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MrSmee

A complex and interesting antagonist

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Hi I would be really interested to hear people's thoughts above subject. To flesh the idea out a bit, let me explain. Some of the best movies, books, shows etc are interesting because of the antagonist. What would Sherlock be without Moriarty? Silence of the Lambs without Hannible? Star Wars without Darth Vader? The Dark Knight without Heath Ledger's Joker? Harry Potter without Voldamort?

With all of these examples however the background of the antagonist, who they are and why we see them as badass is mostly achieved out of view of the protagonist heroes. Luke barely sees Vader, and Vader wouldn't be the same without that famous choke scene. 

So how can a GM flesh out an antagonist that we intend to play a major part? Whether just an interesting and deep villan, or and long term string pulling nemesis? The players or their characters cannot see his cunning scheming and evil ways and so cannot fully appreciate their antagonist.
 

Looking forward to hearing the thoughts of GM's and players alike. Maybe to stories about how it has been achieved in the past?

 

Smee

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I have one antagonist in my Only War campaign that has become the personal nemesis of the PC Lieutenant. The antagonist (Severan Dominate Commander Vil'Stethys) was captured by them, but was busted out of the brig while they were assigned to watch him. He managed to escape their clutches again, and though they haven't seen him in a while, I drop hints to his involvement from time to time. They have found dataslates with messages to/from him when fighting Severan Dominate on a different world, and have recently found a picture of Vil'Stethys with a SD General they were assassinating. 

 

So I guess what you have to do is flesh the antagonist out mostly for yourself. Where is he from, what organization does he belong to? What kind of leader is he? If the PCs don't stop him or he gets away, what will he accomplish? 

 

Once you have that, you can set the PCs up against the antagonist a couple times so they are familiar with him/her. Then, in between those encounters, they hear/read/see mention of the antagonist in the enemies they fight or the allies they work with. 

 

In the case of Star Wars, Darth Vader is an infamous leader that is well-known. Luke only encountered him a few times, but Vader was a name he knew and likely heard stories about. Moriarty's involvement left clues for Sherlock, enough to know it was him without encountering the villian. 

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All of the villains that I have introduced in my DH1 campaign with the hope of them becoming recurring adversaries have been anticlimactically killed the very first time my players encountered them in the flesh...  :(  Even with Fate Points of their own, WH40KRP masterminds are just too darn squishy!

 

One option is to go the Jonny Quest route, where the evil Dr. Zin only appears on monitor screens to taunt the heroes and brag about his nefarious plots, but is never encountered in person (or, in your case, not until the climax of the campaign).

Edited by Adeptus-B

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So I guess what you have to do is flesh the antagonist out mostly for yourself. Where is he from, what organization does he belong to? What kind of leader is he? If the PCs don't stop him or he gets away, what will he accomplish? 

 

Once you have that, you can set the PCs up against the antagonist a couple times so they are familiar with him/her. Then, in between those encounters, they hear/read/see mention of the antagonist in the enemies they fight or the allies they work with.  

 

Pretty much this.

 

You don't even need the antagonist to ever be in the same room as the PC's if you get it right. He's always one step ahead of their investigations; they catch CCTV footage of him (perhaps even live), read about him in the local rag, hear about his exploits in bars or from informants, but by the time they get to where they think he is, he's gone. You can even have scenes play out somewhere the PC's can see, but can't get to quickly enough or are unable to interfere; the other side of a canyon or "indestructible" glass, on a landing pad whilst they're on a tower, whilst the PC's are bound or restrained somehow and so forth.

 

Putting the antagonist in the same room as the PC's is a good way to lose an NPC. Have the PC's know (and fear!) him by reputation alone. By the time you're ready for the "big reveal" when the PC's finally do encounter him, make sure there's some twist that shakes up their perception of him some way ("No...*I* am your father"), before whisking him off for the "sequel".

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My groups current nemesis is actually a joke that only I'm in on. His name is Inquisitor Pelmont Nayl and he's survived for two campaigns. I never let the players understand him, they will only ever encounter the Inquisitor either once he completes an objective of his or they're about to complete an objective of theirs. I have a story plotted out for the Inquisitor and an arc he's following, but there's very little space for him to clash with the Players within this arc. Enter, the second villain. Ca'oac the Chained. A Daemonhost bound to the Inquisitor, but ultimately the one pulling his strings.

 

 As you said OP, the players can't be present to fully appreciate your villain at all times. But I make sure that whenever they do encounter oneanother, somebody walks away changed. Off the top of my head, the first time my players met Pelmont Nayl he saved their lives by conducting a chaotic ritual to summon Imperial Aid. The next time he put the groups Psyker on the path of the Radical. The time after that, he throttled a player and detained the Psyker. They parted ways after that, but the players turned on him (understandably), and made some promises to some important people that they'd bring his head in. They've yet to do this and it's a new campaign.

 

 My point is, that there hasn't ever been a "Oh and Nayl was there" it's been "Nayl pinned me against a wall and throttled me" or "I probably never would've had half as many corruption points as I do if it weren't for Nayl". The villain has to matter, even if you want to have a scene where the bad guy explains his plot, there has to be something at stake. "I am your Father" wouldn't be half as memorable if Luke wasn't missing a hand and at deaths door in an attempt to save his friends. 

 

 The other important bit, is show don't tell. This applies to everything when GMing, but when it's about your big villain it's even more important. If your villain has a backstory in which he was wronged and turned on the Imperium, find a way for the players to learn about it without him shouting about it like a petulant child. Unless a revenge story directly involves the PCs (revenge on them, them wanting revenge), they'll have a hard time buying into it. Perhaps they find something that the bad guy is concealing from them. A grave for his squad, a piece of art he made that shows his beliefs/endgame. Don't tell them about your villain, let them experience your villain in all his wicked glory.

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in my opinion, this is long work.

 

I actually decided that, somewhere in the future of my campaing, a guy would come with a squad of super badass dudes to kill my players. And this will be a real showdown because those guys will be at least as strong as the players. 

 

But what they are come from the past, where they fought, in a random mission, a group of super mercenaries paid to kill them because they touched something they shouldn't have. The entire platoon of mercenary, along with their über colonel, died against the players (and they were **** dangerous). And in the end, they let many proves about their involvement in the death of those people. And the colonel (ancient IG colonel), had a child that will want revenge on those that killed his father.

 

He will get the greatest killers in a fighting team and track the players and drop them.

 

 

 

But there are many years between those two actions and in between, there will be stuff to build on it. But the day these super mercenaries come in the face of the players, this will be **** cool.

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There are plenty of rules (which you can break if you wish) about creating a good antagonist, but if I were to pick just one, it would be this:

 

The antagonist's motivation must be crystal clear to you when you create him, and it must be believable. Unless you're going for a very specific style, avoid Bond villains who cackle manically and lust for power merely for power's own sake. The real world doesn't hold much true evil, but it contains a lot of people who do bad things for all the (apparently) right reasons. Give the villain a motivation that puts him at odds with the players but which they can still sympathize with. 

 

Dark Heresy is easy in this regard. Have your villain truly believe he's fighting for good, but have his methods be all wrong. Chaos is a great way to do this. One of my best, yet minor, villains from Rogue Trader was a fellow rogue trader who helped the players at every turn, encouraged them and tried to get on their good side. Then, when things got out of hand in a plot that wasn't really caused by either faction, that rogue trader began to talk about saving the Imperium from those who had corrupted it (ie. the Administratum, as he saw it). He had a strong belief that the Emperor's message to humanity was being corrupted by those who wished for nothing but bureaucracy, and when he got into contact with Chaos, demons reinforced those ideas in his mind. He believed this so strongly, and his motivation resonated so well with me as a GM and my players as... well... players, that they were incredibly close to actually going along with his plan. When they finally refused, his mind snapped from his failure and the demons took over his body for a tragic, yet epic, duel. 

 

If you can get a good motivation down, everything else will fall into place on its own. The motivation is what makes the character feel real, and it shapes every aspect of his or her personality.

Edited by TiLT

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I'd say you should reveal some info about your campaign before asking for guidance. Without knowing the story people are shooting at random with their ideas of a good villain. What's good for one kind of stories is far too boring for the others. 

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The villain in my current campaign is an extremely Radical Inquisitor.

 

Last week, one of the players happened to be leaving the country for good, so, as planned in advance, his character, a psychic Inquisitor of great power, was used as a host for the villain's pet daemonhost.

 

The other PCs escaped due to Eldar involvement. The Eldar, or a faction thereof, are also responsible for the Radical Inquisitor's access to Warp artifacts.

 

Now, the thing is, one of the PCs shot the Radical Inquisitor in the chest, and did Critical Damage with his Bolter. Oops.

 

So, now that the PCs have escaped, so has the Daemonhost - because they interrupted the ritual. This will buy them enough time to escape and avenge their master later, as the Radical Inquisitor is hospitalised, and her followers bring the Daemonhost under control.

 

In later sessions, they will hopefully see that the Inquisitor is actually using the Daemonhost in an exceptionally efficient manner, destroying cults and banishing other daemons. Still, she'll want them, loose ends, dealt with.

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Thanks for the thoughts, they're full of really great ideas. The summary of show don't tell hits the nail on the head. I'm a new GM, and have a lot of ideas, I was struggling to work out how to get the long-run nemesis across at first, but I'm getting the hang of it now. I have fallen into the pitfalls that many new GMs make a few times. I started off trying to tell people how they should feel about other characters. That's just bad. I now develop characters by the way other NPCs act around them, speak to them, about them ect. I also had the problem that the PCs would just kill any rival that they got to meet face to face. I now don't do that unless the odds are clearly heavily stacked against them, the repercussions would be too massive, or the person is too important to just flat out attack without solid evidence of wrongdoing. 

 

BadTemper, as for my campaign, it was more of a general question about best practice and ideas. Since you asked however, the nemesis in my campaign is the head of the secret police on a planet. His personality and mannerisms are based largely on Col. Hans Landa from inglorious basterds. The Governor is basically just a fop and a puppet to him. I plan to have him about for a long time in a suspension of mixed signals to the players. He's polite and giving, but a reoccurring thorn in their side. At the same time I'm having a lot of people they meet mention all the good things he's done for the planet since he got there. But his past is turning up shady and they will find out that he is growing his power to enact Istivaanian ideals. Not to mention I hope to put some conflict in there by making the characters have to fight against ideals that they has players would agree with.

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From my personal experience, whether or not he is a good person or does good things is irrelevant. If he is a bad guy and does something to oppose the players, they will kill him. Their cop out will be "just following orders" =][= or something else. Be careful how much access they get to him. 

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If all else fails, have the PCs occasionally run across the aftermath of some of his actions. The first time they enter a room to see the dismembered corpses of the cultists they were planning on tracking down, and then when they retreive the pict-orb footage of what happened and see the guy in neat-looking armor order, or personally perform, the massacre after chastising the cultists for failure (or whatever, maybe he just doesn't like cultists), it'll be memorable. Leave similar bread crumbs from time to time. Even if he dies almost immediately after the PCs first encounter him in person, that what burning fate points is for. Even traditional paranoid solutions to recurring villainy fail in the face of all the many threats present in 40k. Bionics, warp rituals, cloning, the means available to villains to come back from the dead are practically endless. Besides, even if you don't have him come back, maybe his boss, or his family, or his household, or the other members of his cabal/conspiracy/whatever will decide to go after the party.

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