Tuesday, October 29, 2019

NPC - Villains and Monsters


These are the antagonists of the game.  They are the NPCs that motivate the PCs to action.   They are more than just an archetype.  You will most likely spend a lot of time building your villain.

While there are always exceptions, generally a villain is made with the following points in mind.

·         A villain fulfils a role:  The role of your villain is by far the most important.  What do they do, why are they doing it?  Linking them with the party can be as easy as asking your players for ideas for a nemesis and collecting their ideas into a villain or two for them to encounter over their career.
·         A villain needs to provide conflict:  The goal of a villain is to provide someone for players to track and stop.   A villain’s agenda should contrast that of the character’s goals greatly. 
·         A villain needs personality:  A “good” villain should be one that characters come to love to hate.  A number of ideas for characteristics can be found below.  A villain does not to be just pure evil, just having questionable motives and actions at least from the character’s perspective.
·         A villain grows as the characters do:  If you are looking for a “one shot” encounter, it’s probably better to just use a monster instead.  A true villain NPC grows and follows the party through their career, thwarting each other’s plans over and over again.  

Now that you know the basics, how do you build one?  The following is a checklist to help flesh out a villain quickly.

·         What is the Occupation of the villain?
·         What are the Villains objectives and/or motives?
·         What is the Villain’s personality, behaviour traits and preferences?
·         What is the history and/or character background behind the villain?
·         What does the villain have to work with? 
·         Do they have minions?
·         What is the appearance of your villain?
·         What is the Abilities and Alignment of the Villain?

Types of Villains

The Backstabber
The Black Knight
The Destroyer
The Lunatic
The Mad Builder
The Planner
The Revenger
The Tyrant 
The following is a random table of common archetypes.  It’s easy enough to pick one or roll on the table to get the process started.

The Backstabber:  This villain may appear sympathetic, even friendly, but it’s merely a ruse.   Their goal is to get secrets and then use them to secure their own interests.  Despite all words to the contrary, they care nothing for anybody but themselves.  A backstabber may be a Human or Half-Elf Adventurer/Prowler that the party hires for help. 
The Black Knight:  This villain has a warped sense of honour.  Self-righteous, they believe themselves to be the paragon of virtue and will judge those around them by their own code of conduct.   The ends will justify the means and mercy is considered weak.   The perfect path for black knights is Channelers/Sentinels, and are often Elves or Vampires. 

The Destroyer: The goal of this villain is mindless destruction.  Nothing brings this villain more joy then looting and smashing all within reach.  The villain enjoys cruelty for cruelty’s sake and whose tools are violence and savage brutality.  This NPC will rip your heart out and enjoy every minute of it.  A destroyer may be a Verkhail Combat/Brute driven mad by the idea of Verkhail being “rescued” from their ranks and seeks to eliminate them as the weakest drones.  

The Lunatic:   This villain is nuts and will draw you into the insanity which is their life.    Often considers the world little more than a game, in which they are the only one that knows the rules.  A lunatic may be a Halfling Adventurer/Transrider driven crazy by something horrible they have seen on the roadways, and now spreading their insanity to others through the carnage they spread. 

The Mad Builder: Pretty much the opposite of the Destroyer, but just as crazy.  They are obsessed with bringing something innovative and new into the universe and will let nothing get in their way.  The vast majority of mad builders are Gnome Channeler/Faustian Mechanics.

The Planner:  Every step of the way, the villain has a contingency plan, but is usually driven by greed and materialism with little moral compunction.  A Planner may be an Elf Ritualist/Magister leading a bunch of mooks on a mission to drive some villagers off their land for something much more valuable in its midst.

The Revenger:   For whatever reason this villain can’t get what they want, so they lash out at the world in order to make the world pay for what has happened to them.   Their motivation ranges from punishment to envy. A revenger may be a Harlowe or Elf Ritualist/Witch that the characters have somehow offended or interfered with.  A good way to do this is that party kills or jails a foe that the revenger was also wants dead, denying them their revenge.

The Tyrant:  This character wants power and control.  The villain will conquer all that they can see and often has resources to back it up.  If you cross the tyrant, it will be an uphill battle.  It could be anyone from a king to an anal retentive superior officer.   A tyrant is often a Human or Half-Orc Combatant/Soldier ruling over their own personal camp in the Drejlands. 


Villain Tactics

When in doubt, the following tactics are very useful for pretty much any villain:

·         Use Lackeys:  Villains, as a rule, delegate.  Defeating a villain should generally be an end goal of a group of PCs.  As a result, they will have minions that will act as both examples of the villain’s power and/or cruelty. 
·         Be Resourceful:  A good villain uses their resources to make the PC’s miserable.  Sometimes this is powerful Magic, sometimes its cutting edge tech, sometimes its powerful minions.  A good villain has seen it all, and while the PC’s situation shouldn’t be unbeatable, a bit of preparation goes a long way.
·         Have an Escape Plan:  A good villain should have some sort of escape plan to survive for another day.  Some examples of this are secret passages, getaway vehicle/mount/magic, and “distractions” that the heroes must deal with giving the villain ample time to flee.
·         Take Hostages:  Hostages provide the PC’s with a moral dilemma and gives the villain some wiggle room when dealing with them.  Note that the Hostage doesn’t necessarily have to be a living thing…it could be an artifact, or settlement as well.
·         Fight on the Villain’s Terms:   If a villain knows the PCs are coming, they will fight only when they are ready.  Even if they don’t know the PCs are coming, a good villain has several tricks due to experiences with pesky adventurers.
·         Lose Ungracefully: The villain should try to end the encounter in a manner that gets under the player’s skin.  Examples are to cause a distraction, sacrifice an underling, take somebody with you, and even go out with a bang.

Villain Exceptions

 While the above applies most of the time, it is possible to make a villain that breaks the mould. 
The two big ones are the sympathetic villain and the incompetent villain.  Both can be used to provide a change of pace if used sparingly.  They can also be used as a “stepping stone” to a bigger villain.
                Finally it’s easy enough to just grab a powerful monster and define them as a villain to give them much more oomph.


Monsters are generally prebuilt creatures that you grab from the book and are put into play.  Their main purpose is to act as an obstacle for the PCs so they can have a confrontation.   While more often than not, this means combat, it is possible to make it a monsters encounter more of a problem solving situation.

These will be the main stay of your encounters, as it reduces the amount of prep time that a GM has to do.

Some good rules of thumbs are as follows:
·         Remember CR: The Encounter section of this book should help you determine if your party is ready for creatures of a particular CR.  Plan a challenging encounter, not a total party kill.
·         Remember Your Environment:  There is this old joke from the 80’s that “you come across a dragon in a 10x10 room” with the punch line being how it got in there.  While it might not ruin the game, it might take players out of the gaming experience.  It’s a good idea to keep track of basic stuff of ecology, terrain and anything else that might cause complications for a monster.
·         Play the Monster in Character:  Some monsters are animal-like in nature, while others are sentient, but often alien-like in their manners.   The monsters in the Dark Revelations Monster Manual have lots of hints on how they should be presented to the party.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Troubleshooting Campaigns

We pulled out a section of our 3rd edition drevrpg adventurer guides mainly to see if it's still solid advice.


So you’ve worked your butt off to run a game, but for whatever reason it’s not working.

No worries, this is the section that should get your floundering campaign back on its feet.

Overall Suggestions

1.       Keep the story moving:  Sometimes it’s just best to make a note and keep on playing.  You can always check it later and going over the speed bump might be merely a minor issue.
2.       Take a Break:  If things are getting a little murky, then take a five minute break.   This will give you time to look over your notes, look up rules and so forth, as well as see what your group thinks.  Then you can get back to why you are all there in the first place.
3.       Watch:  You can learn a lot about your players simply by watching them.  What they say, what they don’t say, and their body language can tell you a lot.
4.       Wing it:   When all is said and done, you will have to improvise.  If stopping will interfere with the flow, just make a ruling and push ahead.  You can always look it up after the game.
5.       Retcon:  This is when you make up a story that explains why something you have might have olverlook makes sense.  This can be used to extend a storyline. If you do it well enough, your players will not have a clue what just happened.  Even if they call you on it, they might still like it enough to use it.

Common Issues

1.       A Key PC Drops Out:    Even if only temporary, you will need to meet with the player and talk about the future of the campaign.  If the PC is going to return, then setup a plotline where the PC disappears.  If you need to go over a critical point, run the PC as a NPC until that point is completed.  If the PC is gone for good, you have the authority to remove and/or wipe out the character.   Probably the most difficult issue of this is finding another player to take up the slack.  This is a good point to introduce a new PC or redefine one that’s already in play.  It’s a good idea to talk to your remaining players to see if they have any suggestions.
2.       A New Book shows up and everyone wants to try it:   While normally the “shiny new book smell” wears off , sometimes your players are really adamant, even if you’re in the middle of a game.  It might be a good idea to do some quick prebuilds characters and adventurers and run a quickie game.  It might get it out of their system and so you can get back to your ongoing game.
3.       Players want new characters:  If a Player, for whatever reason, wants a new character, it’s always good to ask why?  Find out their interests are.  Let them know that their character is important to the current game.  If they still want to change their character, make sure they understand how best to integrate the new character.  See later in this book for how to rebuild a current character.
4.       Players are Bored: It happens to the best of us.  We get into a rut and lay things out in the same way which makes everybody bored.  When this happens, it’s a good idea to keep things interesting by throwing in a bit of variety and an interesting hook that the players can sink their teeth into.  At this point, dialogue is important in breaking that stalemate.    Without good communications, this boredom will continue.  It might even be time for a one shot that is run either by yourself or another person.  Just realize that taking too long a break can backfire.

5.       Things get Heated:  Sometimes things get tense around the gaming table.  I’ve known people who are the nicest people outside the game that have exploded in a moment of passion.  At times like this, it may simply be time to remind people it’s only a game.  Take a time out while tempers cool down.  Also humour works wonders in such situations.  Also remind the person in question that you are among friends and this game is for fun.
6.       Third Party Disruptions:  Whether it’s a family, significant other, or other real world issues, sometimes somebody outside the game just plain old shows up and disrupts the game.  It’s a good idea to let people know what day and time your gaming so that it will minimize interruptions.  Talk to your Players as well to avoid such interruptions and let them know you are here to game.  However, if it is spontaneous, give it a few minutes, after all, any tense language would be counterproductive to getting the game going again.  If it really goes on for an extended period of time, be polite and let them know that you would like to get back to the game.
·                     However, if a new person is there to game, make sure to introduce the person before the game starts.  If they are unknowledgeable, it’s good to do this outside the game.  This is also a good time to have prebuilt characters so they can get the feel for the game.
·                     When dealing with new players who may not be versed with your group or tabletop gaming, make sure to rewards veteran players who help them out.
7.       The PC’s kill the Villain before the Climax:  Sometimes the PC’s find a way to take out the big villain circumventing a ton of your adventure.  At those points, you should congratulate your PC’s.  They have done something rather brilliant and deserve to be rewarded.  That being said, you now need to figure out what happens next.  Whatever they haven’t gone through, can be easily recycled for later with a tweak or two.  Also if there are any minions that were in the employment of the villain, they could suddenly be the inheritance of the villain’s old toys and tools.  Also build on the character’s actions and use them to fuel the next part of the adventure.
8.       A Monkey wrench has been thrown into the plot:  Maybe the PCs have run into the McGuffin and went running off in the wrong direction.   Ultimately the GM should accommodate the PCs actions.  Learn from any mistakes you may have made as the GM.  If they PCs need a hand, just give them a polite nudge, using an NPC or other device, in the right direction. 

Problem Players and You

In a perfect world, you would have awesome players that only fuel your enthusiasm for running a game.  Unfortunately, in the real world, you may have players that are a pain in the ass.   In this section, we will look at the common “problem players” and what we can do to help resolve any issues involved so we can get back to the fun of gaming.
Bully: This person orders people around, usually players, but can also include the GM.  They may even threaten physical action on PCs or actual persons.  The best way to deal with this people is peer pressure.  They must quit their actions or leave the group.   If your players are hesitant, the GM must take the reins.  You must ignore his orders, rebuke them and even confront them outside of the game.  If worst comes to worst, ask them to leave or you can leave with everyone else at once.  In extreme circumstances of physical violence, call the police: such actions are unacceptable in a modern society.
Know it all:   This is the player whom ends up trying to dominate the game through their superior knowledge.  They are also known as rules lawyers.  Note that this is different than sharing information, in that they use it as a tool for controlling the GM.  If they don’t know what the hell their talking about, they are pretty easy to deal with.  However, if they do know what they’re talking about, it becomes a different issue.   Take him to the side and reason with him and explain how their actions are interrupting the game.  Also explain how their actions are sidelining other characters who are also here for a good time.  When in doubt, you can always point them to the fact that the GM has final say, on applications on all rules.
Cheater: These are the types that must be monitored or they will fudge dice rolls, change stuff on their sheet or otherwise cheat.  These actions ruin a game for everybody else at the table.  Shame is an effective tool for such behaviour, as peer pressure forces a person to be on the level.  Such behaviour is unacceptable and without repercussions, it will be the akin of agreeing with the cheating.

Pouter: They whine and complain to the point of irritation.  These people are usually insecure, and are unhappy with the game, but unwilling to talk about it. They may refuse to participate in a scenerio, even though they originally agreed to be there in the first place.  Make sure to talk to the player away from the group to see if the situation can be resolved.  Sometimes real life problems can lead to bad gaming and they just need some time.  Get them involved or suggest changes to them to get back to the game.   Make sure the other players are not sabotaging this character or other parts of the game, even if they are not conscious of it.
Social Butterfly:  This is the person that is there to have a good time.  Normally that’s a good thing, but they may spend more time talking with their buddies, then playing the game.  Usually this isn’t a big deal.  All you need to do is to call their attention to the game.   A good way to do this is to allot chat up time before and after the game and even some recesses time in the middle.
Egocentric:  This player thinks the game is all about him or her.  They are usually witty and must always have their character in the limelight.  They will not take second fiddle to anybody.  If they act like a child, they must be treated as such.  Let them know that while they are important to the game, the RPG is a group effort.  They will play a part in the adventure, but if they persist, they will get a time out.
Extreme LARPer:  A RPG is a role playing experience, but some people go over the top.   It is possible for the role playing to ruin the game.  What if the phrase “that’s would my character would do” becomes words of dread.   Often this used to justify murderous rampages, racism, sexism, and other deplorable acts.  They may even ruin your plot line because of this. 
Before the game, it’s a good idea to lay down a list of acceptable and unacceptable efforts right off the bat to avoid any badly designed characters.  However, if it’s already in play, you need to take said player and let them know such actions are unacceptable within the game you’ve constructed.  If you need to, retcon the previous actions back to a point where things were going smoothly and replay it, or simply revise the history and carry on.

The Power of Positive Communications

                Now that we’ve gone over the negatives, let’s go over the positives.  When all is said and done, these are your buddies and you are hanging out playing a game that you will enjoy.

                 You get this with good communications.  While a number of books have been written on this subject, here’s a quickie version that should help:

1.       Lay down Ground Rules: Before you start the game, lay down the ground rules.  There is a lot of information to go through in Dark Revelations and you should be familiar with what you want to use from it in the context of setting and rules.  Remember Dark Revelations is both a world and a tool kit you are free to play with.  It is ok to “cheat sheet” information for yourself and your players.
2.       Go around the Table:  When you’re asking for declaration, it’s best to talk to each person one on one in sequence.  In combat this is determined by the initiative role, but outside of it, it’s best to consult each player what they are doing.  Don’t let any one player grab all the glory unless justified within the context of your current scene.  Try to have something for everyone to do.
3.       Listen:  You’ve asked a question of your party or character, now listen to what they got to say.  Write it down for later if necessary.
4.       Repeat what you just heard:  This ensures the player  knows they have been heard to clarify their actions.
5.       Be Polite:  Always mind your manners.  It cuts down on hard feelings.
6.       Speak your mind: If something bothers you about something the players or characters are doing, let them know in an assertive manner.  Subtlety doesn’t work in most communications. 
7.       Get Feedback:  It’s always a good idea at the end of the night to ask what the players thought of the game. 

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