Tabletop for Two: Episode Eight
In this episode, we’re covering how to design captivating villains for your one-on-one 5e campaigns!
A common term you may hear in D&D and ttRPG spaces is “BBEG,” which stands for Big Bad Evil Guy and refers to the primary villain in your campaign, the ultimate “evil” character whom your party will face off against at the end of the campaign.
So as to avoid spoilers while still providing an example, Strahd in Curse of Strahd is a character who, in most runnings of CoS is going to be the primary villain for the campaign. You’ll face other sketchy people along your adventure, but Strahd is the big one.
We talked in episode seven about campaign design for one-on-one D&D and the tweaks a storyteller/DM will need to make to create a campaign that revolves around the PC. We want to take similar steps in designing the campaign’s villain—ideally, they’ll be someone opposed to the PC and what they want, perhaps someone the PC will hate immediately or who’s set up to betray the PC.
But this episode isn’t just about BBEGs. There are plenty of ways to involve villains of all different levels in your duet game!
Watch the Episode
Below, you’ll find our show notes and the topics we cover during our discussion.
Also, if you’d like to support Tabletop for Two and our other creations, we’d love for you to join us on patreon!
Part One: Villains VS Antagonists
People with motivations as opposed to problems to solve
The antagonist of your arc might be a force of nature, a plague, or even a concept or idea. These forces are nebulous and hard to put a finger on (or reduce to 0 hit points). But a villain is instead a very important kind of NPC. And when we’re talking NPCs, we’ve got to talk about motivations and flaws!
Taking a Fictional Approach
I’m going to put together two different pieces of excellent story craft advice, one from KM Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs and the other from Sacha Black’s 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains. Sacha explains that for our villain to be most effective, they should fall somewhere on an ideal spectrum with our hero, but often on the opposite end of it.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen = sacrifice
and President Snow, her rival = sacrificing others
So, what is it that your PC stands for, and how does that contrast or run counter to what your villain wants or believes in?
Know what it is that your player wants to achieve, and know why your villain wants something different!
Really, if your players love to hate your villain, you’re doing it right.
Part Two: Villain Tools of the Trade
Villains might use overt versus covert operations, manipulation and intimidation, etc. Really the source books have tons of ideas about different ways that a villain might enact their dastardly deeds.
One thing a good villain will definitely make liberal use of is the ability to antagonize and provoke, but remain just out of reach.
Who is the most striking villain of your one-on-one campaign? Or your favorite fictional villain? Let us know in the comments below!
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