JP On Gaming

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Whenever that word is mentioned, I keep thinking back to my youth, to reading Marvel Comics. When I anxiously waited for the next issue of the X-men to marvel at the awesome evilness that was Magneto; or the Fantastic Four’s next conflict with Galactus or Dr Doom; or Loki’s next prank that could lead to the end of the world...

In Marvel comics, the villains made the heroes (DC to me had more interesting heroes than villains, but I won’t go there). It was more important who the villain was than who was stopping him. Dr Doom could face the Fantastic Four, the Avengers or Spider-man. It did not matter. His presence made the story take on a new dimension. One paid attention when he talked because he COULD do what he promised.

So I was thinking today about what makes a great villain. What makes him an opponent to be feared more? What makes a villain memorable? I’ve tried to boil it down to as few elements as possible.

  • Conviction Any good villain must have conviction and belief in his ultimate goal. So when the Villain calls the UN Security Council to ask for ransom, people know that he means business, that he’s not just another clown in a costume. Conviction is what makes the villain remarkable. My favorite Anime villain of all times, Char Aznable from Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is exactly that way. He says he will do something and he does it.
  • Personality If personality is an important thing to have for the PCs, it is twice as important for the villain. One would not replace Magneto with Dr Doom and expect the story to unfold the same way. Both have personalities that would make them proceed with or stop their plans. Having some unique personality trait gives something special to the villain. Personality often dictates what a villain will do more than how he will do it.
  • Resources Only McGiver can take over the world with 2 elastic bands and an old sock. A good villain has resources that will allow him to being his plan to fruition. A broke overlord is more of a farce than a threat. A super-villain who does not have a good few faceless minions willing to get pounded & blasted by the heroes usually has a very short career.

    There... three points to make a good villain, with a clear superhero stint to this article, but you can easily adapt to any game system/ setting.

    Now that you have a good villain, avoid the most common pitfall of them all: do not let him steal the show! The PCs are still the heroes.


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