A good antagonist can make a game great on their own. Having someone whose goals clash with your players’ goals in a way that causes conflict is one of the best ways to drive a story forward. It gives your players a face to associate with their goal; a figure to take down before they can move on. A good villain can do this just fine, but a GREAT villain will do it and still be remembered long after he’s gone. So how do we make a memorable antagonist? Let’s take a look at creating great villains.
Villains have a long list of different traits that can be used in their creation, but for our purposes we’ll look at a few important ones: function, style, and the ability to be relatable. The first trait, functionality, is just a simple question of does your villain idea work? To be great, the villain must work on multiple levels. The bad guy should be driving your story forward. Their goals should push players along the storyline as they aim to stop them. The antagonist should also be able to handle themselves in combat with your players. Whether they have an army of minions to control, powers aimed at stopping specific PCs, or just multiple villains, your villain should give the players a run for their money every time they fight.
The second trait, style, refers to the flair that the villain has. Think of your favorite villain. Now think of the reason why they’re your favorite. Odds are this reason has something to do with their personality. Try taking that aspect and emulating it through your villain. This showmanship really brings something special to the table and makes every entrance of the villain a moment to remember.
The last trait we’ll talk about today is relatability. Simply put, this is how well your players can relate to your villain. No, this doesn’t mean they’ll want to join them. Rather, it means that your villain has motivations that make their actions understandable, even if those actions are despicable. This is what gives your villain staying power and if you pay attention to this trait, your villain will be remembered for years to come.
A great villain can be just as fun for you to play with as it is for your players to fight against them. What makes a remarkable villain to you? Let me know below! And as always, keep those dice rolling high!