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Samuel Richard

Avoiding Villain cliches

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So recently with my new campaign I made my main villain a Ex-inquisitor spy master, his true motives known to very few and alway operating from the shadows. I'm trying to keep the force rare in this campaign and give it that air of mystery but since he is the main nemisis I just dont want this guy to walk out in a power armor suit with a platoon of stormtroopers at the end nor do I want him wielding a lightsaber and choking people left and right. Have any ideas on how to subtly give this guy power in the force while not going overboard and making him another Darth Vader wannabe?

Edited by Samuel Richard

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I'm gonna suggest something hard, but possibly very rewarding:

Don't give him anything. No force, no saber, no power armor, not even especially high numbers.

Make him smart, but not all-knowing, just smart. Make him skilled, but not a super commando or famous secret agent. Give him a secret weapon, but not a death star.

Think Zemo from Civil War. This guy doesn't go after you, he goes after everything you care about. He goes after your friends, your family, your alliances, your credibility, your relationship, your resources.

Killing you is hard and dangerous. Making you want to kill yourself, or each other... That's still hard, but a lot less dangerous.

It'll be tough to figure out how to do that, but I think it will fit your style a bit more.

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3 hours ago, Ghostofman said:

This guy doesn't go after you, he goes after everything you care about. He goes after your friends, your family, your alliances, your credibility, your relationship, your resources.

Killing you is hard and dangerous. Making you want to kill yourself, or each other... That's still hard, but a lot less dangerous.

It'll be tough to figure out how to do that, but I think it will fit your style a bit more.

In RPGs, this often doesn't work because PCs avoid attachments to others and are borderline narcissistic sociopaths even when they aren't killing people. It's almost like they know they are the center of the universe and that (almost) everyone else is just an NPC...

Edited by HappyDaze

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This is star wars, it's impossible to not be a little Cichie if you are looking to keep some iconic feeling. However, that doesn't mean you can't create a villain that isn't distinctive.

First of all, the inquisitor needs a niche, a speciality. To me a spymaster screams influence/misdirect specialist, the ability to make falsehoods true with the imagination is awesome, the fact that he is able to go anywhere, do anything and be effectively unrecognisable unless he wants to be recognised is a interesting villain trait; sure, Seek can dispel those illusions but first they must be aware of the illusion occurring. Using misdirection in this manner can facility party splits which enable those iconic duels when he is finally confronted.  At the moment I know nothing about your intended goals for your campaign so I will keep my advice fairly vague and adaptable.

To me a good nemesis should have abilities that the PC's will never learn that inherently put them on the backfoot; the spymaster has at least 20 years experience on the PC's to develop this ability that only works because of his rigorous focus. For him, that would be manifesting illusions spontaneously with no defence roll that makes directly engaging him difficult, or to provide assistance to his operations without giving away his identity. Don't roll for his misdirection if the PC's are genuinely unaware of his location as that would be a dead giveaway that they are under illusion, but give them a distinctive audio cue that triggers whenever his power initiates that affects only those that can hear it. It might be a two handed clap, the dropping of a coin or a particular phrase (which is more difficult to work in, but would explain why the character couldn't use it all the time.) that once they hear that particular event, the PC's can tune into it and feel clever for figuring out the master spymaster's calling card, and then can roll to resist it if they identify that audio cue. This method works better if the character is present during the scene but isn't an active partipant yet, he might be already inside the rebel cell/cartel that the PC's are working for or might simply have been present as a 3rd party at a transaction one time., thus you can have strange things happen without seeming reason until they can identify the mystery of that particular gimmick, which is further enforced by the spymasters ability to disguise himself more naturally.


Batman begins offers a fairly good example of what the spymaster might look like. A chasmatic individual who is posing under another identity of a mentor, the head of his order posing as a humble lacky or even a mentor type/authority type character while someone else poses as the master mind in all the scenes that he makes a move. Misdirection of the mind requires props after all to make this master mind persona more real that once identified slips more into the role of a usual villainous character, unable to approach the PC's directly if they discover his secret.

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14 hours ago, Samuel Richard said:

So recently with my new campaign I made my main villain a Ex-inquisitor spy master, his true motives known to very few and alway operating from the shadows. I'm trying to keep the force rare in this campaign and give it that air of mystery but since he is the main nemisis I just dont want this guy to walk out in a power armor suit with a platoon of stormtroopers at the end nor do I want him wielding a lightsaber and choking people left and right. Have any ideas on how to subtly give this guy power in the force while not going overboard and making him another Darth Vader wannabe?

Don't give him flashy powers.  Illusion, Influence, etc.  One of my best villains almost drove a party member to the dark side without trying, through the Jedi mind trick.  The group had been following him, knew he was staying in a hotel, but then lost him.  The  desk clerk swore he was still in his room, and that nobody had left the hotel.  They check his room and it was empty.  She was about to torture the poor clerk, convinced he was in league with the guy, until one person realized that he might have altered his memory.   "You didn't see me.  I wasn't here."  ~Handwave~

Make him a slippery SOB, that they can't catch up to, and are always a step behind.  Don't forget that he doesn't have to be preplanned.  He escaped when the PC's can't see him, then justify how later.  By defeating his plot, they are doing what he wants.  "Of course I wanted them to blow up that ship.  My enemies were onboard.  Now nothing can stop me.  Muhahahaha!"  https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/XanatosGambitDiagram_7509.jpg

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9 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

In RPGs, this often doesn't work because PCs avoid attachments to others and are borderline narcissistic sociopaths even when they aren't killing people. It's almost like they know they are the center of the universe and that (almost) everyone else is just an NPC...

I wish I could disagree with you, but you absolutely have a point, and that's a big part of making it so hard. You'd have to either A) Have a group that really played up to their Obligation/Duty/Morality (and in this case, almost ideally all three) and/or B) Spend a lot of time and adventures building up those resources and relationships specifically to yank them out from under the players. 

And if your players are murder-hobos... yeah even harder if not impossible.

Still, one can dream.

 

18 minutes ago, Edgookin said:

Make him a slippery SOB, that they can't catch up to, and are always a step behind.  Don't forget that he doesn't have to be preplanned.  He escaped when the PC's can't see him, then justify how later.  By defeating his plot, they are doing what he wants.  "Of course I wanted them to blow up that ship.  My enemies were onboard.  Now nothing can stop me.  Muhahahaha!"  https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/XanatosGambitDiagram_7509.jpg

The Xanatos Gambit is totally one of my favorite tropes. 

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1 hour ago, Ghostofman said:

I wish I could disagree with you, but you absolutely have a point, and that's a big part of making it so hard. You'd have to either A) Have a group that really played up to their Obligation/Duty/Morality (and in this case, almost ideally all three) and/or B) Spend a lot of time and adventures building up those resources and relationships specifically to yank them out from under the players. 

 

There will also be the temptation to "weaponize" Obligation and turn into a punishment rather than the player tool it was intended to be. Note that some of the adventure writers themselves have fallen into this trap.

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11 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

In RPGs, this often doesn't work because PCs avoid attachments to others and are borderline narcissistic sociopaths even when they aren't killing people. It's almost like they know they are the center of the universe and that (almost) everyone else is just an NPC...

Luckily with these players they know what not to do (most are Dms) and I'm taking measures to yank the feeling of them being the center away from the (people controlled villains, events grinding on without the players ect.). Now the hardest part, to make them care about a NPC (whelp).

Edited by Samuel Richard

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On 11/9/2018 at 10:39 AM, HappyDaze said:

There will also be the temptation to "weaponize" Obligation and turn into a punishment rather than the player tool it was intended to be. Note that some of the adventure writers themselves have fallen into this trap.

A lot of this problem falls on the Gamemaster.  I have played under a bunch of different people, and have figured out what you need to take, and what is a waste for each GM.  Some GM's make NPC attachments into giant anchors, even when they are purchased as advantages.  Some completely gloss over certain skills, and put massive emphasis on others.  Some houserule so extensively, you might as well not bother buying the game books.  I'm not a giant fan of how obligation works in this system (or duty or morality).  As a GM now, I allow them to take some, use it occasionally, but usually my current group worries about it enough on their own.  I have been blessed with a group that role-plays it fairly well, both as advantage and disadvantage.

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On 11/10/2018 at 1:09 PM, Edgookin said:

A lot of this problem falls on the Gamemaster.  I have played under a bunch of different people, and have figured out what you need to take, and what is a waste for each GM.

I recall a player in a Vampire game many years ago asking me to help her build her character. Looking it over, I said, "You're spending a lot to start with 5 dots in Subterfuge. It's probably a waste to have more dots there than the GM does in real life." After laughing, she dropped it to 3 dots, which was probably still higher than that GM possessed.

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