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All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a disposable villain

David Bowers

Today, All the World's a Stage continues with steps 7 and 8 of a series on "how to be evil: bringing the bad guy back into your fantasy roleplaying," complete with ideas, methods, warnings, and practical examples. Be sure not to miss steps 1-3 and steps 4-6 on the path to evil!

So, you want to be evil? It's not as easy as it seems. Perhaps you've watched a lot of movies or TV shows in which the bad guy has amazing powers, threatens human civilization, and nearly destroys the universe in his quest for domination. Perhaps you were playing Warcraft and saw characters like Arthas and Archimonde wrecking things up pretty bad and said to yourself, "I wanna be just like them when I grow up!" You open up your copy of World of Warcraft and find that you can't play a Lich King or Eredar Overlord, so you just click on the "forsaken" or "draenei" options as the next best things available. "Yup! I'm all ready to go!" you say to yourself. Everyone is just gonna love my idea about being an immortal demigod out to destroy the universe!

But it turns out no one believes you're actually the Lich Prince instead of just another forsaken dude. And people just roll their eyes whenever you reveal your draenei's secret eredar affiliation. A lot of people want to play a raid boss, but the fact remains, you're just not. You're a generic adventurer like everyone else. That doesn't mean you can't be bad... it just means can't be 20 feet tall and out whole cities with a flick of your hand. Once you start thinking practically, about doing something with what you've actually got, then you can start getting somewhere.

One of the most practical tools you can have for playing a bad guy is the disposable low-level character. Keeping your villain at a low level means you don't need to hesitate when he's been defeated, you can roleplay his glorious death and delete him. Your friends save the day -- you save a lot of leveling time. How is it done? Read on.

Step 7: Disposable Villains

In "How to be evil" steps 1 through 3 we've discussed the importance of practicality in playing a bad guy, and in steps 4 through 6 we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of playing a bad guy long term vs. short term. Let's begin today's discussion with the assumption that your at least a little bit sold on the idea of a disposable villain, but you're curious how exactly you could make it work.

One important thing to keep in mind is that you should stay within the limits that a low-level character would possess. Some groups would be fine with you playing a level 6 evil mastermind bent on world domination, but to others it might seem a bit absurd. Maybe if you had a lot of good-looking heirloom armor your disposable villain could wear it could work, but otherwise it's probably better to go with something subtle again -- though not necessarily so subtle that your "villain" isn't really bad to the core. He just shouldn't be the all-powerful son of an old god who lost his memory and hungers for blood. Choose a more local brand of villainy, something that relates more to your friends' characters rather than the grand overarching themes of the entire Warcraft universe.

Step 7a: A Disposable Villain example

Suppose your guild really identifies itself as crusaders against the Scourge, and you decide that your new disposable villain should have some connection to that. You dream up an idea where a small-time troublemaker decides to try and impress the Lich King by secretly infecting some of his enemies with some cursed food that will turn them into zombies.

This could easily be a low-level character you bring into the guild solely for the purpose of this one adventure -- you bring up the roleplay idea with the guild master in private, and you agree to stage a guild interview in which your new villain signs up with the guild as its new cook, offering to make all kinds of food for you. You can level up this character just a little bit if you want, if you want to catch some of your guildmates by surprise, or else you can just park him in the nearest city and have him talk to everyone from there. Either way, once your bad guy has been in the guild for a couple weeks, giving other guild-members some good food to build up their trust, (and "unintentionally" dropping hints of your nefarious plot), you stage a big cook out in a tavern somewhere and get all your friends together, put the diseased grain in someone's meal, "infect" one of them with the curse.

It's a good idea to plan this part out before hand, so that the one you're going to infect is ready to play up the strange sickness he's going to feel afterwards and maybe help give clues that others there are not safe. Some roleplayers don't like it when you just surprise them with a whisper, "Hey! I just infected you with the scourge plague!" So be sure your guild mate wants to play along.

Anyways, once your guild mate starts coughing and gagging on his cursed food, maybe typing out emotes about how his skin is starting to turn pale and splotchy, your character can grow more and more jittery, urging people to eat the food fast, till someone sees what's going on and confronts you. Your character can make a big speech about how pleased the Lich King will be, and how you're not afraid to die because the Lich King will raise you once again, and all that grandiose daydreaming -- but make sure it's just a show, and don't be afraid to let yourself get struck down, put in jail or whatever. You might want to buy or collect some Dark Runes from Scholomance or Demonic Runes from various places ahead of time and keep them handy just in case you want your villain to die at a particular moment. You can mail them to your villain alt and use it just after the rogue in your guild stabs you for dramatic effect.

Anyways, once that story is finished, you'll need a new one, such as finding a cure for the one guild member who ate the cursed food and is now slowly turning into a zombie, for example. You might make another low-level mafia-style crime boss character as the only one who possesses a cure, but wants your friends to pay a hefty price for it in return. Your friends don't dare kill him in cold blood, because he knows where their family members live, so your guild would have to find some other way to convince him or trick him into giving you the cure you need, or maybe find someone he fears more than you to help you out...

Step 8: Social situations work, violence... not so much

Undoubtedly you will think of your own ideas, and in fact, you could have a lot of inspiration if you consider the things your guildmates' characters care about. If your guildmates protect nature, then make a Venture Co. corporate representative who wants to buy up a large part of some forest somewhere, or if they just like to hang out in cities sometimes, then make an annoying reporter for the Gadgetzan Times who's heard of their heroic exploits and always follows them around a lot trying to catch them in embarrassing situations and take pictures with a gnomish picture-snapper device.

Just remember that just because your villain can't beat your friends in a sword fight or blast them with a fireball doesn't mean that he or she can't be scary and nasty in some other way, nor that killing him will necessarily solve the problem. Take it up as a creative challenge to think of 10 different mini-villains your friends might enjoy and ask them which one they like best.

Step 9: Villains in the shadows... (to be continued)

But maybe even after all this, disposable villains aren't your thing? How about a villain you never see, hear or touch, but is nonetheless extremely active in trying to destroy your friends and everything they stand for? Does this sound like Sauron? No, it's you, and you can do it in World of Warcraft.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations, and ironies -- we have a lot of ways to help you get started with new characters. Whether you want to start a new goblin or worgen, or play any one of the new race and class combinations, (or even any of the old ones) as you level up in the new world after the Cataclysm, there are lots of ways to get started roleplaying a new character.

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