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Hey there all, 'tis only me. I have a bit of a question for you all. Starting next semester, I will be running my first D&D campaign. I'm already drawing up the world and it's history, and I know for the most part how i want the party to generate their stats and ruled out races with positive LA and non-humanoid races. I just want to know what some good ideas would be for recurring villains that fit the categories of hired muscle, subtle underminer, cunning mage, pirate king, and otherworldly conqueror. Other ideas are also much appreciated.
I'll tell you a bit about my campaign world. It's fairly large and the seas play a major role, so I like to call it a sea-based campaign. The major races (humans, elves, dwarves and gnomes, some evil humanoid races) have their own little nations, and have been at peace since an armistice ended a massive war between the races over six centuries ago. During that war, both sides (dwarves and gnomes excepted) hired privateers to suppliment their own navies. When the war ended the privateers, still needing to make a living, took to a life of piracy. It's even become a family tradition to this day, and they still call themselves privateers. Everyone gets along for the most part, and life is quite peacefull. However, there are small shadows of evil popping up throughout the lands. This could very well be a prelude to a larger, more dire threat. I haven't worked out all the details, but needless to say there's a lot of dependency on the seas and travel by ship.
I appreciate any helpful input other DMs have on this matter. I want to make this a fun first campaign for everyone involved. By the way, I know I'll have a Dwarven Fighter (the guy who says this almost always goes for a tanking class), a druid, and I'm bound to get some arcane spellcaster in there as well. I expect the final party to be four-strong, since I'm capping it there. It's my first campaign, and I don't want things needlessly complicated.
The most successful villian I've ever had was a simple kobold with a fascination for Magical Items. He was the most intelligent kobold working for the Dragon in my campaign, and was often rewarded with many wands, rings, whatever. I can't count the number of times he's polymorphed, fire balled, backstabbed, trapped, taunted, and screwed over the party I had. The great thing about him is that the party will ALWAYS under estimate him the first time. The next best thing is you can practically give him any item you want, since he has access to a Dragon's hoard.
Obviously, if you don't have a dragon, he can be tweaked a bit. Maybe he's the leader of a Pirate ship, but has a human act as figure head. (Nobody takes a Kobold seriously...) While the human looks like he's the main villian, it's in fact this extremely intelligent Kobold running the show. He might get his stash from all the raids he does, keeping all the toys for himself.
Another idea is to have a hireling. In all the games I've ever played, there was always atleast one NPC in the party. They're there to keep the plot going, and an easy way for the DM to push the party in the right direction, or help them past a particularly devious puzzle.
So what if this NPC was actually feeding information to the parties main villian? If the NPC was played right, towards the end it could cause a conflict or emotions - a stellar companion that suddenly is part of the enemy. It can also keep the party guessing as to why the enemy always seems to know their plans.
I like Caluin's Kobold villian, thats pretty killer. I'd be careful running NPCs in the party though. Albiet a good idea at times (and its definilitely nice like he said to push the PCs in right directions) its easy to get carried away and start leading the party inadvertently. Its a fine line really. In my experience running games, some of the best sessions/adventures/runs/whatever are the ones where the PCs completely go 180 from what you planned, do something crazy, save the day, complete wear you out of improv ideas, AND its completely fun and hillarious.
Be careful with cliche baddies. Nothin kills the ambience and atmosphere like the painfully predictable and constantly same villians. Used right though, its can be pretty effin funny.
Welcome to Bucketheadland
My favorite "Recurring Nemeses" was quite a guy. He was a trader, nothing to him but a cunning way. He was a semi-NPC. I tend to make the PC for (often cunningly disguised into "together with") my players as that gives me a chance to have them fit into the story.
Now this guy was a spy for the badguy and he gathered info and after a while betrayed them in a crucial moment.
This Trader comes back in the games from time to time, but now as a NPC. It's important not to use him to often or to give the PCs a fair chance to kill him. He is the man behind the thugs or he sits down with them at the Table in some important persons home. Or he is seen boarding a ship that they can never cath, things like that.
I like the kind of villain where you're just not sure who's side he's on... When there's some guy who can sometimes help the PC's, but sometimes gives them bad advice and stuff. And if this guy is really likeable, it's easy to make the players confused.
You can have this guy, quite good looking, has a nice and friendly smile, and he invites you to dinner. While you're eating, he makes sure that some of your valuables are stolen. He's subtle, so you could have the players noticing long afterwards... (I mean, that's the kind of guy he could be) Or maybe he juggles. Is a joker. Those guys can get real fun for you to play, and for the players to interact with. If this is a sea based campaign, you might like the kind of guy who just seems to pop up on every enemy vessel your party meets. Like... he always gets jobs for all the major villains, but is a small time dude himself.
I just find that it can be fun to make NPC's so they're not strictly good or bad, but more like real people are... Unpredictable and sometimes selfish and annoying, sometimes nice and helpful. (or sometimes evil and cunning, sometimes quite human and imperfect)
Another thing that usualy works well is to add some special characteristic. For example the villain might have a completely ridiculous pet. Or is afraid of something stupid. (Like spiders, or in your case, water). Also the way they walk, talk and DO things, is a good way to make the villain seem special, even if he's just your regular thug.
I claim the title of "mistress of the vindictive"
=]Front in favour of Moderation of the Harshest kind[=
Well, I never expected this type of input. I believe this deserves individual attention for everyone.I've noticed the kobold bit a lot. I played in an evil campaign once, and the kobold sorceror wasn't attacked once. He did well in a fight, but he was ignored largely because of what race he belonged to (and the fact he carried a tavern sign around and claimed it was a "magic banner"). I do like the concept of the leader who doesn't really act like one (most of the time at least).Originally Posted by CaluinIt's an OK idea, but with this being my first campaign it would be akin to walking on eggshells to pull this (at least right off the bat). I'll put this on the shelf to wait for a day when I have more experience.Originally Posted by CaluinHeh, I've lost track of the number of times I've done that or seen it done. I agree totally with that, and I hope my arse has enough space to keep improvised plot segments. I thank you for the warning.Originally Posted by BucketheadAs a person who hates all stereotypes (stereotypical villains included), I shall do my level best to avoid those NPC villains bent on world domination and other **** like that. There are other, more interesting and subtle villainous plots that inspired by something from the latest Bond flick.Originally Posted by BucketheadIn a sea-based compaign, trade is a big issue. I like the idea that the thing that helps keep the economy going and the PCs armed with their favorite magic toys might also be working against them. If it's subtle enough, the trader might never be found out. I'll set this on the shelf as well.Originally Posted by AndusciassusI can easily see this man in a seat of office as a public servent, or an ambassador. Hells, maybe he's a guildmaster of some sort. This will bet added to the shelf as well. I think I'm noticing a pattern to these villains... and I like it.Originally Posted by GerbrithYou are indeed correct. This might very well be the type who flees when the fight is going against his side, or when he's hit with an attack. Last to join the battle, first to leave. Shelved.Originally Posted by GerbrithHeh, since when is it written that an evil NPC has to oppose the party? It could just be the barmaid who feels she was under-tipped (or wasn't tipped at all) and goes out of her way to make the party's experience in her place of work a living hell, but is otherwise too good worker to let go. It's trivial, and has no major impact whatsoever on the plot.Originally Posted by GerbrithThat reminds me of a villain one of the parties I'm in fought recently. He was so confident he could defeat us that he fought us unarmored, wielding a pair of wooden swords. Ordinary, but sharpened, wooden swords. It was really his overconfidence and arrogance that made him unique. Me... I like quirky characters. I think my PCs shall be seeing a few quirky villains.Originally Posted by Gerbrith
Thank you all for your input on this matter. I honestly did not expect this much of a response (especially two weeks after I started this thread). You have given me many ideas on how to proceed with this matter. Hopefully, I'll be able to relate wome tales from my "Water World" campaign in the near future.