason.

The Abuse Excuse

This kind of villain grew up in a bad situation. Maybe he was born an orphan, so grew up hating rich people and rulers who turn a blind eye to the poor. Maybe he lost someone he cared about or was injured by war, so hates soldiers and war. Maybe he was just mistreated by his parents so decides to take out his anger on the rest of the world. Whatever the excuse may be, this is the kind of person with a lot of inner-pain. He needs to seek serious counseling.


Yes, he does evil things. Why? He does it because he wants something. It can be money, love, power, land, or any numbers of other motivations… but these motivations are his reasons for being evil. He doesn’t act evil just for the sake of being evil, and he probably doesn’t even mean to be evil… it’s just that everything he does revolves around bringing these dreams to realization, and he will do anything it takes to make it happen. Should some group of heroes come to try to stop him, he will certainly do his best to crush them like any other obstacle.

Plead Insanity, Type 1

Ah, beloved insanity… who better to write about the topic of insanity than me? Anyway… An insane character doesn’t have to make total sense on every level, but a common mistake with insane characters is that people don’t have them make any sense at all; this just creates a plot that seems shabbily thrown together. Why is the character insane? What is it that he’s trying to accomplish, and why? If you can’t get these things in order, you might as well just stick with the Stereotypical Villain and save yourself the trouble of coming up with an insane laugh instead of an evil laugh (‘njaff njaff’ is already taken, people).

Plead Insanity, Type 2

…And then sometimes you just get characters that don’t know what they’re even doing. This can just be a case of classic insanity, or some other force can possess a character. In any case, this kind of villain doesn’t even truly know the consequences of what they’re doing, and in rare occasions don’t even know why they’re doing it. This is a very difficult kind of villain to write, but they can also become the most sympathetic; the player can’t really help but say, ‘Poor guy’ at least once… this is also just the type of villain to even be killed by their own device.

The Henchman

Okay, this is a very common ‘secondary villain’… the lackey/maid/secretary/assassin/mini-boss battle character that is sent to terrorize the good guys at the end of dungeons and important scenes and such. The Henchman is (usually) fiercely devoted to their master… usually.

The Henchman (With A Plan Of His Own)

Ah, now this is what I’m talking about! The henchman lets the so-called major villain do all the tough work and bides his time before slaying his own master to reveal himself as the true villain! …Or he could just let the good guys kill his master instead of needing to clean the blood out of his gloves. This type of henchman usually works extremely well doubling as the ‘Manipulation’ type villain, while his master usually works very well as the Pure Evil or Insanity Type 1 villains.

Are these all the different kinds of villains? Well, no. The human imagination is an amazing thing… so naturally it can create amazing things. Your storyline and your villain are limited only by that imagination of yours.

Unless you’re working with a Pure Evil character or ‘insane, working without reason’ character, your villain must always have reasons and emotions. Often times it is just as important for the villain to be human as it is for the hero to be human. The first question to ask yourself unless you’re writing the stereotypical villain is “Does my villain have a code of honor? Is there anything he won’t go low enough to do?” It’s also important to establish before you start writing the script if your villain has any soft spots, as these can be written into the storyline, and even better, should be influenced by the villain’s personality or past.

Most importantly, remember one thing… A villain does not have to have evil intent! (Most) villains are human like the rest of us, and have goals and dreams too… their goals may be humane, but it can be their methods that make them the villains.