Proper Villainy pt. 2: Time To Kill The Donuts

2007 September 4
by Vanir

Your villain probably won’t see burning, raping, and pillaging as acts of blackest evil. They’ll see it as “Things To Do Wednesday Afternoon”. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person. The human mind has a lot of powerful emotional defenses against this. My favorite of these is called cognitive dissonance, in which a person’s mind basically believes what it wants to believe and perceives reality in a way that supports these beliefs. Any ideas presented that challenge these beliefs are almost always discarded (and in many cases, violently attacked). Through this, our villain can justify what he’s doing in a variety of ways that relieve him of the responsibility of his actions:

  • It’s YOUR fault!
    The reason I’m burning down your house? You didn’t pay the protection money that you clearly owe.
  • I was just following orders.
    What better way to relieve yourself of guilt than to have it not be your decision? Blame the Dark Lord!
  • Cold, Emotionless Logic.
    It’s a whole lot easier to do bad things if you just view it as a bunch of stats and abstract concepts. For instance, deaths turn into “acceptable losses”.
  • It’s always been this way.
    My family has been enslaving the dwarves for 87 generations, there’s nothing wrong with it, and I don’t see any reason why it should change now.
  • A sense of entitlement.
    You can do whatever you want because you DESERVE IT. Whoever invented prima noctis was totally into this. The right to deflower all virgins in the land because you’re the lord of the place goddammit — that’s some USDA A-1 prime grain-fed angus entitlement right there.
  • You fools have no idea of the power you are dealing with.
    A massively inflated ego is a wonderful tool for dismissing naysayers. And when you cultivate it long enough to get dreams of world domination, you say cool things like the previus statement! You can’t believe you’re doing anything wrong when you won’t listen to anybody. Yours is the only opinion worth listening to, and who cares that it stopped being grounded in reality decades ago?

Once again, evil people are still people. They still have to live with themselves somehow — even if that means descending into a big pit filled with neuroses. The really scary part is that it probably isn’t even a conscious decision. The easiest way to live the lie is to believe it yourself.

Now take these twisted ways of viewing the world, and try to see the world through your baddie’s eyes. You can use this to help create the foundation for a believable villain’s behavior. Later this week, we’ll get into some specifics on how to play as one. Until next time!

<evil laughter>

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Yax permalink
    September 5, 2007

    Good stuff. I suggest an addition to the list: The ostrich technique. A villain sends others to do the “dirty” work so it’s not really his doing.

  2. Phil permalink
    September 5, 2007

    Pure Gold! True believable evil resides on the belief that no evil is done. That’s why I hate fantasy plots where a holy order commits atrocities in the name of the light. It’s pure distilled evil. Ptolus has some of that.

  3. Devin permalink
    September 6, 2007

    Excellent article, Vanir. Every villain needs such a justification for their actions. It not only makes them more believable, but it also has the potential to make them thus a bit more… I hesitate to use the word “sympathetic,” but PCs can see how the villain got to be that way.

    And perhaps see it as a warning that they, too, could come to be that way if they don’t watch themselves…

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