Villains

Overview

When you begin your campaign, you should also be looking with an eye toward the end — the epic confrontation with evil that will put it all on the line for the PC's and everything they hold dear. Because of this, it is essential to have your "ultimate villain" present in at least some small form right from the start. There will be other villains, too, perhaps linked to the final boss, perhaps not, but the process is essentially the same.

Antithesis

The main idea of a villain is to be the antithesis of the PC's. You should design your villain looking at the seven character elements of every party member, finding common threads, and then creating an entity that challenges them. You should combine the elements wherever possible, to create solid themes in your villain — and in your campaign — that affect several characters in several dimensions at once.

Neutralize the Features

Your villain should be able to neutralize the features of your heroes. If your hero is a powerful warrior, your villain should be more powerful, or too fast to strike, or an ethereal ghost whom weapons can not touch. If another party member is extremely smart, your villain should also defy logic, perhaps causing madness or working to keep others ignorant of their true plots.

Exploit the Flaws

Your villain should be able to take advantage of the party members' flaws. If one hero fears the moon, and another despairs of ever finding true love, your villain might be someone who uses love to get people to slaughter each other under the light of a full moon.

Stand in the Way of Goals

Your villain should prevent the character from attaining their goals in some way, even if it is distant or indirect. If a character wants gold, and another wants fame, your villain should threaten to make the party poor and obscure, unless something is done about them.

Motivate Them

Your villain should trigger the motivations of the party members. If a party member wants to be the best swordfighter because their father never thought they could accomplish much, your villain should re-trigger those feelings, perhaps by somehow making them feel like they can't accomplish much.

Threaten The Support

Your villain should threaten support characters and other elements of the world that the characters rely on. If they've got a quirky mentor or a family back home, your villain's activities should somehow risk the lives and well-beings of those people (though perhaps not directly — remember, support characters have plot immunity, just like PC's).

Weaken the Relationships

Your villain should be able to call out the weaknesses in the relationships between characters. For instance, if two characters have a romantic relationship, your villain should throw mistrust, suspicion, and deception onto that relationship. If one character is the protector of another, your villain should be able to make that protection moot at some point.

Exacerbate the Rivalries

Your villain should be able to cause strife within the party. Because of this villain, an unrequited love should be called out, and a philosophical debate should be made key.

Combining Effects into Themes

Seven different elements from four different characters are bound to have some common, re-occurring themes. For instance, if the above examples all existed in an actual party, the villain could have the theme of Love, which would play on romantic relationships, unrequited love, the husband or wife in the family back home, and the despair in finding true love. Consolidating this into one effect means that by triggering this one effect, it plays on the elements of several characters on several different levels. You might even discover commonalities between characters that the players themselves don't realize exist, making their discovery especially potent.

Using Themes

Your theme can inform the kinds of plots and agendas your villain has. The villain above might seek a love potion, or might want to kill the Goddess of Love, or might feel that true love is a lie, and want to destroy it. The villain's own history might involve unrequited love. The themes are basically keywords you can clue to when informing your villain's activities and the potential plots they are involved in. If you can develop one central theme, or at least one stronger theme, you can then cast other antithesis traits in the light of this stronger theme. The villain above might consolidate Love into a big philosophical theme, with every other element — the wealth, the moon, the physical strength — becoming an aspect of this central theme.

Machinations

An FFZ villain shouldn't just sit in a castle waiting for the PC's to come and slay it. At least, not at first. Villains have plots and plans and need time to make them come to fruition. As the campaign advances, so does the villain's plot, even if it is behind the scenes.

A useful way to think about this is to have three stages to a villain's plot, and have each stage complete at the end of an Arc (even if the PC's are not involved). At the end of the final arc, the PC's must get involved, or the villain will realize their goal, and the villain is built specifically to have a goal the PC's will want to prevent.

For instance, if the villain generated above wants to kill the Goddess of Love, the three stages might be to find her (Arc 1), weaken her (Arc 2) and finally capture and slay her (Arc 3). The PC's might come across the villain in Arc 1, but he ignores them because he is "searching for something." In Arc 2, the world starts to become more warlike around the PC's as the Goddess becomes weaker, and they actually have to confront one of the villain's lackeys as it performs a ritual that would cause war to break out. In Arc 3, the PC's become aware of what is going on, perhaps fail in their mission to prevent the Goddess's capture, and have to confront the villain in his safehouse, before he completes the execution of the Goddess.

Signature Attack

Every good Ultimate Villain has an Ultimate Destructive Attack that they will leverage against the PC's in the final battle. They might also use this as a plot device at various points in the campaign, but maybe not, depending on their machinations. It is often a good idea to base this on one of the villain's big themes. For instance, the villain above might have an ultimate attack called "Heartbreaker" that deals tremendous damage and causes allies to turn against each other, reinforcing its theme of Love.

Lackeys

In order for your villain to have far-reaching consequences, they should have helpers that support them. These helpers could be looking out for their own good, attaching themselves to something powerful, created by the villain, or just along for the ride. The WEAPONS in FF7, for instance, were rampaging engines of destruction, though they served as Sephiroth's allies. The Four Fiends were allies with Chaos in FF1, and Golbez in FF4, and they could certainly reoccur as enemies in your FFZ campaign. The lackeys may represent some of the less potent themes of the villains — perhaps the villain above grabs a lackey who is the ghost of a wealthy man, who can only be struck during a full moon.

Sympathy

While the final bosses of FF games are not always sympathetic, the main villains usually are, in some small way, understandable. The ultimate villains of FF games are usually humans or human-like creatures who experience some horrible fate that causes them to become a villain. Think of the experiments done on Sephiroth or Kefka, or the "gift" Xande was given. This isn't always true (such as with the Emperor of FF2), but it is something you may want to pay attention to. Giving your villain a tragic event that the PC's witness, hear about, or even cause, can help to make the evil more understandable, emphasizing the fact that the villain is not simply an alien consciousness. If you go this route, don't be afraid to make the villain in league with otherworldly entities of cosmic evil, perhaps even fusing with it for the villain's final form.

Escape and Rebirth

Your villain may be distant until the last moment of the game, but it can be effective if your villain is somehow present in various ways throughout the campaign, either as an NPC bystander, or as a threat themselves. Even if not directly confronted to the end, the ultimate villain has the power to come back, at least once, and perhaps more than once. They might be defeated only to conquer Hell and come back as a lord of fiends (such as the Emperor in FF2), or they might be fought early while mortal, and then later when their plans are nearly complete (such as Kefka in FF6), they might be spectral and deceptive, they might surround themselves in living shells, their spirits may be housed in items, or any one of a number of other "escape mechanisms" can be in place. Each encounter with a reborn villain should be a little different, though they should retain any signature attacks they have.

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