Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Adventure Creation: Antagonist/Villain Archetypes

Mór Than, Feast of Attila, 1870

One of the things my co-conspirator Dave Welborn and I have been discussing for a while is developing a set of "tools" (for lack of a better word right now) that will aid DMs/GMs in not only creating, but structuring adventures as well. So, slowly but surely, I have been gathering my thoughts and notes. In some cases, I've gone back to older writings from past/abandoned/incomplete projects. By now, my regular readers are becoming more and more familiar with my abandoned (or is that "sidetracked"?) attempts to create an anime/manga style RPG. Today's post is a beginning attempt (resurrected from StoryCode AG) to start to put a handle on the main villain/antagonist archetypes that, hopefully, transcend their anime/manga roots, and can be applied at a more macro level to all role-playing settings/genres.

The Dominator
The dominator wants to rule the world/galaxy/universe.

Yes, Emperor Palpatine, I'm looking at you.

The Troublemaker
The troublemaker gets pleasure out of toying with people/cultures/races/planets.

For the troublemaker, it's more about mayhem than anything else. In comic book terms, think Riddler or Joker. Serial killers sort of fit in here too.

The Commiserator
The commiserator is... (ahem)... miserable, and wants everyone else to be miserable too.

Many of the greatest villains start as commiserators and grow into another category. For example, though I cited the Joker above as a troublemaker, it's "vindictive malice" that first motivates the Joker. Heroes overcome their misery to triumph over it. Villains sink further into it.

The Profiteer
The profiteer wants to make a quick buck or amass wealth, regardless of the law.

These types of villains are sometimes the easiest to deal with. Give them a little greed, and a plan, and they're good to go.

The Collector
The collector endeavors to collect items/people/races/worlds/galaxies, and nothing will stand in his or her way.

Depending on the scale of the game, there's a thin line between dominator and collector. For the dominator, the goal is to "rule" (to have the submission of). For the collector, the goal is to "own" (to have as part of a collection).

The Narcissist
The narcissist is out to prove he/she is the best, and welcomes all comers. The narcissist is also willing to track down anyone with a reputation, just to take them down.

As a hero, the narcissist is known as an "overachiever." But as a villain, the narcissist does not have the monopoly on being a douche-bag; overachieving heroes can be just as big of an asshole as narcissist villains. From my POV, the entire CCG industry is built upon this premise.

This is really just a starting point for development/discussion.



  1. The (non-dominator) desires of the Collector might result in actions similar to the colonial expansion of Britain/Spain/France/etc.
    Or hiring a crack team of thieves to steal artwork.

    ... but my vote for "Collector Villain" still goes to Ming the Merciless

  2. What about the Experimenter? Not evil as such, but motivated by curiosity and lacking in common sense and/or compassion. A person who is meddling in things better left alone, or a scientist with tunnel vision who believes that "the end justifies the means".

  3. @Akiyama - I think you're right in saying that h's "Not evil as such." But depending on how much fallout occurs as a result of the "means", the Experimenter could definitely be added to the list. I'm thinking along the lines of Dr. Moreau here. Does "Experimenter" sound too passive? Does a name like "Zealot" accomplish the same thing in a bigger way, including implications of tunnel-vision with disregard for the concerns of others, while not limiting it specifically to experimentation?