Proper Villainy, pt. 5 — Let The PC’s Win. (Wait, What?!!?)

2007 September 16
by Vanir

Over the last couple of weeks of Proper Villainy, we’ve covered everything from how to create a villain to how to make him the worst he can be. All of these can be used to write a believable villain into your story. However, let us not forget we’re playing D&D – and that as a Dungeon Master, you have certain responsibilities to your players that must be considered.

Your villain should not be invincible.

Anybody else ever watch a James Bond movie and cringe when the bad guy captures Bond and reveals his evil plot instead of just busting a cap right in his Secret Agent Dome? Then, naturally, the baddie leaves Bond alone in the deathtrap for a few minutes, which is ample enough time for him to escape and eventually bring the villain down. I know that if I was ever a supervillain, I wouldn’t make that sort of mistake.

Well, here’s the thing. You’re leading a bunch of players through an adventure in which, more than likely, they are the heroes. If they’re against an opponent they can’t ever win against, that is not fun. I’m not saying let the PC’s breeze through every battle. That would be silly, and also boring. But do let them win eventually.

I am reminded of when I was about 7 years old, and my older brother (who is one of the nicest people I know) was a total dick to me when we were playing with my He-Man action figures. The incident went something like this:

Him: Skeletor captures Teela and takes He-Man’s power sword!
Me:: But He-Man hits Skeletor in the face and takes it back!
Him: Without the Power Sword, He-Man is powerless and it doesn’t hurt at all! Skeletor then tosses the Power Sword into the Great Abyss, forever ridding the world of He-Man!!
Me: MOM!!!!!!!!

There is a little something to remember here when dealing with the PC’s. You’re omnipotent in their world. You make the rules. They can’t beat you. It’s like trying to rules lawyer God into making it rain tomorrow. (If any of you can do that, I have some requests.) If you’re constantly never letting them win because “that’s not how my villain would act”, you’re missing the point of why everybody is sitting around the table looking at you and rolling dice.

Make Your Villain Mortal Again In 30 Days Or Your Money Back

  • Smoke And Mirrors

    You can just make him LOOK invincible until the PC’s show up. However, you may run the risk of leaving your players feeling let down if they show up and find a 98 pound weakling instead of the Dark Warlord of Blood. Make him difficult — just not insurmountable.

  • Give him a weakness.

    If you really must make your villain invincible, provide some kryptonite that the PC’s have to work for. And when it’s time to use it, I personally prefer making that a challenge as well. After all, it’d be boring if the PC’s walked in the front door, held aloft the Wand of Fraznozz, and a bolt of lightning struck the evil wizard down immediately before the PC’s were awarded experience and bid good night.

    One way to do keep this exciting is to make the “kryptonite” difficult to use – like birds steal the artifact and you have to shoot them down to get it back while Big Bad’s chopping the party up. Another is to have it be nonlethal – it just allows the party to hit him / not die instantly when he hits them. You still want the end battle to be an exciting climax.

  • Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Deus Ex Machina

    If your villain is way badder than the PC’s could ever hope to be, don’t have the solution to this be an external force, for instance – a equally superbad NPC on the side of Truth and Justice, showing up at the last minute. This takes the PC’s completely out of the equation and turns what should have been a climactic battle into nothing more than a cutscene. And though you might be tempted to use said Super Awesome Good NPC to wear the villain down enough for the PC’s to handle him, it still takes away from their sense of accomplishment in kicking his evil ass.

    Don’t let anything bogart the PC’s glory. That’s why you’re all there. Even you.

Remember, as DM, it’s your job to run the show and thrill the people at your gaming table. It’s OK to deviate from the plan a little bit — and stack the deck slightly in favor of the PC’s — to make the story work out better in the end.

But if anyone finds our you’re doing it, you kill them in their sleep.

Until next time….

<evil laughter>

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Yax permalink
    September 16, 2007

    Hey! What happened th Proper Villainy, pt.5?

    Did I miss something?

  2. Vanir permalink
    September 17, 2007

    D’oh! Corrected now.

    I blame the cold medicine I was on when I wrote this. 🙂

  3. Yax permalink
    September 17, 2007

    It’s all good. I love the villainy articles. And I agree that the villain should lose in the end.

    My best trick to keep the villain beatable but uber-powerful nonetheless is the use of henchmen, minions, and an entourage.

  4. ChattyDM permalink
    September 17, 2007

    Great series Vanir…

    I’m going to graduate from Evil U in no time!

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