Before explaining how I introduce villains, I thought I'd touch briefly on the "I cut off his head!" syndrome.
Waaayyy back in the day, AD&D trolls regenerated, usually standing back up some minutes after its death while the party were looting through its offal pile for treasure. Surprise! But, typically, this surprise only worked once. Players were wise to it, and took to drenching the body of anything even remotely capable of regeneration with oil, setting it alight, and scattering the ashes to the four winds.
Then there was, of course, powerful NPCs with access to Raise Dead or Resurrection. I myself am guilty of trephining a slain arch-mage, scooping out his brain, and lopping his hands off and feeding them to the next pudding or slime we came across. It's a gruesome, macabre business. It's also a sure fire way to foil Villain X's surprise return.
Darth Vader surely died- all alone in his TIE in the deep dark void- at the end of Episode IV. Oh, but he didn't. His "death", which occurred off-screen from the protagonists, was assumed. Which makes the scene of Lando's betrayal even more significant- BOOM! Darth Vader is not only alive, but he's right here! Not a rumor of the Dark Lord resurfacing, but a frightening face-to-face revelation.
But if it had been left up to Luke's or Han's players, and not the needs of the plot and of the story, Vader would be dead, because the players would hunt him down and blast him out of the void. No surviving that, right?
Or is it.
Sometimes, villains deserve "plot armor", whether it be body doubles/stand-ins, or falling down an elevator shaft into a cart full of laundry. The problem arises when the GM needs the villain to survive but the characters "succeed" in killing him/her. The only remedy is for the GM to be proactive- worst case scenario: it will be an example of body double; best case: his/her "death" occurs off-screen and can be assumed.
I introduce my villains from waaaayyyy out of left field, Keyser Soze-style. The characters are usually standing right on top of the villain, and have been for some time, before the other shoe finally drops and all goes to hell.
Edited by Brother Orpheo, 07 March 2014 - 03:02 PM.