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Posts Tagged ‘Bad-Guys’

Maybe this was an obvious one, but… yeah, bad-guys have to be prepared.

When GMing with Sorcerer’s Relationship-Map method, you (the GM) don’t decide who the main villain is; that comes out through play.  You start with lots of NPCs who each have their own motivations and plans, and who will each try to influence, recruit, help or hinder the PCs accordingly.  As the story develops, one (or more) of the NPCs will naturally end up opposing the PCs or trying to harm them.

My problem is: twice now in the current game, an NPC that had the potential to develop into the main villain has ended up dead.  In their very first interaction with the PCs.

I’ve been statting up these NPCs as if they were some-what experienced PCs, which I see now was not the right approach.  These are ambitious and dangerous people who already have a number of enemies.  They should each be walking around with the equivalent of a couple of Glocks, a kevlar vest and six body guards.  With a bullet-proof limo idling out front.

The prepared bad-guy was practically built into the dungeon-crawl model of play.  A whole maze of mooks, lieutenants and guard-dogs stood between the heroes and the villain.  In the new democratic world of R-map play, I will have to be a little smarter.  Or at least, my antagonists will have to be.

-J

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Our little gaming group is mapping out our games for 2010, and it looks like we’re finally going to play Sorcerer!  Yes I know, I’m a decade behind the times, but Sorcerer may just be the best thing to happen to RPGs in the past decade, so I think my excitement is justified.  Ron Edwards’ Sorcerer texts were greatly inspirational to me while i was planning and playing our “Faeries In Echo Park” game, and now I’m really looking forward to playing Sorcerer for real.  I’ll be GMing the first game.

In fact, I can hardly wait.

And when we can’t game, what do we do?  Obsessively over-prepare to game!

Here’s a train of thought that I’m sure will prove useful in the near future:
 

Complexity In Bad Guys

I never want to do this kind of plot again:

  • Beginning: main bad-guy is identified
  • Middle: protagonist, pursuing main bad-guy, wades through progressively bigger minions
  • End: protagonist defeats main bad-guy

An interesting and complex plotline, even your basic summer action movie, has some of the following:

Competitor Turns Ally

Early in the story, protagonist has an altercation with this guy. He’s a dick, and they have some philosophical differences which might even play out as open conflict.

But he’s just a dick, he’s not evil. Later on in the story, once the real evil-doers are out in the open, this competitor becomes a valuable ally in the Big Fight against the Capo di Tutti Cape.

Kindered Spirit Turns Antagonist

Early in the story, the protagonist and this guy seem to see eye to eye on things, especially with regard to the (apparent) bad-guy.

But as the story goes on, it becomes clear that the protagonist and this guy are after the same thing for different reasons. Usually, one of them believes that the ends justify the means while the other takes a more principled approach; or, one sees in black and white while the other has a more nuanced understanding.

By the end, the protagonist and this guy are declared antagonists of each other. The apparent bad-guy from the beginning of the story may turn out to be some cowardly opportunist or misguided fool, whereas the “kindered spirit” is now the evil-doer who must be stopped.

Fatally Flawed Friend

As above, but the kindered spirit is turned against us through a specific moral weakness or fatal flaw. Evidence of sexual perversion may allow the friend to be blackmailed, or drug addiction may drive him to desperate lengths to fund his habit. At the climax, his choice between feeding his need or doing what’s right is central to the success or survival of the protagonist.

Petty Criminal Finds Conscience

The protagonist is first in conflict with this guy, but easily defeats or escapes or subverts him (without putting him out of action). But the evil-doing ratchets up a notch, and it’s not the petty criminal who’s responsible. Turns out, the petty criminal was enabled by, or working for, a truly evil dude. As the conflict between protagonist and evil dude heats up, the petty criminal helps first one side, then the other. He hates the position he’s in and sympathizes with the protagonist, but he fears the evil dude, who still has some terrifying hold on him.

In the end, will the petty criminal find his conscience and help the protagonist at a critical moment, or will he go down with the evil dude in the final fight?

The Neutral Party

This someone or organization is somehow related to the situation at hand. But for some reason (fear, principles, habit, compromised), will help neither the protagonist nor antagonist.

As the story goes on, the neutral party may be impacted more and more by the bad-guy’s doings, allowing the protagonist to eventually convince them to help. Or, the neutral party may turn out to possess a vital key to the whole thing (object or info), and “inaction” starts to look more and more like helping the bad-guy. The protagonist might win them over by some well-timed rhetoric, or might have to consider robbing/attacking this non-evil party.

Hapless Crook and the Can of Worms

This guy crosses the protagonists early, usually by robbing them or someone else of the McGuffin. But he wasn’t involved in the greater plot (until now), he’s just a petty crook who has stumbled into it. Now everybody’s after him.

After a brush with the real evil-doer, he might willingly surrender to the protagonist in exchange for protection. He might even be convertible into a useful ally or helper.

This guy is usually an entertaining character!

The Puppetmaster Behind The Puppetmaster Behind the…

This is the classic minion > bigger minion > bad-guy progression, but done right. The protagonist (and the reader or players) can’t know that the situation is bigger than it seems, until the bad-guys at the current scale have been defeated. But there should be signs. For example, Sally is set upon by apparently unrelated toughs and thieves. She gradually figures out that she is really battling her crooked lawyer and Mrs. Holland (and their minions). She doesn’t find out that Ah Ling is pulling the strings (and neither does the reader) until during/after the climax scene of the book.

Each realization is first foreshadowed, long before being revealed, through the minions and lesser bad-guys: names used, questions asked, incongruous reactions, liaisons overheard, items dropped or found on person, etc.

 

There. That’s one afternoon’s brainstorming, but certainly not an exhaustive list. Can you add any more?
-J

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